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!

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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!!!

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.

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—

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.

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.

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.

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!"

Become an Agent 2015 Post #14

Title: PHILIPPI
Genre: YA contemporary fiction/Thriller
Word count: 53K

Query:

Seventeen-year old Rachel Dorsett’s sister has gone missing. Poof. Into thin air. No one’s seen Leah since March 1st, about two weeks ago, when she attended a prayer meeting at a small and radical church on the edge of Baylor University’s campus. And while everyone else seems content to sit at home after the police’s leads run dry, Rachel feels she should at least look around town herself.

Place number one on her list: that weird church.

There, Rachel meets a guy who’s willing to help her look for the day, but he has a reason for wanting to help her that’s startlingly different from the simple “good deed” he claims. He’s far more involved in Leah’s disappearance than it would appear, and it might be too late by the time Rachel realizes who she’s not only dealing with, but falling for.

PHILIPPI is a YA thriller, complete at 53K.

I teach writing and literature at Baylor University. This work is partially inspired from my experience of having a colleague go missing at the beginning of the school year.

First 250:

No one knows whether my sister’s alive or dead. Whichever it is, it’s giving me a serious ulcer, really messing with my stomach.

It’s weird when someone goes missing; there’s just no ending. It’s like an explosion in outer space—the astronaut is catapulted and there’s no way back. Moving out and out and out. Like Sandra Bullock in Gravity. That’s how I feel. Reaching and reaching, trying to find something to hold onto, but moving slowly past it anyway even as I scramble and scrape at the useless air.

It would wear down anyone’s stomach lining.

The last time anyone saw Leah was on March 1st. She showed up at a church—one of those small weird ones Texas is famous for. Then she disappeared.

March 1st. What was I doing? Due to the zero information listed on my phone’s day-planner app, I have no idea. I’m guessing I went to school, practiced for All-State Choir, did homework, ate dinner, did a little more homework, and then went to bed. Snug and safe. It was a normal day. It could have been any other day . . . for me. For Leah? Who knows? Maybe she drove to New York City or drowned herself in Lake Waco. Maybe some psycho killer dude—

I stop myself.

I’ve considered many ways Leah could have died, been tortured and then died, been raped, tortured and then died, etc., etc., etc. This is not a good habit to get into—imagining your slightly older “Irish Twin” beaten, raped, strangled, burned, mutilated.

Become an Agent 2015 Post #13

Title: Suomi's Song
Genre: MG Fantasy
Word Count: 50,000

Query:
Ten-year-old Henry would rather be on the basketball court perfecting his fadeaway jump shot than on a one-way trip to Helsinki, Finland. So when Henry’s sister, Lauren, steals his copy of The Kalevala, Finland’s creation myth, during their first week at international school and shows it to their new teacher to get extra brownie points that should have been his, yeah, he overreacts. And lands himself and his sister in Finnish lessons for the whole semester as punishment for fighting.

But the Finnish lessons turn into Introduction to Weird 101 when their hip Finnish teacher admits he’s part of an ancient society that protects magical artifacts like Henry’s book, which the original copy of The Kalevala. Weirder still, the book has a connection to Henry that pulls him deeper into the mystery with each rune they read.

Now, in addition to adjusting to the dark, frigid winter and the endless servings of salmon soup, Henry and Lauren must help their teacher locate the Sampo, the mythical horn of plenty from The Kalevala, that keeps the Earth’s magnetic energy in balance. When they realize their Dad’s new boss wants the power of the Sampo for himself, they must stop him to save the Sampo and their father.

SUOMI’S SONG, a dual POV middle-grade fantasy that stands alone but has series potential, is complete at 50,000 words and will appeal to fans of Marissa Burt’s Storybound and Chris Colfer’s The Land of Stories series.

First 250:

Lauren’s sprawled out on her beanbag, nose in a book. Avoiding the heat just like every other hot Colorado afternoon we’ve had this summer.

“Put the book down, sis,” I say. When she ignores me, I kick the bag a few times to get her attention. “Seriously. We’ve got a situation.”

She still doesn’t look up, so I grab the book out of her hands. “Macbeth? You know this stuff will turn you into a nerd, right?” That got her attention.

“Give it back, Henry.” She glares at me, clenching her teeth. That’s one scary metal mouth.

“Jeez, relax,” I say, stepping back in case she decides to bite. I hold the book out and she snatches it, sinking back into the bag. “Just messing with you! But seriously, I have to tell you something.” I swing her door closed. “In private.”

She groans, but puts the book down.

“Mom and Dad are up to something,” I say, crouching down next to her.

“Whatever, Hen,” Lauren says, fiddling with the frayed edge of her jean shorts and yawning.

“No, really. I just overheard them talking in the kitchen as Dad was heading out the door to work. They said something about selling the house.”

The fiddling stops. She’s paying attention now, her green eyes wide behind the her thick glasses. “Again? Where? Boston? Seattle? Not Dallas.”

“Even worse,” I say. “Helsinki.”

She pulls her hair in front of her eyes, hiding her face. “Helsinki? In Finland? No way.”

Become an Agent 2015 Post #12

Title: Ellie and the Scrimshawnees
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Word Count: 40,000

Query:

A once-in-a-lifetime trip aboard a historic wooden whaling ship is the perfect chance for twelve-year-old Ellie to get even with her nemesis Jimmy. She plans to put a few dead fish in his bunk. Maybe run his underwear up the ship’s mast like a flag. She never means for him to fall overboard and get captured by the Scrimshawnees, a tribe of warrior merpeople who are out for revenge of their own.

