Friday, January 31, 2014

'Become an Agent' Critiquing Guidelines!

Read this before you start critiquing or voting!!

New rule: even if you give a 'No', explain what you DID like about the entry. Knowing what works is almost as important as knowing what doesn't. (Why else do writers read good books?) The rule starts from now; doesn't apply to votes already cast.

We are #BecomeAnAgent on Twitter :)

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

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

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

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

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

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? No. 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 #89234234 better. Sorry!" But keep these types of No's to a minimum. This query is about feedback and helping writers make better queries. This type of critique won't help them improve.

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

The only types of unacceptable No's will be:
  1. Genre-based No's. (See above paragraph for explanation and exceptions.)
  2. Cruel, spiteful No's.
  3. No's with little-to-no explanation. Be specific! (But no need to do a whole line-by-line critique).
  4. There is absolutely NO tolerance for No's that stem from prejudice or for a personal dislike of a subject matter. There are no exceptions to this rule. Please please please try being objective!
The only types of unacceptable Yes's will be:
  1. Yes's obviously based on friendship ("Oh, she's my friend, so I have to give her a yes.") If you are friends with the writer and you truly love their query, then go ahead and vote Yes. This is on the honor system. We're all adults and I trust you guys.
  2. Yes's with little-to-no explanation.
Also, if you see that there is a entry or a few entries that aren't getting many comments (maybe the posts lower down on the blog's page that sometimes get hidden from view) please try giving them votes to make the number of critiques mostly equal throughout the 20. That's why I made the whole 'critique the 7 above you' so the votes would be fairly equal in number. I'll be Tweeting links to posts that don't get much feedback so follow me on Twitter.

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

One more thing

Don't expect all Yes's. DON'T. Because I'm almost guaranteeing it, you won't get it. This isn't a contest where the goal is to win. It's to grow. Because, for many of you, this contest will be brutal. But it'll be brutal in a good way; I know from experience in one of the Authoress's critique contests! Hopefully, you entered this contest to fix your query/250 and grow. It'll be a brutal few days of voting but, hopefully, in the end, the feedback will be worth it all :D

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

The deadline to finish up all critiques is Wednesday 9 p.m. EST. On Friday, I'll announce the winner - the one with the most Yes's - and (if they permit me) do a mini-breakdown of their entry totry finding out why the entry won. I'll also set up an interview with the winner and post that on Monday :)

Have fun guys! And be nice! And please, comment on this post, Tweet me, or email me (I rarely check my email though) if you see some mistake in your entry! (Tweeting me would be best; I check Twitter constantly.) I'll fix it ASAP.


Become an Agent #21 - ZOLTAN THE ADEQUATE

I am so so sorry guys. I don't know how it happened but I sent 21 confirmation emails instead of 20! The entrant informed me that their entry wasn't in the contest. This was entirely my mistake! So, SO sorry. This entry will be number 21, same voting guidelines. No need to vote again if you finished your 7; if not, include this one in your count :) So sorry again!

Genre: MG contemporary fantasy
Word Count: 34,000
Coming from a family of magicians, thirteen-year old Harry knows enough magic to avoid being stuffed into a locker. He's ready for the Spring Talent Show when into the picture steps Lance Blackstone, stage name “The Pendragon’, a fellow middle schooler who was always a terrible magician, but suddenly has gotten good, really good.
Practicing in an old theater where his grandpa performed, Harry and his friends find a journal full of illusions that's been torn in half and stumble on a mystery where the theater itself is alive and possibly the source of the magic. Spurred on by the theater’s caretaker who’s like a thousand years old, Harry must find the other half of the journal, outsmart the bad guys, and survive sixth grade, all before the curtain goes up. If they fail, the theater dies and the magic will stay in the wrong hands forever.
ZOLTAN THE ADEQUATE is 34,000 words of Now You See Me meets Home Alone.

First 250 words:

HARRY BLAINE IS THE WORST MAGICIAN EVER. That’s what the billboards will say after I totally embarrassed myself during my first performance. Wait, not just any billboards. I will be in the middle of Times Square and the bazillion lights from the three-hundred-and-sixty-seven electronic screens and digital billboards twinkling back at me will all be flashing those very same words so that everyone in New York City will know. And then there will be the tourists. Every tourist from every country will go back home and tell ALL of their friends, so after a short period of time, a good portion of the earth will know how totally terribly my first show ended. I think it will be kind of crappy to be twelve years old and made fun of in Cantonese.

“Harry?” a voice called.

“Harry?” it called again. I couldn’t decide if I was actually hearing it or if it was a figment of my imagination.

"HARRY!" My daydreams burst into flames as everything came into focus. Peeling paint walls. Graffitied desk. Twenty sets of eyes staring at me as this class started off a little rougher than usual.

“Mr. Blaine, I’m not sure what yourother classes are like with your head-in-the-clouds attitude,” Ms. Shufflebottom said, “but here we do our daydreaming at home. Now sit up, eyes focused straight ahead, and for goodness sake, pay attention.”

She turned and walked back toward the front of the room. The other kids started laughing. Well, Ms. Shufflebottom, I thought, this is exactly what my other classes are like.

Become an Agent #20 - EXQUISITE SENSES

Genre: YA Speculative/Thriller
Word Count: 88,000

Dear Agent,

16-year-old Leila is in love with Dane. But - gah. She can’t admit that because – excruciating and so not cool to fall for your best friend. Dane, also 16, dreads rejection, but he just wants to tell Leila already that he loves her and would treat her better than the douche who just humiliated her. What theywill tell each other - and not anyone else - is this: Leila creates random music out of thin air when she’s upset, and Dane hears what other people aren’t saying. (#Freakingweird) Then Dane’s mother, Tara, is brutally kidnapped - an attack they barely escape themselves – and they become targets in a frightening intrigue of murder, tragedy, edgy science, bad pharmaceuticals, & long-buried family secrets. To save their lives, they must shelve the angst and master the freaking weird.

My completed YA novel EXQUISITE SENSES(88,000 words)is narrated by both Leila and Dane. Their search for Tara leads them from a snowy Minnesota farmhouse - where they discover the experimental science behind their talent - to Peru’s ancient spaces. This is where they learn they have only 48 hours to derail the twisted conspiracy behind Tara’s abduction before hundreds of desperate people die. But first they have to escape from underground Peru – and use Walt Whitman’s poetry to keep someone’s heart beating.

I was a television news reporter for 15 years, then a mayoral press secretary. I am now a stay-at-home mother to 2 small children who love for me to spin endless tales. This is my first novel.

First 250:


I stared numbly at the books in my locker, trying to remember where I was supposed to go next. My brain was in deep freeze, like I had become the sub-zero day outside.

“Leila, move it, we’re going to be late! You look terrible, by the way.” Linnea Larson was suddenly right there, rushing as always.

“Thanks. Go on – I’m right behind you.”

“Seriously, hurry. You’ve been late every day this week. Mr. Bjork’s getting dagger eyes.”

Ah. English. Now I was tracking.

“Yah, I’m coming, I promise.”

Shooting me a concerned glance over her shoulder, Linnea blew off in a flurry of trailing scarf ends.She was waiting for me to talk about it, but I just wasn’t ready to discuss my Humiliation (but not Heartbreak) at the Hands of the Hose bag, Antonio. Alliterative agony. I’d been avoiding her, and she knew it. The nice thing about best friends is, they let you do that.

I closed my eyes, trying to find the will to go to class. And then felt someone else approach. Oh, please, NO. I screamed silently.

Pleasepleaseplease. The hall had emptied and I had no cover.


I sighed heavily and turned to face him.

And there it was again – the song. Shocking, loud, filling all the space around and between us. The same song that blasted me when I was crying in the shower this morning. The one about fire and burning and tears.

