Saturday, November 22, 2014

Kim Long - Query Kombat 2014 SUCCESS STORY!

 Happy happy happy again, WE'VE GOT ANOTHER SUCCESS STORY! These make our days :) This one is from Kim Long who participated in Query Kombat 2014.   


A couple years ago I decided I wanted to write a book. I always enjoyed writing, and every now and then I'd get inspired for a few weeks and work diligently at putting words onto paper, but it wasn't something I took seriously. One night I was reading Game of Thrones and thought how great it'd be if there was a book solely about Arya Stark.I've always considered Arya the most interesting (even though there's other characters I love, like Tyrion), but there's so many characters in Martin's books that we don't see enough of her. So, with this bright idea, I closed the word document containing my legal thriller and started a YA fantasy that focused on a fourteen-year-old girl. Fast forward to a year-and-a-half later. Manuscript is finished. I write my query (getting suggestions from Query Tracker folks) and send it out.


I enter it in Pitch Madness.


I enter Sun & Snow.

Chirp. Chirp. Chirp.

I decide to read some YA fantasy. (Now there's an idea--one I should have had much earlier, but hey, better late then never.) I learn that my original ideas aren't so original, and, overall, I'm not sure there's anything really unique or spectacular to make my YA fantasy stand out. I do a complete overhaul and decide to query one more time. I also enter a few more contests (The Writer's Voice, LIke a Virgin, etc. - same crickets as before.) But during this time, I also come to the conclusion that it's probably best to move on and write something completely different. Because the one thing I did learn over the two years was how much I really loved writing. Why hadn't I been doing this earlier? Oh that's right, I have a day job and a zillion other things to do. But I didn't want to stop, and with tons of ideas popping into my head, how could I?

So I send out my last batch of queries for the YA in late January 2014 and start an MG fantasy. The words came easier this time--much easier, as did pacing, showing vs. telling, the query letter, everything really. Apparently, that YA novel had taught me something. I finished in early May 2014 with my eye on Query Kombat. I entered before my beta readers finished it and was thrilled when Michelle picked my entry, Star Light, Star Bright, for her team. I advanced a few rounds, but the greatest part was all the incredibly positive comments I received. Overall, people loved the query letter, the idea, and the voice. I was definitely onto something!

I sent out five queries in late May and then a few more in July. I received two requests for fulls out of the first six queries I sent. Wow. I couldn't believe it! Between July and early September I sent out a few more queries (basically, whenever I read about someone who said she/he had received a rejection a year after getting a full request, I got scared and sent out a few more queries). The request rate stayed pretty constant. I had six full requests out of 22 queries.

Then in early October I got an email from an agent saying she loved the book, but thought certain parts could be more developed. She passed, but said if I felt like revising, please send it her way. At the time, I had been revising one of the parts at issue, having come to a similar conclusion. I really liked the way the revisions were going and, even though the agent had passed, I was hopeful she would like the revisions . . . and that's when Agent #2 emailed that she loved the initial manuscript and would like to offer representation. But what about the revisions I loved so much? Since I liked the changes, I quickly completed the revisions, notified the other agents of the offer, sent the new version to everyone (including the agent who had indicated she'd love to look at a revised version) and waited.

I ended up with multiple offers, and everyone I talked to was great. But Sara Crowe had been one of the first agents I queried, and when she emailed, "I LOVE this book," my heart skipped a beat. The ensuing conversation was just as amazing, and everyone says to go with your gut, so that's what I did. I'm thrilled to say I am now represented by Sara Crowe at Harvey Klinger.

Now, I know this is very long for a success story, but if I had said I wrote a book in three-and-a-half months, sent 22 queries, got six full requests, and an offer three-and-a-half months later from my dream agent, it would seem like things came very easy. They didn't. It was three years of writing, of rejection on the YA, of entering contests and not getting picked, and of getting no favorites in twitter contests. But persistence does pay off, as does knowing when it's time to try something new. My YA is still there, and there are parts of it I love and may try to rework some day, but the best thing I could have done was move onto something new. If I had any advice, that would be it--stick with it, use contests to get to know people and improve your writing, and don't get discouraged. Remember that we're in this for the long haul and for the love of the story.

Kim Long is an attorney working in the Chicagoland area who, when not lawyering or writing, spends time drawing, bicycling, and becoming way too invested in her fantasy football and baseball teams.

Without a doubt, success seems to come fast and easy.  Rick Riordan has an AMAZING blog post about this. Anyway, CONGRATS CONGRATS KIM! Check out her blog AND CONGRATULATE/FOLLOW HER ON TWITTER! Good luck with everything :)

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Secret to Writing a Retelling

So sorry for the long wait to post! I've been taking a nice and relaxing break after the craziness and awesomeness of Nightmare on Query Street. This break has been so...nice. I feel  relaxed and energized and ready to start anew.

I posted on Twitter that I wanted to do a post on retellings and I got a good amount of positive feedback.

There's been a  surge of fairy tale and fable retellings in the market today, and as a consequence, as a contest host, I've seen a lot of retellings being submitted to the contests. Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, etc.

The hook of writing a retelling is that it already has a high concept story angle. Yes, the same high concept that many agents are saying they want. I think this high concept is what attracts a lot of writers to retellings.

But here's the catch. Anyone can retell as story. Not everyone can retell a story.

Yes, yes, confusing! But here's what I mean. There are a lot of tips about retelling a story so I'm only going to share my personal view on the 'secret' to a successful retelling.

The Secret to a Retelling lies in the word 'retell' itself. Meaning, you must REtell the story, completely changing it to become your story. Don't just retell it, we know the original story. REtell it.

  1. Do NOT let the original story cripple you. 
    story you're writing is YOUR story. Not the original writer's. Not the mass media's. Do you really want to spend possible/probably years on a novel that isn't yours?

    I've seen this in some stories where in order to 'fit' the original story, the writer stretches themselves and breaks their narrative to fit some things in. Let's take, for example, Snow White. You know the whole apple thing. What if you're writing a retelling and, in this mythological world of yours, apples exist only in a faraway country? Will you do the equivalent of stopping the narrative, take the characters on a trip to the country just for the apple? Screw the damn apple if it doesn't fit in your narrative! Let the apple rot!

    I beta-read for this one amazing author who wrote a retelling I'm still in love with. Her story was mainly because of her love for the original story. Iconic scenes from the original story forced their way into this retelling and did nothing but stop the narrative and check off another box on a hypothetical list of 'famous parts I must retell.'

    Now, this does get into tricky territory. The question you must ask yourself is this: Where am I going to draw the line between taking inspiration from the original story and creating my own ideas? If I were ever to write a retelling, I'd stick mainly/only with that initial 'spark'; the reason I want to write the story in the first place. What part of the original story do I love? What arc of the story is the arc I want in mine? The similar arc would be my retelling.
  2. Predictability.