It’s been 160 years since a whaling vessel has sailed their seas, but Chief Rising Tide is still outraged. The humans had no right to kill so many of the sacred whales the Scrimshawnees depend on for survival, and the chief’s not about to let them start again. He’s given orders to capture and kill all humans. Starting with Jimmy.

No one believes Ellie’s crazy story that Jimmy is captured and still alive. Instead they blame her for his disappearance. And they want her punished. Ellie’s got to figure out a way to rescue Jimmy and stop the Scrimshawnees before the quest for revenge destroys them all.

First 250:


Jimmy puked over the side of the ship’s rail as Ellie hoisted his tighty-whiteys up the wooden mast. The underwear waved in the sea breeze like a flag, black magic-marker letters declaring that “Captain Butthead” was at the helm.

“I’ve never felt so sick in my life. Why did I let you convince me to come on this stupid trip?”

Seeing Jimmy blindly feeling around for a sweatshirt draped just out of reach, Ellie hooked it on her finger and flung it at him. Jimmy wadded up the hood and blotted sweat from his forehead before throwing up again.

“Oh, don’t be a whiner. There are worse things than seasickness,” Ellie said with a smirk. “You know, like having books shoved off your desk, getting tripped in the hallways, being called a loser.”

Jimmy retched, but nothing came out. He stepped back from the rail and collapsed onto the deck, wrapping his arms around his stomach and closing his eyes. “You’re seriously mad about all that?” A gust of wind caused the sails above to flap like the wings of a giant sea dragon. The ocean rose up into white-capped peaks. Jimmy took several deep breaths and swallowed hard. “I was just foolin’ around. Everybody thought it was funny.” He had to shout just to be heard over the roar of the wind and sails.

Yah, it was real funny.” Ellie walked over to Jimmy’s duffel bag and started rummaging through it, tossing clothes in every direction. Shirts and pants soaked up puddles on the deck, hung from the pin rails, and tangled in ropes.

Become an Agent 2015 Post #11

Title: MYSTERY AT GEEK CAMP
Genre: Upper middle grade mystery
Word count: 45,000

Query:

Jared lives for video games, so he’s pumped for the chance to design his own at summer camp. When star-teen programmer, Brent Kagon, shows up at camp too, Jared figures he’ll learn exactly what he needs to top the iTunes Apps chart.

But Brent is too busy finishing his latest killer app to waste time with “noob” programmers. Noob? Jared’s determined to show his idol he has skill by making his app The Best. Game. Ever. But his plans crash when he finds Brent unconscious, slumped on his laptop. Brent’s game code is missing!

Chaos descends as cops and the media arrive, then levels up as accusations fly. Everyone’s freaking — Brent because the thief stole his best ideas, the camp director because Brent’s threatening to sue, and Jared because his name’s at the top of Brent’s suspect list. Things can’t get any worse. Then Jared’s mystery-loving sister, Maxine, decides the investigation is more interesting than her camp program. Jared’s got to find the real thief before he’s hauled off to juvie. And now he’s got “help” from the only person more likely than Brent Kagon to make him blow his top.

MYSTERY AT GEEK CAMP is upper middle grade fiction with a high tech spin told from Jared and Maxine’s perspectives. Complete at 45,000 words, it forces ‘tween Hardy Boys to work with Nancy Drew on a crime that will appeal to the Minecraft generation.

First 250:

You wouldn’t call me “gifted” unless awesome video game skill counted. According to Mom, it didn’t. But here I was, headed to a camp for math and science nerds.

The bus bumped up a steep, narrow road and stopped in front of a small building surrounded by trees. Hartland Mountain Science Academy. The camp was run by this private school for smart kids.

The thought of spending a week surrounded by brainiacs made my hands clammy. But I’d signed up for this camp to take my favorite thing in life to the next level by creating games. There was no way I’d back out now.

I followed the backpack in front of me off the bus. Most campers headed toward counselors standing near the tree line. They’d be the ones who’d signed up for outdoorsy programs.

Standing by the walkway that led to the building was a smaller group. I pointed. “Those are the gamers.”

My best friend, Aaron, and I walked over. I was about to say “hi” to a chunky, red-headed guy when a sleek convertible rolled up next to us.

“Sweet ride,” Aaron said.

“Yeah, but why’d he get to skip the smelly bus?” I asked.

A guy wearing dark, mirrored rock-star sunglasses got out of the passenger seat. He had a scowl on his face, black hair that stuck out in every direction, and the thinnest, most beautiful MacBook I’d ever seen tucked protectively under his arm.

Red elbowed me. “That’s Brent Kagon,” he whispered.

Become an Agent 2015 Post #10

Title: DARK IN NATURE
Genre: YA Post-Apocalypptic
Word Count: 85,000

Query:

Zoe, a 17-year-old scavenger in a destroyed world, finds herself a pirate captain’s prisoner, tethered to Sam’s ship by a tracking device, but when she tries to escape, she discovers her connection with him goes beyond the device.

Somewhere onshore is the key to removing Zoe’s tracker, but with the general population turned into hosts for an unstoppable virus, and the shinigami—death gods—rising from the earth every night, hunting stragglers of the human race, her chances at freedom are slim.

When the ship is attacked, and Zoe left behind, she must travel though the ruined city of Los Angeles to stay within radius of the vessel before her the tracker biodegrades and leaves a hole in her side. Even if she finds Sam, her survival will be short-lived if they don’t work together to find a way to defeat the legion of shinigami monsters before the human race becomes extinct.

