Friday, August 31, 2012

Agent-Author Chat: Laura Bradford and Melinda Williams

Thrilled to welcome agent Laura Bradford of Bradford Literary Agency and author Melinda Williams to the blog. I’ve been trying to get Ms. Williams to stop by for a while, because she is AWESOME. Honestly, someday, you’re going to come to me and say, “Krista, Melinda is AWESOME,” and I’m going to say, “I already told you that, remember?” :)

As always, Ms. Williams’s query and responses will appear in orange, Ms. Bradford’s in blue. Enjoy!

Ms. Williams’s Query I enjoyed your spotlight on the Literary Rambles blog and absolutely love following you on Twitter. You are always so helpful and kind to answer our questions during the #askagent sessions. You stated you were interested in suspense, so I am thrilled to be querying you and believe you'd enjoy my YA novel, ADRENALINE.

No drinking. No drugs. No hooking up. Clean body. Clear head.

That’s what Ali hears at her first Adrenaline Junkie meeting. On top of that, good grades, too. Say what? Simone and the other recruits don’t think that sounds like much fun.

But they’re wrong. The fun is just beginning.

Adrenaline Junkies, properly named The Liberty Ring, is an elite, secret society that meets in a hidden cavern under the locker rooms, and only the strongest are invited to join during their sophomore year. With Ali’s tendencies to stress over straightened refrigerator magnets and alphabetized bathroom creams, it’s no jaw-drop she barely makes it in after punching head cheerleader, snob extraordinaire, in the nose during their last halftime show. Which she so deserved, btw.

Ali should be looking for the fastest escape, which just happens to be a human-sized drain in the wall leading toward the Columbia River. She definitely shouldn’t be crazy-head enough to wanna stay.

But she does.

There are three sectors, and Ali wants the highest. When the Assessment period begins, she repeatedly puts herself in danger while pushing her strength, survival skills, and determination to their limits. Not to mention, adrenaline is totally addicting. Almost as much as the Lead, Treston. But she’s a fool because Treston is rude, unforgiving, and most likely wishing she’d never been invited to join.

Now Ali's got until Spring Break to release the grips of her social “Placement” and a parasitic jock so she can prove herself worthy, get her rank up, and grow stronger--mind and body. But Adrenaline Junkies is so much bigger than she first realized, and once you’re in, you’re in. She’s got the brand burned under her collarbone to prove it.

Now staying alive? That will be a whole other feat.

ADRENALINE is a YA romantic suspense complete at 95,000 words with series potential. Thank you for your time and consideration.

KV: Ms. Williams, how did you first come up with the idea for ADRENALINE?

MW: ADRENALINE is basically about a secret society of adrenaline junkie teens (but with a good cause). Almost like a The-Skulls-meets-Fear-Factor sort of deal.

Before I go any further, let me admit that I am not the person you want to take with you on extreme water slides or to amusement parks because I am so NOT an adrenaline junkie. I’m kind of a baby when it comes to being daring. But I enjoyed the UGLIES series, and some of the crazy things the characters did in that series made me wish I was…well, tougher. So the next time I go to that amusement park I MIGHT try the kiddie coasters. Heh. Um, yeah, so total fail, but that sparked the idea that maybe I would never be an adrenaline junkie but that didn’t mean my characters couldn’t be. That began the story of ADRENALINE and the creation of characters that do things I could never do.

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?

MW: I feel a little weird saying this, but I wrote my query in about 15 minutes when I was bored one afternoon. I was almost done with the manuscript at that point. Just so you all know, this was totally not the case with my first manuscript. I wrote and rewrote that query about 17 gazillion times. With this one, I don’t know how it happened, but it all just poured out of me almost faster than I could write. And surprisingly, I liked it! Other than a few tiny changes here and there as I went, it was the query I used until I received my offer, and I had a very high request rate off of it.

But like I said, with my first manuscript I’d written my query over and over and during that process I really targeted what kind of queries I liked and how to make them stand out. So I guess my experience helped me get to that point on this second one.

But I think the biggest tips I can give is to keep the query focused on the very beginning of the book and then give an idea of where the book is going to go without giving all those bogging details of where it does go. I feel that my query hints at what the book is about, but most of it is based on the first 20 pages. Ask yourself, “Who is my character, what happens to him/her, and what must (s)he do about it?” That worked for me, anyway:)

KV: What was the hardest thing about writing your query? What was the easiest?

MW: Based on ALL of my query writing experience, I’d say the hardest thing is figuring out what you should include and what you shouldn’t. How much detail is too much? How much is too little? What clears things up, and what just makes it more confusing? That part is always rough.

I wouldn’t say any of it is easy. But if I had to choose what is easiest, I guess I’d say describing my character and showing her voice. But like I said, that’s definitely not easy either.

KV: Ms. Bradford, when you first read Ms. Williams’s query, what caught your attention?

LB: This is kind of a hard question to answer because the first time the query came to my attention, it was with a note that Melinda already had an offer of representation. Agents are like sharks and we always swim to where we smell blood. A pending offer of representation = blood in the water and we’ll always swim over to see what the fuss is.

I often ask for a full ms right away when there is a pending rep offer because there isn’t any time to do anything other than that (if we are even a little bit interested). There will usually be a very short period to review the ms because that author will need to make a decision (often within a week or so) and give a response to the original offering agent.

Usually I do get a full week to make my decision about material in these cases though sometimes an author will only give me a couple of days. We kind of have to drop everything we are doing to read material when there is an offer pending because of the timeline and sometimes we can work within the timeline parameters and sometimes we can’t.

I received the material on a Monday and asked if I could have through the weekend to give her my answer and she agreed. Now I don’t always ask for material when I get notified of an offer. Sometimes the material is just not the right fit for me and I can tell in the query so I just congratulate the author and decline to throw my hat in the ring. But ADRENALINE happened to be EXACTLY the kind of ms I would have asked for even without a pending offer of rep. She called it YA romantic suspense and that sounded like a wonderfully NON-SATURATED area of YA. The query mentioned secret societies (cool!) and there were strong indications that the ms would have plenty of romance and adventure. Sold!

KV: Obviously, the manuscript met--or exceeded--your expectations. What did you love about ADRENALINE?

LB: It was just straight up cool. The ms had gobs of action and adventure and I loved the romance thread. The hero and heroine were totally likeable, the hook was exciting and easy pitch-able and it wasn’t a theme or subgenre that I’d seen 7 billion times already. ADRENALINE was pure fun and the romance was yummy. Romance in a manuscript is often a key element for me and Melinda did a great job with it.

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

LB: The experience I had with reviewing Melinda’s work was totally ATYPICAL because as I said, when I first saw the query, it already had an offer attached to it. I’ll give you the timeline:

1/2/12 Received an e-mail from Melinda notifying us that she had received an offer of representation. We’d only had the query for a short period of time and we’d not reviewed it yet.

1/3/12 I liked the query and asked for a full ms and synopsis. I asked her for a week to give her my answer.

1/3/12 Melinda agreed to give me a week and e-mailed the material.

