Thursday, November 29, 2018

Agent-Author Chat: Elizabeth Bewley and Michelle Mason

It's been far too long since I've done an interview, and I can think of no better subjects than my longtime writing friend and critique partner Michelle Mason and her new agent, Elizabeth Bewley of Sterling Lord Literistic. Ms. Bewley was an editor, most recently at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, up until she joined Sterling Lord Literistic last year, so when I heard that she was interested in Ms. Mason's most recent manuscript, I was over the moon.

Ms. Mason's query and answers will appear in orange, Ms. Bewley's in blue. Enjoy!

Ms. Mason's Query You read two of my other manuscripts earlier this year, and I hope you’ll be intrigued by my latest project, particularly as a couple of my readers said it reminded them of a John Hughes movie.

LOST meets Robin Palmer’s ONCE UPON A KISS in YOUR LIFE HAS BEEN DELAYED, an 87,000-word young adult time travel novel.

When seventeen-year-old Jenny Waters boards Flight 237 on August 2, 1995, in New York, she has two main goals: convince her parents to let her apply to the journalism program at Columbia University, and woman up and kiss her boyfriend of two months. 

But when Jenny and the other passengers disembark in St. Louis, the airport manager informs them their plane disappeared--twenty-five years ago. Like the universe hit pause on their flight while the rest of the world kept moving. In 2020, newspaper reporter isn’t exactly a top career choice, and her boyfriend is old enough to be her dad. 

As if adjusting to a new century isn’t hard enough, a conspiracy group called the Time Protection League sets out to prove Flight 237 is a big hoax. (News flash, crazies: Time would be better served protecting a rain forest.) When Jenny’s not dealing with rumors she’s a clone, she’s fighting her attraction to Dylan, who introduces her to everything that’s headline-worthy about her new present, like Harry Potter and late-night texting.

Too bad Dylan happens to be her former boyfriend’s son. Yeah, that’s not awkward.

A member of SCBWI and a 2017 PitchWars mentee (for a different manuscript), my professional background is in public relations.

Thanks for considering!

KV: Ms. Mason, how did you first come up with the idea for YOUR LIFE HAS BEEN DELAYED?

MM: I expect people will continue to ask me this question and so I should come up with a more concrete answer, but I honestly don’t remember what sparked it. But generally, my story ideas start with a random “what if” thought. In this case, my thought was: what if a girl got on a plane and it landed decades later, and time had passed for everyone else but not the people on the plane? When I have a thought like this, I type it into the notes app on my phone to save for when I’m ready to start writing something new. I actually jotted down quite a lot for this idea, so when I was ready to start outlining, I had a pretty well formed plot.

KV: Tell us a little bit about your query-writing process. Did you work on it here and there as you were writing the manuscript, or before, or after? How many times did you revise it? And how did you decide what order to put things in?

MM: I really enjoy queries actually! Which is good because I queried seven manuscripts over seven years. In the past, it took me a while to get the query right, but this one came pretty naturally. Right after I finished my first draft, the query just spilled out of me one evening when I was getting ready for bed, so I wrote it on my phone as well. I sent it to a couple of my CPs for a check, and they said it sounded great. After they actually read the manuscript, they did suggest holding back one piece of information, so I tweaked that before querying. I also ran the query by a Facebook group I’m involved with thanks to being a 2017 PitchWars mentee. As for deciding the order to put things in, this particular query is pretty linear to the story itself. 

KV: How did you first make a connection regarding YOUR LIFE HAS BEEN DELAYED?

EB: Michelle and I had connected earlier in the year via a query critique contest that she had won; though that particular novel wasn’t right for me, I remember really liking Michelle’s writing and thinking that she seemed like a nice and smart person. So, when she emailed me some months later about YOUR LIFE HAS BEEN DELAYED, I was excited to dive into the manuscript.

MM: Yes! Elizabeth asked me to keep her in mind for future projects, and I’m so glad I did. I think sometimes writers think agents are just being kind when they ask for future projects, but they don’t say that to everyone. 

KV: So. True. Over time, I think we condition ourselves to see the bad in our writing, so when someone sees the good, we tend to downplay their positivity and assume it's a stock response.

Ms. Bewley, when you read Ms. Mason's query, what caught your attention?

EB: Besides recognizing Michelle’s name on the query, I absolutely loved the book’s title! I also thought that Michelle was able to succinctly sum up her premise and plot, which is always a good sign in a query. 

KV: Obviously, the manuscript met--or exceeded--your expectations. What did you love about YOUR LIFE HAS BEEN DELAYED?

EB: My imagination was completely captured by the thought of a group of people who were trapped in time while the rest of the world had moved on…and on, by twenty five years! It’s the kind of high concept that I really enjoy. 

KV: How quickly did you read Ms. Mason's manuscript? Is that pretty typical of your response times on requested material, or do those vary?

EB: I had to look back at my emails to figure this out! I read Michelle’s manuscript within a week or two. Unfortunately, I’m not always that fast. It depends on what else is happening during a particular week or even day. 

KV: Ms. Mason, now that you've reached the querying finish line, what do you wish you had known when you were back at the start gate?

MM: Well, as I mentioned in the earlier question, my starting gate was seven years ago. I have learned so much during those years. I started out writing middle grade and discovered my voice was a better fit for young adult, but I wouldn’t trade those years of trying out MG because it introduced me to the world of MG and even if I’m not writing it, I still love reading it. As far as the querying process, each new manuscript has taught me something. I actually wrote a post on my blog each year about the lessons I learned querying. So, to answer your question, I don’t suppose there’s anything in particular I’d tell baby querier Michelle except to hang in there.

KV: Ms. Mason's "What I've Learned" posts are treasure troves of information and determination for querying writers. If you've never checked them out, you should do so posthaste!

Ms. Bewley, what querying tips do you have, and are you looking for anything specific at the moment?