DARK IN NATURE is an 85,000-word YA post-apocalyptic.

Query:

Old bones held the scent of rotted seashells. I tried not to gag as I searched the Playa Fluff ‘n Fold. I should be indifferent to these abandoned nooks. Every town, city, island, it was the same story. The Pestilence had equaled fever, alteration, death—rinse and repeat.

My boots sank in rubble mounds of disintegrated building material mixed in with the remains of the people who’d once lived in this beach city. I shook out my hair, certain their dried flesh and tissue flakes had embedded themselves in my strands.

Every moment I spent salvaging made me care a little less for all those who were gone. After all, they’d gotten a kick in the ass through life’s door, the one marked: Easy Way Out.

And I was still here.

I hadn’t been infected. I hadn’t come forward. I’d stayed in my house with my family. And watched them turn.

Relying on my flashlight, I avoided cobwebs, gross, as I checked the dryers. Found a full one and yanked clothes out, hitting them against the machine. Stirred-up dust gathered in the back of my throat as I kept digging. There. A few T-shirts and bras, a perfect fit for my friend Cinder and me. Everything here had been washed two years ago, but hey, it was cleaner than what most of us wore.

I shoved what might be useful for the crew into my backpack and followed a path of broken tiles.

Become an Agent 2015 Post #9

Title: Imperfect Lives
Genre: YA Contemporary
Word Count: 56,000

Query:

A text message leads seventeen-year-old Shaun Daley to question what everyone else has taken at face value—that his gifted twin committed suicide.

He tracks down the ex-classmate who sent the message, only to witness the guy’s death in a freak hit-and-run. Unable to get the answers he needed, he seeks out his brother’s best friend—nerdy, introverted Mira Patel.

Mira has her own problems, struggling between unrealistic parental expectations and a sister who breaks every rule in their traditional Indian household. When Shaun demands her help, she agrees, though his arrogant attitude annoys the heck out of her. Then her sister dies of a drug overdose. And she finds out Shaun shares her belief that her sister was murdered.

As their grief draws them closer together, she helps Shaun investigate the deaths. They discover clues linking the hit-and-run to her sister’s overdose and, ultimately, his brother’s suicide. Soon they’re in a race to expose a killer before he finishes them off, too.

First 250: 

Shaun

The walls of our three-story colonial could withstand force five gales, but did nothing to muffle my mom’s sobs from the adjoining room, or my dad’s frenzied pacing in the hall outside.

Something heavy thudded against my bedroom wall, followed by the sound of glass shattering. Dad stopped pacing. “What the hell, Terese?” A pause, then, “Oh, for God’s sake, cut it out! He’s not coming back.”

Dad was great at stating the obvious.

Mom answered, her voice too low for me to hear, but I didn’t need to. Their arguments always ended with Dad either sleeping on the couch or leaving the house. Lately he’d been leaving more often. I dragged a pair of jeans over my boxers and sat at the edge of the bed, staring at my clenched hands.

My brother would’ve known the right thing to do. But, if he was here, we wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place. Damn you, David. Why the hell did you do it? I blinked hard, wishing I’d gone out. I could be drinking with the guys right now, instead of sitting here missing my brother and listening to my parents tear each other apart.

Dad’s footsteps paused outside my door. I waited for him to continue toward the stairs. He hadn’t set foot in my room since David died a month ago.

The door handle turned.

Become an Agent 2015 Post #8

Title: Untitled (as of now)
Genre: Adult Lit Fic/Contemporary
Word Count: 73,000

Query:

After twenty-two years of abuse on the family farm, mixed-race David turns the whip on his abusive white father and escapes to Chicago, dreaming of being a 21st-century black Gatsby.

But Gatsby is fiction. Despite years of work as a janitor in the city slums and marrying the love of his life, David’s dream remains only a dream. Worse, his daughter is diagnosed with an organ-destroying disease. The cure is seven thousand dollars per month, more than twice what he and his wife, Mary, make. With no way to pay for the medicine, Mary falls into their insurance manager’s sexual blackmail, a man who promises coverage for this obscure medicine.

Though crucial, the manager's money is still not enough. Their only other option is to move to the south side, a poverty-stricken area almost entirely populated by blacks. To David - whose father raised him to cower in fear from his own skin color and scrape it out with stones - it's the incarnation of a childhood nightmare. Sleepless nights waste him away, haunted by Mary’s relationship and by this neighborhood. But David can’t see what’s right in front of him; these new neighbors might do the most to save Penelope's life, David's racist self-hate, and his marriage—if he lets them.

If this book was nonfiction, it would fit in Jonathan Cohn’s SICK, a collection of American health care horror stories.

First 250:

It’s odd to be told that your daughter is going to die, but maybe I should have expected it. We certainly didn’t expect Penelope to be healthy, she’d been vomiting in bed for the last few months, sick and pale and deteriorating. But on May 3, 2007, when Dr. Sheridan said, “Your daughter has had amyloidosis for a while,” my stomach flipped even though I didn’t know what the hell that disease was, only that it meant her death.

“It’s a disease that causes build-up of protein in the major organs.” Dr. Sheridan sat behind his desk. My black fingers pressed tightly around Mary’s white ones, knuckles so cold under the mahogany desk. “If caught quickly, it’s relatively easy to treat. But her amyloidosis went untreated. Even if I gave her medicine now, her organs will still shut down.”