Become an Agent #19 - THE FLAME WARS

Title: The Flame Wars
Genre: Adult Contemporary Fantasy
Word Count: 83,000

Dear Agent,

Immortality isn’t a gift. Elsbeth desperately seeks other witches, hoping they can destroy the curse that keeps her alive after every death, every murder. But she’s traveled the world and hasn’t seen another witch for centuries. After taking refuge in her old home in historic Salem, Massachusetts, Elsbeth breaks her biggest rule: trust no one—let no one close. She lies just enough to elicit help from a non-magic human, an Innocent, named Andrew. With his cooperation, she discovers the cruel reality that others also search for witches.

Led by Hopkins, Elsbeth’s executioner during the European Witch Trails, warlocks hunt the women. Except when a warlock finds a witch, he kills her. And unlike Elsbeth, they’ve had no trouble uncovering witches.

Panicked and scrambling for a plan, Elsbeth is kidnapped by Hopkins, but she refuses to become another victim in his lifelong pursuit to slaughter witches for warlocks’ gain. Overconfident, Hopkins reveals Elsbeth is the last. Only her immortality—the curse she’s despised—prevents the extinction of witches, and she alone maintains the balance mankind unknowingly depends upon. Yet Hopkins vows to end the curse and kill her as a mortal.

Now Elsbeth must escape, prevent Hopkins from killing her a second time, and protect Andrew whom she put in danger by letting him close. If Elsbeth dies, witchcraft ends and all that is humane in the world ceases, but witches can’t cause harm and she doesn’t know where to begin.

I hold a B.S. in Biology with an English minor from Virginia Tech, providing Elsbeth a love of nature, and a graduate degree from Hollins University where I studied creative writing.

First 250:

I am cursed; I was saved.

Blue smoke, thick as ash, swirls inside my body. Dropped in the dew-covered grass, I clutch my chest, roll over, and curl fetal. Hot bile stings my throat. Come on, heart, pump. Come on.

The smoke drags through me, forcing a shout, then chokes my lungs closed. One minute I’m convulsing on a gurney in New Orleans, the next I’m here—always here. Reborn in Germany after each death, twenty-five years old and still searching.

Some lifetimes I live for decades, others only a few years before . . . Either way, no one mourns me. Letting anyone close isn’t an option.

Sweat coats my scalp as pain splinters across my ribs. Not a moment too soon, the tight weight lifts and thick hazy spirals exit my body, form a cone above me, and vanish.

Come on, heart. Beat.

Frozen as a corpse, I stare at a spotted falcon circling above. I’d cry his name if I could.

Finally, oxygen rushes in, and I gasp. Shaky moans come between coughs and gags. My heart thumps as I shiver on the frigid ground while blood retraces my veins. Each death is the same. Each death is different. This time a car accident, last time a . . . I don’t recall. Time distorts my memory.

Tremors jolt my torso as my temperature normalizes. Full recovery is inevitable, but takes time. Time I don’t have.

Every inactive minute equals time lost in my search for witches.

Become an Agent #18 - REMEMBER

Genre: NA Sci/F
Word Count: 66,000

Dear Agent,

Madness swept the Earth, killing nearly everyone. The alien Imani crafted the madness for just that purpose, and collected those of interest to them from the survivors. Coree was one of them. They took her to their home world and over the next few years they ‘perfected’ her with genetic manipulation and torture. She proved a troublesome prisoner. As they learned about her, she learned of them. When she came too close to secrets that even their medicines could not erase the memory of, the Imani disposed of her.

But Coree lived and survived through the magic of the land, an ability the Imani could not genetically master. She found the Fost who sheltered her and she found she had an unprecedented chance at love and vengeance if she was but strong enough to take it.

All she had to do was remember…

First 250:
Xade glared at me as he curled his lip. "You think you can kill me, Coree?"

I snarled and swung my blade at Xade as he danced out of the way. He moved back across the translucent bridge of the spaceship towards the helm sliding sideways. I tracked him, waiting for my shot.

My breath came out in pants, chest heaving. I rubbed my face on my sleeve as I flicked my hair behind me.

I sprang at him as he stumbled back and batted me away.

"I’ll kill you. I’ll kill you all!" I declared.

Xade sighed wearily and motioned to the men around us who stood silent witness to our fight. " I am done with this game."

All three of them closed in on me but I remained focused on Xade, my tormentor. Though they all had the same pale hair, same features; I always knew him. It was his eyes, the look in them that said he liked to hurt women. The Imani consider themselves superior but they get off on the same things as every other psycho in the universe.

He pulled a syringe from his pocket.


I backpedaled into one of the men. He grabbed my hand and twisted, disarming me. Another held my arms back over my head as I writhed and screamed and yet another grabbed my legs. Xade strode forward and inserted the needle into my jugular, depressing the plunger.

My vision blurred. "No not this again. Please."

Become an Agent #17 - DREAM CRASHER

Genre: Contemporary MG
Word Count: 45,000

Dear Agent,

Evan is a shy latchkey kid, living a lonely existence by day, but having thrilling adventures at night. He’s a lucid dreamer and his dreams are all his own. In them he’s a hero, a pirate, a star athlete and popular. He controls everything, until a girl his age starts showing up and inserting herself as starring roles in his dreams.

He gets a chance to put a name with the face when he meets Lavender, the girl who just moved into the apartment below his. He’s furious when Lavender shows up at school, in his class. Except Lavender is the first person to try and include him. She’s a lucid dreamer too and thinks the adventures they can have together would be amazing.

When Evan and his mother learn that Lavender’s mother is terminally ill, the two dreamers are forced together, destined to be friends. And they overcome things in their dreams--and in life--they hadn’t thought possible.

First 250:

The snow was perfect for snowboarding--powdery and blindingly, perfectly white. Of course it was just the way Evan preferred. He could perform all of his tricks with ease. Each jump he attempted was more difficult than the one before. He reached the last jump of the hill and he launched himself up with confidence, grabbing the board and flipping and turning and landing perfectly. He skidded to a stop and waved to the group of older boys who had gathered to watch him with admiration.

This moment always felt like a million bucks, even though Evan had lived in it a dozen times before. This time, he would talk to the boys. He had never tried that before. And they would like him. They might invite him to drink cocoa with them or to try a gnarly new course. He hadn’t had the courage before tonight, even though he knew, in the conscious part of his brain, that they would be impressed with him and kind, because that’s how he had imagined them.

When he unstrapped his board and walked toward them, pants swishing, the boys seemed to move further away, the stretch of white snow expanding until he could barely make out their forms. It was frustrating in the way dreams are often frustrating. Always when you need to scream or run, you can’t.

Evan brushed it off. Next time he found himself in this situation, he would find a way to approach the boys. For now, he could do the run again.


Title: The Wizard and the Knight-Mare
Genre: YA Fantasy
Word Count: 62,000

Dear Agent,

Fourteen-year-old Frank Williams might be the last to disappear, but if he’s not careful, he’ll be the first to die.

When students from Lanphier High School go missing, authorities can’t figure out why or how. The only clue is a coppery taste in the air, and Frank seems to be the sole person who can sense it. As a result, the police have no leads.

But Frank does. He believes another teenager is abducting kids after catching him talking to a handheld mirror. The coppery taste resurfaces within Lanphier, and Frank follows it to discover more people have disappeared. After learning the suspect isn’t really a student, Frank goes to confront the culprit, who is nowhere to be found.

Instead Frank finds the mirror in a teacher’s desk, where he sees it act as a window to a golden realm. A voice from within the glass orders Frank’s death, and he is attacked by an enchanted suit of armor. Frank leaves the mirror behind to escape but continues his investigation, now with three goals: reclaim the mirror, show the golden realm to anyone who will listen, and find the missing people. But those objectives will incur the wrath of the enchanted armor…and the maniacal wizard who controls it.

I am a substitute teacher in Springfield, IL, waiting to begin grad school. When I'm not dealing with back-talking children, I'm at home with back-talking cats and a dog who'd lick me to death if I'd let her.