1/6/12 Melinda followed up with me to make sure I’d received the material. As a side note this week my website host had been hacked and it crashed about 100 websites, mine included. The crash had affected my e-mail and website which were only periodically working until I was able to transfer hosts. It ended up being super time-consuming which is AWESOME when you are trying to read quickly, not work on website and e-mail technical issues, LOL.

1/7/12 I responded to her follow up e-mail and let her know that I had read the material and had sent it to a colleague to read as well. I asked if she had received any additional agent offers in the meantime.

1/7/12 Melinda e-mailed to thank me for the follow up, commiserate that crashed websites suck and said she wondered if the heroine whose name I loathed was hers. That week I had been tweeting about reading a ms I really liked where I thought the heroine’s name was completely wrong. (Yes, it totally WAS her ms I’d been referring to)

1/8/12 My assistant got back to me about ADRENALINE. We discussed the material and any concerns we had about it. I’d loved the material when I read it but there were some noteworthy implausibility concerns that needed to be shored up. I already knew that I wanted to offer rep to Melinda but I wanted to talk to my colleague about the ms’s fixability. We agreed that it was fresh and cool and though it needed some revision, I’d be nuts not to try to snap it up and work on it with Melinda. Provided she passed the not-a-wing-nut test, of course.

1/9/12 I called to talk to Melinda. Good news! She turned out NOT to be a wing-nut, and she was totally amenable to my editorial suggestions so I knew we could work well together. I offered representation.

1/11/12 Melinda signed my agency agreement and we were off and running. Wheeee!

This was a super weird and fast timeline. I’ll note that over the 9 days it took from the day Melinda sent me the ms until she dropped the signed agency agreement in the mail I pitched 5 books which is also completely atypical for me. But this was the first week after the holiday break and all the editors were back, rested and raring to go. Those pitches had been scheduled for weeks and they had to happen despite the fact that I had a website that crashed about 6 times, intermittent e-mail and 2 rep offers to consider (I had gotten word of a pending offer for another ms I was considering as well that week). I remember being harried and frustrated and exhausted that whole week, LOL. Then thrilled when Melinda said yes, of course.

Typically we respond to queries within about 2 weeks and if we request partials/full mss, I usually get back to the author within 4 to 6 weeks. I think it used to state a longer response time on my website--6 to 8 weeks--because things come up (Rep offers! Crashed websites! Emergency edits!). I rarely take 2 months to respond these days, though.

KV: Ms. Williams, what tips do you have for fellow writers as they work on their queries?

MW: Nothing you all probably haven’t read before, but here goes…Read, read, read other examples! Not just the blurbs of other books in your genre, but also other successful queries. Figure out what it is about them that works.

Now how do you do this? Well, some agents post queries they’ve liked on their blogs, and you can also stalk different contests (like the awesome “An Agent’s Inbox” here on Krista’s blog) and see which queries are working and which ones aren’t. Check out the queries agents are flocking to and requesting from, and try to figure out why. I feel like doing this really helped me to figure out SO MUCH. Like how to intertwine my character’s voice, and how to keep the query with an interesting/intense tone rather than boring detail after boring detail.

Also, get critique from LOTS of other people, but don’t take EVERYTHING they say so seriously. I feel like I did this a lot with my first manuscript’s query. Every time someone said something, I felt like I had to make a change. It quickly got to the point where I didn’t know what was up and what was down anymore. Everyone will have different ideas. Just try to focus on problem areas. Meaning take the advice that resonates with you or resonates with several others, too. Not just one person. Don’t please everyone! It’s impossible and will only hold you back.

KV: Same question to you, Ms. Bradford. What query-writing suggestions do you have?

LB: Just be professional and do your research when querying. Know what the agents you are querying represent. Know the standard parameters for the genre you write i.e. don’t send a query for a 300k word middle grade ms or a 42k word single title historical romance ms.

DO mention genre, DO mention word count, DO mention if it is a stand alone or planned as a series. DO query one ms at a time. DO follow posted submission guidelines for each agent. If you are allowed to send sample pages in your query according to the posted guidelines, DO take advantage of that.

Make sure you actually talk about the material in your query. You’d be surprised how many people take up all of the real estate in their queries talking about how they have wanted to be a writer since they were 5 years old and talking about their husbands, hometowns, kids, day jobs and only mention the material as a virtual afterthought.

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

MW: Hmmm…I guess just to keep your head and spirits up and be prepared for anything. Work really hard but also try to enjoy the whole process. You never know what can happen and when. It can actually be quite fun and thrilling!

When I started sending queries over the 3-day New Year’s weekend I had no idea how quickly things could happen! I had an offer before most agents were even back to work yet! You just never know what is ahead for you. And every step has stress and doubt, so learn how to handle it and have fun at the same time! And remember, NEVER GIVE UP!

Also, get to know the agents the best you can. Obviously, you can’t become their BFF or anything, but follow them on twitter, read their blogs/websites, and participate in #askagent sessions. It’s amazing how much you can learn about them and everything else at the same time! And it helps you to have a reason why you’re querying THAT specific agent, like they always say you should. I queried Laura right after she’d mentioned she was interested in suspense. And I already knew she loves the romance part of it, so I really thought my manuscript might be a good fit for her.

LB: Do what you can to educate yourself about the publishing business…there is a wealth of knowledge out there to be found. Many agents and editors blog and tweet and the information they share can be quite insightful.

There are lots of writing communities that do very good work educating their members about the rules of the road.

Find a good critique partner or beta reader or both. This is a MUST. You absolutely must have someone other than yourself read your material before you send it out on submission.

Know going into it that this is a tough, sometimes soul-sucking business full of endless WAITING and decide to have fun anyway. Good luck!

And there you have it, the most informative, jam-packed installment of “Agent-Author Chat” ever! Have a great Labor Day weekend!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Book Recommendation and ARC Giveaway: RUMP by Liesl Shurtliff

RUMP and I have had a lot of firsts together. RUMP is the first MG manuscript I critiqued. (Shh, don't tell Liesl she was my guinea pig.) It's the first manuscript I critiqued that landed an agent. It's also the first manuscript I critiqued that sold. So RUMP and I have a lot of history. But that's not the reason I'm recommending it.

RUMP tells the less-than-fairy tale of a boy cursed with half a name. In The Kingdom, names are your destiny, and Rump's destiny stinks. Because his mother died before she had a chance to finish naming him, Rump is doomed to spend the rest of his days digging specks of gold out of The Mountain so he can trade them for cups of flour and, if he's lucky, a handful of shriveled carrots. Then Rump discovers he has magic, magic that will spin straw into gold. But magic always costs something, and as he and the miller's daughter are about to find out, that cost is rarely worth it.

Like THE TRUE STORY OF THE THREE LITTLE PIGS, RUMP turns a classic story on its head by turning the bad guy into a good guy, and that's what I loved about it. Liesl took one of the Grimm brothers' most treacherous villains and rewrote him as a hero. In fact, Rump is one of the sweetest, most sympathetic characters I've read in a long time.

RUMP doesn't come out until next year (April 9, to be exact, so mark your calendars now!), but if you'd like a chance to win my ARC*, just tell me in the comments which fairy tale you think Liesl should rewrite next. Contest closes at 11:59 p.m. EDT (or 8:59 p.m. PDT) on Monday, September 10. I'll announce the winner the next day!