EB: I’m awed by everyone who writes a novel and takes the brave step to send it out for review. So, first off, bravo to all the writers out there. Secondly, I’d encourage writers to put their best foot forward by sending out short, well-written query letters that tell an agent or editor what your book is about, why it is unique, and how it fits into the current marketplace. I also always like to know a little bit about a writer’s background too. 

KV: Any last words of advice or encouragement you'd like to share with us?

EB: Keep at it! If you have the passion and the talent, you’ll find receptive readers. 

MM: Persevere! If you truly love writing and stick with it, you will eventually find the right audience for your work, whatever that means to you. Also, writing friends are so important! Build a strong network of critique partners/readers you trust to give you honest feedback and encouragement when you start to doubt yourself. I wouldn’t have survived those years of querying without my support network.

And there you have it! Didn't I say it would be great?!

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Book Recommendations: WOLF BY WOLF and BLOOD FOR BLOOD by Ryan Graudin

My library has a small what's-new-in-YA shelf tucked into one of its back corners, and it's a testament to how much I love YA that I'm willing to drag my six-month-old back there, chubby cheeks, car seat, and all. That was how, a month or two ago, I stumbled across Ms. Graudin's WOLF BY WOLF, and I loved it so much that I immediately reserved BLOOD FOR BLOOD.

Though my library must have just acquired it, WOLF BY WOLF actually came out back in 2015. It's an alternate-reality sci-fi in which the Axis powers actually won World War II. Now, more than a decade later, they sponsor an annual motorcycle race for young German and Japanese riders that spans Europe, Africa, and Asia. Yael, a Jewish girl who escaped a concentration camp after Nazi experiments turned her into a shapeshifter, has been training for this race for what feels like her whole life. As a member of the floundering resistance that tried--and failed--to topple Hitler during World War II, she has to win the race to come face to face with the Fuhrer, who only appears in public once a year, at the victor's ball. A live-streamed assassination, one the regime can't cover up, is the catalyst they need to turn their floundering resistance into a full-blown revolution. She has the skills to pull it off--if the secret ex-boyfriend and the overprotective twin brother of the girl whose skin she's borrowing don't throw her off her game.

I'm a huge fan of historical sci-fis, so I probably would have liked this book even if Ms. Graudin hadn't executed it as well as she did. Despite the pages of backstory the plot had to fill us in on, the story never got bogged down, and the characters were both interesting and well-developed, with crisscrossing objectives and personalities that clashed as often as they got along. I was particularly drawn to Yael. I like my YA characters on the maturer side, and she turned out to be as mature and focused as they come.

Have you read WOLF BY WOLF and BLOOD FOR BLOOD? If so, what did you think? And if you've read any of Ms. Graudin's other books, which one should I try next?

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

An Interview + A Giveaway = A Must-read Post

Many thanks to Michelle Mason, critique partner extraordinaire, for interviewing me about EARTH TO DAD! Michelle always has great insights on the books she reviews, and the questions she asks are just as thought-provoking. Definitely check out the interview, and don't miss the signed hardcover giveaway at the bottom of the post!

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

EARTH TO DAD Blasts Off!

It's been almost three years to the day since I last had a book come out, so I'm over the moon--pun intended--to launch--pun intended again--EARTH TO DAD today. To celebrate this new release, I'm hosting a party at my home this Friday, August 3, from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. If you'll be in northern Utah and we've met in real life, feel free to e-mail me for my address!

About EARTH TO DAD:

"The distance between Earth and Mars is more than just physical.

"No one knows that better than eleven-year-old Jameson O’Malley. When Dad left for Mars, Jameson thought technology would help shorten the millions of miles between them, but he’s starting to realize no transmission can replace his father.

"When a new family moves onto Base Ripley, Jameson makes an unlikely friend in Astra Primm, who’s missing a parent of her own. But as their friendship grows stronger, Jameson starts seeing the flaws in his own family. Mom is growing distant, and something is wrong with Dad. He’s not sending transmissions as frequently, and when he does there are bags under his eyes.

"Soon Jameson realizes there’s more to the story than he knows--and plenty people aren’t telling him. Determined to learn the truth, Jameson and Astra embark on a journey exploring life, loss, and friendship that will take them to the edge of their universe."

I got my author copies in the mail the other day, and with the metallic leaf on the dust jacket and the beautiful endpapers, the hardcovers are absolutely gorgeous, some of the prettiest books I've ever seen. It's too bad the trade reviewers couldn't review the book itself (but they still said some lovely things about the words on the inside):

"Well-paced and rich"
--Foreword

"Strong character development and plotting keep the pages turning
as the two friends risk all for each other"
--Booklist

"A solid choice for upper elementary and middle school students who want dystopia
but are not ready for the intensity and violence that defines the YA offerings in the genre"
--School Library Journal

"Van Dolzer uses her apocalyptic setting to highlight this story of grief,
creating believable, likable child characters"
--Kirkus

I'll be hosting several giveaways over the next couple of months, and the first one starts right NOW. If you buy EARTH TO DAD in any way, from anywhere, e-mail evidence (like a picture of your receipt with your card number scribbled out) to kvandolzer(at)gmail(dot)com, and you'll be entered to win a signed ARC of my next release, THE MULTIPLYING MYSTERIES OF MOUNT TEN! This contest is open to U.S. and Canadian residents and closes in two weeks, on Wednesday, August 15, at 11:59 p.m. EDT (or 8:59 p.m. PDT). I'll announce the winners the next day.


Thanks so much for sharing another book birthday with me!

Friday, June 29, 2018

A New Title, a Cover Reveal, and a Signed ARC Giveaway

I'm excited to announce Clyde the Second's new title--THE MULTIPLYING MYSTERIES OF MOUNT TEN--and to share the cover reveal, which debuted yesterday on the Pop! Goes the Reader blog. The inimitable Iacopo Bruno perfectly captured the book's tone in this awesome work of art, so definitely go and check it out. And while you're there, don't miss the signed ARC giveaway at the bottom of the post!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Introducing Gummy Bear

She's feistier than she looks
I'd like you to meet Gummy Bear, the latest addition to our biological series, which just officially got bumped from a trilogy to a saga. She was born on Wednesday, April 18, at 1-2-3-4 p.m., weighing seven pounds, five ounces and measuring twenty inches long. The delivery went really well, and so far, my recovery has gone really well, too.