First 250:

Chapter I: Australia

August 28th

“Get everyone out of here. Now.”

It was a simple command. Simple in words, anyway. Its execution was much more complicated.

“What about you, Frank?” James asked. “Can you keep fighting?”

“What choice do I have?” Frank wiped blood as it gushed from a wound on his forehead.“This is my time.” He raised his sword, preparing to run back into the fray.

“But we’re losing. Look at us. The world…it’s dying.”

Frank looked to his cousin, both of them dirty, sweaty, wounded, and exhausted.

“I know. And it’s my fault.”

The gym was aglow with a flurry of colored lights: red, purple, and white. Wind blew with gale force as the floor – his battlefield - quaked violently. He brandished his weapon, ready to fight, but he fell. The hardwood floor cracked while he was on his hands and knees. He rolled away to prevent himself from falling into the crevasse.

The floor broke in several more places, and dazzling gold light filtered in. A wingless, snake-like dragon the size of a house, made entirely of golden particles, broke through one of the holes, exhaling black flames. The flame hit several people trying to flee. They fell over, their skin unmarked but their insides charred, dense smoke billowing from their mouths and nostrils.

Frank ran forward to confront the dragon. He raised the sword above his head, but felt pain and breathlessness when someone in a red hooded robe tackled him.

Become an Agent #15 - CHASING THE SUN

Title: Chasing the Sun
Genre: Urban Fantasy with Romantic Elements
Word Count: 70,000

Dear Agent,

Boring was what Terran did best – house, job, dog, friends – rinse and repeat. She never knew demigods existed, or that you could journey to other realms, manipulate nature with your mind, or that the dead weren’t really gone at all, but instead existed in the Underworld. No, she lived the mundane life of any twenty-seven-year-old Alaskan girl…until she met Aiden, the Phoenix tasked with watching her from afar.

When Terran’s well-intentioned best friends trick her into meeting the gorgeous new local art gallery owner, Aiden, she had no idea their fiery relationship would set an ancient Egyptian prophecy in motion, triggering her demigod powers and whirling her into her destiny as the prophesied Protector of the Veil.

With her powers no longer masked, the god of Chaos is hot on her heels. The ultimate destruction as his prize, Chaos seeks to rip the veil that separates the living and the dead in order to unleash the Forgotten, a vile group of creatures who thrive on death and annihilation, capable of destroying both of the realms that have rightfully imprisoned them for millennia.

With Aiden as her guide, Terran must dive into a world she never knew existed and embrace her birthright to protect the veil…even if that means giving her life to do it.

Chasing the Sun will gain the attention of lovers of the Fever Series by Karen Moning.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

First 250:

“Pluck a Duck!” I yelled as my grip slipped and the fifty-pound bag of fertilizer crashed down onto my big toe. Today was repotting day at the Green Mountain Nursery and I volunteered for the messy task. Considering my other option, tending to the rich and needy…I’d choose potting plants any day of the week.

I planted my rump on the ground and huffed in irritation at my clumsiness. Using my other foot to kick the oversize bag away, I watched it tumble over and waved my arms in victory, cheering for myself as if I’d won some epic battle over the bag.

“Ha!” I gloated… then sheepishly checked the room for an audience. Whew, all clear.

‘Terran: line two. Terran: line two,’ the intercom sputtered. Great. I stood brushing the dirt from my pants hoping that it wasn’t a client on the line. Today was a day for avoidance.

“This is Terran.” I answered in the most cheerful voice I could muster.

“Yo. It’s M.” It would have been better if it had been a client. Micah never called me at work unless she had a scheme going.

“Hey, Micah. What’s up?”

"So, I got this awesome sculpture from Fire’s Breath Glass yesterday. You mind meeting me there after you get off work? I want another piece and I could really use your advice on what would look best in the yard. Totally my new favorite store!”

Yep, something was in the works. Micah always spoke with the quickness of an auctioneer, but the extra squeal of glee was undeniable.

Become an Agent #14 - GRAVEL GHOST

Title: Gravel Ghost
Genre: YA/Thriller
Word Count: 65,000

Dear Agent,

GRAVEL GHOST is a YA/Thriller that is complete at 65,000 words.

When you’re a seventeen-year-old assassin about to celebrate your 100th kill, life isn’t so simple.

Along with her four sisters, Payton was adopted and groomed into a lethal assassin like her new parents. An Elite agency—part of a US shadow government—employs her family to gain power by executing their competition. Payton used to enjoy her training, even excelling at her tasks, but now she hungers for an average life. Her parents dictate everything, even her meals, and she hates having to kill people who don’t deserve to die. Yet, how can she strike out at the only life she’s ever known? She sneaks out to see Conner, her secret best friend and only source of sanity. If her family found out, they’d silence him the one way they know how.

In Chile, on her 100th assignment, Payton is stunned when Conner appears as she is poised to take out her latest target—Conner’s father. With help from her own father, she flees the country with the assignment unfinished, making her a liability to the agency.

But the rest of her adoptive family isn’t so forgiving. Her mother takes the mission to eliminate an interfering Conner and his father upon herself. Now Payton must choose between betraying her family, or turning her back on the only person who could help her escape them.

I have my Associates in Business/Management. I am returning to college and majoring in English Literature. GRAVEL GHOST is my first novel.

Thank you for your consideration,

First 250:

Sweat drips down my back and trickles off my forehead. It’s freezing in this tunnel, but my jacket remains tied around my waist. My hair is pulled back in a long braid, I’m sure it’s matted with grime. Mud and filth splatters my clothing. My legs are aching and my stomach keeps growling, but I can’t stop. In this small shaft that tunnels through the Rocky Mountains, I take my time working towards the beam of light ahead of me. Can five hours have passed already? I need to move faster. My breaths puff like steam in the frozen air to echo in soft whispers off the mine shaft’s walls. A musty smell fills my nose from the stirred up dust. I tread lightly to hold down the echoes of my steps.

Ahead, a small cove beckons me to sit and be hidden for just a minute. I hurry toward it like it’s my lifeline. Using the wall as a guide, I slide to the rough ground before my legs give out. I take my last bottle of water out and take a small sip, enough to wet my mouth and wash out the taste of dust. Sweet relaxation lures me to linger.

A rock shifts against the dirt maybe thirty yards behind me. I start to my feet, shoving the bottle back in my pack. Too long. Time to run. My legs and feet protest, but adrenaline pushed me forward. The beam of light gets brighter.

Become an Agent #13 [retracted]


Become an Agent #12 - CAPTAIN

Genre: Adult Fantasy
Word Count: 130,000

Dear Agent,

Sailors call it the "Never Land." Faeries call it "Gjaebyth." For James, it becomes the setting of an adventure that will change his life forever.

After James Lamport stows away on his uncle’s ship, he finds himself on an uncharted island in the midst of a pirate crew. The new queen of the island’s dying race of faeries struggles to appease her divided population, and finds in James both a willing ambassador and an unexpected friend. Soon, however, friendship turns to forbidden love, and the consequences it brings will alter the identity of the island, its people, and James himself.

Exposing the human journey behind the well-known story of Peter Pan, CAPTAIN takes us on an adventure through a brand-new world to learn the real facts behind the rise of Captain James Hook and to decide for ourselves who really is the villain of the tale. Think Gregory Maguire with less talking Animals.

This is the first book of a proposed trilogy. I have already started work on the second installment: LOST BOY.

Thanks for your time and consideration!

First 250:

James Lamport was going to sea.

As he strode toward the London Docks, he couldn’t help but smile.

He was going to see it. The world. All of it.

All he had to do was ask his Uncle Argo.

He drew more than a few second glances as he walked onto the docks, his pressed waistcoat a stark contrast to the working men’s attire around him, but he paid them no mind. The bustling stevedores, the barrels of pickled herring from the North Sea, the merchants selling tobacco and pearls and shrunken heads – this was what excited him. He inhaled the tangy scent of filth and fish and his heart quickened. 