*I should have mentioned that this giveaway is only open to people with mailing addresses in the United States. I apologize for not specifying. If you left a comment before 2:30 p.m. EDT today (which is 11:30 a.m. PDT), you're still in, but I'm going to have to ask the rest of our international friends to sit this one out. Once again, I apologize!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Interactive Interview with an Agent: Brianne Johnson

Welcome to this interactive installment of “Interview with an Agent” with Brianne Johnson of Writers House! Check out Ms. Johnson’s answers to the usual questions, then meet me at the bottom for details on the interactive part. Hope you enjoy!

KV: How long have you been agenting, and how did you get into it?

BJ: I started at Writers House as an intern in 2007 and absolutely loved it. I originally thought of the internship as a stepping stone to an editorial position in a publishing house, but once I got a load of what agents get to do, I was hooked.

A few months after my internship ended I was hired as an assistant, and, after a few years of learning the ropes and acquiring contacts, started selling my own projects under the excellent mentorship of my bosses. I was promoted to Junior Agent last year and have continued to build my list, focusing mainly on children’s literature--although I’d love to find more great adult fiction.

KV: How would you summarize your personal agenting philosophy? What do you expect from an agent-author relationship?

BJ: I think of it as a kind of creative partnership, and that’s my favorite part of the job. I do expect the ability to keep an open mind and a workman-like approach regarding revisions, and so far that hasn’t been a problem. I choose my clients for personality as well as talent, and adore all of them--I really love brainstorming together on ways to tighten plotlines and deepen character development and am always in awe of their ability to breathe life into these imagined worlds. Great writing is its own kind of magic.

KV: What client work do you have coming out soon? What drew you to those writers and/or projects?

BJ: Wesley King’s THE VINDICO just came out in June, and the launch has been great. Wesley, who is SO much fun to work with (and very, very funny) made the coolest book trailer I’ve ever seen, sort of documentary-style, about hiring a consultant to help him with his book trailer, who turns out to be this abusive evil genius--and an eleven-year-old.

I found Wesley’s query letter in the slush when I was still an assistant and loved both the idea (teenage supervillain protégées who go berserk, a funny, morally-complex tale I pitched as The Breakfast Club meets the X-Men) and the tone of his letter--hilarious, humble, and smart. We worked on it for ages before we submitted it, and Wesley was just wonderful throughout the whole process--energetic, optimistic, and willing to work hard to get it right. I think I was as thrilled as he was when we sold it!

KV: What genres do you represent? What genres do you definitely NOT represent?

BJ: Children’s lit--picture books through YA--are my main focus, although I’m working on developing a select adult list. I’d love to find literary women’s fiction, historical fiction, or even satirical, slightly diabolical contemporary fiction (I love Vonnegut and Palahniuk).

I have a pretty open mind, although I don’t think I’d be a great representative for genre thrillers.

More about my taste preferences can be found at, which I update pretty frequently.

KV: What query pet peeves and/or pitfalls should writers avoid when querying you?

BJ: I ask that writers send a query letter, bio, and the first five pages of the their work in an e-mail. I can tell when a letter isn’t personalized, and usually pass on those.

If I make it to the writing sample, I get turned off quickly if I’m plunged into an action sequence immediately. I like gentler and more creative approaches to a new world. I recommend that requestors go to a bookstore and read just the first chapter of ten of their favorite books to remind them of the best ways to ease into a story--an intense, complex chase or fight scene isn’t it!

KV: What are you looking for in a manuscript right now? What are you tired of seeing at the moment?

BJ: I’d love to find more humorous MG projects. As Roald Dahl says (in Matilda) “Children aren’t so serious as adults, and love to laugh.” And I’m always looking for beautiful, witchy adult fiction with an elegant touch of magical realism--a modern follow-up to Practical Magic or Garden Spells.

As to what I’m finding slightly fatiguing--much as I truly love the whole “16-year-old discovers they have the magical ability to _____” plotline, it needs a really creative spin (or truly fantastic writing) to set it apart from what’s already out there.

KV: What’s the best way to query you?

BJ: A truly kickass e-mailed query letter! And five pages that don’t include a crazy action scene.

Thanks, Ms. Johnson, for these answers. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who nodded eagerly after that line about great writing and magic:)

And now for the exciting part! If you have a question for Ms. Johnson, feel free to leave it in the comments below. She’ll pop in a few times throughout the day to answer any questions she finds down there, leaving her answers in the comments, too. We’ll wrap things up at 5:00 p.m. EDT (or 2:00 p.m. PDT), but until then, ask away!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Book Recommendation: THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN by Katherine Applegate

First off, a quick heads-up: Brianne Johnson of Writers House will be here this Thursday for an interactive interview, so if you have a question for an up-and-coming agent at a fantastic agency, come back and ask it this Thursday, August 23! And now on to the book recommendation...

I’ve never read a book funny enough to make me laugh and poignant enough to make me cry on the exact same page*. Now I have.

THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN chronicles the ho-hum life of the title character, a full-grown silverback who was captured in the Congo as an infant and raised to adulthood in a strip mall. He’s one of the main attractions at a small roadside circus and, like the other animals at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, resigned to live out his days with his crayons, his TV, and a stuffed gorilla named Not-Tag (after his twin sister, who didn’t survive the trip to America). Then a new inhabitant comes to Big Top, a baby elephant named Ruby, and neither Ivan nor the other animals are content to watch Ruby grow up behind bars.

As with so many of the other MG novels I’ve recommended, the thing I loved best about THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN was the voice. Ivan’s narration--yes, the entire book is told from his perspective--was pitch-perfect and spot-on. You know how young kids can describe things in the purest, simplest way possible and let you draw your own conclusions? So can Ivan. And the things he describes will both melt and anger you.

Inspired by a true story, Ms. Applegate’s latest is at once heartbreaking and heartwarming. It is the sort of book you’ll want to reread every so often so you don’t forget. It is the sort of book you want to read out loud with your kids so they don’t miss one word.

*That page, if you’re wondering, was from the chapter called “Picasso.” It was my favorite chapter in the whole book.

Monday, August 20, 2012

August's Winners!

And now for Ms. Bowman’s winners! She also had a few things to say about the entries in general, so I’ll hand things over to her:

This has been a fascinating contest for me--so many of my query decisions are made "from the gut" that it was fun to go through and look at what was really working and not for me.

I was particularly interested to note that there were a lot of great first pages here. In general, in fact, I found the first pages more interesting than the queries. But concept is very important to me (other agents may disagree!). Even on queries where I would read on, just given the first page, if the query letter has given me pause, from issues with the plot or premise, it's not usually worth it for me to read further, because the story as a whole won't work for me. And in my own inbox, I usually just look at query letters for this reason--I want to know where the whole book is going, not just if the prose is good in the first few pages.

That's a long way of saying that there are a lot of great projects here, and I enjoyed looking at all of them. But after going through in detail to critique, I went back through the queries to pick the winners, looking at the writing in both the query and the first page, and also just considering which premises and concepts I was most excited by. I came up with four projects that really stuck in my head from a combination of all those factors.