“Dr. Manti was wrong then?” I said. Our old doctor. ("It might be hard to hear, but maybe the cause of your daughter's illness is, perhaps, negligent parenting?' with an eye on our interracial child).

“Dr. Manti must have misread the signs,” Dr. Sheridan said. “It’s hard to tell—”

“Shut down?” Mary said. “What are you saying, shut down?”

“I’m truly sorry. I’d recommend the ICU. Simply, we wait it out. See if she recovers on her own.” He cleared his throat. “I am sorry.”

“She will recover?” Mary said.

“No."

“No, no, she’s—she’s fine, Doctor.” Mary rose from the seat. “Give her a pill, anything.”

Become an Agent 2015 Post #7

Title: EMERGENCE
Genre: YA Sci-Fi Adventure
Word Count: 63,000

Query:

Joey and her twin brother scored a ticket to a terraformed Mars but they may not make it, unless they stop a terrorist onboard their Airbus.

The year is 2058 and the Earth’s air is no longer breathable. A solar flare has scorched the planet, leaving the few people that remain hiding in small lead-lined homes. Luckily, Mars has been terraformed and is ready habitation. However, only the smartest and wealthiest seem to earn a ride off a dying planet.

Sixteen-year-old Joey (short for Josephine) never thought of going to Mars; sure she hoped, but didn’t everyone. Her life of painting and the once a week trip to the mailbox was good enough for her, until a golden letter arrived in the post. She and her twin brother, Jesse, were selected for the next flight to humanity’s last hope, a terraformed Mars.

Joey knows her life will never be the same, but what she doesn’t know is that a terrorist is onboard her shuttle. A fanatic, who claims to be saving souls, is hell-bent on stopping humankind from leaving their home planet of Earth. His group of extremists have sabotaged every flight to Mars thus far, unbeknownst to the general public, and their sights are set on the next mission. Joey and Jesse didn’t leave their mother and home behind just to die in space. They’ll stop the attacks and get to Mars, one way or another.

A YA sci-fi adventure, EMERGENCE, is complete at 63,000 words. With aspects of Kass Morgan’s, The 100, and the thrills of the film, Gravity, this space set adventure will appeal to readers of all ages. While, EMERGENCE, has series potential it works as a stand-alone.

First 250:


Of all the chores, she hated this one the most. Joey pulled a helmet over her head, and fastened the latch to her anti-radiation suit. All this work, every Monday, just to get the weekly post.

After flipping on her oxygen, she hit the red button on the wall. A buzzer sounded, the air whooshed from the room, and the thick steel outer door opened. Almost instantly, she was blinded by glaring light. The sun had been flaring these last few years, but never so much as recently.

Joey slid down her visor. A deep crimson sky reflected in the tinted lens of her old spacesuit, which her mother had bought from Goodwill. She trudged across the dusty earth, a cloud of scarlet haze kicking up as she stopped. While peering through shaded glass, she tried to imagine the land as her mother had described it. White puffy clouds, crisp green meadows, and crystal-blue water. Hard to picture now, with the reddish tint that covered the barren countryside before her.

A sun-scorched Earth was all she knew. That and her lead-lined home, rooted into the parched soil, deep in the heart of G-sector. She glanced to a row of curved roofs, from the tiny homes below the sand-covered hill of her sub-division. They were the lucky ones. D-sector, caught within the shade of the fully enclosed, and highly lavish, Sector-A.

Joey turned from the neighbors that she’d never meet, moving toward the tall steel box that adorned her outer bulkhead door.

Become an Agent 2015 Post #6

Title: STRAW SALT GOLD
Genre: YA Fantasy
Word Count: 84,000

Query:

Sixteen-year-old orphan Rumilla Coe is known for her fine hand with spinning, weaving, and embroidery. The extra money her craft brings is the only thing keeping her and her brother from starving, while she works for a pittance at an industrial mill.

When the flax on her spinning wheel transforms to gold beneath her fingertips, Rumilla thinks she’s solved the problem of her dire poverty. But what she’s really unraveled is a world of trouble. It wasn’t a miracle that turned straw into gold. It was sulfur-soaked alchemical science, and in the city of Baden-Platz being an alchemist is punishable by death.

When Halle Brachmant, the spoiled mill-owner's daughter, finds Rumilla slumped over a spinning machine with gold on the wheel, greed propels her to claim she spun it herself. Halle is hailed as a miracle worker, blessed by the gods and untainted by alchemy. Rumors of the straw-spun gold spread beyond the mill and the slums, catching the imagination of the city and the attention of fanatical Prince Casmir. He orders Halle to spin gold three more times to prove that she is truly blessed.

With Halle's public face and Rumilla’s golden formula, the pair must rely on each other to survive. Because if Casmir discovers who is really spinning gold, both girls will lose their heads.

Complete at 84,000 words STRAW, SALT, GOLD, is a YA fantasy reimagining of Rumpelstiltskin, if Rumpelstiltskin were a teenage alchemist spinning gold to prevent her execution. Told alternately from Rumilla and Halle’s point of view, STRAW, SALT, GOLD will appeal to fans of Rosamund Hodge’s Cruel Beauty and Sarah Fine’s Of Metal and Wishes.

First 250:


Crack.

A sickening noise echoes through the flat, breaking my concentration. The wool I spin snaps, as the spinning wheel flies forward, and I topple over. Yarn tangles and splits in the bobbins, catching around the spokes of the wheel. I brush the dust from my skirt and relight my oil lamp to better survey the damage.