Having a newborn again has been a little surreal. Even though we knew what to expect, we weren't mentally or emotionally prepared deal with a screaming tyrant who patently refused to sleep. Thank goodness for caring friends and family who've brought us meals, held Gummy Bear while we napped, ferried our other kids to school, and even straightened up our kitchen. The Christlike service they've performed will not be soon forgotten.

One thing I'm trying to do is savor this time with Gummy Bear. Though I can't say for sure that we're well and truly done, I CAN say for sure that this one feels like the last, so it's very possible that these are the last times I'll change diapers, get puked on, and bounce a baby up and down--and up and down and up and down--in the middle of the night. Hopefully, this perspective has made me more compassionate, more patient, more at peace. It's so easy to get lost in the throes of parenthood when you're down there in the trenches, but caring for a tiny person who can't yet take care of herself is one of this life's greatest and most rewarding honors.

There, that's more like it

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

My First Foreign Rights Deal EVER

Super excited to announce that EARTH TO DAD is going to be published in mainland China!


As the title of the post implies, this is my first foreign rights deal EVER, so I'm still geeking out about it. I honestly can't wait to hold the Chinese version in my hands.

A huge shout-out to Brent--who, you may not know, is also his agency's subsidiary and foreign rights director--whose hard work and dedication totally brought this about. And a huge shout-out to Uwe, whose top-notch mentoring put Brent on this path. I feel so fortunate to have landed at Triada.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Ms. Podos Picks Her Winners

Without any ado, here are Ms. Podos's winners (with her thoughts in orange):

#9 UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY: "The query did a good job of capturing a fantastical plot with multiple surreal elements, which can be so hard to summarize, and the opening page drew me in with its voice, detail, and delicate sorrow."

#10 THE LIBRARY OF UNSPOKEN THINGS: "The query was polished and told me what I needed to know about the character, her arc, and the stakes. Charlotte’s voice shone in the opening scene--she’s a character I want to follow. And I do love an f/f element. :)"

Both UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY and THE LIBRARY OF UNSPOKEN THINGS win requests for the first 3 chapters!

Congratulations, winners! Please e-mail me at kvandolzer(at)gmail(dot)com for details on how to submit your materials.

Lastly but never leastly, thank you to Ms. Podos for taking the time to read and critique these entries, and thank you to YOU for taking the time to do the same. Best of luck with your other queries, and if you have a few spare minutes, do come back tomorrow for the cover reveal of EARTH TO DAD!

The Agent = Rebecca Podos of Rees Literary Agency

This month's--well, last month's--agent was Rebecca Podos of Rees Literary Agency! From her agency's website: "Rebecca Podos is a graduate of the MFA Writing, Literature and Publishing program at Emerson College. Her YA novels The Mystery of Hollow Places and Like Water are published by Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins, with her third novel, The Psychic Sisters of Saltville, coming in 2019. Rebecca is interested exclusively in Young Adult and Middle Grade fiction; particularly books about complex female relationships, beautifully written contemporary, romance with more at stake than "will they/won't they," genre fiction with a strong focus on character, and books featuring marginalized voices and cultures across genres. (If you have a sci-fi about a genderqueer ship's captain in space, send it her way!)

"She is thrilled to represent authors like Rin Chupeco (The Girl From the Well series; The Bone Witch series), Mackenzi Lee (This Monstrous Thing; The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue series; Semper Augustus, forthcoming from Flatiron/Macmillan; Bygone Badass Broads), Ashley Herring Blake (Suffer Love; How to Make a Wish; Girl Made of Stars, forthcoming from HMH; Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World, forthcoming from Little, Brown ), London Shah (The Light at the Bottom of the World, forthcoming from Disney Hyperion), Rebecca Kim Wells (Children of Ash, forthcoming from Simon Teen), Kenneth Logan (True Letters from a Fictional Life), Sarah Nicolas (Dragons are People, Too; Keeping Her Secret), Emily Ross (Half in Love With Death), Lila Michaels (Now You See Her, forthcoming from HarperCollins), and Rebecca Christiansen (Maybe in Paris) among others."


If you'd like more information on Ms. Podos's tastes and interests, definitely follow her on Twitter @RebeccaPodos and/or check out her website. I'll announce her winners soon!

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Let the Commenting Begin!

Check out the entries below, then leave some feedback in the comments if you feel so inclined. (ENTRANTS, PLEASE REMEMBER TO CRITIQUE AT LEAST THREE OTHER ENTRIES!) And I'm sure this goes without saying, but please keep your comments constructive (i.e., not rude or mean-spirited). If you want to think like The Agent, you might consider the question, "If you were an agent, would you request more of this entry?"

I'll reveal The Agent's identity and announce his or her winners and prizes next week, but until then, have at it!

(For your information, I take out profanity when I'm formatting the entries, so if you notice any asterisks, they're my asterisks, not the entrants'. Also, entrants, if you find a Krista-generated error in your post, feel free to shoot me an e-mail, and I'll correct it straightaway.)

An Agent's Inbox #13

Dear Mystery Agent,

In The Guardian Mermaid, sisterhood is more than skin and scales. It is forged from a heartstring, tethered to a sword. This 100,000-word young adult fantasy re-imagining of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid" stars Niele, a mermaid princess who becomes human to learn the arts of sword fighting and heroism by tying her life and future to a human princess who is skilled and strong enough to slay a kraken.

When Niele ascends to the surface of the ocean for the first time in her life on her fifteenth birthday, she witnesses two humans sparring with swords on a beach. Over the next few weeks, she trades between her duties as a mermaid princess and her curiosity about these humans--a taboo topic that she can only openly discuss with the Sea Witch Maleah, a salamander sorceress who has assumed the form of a mermaid. When a kraken attacks the humans' ship, Niele witnesses the human princess Neva dive into the water and slay the beast single-handedly. The crippled ship breaks apart and sinks in a storm, and though it goes against all mermaid tradition, Niele saves Princess Neva's life.