    This is a biggy. Since most probably know the original story, you must come up with an unexpected ending. This is almost a must (I say almost because I don't like talking in 100%s). How you'll make the ending unexpected is up to you. Keeping the same ending as the original story but pointing all clues towards the idea that you won't be ending it the same way? Changing the ending completely (but also making that unpredictable because if the ending is Snow White doesn't need a man's kiss, she can revive herself, we're all expecting that as well)?
  3. Originality.

    Create your own characters. The hard part, for me, is wondering if I like the retelling because of the retelling itself or because I like the original story. Sort of like loving a stranger who looks a lot like a deceased loved one - do you truly love the stranger?

    Separate yourself from the original story. Take an axe to it. Proclaim to the reader, "This is my story!" and you'll have it. This is hard to do ("But I love the original story, I must treasure it and respect it in my retelling!") but crucial. Don't give a reader the same story; they might technically like it but it'll be boring for them. Add something new to the narrative. Find your twist, and make that twist huge.
These are my tips. Especially for retellings, I'd STRONGLY recommend you thoroughly plan out (yes, plan, even you pantsers!) what your story is going to be about. It's crucial to have a story that is planted with the same seed as the original story, but sprouts to become a totally different, more ambitious, and (hopefully) better story than the original. After all, why are you retelling the story if you don't want to push it to new extremes?

Hopefully this helps! Any other tips you think would be helpful? 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Caitlin Sinead "Heartsick" COVER REVEAL!

GUYS GUYS GUYS Caitlin Sinead from Nightmare on Query Street 2013 HAS A COVER REVEAL!!!!! I'm so excited for this. (Before this, read her success story.)


Quinn is looking forward to her senior year. She has big plans to hang out with her best friend Mandy, flirt with cute boy-genius Rashid, party at her favorite dive bar, and figure out what she’s going to do after graduation with her not-so-useful art major degree.  But that is before she meets Luke, a hot townie who moves back home to help take care of his dying sister. And it is before the weird epidemic that starts sweeping campus in which people’s eyes mysteriously turn purple.  Is it an odd side effect from a new party drug? Is it a rogue bacteria that was developed in a campus lab? Whatever it is, tensions are heating up as the town starts blaming the university, and the student religious group is convinced that it’s the mark of the devil. Quinn and Luke are caught in the middle, especially when Quinn learns that Luke isn’t just a happy-go-lucky, redneck boy-next-door—he is a detective—a fact that triggers Quinn’s phobia of guns and memories of her deceased uncle.  In spite of herself and her desire to remain unattached and independent, Quinn finds herself falling for him.  But when town and gown relations heat up even further, and Quinn’s friend Danny mysteriously falls to his death, Quinn vows to discover the truth behind the epidemic.  As she searches for the people responsible, she realizes that sometimes to gain your independence, you have to be willing to give a little bit of it up.


“Did you go to college?”

His jaw is tight. “Yes.”

“Do you think I could guess your major?” I ask.

“Probably not,” he says.

I don’t like that I don’t even get a hint at what he did before or what he studied. I shrug, start on my second hotdog and then lean back, really aiming for a glint in my eye, if that’s possible to control. I’ll make this a game. “Well, do you think you can guess mine?”

He smiles. “Do I get something if I guess right?”

I hop up onto a stool and let the tip of my toe brush against his knee. When I make contact, he starts, before leaning in. “What do you want?”

“I want a lot of things…” He stares at me. “But for now, I’d settle for a second date.”

“Okay, if you can guess my major, on the first try—” I emphasize that bit with a pointed finger, “—then I’ll reluctantly agree to go out with you again.”

“I don’t like the reluctant part, but I’ll take what I can get. Now, let’s see…” He rubs his chin as though he’s an old-timey detective. He’s ready to pace back and forth across the room with a pipe and a deerstalker hat. “You like photography.”

Shit, he does know that. I start to hum the Jeopardy! theme song. Maybe if time is running out he’ll be more likely to guess quickly and get it wrong? Do I want him to get it wrong

“Okay, I got it.” He rubs his hands together. “You’re an art major.” His cheeks swell with the weight of his smile.

“You got that just because I take pictures?” I rub my forehead

“I know more than that.

“Someone told you,” I say. “If this bet was rigged, it doesn’t count."

He jerks back and shakes his head, frowning. “No, I wouldn’t do that,” he says. “I noticed you had some pottery on your coffee table, with initials on it, a Q. B.?"

I nod. He’s talking about the bowl I made last year. Initials usually go on the bottom, but I painted them big and proud in the middle. And the bowl is empty. Mandy and I haven’t decided what to put in it. We narrowed it down to fake fruit (lame), M&M’S (which we would devour) or Micro Machines. Clearly, we’re leaning toward Micro Machines.

Luke takes my hand. I think he’s trying to convey his earnestness, his respectability and seriousness of not tricking me into a bet. The pads of my fingers brush against his rough palms and I suppress a sigh. His thumb runs along my pointer finger, sliding to the fingernail. “You also have paint under your nails.” His victorious, smug smile is in full bloom.

I pull my hand away, embarrassed. “Yeah, it’s hard to get all the paint off.”

“I’m sure,” he says.



Caitlin Sinead’s debut novel will be published by Carina Press in 2015. Her writing has also appeared (or is forthcoming) in The AlarmistThe Binnacle, Jersey Devil Press, and Northern Virginia Magazine, among other publications. She earned a master’s degree in writing from Johns Hopkins University. She tweets at @CaitlinSineadJ.

HOW AWESOME IS THIS? Congrats, Caitlin!!!! Thank you so much for keeping us in touch with your successes, and good luck with everything!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

"Nightmare on Query Street" Wrap Up

"Nightmare on Query Street" this year was bigger than ever - more reading, more people involved, and more Twittering. It was a TON of fun.

I'm so so SO happy to announce that the Spooks (my team) tied for first place with Michelle's Minions!!!!

Minions had:

4 Screams
32 Requests

Monsters had:

9 Screams
22 Requests

Spooks had:

9 Screams
32 Requests

What is a bit sad is that a healthy fraction of Spooks (in fact, a healthy fraction of all our total 36 entries) did not get any requests. Although entries without requests are normal for contests, this time the fraction was higher than usual (although the total number of requests were roughly the same). 

What this boils down to is agent taste and subjectivity. We hosts (and our slush readers) thought you had amazing entries, or else we would not have picked you. ALL IT TAKES IS ONE YES. Although we had a good number of agents, there are so many more out there! Go search, explore, and don't give up!!!

Congrats on an amazing contest, everyone :) Now, time to catch up on sleep, writing, and general life. Until next time, GO SPOOKS!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Happy Halloween!


Make sure to have a spooky awesome amazing time! I'm going to dress up as a Hufflepuff this Halloween. They're under-appreciated and few people see their true awesomeness. 

How about you? Costume ideas? You? Your kids?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Nightmare on Query Street has BEGUN! Agents, Welcome!


