Monday, December 16, 2013

I'm On Vacation! Plus: Awesome Song by Lorde


I'll be gone until January 4th :)

Well, technically my vacation starts on Thursday (I'll be out of the country!!) but as I usually blog on Fridays, today will be the last time until I come back that you'll see me on this blog :) I'll still be on Twitter until Thursday, though.

Until then, listen to this one song I'm obsessed with right now. It literally won't get out of my head and I don't know if that's good or bad yet. I'll know once I replay it over and over until I hate it but so far, that hasn't happened.


The song:

Until then, Merry Christmas (speaking of Christmas, I dressed up in a Santa suit yesterday. It didn't work because I'm skinny, like, really skinny. I used a body suit but still it didn't work. Oh well, it was fun XD), Happy Holidays, Happy New Year's, Happy EVERYTHING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Any fun holiday plans for you?

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Books We're Writing are Not All Ours

ETA: Changed this post's title because 'plagerized' seemed too strong.

I paint. A lo lot. I'm actually known as the artist amongst my family (great genes from my mom, thank you mom!). It's what I do, in all mediums, but my 'real' work is in oil paints, and especially portraits.

Once a week (usually) I go to a professional artist's studio and paint under her guidance. She's incredible; an amazing teacher and artist as well.

So, many weeks ago, I was doing this portrait with her. But I couldn't get the face to look how it should. I couldn't block in the colors and the paints how she does, so after a while, she took my brush (something she doesn't like doing - she likes having the student's work be the student's work) and helped me out. Because of her help, artistically speaking, that portrait was the best I've ever done. Yet even though I did the underpainting and the structure of the face, even though I did basically everything else of the painting, when it came for me to sign it, I just couldn't. It's still unsigned, even though she told me over and over to sign it, that it was all my work.

I can't handle that. It feels wrong that I'm taking full credit for the painting when one of the most beautiful parts of the painting is the face: how wonderfully, loosely, and artistically it is handled. I half-jokingly told her that she should sign it too, but of course, she wouldn't hear of it.

It's still an amazing painting; I love it. It's the best portrait 'I' have ever done; but the thing is, I didn't do it. I had help. A lot of help.

The top art shows, if I am not mistaken, require that all paintings be done at home or without any sort of supervision. Meaning you can't get help from your teacher. And in most shows, if you even mention that your submitted painting was partially painted by someone else: immediate disqualification. It's plagiarism.

So what irks me and makes me feel so guilty is that if (and hopefully, when) I get an agent, then an editor and a publishing deal, how will I ever write my name on the bottom of the book cover?

And even though many of us aren't at that stage yet, how about critique partners? Beta readers? We'd be lying through our teeth if we say that we could create the same book without their help. My critique partners saw things I'd never have caught in my first manuscript. Because of them, I've grown so, so much. And when I finish my current work-in-progress, I'll send it to them, and that book will be the work of not only me but my friends as well.

Can you ever deny that your critique partners, your agent, your editor, did not even change one word in your book? Most likely, only because of them, you changed pages and pages of your book. And in the painting world, if you dared write it off as your own....

This isn't just a problem for authors hoping to be traditionally published. If you're going the correct way in self-publishing, you'll hire an editor to go through your manuscript as well.

It's something I have a very tough time with. I can't feel good about writing my name at the bottom of my book, or that painting, when other hands have formed it as well. How can I take credit for their work as well?

Some consolations:
1. You did come up with the main idea and do almost all the work by yourself (but that's the same with the painting).

2. You have an acknowledgments section in which you can list everyone who helped you. This is what's keeping me sane. The idea that the other hands will be written with the book as well.

3. In the end, it is your decision to take your editor's, agent's, and/or critique partners' suggestions. You, technically, can say, 'Screw you, it's my own!' or, 'I like that idea, I'll do that,' and then it's your idea...kind of. But that's idealism. You can't disregard everything an editor or agents suggests. Doing so would mess up your publication deal. At most, as a debut author, you can have three possible big changes to fight for and win (but that's pushing it). So technically, in the end, your book is ultimately approved by you and you can keep anything you want, but it's either do the changes or ruin your relationship with your agent/editor, so..... Also, even if you love the suggested changes, would you ever have thought of them by yourself?

That's all the consolations I can think of. This isn't really a very happy post.

Realizing that this applies to basically every book that's been published is scary and maddening, because it tarnishes the image of authors I love and idolize. All their genius wasn't only theirs.

I don't know. I don't know how to come to terms with this.

I think the best thing possible is to really go hard on that acknowledgments section. Otherwise, we might just have to add 'Mostly written by' in front of the author's name, and that'd be more correct.

I think, in the end, we simply have to give more respect to agents, editors, and critique partners. All the attention usually goes to the author, and honestly, that's not right. It's a bitter truth.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Some Monday Fun! Funny Videos & An Awesome Song

Let's share hilarious videos today to make your Monday awesome.

In which David Beckham and Ellen team up to prank a masseuse.

In which Jennifer Lawrence might be the best person ever. Just watch all the parts. She is HILARIOUS and AWESOME and believe the hype, she's awesome.

A hilarious prank from my favorite prank show, "Just for Gags".

AAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNNNNND a not-funny video, but an awesome song that basically everyone should listen to:

Hope you like the videos :) How was your weekend?

Friday, December 6, 2013

Make Your Titles Useful

Of course, you've heard it all.

Make your blog titles tempting. Make them enticing. Make them relevant.

But I'm going to add another adjective: useful. And I'm learning it as well.

You see, this realization came when I was reading this one blog post. I read the title and I started to read the post. Then I basically just freaked out.

Honestly, the post didn't jive with the title at all. They were two separate beasts entirely, I couldn't see how they were related at all until later on in the post when the actual title-part was introduced.

Maybe the author had something great to say in those few paragraphs in the beginning. Maybe the author had some point to make. But I couldn't get it, I couldn't understand the post, I couldn't start reading because I was so darn confused.

I'm not saying your blog titles have to be simple summaries of your post. I'm not saying they have to be dull. Make them exciting. But all that flash won't matter if it just confuses the reader. I'd rather have a summary of a title than a flashy one, because, think about it: summary-titles will make reading the post much more easy, and summary-titles are most prone to getting picked up by Google searches (do you search 'How to get good characterization' or '101 Tricks in Spicing Up Your Hero' when you do a Google search?).

Yes, yes, this post is directed towards the blog-writing audience, but it works for every other writer as well. Think about chapters.

I forget where I heard it, but one agent makes all her clients get rid of their chapter titles and replaces them with numbers, unless the titles are super super important or voicey.

I was aghast when I first read this (I loved my titles!) but then I thought about just how long I spend trying to find a good chapter title. And then I think about how chapter titles ruin some books for me if I glance at the Table of Contents (because, honestly, if I read, 'Back Alive' as the title for the last chapter, do you think I'll believe that the main character is dead?).

Just something to think about. I still love chapter titles when they're used well, but reading about this agent made me realize just how much more important the story is. It's something many of us (me too) forget; we think awesome titles, awesome covers, awesome whatevers, will make-or-break our novels when the single biggest thing we should spend the most time worrying about is the text itself. That's where the gold is.

Titles should serve the purpose of whatever comes under the title, be it a blog post, a chapter, or even a whole darn book. Don't make the mistake of thinking the title is more important than the rest of the words. If anything, your title should help convey or even further your text's meaning (think of the poem "In the Orchard") but not make it more confusing. The title should be a vehicle to convey the message of the text without interfering with it. If your title does this, then feel free to add all the attention-getting and sparklies you want.

Because the main star is the text, not the title. And we should never forget that.

How do you feel about chapter titles? And how much time do we spend worrying about the less important parts of a book?

P.S. You might not believe it but I've been going to sleep before midnight for the last two nights. It's literally something I haven't done in years, and I plan on going to bed even EARLIER tonight! AHHH!!!! THIS IS CRAZY.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Lisa Sills - Query Kombat SUCCESS STORY!!

It's time for aaaaanoootther awesome Query Kombat success story!!!!!!!!! We love getting emails like this. Truly. It makes what we do as contest-hosts so much more worthwhile. And Lisa's story is fantastic (plus, she has a great skill in cutting her head out of pictures and pasting them onto others; a Photoshop/GIMP/Paint/Whatever wizard is in in our midst XD).

Thank you so much for sending us this email, Lisa!


To start this story, we’re first going to go back to eleven years and half my life ago. I was a precocious kid and I’d always loved reading, so I decided I was going to write a book. And I did. It was called The Sills and the Mystery of the Museum.