Because she wants to learn to be as heroic as Princess Neva, Niele makes a deal with the Sea Witch to become human, trading away her siren magic and long mermaid life for a spell that binds her life to Neva's and turns her into a human. Neva does not recognize Niele or even realize a mermaid saved her life, but she agrees to train this peculiar foreigner. Their friendship grows over the course of their adventures slaying monsters and rescuing helpless villagers, until word comes that Neva's betrothed went missing and Niele begins to feel a strange splintering in the spell that binds her life and heart to Neva's.

The Guardian Mermaid explores the impact of friendship and mentorship on the life of a young asexual woman and honors platonic relationships as equally valuable alongside familial and romantic relationships. I wrote this novel as one of two capstone projects for my MFA from Simmons College. It has been through a rigorous revision process, supported in part by a literary agent. The complete manuscript is available at your request.

Sincerely,
S.G.


THE GUARDIAN MERMAID

Weightless.

I didn't know the meaning of the word.

I did know the gentle push and pull of the sea. I knew how to read the currents, the shifting temperatures, the pressure of the water around me, the fluttering vibration that signaled movement around me. Even in the darkest depths, I would always know when I was alone, where danger lurked, how to find my prey.

My fingers gripped the shaft of my spear tightly. I remained perfectly still in the water, my only movement the slightest pulse of my gills as I breathed, slow and calm. Distance, awareness, and most of all stealth were my greatest allies out here, in the vast openness of the hunting waters. Between me and the ocean's surface, a whole school of fish--tuna, maybe--swam about in blissful ignorance of the predator that lurked beneath them. If I had the mind for it, and maybe a few other merfolk to help, I could have untied the net from around my midriff and used it to bring in a nice haul.

But quantity wasn't the name of the hunt today. Today was all about finding the perfect fish.

The longer I waited, the more I could feel the tingle of motion that moved through the water and across my skin and scales. I used the subtle vibrations to measure the distance between me and the fish, to aim my strike. When I was sure of my prey, I coiled my muscles tightly, then sprang.

An Agent's Inbox #12

Dear Mystery Agent:

I submit to you my YA historical fiction, SECRETS IN THE STONE, which is complete at 72,000 words. It is piloted by an impetuous anti-heroine and contains elements of gothic mystery similar to Kerri Maniscalco's HUNTING PRICE DRACULA.

In Edwardian England, 18-year-old Estella Ripley prepares for Paris where she will meet her mother's family for the first time. But just before she departs, Estella is dumbfounded to learn that she has inherited her late grandfather's eerie island manor where she resides. Estella's plight worsens when she discovers that her fiancé, Edward Maxwell, is scheming to control the vast manor after throwing Estella in an asylum. Unable to face the betrayal of the only person she trusted, and intent on following the clues her grandfather left behind, she flees the island.

Escaping to a remote forest, Estella discovers an unknown glen where a group of Irish fugitives have hidden for nearly a century. She sees the glen-folk as the family she always wanted but never had, and through keen perception of the glen-folks' stories, Estella discerns that the glen is part of her inheritance. But when Edward Maxwell discovers the secret glen, he threatens to expose them and sell the glen if Estella does not return to marry him. Estella must determine how to protect the glen from Edward's vain thirst for power before her inheritance and her future are stolen.

I have a master's degree in English education (grades 7 through 12) with a concentration in writing and musical theatre. Currently I intern at literary agency in NYC reviewing YA manuscripts and preparing Reader Reports. I currently maintain a blog that hosts a small collection of humorous parenting woes.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,
S.R.


SECRETS IN THE STONE

I jumped from the third floor balcony and imagined my blood splattering the sky-blue hydrangeas below, like the first drops of spring rain. It would have been a triumphant display of divisionism, albeit a bit macabre, but I did not wish to die, not even in the name of art. So when I landed safely on the second floor roof, I huffed in relief.

I lifted the hem of my dress to make sure the tips of my toes were even with the roof ledge. Slowly, I released a finger from the window frame and balanced against the sea breeze. A teasing gust of air tugged my hair from its tortoise shell pins and I swear that wind was playing with me.

"Mind your own business," I mumbled as I lowered myself to a seated position on the terracotta-tiled roof. With the grace of Pablo Fanque on the tightrope, I teetered on the roof as I carefully removed the parchment from my bodice and smoothed its creases, then flicked my wrist until the sterling silver chatelaine's pencil was tight in my fingers.

My pencil flitted across the parchment and the drawing began to take on a personality I had not anticipated. I had already drawn Polly's hands that encompassed the flower (Polly was one of my young maids who had the most perfect skin tone), but the drawing hadn't been really unique until now, when this hydrangea seemed to become cerulean even from pencil-grey scratches.

An Agent's Inbox #11

Dear Agent,

I am seeking representation for my 71,462-word YA Fantasy novel, Even A Broken Heart Will Bleed. Elody is a Wind Spirit. They appear only when the world needs to be saved. A Faerie Prince, split in half at birth, now has two personalities and two bodies, but no memory. A spin on Arthurian legend with a twist of Greek mythology, and a new underwater faerie kingdom.

The Faerie Prince is the long-lost King Arthur. His parents are Merlin, King of the Seelie court, and Morgana Le Fey the Unseelie Queen. They wanted an heir together, but he was stolen from them by the very people they conquered, Finvarra and Oonagh, in order to rule. Years later, Elody is lost in the ocean after her father's ship is wrecked by the aforementioned Prince. He takes her to his underwater kingdom and learns that he doesn't have a twin, but a severed soul. Elody also finds out about being a Wind Spirit, and how she and three other girls (the North, South, East and West winds) are connected and fated to save the world. The same person that kidnapped the prince, Oonagh, is also trying to come back through them and their powers.