Are you guys excited? BECAUSE WE ARE!!

Below this post, you'll find the thirteen Spooks I picked with the help of the amazing slush readers, Laura and Nicole. 

You can head over to Michelle's and Mike's blogs as well. (But why would you, when we Spooks are obviously the best?)

Sorry everyone, but no commenting, cheerleading, etc. (I've deleted the few comments that have been made.) Only agents will be able to comment.



CHEER OVER ON TWITTER! We're going to be under the hashtag #NoQS and we will be having FUN. So vent, be nervous, cheer each other on, and hold hands over Twitter. One of the best parts of contests is seeing how the writer's community gathers and supports each other.

Spooks, we all have to gather and annihilate the Minions and Monsters (both start with M, how boring).

For the next two days, agents will have fun ways to request in the contest.

They can SCREAM for a full request.
They can SHRIEK for a 50 page request.
They can SHIVER for a 10 page request.

Agents, in your comments, be sure to include any other material you'd like to see (like a synopsis) and any unique email address you'd like the submission to be sent to.

And agents can make as many requests as they want! So go wild! We have some awesome talent for you to peruse.

GOOD LUCK EVERYONE!! Hope you all get a ton of frighteningly amazing requests!

Once a Spook, always a Spook!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

NoQS Spooks 13: DOWN FOR THE COUNT, Adult Mythic Fiction

Genre: Adult Mythic Fantasy
Word Count: 94,000

My Main Character's Most Fearsome Obstacle:

Persephone’s stuck between the orders of her stubborn, powerful parents. In one corner, wearing a green gown and threatening to starve mankind: mother Demeter (“stay chaste; help me in the fields for eternity”). In the opposite corner, wearing a sexy tunic and not caring much if mankind starves or not, father Zeus (“marry Hades; be trapped in the underworld forever”). But she’d rather reject both alternatives and chose the direction of her own immortality. That’s tricky enough, but she must first escape the heretofore escape-proof land of the dead—and deal simultaneously with the devoted attention of its love-struck god.


Persephone has killed thousands…of violets, tulips, and roses. While the other gods are off smiting humans, ravishing the slow-of-foot, or dominating the world, she’s stuck overdosing on bucolic delights. So when Hades interrupts yet another scintillating bout of floricide and carries her off to the not-so-sweet hereafter, she’s face-slapping mad—but also a little thrilled. The high point of her life thus far had been inventing the corn dog.

Once down under, she finally has clout. As the supposed consort of its smitten ruler, she soon improves the quality of (after)life for the shades, pardons an unjustly defamed woman, and even turns a misunderstood three-headed hellhound into her beloved pet. She might achieve more were she to agree to become Hades’ actual wife. And she’s tempted. He is the most honorable god she knows, actually respects her opinions, and sports a physique better than the average Greek god.

Unfortunately, without her, the upper world goes to Hades in a Grecian urn. Her worried mother, the goddess of agriculture, stops work, then is assaulted and disappears. While Persephone’s finally found her place in the (under)world—and may have fallen hard for Hades—famine looms, and someone has to find Mom and punish her powerful attacker. But being the first, dead or alive, to slip out of the underworld without discovery will take more ingenuity than inventing the world’s first fast food. She’ll actually have to act like the goddess she has proclaimed herself: Dread Persephone, the Bringer of Death. (“Pass it on.”)

First 250 words:

With two powerful gods as parents, you might think I’d have something better to smite than flowers. If so, you’d be wrong.

Violets had seemed an inspired choice two hours ago. Now my hands and back ached from picking the little suckers. I threw down my half-full basket and plopped my butt onto the grassy, be-flowered paradise on Earth known as Nysion. It wasn’t that I lacked choice; the place always abounded with a variety of flowers. And, of course, bees that never stung and butterflies in an array of colors and glorious weather at all times. Utterly delightful.

And after a hundred years, utterly mind-numbing.

Maybe I should use my divine powers to do this. I concentrated. New plants sprouted, instead. Nope, I could still only make them grow, not pick themselves and leap into my basket.

A rustle from the woods surrounding the meadow made me jump. No, that must have been the wind blowing through the trees. I didn’t feel any breeze, but what else could it be? An unbidden shiver coursed through my body until I told it to stop. It wasn’t cold. It was never cold here. Like everything else in my life, Nysion was always the same. The only difference from all my previous trips was I was here alone.

I didn’t understand why Zeus had asked me to get the flowers for our quarterly banquet tonight. I was handling the food, too. Why didn’t Dad ask his favorite daughter, Hebe, to be useful for once?

NoQS Spooks 12: TIMBER POINT, Adult Thriller/Mystery

Genre: Adult Thriller/Mystery
Word Count: 86,000

My Main Character’s Most Fearsome Obstacle:

Growing up on the streets has a way of making you hard. As a cat burglar people would think I'd be afraid of getting caught, afraid of the cops, but I’m too smart for that. Okay, maybe I feared people getting too close, but that's not a real fear. It's when I got that first midnight phone call that a cold, hard shiver raced down my spine. It was a serial killer. He called to tell me he'd found me. Me, the so-called "expert" cat burglar. I'd accidentally stolen his trophy box.

And he's coming to take it back.


Cat burglar Shawny Daniels always believed her “fearlessness rules” mantra would keep her on top and out of jail. When her latest break-in leads her to a secret room with an aquarium filled with cockroaches-- roaches like she heard about on the news-- she instantly realizes there are some people more dangerous than cops-- serial killers.

She tells herself it’s no big deal until a mutilated chipmunk arrives at her door soon after. Somehow, he’s found her. When the midnight phone calls start, she knows he’s not going away. She listens as his demon-like voice whispers how she inadvertently stole his precious trophy box-- and he wants it back.

The only problem is, she can’t find what he wants. Did she drop it when she ran from the house? She’s afraid, but going to the cops isn’t an option without risking her freedom. When her “helpful” best friend insists on a blind date with charismatic Detective Levon Samuels it might make that impossible, though. Ordinarily Shawny would rather drink bleach than date a cop, but Levon might help her get this psycho off her tail.

Now she’s juggling being stalked by a killer, dating the lead detective on the case and trying to hold on to her own heart. Plus, the closer she gets to Levon and the case, the more she realizes she’s responsible for the killer’s next victim. If she doesn’t find the trophy box, the killer’s coming for her. If she doesn’t come clean with Levon, more will die. And if she does, she could lose the only man she’s ever loved.

First 250 words:

I eyed the perfect house, a two-story contemporary in an upscale neighborhood in Revere, Massachusetts. Cased it night after night to learn the occupant's schedule. Shattered a street light out front with a rock to cloak me in darkness, and then returned tonight for the heist. I left nothing to chance.

No way am I going back. The cops will never catch me. I'm way too good for that.