Now he had to find Argo. The sailor’s ship had just come in, and James would make certain he was on it the next time it went out.

“Oi lad – catch!”

James was struck in the face with a burlap sack that smelled like something dragged up from the bottom of the river.

The booming voice spoke again: “Come to carry me laundry?”

He looked up and saw his portly uncle standing a few feet off with his pipe in his mouth, a second pack thrown over his shoulder.

“Uncle Argo!” They both dropped their bags and embraced one another. James felt his uncle’s pipe nick his ear, and his thick beard chaff against his cheek. His uncle smelled of brine and seaweed covered up by exotic perfumes from the Tropics. “It’s so good to see you!”

Become an Agent #11 - WRAPPED IN DARKNESS

Title: Wrapped in Darkness
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Word Count: 75,000

Dear Agent,

After being killed in a car accident, twenty-year-old Abbie Blanchard awakes in the dark and gritty realm of Purgatory.

It is a realm where deceased human beings go to await their final transition to the afterlife. At its inception, sixteen Guardians ruled the realm, but when eight revolted to become the Fallen, the remaining were imprisoned, helpless to act as the Fallen corrupted the city beyond recognition.

When she meets the outrageous Samantha, Abbie is endlessly grateful to get out of the rain and take refuge in their clubhouse. But the clubhouse has its own pitfalls, it is holding a mysterious young man named Lucas prisoner and it isn’t until Sam is kidnapped that Abbie realises Lucas is one of the Guardians, held captive for over a century.

In order to save Sam and the create a safer future for herself, Abbie bands together with Lucas, and together they embark on an epic journey to free the Guardians and overthrow the Fallen to restore balance to the realm.

Wrapped in Darkness is a new adult, urban fantasy and is complete at 75,000 words. The full manuscript is available on request.

[Author] holds a Bachelor of Communications from the University of the Sunshine Coast. A self-proclaimed travel nut, she has been sighted in such exotic locations as Greece, Morocco and Thailand. In her spare time [Author] enjoys blogging; her blog has over 1,000 followers.

First 250:

Of all the places in the world I would have liked to wake up, sprawled out in a puddle of water was not one of them. The rain was pouring down from the sky, splattering against my face and all I could do was lie there and wonder how in the world I’d managed to stoop so low. Two weeks ago I’d been in college, working towards my dream of becoming a veterinarian for the big animals in Africa, and now I was soaked to the bone with a hangover from hell.

Death sucked.

If anyone had ever asked me if I was afraid of dying, I honestly could have told them, no. Death was always something that would happen after I’d graduated from college, had a successful career, found the one, and had kids. Then maybe after I’d travelled the world and witnessed the birth of my fifth grandchild, I could die peacefully in my sleep. Or that was how I’d always thought my life would pan out… dying in a car crash the week before my twenty-first birthday hadn’t exactly been on the agenda, but shit happens, right?

“Do I sense motion down there?” a voice called.

I opened my eyes to see Sam leaning halfway out the third story window of the Fifth Circle clubhouse. She looked fresh and well rested, as though she hadn’t just spent the entire night partying with me. I pushed myself slowly into a seated position; my head felt like it was about to roll off my shoulders and join my arse in the puddle.

Become an Agent #10 - ALL IS DARK

Genre: YA Fantasy
Word count: 78,000

Dear (Agent's Name),

Saekina is used to waking up covered in blood. Fighting off demons does that to a girl.

When Saekina was two-years-old, the first demon—Rippus—attacked her. With each new attack came the lashing words from her grandmother: hell spawn. She’s prayed to the gods to save her from the Rippuses and heard nothing. She’s resorted to a life of solitude, hiding away in the city; it's easier than having everyone she loves die.

Then Saekina meets three others facing the same danger. For the first time in years, she has friends. They’re hers, and she isn't about to let anyone hurt them, demon or not. They set out through the city of Dennin, scouring libraries and questioning thugs, seeking answers as to who's sending the Rippuses after them.

Then Saekina gets dragged into the middle of a hidden war between the gods. Worse, she learns her own patron goddess has been sending the Rippuses after them. Her blades are ready, but even those might not be enough against the gods. She’s not so sure she and her friends can take on the immortal gods and survive.

ALL IS DARK is a 78,000 word young adult fantasy with crossover appeal and series potential. It is my third finished manuscript. Thank you for your time and consideration.

First 250:

Saekina sleep-walked through life: wake up, hop the tram to the closest bounty hunter office, find a target, spy, sell the info, and hopefully have enough money to eat more than one meal.

She didn’t have friends; she had acquaintances, if even that.

After tonight, she’d have enough money to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner for days. The bountiers will fight over this info, she thought.

Saekina crept toward the dented door hidden in the filth. The lone light orb illuminated the alley, not that there was anything worth seeing. The dumpsters overflowed with rotting food and used magical charms.

She brushed a strand of dark hair behind her ear. Even at this time of night, the heat clung to her skin, creating a layer of sweat. She cast a few furtive glances towards the end of the alley: no sign that anyone had been there.

Saekina lugged the door open; the warped wood fit tightly into its frame. She winced at the scraping noise it made as it opened. Her sleeve started to slide down her arm. She adjusted one of the dark red wraps around her sleeve, the only hint of color in her otherwise brown outfit. Well, those and her boots. She should ditch those. She stood out like Were wearing shoes.

The hotel owner shuffled by, his almost feline features giving him a Moragwar look. "Ah, it's you again,” he said. She slipped him the usual payment.

“We good?” she asked.

He counted the money. "Yeah, yeah. As long as the money keeps coming."

Become an Agent #9 - ESSENCE

Title: Essence
Genre: NA Fantasy
Word Count: 75,000

Dear Agent,

Emma wakes up to a man with monster’s teeth hovering over her. But that's not her biggest problem. She doesn’t even know how she got into that bed, where she is or even who she is. All she knows is she doesn’t belong here, that this world isn’t hers.

The only choice she has is to trust the tenants of the strange house, let them help her remember. Easier said than done with the monster-man, a sink like a bottomless pit, an oven that likes to shoot its racks at unsuspecting victims, and the very owner of the house being a dark magician with a dark history. As if the inside of the house wasn’t bad enough, outside, the town of Wyndham is protected great ward, that turns the open, country landscape into a dark wall to attempt to keep back the Eaters – soul-sucking “zombies.”
On top of that, the townsfolk blame her for the Eaters. They swarmed the town only after she came. And the magician of the house seems to know more about it than he leads on.
He knows Emma’s past.

First 250:

I open my eyes.

There’s a man hovering above me.

A stranger.

My legs are tangled in sweat and blankets as I scramble back against a headboard.

He’s ridiculously tall, his unnaturally, bright red hair contrasting sharp black eyes set above high cheekbones. “Well, good to see you’re finally awake.” He gives a wide grin. All his teeth are long, curved, pointed.

A scream chokes up my throat and I throw myself out of the bed. The sheets fall with me, binding my legs. They don’t give no matter how much I worm around or rip at them.

Whoa, whoa.” The man jumps over the bed, squatting in front of me with his arms raised. “I won’t touch you. Calm down, please, you could hurt yourself.”

My fingers hesitate. If he wanted to hurt me, he could have. For God’s sake, he was hovering over me while I slept. A shiver spikes up my spine. “What are you?”

“What am I?” He blinks. “I’m Bob. And you are?”

Bob’s a name, not a thing. Is he hiding it from me, whatever he is?

And I…

“I don’t know.”

“What don’t you know?” An odd accent lilts across his words.

What do I say? Hey monster, thanks for hovering over me and all, but I have no idea who I am. I don’t even know my name.

“Come on now, I won’t bite.”

Hysterical laughter bubbles in my stomach, and I clamp my teeth shut against it. He sure as hell has the teeth for biting.