My heart sinks.

The spinning wheel, wedged into the hatbox of a room, is cracked in two, with its support beam split in half. All of its parts; crank, flyer, and treadle, list precariously. The soft merino wool my older brother Braun traded for, hoping to sell my handiwork for cabbages and bread, is a tangled mess. At best it will need to be re-carded.

A half days work gone in a pop and a flash.

The wheel must be fixable. It must be. As gently as I can, I lay the great wheel on its side, wishing for a miracle. I’ve patched my wheel before, held it together with beeswax, tar, and prayers. The fixes were crude, but they worked when we needed them. This time, to keep the rot from spreading the support beam will need to be removed and replaced.

In my heart, I hear Braun sighing; “Oh Rumilla, another expense?”

Wiping the grime on my skirt, I pick up my wrench from the toolbox. I’ll take in the part to salvage, instead of dwelling on the destroyed fiber.

Just another piece of ill-luck, in two years overflowing with ill-luck.

Become an Agent 2015 Post #5

Title: Break
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Word Count: 85,000

Query:

When your dad runs an elite tennis academy and your mom is a former tennis champion you are born a brand, and every time Anna Carsten set foot on the tennis court she made for outstanding product placement.

That is, until her father died in a car accident two years ago. When Anna's losing streak shakes confidence in the prestigious Carsten Academy, she reluctantly agrees to a new coach. She just isn't sure the guy who mocked her talent - and rejected her advances - is the right one for the job.

As a protege of Anna's father, retired pro Declan Riordan knows Anna's game is all style and no substance. For the right price, though, he can turn anyone's matches around - even if it means fixing them. And since every win needs good PR, sports journalist Mark Hale arrives to document Anna's climb back up the rankings. He's also a protege of Anna's father, but as a recovering gambling addict, he learned how to play the odds off the court instead of on it.

Declan discovers Anna is more loyal daughter than tennis princess - and more talented. Growing closer, he decides she can win on her own - and pushes away doubt that he's motivated by his own regret. Mark's career, however, hinges on Anna holding a trophy at the end of the summer. If that means she learns what her father - and Declan - are really all about, then so be it.

As they wind their way toward the US Open, the glossy surface of Anna's career crumbles to reveal a past she never imagined. As she learns that winning isn't always black and white, she's torn between the man she didn't think she could trust and the family loyalty she didn't know she should doubt.

First 250:

Anna knew how to put on a game face and how to wear it with style. In front of a stadium or alone in her room, she had mastered the art of hiding it all. No teary interviews. No leaps of jubilation. No shrieks of frustration. And certainly, no smashed rackets. Not from her. Not ever. A game face was by far the best accessory she owned and it went with everything.

So sitting now in a jammed Heathrow Airport, hat pulled low and sunglasses on, Anna wore her game face. She'd tried to avoid the replay of the match, wedging herself against the far wall, close to the windows. But like a person who can't shake the Mona Lisa's eyes, every seat offered perfect vantage of some TV perched high along the lounge's perimeter. From the corner of her shaded eyes, Anna had no trouble watching the match unfold. Sun glinted off emerald courts, players glowed in tennis whites. It was, frankly, unfortunate. Had she needed to, she could even make out the score at the bottom of the screen. But she knew the score.

"Our plane hasn't even taken off from wherever the hell it's coming from." Jennie's shoulder knocked against her as she flopped down, huffing out a sigh.

Anna dragged her eyes to her friend's scowling face then past her to the rain streaked windows overlooking the tarmac. She folded her arms and dropped her head back against the wall.

Become an Agent 2015 Post #4

Title: The Eternal
Genre: Adult Urban Fantasy
Word Count: 91,000

Query: 


The mystery of Elly's status as a genetic hybrid is eclipsed by the vampire prophecy that predicts her union with their most revered member. The choice between her taciturn boyfriend and this stranger put her on trial for murder.

Under the silvery light of the blue moon, Hector finds a woman naked and alone. This woman is different than any other he had ever met, even covered in blood and muck she smells of Night Blooming Jasmine, and his gift tells him that her answers to his questions are absolutely honest. She has no memories of where she came from or what happened to her. Elly is truly between worlds, genetic tests reveal that she is both Human and Eternal, not able to fit in completely with either. Hector can’t help but wonder if she could be the woman from an ancient prophecy that tells of limitless power. Despite a budding but complicated relationship with Hector, Elly is tormented when, at a party she throws to help sell a house she renovated, she meets a masked stranger with gray eyes and is so inexplicably attracted to him she feels alive in ways she never had with Hector.

When the masked stranger turns up again in remote Africa at a gathering of all the Eternal to celebrate a rare Blood Moon, Elly must choose between him and Hector. That choice plunges her into a battle for her and Hectors life, power over the vampire council of rulers, and for her prophesied birthright. Not willing to put her faith in others, she hatches a plan to save herself and Hector too.

Fist 250:

I didn’t love him.

There was something about him that I was drawn to, but I knew what I felt wasn’t love. I couldn’t bring myself to say it back to him even though I wanted to make him happy. He deserved to be happy. I desperately wanted the world to come together and bend over backwards to make that happen—but I couldn’t do that, and yet there I was, being introduced as his girlfriend and waiting to meet his father, the most powerful man in a room filled with incredibly powerful people.

“Don’t be frightened, he won’t bite.” Hector’s unease showed through, even as he tried to be as charming as possible. Notwithstanding a cheesy line like that, he was undeniably prepossessing.