Learning the target's habits is essential in good prowling. The last thing I need is an unannounced arrival or a half-asleep homeowner surprising me in the dark. I get in and get out. That's my specialty. Simple. Smooth. Stealth. Homeowner's insurance covers the stolen goods anyway. It's a victimless crime. And the only way I know to survive.

I waited for just the right moment to strike. The ideal opportunity when the neighbors' homes blackened and all movement stopped inside the target property. To me, it's like a dance. The music starts slow as the first house-light extinguishes, enhances as the second home darkens, and then elevates into a vibrant symphony once the last glimmer vanishes from sight.

This contemporary house, fronted with glass and stucco and a stone-columned carport on the left side, had no swing-set or signs of children in the home.

A perfect mark.

My favorite feature: the catwalk, made from the same wood as the house with chest-high railings that began at the front gate, traveled over a rocked stream-- a manicured lawn on either side-- and continued straightly to the front door.

NoQS Spooks 11: ERASING RAMONA, Adult Thriller

Genre: Adult Thriller
Word Count: 75,000

My Main Character's Most Fearsome Obstacle:

Haunted by her discovery of the Orwell Massacre a decade ago, Miranda needs to find out what really happened that night – and whether or not she played any part in the murders.


On the run for the last ten years, 27-year-old Miranda Burgess hasn’t seen her hometown since the day she awoke inside a strange house and discovered six dead bodies, including that of her boyfriend. With no idea who committed the murders and afraid she’d wind up the prime suspect, Miranda panicked and ran to L.A. where she changed her name and made a fresh start. After a decade with no cops coming for her, Miranda braves a trip home to Mill Valley for her father’s funeral.

When a man with a message from an ‘old friend’ tries to drag her to his van, Miranda manages to get away, but ends up hiding on the streets of Mill Valley. Her new identity is compromised, but Miranda refuses to start over again or go to the police. With no idea who the ‘old friend’ is or why a thug was sent after her, Miranda investigates the crime now known as the Orwell Massacre. Convinced the answer lies buried in that blacked-out night, Miranda returns to the murder house. There she discovers she holds the key to a fortune and winds up in the cross hairs of a killer. If Miranda can take down the killer, she may finally be able to stop running. But, if she fails, she’ll wind up the Orwell Massacre’s final victim.

First 250 words:

November 1984

Where the hell was I? My mouth tasted like sour cherry and a hammer pounded somewhere behind my eyes. We must’ve kept partying after Billy’s gig. But where? Here? I freed myself from the tangle of sheets. “Billy?” My voice sounded hoarse and thin. Leaning against a bedpost, I pulled on jeans then fished through the pockets for my vial of pills. I shook out a Xanax and swallowed it dry. A dark sleeve poked from beneath the bed. Shivering, I turned my sweatshirt right-side-out and yanked it on. After struggling into socks and ankle boots, I looked out the closest window.

Gray sky loomed above rolling hills dotted with sycamore and sequoia. Definitely not San Francisco. Was I back in Mill Valley? Which one of Billy’s friends lived out here? I turtled my icy fingers inside my sleeves and stepped into the hall. A wide staircase led down. “Billy?”

Nothing looked familiar – not the tiled entryway, the gilt-framed family portrait, nor the heavy wood shutters covering the windows. When I reached the first floor, a faint hum mixed with the tick of a clock, but the place still felt abandoned.

A door stood open on the far side of the entry. “Billy?” I covered my nose. “Oh, man. You been eating refrieds again?” I stepped inside. A cast-off shoe sat near one of the sofas. I rounded the end of the six-foot sectional and stared.

Dried blood webbed the carpet. Three bodies lay snared in the rust-brown strands.

NoQS Spooks 10: THICKER THAN WATER, Adult Historical Fiction

Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Word Count: 90,000

My Main Character's Most Fearsome Obstacle:

Evelyn Carmichael wants all eyes to be on her. To be seductive and adored, Rita Hayworth-style. If her rural hometown wasn’t so uptight, Evelyn might have become a movie star herself. Since she’s stuck in tiny Eaton Springs, she sets her sights on achieving fame and admiration from the local men. But eligible bachelors are dying at the war front, and that frightens Evelyn. With fewer respectable, Midwestern men available, she cannot shake her fear of being unhappy, alone, and ignored. Because what’s more terrifying than being a single woman wasting her beauty on cripples and dairy cows?


In the wake of the second world war, the small town of Eaton Springs is bending beneath the pressures of food rations, low morale, and losing their men to the war in Europe. But the watchful town is focused instead on the Carmichael sisters, who are fighting a different sort of battle: one inside the home.

Boy-crazy Evelyn Carmichael longs for a man in uniform, but is forced to settle for Harvey, the sincere, asthmatic boy-next-door. As Evelyn struggles to settle into her new role as a married woman, she finds it difficult to live a picture-show perfect life.

Meanwhile, shy, anxiety-ridden Clara Carmichael is the opposite of her charismatic older sister—she simply wants everyone to get along. As Clara battles with depression, she moves in with the newlyweds. But getting along with Evelyn proves difficult as Clara finds herself slowly falling for Harvey.

When Evelyn is charmed by a wounded war hero and becomes pregnant with his child, the sisters’ lives are blown apart. Evelyn is forced to choose between her uniformed fella or her life with Harvey. Clara, too, must decide where her loyalties lie: with her self-absorbed sister, or her sweet brother-in-law. Both sisters know they will have to live with their decisions within the conservative confines of their community, but how can they turn their backs on love?

As the Carmichael sisters’ drama unfolds, the same question is on both of their minds: is blood thicker than water?

First 250 words:

Evelyn Carmichael liked to dig her fingers deep into the penny candy bins at D’Antonio’s Sweet Shoppe. To feel the crinkle of the wrappers in her hands, the sweets filling her palms. The candy store was no bigger than the nearby tailor shop, but it was filled with every kind of sweet treat imaginable. Evelyn normally chose the candies with the liquid centers—strawberry was her favorite—but every so often she bought anise or horehound and tried to trick her siblings into eating it.

Evelyn was knuckle-deep in a mound of root beer barrels when she spotted Peter Mayes. It was just Evelyn’s luck that she would run into Peter on an afternoon when she’d forgotten to swipe a coat of red lipstick over her too-thin lips. Peter was behind the register, pulling the crank handle with a satisfying ching! that clanged throughout the small store. She couldn’t help but recall the feeling of his lips, the way he’d tried to slide his hand up the front of her blouse. How she’d pushed him away. His words—“Don’t have a cow!”—rang in her ears along with the noise of the register.

If Evelyn had her druthers, she would’ve had a plan for the next time she saw Peter. To have a smart-but-funny remark handy: No cows here, maybe, with a wink of her left eye, her mascaraed lashes long and dark. She would’ve brightened her face with borrowed make-up from her stepmother’s stash.

Being plain-faced and in the care of her stuffy next-door-neighbor Mrs. Jansen was not what Evelyn had in mind.