Become an Agent #8 - LIKE YESTERDAY

Title: Like Yesterday
Genre: Commercial Fiction
Word Count: 80,000

Dear Agent,

Dr. Vincent Douvrey yearns to see his dead wife. Eager to touch her just once more, the revolutionary scientist attempts to invent time travel by liquid ingestion. But when the juice traps him back in a past he doesn’t remember, he falls for a captivating co-ed, who is not his beloved wife.

When Vincent awakens in a dorm room at the University of South Florida, he learns that his time travel tonic has banished him to his junior year in 2005—one of the four college years he can’t recall. Down the street from the amnesic time traveler lives Carmen, an upperclassman who stalks social networking websites while studying for final exams. During one of her study breaks, Carmen meets Vincent online, unaware of his “future” status. Their instant Internet connection grows into a real-life love affair in a matter of days, and Vincent’s longing to be with his wife begins to fade.

Breezing into their final semester, Carmen makes preparations for her life post-graduation. But what she doesn’t plan is for her beau Vincent to spiral into startling panic and dumps her, twice. She seeks comfort in alcohol and other guys, but her heart won’t comply, her body can’t resist, and her mind just doesn’t understand why.

Oh, but Vincent does.

When he makes a shocking discovery as to Carmen’s true identity, he hastens to find a way to return to the year 2015—if time travel even exists.

First 250:

“Time travel is impossible!” The proclamation resounded in repetition around the globe. Many innovators believed it existed in the pit of a dreamer’s imagination but lived in the words of visionaries. But it was the ambition of one scientist who soared into an attempt to turn an idea into reality within the confines of his lab. Dr. Douvrey invested long hours in time travel research with the support of his incompetent assistant of five years, whom he watched from his chamber as she mixed and spilled chemicals onto his laminate lab table, incinerating it layer by layer. He turned his back towards the window and continued to shield himself within the room of glass, engulfed in toxic fumes, to escape her recurrent interferences and to maintain his state of being—alone.

A thunderous boom echoed throughout the room, sending Dr. Douvrey lunging to the floor.

“What in the hell was that!” he said in his native Grenadian accent, muffled by the dense glass.

“Oh no! Oh no! I am so sorry, Dr. Douvrey!” Vesta scrambled to collect debris from the explosion. “I – I don’t know what happened.”

His legs of muscle and rubber sprung him from the floor. “What do you mean I don’t know?” He sprinted to the steel door and pounded with iron fists. “Unlock the door and let me the hell out of here!”

“Y-Yes, sir!”

Vesta dumped the broken pieces of glass from her hands back onto the floor and dusted off her knees.

Become an Agent #7 - TAINTED

Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Word Count: 75,000

Dear Agent:

Seventeen-year-old Lena Tulman’s whole future rides on landing a track scholarship out of trailer park hell, so she chalks up the voice in her head as stress-induced crazy.

But the voice won’t shut up.

It gets louder and louder, until it pulls her through the bed and into another dimension where giant tree-dwelling squid are the dominant species—and they aren’t happy Lena dropped by. She escapes their tentacles and manages to find a way home only to discover a secret that may break her mind:

Lena has lived in another world. Her current life, with the drunken father who can’t keep his fists to himself, is punishment for Lena’s past crimes—interfering in the natural evolution of underdeveloped worlds. As if that’s not enough to deal with, someone from the past thinks she hasn’t been punished enough.

Caught between the woman she was and the girl she is now, Lena must figure out how to stop whoever is after her, or she’ll be running for her life instead of running around the track.

First 250 words:

Nothing annoyed me more than crappy best friends. The type who did stupid stuff, like grab my shoulder and scream right in my ear, “Help me, Barbara!”

A popcorn cloud exploded above us when I jumped. The kernels left in the tub I threw in Zander’s face.

We sat in the back row, Night of the Living Dead on the screen. No emergency exit signs interrupted the darkness, giving a little more in the scare department. But Zander—the heckle czar—killed the mood as soon as the graveyard scene popped up.

"You promised to watch, now watch." I chucked the popcorn tub at him when he wouldn’t stop laughing.

"Fine, but my hands are staying in my pockets." He rubbed the tiny crescent-shaped scars on his left hand. "I have no idea why you want to watch these things. You can't sit through one without a week of nightmares."

"Not true. The Ring was just extra freaky."

"Ah, and so were The Shining and Paranormal Activity..." His southern accent rolled off his tongue like sap from a maple tree. "I think you like being afraid all the time."

I hated it when he was right. "Shut up."

Fear triggered the fight or flight mechanism in our brains. The signal that proved we still wanted to live. That was my theory, anyway. 

Maybe I was a masochist, but I did like experiencing the fear. It ensured the numbness hadn’t completely taken over. Numb could be good. A takeover, though…not so good.

Become an Agent #6 - RUST&BLUE

Genre: NA Magical Realism
Word Count: 71,000 words

Dear Ms. or Mr. Agent:

Nineteen-year-old Charlie Reid’s life is her beehives and the quilted patchwork of fields around her Aunt Em’s Montana farm, until a summer storm blows through, leaving behind broken shingles… and a stranger. Naveen, whose tattoos only compete with his furious guitar-playing for most aggressive leave-me-the-fuck-alone honors, is a Shaken: someone god took personal issue with before severing their heart, mind, or soul from their body. Naveen has lost his heart, quite literally, and his curse is to forever wander in search of it.

Charlie has dreaded seeing another Shaken ever since her mother died ten years ago, but she sees Naveen as an opportunity to make sense of the viciousness and sorrow she remembers from her childhood. So when Naveen leaves town, Charlie goes with him, hoping to atone for mistakes she made long ago.

They follow tumbleweeds through bright yellow alfalfa fields, warm, red farmhouses, and violent, violet nights, until they track down a widow named Clementine: part crazy cat lady or part divinity, depending on which way you tilt your head. With her help, both Charlie and Naveen have a chance at redemption. But making up with god isn’t easy, and they’ll have to risk losing everything they found together on that long, dusty road.

RUST&BLUE is NA Magical Realism, and is complete at 71,000 words. With echoes of a twisted Wizard of Oz, this story will appeal to readers of darker, character-driven books such as THE SEA OF TRANQUILITY by Katja Millay or the writing of A.S. King. I am a member of SCBWI, and my YA Sci-Fi novel, [title], is scheduled for publication in summer 2014 with [name of small press].

Thank you for your time and consideration.

First 250:

There were only two things Charlie Reid loved unconditionally – her Aunt Em and sunsets – but that was before she said goodbye to the first because of the second.

The mid-summer evening fell slowly, seeping all color from Main Street so the horizon could be all the vivid reds and oranges a prairie sunset needed to be just right. Like always after her Thursday shift, she was the only one on the poplar-lined boulevard; a street that, she was pretty sure, stretched exactly East/West. Like, exactly. As if the sun rose and set with Glasgow, Montana.

Her nose stung from inhaling gas fumes for the past eight hours, and the strap on one of her sandals had finally snapped, making her walk more of a step/shuffle/step/shuffle, but she was glad to be out; the air had that crisp smell of an impending thunderstorm, crunchy like a juicy apple, and the streaks and solid puffs of ice cream color in the sky were building in front of her eyes. It had been hot today, was still hot now, and when the storm finally unleashed it would be a good one. Charlie was walking right through the calm before a storm: a tangible thing that smelled of water, sounded like a whisper in your ear, and felt like gravity forgetting itself.

Then Charlie tripped over a can of coins, sending them rolling and clattering and jingling across the sidewalk that had moments before only seen the action of the occasional ant.

Become an Agent #5 - NIGHT WITCH

Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Word Count: 118,000

Dear Agent:

Nadya’s life is defined by very simple choices. Be a Communist, or get arrested. Marry Peter, or her parents might get arrested. Complain about Peter’s sordid parties and one-night stands, object to his job description as anonymous writer of denunciations, or…get arrested. The boundaries of proper behaviour of a good comrade are well defined, just like the sealed borders of Mother Russia herself.

