Friday, March 29, 2013

Please, Writers. Don't Get Discouraged

I just ran a "Become an Agent" query contest where contestants vote Yes or No on each other's queries. And, as was obvious, there were a lot of No's.

This rejection is so prominent in writers -- as is the sadness afterwards.

Let me tell you a story.

I did a query contest similar to this one on the Authoress's blog about a year ago. And, I got about 40 No's and only about five Yes's.

That sucked.

I was so sure that query was going to be the one, that I'd get a lot of Yes's and little/no No's. I was so sure. I had worked on that query so, so hard and I thought it would all pay off.

But it didn't. My query sucked.

But you know what? I'm happy I got those No's. What if I actually queried with that mess of a query? Ignorance is NOT bliss in the publication game we are in. We need to be as informed as possible about all steps of publication, including the quality of our own writing. Especially about the quality of our own writing.

Sure, it's easy to be discouraged after all the No's. In fact, it's normal to be discouraged. To want to call it quits. To want to give up.

But you know what? Go ahead. Give up. Seriously, there is nothing, nothing wrong with realizing writing is not for you. So try it. Give up.

And those who are truly writers, deep down; you'll come back in a little while. And you'll write again. And you'll hate it. But you'll need it. And you'll soon love it.

Take this all less seriously. I've always thought we make too big deal about our writing. We're not performing surgery, making life-or-death decisions. We get torn apart by constructive criticism and almost succumb to depression if we get a bad critique. But we're writing. We're doing something we love. We're improving something we love. And we are having fun.

Next time you get a bad critique, laugh at yourself at making that oh-so-obvious plot hole. Shake your head, smiling, as you start to edit. For most of us, there is no time limit to get our books in order. So why get frustrated if a critique sets you back? (I, way too often, try to rush my way through. I'm trying to stop that.)

Let's all make a conscious decision to take our writing less seriously. To see our books as our children (I read this somewhere, forgot where). We'll love them, but force them to improve. And we'll love to see them grow, no matter how long or how many lessons it takes.

How do you guys like the contest so far? I'm on the outside looking in, so I can't tell how you feel about it! Is it helpful?

You have all of Saturday to get your critiques in :)Winner (the one with the most Yes's) will be posted Monday!

Monday, March 25, 2013

"Become an Agent" Voting Guidelines!

For some reason I can't see posts 3—14. Can you guys? If not, go to the side 'Labels' list and click 'Become an Agent Entries'

We are #BecomeAnAgent on Twitter :)

The posts are up! They're up! All 20 of them!!!!!

For those who don't know (and sorry, followers, for blowing up your Blogger dashboard with the entires!) I'm running a contest where writers submit their query letters and in turn, they critique seven other letters. They are only allowed to vote Yes on two of them. They vote as to whether they would request pages or not. So basically, they become an agent :)

And the audience can participate 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.
  • Entrants must critique the seven queries which have higher 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.
  • 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. (And, if they want to go on, have two Yes's for the other six queries remaining.
  2. If they don't want to explain their No's, entrants can vote Yes on only three more queries out of the rest with no need to give/explain a No vote.
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.

There is no need for an elaborate explanation for each vote! You can say, "Yes, loved the premise." or "No, didn't like the character. Make us connect more emotionally to them?" Pretend you are agents and are sifting through your slush pile. Will you give an in depth critique for all of them? But do mention the reasons you voted Yes or No! And explain them enough so the writer can use the feedback to improve. If you want to give an in depth critique, please, do so. That'd be awesome :D

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 #89 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. The writer will only query agents interested in their genre (hopefully). So read each query pretending that you like that genre.

The only types of unacceptable No's will be:
  1. Genre-based No's. (See above paragraph for explanation.)
  2. Cruel, spiteful No's.
  3. No's with little-to-no explanation. Be specific! (But no need to do a whole line-by-line critique).
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 :D This is on the honor system. We're all adults here, and I trust you guys.
  2. Yes's with little-to-no explanation.
Go go go!!!!!!!!!

P.S. I'm going to be out until Sunday night. I'll have a post scheduled for Friday just to check in to see how everything is going, but I won't be able to truly regulate the contest starting Wednesday until Sunday. So behave! And I'll post the winner (one with the most Yes's) on Monday :)

Have fun guys! And be nice! There are some formatting weird things in some posts that I couldn't fix, so I hope you'll forgive me for them :(

Become an Agent #20

Title: Nightmares
Genre: YA thriller
Word Count: 64,700
Tommy's heart was racing.
Threatening to leap out of his chest.
He should have been doing something normal.
Like studying.
Instead, he was standing on a ledge.
Fifty feet above the ground.
Staring into the glowing eyes of the monster.
The monster that killed his girlfriend.
The monster that could be taking over his body, growing within his cells right now.
The monster that, a week ago, was a man...a man with a family.
Until Tommy changed all that.
Tommy realized he should have listened to the critics and his own gut, both of which had said that dream manipulation program was dangerous, and could produce unexpected consequences. Well, the consequence—all seven feet of it—was at that moment baring its fangs and flexing its claws.

Remember: Dreams sometimes can go astray, and when they do, that's what we call...
NIGHTMARES is a YA thriller, complete at 64,700 words. I am seeking representation, and would appreciate your consideration.
About me:
I am a former journalist, but my current day job is in information security for a regional bank. Or, as my son could say even at age three, "Daddy keeps people's money safe." I have published three books:  [redacted]. Recent "short" credits include [redacted. Just keep in mind that there are a lot and with good anthologies :)]

Other than that, I spend my spare time rasslin' with three young'uns.