NA Science Fiction
Word Count
: 71,000

My Main Character's Most Fearsome Obstacle:

Lucy fears everyone. A biker in the canyon, two middle-aged women out for a run, the homeless man chanting incoherent nursery rhymes. She hides in a maze of San Diego canyons because she can’t be seen by anyone wearing spex. And in the near future, the thought-activated eyewear are as common as smart phones. The mysterious hacker chasing Lucy can access the minds of those wearing spex. If he finds her, he’ll erase her memories. If she doesn’t find him--and stop him--no one will know that minds can be hacked and lives rewritten.


When college freshman Lucy Campbell makes a fool of herself in front of her long-time crush, Marco Han, she wishes she could erase the whole episode from his brilliant mind. She’s shocked to learn that her older sister can do just that.

Mollie, a stay-at-home mom who once hacked for the government, tells Lucy that she’s found a way to delete people’s memories via spex, the thought-activated successor to Google Glass. But when she breaks into Marco’s mind, Mollie decides not to erase any embarrassing moments because he already has a crush on Lucy. Encouraged by her sister’s discovery, Lucy stops avoiding Marco. Soon, the two are dating; and Marco, a tech guru in his own right, elevates Mollie’s mindhacking from a guilty pleasure to an efficient crime-solving tool.

As the three infiltrate more minds, they realize they’re not the only ones who can steal memories. Marco suddenly forgets Lucy; and Mollie forgets that she could ever mindhack. Lucy’s mind should be safe because she doesn’t wear spex. But when the mysterious hacker comes after her in person, Lucy must make a choice. She can give up her memories and continue to live in comfort and safety. Or, she can save the knowledge that minds can be hacked, and run for her life.

First 250 words:

There’s a thin line between having a crush and stalking; and Lucy wasn’t sure if she’d crossed it. She lay flat on her tummy on the hand-stitched quilt her mom sent with her to college. Her blue eyes peered over the book she was supposed to be reading. A lanky young man with wavy black hair unlocked his bike outside the computer science building. Marco Han. The reason this sunny scrap of lawn was her place to study. He hopped on his bike and rode the opposite direction. Lucy returned to her book, Walden, certain its author wouldn’t approve of her spying.

“I always know where to find you on a Thursday afternoon.” Karen sat down next to her. “How’s the view?”

“He just left. I barely saw him.”

“Bad day for stalking, huh?” Karen wore peacock blue spex. The frames matched the colored streak in her blond pixie-cut hair.

“It’s not stalking,” Lucy laughed at herself. “It’s caring.”

“Well, you obviously don’t care enough. If you were a true stalker you’d take his class. That way you’d have to sit in the front row and gawk at him twice a week, like the rest of us.”

Lucy pulled herself up off her stomach, a somewhat tricky maneuver since she was wearing a yellow sundress. “Can you see me in computer science?” She smoothed her skirt, the ruffled hem fell above her freckled knees. “I’d be the only one in class without spex,”

“Sweetie, you’re the only one on campus without spex.”

NoQS Spooks 8: JACKED, NA Contemporary

Genre: NA Contemporary
Word Count: 57,000

My Main Character's Most Fearsome Obstacle:

The only thing worse than callin’ Casey when I was drunk is the possibility that Mom found out about it. I wish I could remember what I said and who was in the room. I was an idiot for dialin’ the number at all. The last thing I need is for somethin’ stupid to happen that causes Mom to find her way back to the hospital. I can’t keep bein’ the reason she wants to kill herself. And what if bein’ myself causes someone else to pull a stunt like hers?


Jack's freshman year of college was supposed to be an escape from his parochial, poverty-stricken hometown in Appalachia. That is, until his mom tried to commit suicide right before the start of the first semester. If she hadn’t found him in bed with Casey—the only boy from home who ever came close to understanding him—Jack could’ve left town and never looked back.

Fitting in with strange people in a college town is easier said than done when faced with Mom’s constant reminders of his sinful habits and selfish decisions. It doesn’t help that Jack hasn’t slept since his mom kicked him out of her room at the psychiatric clinic, or that Casey hasn’t returned any of his calls since the “incident.” No, college isn't quite the escape Jack had imagined.

Feeling overwhelmed by familial guilt, and desperately trying to understand why he needs a guy who’s too stubborn to open up about what he wants, Jack finds that his mental state is heading in the same direction as his mom’s. The lower his self-esteem gets, the harder it becomes to fight off the pills calling his name. Jack must learn to set boundaries between the life he’s been dealt and the life he wants before he can patch up the situation with his mom and win back the boy he might love.

First 250 words:

I wouldn’t have recognized Mom if a nurse hadn’t led me to her room.

The first thing I noticed was her head. Her bushy hair was haphazard and choppy, like a careless nurse had thrown a chainsaw in her general direction. Her neck was kinked to the side, and her tongue sagged out of her mouth as she snored. Wrists cuffed to the bed, her once-long fingernails were clipped and filed down. The sheet was tangled ’round her ankles like she’d tried to kick it off before the drugs took effect. And don’t get me started on the gauze coverin’ her left forearm.

She wasn’t goin’ anywhere.

I stared through the glass door leadin’ to Mom’s room. The nurse said I’d be allowed in when she was more responsive, probably in a couple days. God, I wouldn’t’ve wanted to talk to her even if I was allowed. I could already hear the conversation: “Hi Mom, how’s it goin’?” “What do you care, Jack?” “Nice talkin’ to you too, Mom.”

I helped myself to the coffee and Styrofoam cups at the end of the hall, even though I wasn’t sure if they were free. I paced in front of Mom’s glass door, waitin’ for my coffee to cool and grumblin’ about how the nurses weren’t nice enough to offer me a chair. It wasn’t long before I realized I didn’t need to linger—if I wasn’t allowed inside, there was no reason to stare at mom’s patchwork head and dried-up tongue.

NoQS Spooks 7: THE BATTLE BORN, YA Survival

Genre: YA Survival
Word Count: 76,000

My Main Character's Most Fearsome Obstacle:

Out of food, gas, and water, John Lockwood's most fearsome obstacle is the Nevada desert.


Seventeen-year-old John doesn’t know what caused the blackout 21 days ago, and he doesn’t know why help has yet to reach his rural Nevada town. The water pumps are out, their gasoline storage is depleted, and most of the town has already evacuated. Cut off from communication, John’s fifteen-year-old brother, Stew, is convinced it’s the zombie apocalypse. But John was left in charge of him, and he knows the power will be back soon, they just need to wait it out.

When a group of men rob them of their food and water storage, that plan changes. They’ll have to attempt the impossible: walk 90 miles down one of the most desolate highways in the state to reach help.

Teenager Cleverly and her younger brother are also desperate to reach help. When John agrees to let them tag along, he knows he’s making a mistake. After all, cutting their scavenged water supply in half is not exactly conducive to surviving a three day walk through the desert. And as Stew falls into a pessimistic downward spiral, John has serious doubts about their chances of making it. Not only are they dealing with physical exhaustion, unbearable heat, and a dangerous lack of water, but he’s not convinced they’ve seen the last of those men who robbed them.