So without further ado, I'd love to see:

20 pages of:

50 pages of:

and 100 pages of:

Thank you all for participating, and thanks to Krista for hosting! And I'll add--if you didn't win in the contest, feel free to revise your query and re-query me with it; I'm always happy to take a second look.

Yay! Winners, please e-mail me at kvandolzer(at)gmail(dot)com for specific instructions on how to submit your materials. And as always, thank you, thank you, thank you to Ms. Bowman and everybody who entered, critiqued, or just lurked in the shadows:) Couldn’t run these contests without you!

The Agent = Hannah Bowman of Liza Dawson Associates

This month’s agent was Hannah Bowman of Liza Dawson Associates! She’s pretty engaged with the online writing community, so if you’d like more information, you might check out these sites:

My interview with Ms. Bowman
Ms. Bowman’s Tumblr feed
Ms. Bowman’s Twitter page

And here’s a little bit more about her: “Hannah joined the agency in 2011. She has a B.A. from Cornell University, summa cum laude in English and magna cum laude in Mathematics. While a student, she spent four summers working in particle physics at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, before eventually deciding her true interest was books. Before joining Liza Dawson Associates, Hannah interned briefly with agent Weronika Janczuk, now of Lynn C. Franklin Associates.

“Hannah's recent sales include Pierce Brown's science-fiction trilogy beginning with RED RISING (Del Rey, Fall 2013) and Rosamund Hodge's YA fantasy SUNDERED (Balzer & Bray, Winter 2014).

“In her free time, she writes her own fiction (mostly science fiction and fantasy) and plays the organ.

“Hannah specializes in commercial fiction, especially science fiction and fantasy, women's fiction, cozy mysteries, romance and young adult. Hannah is also interested in nonfiction, particularly in the areas of mathematics, science and religion.”

Winners coming up shortly!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

August's Round of "An Agent's Inbox" Is Officially Underway!

I'm sure you all know the drill by now: Check out the entries. Leave a comment or two if you feel so inclined--or three (at least), if you're one of the entrants.

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, "How much of the entry did you read, and if you didn't read it all, why did you stop?" as you leave your feedback, but we're not picky. I'm sure the entrants would love to hear whatever you have to say.

I'll announce The Agent's winner or winners at the beginning of next week, either on Monday or Tuesday, as well as what they win. Until then, have at it!

P.S. Entrants, if you notice a Krista-caused typo in your entries, definitely shoot me an e-mail so I can fix it!

An Agent's Inbox #20

Dear Awesome Agent,

Jumping off a bridge was supposed to kill Blair. Unfortunately, the grim reaper won't take him.

Now, he's trapped on an island in the river Styx, where the souls of comatose people hover between life and death. Everyone makes a choice: cross with the reaper to death, or sail back to life and wake up. Except Blair. Blair can't choose, because the rules are special for suicides.

Suicides can't cross. They can't leave. When their comatose bodies die, they don't go to the afterlife. They wind up in the Styx--lost. Damned. For eternity.

So when a lost soul named Yuki tells him she knows a way for him to wake up, Blair seizes the opportunity. But there's a catch. Yuki wants him to take her with him--and she's been dead for more than fifteen years. Springing a lost soul from the Styx doesn't just mean bending the rules--it means shattering the rules, dueling the grim reaper, upending the very balance of life and death itself, all before his comatose body draws its final breath.

If he succeeds, he'll give her the greatest prize of all: her life. If he loses, he'll forfeit the only thing he hasn't lost already: his soul.

ISLE IN THE SEA OF GHOSTS is a YA contemporary/supernatural story that will appeal to readers of Libba Bray's GOING BOVINE or Michael Thomas Ford's SUICIDE NOTES. It is complete at 68,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



Blair Samuel Sommers didn't plan his fatal leap.

Sixteen hours earlier, he was about as far from death as he had ever been, having a fairly normal day at his fairly normal job, which was a part-time gig at an ice cream shop. A pack of giggly tween girls held up the line of customers, requesting their sixth flavor sample. Blair took a wooden taster spoon and scooped up a bite-sized portion of rocky road.

"Utinam coniurati te foro interficiant.*" He handed the spoon to the blonde leader.

Above the register hung a framed sign: Clamo, clamatis, omnes clamamus pro glace lactis. It translated to "I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream." The ice cream shop's owner had gotten it on eBay, and Blair had initially griped about having to explain its meaning to each and every customer--until it had given him the idea to use more colorful Latin phrases while serving frozen desserts. He was taking a Latin class in his junior year of high school, so he considered it a good faith effort to practice.

"What did you just say?" asked the blonde.

"Enjoy your ice cream," he replied sweetly.

She popped the taster spoon into her mouth and then handed it back to him. It stuck to his plastic glove in a salivatory mixture of caramel and marshmallow. Frowning, he tossed it out and his plastic glove with it. All right, girls. We have a miniature cute plastic trash can for that. You've killed a small sapling, and I've got a line.

*May conspirators assassinate you at the mall.

An Agent's Inbox #19

Dear Agent Awesome,

Persephone Mead wakes up in a house with no ceiling, a bed covered with flowers, and with a giant shard of glass embedded in her chest. Normal fifteen-year-old girls would start freaking out here. Persephone Mead is not a normal fifteen-year-old girl.

“Did it work?” she asks desperately, to no one in particular. “Am I back?”

“Yes,” someone says, but she can’t see who. “We’ve been waiting for you…”

But it doesn’t last. It never lasts.

And soon enough, she’s thrown back. Back down towards Earth. Back down towards a world full of smoke, debris, and wailing ambulances.

Persephone Mead is not a normal fifteen-year-old girl.  Because she just can’t seem to stay dead. And she has no idea why.

THE OTHER SIDE is a completed YA Dark Fantasy with an approximate word count of 82000, and is intended as the first in a three-part series. Thank you for your time and consideration.



You know that ringing you get in your ears? Like, when you stand too close to a speaker at a concert? Not a lot of people know this, but that’s actually the sound of the cells in your ear dying. What you’re hearing is actually the last time you’ll ever get to hear that particular note. When it’s gone, it’s gone forever.

And when your eardrum gets blown apart like mine just did, it’s kind of like that, times about a million.

It was as if there was an entire orchestra of notes, all ringing, all dying, and even though my other ear still worked I couldn’t hear a thing. That sound just drowned out everything. It drowned out the sirens, it drowned out the screaming. It even drowned out the firefighter who was trying to drag me to safety. I think he was yelling something at me. Was he saying “No”? Or maybe “Go”? I couldn’t tell. I couldn’t hear. And I was never really good at reading lips.

I blinked, staring up at the sky. Everything was coming in and out of focus for some reason. Blurry, sharp, blurry, sharp. Was there something wrong with my eyes too?