Become an Agent #19

Title: Without Borders
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Word Count: 75,000

Amanda Smith’s grandpapa taught her the language of his birth country but died without revealing anything of his life before America. Determined to find answers, Amanda leaves her home in Texas for the city her grandpapa grew up in, Pécs, Hungary.
Captured by the beauty and history of the walled city without cultural borders, Amanda embraces all of its aspects, including the people ostracized by racial barriers-- Gypsies. Excitement flutters inside her when Luca, a Gypsy dancer, moves his hips with precision. And she yearns to know him more when she observes him caring for his dying sister. After a short, summer fling she agrees to an odd marriage proposal.
Before the wedding, her grandpapa’s brother visits. He exposes the real reason his brother fled Hungary for America. Secrets open old wounds and reveal a connection with Luca’s clan. The Gypsy family rejects Amanda, and even her fiancé walks away because of clan loyalties. Now she questions everything she knew about her beloved grandpapa and must repair the wounds she didn’t intend to open.
WITHOUT BORDERS is multicultural/women’s fiction set in Pécs, Hungary. It is complete at 75,000 words.
I am a regular attendee of DFW Writers’ Conference and have recently spent time in Pécs, exploring the city and its culture.

Become an Agent #18

Title: Going Thru Hell
Adult Urban Fantasy
Word Count: 70,000

Kylie Rippons wants her son, sanity and to live a life of peace in the Denver suburbs. But once the gods learn of young Riot, a demi-god with the power of his mother, her plans for a semi-normal life are forever dead.

Kylie is able to see time lines in her head as bright, shining strings, and holds the power of braiding them to change events. But it comes at a steep cost, a piece of her soul as fuel, and leads directly to insanity. The gods want her to choose a pantheon and be a weapon in their never ending wars, uncaring of the price she must bear. They herd her into situations in which she must choose: fight or give in.

Two ancient goddesses, one forsaken Valkyrie and a rogue Beserker ally with Kylie, and together they decide to hunt the gods, hoping to prove she is more than a weapon to be used. But devastating betrayal, plus Kylie's continual loss of soul, leads them into a showdown in which Riot is discovered, kidnapped and used as leverage for their demands.

Kylie must face her worst nightmare: Braid enough time to temporarily remove the threat to her son, leaving her soulless and insane, or find the courage to follow one bright blue thread in which Riot is permanently safe...and she is dead.

Become an Agent #17

Title: The Key to Life
Genre: Women's Fiction
Word Count: 78,000

When Anna took on the daunting task of restoring Matt to a state of sobriety, she never expected to fall in love; and she certainly wouldn’t have guessed the object of her growing desire would be Matt's father.

Before passing out and hitting the floor, Matt drunkenly declares his love for AnnaHe may be her friend, but he is also her boss, so not only are his words shocking, they’re worrisome.

Knowing Matt is tottering between depression and sanity, Anna wishes she could fix everything by telling him she loves him back, but she just can’t. So she decides to search for someone who can.

Perhaps the solution lies with Matt’s father, Tom. Despite the fact everyone believes he is dead, after finding his old journal Anna has reason to believe otherwise. Embarking on a search through shark infested waters to a hellish island in the middle of nowhere, she discovers that the man she is looking for is indeed alive. A father’s love certainly isn’t the same as the love of a woman, but Anna hopes it will be enough to bring Matt back to himself.

However, soon what started as a mission to restore one man to his natural, happy self, turns into a fight between head and heart. And now the man who is supposed to be Matt’s saviour could be the man who ends up bringing him more pain and heartbreak. Leaving Anna to wonder, can she really bring happiness into Matt’s life? Or will she forever carry her burden of guilt for not loving him in return?

Become an Agent #16

Title: Big Hole to China
Genre: Chapter Book (Fiction) Ages 7-9
Word Count: 13,000

Nobody can actually dig a hole to China, right? That’s what Squirt thinks when little brother, Bubba, tries to tunnel through the Earth with his grandfather’s special shovel. But what starts as a simple hole becomes a vortex that carries Bubba and Squirt to the other side of the world – to Xi’an, China! There they face the ghost of China’s first emperor, Ch’in Shi Haung-ti, who insists they must find his missing burial pendant if they ever want to return home. With the help of some new Chinese friends, Bubba and Squirt learn about China and unravel the mystery of the pendant.

Bubba and Squirt’s story, BIG HOLE TO CHINA, is a 13,000 word chapter book which introduces young readers to the language, history, and culture of China. This book can stand alone, but I envision it as the beginning of a series in which Bubba and Squirt travel through the hole and experience different countries. I have outlined adventures in France, Belize, Italy, Egypt, and Russia. Each book will contain a recipe so that readers can have a “taste” of the country as well.

Become an Agent #15

Title: Where All the Missing Pieces Go
Genre: YA Fantasy
Word Count:

Jane's vision, voice, and memories were stolen by three pesky stars. All because of a not-so-precious family heirloom, her dusty old locket. She'd gladly give it up, if not for just one small problem. She's not sure who to give it to. The old sorceress who took her in when her mother died? Or the mysterious and handsome Wizard Quail who hasn't quite asked her for it. Yet.

But as she begins her quest to recover her voice, vision, and memories, she learns that giving up the necklace might not be an option. Especially if it really is the key stopping a brutal war between Gael's Magical and Mundane communities. But with so many people hunting her, hanging onto it won't be easy. The only way she'll be strong enough to resist capture is if she finds the missing pieces of herself, and fast.