By June of 1941, those boundaries are smudged beyond recognition. Nikolai has invaded her heart with his quiet strength. And the Germans have invaded the beloved Soviet Union. While Peter cowers behind the lines, Nadya and Nikolai go to them: she with the 588th Women’s Night Bomber Regiment, he with the Red Army. The long-suffering Party wife sends bombs into enemy ammunition stores and carries on her romance in letters with her Red Army lieutenant. By the time she scratches her name into the Reichstag wall, Nadya the heroic and bemedalled “Night Witch” decides she will never return to the old tyranny of life with Peter.

Tyranny is back and badder than ever. Russia’s victorious veterans must cope with famine and Stalin’s increasing paranoia against anything Western; Nadya and Nikolai face Peter’s revenge. First they flee to a town five hundred kilometres away for their lives. Now the choice becomes, stay and watch everything they fought for disappear in the secret police force’s “Black Maria” vans; or, make a run for the golden West. To stay will mean a slow death from the soul outwards. To be caught escaping is a quick death from a bullet. To Nadya and Nikolai, the choice is simple. Don’t get caught.

Complete at 118,000 words, NIGHT WITCH is adult historical fiction set in Stalin's Soviet Union. I appreciate your time in considering my work for representation.

First 250:

Part 1

Gathering Clouds

Chapter 1

I squeezed my eyes shut and rubbed my forehead, hard. Please let me be somewhere else. A sort of roar filled my ears, like rushing water inside my head.

Slowly I opened my eyes. There was the wooden floor, the door, and the tall window with the white curtains Mama was quietly proud of. The bentwood rocker stood vacant in the corner, and the man standing in front of me, staring at me with hands clasped behind his back, was still there. No, I hadn’t escaped.

I hoped that when I opened my mouth, some sort of magic words would come out that would somehow smooth over the incredible awkwardness of this situation. When I did, nothing came out, not even air. My mind was a jumble of thoughts, all of them surprised, none of them particularly pleasant. Marry Peter Petrovich Vasiltsev? Looking at him, I struggled not to frown. He had a small pointed chin and a pinched, serious mouth, and there was no warmth at all in his grey eyes. The words he’d just spoken were as emotionless as his face. “I have asked your father’s permission. He is agreeable to you becoming my wife. I hope you are as well.”

It was hard to imagine Papa agreeing to Peter Petrovich’s proposal. Each time Peter Petrovich came to our home, Papa seemed to...diminish, as though he thought himself less of a man in the presence of a man in Party uniform, and Mama babbled and laughed too loudly.

Become an Agent #4 - GLASS HAND

Genre: YA Contemporary
Word Count: 55,000 (WIP)

Dear Agent,

Cyra Berque is on a quest for gold. She’s picked out the college with the best fencing coaches and teaches extra classes to pay for her own lessons. But when her coach sends her to a new club to work with a coach more likely to get her to the Olympics, Cyra has to come up with the extra money.

Christine Neuve just wants to dance. She has the talent, but her rich father wants her to get a college education. She wants a repertory company. But daddy is more than willing to pay a tutor to get his little ballerina into college, and Cyra is just the gal to help out.

Rochan Roi is the school’s best photographer. He’s also the cutest guy in school with a swarthy smile and a soft spot for Shakespeare. Cyra’s had a crush on him since eighth grade, but always assumed she didn’t have a chance with her big thighs and a hand gone AWOL. When Christine sees Rochan for the first time, sparks fly. The only problem is Christine doesn’t know how to catch the attention of the Shakespeare quoting, poetry loving artist, and if Cyra doesn’t help her woo Rochan, she’s promised to flunk her English class. Cyra has to choose between love and glory.

GLASS HAND, complete at 55,000 words (work in progress), is a contemporary retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac with the gender roles reversed. This book is my debut novel. I fenced in college, giving me insight into the world of fencing.

First 250:

When something went missing, it seemed to always be on the mind, like its ghost took up air in the room. I paced the hallways like an linebacker. Not that I hadn’t considered it being almost six feet tall and topping the scales at an unmentionable number, but football was definitely a sport where intelligence was reserved for the quarterback. I was more of a chess player.

Besides, I’d never seen a one-handed football player in the NFL.

I slipped into the library to break out of the crush of hallway traffic. This being my senior year, I knew whom to avoid, and Sara Baker and her gang of perfect little ballet mutants rounded the corner. Say what you want about ballerinas, Sara was evil incarnate. My mother swore that everyone became nicer in the senior year.

I’d believe it when I saw it.

Peeking through the crack in the door, I watched as the tribe of perfect, petite hags strode by.

“Louis Vuitton is where it’s at,” she told one of her toadies as she passed.

Her eye caught mine through the door, and she spun. I pulled open the door like I was just heading out of the library. “Oh, hi Sara.” I pretended to look surprised, but she knew better. Her ballet flunkies startled. They were freshman, the new class, and Sara was pretending to show them favor. She was really showing the rest of the high school her new minions.

Become an Agent #3 - TAINTED LOVE

Genre: High Fantasy
Word Count: Work In Progress

Dear Agent:

In Mithos, where white magic is fueled by purity and black magic by passion, True Love is known as the Intolerable Sin. It’s the darkest, most corrupt source of magic in the world. The punishment: a quick death.

Martia is a Love Child, born out of True Love. She spent her entire life in the Academy, isolated from regular society. But now that she’s graduated, Martia is out in the real world, doing what the Academy trained her to do: assassinate those who’ve committed the Intolerable Sin.

Then Martia meets Narin, the oldest son of Mithos’s empress. The beautiful, courteous man draws her attention like no other—and when their eyes meet, the world stands still. Martia refuses to commit the Intolerable Sin. True Love’s Kiss alone could level an army. But as Martia draws closer to Narin, her choice must be made—kill Narin as she was trained to do, or give into the black magic and risk everything.

Complete at XXX, TAINTED LOVE is a stand-alone high fantasy with strong romantic elements. I have included the XXX in the body of this email.

First 250:

The streets of Yuin are no place for love.

I creep through the shadows, the clack of my boots muffled and unheard. I wear all black in a city of tan stone, bright glass murals and strips of crimson fabric. Even at night, Yuin is never dark.

A giggling couple stumble into the alley. The man leans toward the woman, his voice low and teasing. Her giggles grow to a squealing chuckle. She clutches her sides, bunching up the flowing layers of orange, pink and purple that makes up her long pleated dress. The man’s grin is wide enough to crack his face. She reaches for his hand—

She sees me.

Her laughter cuts off and fear streaks through her wine-glazed eyes. She tries to stand straight, but wobbles. The man frowns at her. She grasps his hand and leans close.

“It’s one of Them.”

The man turns and freezes when he sees me. For a moment, all is still and silent, except for the distant music of viheulas and bongo drums.

The couple is attractive with dark hair and honey-colored skin. Mithoian by birth, then. To an ordinary person, they’d look like two drunk lovers, returning from a late night street festival. But I see differently. Surrounding them is a twisting maroon aura, tinted with gray edges. Black magic.

I step forward with an easy smile.

The woman whimpers. “Please don’t kill us.”

Become an Agent #2 - CASSIA

Genre: Upmarket
Word Count: 80,000

Dear Agent,

As an arts reporter living in Deep Ellum, Tanya Falgoust is accepted as part of the underground arts district, but living among free thinkers and musicians doesn’t make her one of them. Then she meets Cassia, a performance artist with the power to both deepen Tanya’s experience and strip everything from her.

Sensual, rebellious Cassia struts onto the stage and into Tanya’s bed. No one knows who she is, but her beauty and talents as an actress and dancer captivates the local theater scene. A Jesus freak warns Tanya about Cassia. But why should she listen to him? Anyone who tossed aside his father’s wealth to own a bar that doesn’t serve alcohol has obviously had way too many pot-induced religious experiences. But when Cassia refuses to divulge anything about herself, where she lives, or even her real name, Tanya comes to realize that her friend was right. As their relationship becomes more volatile, hurting others around them, Tanya must break from her desire for the performance artist before she loses the connections to the musicians who have accepted her into their community.