An Agent's Inbox #18

Dear Secret Agent,

Fog swirls through Eckhart’s twisted apple orchards and tumbledown farmhouses on the night seventeen-year-old Ava Nolan learns of Arabella's Curse, an occult ruby capable of resurrecting the dead. Necromancy isn’t really Ava's thing, though it would be nice to revive her family's dwindling bank account and rekindle her father's love.  Creep factor aside, the ruby may be the solution to Ava's problems, but finding it may leave her anemic.

When a run-in with her supposedly dead mother lands Ava in the hospital, she discovers the path to immortality is paved with backstabbing--not to mention literal stabbing. Breaking into a crypt and falling into a rat-infested pit doesn't frighten Ava half as much as her feelings for the handsome boy who fills her nights with stolen kisses and her head with ruby lore.  But there’s something strange about Ben Wolcott. He’s a bit too cunning, a bit too preoccupied with keeping Ava out of his basement, and much too interested in Arabella’s Curse.

BLACK HEART, RED RUBY is a 74,000-word YA gothic romance seeped in blood and scandal. My macabre soap opera will intrigue readers of Anna Dressed in Blood and the Pretty Little Liars series.  A full manuscript is available upon request.

I am a member of SCBWI. My blog, The Lit Connection, boasts 1.7 million page views since 2007 and is popular with book bloggers and teen readers.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



My brother would’ve killed the perv if I hadn’t stepped in to save the day.

Diving into the fray, I rammed Cam from the side and broke his stranglehold on the stranger. The creeper collapsed to the ground, choking and wheezing in the weeds.  He was a scrawny guy about my age, seventeen, maybe nineteen at the most. Propped against the side of the barn, he looked as pathetic as a scarecrow pecked apart by crows. Somehow he’d seemed scarier lurking outside my bedroom window, a dark prince cloaked in fog and shadow.

His name, we learned after Cam put him in a headlock, was Ben Wolcott.

“I don’t get you, Ava.” Cam scrubbed the sweat from his buzz cut. “You wanted me to talk to him and here I am--” He kicked Ben in the ribs. Ben groaned and hacked up a string of bloody spittle. “Talking.”

“Idiot!” I latched onto Cam’s brawny forearm and dragged him away from Ben. “Kick him again and I’ll knee your nuts so far north you’ll sing soprano for the rest of your miserable life so DON’T MESS WITH ME!”

One glance at my ‘I will cut you’ expression and Cam cursed under his breath. He whirled around and booted a rusty wheelbarrow instead.

Heaving a long-suffering sigh, I slumped against the wooden fence and watched the fog swirl around the orchard of twisted apple trees.  Uphill from the barn, our clapboard farmhouse loomed against a violet sky, all windows dim except for my bedroom where a halogen lamp flickered like a bug zapper.

An Agent's Inbox #17

Dear Mystery Agent,

I'd like to submit my lower YA novel CAN'T BUY ME LOVE (54k words) for your consideration.

Life as a teenage heiress is one mixed bag of crazy.

Thirteen year-old Marnie Mercer thinks middle school would be perfect if she could just address a few critical issues. The lack of cell phone thing, for one. Her ho-hum social status, for another. And would it be too much to ask for a first kiss to knock her (discount store) shoes off? But when she inherits a fortune from an unknown great-aunt, she discovers a brand-new set of complications.

Now, her best friend is convinced money corrupts, her parents need a loan and a group of popular girls offer Marnie access to the top of the social pyramid, but first she'll have to complete their zany pledging checklist. Soon she's sneaking locks of her principal's hair, stealing her teacher's beloved laser pointer and throwing a sure-to-get-her-grounded-for-LIFE party.

To make matters worse, she’s finally met a guy worth his weight in gold--only he might not be so interested if he finds out how many commas separate their allowances. Marnie needs to find a way to manage her money and her life while staying true to herself. Otherwise, she can say goodbye to her best friend’s respect, her parents’ trust, and any chance of getting her first kiss from a boy who makes her feel priceless.

CAN'T BUY ME LOVE will appeal to fans of Lauren Barnholdt, Wendy Mass' FINALLY and Lauren Myracle's The Winnie Years series.

I am a member of SCBWI and two critique groups. I also have a strong background in promotions as the former Head of New England Publicity and Promotions for 20th Century Fox and Miramax Films.

Thank you for your time and attention.



Is it totally wrong to be jealous of someone else's coffin. I mean, it's not like I have a death wish or anything but my great-aunt's casket is seriously blinked out. It has actual diamonds in the handles. When my time's up, I definitely wouldn't mind flaming out movie star-style, like Aunt Glinda.

Maybe if I'd ever laid eyes on her (or at least the casket I assume she's inside) even once in the last thirteen years, I might be a little more into paying my respects instead of calculating carats, but until two days ago, I didn't even know I had an Aunt Glinda.

"Marnie, please move it along," hisses Mom, under her breath.

Whoops! I realize I've been standing over Aunt Glinda's casket for like two whole minutes and there's a line of people backed up behind me.

"Sorry," I whisper and speedwalk back to our pew. Aside from Mom I don't know anyone here, but I can feel lots of eyes on me. I spend the whole rest of the service standing and sitting when I'm told and trying hard to look properly mournful.

It's a little difficult to get worked up for a stranger-relative, but from all the nice things everyone is saying about Aunt Glinda, she sounds pretty cool. And RICH! Holy wow, do those diamonds catch the lights, especially with the sun coming in through the stained glass window. There are beams of color flying all over the place, like when Mr. Martin goes crazy with his laser pointer in history class. He so does not getting that aiming a red dot at Abe Lincoln's left nostril does not make the Civil War more interesting.

An Agent's Inbox #16

Dear Awesome Agent,

All girls have hopes. Unfortunately, some hopes die before they have a chance to bloom.

Eighteen-year-old Mallory’s dream of the perfect senior year is disintegrating. Her father’s a victim of long-term unemployment, her brother drags a shadow of misery around the house, and her sister is missing. The only bright spot left in her life is her boyfriend--that is until she catches his lips attached to another girl’s at the end-of-summer party. After barely surviving a disastrous first day of school, Mallory lands at a mini-mart known for selling more winning lottery tickets than any other store for hundreds of miles. Desperate for a spot of hope, she’s unable to resist the allure of playing the biggest game of chance.

As Mallory’s senior year continues to unravel, she becomes increasingly dependent on her lottery hope. Each set of tickets gifts her with a dream of a different life, one in which new adventures replace the suffering that surrounds her. Soon, though, her lottery pipe dream becomes an absolute necessity, and Mallory’s habits and hopes lead her astray.

With a little help from a new friend--the tough yet totally hot transfer student who’s got struggles of his own--Mallory just may see that a jackpot win isn’t the only magic the lottery delivers.

HOPE IN BLOOM is a contemporary YA novel complete at 72,000 words. I am an English teacher--spending my days immersed in the joys, problems, and dreams of young adults--and a believer in my own lottery dreams. I’m also a member of SCBWI and CBW-LA and a new member of the She Writes community.

Thank you for taking the time to review my work. The first 250 words are included below, and the completed manuscript is available upon request. I look forward to hearing from you.