Become an Agent #14

Title: Pot and Prejudice
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance
Word Count: 85,000

Sixteen-year-old Sapphire Bennet is so sick of her hippie parents she could puke, but then the family pot-growing business gets busted and everything changes in that one instant as they are sent to jail.

Now Sapphire and her little sister, Junie, have to move in with their aunt in Portland. City life is new and exciting, but Sapphire keeps running into snobby Patrick, who she just knows talked his friend into breaking her hometown best friend’s heart. Then Junie runs away and Sapphire feels like it is all her fault. She can’t believe it when Patrick ends up helping her find her little sister.

She almost starts liking him, too, until she gets wind of a rumor from an old family friend of Patrick’s that forces her to remember what a jerk he is. When, out of nowhere, he asks her out, Sapphire tells Patrick off big time. But then he surprises her with an email explaining his side of the story. Slowly Sapphire realizes she was so wrong about him, and just about everything else. Now it’s up to her to fix things with Patrick and try to get her family back, but is it too late?

Become an Agent #13

Title: An Absence of Light
Genre: NA light sci-fi
Word Count: 80k

A stolen BMW, blood on her hands, and otherworldly shadows only she can see. Leah can’t keep running; it’s time to fight back.

When the shadow creatures attack her family, Leah is forced to flee LA, praying the shadows, and the cops, don’t follow. Leah doesn’t know why she alone can see the creatures, or why they influence humans to commit rape, murder, and other dark acts. When she stumbles onto a small group of people who share her ability to detect them, she jumps at the chance to learn more, especially how to get rid of the vile things. The hot hunter, Adam, makes the opportunity even sweeter, even if he already has a girlfriend. Together the group pieces together that the shadows are not from this planet and their invasion is just beginning. If the creatures succeed in their plans, all of humanity will be at their mercy.

When Leah discovers she can communicate with the shadows, she learns of a rebel faction among the aliens. Some are trying to convince the shadows to return to their home world. In order to stop the invasion, Leah will have to face her fears of the shadows, but is there any way she can work with creatures bred in darkness?

AN ABSENCE OF LIGHT is an upper YA light Sci-Fi, complete at 80,000 words. My [two] novels [redacted], were released through MuseItUp Publishing. I can be found online at [redacted].

Become an Agent #12

Title: Pygmy Hazards
Genre: MG Fantasy
Word Count: 28,000

Tom, the classroom hamster, wants to escape from the h-e double hockey sticks otherwise known as school. There he’s sentenced to never-ending show ‘n tell, math facts rap, and story time. But he’s learned a lot behind the bars of his cage. The giant in the dress thinks she is running the show, when the chatterbox pygmies are really in control. Playing house during activity time is no job for a tough guy. Somehow Tom has to get away before the pygmies dress him as Strawberry Shortcake again.

When a “subspatoot” fills in for the giant, Tom sees his chance to put Operation Escape the Pygmies into action. He makes a run for the border, hamster style. Bad news. The principal says Tom is a distraction to learning and better off flushed. The way out is turned into a battlefield of snapping mousetraps, sticky snares, and poisoned pellets. Tom seems doomed until a friendless pygmy named Squeezer lends an over-excited hand. Now, the greatest obstacle to his freedom may be Tom’s soft spot for this lonely pygmy.

PYGMY HAZARDS is a MG fantasy complete at 28,000 words. My epic fantasy, Blah Blah, is being released by Blah Publishing in March 2013. I’ve worked at an elementary school as a special needs assistant for over ten years, giving me lots of experience with pygmies.

Become an Agent #11

Title: Jacob's Ladder
Genre: MG Fantasy
Word Count: 57,000

Sixth-grade loner Jacob Tsosie already knows that string games like cat’s cradle are mystical and even dangerous. After all, Navajos like Jacob have a taboo against playing them in the summer. If you do, the stories say, spiders will glue your eyelids shut. Or maybe pee on you.

But even Jacob can't believe string figures can be used to do magic, until he sees "Stringcasting" for himself. When he’s with the other Stringcaster kids, Jacob finally feels like he's part of something special. But Stringcasting isn’t all levitating and making it rain. Worse than urinating spiders, there are dark Stringcasters, and their leader Belinda is using a “spellbinding” theater show to steal kids' natural magic, taking away their creativity and ability to dream. Determined to help stop her, Jacob tries to sabotage the show. That’s when he finds out who Belinda really is, and becomes her next target.

Now Jacob and his new friends are on the run. They have to learn as much as they can—as fast as they can—and try to stop the show before they’re caught. If they don’t, they’ll lose their magic forever; they could even lose their lives.

JACOB’S LADDER is complete at 57,000 words and has series potential. Those readers who would like to learn “Stringcasting” along with the characters can take advantage of simple instructions included in the footnotes to make the various string figures mentioned in the text. I am a member of the International String Figure Association, and a Children’s Storyteller. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Become an Agent #10

Title: The Adamant
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Word Count: 99,000
No one tells Shamira Kelley how to live her life. Not the parents who abandoned her. Or the ancient relic that seeks to bond with her.
Her pendant, a leftover from a millenniums-old tragedy, wants revenge for its death. And it means to use Shamira toward that end. But she wants nothing to do with the pendant and the ‘gift’ that allows her to kill with a single thought.
Her choices? Never use the pendant. Or wield it and lose her soul. When Faelan, a man of few words, offers his help, she is suspicious but his rusty charm dispels her concern. His true agenda remains hidden; the destruction of the relic using any means necessary. Shamira’s death would accomplish this but her fight against the pendant’s influence intrigues him and he decides to wait. At least for now. Besides, he can always kill her later.
For the ones who would steal it, the pendant represents power and glory. For her, it is a curse. And a temptation. The position of Heroine is open. And no one loathes the job more than Shamira.