CASSIA is written in a framework style with the first and last chapters set twenty years after the main story.

First 250:

My life had become a series of baseball games, conferences, and fancy dinners with lobbyists and lawmakers. It wasn’t exactly the exciting life I’d wanted for myself, but it rescued me from the less than satisfactory situation that I’d chosen as a young idealist. Still, there were times when living in Jeffrey’s world made me feel like a dessert spoon at a dieter’s convention.

“Go! Get out of here.” Jeffrey leaned forward in his seat as the batter hit a long fly ball just to the right of the left foul line. The ball landed midway up the stands. The ballpark erupted into cheers and fireworks as everyone jumped to their feet. Jeffrey kissed me before turning to the congressman on the other side of him for a high-five.

Forgetting the game and the politician Jeffrey entertained, I checked my phone to see what art shows and related social events would be happening over the weekend. There was an awards ceremony for local sculptors. At one time, as an art and theater reporter, I would have covered that. I flipped through the events section. Two plays opened this weekend. Was she in one? So much time had gone since I last heard anything about her. I tried not to think about her, not to remember her at all. Most of the time she wasn’t even a memory, but there were times, like now, when it seemed the air had been knocked out of me with a baseball bat from the slightest thought of her.

Become an Agent #1 - SPLICED

Genre: YA Science Fiction
Word Count: 65,000

Dear Agent:

Years of living in the sewers beneath Elite City have hardened seventeen-year-old Syl to all manner of creepy-crawlies—except the oversized ones that feed on human flesh.

The sewers are the only place safe from the nocturnal bug-monsters that wander the overgrown city streets. During the day Syl scavenges for food among the abandoned skyscrapers, but at night the Cull come out looking for a meal of their own. She thought the fight was over; that these remnants of a genetic war were being driven by whatever’s left of their mangled synapses. She thought they could be exterminated, the city rebuilt and the population replenished. She’s wrong.

Whoever created the Cull isn't done playing God. While scouting, Syl is abducted. She’s tortured in horrific experiments that result in her DNA being spliced, slowly turning her into one of the bugs. Now she must find a cure and stop the person who violated her body before every remaining man, woman and child is transformed into the abomination they fear.

SPLICED is a 65,000 word YA science fiction novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

First 250:

“Please, Sylvia, give me a moment to think.”

I hide a smirk behind my pale hair, holding my hands up in surrender. Some people play cards or read to pass the time—well, those who can read. For me, pestering Serge with my questions has always been so much more rewarding.

“Fine,” I say innocently. “You don’t have to tell me a fourth time.”

He turns away from the dark room in which he’s shining a flash light to glare at me. His face is young, but with worry lines etched into his forehead—most of them because of me, if I had to guess. I haven’t been a kid for years, but that doesn’t keep him from treating me like I’m attached to his imaginary umbilical cord.

I study the greenery that grows through the tall, shattered windows. Vines crawl in from the outside world, an infestation that makes the building look like a slim lady in a green dress. From here I can see the tops of Elite City’s other buildings, crumbling and broken. Rusted metal contraptions line the street and veer onto sidewalks. I step closer to the window, my boots crunching on broken glass.

“Syl, be careful,” Serge says, his tone resigned.

I think briefly about pretending to slip and fall out the window, if only to feel his vast collection of muscles press against my body when he “saves” me, but decide against it. The crew would never trust me again, and then I would lose all of this

Monday, January 27, 2014

"Become an Agent" Contest is OPEN!!!

The contest's submission windows have now officially closed! 20 entries have been received (and notified). You guys have quick email-sending fingers! The posts will go up Friday 9 a.m. EST so stay tuned :)

If you don't know what this contest is, go read up about it by following this link!

If you're reading this, the first submission window has officially opened. It starts at 9 a.m. EST and ends once I get 10 submissions. The second submission window opens at 9 p.m. EST and ends once I get 10 submissions. 20 submissions in total! Your submission's time stamp (since it'll be sent over email) must be at or after these times to be viable for a spot in the contest. 8:59 won't work!

There will be a confirmation email going out so you know that your email reached my inbox. However, this email won't confirm a place in the contest. I'll do that manually.

The format for the submissions (and send all submissions to SC_Author (at) yahoo (dot) com):

In the subject line put "Become an Agent: [Title of Your Manuscript]" 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, 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.

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

I was going to also talk about voting etiquette, etc. but I think it's smarter if I talk about it on Friday when the contest actually starts. The rules for voting are all here so go over the details while I prepare for the contest! Remember, you have to be following this blog in order to submit to this contest.

We'll be Tweeting under the Twitter hashtag #BecomeAnAgent :D It'll be fun. I'm SC_Author on Twitter.


Hopefully, this contest will be as fun as it was last year. Actually, fun story: because I hosted this contest last year, Mike emailed me about joining together to start a little contest called Query Kombat. I then invited Michelle to complete our trio and from there our contest-creating trio was formed. There's your fun fact for the day!

Any questions? Ask them below! And good luck!

Friday, January 24, 2014

'Become An Agent' Query Contest!!!!!!!

YES! A CONTEST!!!!! (This is a long post, cramming in all the details and stuff!)

What is this?

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

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

So, from there came the contest.

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

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

The Details

  • This Monday the 27th, I will open up two windows for submissions. One will start at 9 a.m. EST and will end once I get 10 submissions. The second will start at 9 p.m. EST and will end when I get 10 submissions. This is to accommodate people in different time zones. Your email's time stamp must be at 9:00 on each window or after; NOT before!
  • The first 10 entries in each submission window will make it into the contest.
  • Submit the meat of your query and the first 250 words to SC_Author (at) yahoo (dot) com. More details about submission format below.
  • I will be sending confirmation emails to the people that made it into the contest.
  • The 20 queries I receive will go up on this blog on Friday the 31st 9 a.m. EST. That's when the contest will start!!

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

  • Each entrant will get a Post Number for his/her query.
  • The basis of the contest is this: Each entrant is required to vote YES or NO (as to, "Would you request pages?") on the seven queries above 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) 20, 19, and 18. All the posts will be numbered.
  • BUT...... THERE IS:


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

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

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

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

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

  • 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, 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 and 250 will work for agents.

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: 

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

In the subject line put "Become an Agent Submission: [Title of Your Manuscript]" 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, 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Cover Reveal - RC Lewis' Stitching Snow!!!

I've been waiting to see this cover for weeks (even months!) and honestly it is INCREDIBLE. It's a stunning cover:


It is amazing. I don't think I've seen a cover of this style before but honestly it is so, so good. So clean, so vibrant, and so STRONG! (By the way, the reason for the apple is that this book is a Snow White retelling.)
NOW GO TO THIS LINK AND SIGN UP FOR THE GIVEAWAY! 2 ARCS AND A BUNCH OF OTHER AWESOME STUFF. This link was where the original book cover reveal happened! Also, on that link is a bunch of other info about RC Lewis and a brief message from her. So go read it.

Add Stitching Snow on Goodreads as well and congratulate RC Lewis on Twitter!

I've known RC Lewis for over two years now. She was the first to critique my (horrible first version) query on Agent Query Connect. She's helped so many writers like me; I've got to return the favor! She's awesome, and I really want to read this book now.


Monday, January 20, 2014

Don't You Ever, EVER Feel Ashamed of Your Opinions

Since today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I thought this post would be perfectly timed.

Sometimes, it feels like a curse to be a writer (lol, emphasis on the 'sometimes,' meaning, rarely-to-never-and-only-if-I-force-myself because I love LOVE (!!) being a writer). Why? Because once you strive for publication and reach out on social media, you are no longer only yourself. Every single word you put out there, every Tweet, every Facebook status, is now stamped into your reputation as a writer and a bookseller.
Which means, for many of us, we can't ever feel free to share our opinions over social media even though we write to be heard. It's a paradox.