My hesitance wasn’t fear. I’d been drawn inexorably to this place, to this moment, for weeks now. I knew that I needed to be here, and I wasn’t afraid. Other humans would be, but I have always been more comfortable with the Eternal than most humans. Here, at their biggest gathering in a thousand years, I was at peace in a way others could only pretend to be.

“It’s our turn. . . . Don’t worry, he isn’t as imposing as the formality makes him seem, and he is very interested in meeting you. I’ve told him everything about you.” Hector guided me through the crowd to the man of the hour, his father.

“Father, may I present my girlfriend, Miss Elliot Clay?”

Become an Agent 2015 Post #3

Title: Devil Springs
Genre: Contemporary YA
Word Count: 70k

Query:

The senior year Mesa has pictured slips away when her grandmother, mayor of Devil Springs, calls for revival and a town name change to mark the devil’s official banishment from his hold on the town, particularly its teenagers. Grandma Avis buys Mesa a hope chest, pressures her to get baptized, and stands in the way of her relationship with Cody, Mesa’s new cross country running partner. At first Mesa resists falling for Cody, the school’s golden-boy athlete and every girl’s not-so-secret crush, but when he agrees to help Drew, Mesa’s autistic neighbor, her resolve waivers. 

Mesa prepares to fight Avis--the name change, the fanatical march around the city, the dictates on who Mesa is supposed to befriend and how she’s supposed to think--all of it. But going against her grandma could mean losing Cody, her friends, and even her spot on the track team. Worst of all, it’s hardening in Mesa a reactive-atheism when what she really needs, especially when Drew gets lost during the town’s worst storm in a century, is a swell of faith.

DEVIL SPRINGS, a work of contemporary young adult fiction complete at 70,000 words, takes the emotional landscape of doubt found in Sara Zarr’s Once Was Lost and sets it in the southern grit of a Flannery O’Connor terrain.

First 250:

Avis cries out in the kitchen, but I only come when she starts hollering for me. From the entry, I can see her standing at the sink, blood dripping from her finger.

“Mesa! Get this out of the way,” she snaps, shoving a colander filled with strawberries toward me. She lifts her finger in the air and reaches to turn on the water with her other hand. I grab the bowl and watch as the blood runs down her wrist and begins to seep into the cuff of her blouse, crimson blooming in white threads.

“It’s the devil attacking me.”

I’m pretty sure the paring knife she’d been using to the hull the berries just slipped and she cut herself, but I nod. My friend Kenzi and her mom will be here in ten minutes to pick me up for our senior picture appointment; I don’t need to get into it with Avis right now.

“He’s in this town. Staked his claim into its very name.”

This again. Avis has been trying to get the town name changed from Devil Springs to Life Springs for as long as I can remember.

“I’ll get the band-aids,” I say.

In a few quick steps, I’m at the hall bathroom and have the entire plastic container of first aid trappings in my hands, but when I get back to the kitchen entry, I pause. Avis is talking, and it’s not to me.

Become an Agent 2015 Post #2

Title: Fugitive Motel
Genre: YA
Word Count: 142,000

Query:

Sixteen-year-old Iris has to choose between running her family business, an Inn for supernatural Others, or having the life of a normal Kansas teenager.

Iris Vox shouldn’t be running the Fordham Motel. It’s her father’s business, not hers, but it’s always been her home and she can’t just stop serving the guests who come through the doors any more than she can stop loving her deeply secretive single father or her sarcastic younger brother. Iris needs help, but you can’t hire just anyone when you’re seeing to the needs of the juicers, shifters, ghosts, and witches eking out a “human” existence. Nor can Iris tell anyone at school about her secret life or how much she works. Iris wouldn’t even be Innkeeping if her father wasn’t suddenly more often liquid than solid. She wouldn’t be so angry about it if he would just start telling her the truth about why he’s changing, or about anything else. Maybe it would be easier to go normal, but its hard to stop keeping secrets when it’s all you’ve ever done and most of those secrets are not your own. Sometimes you just love your family more than you hate your circumstances.

Fugitive Motel is the story of Iris moving out from her father’s shadow to claim her birthright and become the next Innkeeper. It is the beginning of a four book series, but could also stand on it’s own. If 50 Shades of Gray started as Twilight fan fiction and Outlander started as Dr. Who fan fiction, then Fugitive Motel started as Veronica Mars fan fiction. I wanted more of a smart, angry girl with a tough single Dad and a family business, so I started to write one.


First 250: 


At 5:45 a.m. a man staggers in through the automatic, smoked-glass doors. I slide my magazine under the counter and take a better look at my customer as he comes toward the desk. He’s sort of wrinkled. Not old-wrinkled more re-used-paperbag wrinkled. Otherwise he’s well groomed: a gray suit with a dull blue tie, the kind of outfit a regional salesman would wear. Seriously, you would not pick this guy out in a crowd. You’d just guess he’d been driving all night from one sales meeting to the next.

But the stagger…it’s not quite right. Drunks usually weave. This guy is lurching forward like he’s got an absolute goal. Our desk. Me.

Yep. Pale, sullen, haggard with a side of desperate determination? Definitely looks like one of ours.

“Can I help you, sir?”

“Have you got a room, mish?” the man slurs and puts his hands on the rim of the counter to steady himself. His very neat, clean fingernails point towards me as he grips. With a great effort he lifts his left hand and slaps it on the counter twice. That’s good. It’s part of the sign. Still, he’s not finished performing, so I have to give him the once over. Random drunks can be a problem for us; they don’t always see our usual discouragements.