Become an Agent #9

Title: The Secret Bow
Genre: YA Fantasy
Word Count: 100,000

What’s the hardest part about starting at the Academy for students with extraordinary abilities? For seventeen-year-old weapons extraordinaire Cleve, it’s his hauntingly beautiful psychic roommate.

Preferring duels to conversations, student-warrior Cleve hates nothing more than small talk, except for one thing—mind-manipulating, painful-memory-resurfacing, dirty-fighting psychics. After just one encounter with his roommate, not only is his outlawed bow discovered, he finds himself immediately fighting an attraction toward her that he’s convinced is too overwhelming to be anything but a psychic spell.

Soon his other two meddling roommates move in, and chaos erupts: Cleve’s bow goes missing, an impending, multi-race war is revealed, and Cleve discovers the two are linked when he’s detained and brought before the King to find his bow resting beside the throne. To stay out of prison, Cleve must prove his loyalty to the King by using his bow to assassinate a powerful enemy. An easy choice—he thinks—until he learns the supposed enemy is an old family friend exiled by the same King many years ago for reasons unknown to Cleve.

After Cleve is forced to make a few tough decisions, some friends become foes, some animosities become alliances, and prison seems far cozier than first imagined. In the heart of it, when Cleve finds himself storming into a castle behind an army of steadfast rodents, he realizes his bizarre infatuation for his psychic roommate has been the only constant since arriving at the Academy.

Cleve’s story is the main focus of three interwoven journeys starting during times of peace, winding through the Academy, and ending with battles far from home.

THE SECRET BOW is the first of a series with the rest outlined. I have a B.A in creative writing, and published online articles for the video game website [redacted]. 

Become an Agent #8

Title: A Dance of River and Tree
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
Word Count: WIP. Expected word count ~ 75,000

Thuja is a 136-year-old Western Redcedar: anchored to the earth, holding up the sky, and always looking to the horizon. Then a boy speaks to her in the forest’s language – something humans can’t do – and acknowledges her wanderlust. From him Thuja learns the truth: she is dryad, a tree spirit, and can choose human form, just as the boy’s mother did. 

River has returned to his mother’s birthplace in order to find a way to put down his roots – quite literally.  He’s done with wandering without connection, and knows there must be some way to access that half-dryad part of him that would allow him to anchor to the earth and hold up the sky. 

They strike a bargain: River will show Thuja the world, and in return she will speak to the eldest dryads on earth on River's behalf.  A simple, mutual partnership. Except that Thuja already knows males can’t be dryad, and River knows the, um, particular difficulties of a dryad in human form. 

With a relationship born on deception by omission, Thuja and River travel from Oregon to Serbia, and finally to India, working to ensure their futures are apart. Each deception takes them closer to their goal, and further from what they truly need – a world together. 

I am an active member of SCBWI.  Thank you for your time and consideration.  

Become an Agent #7

Title: What the Water Gave Us
Genre: Social Science Fiction
Word Count: 

As the virus spreads so does their power. 

Prince Anton’s family has long dominated their disease-ravaged planet. Blessed with genetic immunity, the treatments derived from their blood gives them control over a desperate public. But the rules Anton made to protect citizens like his estranged wife now condemn them. 

Guilt over a deadly accident they’ve kept secret for a decade took Tia and Anton down divergent paths; Tia becomes a leader in the liberation movement, and Anton head of the Unity Defense Forces. Now Anton’s obsession with saving this war-torn land from the disease throws both their lives into chaos.  

As eradication of the virus comes within reach, Anton’s vicious uncle, the Tsar Regent, cuts off delivery of all doses to protect his political interests. Left with only the limited supplies his own blood can provide, Anton continues to deport the infected instead of saving them. Bound by love, but wrenched apart by conflicting morals Tia and Anton find each other on opposing sides of an insurrection after Tia discovers Anton’s dark methods. With adversaries closing in on all sides Anton faces a choice. Fight his own government for more doses, or continue with the protocols that now leave Tia ineligible for one?

WHAT THE WATER GAVE US is social science fiction, complete at 97,000 words. 

Become an Agent #6

Title: Dot Reaper
Genre: YA Fantasy
Word Count: 81,000

DOT REAPER is an 81,000 word YA fantasy that combines aspects of Voces Inocentes (Innocent Voices) and X-Men. It is set in Richmond, VA and a fictitious island in the Bermuda triangle. The complete manuscript and a short synopsis are available upon request.

Fifteen-year-old Maxine Protega became a god and a demon overnight. Prophesied to abolish magic by one faction of her people, and protect it by another, she’s cast into the middle of a campaign that’s ripping her world and her family apart. She doesn’t care much about the world, but family is all she has left.
Torn from her home in Virginia, Max treks across the sea to an island dominated by power and deception. As armies of magicians gather and take sides on the island, Max tries her hardest to shield her family from the chaos and violence of civil war. But she fails, and the seeds of discord poison the people she’s fighting for, pitting them against each other, and against her.
When a mentor burns the Dot Reaper into Max’s flesh—chaining her to magic’s creators and marking her as their successor—she gains the power to tip the scales of battle either way. Caught between her love for magic and the darkness woven into the very fabric of it, Max must ally herself with one side and fight against friends and siblings to survive.
DOT REAPER is a stand alone work with series potential. Currently, I am a finalist in the Win a Teen Beta Reader contest hosted by Thinking to Inking blogger Lauren Monahan. I was also a finalist in a local radio station’s writing contest that received over five hundred entries. Lastly, I am an honorable mention in Darci Cole’s 100 Flash Fiction contest.