Some back info: I’m a quadruplet so I have three brothers the same age as me. Anyway, myself and my brothers were the stars of this novel—particularly one of them, who I liked a bit more at the time. He was a conflicted anti-hero, and I was the star who saved the day. We were super geniuses and we built a laboratory under our little brother’s room that no one knew about. Yeah. I know.

For those of you curious, here’s a photo of me and my brothers:

So anyway, I wrote that book—all 27,000 words of it—and I decided I was going to get it published, but this was eleven years ago and I didn’t have the internet and no one I knew wrote, so my query letter—direct to publishing houses—said: “It’d be cool if you published this before my twelfth birthday.” Did I mention it was handwritten in two copy-books because I didn’t have a computer?

That was the first of the many query letters I sent in my teen years—all for terrible, awful novels written by a precocious 12-15-year-old who had no idea what she was doing.

Tens of rejections followed, and I grew up and got sense and took a break from querying because with age came the awning realisation that my books were a bit rubbish. They had potential and they were all ‘good for my age’, but good for my age wouldn’t get me published.

Around about age seventeen, I discovered literary agents and I decided I wanted one. Since then I’ve written a bunch of books, each of which was a step closer. Rejections became partials, partials became fulls, and fulls became…rejections. Nearly wasn’t close enough.

In the summer before I turned twenty-one, I had this weird idea for a novel about a kid called Nick who combats his troubled past by fighting crime in full-on superhero gear. This was going to be a novel about growing up and moving on and forgiving your past and your demons in small-town Ireland: a Contemporary YA that was weird and strange, dark but ultimately hopeful. I spent two weeks writing Citizens of Optimism—I think I wrote about 6,000 words of it on my 21st birthday, because that’s just how cool I am.

The story from there is pretty self-explanatory. I sent it to CPs and Betas. Early criticism was harsh, but completely true. At one point, I restructured the whole thing. Fast forward maybe seven months and six drafts to this May and it was as finished as I could think to make it. So came the submission process. We’re all familiar with the submission process, so I’ll jump straight to the hard facts:

Queries drafted: 9.

Contests entered: 1. QueryKombat. I was knocked out early on, but the various comments/opinions really helped to make the query stronger.

Queries sent: 14.

Full requests: 5.

Offers: 2.

Agents: 1. Laura Zats, of Red Sofa Literary. I’m not one for indulging in superlatives, so instead I’ll say you know when you sometimes just get a feeling about someone and you think, “this could work?” That was how I knew.

So now here I am, with an agent, and a novel, and another novel in-the-works that I’m really, truly hopeful about. I am my own worst critic, and I opened Citizens of Optimism for the first time since May a couple of days ago, and I had this unrelenting want to cut it all up and make it better.

I’ve grown a lot as a writer in the last year—in fact, I’d say my 21st year was the year I learned to write, and now I have this uncertain future and this uncertain novel , and I guess it’s time to see what happens next?

And it’s terrifying. Everything about this is terrifying. I’m so private about my writing—always have been—and I have a tendency to flip-flop from self-belief to gutting self-doubt in ten seconds flat, so subbing will be…interesting. I’m trying to be better—trying to be more open about my writing, which is half the reason I’m writing this. Still: it’s terrifying!

I don’t know what happens next, but as much as it’s terrifying, it’s breathlessly, achingly exciting.

If you’d like to know a little more about me, you can find my blog here, or read my drivel about film-making, writing, and whatever pops into my head on my twitter.

I am so private about my writing as well. You're totally right; it's terrifying being open to the world (which is why I stay anonymous XD). All the best to you, Lisa :) Please, please, please tell us any further news! I seriously loved this post; so honest and true. I can't wait to see how far you go. 

(Oh. And read her blog. Seriously. It's amazingly written and filled with great stories.)


Monday, December 2, 2013

NaNoWriMo has ENDED and December is Here!!!


December. It is already December. I honestly (and I do mean honestly) don't remember a year of my life going by as fast as this one did. Maybe it's because last year was the year where I grew the most as a writer: met awesome critique partners, started this blog, became part of this awesome writerly community. I thought, last year, that 2013 was the year I'd get an agent and be published.

But I like this year a ton as well, and if the publishing journey has taught me anything, it has taught me patience and the foolish optimism of deadlines :)

In other news, National November Writing Month is over! The goal for most was a full novel of 50k words, or at least 50k written. My goal was to finish my WIP that I've been taking way too long on. I technically finished (I (for one thing) copy and pasted some scenes I'd written before and slapped them onto the ending, and didn't write bridges between the scenes; I also (for another thing) did sentence summaries for a few major scenes so I wouldn't have to write them out until later). So technically I've finished, but not really. I only really wanted to finish because I Tweeted that this NaNo, for me, was dedicated to my friend Joey Francisco. I hope what I did was enough for her.

So, overall, this year was a good one for me. I enjoyed it, and in the end, that's all that matters, isn't it? :) A solid, awesome year...and (as Wendy Nikel so awesomely reminded me on Twitter) we still have almost a month left of it!!!!!!! SO LET'S GET THOSE LAST-MINUTE RESOLUTIONS COMPLETED! (My goal is to completely finish my first draft before the 19th. Oh. And work out more and stop being so lazy--but what can I say, sleep sounds so much better than weights.)

OOh, OOOH! Thanksgiving!!! It just passed. I had an awesome one. An amazing time with my family, and I'm sort of sad it's back to routine now. But I like coming back to blogging and everything :)

How did your NaNo go? Thanksgiving?

Also, how was 2013 for you? Any resolutions you missed (I know I did), and any ones you still have a chance to get done?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!


I can go on and on about what I'm thankful for, but as a writer, one of the top things I'm thankful for is that I met you guys and am part of this writerly community. You guys mean to world to me, and it's because of you guys (and especially my awesome writers at AQC) that I've grown so much as a writer.

This is a short post, and it's on Thursday, because I just wanted to say thanks for everything, and that I won't be posting tomorrow because it's a holiday!!! Woo!!! I'm finally getting in the holiday spirit and it feels fun :)

Hope you guys have an awesome Thanksgiving (and if you don't celebrate it, have an awesome day!)!

Monday, November 25, 2013

I'd Rather Have Readers

I wrote a post last Friday about the Dickens Schism, where his most critically acclaimed book, best selling book, and the book he loved the most, were all different. Which drew the question, what criteria matters the most? Critical acclaim, popularity, or self-fulfillment?

I asked you all to discuss your opinions in the comments of that post, and I said I'd share my answer today. So here it is!

I was surprised to see that all (or most, depending if new comments have arrived by the time this post gets published) of the comments wanted popular acclaim. Because, that is my answer as well.

It's funny. I thought a lot of people would put self-fulfillment as their answers because they write for themselves, etc. etc. But I do think, for most people, the honest answer is that they write because of the readers. And that answer holds true for me as well.

Let's just do a little process of elimination.

Why not write for yourself?

Because, as Michael so smartly pointed out in the comments, "[if] you're just writing a book for you, don't bother publishing." It's on point if you think of it, and doesn't need much more talking about. It's almost unarguable: if your main purpose in writing is for yourself, don't publish. I'd like to hear an argument about how that statement wouldn't hold true because I can't think of any!

Why not write for critics?

This is a tougher one because you can indeed wish to publish for critical acclaim. And authors have done that: think James Joyce and his Ulysses. I'd be stretching to say that that book is incredibly popular amongst those not pursing English degrees or publication ;) Some writers do indeed write for critical acclaim, to explore and invent new ways to use language and words. And it is to them that writers owe much of their knowledge in prose and literary techniques.

But in the end, most writers, in fact the vast majority of writers, write for the readers. If they want critical acclaim, it might be easier to publish in a literary magazine instead of trying to get a Big 5 publisher which might not want to risk publishing a book of a new style. Yet most writers strive for Big 5 publishers, or self-publishing, any way to reach masses of readers.

I, personally, have a story to tell. Something to say. Because, as Maya Angelou said, "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." And I think that quote is so, so true.

It is due to this agony that writers go through years and years of rejection, of typing, of revising, of little hope. I think we many times underestimate just how insane writing truly is: years of voluntary pain for a goal that may never come.

But at the end of the darkness, it's not really self-fulfillment that's driving us forward. If it was, we wouldn't be striving for publication. For most of us, it isn't critical acclaim (or at least, solely critical acclaim - because who wouldn't like being called the new Hemingway?) that drives us on. It's too much of a niche to hold on to. It's the masses, the large populations, the millions of readers, that push us along. It's the idea of having a voice in this world, of having an impact, of being heard. It's the idea of having your ideas be spread to other minds instead of bottled up in your own.

So, for me, it is mostly about the readers. Because, yes, I wouldn't dare publish or write a book that I hate, nor do I want to be laughed at for my prose. But I do want big sales: not because of the money, and I mean that. It's because that means many, many people have heard what I have to say. They've read my story. And hopefully, it had an impact.