If they’re going to beat the odds and survive this disaster, John will have to let go of past mistakes and learn to trust his instincts.

First 250 words:

Dad always said if things get desperate, it’s okay to drink the water in the toilet bowl. I never thought it would come to that. I thought I’d sooner die than let one drop of toilet water touch my lips. Yet here I am, kneeling before a porcelain throne, holding a tin mug for scooping in one hand, and my half-gallon canteen in the other.

Don’t worry, I’m going to boil it first.

Behind me, my brother Stewart is making gagging noises. “I’m gonna throw up,” he says, which is something Stew says all the time, but does he ever actually throw up? No. He doesn’t do most of the things he says he’s going to do, like run away, or kill himself, or kill me—I was actually already dying when he said that one. “C’mon, John,” he says, the whine in his voice setting my teeth on edge, “do we really need this?”

I stop mid-scoop and stare up at him, holding the pink padded toilet seat up with my elbow. “No, we don’t need it, Stew. I just thought, ‘Oh look, water from a toilet. That sounds refreshing, let’s drink it.’”

His sullen, dark eyes narrow at me, and I thrust the canteen into his unwilling hands. He kneels down to help me, but adds in a mumble, “We have two canteens of water already.”

And that’s a perfect example of how my brother thinks. Two canteens of water, and we have a 90 mile walk down a desolate stretch of desert highway before we reach Brighton Ranch, our last chance for help.

NoQS Spooks 6: BEYOND THE WILD, YA Fantasy

Genre: YA Fantasy
Word Count: 66,000

My Main Character's Most Fearsome Obstacle:

Trusting the enemy is Syra’s most fearsome obstacle. All her experiences tell a story of her enemy killing innocents of her kind. Trusting them is terrifying, and if Syra wants to save her friends and stop the fighting, she’ll have to overcome this fear.


Syra made a horrible mistake. She saved the life of a human.

Seventeen-year-old Syra never met a human, but she's told if she ever does, they’ll kill her for what she is. Two hundred years ago natural disasters nearly destroyed the world. Natura, unaffected by the Storm, emerged from hiding to help humanity rebuild. Instead of being grateful, humankind blamed Natura, Syra’s race, for the destruction and ever since, the two races have been at war.

All Syra wants is to commune with the earth’s energy and develop her healing powers, but when her tribe infiltrates a human survival camp, all her desires are put on hold. To help her tribe destroy the camp, Syra is forced to befriend the enemy and locate the camp’s armory. As she spends time with the humans, she sees qualities in them worth protecting and defies what she’s been taught, healing and saving a human girl’s life.

Syra must trust the girl to keep her Natura identity a secret because if the girl doesn’t, the guards protecting the camp will kill her. With the tribe setting their plan to destroy the camp in motion, Syra’s human and Natura friends’ lives are in jeopardy. She can save her friends, but if she does, she risks banishment forever from the only family she has ever known.

First 250 words:

The wind sets my skin tingling, and with a deep breath I stretch my mind down through my toes and into the Earth, pulling on the humming energy beneath my feet. A pleasant warmth floods through my limbs as the nature around me sings.

The smell of pine and wet soil fills my nostrils, but the sharp, musky stench of humans cuts through everything—instantly making me gag. My heart beats faster, and any calm I had is gone. They’re lined up in front of me, waiting to pass through the camp’s metal gate and return to the protection of the compound’s nine-foot high-fence.

I’d give anything not to be in this line, pretending I’m one of them. Over my shoulder, the forest’s treeline reaches into the distance. That’s where I belong. Out there, with crunchy, dried leaves beneath my feet and unspoiled air in my lungs. The Wild. Sighing, I shift my laundry bag to my other shoulder.

A bird above me cries while in flight. It swoops down in a burst of white energy. It’s too close and I cringe.


Wings out, the bird spirals to the ground. A blue jay. Dead. Its essence ceases as quick as lightning across the sky. There one second, gone the next. The kids around me glance up, but its death doesn’t echo through them like it does through me.

By now, the animals should know better than to come this close to the camp. Every time they do, the guards shoot them down.

“Syra,” Trax whispers, tugging on my arm.

It’s time.


Genre: YA Mystery
Word Count: 52,000

My Main Character's Most Fearsome Obstacle:

I don’t fear open spaces; I'll put on my turquoise boots and wander for days in the West Texas Desert. I don’t fear swamps; I could sleep in Spanish moss covered trees with alligators snapping below me, and I wouldn’t flinch once. But I do fear that my dead parents wouldn’t understand me. I fear their world of high society and how smoothly they fit into it. So I’m facing my fear. I’m immersing myself in the life they lived, so different from mine, and I’m trying to figure out who took them from me. I will find that person.


Jane had come to terms with her parents’ death. She had accepted that her youth would be spent moving from one Texas town to the next, her grandfather crunching tortilla chips while driving their RV and telling her stories of Texas history.

But when she discovers her grandfather lied about the most important thing - how she lost her parents - she packs her bag, slips on her turquoise cowgirl boots, and leaves the only stability she’s ever had, her grandfather and the constant open road. Jane drives straight through Texas to Michigan, where she was born and where her parents died.

In Traverse City, Michigan she finds all the things she’s never had: people who know her past, stories about her parents, and the mixture of self-doubt and excitement that inevitably comes with a first crush. But what she wants more than anything is to find out the truth about her parents’ death, and everyone in town, except her, seems to have a different opinion about it, some say murder and some say murder-suicide. Trying to navigate a world full of social niceties and resort houses on Lake Michigan, she begins to wonder if her parents could have loved someone like her, someone from a rugged landscape of jutting rocks and harsh light and with a personality to match. It’s only when she is finally confronted with the truth that she realizes how much her grandfather loves her and wanted to protect her from the danger she must now face.

First 250 words:

I held the newspaper article up for my grandfather to see. It was soft to the touch from age, creased down the middle. “I’m leaving.” I grabbed my backpack from the RV’s floor, swinging it over my shoulder, knocking over an empty mug that cracked into large pieces on the brown linoleum floor.

“Jane, I’m sorry.” He shook his head. The dim light from our trailer’s only lamp made it difficult to see his weathered face.

“How you could lie to me?” I stormed out, the almost weightless screen door swinging behind me.

“Get back in here,” he said, following me. “It’s dangerous there.”

“You don’t know where I’m going,” I said without turning around.

“I know,” he said, and I stopped.

Of course he knew. Where else would I go?

“I always thought you’d go with me,” I said looking at him, hating the pleading in my voice.

I gave him a second to reply. A second is forever to give someone when they have hurt you that much. He put his hands on his hips, shook his head and looked out to the desert, as if the words he needed might be there.