Become an Agent #5

Genre: YA fantasy
Word Count:
84,000Dear Agent Awesomesauce,

To Feyana Belmaron, Amgovar's scandalously biracial heir to the throne, “princess” is just a synonym for “prisoner.” After a wartime plot disfigured the princess and killed her mother, the king forbade his scarred daughter to leave her castle until the end of the war. Ten years later, Feyana gives up hope that her father will ever let her out—and with a face like hers, no storybook prince is likely to come to her rescue.

But perhaps she can come to his.

When Feyana learns that her marriage to the handsome prince of Cathys, her country's bitter enemy, could end the war for good, she defies her father, scales the wall, and sets out to find and court the prince. But the world outside her castle walls is far more dangerous than she believed, full of pirates, soldiers, and thieves eager to get their bloodstained hands on Amgovar’s sheltered heir. Her only allies, a lowborn thief and an infamous monster, are both convicted criminals—and one is a traitor as well. Unless Feyana learns to protect herself, and fast, she could lose a lot more than just her freedom: she could lose her life.

PRINCESS OF SWANS is an 84,000 word YA fantasy in the vein of Rae Carson's THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS.

Become an Agent #4

Title: The Last Lost Warrior
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Word Count: 96,806

Maybe his friend killed her, maybe not; George Duvall wants not to know, so he's careful not to ask.    The killer was terrified, desperate, and deceived by noises in the night, noises not the enemy but only wild pigs.  Duvall, afraid to lose his friend, draws suspicion to himself to hide the crime.

Thirty five years later the Army CID begins to ask questions.  Tuco Ruis runs and looks more guilty than before.  With little hope but desperate to help a friend, Duvall tracks Tuco down.  Tuco hasn't made it easy; he's ripped off another old comrade, a gangster who wants him dead.  Tuco's running but maybe not just from cops, and Duvall's less sure of Tuco's doing or what he wants.  If the cops get Tuco he's down for murder, if the gangster gets him, worse.  Duvall has to find Tuco, evade the gangster and the cops, but find Tuco and learn the truth, maybe from the barrel of Tuco's gun.

A war protester of the late 60's, drafted and trained, I proudly served in E Recon 1/7th Cavalry during the Vietnam war. I subsequently enjoyed a 30 year career with the Department of Veterans Affairs, you may consider me expert in the pains and shackles of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which haunts the subtext of this book.

Become an Agent #3

Title: Dragon of Light and Shadow
Genre: YA Fantasy
Word Count: 85,000

Serka is wanted dead, but that’s nothing new. Being a shape-shifting dragon bred, born, and raised in war has given her more experience with blood and guts than most seventeen-year-old girls. But when it comes to her feelings for best friend Callan, she would rather worry about her claws being sharp enough for battle than first love.

War is not so easy with the gods still AWOL, and their absence leads their creations of the mythical races—from dragons to hellhounds to griffins—to annihilate each other in the fight to reign supreme. Each death comes closer to being Serka’s, and the possibility of a future with Callan is stolen when she discovers she shares a connection with the gods that instates their return. Not as great as it sounds. They’re pissed off with the races for their hunger for domination, and they are keener on revenge than reestablishing peace.

To prevent the gods’ extermination plan, Serka must learn why she is the last link to them. Rebelling against or reconciling with them should be an obvious decision, but even though she has risked her life before, it may be too much for her to risk everyone she loves. 

Including Callan. 

Become an Agent #2

Title: Chronicles of Christian Derling
Genre: YA Fantasy
Word Count: 87,500

Christian Derling is a brilliant, but perfectly unremarkable boy until he takes and passes a test to attend The Citadel, an elite school of magic.

The rub, Christian was supposed to fail. Only the gifted have magic; he’s a nomag – at least he thought he was. Being gifted means trouble when you live next door to Ian Verloren, the paranoid leader of the local militia, who believes the gifted are responsible for a feverish plague sweeping the nomag lands. Christian just wants to find a new home and learn how to use gifted-magic. Instead, he and his family are being hunted by Ian. On the run, Christian overhears whispers of an impending threat more dangerous than Ian or the fever.

When Christian finally arrives at the Citadel, he finds his greatest challenge may be fitting in with the other gifted children. Ian grows bolder every day, tension between the gifted and nomags festers, the fever spreads. Somehow, it’s all connected to the new evil rising. Christian must discover who he is, who he can trust, and what role he’s destined to play in a world dominated by nomag suspicion and gifted magic. His life and countless others depend on it.
The Chronicles of Christian Derling – The Rise of Ian Verloren is my first novel. At 87,500 words it is complete, although I am currently working on the second book in the series, which I expect to have ready for review in June 2013.  I am a senior communications professional at a global PR firm which means I understand and will be able to promote my work. I also have professional experience as a computer scientist, molecular biologist, and writer/editor as well as expertise in mathematics, nanotechnology and exobiotics—a unique combination which was essential to constructing the twining of SciFi and Fantasy that drive the story.
The book reads as a Fantasy, but its core is grounded in SciFi. One of my goals in writing the book was to come up with a world/technology in which magic is not derivative of an unexplainable, ethereal force, but rather grounded in the principles of physics, governed by rules, and the predictable result of technology and evolution.

Become an Agent #1

Title: Freak
Genre: YA Horror
Word Count: 60,000

Mary’s boyfriend may be a monster, but he’s not a murderer. She would know. She built him.