I used to have a blog, "Books, Sweets and Other Treats. I reviewed books for a few years and found a passion for writing as well as reading. I also won a few poetry contests during high school. I graduated from Texas A&M Texarkana in 2012 with a Bachelor's degree in Education. I am currently certified to teach EC-6, but choose to stay home with my three children (twin babies and a toddler). I also love to read comic books with my husband, and we might get a little too excited about them! I am an active member of the Choctaw tribe, and love exploring my roots.

If this project intrigues you, I would be happy to send the manuscript for your review. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
L.R.


EVEN A BROKEN HEART WILL BLEED

“Morgana, what in the name of Bodoach do you think you’re doing? How did you even get in here,” Merlin asked, his voice rising with each word. For the King of the Seelie Court, his voice was remarkably high. 

“Quiet, you fool,” responded Morgana. There was nothing comical about her voice. Frost escaped through her pinched lips as she tried to control her anger. “Why do you think I’m here?”

“I don’t know! It’s why I asked!” Merlin was sitting up in his bed, the covers pulled up close to his chin. He looked like a child afraid of what might be lurking in the shadows. 

Morgana Le Fey, Queen of the Unseelie court, had no illusions as why she was here. She needed an heir, and a royal one. This Fodden of a man would have to do, seeing as he was the only other royal still alive. She had killed all the others. That was poor judgement on her part. While Merlin had in fact helped her conquer this realm, he still left a lot to be desired. His skills in battle didn’t transfer to other aspects of his life.

“I’m here for a child,” she finally said.

Merlin’s eyes widened with understanding. “No. No, not tonight. Morgana, be reasonable. It’s too soon. We must wait. Courtship. Err--“he stopped, not knowing what else to say.

“When we set out to claim this realm from Finvarra and Oonagh, you knew this day would come."

An Agent's Inbox #10

Dear Secret Agent,

Seventeen-year-old Charlotte Fairfax has spent the past two months listening to her conservative father give campaign speeches. While he spewed rhetoric about "traditional values" and "the good old days," she planned a very different kind of speech: coming out to the roommate she’s been in love with since freshman year.

The night before she’s due to return to Holmes Academy for senior year, Charlotte finds solace in her favorite queer novel, psyching herself up to come out to her roommate. But when her father interrupts and realizes what she’s reading--and what it means about Charlotte herself--he forbids her from coming out. Ever. If she does, he’ll send her away, somewhere far enough that she can’t hurt his campaign for senate. Or see her roommate again.

Afraid to lose her best friend, Charlotte agrees to stay in the closet. But when all the queer books disappear from the school library--including the one her father caught her reading--Charlotte refuses to remain a silent prop any longer. With the help of her roommate, who Charlotte is half-convinced might be flirting with her, Charlotte launches an underground library. And maybe, just maybe, she’ll find the courage to put her true self on the shelves, too.

THE LIBRARY OF UNSPOKEN THINGS is complete at 78,000 words. In 2017, I was a fellow in the Lambda Literary Writer's Retreat for Emerging LGBTQ Voices, where I workshopped this story. I also worked with mentor Isabel Sterling during Author Mentor Match to revise and edit this manuscript. I have previously written under the pen name Lucy Hallowell for both AfterEllen.com and Autostraddle.com, and had my short story Dragon Slayer published as part of an anthology.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
L.H.


THE LIBRARY OF UNSPOKEN THINGS

My father's trying to spin money into power. My job is to be nice to the old guy sitting next to me whose idea of conversation involves staring at my boobs while I tell him for the fourth time where I go to school. Nevermind that we're sitting around a table covered with a linen tablecloth, crystal, and silverware made of actual silver, this guy doesn't have the manners to look me in the eye. Instead, he keeps glancing at my chest. This wouldn't have happened if my mom let me where what I wanted to this stupid event.

This afternoon, she sighed and handed me the dress I have on. "Jeans and a t-shirt are not appropriate for a formal dinner with your father's most important donors."

I wonder if she'd think boob staring is appropriate or if it's okay because it's a rich man doing it.

My father's voice wafts across the table. "That's right, Jim. The country's going to h***."

H*** is this dinner party.

I look over at my mom. She's trying to seem interested in what a small man with thick glasses is saying. I don't blame her for struggling to make her face seem fascinated, I got stuck talking to him for fifteen minute during the cocktail hour. I had no idea someone could talk so much about naval history in the 1600's.

A clutch of servers in white shirts appear to clear away our plates.

An Agent's Inbox #9

Dear Mystery Agent: 

When eleven-year old, Kimberley Adams’ Shakespeare-scholar grandfather, Abu, suddenly dies, Kimberley worries he won’t be able to fulfill their plan of contacting her from the afterlife. Her frustration grows worse when Abu’s sister, Tia Tatiana, explains Abu’s remains will be interred thousands of miles from her in Puerto Rico, which Kimberley, despite her Latinx roots, fears is too far away for a spiritual connection.

In a desperate attempt to make her great aunt change her mind, Kimberley unwittingly splits herself in two. Her double, a crying girl who remains passively obedient, assumes Kimberley’s role in her family while the real Kimberley becomes invisible to her loved ones. 

Following cues from a bat, seemingly a spirit guide, the invisible Kimberley pursues her goal to communicate with her grandfather. However, the spirit world and the real world continue to overlap mysteriously. When she meets a ghostly young boy and his sister who ask her to retrieve a lost book of Shakespeare, her actions initiate a chain of events that reveal sorrowful family secrets. To win back her place in her own family, Kimberley must decide who she is and what she believes or she will be destined to watch from a shadowy limbo as her crying double bumbles through her own life without her.

UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY is middle grade contemporary, with a good helping of magic, complete at 46,000 words.

I am an English and ESL teacher in Arlington, Virginia and am a member of SCBWI. I have an MFA in poetry and in working on this manuscript have become a mentee in Author-Mentor-Match (rnd 3), a YA and MG, web-based mentorship opportunity.

Sincerely,
K.M.-T.


UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY

Something’s squeaking under the bed, maybe an animal.