“What are you looking for exactly, sir?” I prompt.

You have to say it or you can’t come in!

Become an Agent 2015 Post #1

Title: Skeleton Key
Genre: Mystery
Word Count: 80,100

Query:

Locksmith and security consultant Foley Munion’s life starts spinning out of control when her felon father breaks out of prison with a plan. But is the plan to protect Foley – or pull off one last heist?

As the one who installed the security cameras at a recently robbed bank, Foley is questioned by the police and FBI. The daughter of a safecracker and B&E man, Foley is used to police scrutiny, but is dismayed to discover she’s the cops’ main suspect. Stolen security schematics, an antique pearl ring and a woman’s charred skeleton are a few of the pieces in a three-year-old crime which appear tied to a current rash of bank robberies. While the police scrutinize Foley’s life, she looks for the real perpetrator.

The more Foley digs, the more she questions what she’s being told – even by her father. When she can’t get the answers she needs, Foley breaks into a local business, hoping she’s not becoming too much like her old man. Worried about her father’s possible involvement in the robberies, Foley follows him – straight into the sights of a killer.

First 250: 


Foley stared at the name painted on the shop window: Manley and Munion Lock and Key. God how she wished she could scrape off Allison’s name. But the way business was going, the point could be moot by the end of the month. Allison had made a mess of Foley’s life, but her death still brought in customers. And Foley needed all the business she could get. No matter how hard she scrambled, the shop barely broke even. She should’ve stayed put in her lock and key kiosk. So much for dreaming big.

She stepped inside the small lobby and shivered. Metal shavings from the key grinder dotted the floor. Sweeping the place could wait until Darrell clocked in.

Darrell. Her bank balance said she needed to let the kid go. She shook her head then lifted the walk-through section of the counter and entered the workshop.

Something felt wrong.

Her work area looked fine, the bins of wire and alarm system components sat undisturbed. Nothing was out of place. She hurried to the safe, crouched and spun the dial. The lock clicked. She yanked the handle. Heart racing, she pawed through the contents. Most important, her cash still lay bundled inside. Her chest loosened and breathing became simple again. Foley settled back onto her heels, staring into the safe’s dark interior.

Money untouched. Schematics secure. She leaned forward to sniff the locking mechanism. No tell-tale odor of oil or graphite. So why the heebie-jeebies?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

GET READY FOR NESTPITCH

If you didn't think news of Query Kombat and Become an Agent were enough, HERE'S A CONTEST FOR YOU!!


Click the big #NestPitch to get info about this amazing contest. Potentially, we get to see your first ten pages, so this contest will be a lot more in-depth than most other contests.

Submissions: April 1st. You know what that means? Submitting to the Querypalooza critique session, 'Become an Agent' (where you'll get your query and 250 in shape), is perfect timing!!!

I am on a team (where we'll pick our team) with the incredible amazing Laura Heffernan and Heather Murphy Capps. So follow all of us to get some inside info when the contest comes around.

AND GUESS WHAT OUR TEAM NAME IS.

#OneBasket

We are the One Basket to Rule Them All. The One Basket in which all the agents will place their requests. The BEST Basket.

CLICKY CLICKY TO READ MORE ABOUT THIS AMAZING CONTEST.


And make sure to submit to 'Become an Agent' and, if you want, to follow me on Twitter and stay up-to-date, on-the-hour with the details.

For so many months I haven't been part of a contest. Now, three big ones are coming up right after one another. This is going to be intense and FUN. (Wish me luck.)

(Oh, and happy belated Pi day!! I tried to be awake/see the clock at 9:26.53 am or pm so it'd be 3.141592653 but, you know, I failed. Sigh. Never again in my life - unless I live really really long.)

Friday, March 13, 2015

'Become an Agent' Querypalooza/Contest!!

FOURTH TIME HOSTING THIS!!!!! WOOOO!!!!

Query Kombat is coming up soon, but NEST PITCH IS COMING UP EVEN FASTER. If you don't know what it is, FIND OUT. Submissions are on April 1st for Nest Pitch. It's a truly amazing and unique contest (we potentially see your first 10 pages instead of only 250!).

So this Querypalooza (because I don't want you to think of it as a contest) will help you get your submissions in shape!  

What is this?

This is a 'contest' all about queries. Will your query garner requests? Will you stand out amongst the plethora of queries in the agent's inbox?

When I was querying (and even now), I always wanted to know, "Will my query work?" "What if was the agent and I had to request pages?"

So, from there came the contest. This is a critique session BUT WITH A TWIST. Read on below to find out what the awesome twist is.

I got the idea for this contest from the Authoress's Public Slushpile Contest (she has AMAZING contests almost every month. So go and check her blog out :D).

This is NOT a contest that involves agents, editors, or publishers. I actually hope they don't look over the entries because this contest is a place for writers to test out queries and see if they work. I want this to be a safe place for you to submit a query you're unsure about or experimenting around with. That's hard to do if there is the possibility of an agent seeing your work. So be free and FEEL free!

The Details

  • This Thursday the 19th, I will open up a window for submissions. It'll start at 1 p.m. EST and will end when I get 20 submissions.
If the submission window's time frame is not good for you, go to lettermelater.com to schedule the email to be sent!
  • The first 20 entries in the submission window will make it into the contest.
  • Submit the meat of your query and the first 250 words to SC_Author (at) yahoo (dot) com. More details about submission format below.
  • I will be sending confirmation emails so you know I got your email, and I will later send confirmation emails to the people that made it into the contest.
  • The 20 queries I receive will go up on this blog on Sunday at 8 pm. That's when the contest will start!! The contest ends on Saturday the 28th.