How about you guys? What would you want?

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Dickens Schism: Sales, Critical Acclaim, or Personal Fulfillment?

I thought I blogged about this before, but I was searching for the post and I can't find it. So I guess my memory is just faulty or the post is hiding! ANYWAY.

The very famous Charles Dickens and his works fall victim to one of the most interesting, thought-provoking phenomenons of literature.

His novel, Bleak House, is commonly called his ultimate masterpiece.
His novel, A Tale of Two Cities, is his bestselling novel and also the best selling single work of fiction of all time (at least according to Wikipedia).
His novel, David Copperfield, is the novel he loved the most, the one of which he mentioned when he said, " many fond parents, I have in my heart of hearts a favourite child. And his name is David Copperfield."

Now, this schism of critical acclaim, popular acclaim, and personal fulfillment is, as far as I know, unique only to the works of Dickens.

The reason why this is so interesting: it's up to us to decide which of the three is the most important.

This will be a Discussion For You (I haven't had one in a long time). On Monday, I'll post my own opinion as to which, to me, is the most important of the three (I do have an answer, and it's not a cop-out answer).

First question: How should a book be measured? By the critics' love, the public's interest, or the author's love?
Second question: Which of the three (critic's love, public's interest, or author's love) is the most important?

Discuss in the comments! 

P.S. Barnes and Noble is having an awesome pre-Black Friday "Discovery Friday" sale TODAY. I am so so so so excited. It's the only store I've been watching for Black Friday deals. I'm going to get lost in B&N today. It'll be bliss. I'm beyond excited. Squeeeeeeee!!!!!!

Anyway, keep discussing in the comments! I want to know what you think :)

Monday, November 18, 2013

Internet 'Distractions' Actually HELP Raise Your Word Count?

There's this very common joke that goes around the writerly social media world. The joke basically goes like this: "I WANT TO WRITE WORDS BUT INTERNET." Internet is the scapegoat, the reason so many of us profess that we have low word counts or lack the motivation to write. It's our procrastination tool. Our humorous excuse.

Even more so, some of us actually start disliking the Internet and its charms because we really, really want to write. But the Internet is such a big distraction and an addiction.

"Good gosh, if only there was no Internet, I'd be writing so much," is a thought that probably crosses most modern writers' minds.

But what if I were to tell you that the Internet actually HELPS you write more words?

I do not own this picture (or lack-thereof).
Yes yes yes!! I'm being serious!

I thought of this when, a few days ago, I tweeted that I wrote 940ish words. I was very happy, and I was done for the day. Then, my friend, Brighton Luke, replied and said "go for a thousand #IBelieve." So, I groaned, and pulled up my word document, and got a new goal for a thousand words.

In total, I wrote 1,423 words that day.

I'm not going to tell you to use the Internet 'usefully' because in all honesty, if you're reading this blog post (and didn't come here by some accidental crazy link) you're using your Internet time to look at writerly stuff already. I'm not going to tell you to use your Internet time to go on 'actually helpful' sites like 'Write or Die' (an AWESOME writerly help, by the way) and never to Tweet or email or read blog posts or post on forums.

Because all of that 'distraction' funnels down to you writing better, you writing smarter, and, due to writing-related things being constantly in your environment, wanting to write more.

We commonly say Twitter is a writing distraction, or that writerly websites (like Agent Query Connect) are time saps for writing. But I'd bet that a writer who is a participant in all these things will write more in a year than a man sitting at home with no Internet connection at all.

It's pleasant to think we all write due to our own self-motivation but I know my life changed forever since the day I became a part of this community. I don't know if I'd have lasted so long in trying to reach my writerly dream if I had no Internet. I might have given up. In fact, I probably would have. And it's a sad and scary thing to think about, just how important certain decisions are.

The Internet means connecting. It means being with material you love to think about, and being with others going through what you are. It means finding support through a Google search. It means getting help from someone over Twitter, someone who'll push you to write just a little bit more. It means you'll keep writing when you think to give up.

So what if the Internet distracts you for a few hours, hours you could have been writing? Swallow your frustration and thank the Internet for what it has given you: support. Support in many forms. Writers without Internet have only themselves and those around them for support (and usually, those around them aren't that writerly-intelligent). And their motivation fizzles away with no stimulation, challenge, or friendly competition.

Because without the Internet, sure, maybe I'd write 2,000 words a day. And maybe it'd last a month. But I, at least, would probably fizzle out in the end with no external support. And in a year I'd have written maybe 60,000 words max. And I'd probably never write again.

And with the Internet? Maybe, only 300 words a day. But in a year, that's 109,500 words, and you'd keep going for many years to come, the Internet guiding you along. And that's nothing to be frustrated about. In fact, we should be downright grateful.

Are you grateful for the Internet?

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Psychological Reason for Why Querying Writers Go Chaotic

It's frequently said that writers, in their querying phase, are quite chaotic. Their nerves are frazzled, they are quick to react, they sleep very little, etc. But hoorah! Psychology has an explanation for this! And while I still can't find a solution to this, at least we know why it occurs!

There's a thing in psychology called operant conditioning. It boils down to the fact that the consequences of your behavior determine whether you continue that behavior or not. So, an example: if a dog gets a treat every time it stands on its hind legs, it'll stand on its hind legs more and more so it gets food (the consequence of his action). This is called positive reinforcement, meaning the dog's behavior (standing on its hind legs) is reinforced or encouraged.

Now, the interesting part:

Operant conditioning can be funneled down to four more categories, but of those four, we'll only concentrate on the two important ones that apply to us writers. They all depend on when the consequence of the action occurs. We'll say that the consequence is a good result (getting food, etc.).

1. Fixed Ratio - Every single (or every second, third, fourth, etc.) time the creature does the action, the reward is given. This leads to incredibly crazed behavior from the creature. Meaning, a pigeon will peck at a spot hundreds of times just to get the food. However, the minute this constant reward stops, the pigeon will almost immediately spot pecking. So if you take away the food, the pigeon stops pecking.

2. Variable Ratio - Ah. The one that causes minds to warp and nerves to twist. The one that makes writers' brains go haywire. I'm laughing just at writing this because of how hilariously diabolical this psychological phenomenon is! This means that reward is given randomly. So, a pigeon can get food on its 1st peck, then its 2nd peck, then its 189th peck, then its 210th peck, then its 1,800th peck. No rhyme or reason as to when the reward will comes (think of slot machines in Vegas - the gambler has no idea on which turn they will get money).

Rewards given on a variable ratio are so, so interesting and applicable to us writers because of one fact: while creatures take up the behavior slower if rewards come randomly, they forget the behavior so, so much slower. Meaning, a pigeon will actually peck at a spot 150,000 times before getting its reward!!!!! They have no idea when the reward will come. It'll come next time. It'll come next time. It'll come next time. They go mad with anticipation. There's no schedule to the reward which makes the pigeon's mind calmer.

A pigeon as the subject of a psych experiment.
(I do not own this picture at all.)
This is what happens to us writers in the querying phase.

"Let me check my email. Let me refresh. Refresh. Refresh. Refresh. EMAIL FROM AGENT AHHH!!!! Refresh. Refresh. Refresh. Refresh  Refresh. Refresh. Refresh. Refresh. Refresh. Refresh. No, no, no sleep, I have to check my email, who knows when an email has come. Refresh. Refresh. Refresh. *Wake up in the middle of the night* Let me check my email. Refresh. Refresh. Refresh. *A minute's worth of free time between parking in the garage and walking into the home* Let me check my email. Refresh. Refresh. Refresh. *Two days later* EMAIL FROM AGENT AHH!!!"

Do you see what I'm talking about??!?!?!

I find it really, really, really funny. It's diabolical and evil! I'm literally laughing right now because of the sheer evilness of it all :) WE ARE ALL PIGEONS.

Psychologically proven: your 'refresh my email' behavior will take a very, very, very long to time go away specifically because you'll never know when an email from an agent will come in. If agents only sent requests at 5 PM EST, I have no doubt that querying writers will have calmer lives, and more peaceful minds.

But, let's be honest. We didn't become writers to have peaceful minds XD

So now you know the reason behind the craziness of writers in the querying phase! The solution.... I don't know. But at least you know the reason behind it!!!

Hehe, I had fun writing this post :)

Did you guys enjoy this post? What do you think about the psychological state of writeres?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Happy Veterans Day! An Inspiring Story

This, and Earth Day, are the two holidays that I'm most supportive of.

Thank you, veterans, for fighting for your country. Words cannot describe how much respect we all have for you. Thank you for risking (and many, giving) your lives for the safety of your people (I don't just mean the US, I mean everywhere).