17-year-old science prodigy and social outcast Mary thinks that her relationship with Adam, the hottest guy in school, is perfect - or would be, if he didn't insist on keeping it a secret from their judgmental classmates. Utterly alone after his sudden death, she uses her genius and her father's technology to bring him back to life, but what emerges from the machine is not the boy she knew. He’s a freak.

Mute, sluggish, and covered in hideous scars, the creature doesn’t remember being Adam, and can't survive on his own. Initially terrified of her creation, Mary helps him adjust to living. As a bond forms between them, she questions whether she loved him before, or had just fallen for the only person who had cared for a freak like her.

But when everyone the new Adam encounters turns up dead, Mary is torn between destroying the monster she created – or trusting him long enough to stop a killer after the secret of his resurrection.

Complete at 60,000 words, FREAK is a YA Horror with a sci-fi twist, inspired by Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Winners of Become an Agent (Query) Contest!

I just came up with the name for this contest (instead of calling it "Query Contest"). Sad. I know. I came up with a catchy name after the contest ended. Grrr.
And, just WOW. I never realized just how amazing the writer's community is and just when I thought I did, I was in for a shocker once again. Everyone was so, so helpful when it came to spreading word about this contest. It was truly amazing. You guys are just fantastic.

All right.

Due to all your amazing efforts, I got double the required entries! That's just amazing. And even MORE amazing: these queries are doggone fantastic, people. I don't envy you having to vote Yes on just a few. If there are any agents lurking around here, take note! These manuscripts will be the future book deals.

I emailed the entrants yesterday, and the general consensus was to allow all 20 entries to be a part of this contest. Yay!! So instead of 10 queries going up on Monday, all 20 will go up.

If I you got an email with the subject "Contest Information (!!!)" you are in! Email me if you didn't get the email but think you got your query in on time.

What does this increase in number mean in terms of voting?

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.
  • Entrants must critique the seven queries above 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 from the bottom, 20, 19, 18, 17, and 16.
  • 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 and have two Yes's for the batch of seven. (And, if they want to go on, have two Yes's for the other six queries remaining (20 - 7 -7 = 6).
  2. Give only a Yes for two more queries out of the entire rest of the entries (no need to give/explain a No vote).
  • So, basically, if you give a Yes and No vote for all 20, you have 6 Yes's in total.
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.

There is no need for an elaborate explanation for each vote! Pretend you are agents and are sifting through your slush pile. Will you give an in depth critique for all of them? But if you want to give an in depth critique, please, do so. That'd be awesome :D

Queries will go up on Monday.

Entrants: If you feel like doing one last revision over the weekend, send me your revised query by Sunday 9pm EST and make sure I reply in a few hours (so you know I got the revision).

Thank you guys so much for spreading the word for this contest!

Are you excited for Monday? (You shouldn't be. It's going to be incredibly tough to vote Yes on only a few of these amazing queries.)

Any questions?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

This is My 100th Post!! (& Contest Update)

 This is my 100th published post! Wooo!!!!

It's weird, hitting this benchmark of blogging, in less than a year of blogging, too! I'm happy with where it's gone so far, but I neeeeed your feedback.

Do you like the design? I'm thinking of making the background of each post a more solid, creamy white instead of the transparent blue I have now. Would that look good? Anything you'd like to see more of? More contests? Thank you guys for helping me reach 100!

On to the contest!

Read up on the contest at this link and this link if you don't know about it yet. Make sure you fulfill the requirements and adhere to the format before you submit :)

YOU HAVE JUST ONE DAY LEFT! Contest will end tomorrow,

I've got asked one question that I'm sure a lot of people were thinking. This contest has no prize, right? So what's the point? THANK YOU for asking that question! I'd love to explain it.

I did seriously think about having a 'prize' for the winners. Maybe they'll move on to a first 250-word round next week. Maybe they'll get a partial critique. Whatever. But I didn't like the combination of 'winning' and 'critiquing'. This contest - for lack of a better word - is about critiquing. It's about feedback.

One thing to keep in mind is that even people without entries in the contest can critique the queries. I feel that if there was a prize, entrants with the most Twitter-followers or writerly friends would call on their friends to look at their queries - and, of course, get more YES's and win. Let's be honest - I would do that as well. But this tactic is not fair to an excellent writer with just one follower on Twitter.

Since there is no prize, there is no incentive to win. This is all about feedback and seeing if your query works or not.

Keep in mind, as the entrants can only give one YES vote for every five queries they critique, this contest will be brutal. Don't come in here expecting all YES's! Please! I can almost guarantee that you won't get it (I've read a bunch of amazing submissions already). I'm scared that people will be offended or hurt by this contest. That would suck really badly.

It would be great if you came in here on Monday (when the queries go up) expecting feedback to make your query stronger. Think of this as a workshop, not a contest.

Anyhow, GO GO GO! You have until Thursday (tomorrow!) 9pm EST to send in your query.

One question to you guys:

If there are a LOT of submissions, would you be okay if I bumped up the number of queries that get accepted? From 10, as it was before, to, say, 15 or 20? If so, instead of mandatorily critiquing five other queries, you'll have to do six or seven.

All votes will be accompanied by a short explanation of the vote - the voting guidelines and rules, along with the queries, will go up Monday.

I will inform those that got into the contest by email, as well as by posting the titles of their manuscripts on this blog on Friday.

Happy 100th post! And hope you guys get your queries in!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Become an Agent (Query Contest) Has BEGUN!!! Some Guidelines

CONTEST HAS ENDED :( But keep an eye on this blog; I might run this contest again!

You have from now until Thursday night, 9PM EST to send in your queries to SC_Author(at)yahoo(dot)com!!!! GO GO GO! Actually, read number 2 on the list below before you do.