I wish I were home in my own bedroom in LA. Instead, I’m alone, eating leftover pizza in Aunt Gloria’s guest bedroom. The ceiling fan going tick-tick-tick makes the humid Connecticut August almost cool. I pull my legs up under me--criss-cross applesauce--on the nubby quilt. 

It’s true. Most of the time, I like being alone. Being alone gives me time to think about stuff. Trouble is, the stuff I’m thinking about today takes me back to that depressing aquarium in the hospital waiting room. All day I sat there watching the guppies chase the angel fish and trying not to cry.

Because I’m eleven and a half, I was supposed to sit and read. Even if Abu is my very favorite person in the whole wide world, no one under 12 is allowed in the ICU. 

ICU is a funny name for the emergency wing of a hospital. I imagined a big glass room with glass walls around all the beds. There, all the important relatives and specialist doctors can watch the patients hooked to machines without touching, only looking. They’re like, “I see you.” But Mama says ICU stands for Intensive Care Unit.

Mama and Aunt Gloria are still there with Abu, my grandfather. 

There’s the squeaking again. It’s probably a mouse. It’s true I’m not afraid of mice, but I don’t want one running up my leg. My leg kind of tickles when I imagine that.

An Agent's Inbox #8

Dear Agent's Inbox,

In Prince Deacon’s kingdom, getting married means an irreversible bond of mind and body. His parents want him to put duty before love and marry the princess of a neighboring kingdom, but the thought of sharing a consciousness with a stranger repulses him. He never thought he'd fall for his intended’s younger sister, Elony, a girl who has visions of the future. The problem is that Elony is in love with her childhood best friend, Caz.

When Caz gets trapped in a magical wasteland, Deacon doesn’t hesitate to help Elony save him. But rescuing him accidentally opens the door to an ancient prison, and Caz becomes possessed by a Shade, the spirit of a power-hungry king who serves the death god. For centuries, the Shade has waited to be freed so he can resume his reign of terror, collecting souls for his master.

With both their hearts on the line, Deacon and Elony must stop the Shade before it plunges the land into an age of darkness. If they can’t find a way to destroy the Shade without killing Caz, they’ll have to decide what’s more important: saving Caz, or saving their kingdoms.

CROWN OF ASH AND STARS, complete at 83,000 words, is a dual point-of-view young adult fantasy that will appeal to readers of Kristin Cashore's GRACELING and Sarah J Maas's THRONE OF GLASS.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
A.W.


CROWN OF ASH AND STARS

Chapter 1: Elony

Bastian nudged my shoulder, a playful attempt to knock me off balance. “Ready to face defeat, Elony?”

I didn’t budge, the muscles in my legs taut and ready. “Not today, brother. You may be older, but you certainly aren’t wiser, or you’d know you have no chance in beating me."

His lip curled up in a smirk. “Don’t forget that I’m also stronger, faster, and going to make you eat my dust.”

On my right, my best friend, Caz, brushed a strand of raven hair from his face, looking far too at ease when we were seconds away from beginning the race. He caught me eyeing him, sizing up my competition. He winked, and flashed me a smile.

I tossed my wind swept braid over my shoulder and dug my heel into the dirt. I would not let Caz distract me. Not this time. These races were my favorite part of our training, of honing our abilities, and I was not going to let his goofy grin throw me off my game. Again.

The stone archway of the labyrinth loomed ahead of us, at least five different paths visible from where we stood. Each path twisted their way deeper into the maze, their secret obstacles waiting to trap us.

I released the block I held on my ability, letting the visions flood my mind. The future danced around the edge of my consciousness, and the familiar pull made my head pulse with effort. It sent an icy chill rippling over my skin. With only a split second passing in the present, the next few minutes played out in my mind.

An Agent's Inbox #7

Dear Agent:

In 2052, tubular transcycles and decrepit hovercycles crowd the narrow streets of Kyoto, Japan. But it’s the glistening speedcycles that rule the roads. Hovering speedcycles have revolutionized transportation in Japan and the Samurai speedcycle dominates them all. Not just for transportation, high velocity racing has become a competitive sport and every five years the prestigious Oban Race occurs in Tokyo. 

Sixteen year-old Aya Minami is an unwilling thief scrambling from job to job on her dented hovercycle. Her tenuous existence on the edge of Japanese society means her life is at the mercy of the man who tells her what to steal. But when she steals the wrong thing for her boss, she has to come up with a lot of money or end up in prison. 

Her boss offers her a deal. First, get into the Oban Race; he’ll fund the qualifier fees and forge the paperwork. Then, find a specific rich kid, on a Samurai speedcycle, and when the moment is right, make a steal and run. Aya agrees, but with a plan of her own. She’ll enter the Oban Race, but intends to win, allowing her to escape her boss with the prize money and start over somewhere she can be free.

So she rides to Osaka and finds the rich kid, Hiroki Matsumoto. But as she spends time with Hiroki and his group of friends--the Pink Ninjas--she starts to feel guilty. The Ninjas welcome her, no questions asked and even help her learn how to ride. Her times get faster and faster. Then as the Oban Race rushes toward her, Aya’s boss reminds her of their agreement. 

Aya rockets toward Tokyo, but whether toward freedom or failure, she’s going too fast to know.

SAMURAI RACING is a YA science fiction novel complete at 70,000 words that could stand-alone or have a sequel. It is like Marie Lu’s WARCROSS meets the FAST AND THE FURIOUS, but with flying motorcycles. 

[Redacted] grew up around motorcycles, even riding one to preschool (with a parent driving of course) and has always been captivated by the rumble of the engine and freedom of driving. She lives in Kyoto, Japan. 

Sincerely,
K.S.


SAMURAI RACING

"I can't believe she drives that thing." 