They deserve all the happiness and safety America can provide for them. This is a holiday well-deserved.

So while there might be awesome sales going on, think about the reason we celebrate this holiday. Thank the veterans living in your neighborhood, and just think about what they've been through for a few minutes.

And, something to inspire you guys, check out this article about a UK veteran who passed away with nobody to attend his funeral, the power of social media, and the goodness of the British public. It's the best article I've read in a long while :)

Happy Veterans Day everyone!

Friday, November 8, 2013

What Barnes and Noble Needs to Do to Stay Alive

There are very few people in the publishing industry that do not fear for Barnes and Noble's life.

I do not own this picture.

The bookseller has been reporting losses for almost every quarter for a while. Its stock prices have been falling, its sales have been dropping, and they're even closing many stores.

And there are very few people who believe that the cause of this destruction is anything but Amazon.

First, let's investigate the top three reasons why Amazon is beating B&N right now.

1. Price
2. Price
3. PRICE!!!!

Sure, sure, you can throw in things like a wider selection of books to pick from, ease of accessibility to the Internet (which makes it much easier to order online than to drive to a B&N), and the relative confidence that the book you purchase will be good (due to Amazon reviews and other info you can get online).

But the reason why people go into B&N, find a book, then put it down and buy it off Amazon, the reason why Amazon's book industry is doing so well, is because of its price.

It's simple economics. Amazon has three main advantages over B&N about its price:

1. Price Flexibility. 

Unless I am severely mistaken, Amazon price-matches most (if not all) of the books on its website, meaning that they match the lowest price offered for the book out there. However, books in B&N are of a fixed value. This means, even in a changing environment, B&N can not shift to meet the changing demand as quickly as Amazon can.

2. Production Costs per Unit of Production. 

 B&N has to pay for rent (and if you've seen their huge stores, you'll know this is a big cost). They have to pay wages to their workers, they have to pay insurance for their workers and for the stores. All this boils down to a higher price per book.

But Amazon... what are their costs compared to B&N's? Maybe they have some workers, but rent? Maybe for warehouses, but those warehouses are not only for books. Book-to-square-foot, B&N has a LOT more rent to pay. And thus, Amazon's costs boil down to a cheaper book.

3. E-Books. 

True, B&N has the Nook, but it's not as popular as Amazon's Kindle. As e-books are so much cheaper than hardcover or paperback, and since most self-published authors are going towards e-books to save costs, Amazon is receiving a TON of books. Since the supply of books is increasing with a relatively stable demand, the prices for the books fall (as economics dictates). This price fall is mainly present in the self-publishing part of Amazon, but it sometimes trickles into traditionally published books as well. Also, B&N carries very few self-published books.

So let's get one thing straight: Due to the brick-and-mortar aspect of B&N, B&N should give up all hopes of EVER competing with Amazon's prices. At most, they'll get close to the prices, but they won't beat it, nor will they be too competitive with them. It's economics.

So what can B&N do to stay alive? Should they give up all hope?


In fact, they are sitting on one of the biggest niches in the market: the desire for a physical bookstore, and everything that it entails.

Do you remember the craziness at the bookstores when a new Harry Potter book was about to be released? There were midnight releases, parties at the bookstores, and they sold a LOT: about 11 million, worldwide, in just 24 hours.

And most of this happened at bookstores.

People haven't lost the love for a bookstore, as proven by the Harry Potter phenomenon and the recent one when Allegiant came out. People want a place to gather and share their love for a book or series with others like them. Clicking 'Place Order' on a computer doesn't do that for them. I doubt the Internet will ever replace the feeling of a group of people actually being in contact.

But B&N, in their futile quest to be as Amazon-like as possible, isn't utilizing this niche as much as it can.

B&N has to find a way to justify the higher costs for their books. If they aren't offering anything new or exciting that Amazon doesn't, why would a consumer go to B&N?

Here are a few ways Barnes and Noble can stay alive:

1. Book of the Month Reading groups.

At the start of every month, B&N will pick a book to read (this book can be picked by individual stores, or it can be done corporate-wide (I think the latter would work better so there would be a more communal feel to the whole B&N community)). At the end of the month, the readers will gather in the bookstore and discuss. B&N can decide whether to force the reader to buy the book at B&N to participate, or not. Basically, I'm saying B&N should have a book club at the actual location and not online. I can't imagine running this would be too costly.


There are so, so many authors in every city in the country!!! I'm shaking my head at how wonderfully this tactic would work: if B&N actively seeks out authors in the area to come and sign stock, sit for a while, and even do a talk (although that might get too hectic), they would make a LOT of money with very little effort. Everything other than the talk, the author would handle themselves. Also, it's simply natural for an author, when invited to sign stock and sit at a table to talk to readers, to invite people to come to the bookstore. THEY WANT PEOPLE! They'll call their friends, their families, saying, "Hey, I'm signing my book at B&N, come over!" The publicity and marketing will be done by the author themselves; B&N will simply have to sit back and watch.

Quite honestly, only the big B&Ns are getting many author visits. The one near me has gotten none as far as I've seen (and that's a problem). It doesn't have to be big, Rowling-fame writers. Almost all books published are by the 99% 'not famous' authors; doesn't make them any less of a writer.

3. More interaction from the workers. 

Get them to wear signs saying, "Hey, want to hear about a book I've recently read?" It's a psychological trick, but an honest tactic as well. By getting the workers to recommend books to the customers, the customers leave with a better book. Also, the customers have a much less chance of leaving and buying the book off of Amazon. They'll feel indebted to the worker, and they'll feel bad about 'wasting' the worker's time. So they'll buy the book, feeling content all the same.

The key is to have charismatic, passionate, and non-pushy workers (meaning, they'll ask what the customer's looking for, will know what to recommend, and will know how to pivot if the customer doesn't seem to like the recommended book. This doesn't mean more expensive workers; in fact, the best workers will be the ones willing to work for normal wages, since they'll want to work with books, their passion and love).

There are many, many more tactics that can be put into play, such as having the workers wear name tags listing their favorite books, or setting up much more vibrant and fun displays, or even having a 'Published by Authors in Your Area!" case which contains books by self-published and traditionally published authors near the store.

And it all boils down to this: utilize your advantage as much as you can, and also, utilize your combatant's weakness as much as you can. Meaning: B&N: YOUR PHYSICAL LOCATION IS A GIFT.

I just want to add, this isn't an attack on Amazon. Amazon has done AMAZING things for the publishing world and for us writers, so I want to thank you :) This is simply an attempt to revive B&N. The enemy of my friend does not have to be my enemy. The world isn't that black-and-white.

Well, I hope someone from Barnes and Noble reads this and at least gives it a thought! Otherwise, I've done what I can do. After that, it's up to them. But I hope they do at least give this a try.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Let's Eradicate 'Guilty' Pleasures


I think we now call some pleasures 'guilty pleasures' because adding the 'guilty' in front of it, in some way, excuses the pleasure or almost asks forgiveness for it -- when none is necessary in the first place.

"I watch dramas, but it's a guilty pleasure of mine."

"I watch Spongebob, but it's a guilty pleasure of mine."

Heck, even, "I read 50 Shades, but it was just a guilty pleasure of mine!"

Something that upsets me is when people ask forgiveness for what gives them pleasure, doesn't harm anyone else (and doesn't really even harm themselves!), and they ask forgiveness from others who honestly don't have much of a say over what you do.

Here's the thing.

What constitutes a 'guilty' pleasure? Is it something that most of society has shunned (usually because of prejudices or preconceived stereotypes), but something you find pleasure in? Let's be honest: most of us who have bashed 50 Shades have never even read the books (I being included in that group). And even if we have read them, and even if we didn't like them, what allows us to make others feel uncomfortable about enjoying the books? Live and let live, no? (Even though it's really hard for books that I feel strongly against.)

It's just that I'm seeing so much of, "I like this author, he/she is my guilty pleasure." Who's making you feel guilty? It's not because you feel guilty about enjoying it; other people are making you feel guilty! And you haven't done anything wrong.

Take pride in your passions. Don't fear loving certain books or authors or anything. Why hide? And all of us (including me, because I really do need this lesson) who have quickly judged based on other people's likes: let's stop. Because not every single book has to be full of beautiful prose or three-dimensional characters.

If you enjoy it, then it is a good book: the author did something right to make you enjoy it. What did the author do? Investigate it, and it won't be a 'guilty' pleasure: you'll learn from the books. It'll be a nutritious novel, so to speak, and you'll feel better about reading it.

So let's break this crutch and answer this one question: What is your greatest "guilty" pleasure?

I'll start.