I got into the old truck and peeled out, trying to ignore him standing there, looking small and insignificant beneath the West Texas starry sky and bright moon. He’d always been bigger than life to me. I turned the radio up so that I could feel the vibrations in my arms, legs, and right into that aching spot in my chest. I needed it like that.


Genre: YA LGBT Contemporary
Word count: 73,000

My Main Character's Most Fearsome Obstacle:

Someone's going to find out. They’re going to smell my clothes, see my bruises—the evidence of what my father thinks is my ‘disobedience’—and then they’re going to say something. Then DCF will show up, and we’ll lose the farm. But that’s not even the worst of it. They’ll take Gracie, and she’s too little, too sick, for a foster home. This is why…Please. I didn’t do it. I swear I didn’t do it. Please, no. Please.


Unlike the other teens on Brimstone Hill, Sarah Koziol doesn’t have a Macbook Air or a silver baritone horn. Or heat and hot water. But she does have her family and the farm, and she’ll do anything to protect them—especially if being invisible to her peers means remaining invisible to the Department of Children and Families.

Then Sarah meets Bonnie, a belligerent foster girl with a past as bad as Sarah’s present. Bonnie’s the first person to look through Sarah’s third-hand clothes and see her bruised body. She urges Sarah to stand up for herself, do as she did, call DCF. But Bonnie can’t begin to understand the repercussions such an action would have on Sarah’s family or the farm. Still, if it worked for Bonnie, maybe it’d work for Sarah.

As the farm falls prey to coyotes and power-outages, and as her sister grows sicker and her parents more desperate, Sarah clings to her relationship with Bonnie. But balancing family and friendship proves harder than winter without heat. When Sarah learns that Bonnie lied about her abuse, she must reevaluate what’s important—her growing sense of self and love, or her obligations to family and farm.

First 250 Words:

I roll over to check if the milk is frozen. Neatly stacked in three crates of glass bottles, it’s solid. That probably means the apples and potatoes are frozen, too.

The omen of a bad day.

I could pray that the bottles won’t break as my bedroom warms with daylight. I could pray, but I won’t. If it’s going to get cold, it’s going to get cold, and all things—milk among them—freeze. There’s a life lesson for you.

My folded clothes lay on my nightstand, and I pull them into the warmth of the sleeping bag.

I am the salamander that once lived in the cellar. Joseph and I used to amuse ourselves by enticing it with earth- or mealworms. It would shoot from under the stone long enough to bite down before retreating. The salamander couldn’t guess we weren’t going to hurt it. It didn’t need to move fast, but I do. Otherwise, my body heat will escape. The chill will never leave me then.

In middle school, I slept in my clothes, the extra layer providing what the wood stove in the dining room couldn’t. It took only one overheard conversation during that petrifying first week of high school before I stopped.

“Did you see Sarah’s shirt? It’s so wrinkly it looks like she slept in it.”

That was the last time I did.

By that point, most of my peers started to notice I was different. If I’m being honest here, it was the first time I noticed.

NoQS Spooks 3: FINDING BEAUTY, YA Contemporary

Genre: YA Contemporary
Word Count: 57,000

My Main Character’s Most Fearsome Obstacle:
Daphne’s fearsome obstacle is the terror she’ll never be anything but a broken beauty queen. She’s planned her future around the fame, connections, and scholarships that pageants offer, but now that they’ve been taken away, Daphne doesn’t know what she’ll become. If she can get past her scars, she might find she’s worth more than tiaras and titles.


Sixteen-year-old pageant contender Daphne Phelps doesn't care who she steps on to take the Carolina Blossom crown. But when her victory party ends in mangled metal from a deer vs. BMW collision, she loses her looks, leg, best friend, and reputation all in one night.

With the press eager to capture her fall from grace, Daphne's parents exile her to their gated summer home on Fripp Island. Struggling to overcome phantom pains and the loss of her friend, Daphne further isolates herself, lashing out at those around her, especially at cute, seventeen-year-old landscaper Isaac Spicer.

Her insults don’t faze Isaac, and his unbreakable patience chips away her anger as he shows her the unfurling beauty of spring on the island. Little by little, Daphne looks forward to their trips around the yard and discount-bin horror movie nights. His kindness sparks her desire to pay it forward with a new idea for a community service project. With a new focus, Daphne might find a passion greater than winning a crown.

First 250 words:

Jaime’s sweaty palm slid against mine, but I resisted the urge to pull away. The stage lights turned everyone behind them into one big blur, but the pageant judges were watching every little move. They saw everything, even the reflection from Jaime’s lip gloss as she silently practiced her acceptance speech. I kept my hand firmly in hers and ignored the way she wobbled in her heels.

My confidence grew as my gaze shifted back to the nearly invisible audience.

The judges had whittled the competition to just the two of us. If the girl from Greenville stood here instead of Jaime, I might have had a challenge. I might’ve been a little scared. They’d fallen for Jaime’s barely-legal swimsuit. Still, my plan to expand the local mobile food bank services topped her bubbly ramble about car washes and cats.

I had worked for months to prepare for the Carolina Blossom pageant. Every outfit was painstakingly selected. I’d practiced my speeches in the mirror and to my friends Sara and Krys until they could recite the words with me. The hardwood floor in my hallway featured a worn spot from its hours as a runway while I tested out gowns and heels.

For Jaime, it was about a spotlight and a crown. To me, it was far more. I’d eagerly have traded the past eleven years of tiaras and sashes for this one. This one title would take me straight to the Miss Teen South Carolina Pageant.


Genre: MG Horror
Word Count: 31,000

My Main Characters Most Fearsome Obstacle:

Pen’s most fearsome obstacle is sleepwalking. Not so much the sleepwalking itself, but the waking up. Because Pen knows good and well that at the end of every sleepwalk there are two things waiting for you—a ravenous monster and a hot oven. Will he sizzle you in a stew? Or perhaps make a stir-fry of your fingers and toes? It’s likely he’ll do both, and add in some braised calf for good measure. Pen knows the rules—if you meet a ghoul, don’t fall asleep.


When eleven-year-old Pen trades her sock for a watch with the man on the other side of the fence, she doesn’t realize she’s given him the final piece he needs to turn her into a four-course meal.

Then she learns the terrible truth: ghouls are real, and they’re everywhere. They take jobs as teachers and babysitters, secretly imagining how scrumptious the kiddies will taste in their souffl├ęs. They use dreams to lure children to their doorsteps in the small hours of the night, while the rest of the world is tucked under their cozy covers.

Then there is the Great Ghoul, a ghoul so nasty and foul that he makes all other ghouls look like grandparents who shower children with sweets.

And he has his sights set on Pen—the one that got away.

She’s the only one who’s met a ghoul and lived to tell the tale, the only soul who knows the truth. If Pen can find a way to trap their leader, she can expose the detestable breed to the world, and get them locked up for good. But to find him, she’ll have to allow the beast to lure her in for a midnight snack.