The basic gist of it is that contestants can vote YES on only one out of five queries in the 'slush pile' that is my blog. Contestant with the most YES's wins. And non-contestants can participate too! They just have one YES for every ten queries. Also, there must be some explanation as to why each person gave a YES or a NO.

Clicky click this link if you don't know what I'm talking about (because you'll want to!). This contest is going to be fun!!!

Here is the format for your emails:

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

In the subject line put "Query Contest Submission" at least. 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 :D)

Bolded where bolded, italicized where italicized, 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 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 I will delete any names or stuff, because the agent (sadly) won't know who you are. 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. All critiques will only be on the query.

I'm counting on you guys not to tell people which is your query :) 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! More on the not-telling-people thing on next Monday's post, when the actual entries go up.

Some brief clearer-upper points of conduct:

  1. You can submit a query for at most two novels. The winners will be picked randomly by, so it's possible that both or none of your queries will get in. If there are a lot of entrants (*fingers crossed*) I will choose only one of your two queries to be considered (so mark, in the subject line "Query Contest Submission #1" or "#2" as to which is your most favorite).
  2. Queries must be in by Thursday at 9pm EST. But, as this is a lottery, you don't gain anything by sending in your query before that deadline. All queries in by the deadline have an equal chance to get in. (Although I'll be freaking out if I get no queries by Thursday, 8:59 pm.)
  3. You have to be following this blog to participate in the contest.
  4. HAVE FUN! PLEASE PLEASE HAVE FUN! Oh. And hope this helps you, too :D
Guidelines on voting, critiquing, and everything else will go up next Monday when the queries go up. Not much, just things I want to touch upon before the voting begins.

One little confession:

I'm scared, SO scared, that writers will take it personally if their query gets a lot of NO's.

This contest was inspired by the Authoress's Public Slushpile contest which I partook in --  I got more than 40 no's and about 5 yes's. That contest was...oh, wow! Almost exactly a year ago -- March 21, 2012 -- but I still think that contest was one of the most helpful I've been in. I was devastated by the feedback, but it would have been worse if I went out and queried with that horrendous query. That contest was amazing.

Hopefully, this contest will be the same for you guys. I hope you enjoy, truly! And don't take it personally: each contestant has only one YES to give per five queries. Yours might be great, but another might be better.

Don't enter this contest if all you want is YES's. This contest is meant to help you grow and strengthen your query :D

(By the way, for my mom's birthday last Friday, we went to a new sushi place! I have fallen in love with mochi. That stuff is the bomb. And, Sunday night, my sister and I went and made a nice dinner for her :D)

YOU GUYS ARE AWESOME! Hope you enjoy! And I can't wait to read all your amazing queries! Put that query in the gym and get it in shape!

Friday, March 15, 2013

QUERY CONTEST!! - Become an Agent

THIS CONTEST HAS ENDED, and the dates below were for LAST year's contest. I'm going to have the announcement and dates for this year's contest go up this Friday, and the submissions to open on Monday. Follow and stay tuned!


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 I was the agent and I had to request pages?"

So, from there came the contest.

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).

The Details

  • This Monday, I will open up submissions all through Thursday night, until 9PM EST.
  • Submit ONLY the meat of your query to SC_Author(at)yahoo(dot).com starting (but not before!) Monday the 18th to Thursday the 21st at 9pm EST.
  • Copy the submission format (PLEASE) before you send. The format will go up this Monday (the 18th).
  • Hopefully, I'll get at least 10 queries submitted.
  • Then, picked by, 10 queries (maybe more, depending on how many submissions I receive) will go up next Monday (the 25th) on this blog.
  • Since it is by random, please, take as much time as you need to send your query in! It's in your best interests to send it on Thursday (but NOT AFTER 9pm EST) to spend time honing your query. You won't gain anything by sending it in on Monday.

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

  • Each entrant will get a Post Number for his/her query.
  • Each entrant is required to vote YES or NO (as to, "Would you request pages?") on the five queries above his/her 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) 10, 9, and 8. All the posts will be numbered.
  • BUT...... THERE IS:


  • Out of the five queries you vote on, you can only vote YES on ONE!

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

You have to pick the best query out of the five you are assigned. If you are extra-awesome and want to critique more than five, then you can only vote YES on one more out of the other five. (If I get more submissions and end up having, say, 15 entries, then the numbers will change and I'll inform you guys about the new rules when the contest starts.)

  • 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).

  • 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 or bio).
  • Thank the Authoress for allowing me to make another version of her amazing contest!

You do NOT need a finished manuscript to enter. In fact, you don't need a manuscript that i
s even started, as I know some people write their queries before they start their manuscripts. (Although, if you submit to this contest, I hope you plan on writing it soon.) This is just to see if your query will work.

I hope that this will be tons of fun, and, 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: clicky click this!

AND PLEASE, tell me if I'm missing anything. Ask questions below. This is my first time doing such a contest, and I hope I get enough people to participate. *Worrying* I'd love it if you guys would spread the word! *Worries more*

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

OH! And it's my mother's birthday! Happy birthday mom! I love you :) You're the best, most loving, most caring mother who showers me with more love than I can ever imagine. (And a mother who doesn't know I have this blog. But whatever.)

Monday, March 11, 2013

Writers CAN Read Too Much

(Time change made me lose an hour of sleep. Yawn. I like the time change more in autumn, but I love the extra daylight now. And, this change might help me get back to a normal, non-insomniac sleep pattern. Really. It's a problem.)