Don't hurt me or make fun of me, please, knowing that I'm a big Harry Potter fan, and also a male. I can't believe I'm about to say this, but here it is:

I actually enjoyed the Twilight book series.


They're just so readable! Not my favorite books by far, but still. I split my books in two categories: Am I happy I read this, or should I never have wasted my time? Twilight is in the former category. Some may not agree with me, but, yea... oh well. There are very few books in my 'I never should have wasted my time' category. In fact, I think there are no books in there; out of all the books I've read, there are only two that I strongly, strongly, strongly dislike. Urrggh. But I don't know if they were a waste of my time, so to speak.


Let's not be ashamed of 'guilty pleasures' anymore!

What is your greatest guilty pleasure? 

P.S. For those of us in Daylight Savings Time Zones, hope the time change went well!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Tools You Need to Tackle National November Writing Month!

Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit! 

Ah, November! Soon to fall back an hour for Daylight Savings here in the USA (GET AN EXTRA HOUR OF SLEEP, YES YES YES!).

First off, the businessy stuff:

For Nightmare on Query Street, we had awesome agent Roseanne Wells come for more requests after the contest had 'officially' been over. She made nine requests in total!!!!! That brings our total requests from 75 to 84 (!!!!!!) requests!!! The stats have changed, so click this link to see the updated stats :) (Michelle's Minions still won though, grr.)

To all those that requested critiques on their entries: I plan to get them all done over the weekend! They're taking longer than I thought. I thought I'd do a quick 2 min critique for each, but they're turning out to be 10 minutes or more on each one and a long paragraph in length. Since there are 20ish to do, that's a lot of time, so I hope (hope) to finish them by Monday :) Wish me luck!!

It's National November Writing Month!!!

This is what I needed to boost my writing! I have no excuse now; I think I've gone 2 months without writing a month and I really need to start again. A busy life is no longer an excuse.

I've said before that I don't even try to write a full novel during November. I find that slightly absurd and crazy (because I'm not a fan of the lengthy, mind-numbing editing afterwards). But if you enjoy that, go for it!! There are still some writers out there who don't do NaNoWriMo because they can't imagine writing a full novel (and only 50k words, which is short for most YA and Adult genres). I'm going to try and convince them to do NaNo regardless.

I don't take NaNoWriMo as write a full novel in a month. Not in the slightest.

I use NaNo as a way to get 50k words in. Just 50k words. Period. At the end of the month, I don't even try to get a resolution or close off the story if it doesn't happen naturally. In fact, last year (I won NaNo!) I didn't even write a new manuscript! I simply wrote 50k more in my work in progress.

I take November as a normal writing month, except sped up. Let's keep it simple, people :) Let's just get 50k words.

Here are the tools you need to tackle NaNoWriMo (based on my own experience (and my corresponding blog posts) with it last year).

NaNoWriMo -- DON'T Write a Book in a Month.

Writing Crap

5 Ways to Catch Up With Your NaNo Word Count

The Secret to Winning NaNoWriMo

I hope those links help! They are nowhere near professional advice, but I hope you still have something to take from them.

This month, I'm not going for 50k words because it was such a challenge last year, and my work in progress has at most 10k-20k left until the first draft is finished. My goal for the month is just to finish the book, and maybe, if I'm lucky, start editing it :) (Add me if you're doing NaNo! I'm SC_Author.)

GOOD LUCK GUYS!!!! This month is fantastic for writers :) (

Monday, October 28, 2013

Nightmare on Query Street Concludes!! Closing Stats & Critique Opportunity

I am beyond proud of Nightmare on Query Street and the writers that made up our teams.

75  84 requests amongst 30 entrants. 75  84 requests!!!!!

Huge thank you's go out to all the agents that made this such a success!!! Really, we couldn't have done this without you. You all were so generous and kind; thank you for giving your time to this contest! And we hosts seriously hope there are success stories to come.

For those of you who don't know:

The agents could request for a 10 page partial by giving a 'shiver', a 50 page partial by giving a 'shriek', or a full manuscript request by giving a 'scream'.

Here are the statistics for the hosts and their teams:

Mike's Monsters got 23 25 requests in total: 10 shivers, 12 13 shrieks, 1 2 screams
Michelle's Minions got 28 32: 9 shivers, 18  22 shrieks, 1 scream
I (SC's Spooks) got 24 27 requests in total: 10 shivers and 14 17 shrieks.

So, I guess, *grumbles*, that Michelle's team won. Woo hoo! Yay! I want to say congrats to Michelle, you were a worthy winner :) (But we'll get them next time, don't you worry my Spooks!)

I don't feel sad that I lost in the slightest. Each of us got more than double the amount of requests than the number of entries we had up; that is incredible to me. And we couldn't have done it (obviously) without an amazing crop of writers to chose from, so thank YOU!

I want to say: If any of you guys get a success story because of the contest, please please please tell us!

 Email me at SC_Author (at) yahoo (dot) com and share your story (don't email the Nightmare on Query Street address, we won't be checking that as regularly). Please please please do this, no matter how 'small' your story may seem. We hosts love doing contests, and much of the reason is because we want to see success stories come from them. So share!! And don't forget!!

Call out: if you didn't make it into Nightmare on Query Street and want a brief critique on your submission, comment on this post with the name of manuscript you submitted.

I'll search for it in the email account and I'll reply to you with the critique :) The critiques will be brief, and some of them will be short. Many times it was subjective, and many times it was simply, "The competition is too fierce. This submission is really good, but there's only one spot left and there's another one that caught my eye."

I think this is a good way to have all the participants in the contest benefit from taking part in it :) We did it with Query Kombat too.

Thank you all so, so much, for the most fruitful contest we've done! We hope to deliver again next year with Query Kombat (and Nightmare on Query Street 2014). Again, huge thank you's go out to the agents! You guys ROCKED.

Hope you had an awesome time! Thanks for making this contest fantastic! (And go SC Spooks. WOOT WOOT.) 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

To Joey Francisco's Life and Treasured Memory

On Friday, the day "Nightmare on Query Street" started, I heard the news that a writer friend passed away.

I'm reeling, I'm in shock, and I'm writing this almost as a diary entry because I don't know how to stop my thoughts.

I haven't seriously cried in about three or four years (seriously, no books, no movies, no nothing) but I think, today, I might. Tears are coming.

Joey, you are (are) such a wonderful friend, I only wish I could have been a better one. Everything you went through, you handled it with such strength and joy and optimism, I can't comprehend it. You are an amazing mother, a loving one who fought to no end for your son and family.

What cruelty took you from this world? How can I describe how it feels to lose a loved one when, now that it has happened, I feel nothing at all? But the emotions are coming and it hurts, it hurts so badly. My throat burns. I'm shaking.

I remember your Southern voice, so peppy and springy, on the phone right before I boarded a plane to go to London this summer. I talked in one of those airport bookstores with you, I don't think I told you that. I miss you more than I can say. You have (have) so much to give to this world.

It was all so sudden and so unexpected. I wish I would have contacted you more and not when, as I later found out, it was too late. I should have sent something during those months of no interaction, and I just want to hear your voice again, hear you talk about your Evil Little Manuscript.

The reality is starting to sink in, that you're gone, and it's hard to handle.

Thank you for being such a wonderful friend, an incredible supporter, and a burning light to everyone who knew you. You fought and won against things most people would collapse upon; if only the end wasn't so unexpected, if you knew it might be coming, because you'd have fought it and you'd have won.

Here is Joey's obituary, and here is her guest book. To her family, I extend my utmost condolences and thoughts. A person I never met in reality affected me this much; I can't imagine how hard she, who was with you constantly, imprinted onto your souls. She will live on through those she loved.

Here's some lines:

"And this is the comfort of the good, that the grave cannot hold them, and that they live as soon as they die. For death is no more than a turning of us over from time to eternity. Death, then, being the way and condition of life, we cannot love to live, if we cannot bear to die.

"They that love beyond the world cannot be separated by it. Death cannot kill what never dies. Nor can spirits ever be divided that love and live in the same Divine Principle, the root and record of their friendship. If absence be not death, neither is theirs.

"Death is but crossing the world, as friends do the seas; they live in one another still. For they must needs be present, that love and live in that which is omnipresent. In this divine glass, they see face to face; and their converse is free, as well as pure.

"This is the comfort of friends, that though they may be said to die, yet their friendship and society are, in the best sense, ever present, because immortal."

 -- William Penn

And a song, which I can't listen to anymore without thinking of Joey. I feel it's the perfect song for us writers.

We won't let you die, Joey, nor your writing. Thank you so, so much, for being with us.

Friday, October 25, 2013

"Nightmare on Query Street" Commenting and Contest Guidelines!