I should have worn the emerald green shirt, the one with the ribbon of rainbow embroidery near the neckline. Then maybe things would have gone differently. That shirt held magic power. It’s the one my boyfriend Ben told me I was wearing the day he fell in love with me. It’s also the shirt I wore the day I found out I’d finally made the varsity cheerleading squad and the one I’d worn on the day I’d gotten my first ‘A’ on a pre-calculus test. That shirt gave me confidence, something I lacked at times. And I wished that I had worn it to the party that night.

My giant smile led us up the stone walkway toward the front door of Kyle’s house. Sara, Taylor, and Nicole trailed behind me, gossiping about something, but I wasn’t interested in my friends’ conversation. My heart somersaulted in anticipation of seeing Ben. He left for college a month ago, and I missed him. A lot. I missed that fresh-from-the-dryer smell of the sweatshirt he always let me wear. And the taste and feel of his soft lips when he kissed me at the end of our dates. And most of all, I missed his smile, that special treasure that always melted away my troubles. He was home that weekend for the end-of-summer party, and we’d be reunited after four long weeks.

At the door, a stoner kid who graduated three years ago stamped our hands, and we walked inside.

An Agent's Inbox #15

Dear Secret Agent,

Seventeen-year-old Rae can look at a photograph of a couple and determine the length of their relationship by its smell. It’s a strange “lovesense” she’s always had. The nastier the breakup, the worse the stench. It’s why she owns more nose plugs than an Olympic swimmer and dreads her photo counter job.

Trying to make the best of her lovesense, she runs an anonymous and “technically” illegal love guru business at school. As Rae focuses on passing English, conquering the 100-meter hurdles, and running her business she becomes more and more convinced that love doesn’t exist unless you qualify for senior citizen discounts. The relationships she reads smell like bat guano, diaper genies, and sewage. That is, until she discovers a picture of a little boy and girl playing in the sandbox. Rae smells something good. And this time, she’s in the photograph.

Operation Find Sandbox Boy commences as Rae scopes out and eliminates most of the Junior class. But just as she begins to open herself to the idea of love, her secret talent and illegal school activities are exposed. Now she’s suspended from school, banned from the most important track meet of the year, and rumored to be a psycho gypsy freak.

Rae must embrace her lovesense if she’s ever going to find and convince her match that she isn’t a freak.

LOVESENSE is a YA magical realism novel complete at 59,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration,


I’m tapping my cross trainers in time with the photo processor’s whir, whir, flip as it spews three hundred prints of the same two smiling faces. No more reading into relationships at work, I remind myself. Never again, especially after last week’s debacle with Mom’s friend Barb. Trust me, being the first to know that your mom’s best friend’s husband is leaving her for their pool boy sucks the big one.

When I see a photo of a couple, my nose goes into overdrive and then my eyes cross. Next thing I know, I’ve read when their relationship will sour like the stink on cheese. The nastier the breakup, the worse the stench. I’d much rather look at engagement pictures and see what the rest of the world sees: two people in love. But I’m not that lucky.

I sneak a quick look at the screen. One hundred thirty-seven copies done. Not even halfway there. Needing a distraction beyond my burning, Altoids-crammed mouth, I spray Windex on the counter and put my weight into cleaning the glass to a streak free shine. Whir, whir, flip. The machine is louder than our cheesy elevator music. Don’t think about the photo.

Craning my neck I see the “Alfred’s has the Answer” digital clock: forty-seven minutes to bride time. The whir is getting louder, and my nose, even though I’m telling it not to, is taking in bigger and bigger breaths. I’m like a crack addict needing my next hit. And there isn't an addiction recovery program to save me either.

An Agent's Inbox #14

Dear Mysterious Agent,

I hope to interest you in taking a look at IN GENEVIEVE’S GROTTO, my YA fantasy complete at 86,000 words.

Jemma’s parents have always had one rule for her: don’t get caught. So when she nearly drowns an entire school and everyone in it, they flee to their hometown, Pequot Woods, Minnesota. Only, in Pequot, Jemma isn’t the only one with a secret.

The town is ruled by an underground society focused on the education of Elderlings, people with a gift for controlling the elements. People like Jemma--sort of. The thing is, she’s not even normal for an Elderling. The telepathic link she shares with her new Elderling neighbor, Cole isn’t supposed to exist. There’s only been one other documented case of this ability, and that story’s mostly myth.

When an ancient Elderling cult learns of their connection, they think it’s a sign. History is repeating itself. All that’s missing is the psychopath trying to obliterate a good portion of the Elderling race. And now that Jemma’s returned to Pequot, the only thing that can stop the sequence is her death. But Jemma isn’t convinced. She’s never heard of this psycho, this Hammond the Horrible and has no sympathy for his cause--whatever that might be. But try explaining that to a bunch of masked freaks whose only working words seem to be we want only to save the world. Jemma doesn’t care about saving the world. She cares about her friends, her family--maybe even Cole. The thing is, simply hiding isn’t really an option. Hammond’s return would harm more than just her life. It would mean the destruction of the only place she’s ever felt at home. If she doesn’t surrender to this cult and sacrifice herself before it’s too late, she’ll be risking the ruin of everything and everyone she’s come to love.



I set my bag down on the stairs and did a quick check. Cell phone, pens, pencils, house keys…all there. Though the keys still felt bulky in my hands. Awkward, almost. There were more of them than I was used to, with separate keys for the front and back doors, and another one for our garage. Even having a garage was new.

“You’ll settle in, Jemstone, I promise. It’s only been a few weeks.”

Mom leaned against the archway. I hated how she could always read me. It made keeping secrets really hard. And I was the sort of girl that had a lot of them.

“This is home, you know. This is where you were born.”

So they’d told me. At least a dozen times. On the trip up here alone. But I didn’t remember it. I was two years old when we moved to Minneapolis.

“This is your chance, Jemma, your chance to start over. Make friends. What about that boy that keeps lurking around here? He seems nice. Not stalkerish at all.”

I laughed. Cole wasn’t a stalker, I knew that now, but I’d had my suspicions too when I first found him stamping out a fire in our front yard. He claimed he’d overshot a model rocket, but his house was a good quarter of the mile through the woods.

I still didn’t really know what he was doing in our yard that day, since I never did see any wreckage from that rocket, but so far I was glad I’d caught him.

An Agent's Inbox #13

Dear Agent:

THE OTHER SIDE OF SILENCE is a 101,000-word adult fantasy novel with series potential.

The Olympians were supposed to be confined to nineteen-year-old Ava’s textbooks, but it’s hard to believe they aren’t real when Artemis shows up at her house. No less of a shock is the news that the Muses have chosen her to stop Ares on his rampage across the Middle East--and she has to do it fast, before he gains a foothold in the human world. But Ava has no special powers. She could barely handle her home life; defeating the god of war is hardly a skill on her resume.

All Ava has ever wanted is a real home. The Olympians offer her one, and they seem to care about her more than any human ever has. Ava is as unprepared as they come, but she’s willing to fight for them. Learning how to use a sword and ride a pegasus is only step one, but Ares is marching toward Yemen. If she can’t defeat Ares, he’ll destroy both her new-found family and her world. She just isn’t sure how a girl like herself can defeat the god of war--especially when she discovers her selflessness is why the Muses chose her.