Mrs. Yamada's words drifted toward me, sagging along the damp, stale air of Kyoto in the summer. My back faced my neighbors as I stepped into the low ceilinged garage. A new transcycle, shiny and silver sat in the middle of the space; the tiny dent in the back meant it was purchased for a discount. But even with a discount I wouldn't be able to afford the four-seater. Off to the side, barely fitting in the narrow space, sat a small red hovercycle, its chipped paint and outdated mechanics making it almost worthless. I squeezed beside the transcycle and grabbed the handlebars on my hovercycle, dodging a spider web as I wheeled it out of the garage.

"That hovercycle looks like it's going to fall apart any second," Mr. Yamada said to his wife. 

Mrs. Yamada hobbled toward her husband as he watered the collection of flowering plants in front of their home. Their outdoor slippers made a scrapping shuffle as they moved from plant to plant, watering each with more care than they'd give a person. Their older transcycle, a covered six-seater, sat underneath a tarp wedged in the small space between their house and the street. 

"Doesn't help the way she drives it." Mrs. Yamada picked a few dying buds off a small rose bush. "Last week I saw her drive through a construction site and jump across a half-finished building." 

Two weeks ago, I wanted to point out.

An Agent's Inbox #6

Dear Agent:

In the laboratory, every experimental test subject is expendable--but fifteen-year-old Avery is determined to be more than another forgotten number.

With only a hazy memory of her life as Test Subject 215, Avery’s surprised when her powers surface during an experiment--then disappear after her daily medications. She knows the key to answers is in the cold and cunning Dr. Baring, who hunts for the origin and extent of her abilities. Avery’s ability to heal herself and control the five senses around her grows stronger, heightening her gift to avoid guards and manipulate her own environment. But with the medications making her powers disappear, she must rely on her own strength as well.

After Rae, a fellow test subject, attempts an escape and fails, Avery gains a feisty cellmate with the same goals: find answers and escape. Despite being tortured for protecting another subject, Avery is tempted by Rae’s rebellious spirit to fight back. But Rae is hiding something, only half-answering questions, and Avery doubts her trustworthiness.

When the girls break into Dr. Baring’s office, they discover Avery’s file dates back only nine days, not the many years of her murky memory… and worse, an experiment is scheduled that will pit subject against subject--making Rae her rival. Rae plans an escape, inviting Avery along. Now, Avery must make a choice: trust her cellmate or submit to the scientists. But with security tightened, they risk their lives and failing means facing a fate worse than death--life as a subject.

Readers who love the strong female friendship in Susan Dennard’s Truthwitch and the powers and mystery in X-Men will enjoy A FIRE TO RESIST, a young adult science fiction novel complete at 98,000 words. I currently work as a bookseller at Barnes& Noble, where I have been for over three years, and have gained knowledge in bookselling and promoting. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
S.M.


A FIRE TO RESIST

“He’s late.” Her small whisper shattered the silence. Subject 210 lay on the lone cot bolted to the black floor along the wall of our cell. She shivered, with a force to rattle the bed, and her ankle bracelet knocked against the wall. Dirty blonde hair fell over the cot’s edge, messy from her fitful sleep. Her big blue eyes stared through the glass door, as if watching a scene only she could see. 

I glanced through the transparent pane. Nurses and overseers hustled about, their daily routine beginning. Other subjects traversed the hallway beyond our cell door, each garbed in poorly fitted grey outfits. A cell group followed their overseer in a loose mass. Behind the confident posture of the tanned woman, the pale kids curled into themselves, hands tucked against their bodies.

I sighed. “Yeah, he’s late.”

“He’s going to be angry.” Her small figure drowned in oversized grey shirt and pants, pooling around her tiny waist and shoulders. The rattling increased as her shaking grew faster--from fear, not chills.

That’s nothing new. I pulled my knees to my chest, bare feet sliding against the frigid stone, and wrapped my hands around my ankles. The thick metal band shackled on my right side felt like ice under my fingers. “It’ll be okay.”

It was probably a lie, but it calmed her. Subject 210 shifted her wide gaze to me, biting her lip blue. A purple bruise on her jaw shone in the dim light.

An Agent's Inbox #5

Dear Agent,

Nobody can see the portal to a parallel world that opens whenever Charlotte Ashdown is bored; that is, except Eleanor, her double in that world and the only other person who can see the portal. Charlotte’s parents worry that she’s talking to the air instead of making real friends at school and treat her like she’s broken. Fragile. A problem to solve. But Eleanor is Charlotte’s best friend--her only friend.

After Charlotte sees Eleanor getting bullied at school, Eleanor reveals that she believes the two girls switched worlds as babies. In Eleanor’s world, everyone has a power that is activated by a certain emotion, working like Charlotte’s boredom. Charlotte offers to switch places with Eleanor, pretend to be her, show off her portal power, and then reverse the switch. But nothing goes according to plan: Eleanor’s family can’t see the portal either, the bullies are merciless, Eleanor refuses to switch back, and no one at school will even talk to her. Unless Charlotte can make real friends--something she has never been good at--she could remain there as an outcast for the rest of her life.

THE WORLD IN THE WINDOW is middle-grade contemporary fantasy, complete at 44,000 words. It stands alone with series potential and presents solutions for bullying supported by current research. In addition to writing, I am a professional freelance copy editor, a piano teacher, and a mother of four boys.

Below are the first 250 words of THE WORLD IN THE WINDOW.

Sincerely,
R.O.


THE WORLD IN THE WINDOW

Chapter 1: Pants

“We can talk about anything you want to talk about,” Dr. Lawrence said. But what she really meant was, “Tell me about Eleanor.” It was so obvious. No matter what Charlotte said, Dr. Lawrence asked a question about Eleanor.

Charlotte said, “My birthday is in one month;” Dr. Lawrence asked if Eleanor’s birthday was the same day (it was). Charlotte said she hoped she didn’t have too much homework that day; Dr. Lawrence wanted to know if she had friends she wanted to play with after she was done. Charlotte said, “Not really.”

Mom always wanted to know if Charlotte had friends. She did have friends, sort of. There were kids at school who were fun to hang out with sometimes, but there wasn’t anyone like Marie had been in kindergarten and first grade, before she moved away. But really, Mom was overthinking it. Charlotte could hang out with Eleanor whenever she was bored.