Are you guys excited?! BECAUSE I AM!!!

Below this post, you guys will find the ten submissions that I picked to be on my team (the SC Spooks, the winning team for sure).

Yea. Just try to beat us. Just try. WE ARE THE #SCSpooks!!! (Seriously,
I LOVE the submissions on my team.)
(I don't own this picture.)

You can head over to see Michelle's and Mike's team as well (just click on their names, but don't worry, our team is scarier than theirs). All in all, we have picked thirty submissions from our pile of about a hundred to be on our teams!

Once again, don't worry if you didn't make it in. Read this post and know that I mean every word of it. Also, for everyone that didn't make it into the contest, I'll put a post after the contest is over on which you can comment and request a brief critique on your submission.


Commenting for the Entrants/Audience:

Sorry guys, but no commenting, cheerleading, etc. on the entries. We hosts discussed this issue, and we agreed that it'd lead to too much unfairness and unconscious biases. Only agents will be able to comment on the entries :D



Do all your cheering in the comments of this post, or do it over Twitter!!!! We're going to be under the hashtag #NightmareQuery and we will be having FUN. So vent, be nervous, cheer each other on, and hold hands. (I said this in Query Kombat and I'll say it again; one of the best parts of contests is seeing how the writer's community gathers and supports each other.)

Also, those on our team, we're the:
so let's cheer over Twitter :D I am SC_Author.

Commenting for the Agents:

You agents will have awesomely scary ways to request in the contest.

You can scream for a full request.
You can shriek for a 50 page request.
You can shiver for a 10 page request.

And you can make as many requests as you want! So go wild :D We have some awesome talent up for you guys to peruse.

To add on, for the agents: I deleted the things in the query such as the authors' names, links, greetings, closings, thank-you's, some of the bio, etc.

Also, agents, because of my slightly crazed tendency to organize, the posts run from oldest age-category to youngest, and within those groups, they go from most fantastical, to most realistic, to most scary (so fantasy -> historical -> contemporary -> horror). Why? Well, I saw ten posts to be organized and I was like, yeah, well, why not.

GOOD LUCK EVERYONE!! Hope you all get a ton of frighteningly amazing requests! (*Fingers crossed*)

NOQS: OBLIVIOUS, Adult Thriller/Detective Fiction

Genre: Adult Thriller/Detective Fiction 
Word Count: 90,000

My Main Character’s Greatest Fear:

When I get off work and Abby’s asleep, I like to stand in the doorway and watch her chest rise and fall. It doesn’t matter if I’ve handled a triple homicide or nearly been shot in the hours preceding this, because I’ve been numb to those things for years. But there’s no numbing myself up to the thought that I could lose her any day to her mental illness—and the ever-changing pharmacy we have in the house—and won’t be able to get her back.


Homicide detective Jack Easley was eight years old when he found his sister, Cara, on her bedroom floor. Her case was ruled a cut-and-dried suicide. At least, that’s what his family still tells him.

These days find Jack coping by working every case he can get his hands on—and finding closure for everyone but himself in the process—though this only exacerbates the PTSD of his wife, Abby. With the twentieth anniversary of his sister’s death fast approaching, his latest assignment is no exception—until he finds himself streets over from where Cara died.

He is immediately drawn to the search for the victim’s daughter, abducted in 1998. But when her body shows up on his lawn and a business card left on his cruiser leads him to a detective who died shortly after closing Cara’s case, Jack turns to his sister’s file for direction, touching on a department cover-up that could claim roots in his own family. But there are holes in the timeline and evidence, and the body count keeps climbing the more he probes. In a last-ditch effort, he confronts his family about his sister, but the answers he gets aren’t just about Cara.

They’re about him, too.

As the daughter of a veteran police officer, I am affected by the work my father does every day, and I believe this allows me to bring a perspective and authenticity to my genre that is unique to the families of those who carry the badge.

OBLIVIOUS is a thriller complete at approximately 90,000 words.

First 250 words:I leaned against the Plexiglas divider of our lane, watching Abby empty magazines with no fear.

She knew exactly how to turn me on.

The safety glasses kept slipping, the earmuffs dwarfing her head, but the confidence fit like a glove; by the time a spent mag hit the floor, she’d already clicked a new one in, racked and fired.

Here, she couldn’t falter, and I liked that, but being here also did for her what the meds couldn’t, and I liked that more.

My Glock therapy was promising.

All her shots center mass, I gave her a thumbs-up. She rolled her eyes, changing the targets and giving my shoulder a sympathetic pat before I took my place on the line.

I was halfway through the set when my phone vibrated against my hip. Holstering on instinct, I picked up as I shouldered my way through the door, my partner’s number on the screen. The brass bell went off behind me, then again as Abby followed.

“Nick,” I said, crossing the lot to my unmarked, pulling at my earplugs. “What’s up?”

“—one hot off the presses,” I heard. “Where are you?”

“Doesn’t matter,” I said, reaching for the door of the Crown Vic. “Where’s it at?”

“It’s twenty-six Hawkins, in the Silver Terrace development.”

“I’ll be there,” I said, Abby watching me over the hood as I put my phone away.

She squinted in the sun. “You’re leaving.”

Watching me fish the duty ammo from my pocket was more than enough confirmation.

Therapy was over.

Retracted due to Author's Desires


NOQS: THE KILLING TYPE, Adult Paranormal Thriller

Genre: Adult Paranormal Thriller
Word Count: 80,000

My Main Character's Greatest Fear:

My mother hanged herself when I was six, but by then she was hardly my mother. I never believed in her monsters. She had schizophrenia. She was paranoid, and I pitied her before I understood what it meant. My grandparents said I’m just like her. I’m not. I take care of myself. I can function somewhat reliably in the world. We’re nothing alike. I keep fighting. I can be on my own, independent. I will never be like her. Even if I can feel that rope around my neck. I’ve seen the inside of the ward. I’m not going back.


Charlotte Grimly does a decent job hiding her schizophrenia, except when she’s trying to ignore the white noise buzzing in her ears and hold down a job at the same time. All she wants is to be normal, but when a series of murders staged as suicides shakes her small town, Charlotte finds herself struggling to hold her reality together.

As the body count rises, the white noise become deafening, and the looming threat of a killer does nothing to soothe her anxiety. Charlotte begins waking up in odd places, discovering mysterious bruises and broken fingernails. Her hallucinations fill with menacing shadows and grotesque waking visions of mutilated friends. Even Charlotte begins to doubt her innocence.

Half-remembered incidents begin to click into place and aligning with the suicides. Flashes of buried memories hold the key to solving the crimes, but Charlotte has to hold her disintegrating life together long enough to figure out the answer. If she can’t decipher the events of her past, real and imagined, she’ll be convicted, or worse, committed.

THE KILLING TYPE is an 80,000 word stand-alone Adult Paranormal Thriller.

Meghan Schuler graduated from Brenau University with a B.A. in English and Journalism. Her poetry and short stories were featured in Brenau's Elixir Magazine. After graduation, she worked for The Gainesville Times. She currently writes for and is a member of the Horror Writers Association.

First 250 words:

Her hand trembled. The metal drew the heat from her skin, quickly warming. She closed her eyes, replaying the raised voices, the idle thoughts to do what she was now on the brink of doing, felt the bruises coming up, fingerprints in black and purple. The door slammed again in her mind, rattling her skull and sending a fresh wave of tears over her face, scorching. The barrel slid into her mouth. She smelled the gunpowder from shots spent the previous evening, tasted what remained of smoke and charcoal. She spat the muzzle out, shaking her head, before replacing it at her temple, feeling the hollow end against her skull. One bullet was all it took. One straight shot.

The crack of gunfire echoed in the house as she crumbled to the floor, the gun landing inches away.


Murder had always held a grim fascination for Charlotte, and true crime held a special place in her heart. She propped her feet up on the chair across from hers and unfolded the paper a customer had left on the table, the headline blaring: Woman Found Dead in Home, Possible Homicide.

The newspaper crinkled in her hands, spelling out in grisly detail the death of Amanda Tyler, age 28. The authorities were questioning the boyfriend, apparently known for fits of jealous rage; the suspect had an altercation with the victim the previous evening, in which the words, “I’ll kill you, bitch, just you wait,” had been liberally applied. The corner of Charlotte’s mouth quirked up, more a spasm than a smile.


Genre: YA Epic Fantasy
Word count: 107,000

My MC's greatest fear:

What do I fear? I fear that he will take me. Take my mind and release the monster inside. Losing all I ever was and all I ever will be to him and become nothing but a mindless puppet weak to his whims. I fear losing who I am...what little I have of myself.


Caraka cannot escape the psychotic goddess who possesses her mind.