First 250 words:

Something was scratching at Pen’s window.

She lay still in her sleeping bag on the hard floor. Complete darkness filled the room, except for a small circle of light on the far side of it. Everyone else in the house was fast asleep. Their snores went straight through the thin boards of the house, and collected in Pen’s room.

Pen’s room was in the attic. And the small circle of light on the far side of the room was the attic window. The thing outside was still scratching at it.

Thousands of tiny goosebumps were prickling Pen’s arms. It must be a giant, she told herself, trying to find his way in and snatch me up.

Pen knew all about giants because her uncle had told her. She knew well that it was the habit of giants to come out at night and pluck little children from their windows.

She decided to get up and have a look. It would be best to know which sort of giant was about to snatch her up. Would it be a Masher, or a Cruncher? Mashers liked to dance on top of piles of children and make a fine wine of their juices. Crunchers, on the other hand, popped the children right into their mouths like jellybeans, bones and all. Either way it was rotten luck, but at least she could prepare for one or the other.

But when Pen reached the window and looked outside, it was neither a Cruncher nor a Masher.

NoQS Spooks 1: I WISH I HAD A...DANG YOU AUTOCORRECT! MG Contemp. Fantasy

Genre: MG contemporary fantasy
Word Count: 37,000

My Main Character's Most Fearsome Obstacle:

Luke's most fearsome obstacle is that he's never sure what his cell phone's Autocorrect will change his words to and what will appear. Dragging to Dragon! Sent More to Centaur! There are so many possible problems that he's afraid to say anything. Then one day Luke doesn't even have to ask anymore. Autocorrect changes words on its own.


To keep himself from becoming locker-stuffing, Luke Walker uses his mad, mother-board fixing skills to repair electronics for the roughest kids in middle school. When Luke’s little brother destroys his cell phone, his dad asks him to test a prototype phone his company’s been working on. It has a faster chip, better apps, and P.H.I.L., an extremely accurate, very funny personal assistant. But, it also has a secret: due to a high-tech accident, P.H.I.L. can grant wishes.

Wait! What?
The three most brain-shatteringly awesome words a thirteen-year old can hear are Can Grant Wishes, and after his head is finished exploding, Luke and his friends test the new wish-granting ability to see exactly how mind-blowing it can be.

But with Autocorrect, even a simple wish can have catastrophic consequences.

Wishes to Witches! Civil Servant to Civil Serpent!
Luke stops wishing, but Autocorrect continues to change words on its own. Luke and his friends must devise a plan to destroy the witches, fix the phone, and survive seventh grade. If they fail, Autocorrect will continue to change everything and the witches and other monsters the phone has summoned will either rule the world, or destroy it.

First 250 words:

My name’s Luke Walker. I’m in the seventh grade and I have a great business. Well, a great business model, anyway: repair laptops, tablets, and phones for the roughest kids in school and I don’t get taped to the outside of my locker, hanging three feet off the ground. They get electronics that always work, and I get left alone.

But sometimes, one of the Mansters forgets about our agreement.

I opened my locker and a year’s worth of crap exploded into the hallway. Scrambling around on my knees to pick it up, I felt a pair of legs the size of tree trunks plant behind me.

“Dude,” a voice grumbled.

From the one-syllable and the voice that sounded like he was gargling with rocks, I knew it was Jonsey, all two hundred pounds of him. I was still working on his laptop, so he wouldn’t kill me. Well, at least, not yet.

“Your laptop isn’t ready,” I said quickly.

“Why not?” he snarled.

I wasn’t sure if I should stand up and face him, or have the conversation with my butt the height of a kicking tee.

“The interface is screwed up . . . ”

“What’d you say about my face?” Jonsey growled.

I looked up, remembering whom I was talking to. “It’s really broken. Bad.”

His chest inflated and his hands flexed into fists.

My whole body tightened, bracing for impact. “This is going to hurt, isn’t it?”

“It’s not gonna hurt,” he snarled. “Pretend I’m helping you find a quiet place to think.”

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

E.B. Wheeler - Become an Agent SUCCESS STORY!

I always get so so excited when I receive a success story from my querypalooza (as we're calling it now, instead of the too-harsh word of 'contest'), "Become an Agent." Since BanA doesn't involve agents (it's all about critiques and revising), it's harder to receive success stories from it since there isn't a direct "this contest got me this request which got me this off" relationship. And yet, BanA is one of my favorite events that I host on this blog :)

Thank you SO MUCH E.B. Wheeler for sending me this! The post is all yours. Take it away!

My Become an Agent success story with The Haunting of Springett Hall started when I realized I needed a break from the YA fantasy I'd been tinkering with for years. I decided to try something different and do NaNoWriMo in 2013. I wrote a Victorian ghost story—from the ghost's point of view—on a dare. After November, I added about 20,000 words to the manuscript and polished it up to enter Pitch Slam: Battle of the Bands. I was so excited when it got picked for Team Magenta, and even more thrilled when an agent requested the manuscript.

The agent ultimately said no, but I felt like the story had promise. I went back to work on it, taking it to critique groups and beta readers and strengthening the plot and characters. I decided I'd try another pitch contest with it—this time Pitch Wars. I liked the pitch that got me into Pitch Slam, but I wanted it to be as strong as possible, so I entered Become an Agent to get feedback from fellow writers.

The comments were very constructive, and I learned my pitch was giving the wrong impression of the book. It turned some people off and set up false expectations for others. With the advice I got in Become an Agent, I crafted a much stronger pitch that better reflected my story. That pitch got me into Pitch Wars as an alternate with Molly Lee as my mentor.

Since I was an alternate, I was still allowed to pitch my manuscript, and I had a mentor to coach me. With a refined version of the pitch I created through Become an Agent, I presented my book to an editor from Cedar Fort Publishing at the League of Utah Writers' annual conference, and she requested the full manuscript. A few weeks later she called to offer me a contract!

I've been on a high since I got over the shock. I'm so grateful to the people who host and participate in all these pitch contests (thank you, thank you, thank you!), because they helped make my pitch and my manuscript strong enough to get the attention of the editor.

There's no one path to getting published—and I think luck and timing play their roles along with talent, hard work, and persistence—but I would tell anyone who's on the journey to keep going. Keep entering contests and considering feedback to decide what will make your story stronger, and keep writing and keep trying. Even if you don't get the results you want this time, you never know what doors will open for you at each new turn.

E.B. Wheeler

I'm an historian and writer, wife, mom, gardener, knitter, and enthusiastic amateur folk musician. I currently write historical fiction and historical fantasy. My debut novel, The Haunting of Springett Hall, a YA Victorian paranormal mystery, will be available in print and ebook from Cedar Fort Publishing July 14, 2015.

Now, go visit/like/follow her blog, Facebook, and Twitter! Make sure to congratulate her as well.

CONGRATS!!!! Good luck with all your future successes :)

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.