Dr. Lawrence was a psychologist; Charlotte had read the word on the door and looked it up online after her last appointment. Mom called Dr. Lawrence a feelings doctor, which sounded like something you’d tell a four-year-old, whereas Charlotte was almost twelve. A psychologist’s job was to evaluate and study how people behaved, which Mom said meant they listened to people and helped them solve their problems. Charlotte didn’t need help solving her problems. Or at least not the problem Mom thought she needed to solve, which was seeing Eleanor. That wasn’t a problem.

An Agent's Inbox #4

Dear Wonderful Agent,

When 17-year-old Greer Carson loses her insulin after planning her own kidnapping, her whole scheme unravels.

I see on your Manuscript Wish List you are interested in stories with “big questions at their center,” and I believe A GREEN AND BRITTLE TREE addresses sexual assault with gentle hope for the victims.

My YA suspense/thriller stands at 70,000 words, with alternating POV, and told in less than a 24-hour time frame.

Set in the fictional town of Walburn, Washington, on the outskirts of Seattle, Kenny’s girlfriend Greer is abducted, setting off memories of a suppressed past molestation. Kenny has no idea that Greer masterminded her own abduction to reveal the abuse of her now deceased little brother at the hands of the same pedophile that abused Kenny: her father, Pastor Carson.

Kenny searches for Greer before she goes into diabetic shock. As pieces of his memory attack him, Kenny realizes he must go to the police to save others. As pieces of his childhood, still hidden, batter him he becomes enraged, facing Carson one last time.

At books end, Kenny realizes the abuse he suffered at the hands of Greer’s father was not his fault, and he is not the coward he once believed.

I’ve attended numerous writing conferences, including both New York and California, SCBWI, and Chautauqua Highlights Conference. I include the first ten pages here. This is a simultaneous submission.

Sincerely,
S.S.


A GREEN AND BRITTLE TREE

Chapter One
Saturday Night
12:28am

Park lights flicker the moment I turn the truck engine off and Greer lays her head on my shoulder.
“Dude,” Lucky, my best friend says, sitting on the other side of Greer. He holds a joint out to her, that looks like finely rolled prosciutto. “Gotta take a leak,” he says sounding like he’s going to burst.

Coughing, he opens the door of the Dodge, sending a screech to mingle with the night sounds, and grabs his smokes from his tee shirt pocket, at the same time.

“Kenny, we need to talk,” Greer says.

Oh, no. Talking, to Greer, means discussing our feelings. She’s big on feelings. Probably because of the fact her dad’s a Pastor.

She tugs on the necklace I gave her five months ago.

From a distance, the sound of a motor edges closer. Kids playing chicken on the quiet streets? So, Walburn. Nothing to do. The three of us have been coming to Strathemen’s all summer after closing the restaurant down. More than once we’ve had to leave early because other people came to party. But not tonight. We got here first. Maybe they live in one of those houses.

Across the parking lot, the perfect row of houses keeps guard with their porch lights on. Tidy yards, neat lives.

“Instead of talking,” I say. Then I kiss Greer long and hard. The frog orchestra at Stratheman's Park accompanies us, the automatic sprinklers shooting on with their cha-cha-chugging, for background.

An Agent's Inbox #3

Dear Agent,

Imagine that there’s another you out there somewhere--or three other yous. When 12-year old Cecilia’s parents announce their divorce, Cecilia thinks the worst thing imaginable has happened. Then her favorite science teacher, Ms. Z, is kidnapped by Ms. Y, a mysterious look alike who needs Ms. Z to reprogram the universe she came from. Their counterpart, the eccentric Ms. X, promises Cecilia adventure and the possibility of happiness in another universe if she accompanies her to save Ms. Z--and Cecilia says yes. 

They are transported via a black hole to a simulated universe almost identical to this one--almost. Cecilia is enthralled by the similarities as well as the differences. Everything here is greener and cleaner, and when she meets her family, they seem so much happier. Only things aren’t always as they appear, and as Cecilia and Vera, the simulated universe’s version of herself, try to track down Ms. Z, she learns that sometimes the worst thing imaginable turns out to be not so bad. 

Cecilia travels from universe to universe seeing her life play out in a variety of ways and getting to know facets of herself she’d previously ignored. Vera proves to be a great friend, while Alexandra, from Ms. Y’s universe, is a bastion of misery. Meanwhile, Ms. X seems lost between hero and foil, and Ms. Y seems to be doing everything mathematically possible to make capture impossible.

A Blip in the Universe is a 53,000 word middle grade science-fiction novel. I have included the first 250 words. I have a degree in English with a concentration in Creative Writing, and work as a freelance writer. I love physics, and had as much fun researching for this book as I did writing it. 

Thanks for your consideration,
M. R.


A BLIP IN THE UNIVERSE

On a Thursday so gray that the world looked like the backdrop of a black and white movie, Cecilia Parker still believed that she was the only Cecilia Parker in existence. This wasn’t true, of course; there were many versions of Cecilia Parker in many different universes, but Cecilia had no way of knowing this. 

Not yet, anyway.

As she did every morning on her walk to school, she prepared herself for the day. She would arrive at the school eleven-and-a-half minutes after leaving her house, and she would keep her head down from the moment she stepped on school property until she reached the evergreen-painted front doors. She would ignore the small huddled groups of fellow seventh-graders, she would pretend she didn’t hear their whispers as she passed. Twenty-seven seconds later, she would open her locker, place in it her backpack and lunch, and withdraw from it her Algebra and Literature books, as well as her brown-paper covered reading book. Focusing on the black diamond pattern on the linoleum floors, she would walk to her classroom, find her desk, sit down without catching her feet on any of the metallic chair legs, and open her reading book until homeroom started. She would not become so enthralled with her book that she was unaware that the bell rang and the teacher was taking attendance. She would pinch herself repeatedly to keep this from happening, to avoid that awful moment when the entire class yelled, “Cecilia!” at the same time and then laughed at her expense.