Ever since she was four, when she nearly died from drowning, half-dragon Caraka has heard the deranged voice of the Shadow Queen. She's struggled to keep the Queen's noxious ideas at bay: to maim, to steal, to kill, to invade.

Centuries before, the Shadow Queen suffered a major betrayal. A fellow god injected her with the deadly Taint—a powerful dark magic that can eat away the sanity of anyone, even the most powerful being in the realm. Broken and sickened, the goddess possessed and tainted a dying little girl—giving the girl a second chance at life.

Caraka decides to go on a journey to save herself. Along the way, she learns that this goddess infesting her mind is the sole solution a crumbling world's troubles. A solution that will spell death for Caraka.

Torn between forcing a broken goddess to face her duty and hiding from the people, friend and foe alike, determined to use her, Caraka must make a choice: sacrifice herself for her world, or sacrifice her world for herself.

First 250:

For the umpteenth time, she withdrew the tattered paper from her pocket only to find the ink rendered illegible.

"Damn it!" Caraka crumpled the paper and tossed it at the ground. She knew she should have protected herself better from the rain. Now there was no way she will find the broker.

Then again, if she didn't stupidly lose her papers back in the forests, she wouldn't be in this town looking for an illegal broker.

Caraka crossed her arms. She watched the people—men in their frock coats and top hats with women in uncomfortably tight corsets and bulbous skirts—walk by. She pulled on her tattered black vest and smoothed out the sleeves of her dirt encrusted formerly white blouse. No one took notice of the derelict who stood in front of the large windows of the hatter's shoppe. Not that a human ever would.

She looked up and down the narrow cobble stone streets. Gas lamps lined the end of the sidewalks and the beginnings of the streets. The various shop displays sat in their windows, begging the passerby's buy me, buy me. The signs above gently swayed in the breeze, several of them creaking loudly to Caraka's ears. Horse-drawn carriages—and even a few new fangled steam-powered carriages—cruised down the streets. A giggling and screeching woman fluttered her fan when a steam carriage past her by, pulling her female companion away from the street.

"Wimp." Caraka spat in the street and pushed herself off the window, careful not to touch the reflective glass with her bare hands.

NOQS: CHANCE, YA Historical Fiction

Genre: YA historical fiction
Word Count: 67,000

My Main Character’s Greatest Fear:

As a young boy, Jimmy’s greatest fear was losing to his older brother, Eddie, in their cutthroat, marathon Monopoly games. It seemed so unfair to lose when he’d built that hotel on Park Place! But now, just a few short years later, the stakes are much higher as Jimmy turns Monopoly game pieces into secret tools to help Eddie escape from a German prisoner of war camp. Losing is still Jimmy’s greatest fear, but this time it’s because Monopoly is a game of life and death.

Query:We are a mother and daughter team excited to be participating in Nightmare on Query Street! In Chance, our 67,000 word young adult historical fiction novel, we spotlight a largely unknown piece of WWII history and have two teenage brothers tell the tale of a secret military operation that saved the lives of thousands of prisoners of war.

Growing up in Leeds, England, in the ominous years leading up to WWII, Eddie and Jimmy Ward never imagine Monopoly, their favorite childhood board game, might be pivotal to surviving the war.

Inspired by the mistreatment of Zissel, the Jewish girl he loves, older brother Eddie enlists in the British Royal Air Force to fight against the Nazis. A few months into the war, Eddie’s plane is shot down, and he is captured and taken to a German prisoner of war camp. As Eddie struggles for his life, Jimmy finds himself unexpectedly falling in love with Zissel while desperately searching for a way to help his brother.

Jimmy’s idea to rescue Eddie initially seems ludicrous, but he has come up with an ingenious plan to disguise prison escape tools as Monopoly game pieces. These top secret games were distributed as part of care packages by the International Red Cross to prisoners of war right under the noses of the German guards. Eddie receives a care package, uses Monopoly to plan a daring escape and realizes home and Zissel may almost be within reach. But the horrors of war make for a deadly game, and all too soon Eddie wonders if he’ll ever “get out of jail free.”

Carol has a MA degree from Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Journalism and works in communications. Megan graduated from Hamilton College in 2009, received an MA from University of Pennsylvania and taught middle and high school English. She now works at Pearson Education.

First 250 words:

With every stroke of my blue wax crayon, I tried to visualize what it would be like to live on the real “Boardwalk”—Packards and Lincolns kicking dust up as they rolled down the street, fashionably dressed men and women chattering as they bustled into shops. Papa had described it all to me many times. But in the summer of 1935, living at the foot of the Pennines, in Leeds, north of London, I had no shot of going to the real “Boardwalk.” I couldn’t even afford the fake “Boardwalk” with my fake Monopoly money.

Having just finished Year 6 of school and with my eleventh birthday approaching, I was ready to take on the world! But as an adventure, at least for this summer, imagining all the places on the American Monopoly board—Boardwalk, Baltic Avenue, Marvin Gardens—would have to suffice.

Papa was second in command to the managing director at Waddington, so he spent long hours deciding what card and board games to bring to market. Mama, always singing a new show tune, was absorbed in the excitement of the theater and frequently traveled to London, staying with family and catching the latest musical. This left my brother and me home alone for much of the summer. To Eddie’s dismay, Mama made him promise to keep a watchful eye on me. Eddie, who was four years older, had hoped to make his own mischief and not be stuck amusing me. But unlike Mama’s current musical fascination, Anything Goes, in our house it was “whatever Mama says goes”... and Eddie was stuck with me!

NOQS: EMMY & MARI, YA Contemporary

Title: EMMY & MARI
Genre: YA contemporary
Word Count: 93,000

My Main Character's Greatest Fear: 

I have 2 main characters who tell their stories in alternate POVs. Mari's biggest fears are equally being noticed and not being noticed. Emmy's biggest fear is that she is unlovable.


High school junior Emmy, perpetually on the fringes of social acceptance, thinks she’s finally found a real connection when she meets her best friend Mari. But when Mari suddenly dies from a drug overdose, blindsided Emmy is left numb and confused, wondering what warning signs she missed. Careening through her grief, she tries to fill her emptiness by accepting the unhealthy attention of eager boys.

When Emmy discovers photographs Mari left behind that lead her to a handsome but unfamiliar guy, she must decide if she wants to ask the questions that will lead her to the truth. With the help of her fellow bereavement group members, Violet and Dash, Emmy begins to put the pieces together of the friend, and friendship, she no longer recognizes.

Told through alternating voices in the past and present, EMMY & MARI is a 93,000 word contemporary novel for young adults that will appeal to fans of ELEANOR & PARK by Rainbow Rowell and PLEASE EXCUSE VERA DIETZ by A.S. King.

I have worked as a high school counselor for ten years and live outside Washington DC with my husband and daughter. In 2012, I co-founded a YA book review blog and attended Book Expo America this past spring.

First 250 words:

The first time I saw Emmy, she looked lost. Her dishwater blonde hair was waving around her ears, so much shorter than all the other girls in our class, which is what made me notice her right away. Until she entered the school, I was the only one with hair shorter than my shoulders. Long hair was cool.

Even though we were fifteen and in the tenth grade, she looked about ten. Her tiny frame was almost emaciated and her plain t-shirt and jeans hung off her body. The look in her eyes, as I spied her across the courtyard, was pure fear, like a squirrel deciding if it should cross the busy road or not. I watched her watch everyone else, trying to decide where to sit. She’d obviously eliminated the cafeteria as a viable place to eat lunch that day. I knew how she felt. It was easier to hide and not look so alone out in the courtyard where you could sit under a tree or on a bench with a book and pretend to be studying.

As she passed by me, tiptoed almost, I noticed she wore Chucks. I called out to her. “Hey.”

She took me in and the terror that washed over her face quickly turned into desperation, as if she’d decided I was the best offer she was going to get and she’d better not screw it up.

“Hey,” she replied and sat quickly, so I wouldn’t have time to change my mind. “Thanks for inviting me to sit.” I hadn’t, but I didn’t bother to correct her.


Genre: YA Thriller
Word count: 82,000

My Main Character's Greatest Fear:

I’m not afraid of anything. I know, how cocky of me. But before you follow the trend and judge me, hear me out. I lost my dad to a car crash and my mom to a new husband. I lost myself in the aftermath giving my once friends this sick, unexplainable satisfaction. I thought a boarding school was what I needed. A fresh start, away from it all. But damn was I wrong. Everyone used me. Deceiving jerks. And now, because of them, I’m kidnapped and staring death right in the eyes. You think I’d be afraid, but I’m not. Hell, the only thing haunting me is making it out alive and facing them all, again.