Because of its base in mythology, magic, and history, THE OTHER SIDE OF SILENCE could be described as Shadow and Bone meets American Gods. I’m an intern with Entangled Publishing and a high school English teacher. I have written three short films, each placing first at the Prairie Grass Film Challenge. I earned my B.A. in English writing under award-winning author James Calvin Schaap.

Thank you for your consideration,



After the war, the neighbors would whisper, “We saw how it started, you know--we were there when she was born.” The child’s mother--lovely woman, really--had loved entertaining. But then came the child, and after that, the wasting illness. When the illness left, it took the mother with it, leaving the child--a girl named Ava--the motherless daughter of a red-faced, small-eyed man.

That man never should have had a child. The neighbors all knew it. When they stopped by to say how sorry they were about the mother’s death, he wouldn’t answer the door, nor would he return their phone calls. Most unforgivably, he left the casseroles on the steps until the wild cats ate them. No one was surprised when Ava was sent to live with her mother’s parents.

For a while, the neighbors forgot about her. But one summer evening, six years after the toddler left, a rusty Toyota sputtered to a halt near the house.

Ava, now an eight-year-old child, had been sent back to her father. Her grandparents had died now, too. The girl wasn’t crying, wasn’t screaming. She simply held on to her seatbelt and refused to get out of the car. She clutched a picture frame.

An Agent's Inbox #12

Dear Agent:

Being a teenager is stressful enough when dealing with cute boys, messy lab accidents, and a girl ready to expose your darkest secret, but try having to save the world on the side.

Sixteen year old Momoko Yoshimi has spent most of her life training and protecting her small country, Thonic, from all kinds of fatal attacks. She’s fought everything from a pyromaniac Han Solo to mutated crabs. While Momo has done the impossible as her super powered alter ego Shadow Warrior, all she wants is a less complicated life where her only worry is next week’s Biology test or what the cute new Aussie boy, Liam, thinks of her. But when a mad scientist creates a biochemical robotic suit with enough power to shut down New York City he turns his glaring red eyes on Thonic.

With the robotic fiend HIM’s impending attack, Momo has to tighten her cape and hold on a bit longer to her double life. While preparing for what could be the fight of her life, her Hannah Montana act becomes more difficult when she discovers the hot new Aussie she’s been crushing on is the new hero Selkcunk. Momo learns there’s more to living a double life than she’d ever imagine, and more danger than she’d dare calculate when love is involved.

THE LIFE OF A TEENAGED HERO is an action packed YA Fiction novel about a young girl who has to make the decision of a life time, weighing in at 74K words.



Yamoto High
Thursday, March 5th, 10:31 AM

It’s either the chalky smell that hangs around me or the tapping sounds the pencils make as they scratch out algebraic equations, but there’s something about math class I simply love.

Or maybe it’s the fact that I have the highest grade in this class. Or perhaps the fact that my two-year crush, Raimundo, sits two chairs over from me. It could also be that my best friend, Jessica, shares this class with me. Although I think it’s because th--


I jump and drop my pencil; it clanks against my desk loudly. Curling my nails into my palm, I bite my bottom lip and glance to my left, then my right. No one heard that right?

“Was that someone’s phone going off?” Mr. McBride asks, looking at us over his shoulder. I swallow. My fingernails continue to vibrate. I have to get out of here.

As Mr. McBride’s question is answered with silence, I glance over to Jessica. Her watery blue eyes are locked on the board, her nose crinkled slightly as she tries to understand how to use “u” to find “x”.

I cough, burning a hole through the side of her blonde curls with my eyes, praying that she’ll turn to see me. The magnetic strips inside my color-changing nail polish are shifting from pale pink to a darker, more vibrant pink.

No, no, no! Don’t get darker! I silently plead.

An Agent's Inbox #11

Dear Agent:

When her father does things like slam her head into the fridge, sixteen-year-old Emma Sullivan copes the only way she knows how: she steals her mom’s pain meds and piles on extra makeup. What really hurts is that her mom would rather pretend she’s a total klutz than admit life is less than perfect. Emma has no one in her corner until she meets her late grandfather’s best friend, Ed Rossi. Certain that her grandfather would’ve done anything to stop the abuse if he’d known, Ed helps Emma run away and promises to keep her out of her father’s hands.

Ed’s plan goes to h*** when Emma finds a magic key that belonged to her grandmother and ends up stranded in another world. Things only get worse when she meets some of the locals--people who think having a key that’ll always take them home is worth killing for. Won’t even be all that hard for them, since they can all shift into animals that could literally tear her apart. Except Robin, who’s been bullied ever since everyone realized he’s just a robin (hence the nickname). Robin sees Emma as his ticket out and plans their escape. Given the mob of shifters out for her blood, joining forces with Robin is her only real option. They begin searching for a new key that leads back to Emma’s home, all the while trying to find Robin his fresh start.

Emma knows going home, where magic is nothing but fiction and people don’t even know about the keys, is the logical choice. Ed promised her the safe and normal life she’d always dreamed of. But as she moves from world to world, she can’t decide what she really wants. Sure, magic can be super dangerous. Any member of the fairy royal family could probably kill her with a thought. Or there’s the Shakespeare-obsessed firebird, who has a tendency to give off showers of sparks when he gets frustrated. But she’s just as fascinated as she is afraid. And as Robin shifts from reluctantly accepted partner to the most important person in her life, she has to decide just how safe she really needs to be.

A work of young adult fantasy, DIAMOND TEARS is complete at 65,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.



When my left temple slammed into the refrigerator door, I knew I’d have to get up extra early the next morning. It would take forever to do my makeup and hair so no one would see the damage. My vision blurred to a whitish haze for a couple of seconds, and I took that opportunity to go limp, dropping to the floor. Not because I needed to. No, I could take much more than that without going down. But because he lost interest when he thought I was out for the count.

“Emma?” my father muttered, nudging my side with the toe of his three hundred dollar shoe. I didn’t react in any way. He cursed under his breath, and I heard the sounds of his footsteps through the floorboards when he walked away. “Grace!” he shouted as he moved toward the back of the house. “Emma fell again and hit her head! She’s in the kitchen!”

I could hear the murmur of my mother’s voice, but couldn’t distinguish any words. I knew the gist of her reply anyway. Oh, poor, clumsy Emma, always hurting herself. Of course I’ll go help her. Why don't you relax and have another glass of wine, dear? Even if that wasn’t what she said, it was close enough.

Thanks mom.

The door to my father’s office slammed, followed by my mother’s hurried steps. I waited long enough to make sure he didn’t change his mind and come back, and then picked myself up off the floor.

An Agent's Inbox #10

Dear Ms. Amazing Agent,

When Juhan and his twin sister Chosi are stolen from their planet of psychics by slavers, their only comfort is the fact that they’re together. But even that small bit of sanity is taken when they are separated at auction.

Juhan is bought by political scion Sadi Renult, a girl willing to lie to the entire galaxy in a desperate bid to win Juhan’s people’s freedom. Caught in her glittering world of intrigue and politics, Juhan swears to find his sister. But as that vow and Sadi's scheme takes them across galaxies, he begins to realize that his young owner is more than an arrogant rich girl. And he has to consider the cost of his promise--especially when people they both care for begin to die.