This is for all those people who feel that reading has become almost like a chore.

I have a huge to-be-read pile. I do. I TOTALLY do. Here's a list.

1. Anna Karenina
2. This Side of Paradise
3. Tender is the Night
4. The Beautiful and the Damned
5. The Brothers Karamazov
6. Wuthering Heights
7. An anthology of Ernest Hemingway (which I got from Barnes and Noble)
8. The rest of Victor Hugo's work (I've fallen in love with him after reading Les Mis)
9. Inferno (Dan Brown's new book about to come out)

AND THAT IS JUST SOME. I have to read so, SO many more modern books! I'm still in a classic-fix and I can't get out. They're just too darn good. (But I do plan on reading some of the books you suggested . Some of those books will one-up the books I have listed above :D THANK YOU FOR THAT! I neeeed to read more modern books, and you've given me a gold mine.)

As writers, we read (at least, most of us do). We have a love for it, and we want to read a LOT.

But there is only so much time on your hands, and so, so many books. For some of us, getting time in to write is a chore in itself. Many of us don't have the luxury of a lot of free time to write. So if you spend that time reading instead of writing - well, you aren't doing much to be a writer.

Reading should be a pleasure. It should be fun, it should be exciting, it should remind you why you want to be a writer in the first place. And reading is almost necessary to be a good writer. Reading a lot is one of the biggest things you can do to advance your writing. Every book is a lesson on writing.

But if you have just one hour of free time a day, write. Don't read.

If you have to chose between finishing writing a scene or finishing reading a scene, write.

Because we are writers, and writing is our job. No matter how fun something is, you wouldn't be able to stop an important meeting and do that thing, right? The same way, writing is your job. Work at it, and spend your free time (we all know we have some sometime during the week) doing what you love. Reading can be that thing.

But if you are experiencing frustration (which is different from Writer's Lag), take a break from writing and maybe read. Do something else.

And if reading feels like a chore (next book, then the next book, then the next book) and you are rushing, but not enjoying it, take a break! Stop and smell the roses! Know why you are reading in the first place - to enjoy. Life is not all about rushing. Don't read like a robot - feel free to explore and read things just for fun (not just "high-brow" classics). I really should listen to my own advice, by the way....

Don't read so much so that you become a reader and not a writer. But, don't read so little so that you don't know how to write.

Reading is SUPER SUPER SUPER important. BUT, reading is not your job, nor your chore. Writing is. Finding the balance between the two is hard, but important.

And laugh at yourself! We are not fighting in a war, putting our life on the line, or have lives on our hands. We are writing, and it is a blessing that we can do that. Don't feel so stressed out by it all - have fun, and...well, this has become a post about having fun, so I'll end it right here and save it for another post :D


What do you think? Does reading ever feel like a chore to you?

Don't forget to subscribe! There is a CONTEST coming up soon.... For those queriers/future queriers, won't want to miss it :)

Friday, March 8, 2013

Should You Reread Books?

There are so, SO many great books out there, and only one hundred years you will live. At most, what, about 1,000-2,000 books you can finish in your lifetime (and that is incredibly generous)? Why waste time rereading a book if you can read a brand new - maybe even better - book?

I spent more than a year, maybe two, reading/rereading the Harry Potter series. (Seriously.) I barely read anything else other than Harry Potter; once I finished one book in the series, I'd go on to another (although, I've never read them all one-by-one in order. I should do that sometime....) I think I read Deathly Hallows fourteen times (give or take a few).

I feel like, maybe, I regret that - I could have read so much more, but whenever I had tried, I usually put the book down cursing that it was nowhere near as good as Harry Potter.

I understand rereading books - I've done it a LOT. I understand how it can be bad. But I understand how it can be amazing too.

I recently started rereading The Great Gatsby and I found out JUST HOW MUCH I MISSED THE FIRST TIME AROUND. I skimmed through the first half or so the first time I read it, and this time, I took my time, and found so much more. (Maybe my problem is speed-reading, which leads me to rereading.) I picked up on so much foreshadowing and hints that one could only realize the second time around.

Some books become totally different the second time they are read. Harry Potter, I feel, is one of them; it is a true regret if you do not reread those books. The plot is magical and should be read/studied by every writer.

Usually, books with mysteries and plot twists fall under the 'rereadability' category, yet, I might reread Catcher in the Rye just because I love the writing so much. And that book almost lacks a plot.

Rereading is great if you have forgotten a book's substance but still remember loving it. REREAD IF YOU ARE IN THIS SITUATION! It'll be (I think) an amazing experience :D

So is there a 'criteria' to reread?

In the end, it comes down (as it always does) to balance.

I wouldn't recommend doing what I did and only reading Harry Potter for a couple of years. That was bad - but I wouldn't say unnecessary, exactly. Maybe it was just something I needed to do. I haven't reread any Harry Potter book since Deathly Hallows, back in 2011 when the 8th movie came out. (I finished the reread in the IMAX theatre with (literally) 50 other friends, during the birthday/movie party which I held. BEST BIRTHDAY EVER (so far)!)

Basically, if you feel like rereading a book, go for it. If you don't feel like it, don't. Keep it simple and life will be easier for everyone.

I don't like the idea of rushing to read every book out there before you die - why not enjoy what you are reading? If at the end of your life you regret not rereading your favorite novel, then maybe your super-fast reading-spree was harmful.

 Be okay with the fact that there will be great books you will never read - either those already out, or those out after you are gone. Enjoy reading. Doesn't matter if that means reading something new, or rereading your old favorites. Live happy :)

How about you guys? Do you like to reread, or would you rather read new books every time?