One sixteen-year-old from every country in the world has been chosen to study at The Academy, an underground school on an island far away. These students have one thing in common: they can’t stand their lives back home. Coincidence? Don't bet on it.

Take the American girl, Jenna. She sees the opportunity to trade Rhode Island for a life at The Academy as her gift from above. And though she later finds out that strict rules, a confidentiality agreement, and “mind-training” sessions are included in the swap, Jenna's still wants The Academy. Yeah, Warwick was that bad.

But as she adjusts to life on the island, a native “friend” lures Jenna into a kidnap trap where unknown people torture, beat, and straight-up threaten Jenna for information about The Academy. Interrogations of what seem to be pointless questions fill her days, but all Jenna can wonder is who the hell would go through all this for some school?

Sifting through her past, Jenna realizes that even though it had classes, teachers, and homework, The Academy was never a school. Sure, the weird stuff had logical explanations before, but it’s clear now—The Academy is nothing but a science experiment. And Jenna is nothing but their lab rat.

Before her captors decide she’s worthless, Jenna must plot her escape, discover what her captors want from The Academy...and what The Academy wants from her.

Completed at 82,000 words, OVERSEES is a YA thriller in which nothing was ever what it seemed. Only problem is, Jenna might have found out a little too late. OVERSEES is a standalone manuscript with series potential.

First 250 words:

So this is what it feels like. Regret. Anger. Pain. Fear.
Can't say I'm a stranger to any of these emotions, but the intensity of them together makes all the difference. How did this happen? One minute I'm trying to be the hero, the next I become a victim. I was supposed to save him. I was supposed to do the right thing. But I screwed it up doing it the wrong way. I should’ve known. My plan wasn’t foolproof— it was flawed from the start. I just chose to overlook that.

Plastic restraints dig deep into my wrists with every move I make. Surely I’m bleeding by now. Of course, that would explain the numbing. And the iciness of the pole they’ve attached me to burns my skin. But the stench of saliva from the bag covering my head gives me hope. Perhaps the person who wore it before me is wandering out in the world as a free man now. Maybe it’s just a matter of time until they realize I’m worthless. That I’m just a high school girl who can’t give them what they want. Whatever that is.

I shouldn’t be here. I should be back at The Academy. Or at least back in Rhode Island, with my family. Whose fault is this, anyway? Mom? Kids at my old school? My captors? Evan? Oh, who am I kidding?! Even if I try to push away the thought in my head, it creeps back to make sure I know. The fault is my own.


Genre: YA horror
Word count: 60,000

My Main Character's Greatest Fear: 

My MC, Dallas, fears anything happening to her younger sister, Talia. Now that Tally is 16, she's starting to notice boys. Her new boyfriend, Pierce, has a cute haircut, a good laugh...and a bad temper. When the zombie outbreak begins, Dallas and Pierce's ideas of how to protect Tally are differing at best. If they can't get along, the living dead may be the least of Dallas's worries.


When 17-year-old Dallas Langdon sees a bloody, gray-skinned girl eating a man's intestines, she knows it won't be another Friday night on the town. She's seen Night of the Living Dead, and this scene is straight from a zombie move. What do characters in zombie movies do? They seek shelter. Fortunately, Dallas's eccentric uncle owns a farmhouse in Chattanooga, an eight hour drive from New Orleans. It's on top of a steep mountain, surrounded by electric fences, and cut off from the world -- including zombies.

Dallas's parents, still safe at home, laugh at her idea over the phone, but say they'll meet her there anyway. Her friends only agree to join her when she tells them it's a mini vacation. Plenty of sun, drinks, and maybe even a chance to miss school Monday.

But then Dallas's best friend is killed by a zombie horde when they're attracted to her ringing cell phone. Civilians think their reanimated loved ones simply have the flu, leaving them alive and rapidly increasing the zombie ranks. And since minors can't buy guns, Dallas's only weapon is a giant industrial pizza cutter she swipes from a gas station. George A. Romero never mentioned anything like this. With one friend dead and no zombie survival guides to help, Dallas and her friends must get to Chattanooga before developing a taste for human flesh themselves.

STATE OF EMERGENCY is a 60,000 word YA horror novel. It combines the zombie action of Jonathan Maberry's ROT & RUIN with the self-aware humor of Zombieland and the Scream movies. It's a standalone novel but has series potential.

I have a degree in Creative Writing from Belhaven University.

First 250 words:

Two hours before Dallas Langdon saw the first zombie, she sat in an uncomfortable plastic chair backstage at the House of Blues in New Orleans. A table covered with microphones and wires stood in front of her, and a fancy camera was pointed toward it. A tray of cupcakes coated with bright pink frosting sat at the edge of the table.

"Dallas? Dallas!"

"Huh?" Dallas turned her eyes to the plastic chair to her left where Talia, her younger sister, was snapping her fingers. A man with a clipboard hovered over them.

"This man just asked you a question," Talia said.

The man sighed. "I want to know your thoughts on Tatum Jones."

"Tatum...oh, um, yeah." Dallas scratched her head. She's...she's really something. Known her for years."

Talia rolled her eyes. "I'm sorry," she said. "My sister is a little burned out from midterms."

The man grunted and turned away. Talia glared at Dallas, but giggled. "Sorry," Dallas muttered. It was hard for her to hold her tongue when it came to Tatum, and she was doing her best to be polite already.

"Would you ladies like a cupcake?" The anchorman, who had been standing at the wooden table like a statue for nearly twenty minutes, picked up the cupcake tray and held it out. “Tatum made them for us, and I’m sure she wouldn’t mind if we started eating them without her.”

"I do," Talia said. "I'm starving. Want one, Dal?"

Dallas didn't care to eat anything Tatum Jones had presumably baked, but she hadn't eaten much at dinner and her stomach was growling. "Sure, bring me one."


Genre: YA Horror
Word Count: 73,000

My Main Character's Greatest Fear:

Since Tora Kuragawa was eleven, she has suffered from panic disorder and has been plagued with panic attacks. She is certain she will be murdered one day -- though she doesn't know why. To keep her sanity, she rarely speaks or leaves her house, aside from going to see her psychiatrist or to attend school. When she had an episode in front of extended family, she learned if she ever embarrasses her father in public again, she would spend another summer spent in a mental institution. More than anything, though, Tora fears being alone the rest of her life. This is why, during her sophomore year, she's willing fight through her anxiety and become someone new.


If sixteen-year-old Tora Kuragawa’s parents hadn’t forced her to dull her panic disorder with heavy meds, she might have noticed a predator nearby before he crushed her skull. As a victim of unnatural death, Tora is forced to play the reaper’s game: If she can conquer her death and let go of her life, she’ll be allowed to cross over. Failure to do so in seven days, and she’ll be banished to the Netherworld — a nightmarish realm created for the reaper’s entertainment.

Tora can’t even control where her soul goes. If someone thinks about her hard enough, she’ll be pulled to him. Her parents never bother to mourn, but a strange boy named Viktor does — the boy who ran away as she lay dying.

Haunting him seems just, but his ability to hear her changes everything. They strike a deal. He kills whatever monster took her life — “conquering” her death for her — and she’ll free him of his guilt. Before Viktor can fulfill his promise, her murderer rips her away. He forces her to watch as he tortures other girls. Tora realizes she can’t wait for Viktor. She’ll have to save herself and the other victims or they will all be exiled to the Netherworld.

Fans of ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD by Kendare Blake and POSSESS by Gretchen McNeil will enjoy this book. I’m a proud book nerd and an active member of YaLitChat, HWA, and SCBWI, and Crewel World author Gennifer Albin’s personal assistant.

First 250 words:

Breathe. Air in, air out, it’s that easy. Don’t lose control. You’re not going to die; this isn’t life threatening, settle down. There’s nothing behind you. These thoughts don’t help me. I close my eyes and take a step back. All I feel is the hard wall of the cafeteria. No one’s there. I’m fine. Everything’s fine.

People laugh all around me, but not at me. Not right now, when I’m finally not making a scene. No one recognizes me this year. Which is fine, that’s what I was going for. Lose around twenty pounds, start using concealer to cover up any breakouts, and I’m no longer that chubby Asian with panic attacks, just a girl no one seems to know.

Freshman year sucked — it’s done. This is my sophomore year, and I’m not going to keep being no one. I can do this. I’ve been prepping myself for this all summer. I smile and open my eyes again; I will do this. I scan the lunchroom for my target. She’s at one of the tables to the far right, Mary Beth, the sweetest and friendliest girl in all of Iowa. All I have to do is go up and ask if I can sit at her table, start a conversation, and bam! my sophomore year will already be ten times better than my freshman.

It’s that easy.

I can do this. I grip my tray tighter and start walking across the ridiculously long room.