Here is the fun part. The BEST PART. READ THIS PART!

  • Each entrant will get a Post Number for his/her query.
  • The basis of the contest is this: Each entrant is required to vote YES or NO (as to, "Would you request pages?") on the seven queries above their post number, and give an explanation as to why (can be as short or long, as generic or specific, as you want). So if you are #6, you'll critique Numbers 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1. But, say, if you are number 3, you will critique numbers 2, 1, (then start from the end) 20, 19, and 18. All the posts will be numbered.
  • BUT...... THERE IS:

THE TWIST

  • Out of the seven queries you vote on, you can only vote YES on TWO!

Yes! We are going to make this as agent-like as possible.

You have to pick the best two queries out of the seven you are assigned. If you are extra-awesome and want to critique more than seven, then you get one more "Yes" for every four you critique. If, for some reason, you only critique one more, that one CAN be a "Yes." But if you critique more after that, you must give out 3 "No's" before you can give out a "Yes." Ask questions in the comments below for the nitpicks: it does get confusing, but it makes sense in my head! You MUST critique the seven posts above yours before going on to more! 

For the Onlookers and Observers
  • The onlookers and observers can only vote YES on one out of the ten entries (because they aren't required to do the time-consuming chore of explaining their NO's like the contestants are). So yes, non-contestants can also participate!!!! But they cannot simply give 'Yes's' to their friends; that's cheating. Don't do that, please. PLEASE.
  • If the non-contestants are so awesome as to actually explain their No's and Yes's, their voting guidelines will be the same as the contestant's :) 
  • Non-contestants are awesome. We've always had a good number devote so much time to this, and it's been amazing.

The winner of the contest will be the ones with the most 'Yes's'! I'll set up an interview with them, like I did for Sherry EllisTiffanie Lynn, and Nikki Roberti! I will be checking to make sure that the winner voted on the seven above their post's number. That is key; I want to spread out votes as equally as possible so that one person doesn't get 5 Yes's out of 5 votes and another person gets 6 Yes's out of 10 votes. Because, technically, the second person wins in that scenario.

Requirements
  • Follow this blog (and my Twitter if you wish :D)
  • Write your query under 400 words - and that's a lot. Ideally, it will be under 300 words (I'm talking only about the meat here - no personalization and no bio unless the bio is CRUCIAL to the story).
  • Thank the Authoress for allowing me to make another version of her amazing contest!

You do NOT need a finished manuscript to enter, as I know some people write their queries before they start their manuscripts. This is just to see if your query and 250 will work for agents.

I hope that this will be tons of fun, but even more so, I hope this will be helpful. Even without an agent, you will see whether your query is working or not and why it is or isn't. We can become agents for a little while :D And, hopefully, this will help to everyone in query frustration land.

Formatting instructions are here: 

Again, send it to SC_Author(at)yahoo(dot)com as:

In the subject line put "Become an Agent : [Title of Your Manuscript]". That's all I need :D

In the actual body, put it like how I have below (so I can easily copy-and-paste from email to Blogger)

Bolded where bolded, with all the words included (so keep in 'Title', 'Genre', 'Word Count', etc. but, of course, put in your own personal details.)

Title: My Awesome Title!
Genre: My Awesome Genre!
Word Count: My not-so-awesome word count that I'd rather not tell anyone!

Then just slap in the meat of your query under the title, genre, and word count. Throw in your bio (if you want) too, because agents DO look at that when they receive queries and it DOES make an impact, I want this contest to be as realistic to what agents see as possible. But ONLY INCLUDE YOUR BIO IF IT'S CRUCIAL TO THE STORY!! See the comments below for more info.

First 250: Throw in your 250 here, NO tabs; line breaks instead of tabs, like they are on this blog post right now. And you have a cushion of 10 words; so if your sentence ends on word number 257 or 242, keep it there. You don't need to edit to perfectly hit 250 words.

I will delete any names or stuff. This way, if you have some friend-bloggers who get in the contest as well, hopefully, they won't be influenced as much. And all critiques will not be personal in any way.

I'm counting on you guys not to tell people which is your entry :) Doing so will only harm you, and I have faith in all of you that you want this contest to be constructive. But feel free to spread the word about this contest!

Some brief clearer-upper points of conduct:
  1. HAVE FUN! PLEASE PLEASE HAVE FUN! Oh. And hope this helps you, too :D
One more thing:


This contest is brutal. You might not think so right now but it is BRUTAL. You'll absolutely hate what some people have to say, you'll want to trash their critiques. Don't shrug it off. I'm telling you it will happen. Too bad. I'm warning you right now. I always have writers that are almost in tears because of this contest. It's really a helpful, good contest; SO many writers have told me how helpful it was. But it's also a hard one. And honestly, would you rather have this or rejections from agents?

AND PLEASE, tell me if I'm missing anything. Ask questions below.

We'll be Tweeting under the Twitter hashtag #BecomeAnAgent! Twitter really is amazing for authors to connect and celebrate together :D It'll be fun. I'm SC_Author on Twitter.

I'll post more guidelines about ethically voting and voting fairly when all the posts go up :) The critiques and the explanations for the votes are really the biggest part of this contest, so I'll need another post to discuss them in detail.

Does anything need clarification? I truly hope you guys enjoy this! Are you excited?