Don't you EVER feel that way.

I've felt this way. In fact, I still do feel this way. As a writer, I'm supposed to feel FREE to say whatever the hell I want. I'm supposed to bask in the glories of Free Speech, shower in the riches that come from the 1st Amendment which writers, we writers, are supposed to enjoy the most.

Do we really?

Martin Luther King Jr.
Source of Picture (I don't own it.)

If anything, most writers are in fact more censored than the average social media user. Only a few writers ever post their political opinions, human rights stance, etc. online. Only a few publicly display their minority views. The vast majority bite their tongue every single time they might let slip even a hint of their views in order to maintain readers.

But is this what we're here for? As writers, we're supposed to make a change in this world - how can we if we keep silent?

Now, I get staying silent for some things. For example, I'll doubt I'll ever publicly tell the world my political party because, 1) it's liable to change and social media never understands that opinions do change, 2) I know so very little about politics that by the off chance that my public support sways some voters, I don't want to sway people if I know nothing about what I'm saying, 3) I don't have the reach to even make a big impact with my opinions, so why share? and 4) I think elections are more of a 'pick the lesser of the evils' and that's not how they should be. Maybe if those things change I'll be more outspoken.

I get keeping silent about things that don't really matter to you, or things that are out of your control. And, beyond anything else, I understand keeping silent about touchy subjects which would cause rifts between your personal relationships and people you love.

That's all different. Those reasons for keeping silent are entirely valid.

But there's one reason that's not valid. And that's fear.

I feel this all the time when I see even one Tweet (from someone I know and like) who promotes a cause which I'm entirely against. And then when more and more and more people join that cause, I'm drowned out before I even began to speak. I'd never speak. I'd feel so dang ashamed.

I'm stupid, I'm an idiot, etc.

Is a relationship worth being maintained if you don't feel safe talking to them? Be strong in your beliefs. This does not mean that you should be bull-headed and bigoted. Always be open-minded (in fact, that's probably the biggest theme in my writing). Think, logically, about the other side's arguments. Give it heed. My rule in evaluating any argument is to think what's better for humanity as a whole. Then, do it.

But don't stay quiet when your insides are churning. Don't stay quiet when a mass of people are against you. Don't stay quiet when those people might very well cause huge changes in the world which might be bad changes. Don't stay quiet.

Because chances are, you're not alone in staying quiet. Martin Luther King Jr. did not stay quiet, and because he didn't, 250,000 previously-quiet people joined him in his March on Washington. Because of him, the people who were about to change the world and never let equality become a reality...because of him, those people were stopped. Because he spoke.

We're writers. We have a job to do. We have to take full (and honorable) advantage of Free Speech. By honorable, I mean that you research every position you publicly take a stand on, give your readers the reasons for your stance, and above ALL, make it certain that you are not in any way bigoted in your opinion. That is key.

We can fight all we want for our beliefs but know that the other side is fighting as well. The only solution is discussion; bigotry leaves no room for discussions. And I'll tell you now, if you're polite, humble, and calm about presenting your opinion, you won't lose any readers. In fact, you'll probably gain a lot more - and you might even make a change in this world.

It's MLK Day, and so, I thought a post like this was necessary. Don't ever feel scared, guys! I'm literally imagining a community where we all discuss global issues without ever feeling threatened or scared - and I'm smiling, because it's a wonderful dream. Imagine all the problems in the world that could be solved this way.

So, the biggest cause I'd love fighting for: the environment. And I'd support pretty strong measures to protect it. Here's the thing many people don't realize: nature will never die. It's not like we'll kill nature. Unless we change our ways right now, we'll end up killing ourselves. It's the closest thing to an apocalypse that we have coming in the near future. It's a scary thought. (Sorry, I can't offer any consolation DX )

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day, everyone, and I hope you enjoyed this post!

How do you feel about this unspoken form of censorship? Do you think that writers should choose which battles to fight; save up for the important issues, and let the lesser ones go? What are your plans for today?

Friday, January 17, 2014

Oscar Nominations 2014: Snubs, Surprises, and More

The Oscars were announced yesterday (it's the first thing I checked when I got Internet).

Here's the complete list of the nominees.

And here's a good article summing up the snubs and surprises.

I don't own this picture.
The snubs that shocked me the most was that "The Butler" got NO MAJOR NOMINATIONS and Oprah Winfrey was snubbed as well. She was incredible in that movie, and I never knew she could act so well. She deserved a nomination, if not a win, for Best Supporting Actress.

Neither do I own this picture, but how INCREDIBLE does Oprah
look in this? It's a side of her I've never seen: her acting side.
And, are you kidding, Emma Thompson didn't get nominated for "Saving Mr. Banks"? She was awesome in it (and that's an incredible movie, you guys have to watch it).

(No, I don't own this picture.) Emma played a sort-of
emotionally-scarred/insecure Professor McGonagall BEAUTIFULLY.
She was just amazing. Seriously. Sigh.
I'm also sad that Florence + the Machine's "Over the Love" on the Great Gatsby soundtrack, quite possibly one of the greatest songs I've ever heard (on a technical level), didn't get nominated. This song is incredible. Listen to it here. And after her previous snub of "Breath of Life" on the Snow White and the Huntsman soundtrack (an amazing song as well) I just don't know what's up with the Academy. Maybe Florence doesn't promote herself as much as others (but that's what makes her the amazing Florence :) )? I don't know.

These snubs have gotten me a little less excited for the Oscars, but I'm still very very excited. I'm happy that "Gravity" got nominated so much, and ELLEN DEGENERES IS HOSTING THE CEREMONY! (ANNND Leonardo DiCaprio got nominated for Best Actor! He might win an Oscar this time!!!!!!)  I have a lot of movies to watch until then, though, so congrats to the nominees, and March 2nd, here we come.

(Right now, I'm mostly waiting for Alex Cavanaugh's expert opinion on the nominations.)

What do you guys think of the nominations?

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Golden Globes 2014: Emma Watson, Surprises, and More

Last night were the Golden Globes!!!!

Some highlights:

Emma Watson looked amazing as usual (and she wore pants which apparently is a big shock in the fashion world!).

I don't own this picture.
Tina Fey and Amy Poehler were hilarious as hosts:

I also don't own this picture, but it looks like Amy is being framed.
Jennifer Lawrence won Best Supporting Actress!! (Although I do wish Oprah Winfrey had at least been nominated for her work in "The Butler" because she was fantastic and I never knew she could act so well!) Man, I wish "The Butler" would have been nominated for something at least. It was a really, really good movie. Alfonso Cuarรณn won Best Director for "Gravity" (another one of my favorite movies!). Surprise: "Gravity" didn't win Best Picture, nor did Sandra Bullock win Best Actress for her role in the movie (for which she has immense Oscar hype). But "Frozen" did win Best Animated Film (although it didn't win Best Original Song for the AWESOME "Let it Go").

All in all, I think I have to go watch "12 Years a Slave" because it won the big award of the night, Best Picture for Drama.

OH! And Leonardo DiCaprio WON!!! Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy (yes, comedy!) for "The Wolf of Wall Street." Good for Leo :)

A great article over here to read, basically summing up the awards.

Here's the full list of last night's winners!

For some reason, every year, I'm getting more and more excited about movie awards season. I want to see how my favorite movies of the year fare! Is it because, as I get older, I actually watch the films before they're nominated, or that 'normal' films are the ones getting nominated? Because a few years ago, I barely even heard of half the films getting nominated. Now, many are ones I already watched....

OR I think I'm watching them now just because they're getting nominated or getting nomination hype. I actually think that's it.

Wow. That's weird.

ONTO THE OSCARS!!! Thursday is when nominations will be released (I'll post a link to the full nominations on Friday on this blog) so get ready!

How did you like the Golden Globes? Excited to see Ellen DeGeneres host the Oscars?