Meanwhile, Chosi is sold into blood sport. With her psychic ability, she earns a precarious position of value within the gladiator school, training the draken--wild creatures of smoke and fire--for the arena. In the midst of that hell, she forges a friendship with the slave Jemes and the draken she cares for. But when her defiance results in Jemes’ brutal killing in the arena, Chosi contemplates suicide as an escape from her chains. Yet, she can't forget the brother who promised to find her and even as she welcomes death and risk, she clings to that promise.

When Juhan demonstrates just how far he’ll go to rescue his sister, Chosi begins to reconsider what she is willing to do to help herself.

BEYOND CHAINS AND STARS is a young adult sci-fi complete at 90,000 words that should appeal to fans of Glow and Sisters Red. I am an active member of YaLitchat and a founder of the blog Writerly Rejects. Thank you for your consideration.



Creatures of the sky are not meant to be submerged, and yet--here I am.

I fight the urge to gulp for breath, forcing myself to relax and let the amphibious gel filter oxygen from the water. An eel darts past, and I shy away. As it vanishes into the water, I look around--I’m alone. Which means Juhan’tr is about to go back on my dare that brought us here.

Get your skinny a** in here,- I demand on a psychic thread, my mind to his, twisting to look through the water to the surface.

I feel the wicked edge of intent before he dives and I jerk backwards, almost out of his grasp. His long hands close around my ankle and I thrash, irritation swamping me. I open my mouth to inhale and shout at him.

It breaks the amphibious gel seal that lets me breathe, and water floods into my mouth and I choke.

Close your mouth, you idiot,- my brother orders, you’re not a fish.- I glare at him and he smirks, This was your idea.-

He mellows the harsh words by twisting to grasp my hand. It is familiar enough to settle me and I glance around again. The water, tinted a soft orange by the Eltei roots, tickles as it disturbs my fur.

I glance at my brother and see the look of awe in his eyes. All around us, swarms of kenkark swim by, silently sucking at the water. Deeper?- Juhan nudges and I smile, nodding.

An Agent's Inbox #9

Dear Agent,

At Warwick Hall Academy, the living and the dead both have secrets. Cassie has been waiting two years for her body to be found. She can’t remember how she died but she knows something is with her in the darkness--something from which even death is no protection.

Sophia Cross is a new student at Warwick Hall. Her father has taken up a teaching position at the school and they’re looking for a fresh start after a car crash left her mother dead and Sophia in a month-long coma. She doesn’t know where she was as she hovered between life and death, but she can still sense the darkness.

When Sophia moves into Cassie’s house, the girls learn to communicate via Magnetic Poetry. Cassie and Sophia will have to work together if they are to unravel the mystery behind Cassie’s death and the menacing presence that haunts them both. The answers are hidden somewhere within Warwick Hall, where everyone is a potential suspect and trusting the wrong person could get you killed.

WARWICK HALL is a cross between a Victorian Gothic novel and a teen detective story: Veronica Mars meets The Woman in White. It is a stand-alone paranormal YA murder mystery complete at 95,000 words.

I have just won an online contest and received a full MS request from Heather Howland at Entangled. I also recently parted ways amicably from my agent and am looking for new representation for WARWICK HALL, which has not been shopped.

I am presently a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Hong Kong’s Journalism and Media Studies Centre. As a journalist, my work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Condé Nast Traveler and CNN, among others. I hold a PhD in Medieval Literature from the University of Cambridge.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to the opportunity to share the entire manuscript with you.



It was a beautiful day to be dead.

Cassie lay in a bed of leaves on the riverside. The sun peeked out from behind a cloud. She couldn’t feel it, but she imagined it to be warm.

She found herself waking up here more and more often. Cassie had been waiting almost two years for her body to be found. She didn’t know if this was Hell, but it sure wasn’t Heaven.

She shook the foliage out of her hair--to a passerby it would look like a sudden, isolated gust of wind. Cassie could never actually move anything when she wanted to, of course, but sometimes her energy brushed against the Living world.

She meandered back toward Warwick Hall, the prep school where her father had been the chaplain. She spied a doe taking a drink from the river, cool and sweet. The animal tensed as if it knew that she was there. The deer locked eyes with her and startled, loping off like it had seen, well, a ghost.

Cassie threw her hands in the air in frustration. The only sentient creatures that could see her were afraid of her. They sensed she shouldn’t be there, that she’d stayed too long at the party.

But she had no idea how to “move on” or “go into the light,” or whatever it was restless spirits were supposed to do. She couldn’t even have any fun haunting anyone because she didn’t know how to make the Living hear or see her.

An Agent's Inbox #8

Dear Inboxing Agent,

When she looks in the mirror, 17-year-old Stacy can talk to her 29-year-old self. She calls her future self “Older Me”.

Older Me has a lot to say. She's supported Stacy through her parents’ divorce, schoolyard bullying and a broken heart. But Stacy is about to find out Older Me has lied.

Older Me exists in an alternate dimension. She already lived the years Stacy is experiencing. But she claimed she couldn't remember them. When the truth is revealed, Older Me insists she’s hidden her past to keep Stacy from making the same mistakes. But she lived the life Stacy wishes for: Popularity, success and most of all, Mark.

Stacy can’t believe the bullying, derision and loneliness she’s experienced is a better alternative. She’s ready to do whatever it takes to find Older Me's version of life for herself--even if herself is the person she’ll hurt most.

LISTEN TO ME is a YA contemporary with a dash of magical realism, complete at 89,000 words. The premise was inspired by the website in which adult authors write letters to their teen selves.

I'm a long-time member of a writers critique group which includes both published and repped authors. My former agent changed vocations last year, so I am back on the submission trail. LISTEN TO ME is a new work which my former agent has not reviewed.

As per your submission guidelines I have included the first 250 words of the manuscript below.

Thank you for your time.



As he sinks into the chair, he looks just like a doctor should: greying hair, a well-trimmed beard with badger-stripes framing his lips, and wire-rimmed glasses his wife must have chosen. They're too tasteful for the polyester shirt and pants.

"How are you today, Stacy?" he says, too loud for the muted tones of the room--all earthy browns and soft corners. He's made his office look like a living room, complete with coffee table squatting between us and lamps on the varnished surfaces. Too bad the door has a combination lock. Kind of kills the good-time vibe.

He's waiting for an answer. I start to shrug, then freeze until the razors of pain ease. My stitches are all out now, but the hard, pink lines spiderwebbing across most of my upper body are a pitiful excuse for healing. Underneath I am still many layers of mangled nerve endings and fractured flesh.

Doctor hears me catch my breath and his eyes snap to mine. All that beguiling disinterest is an act. He is measuring me.

"Pain?" he says, softly this time.

"Yes. But it's not bad. I just moved wrong."

It burns and crackles under my skin until I want to scream. But I won't tell him that. For him I will be untouched. Ready to face the world. Sane.

I will get out of here today.

An Agent's Inbox #7

Dear Agent,

Assistant Curator, Claire Raffen, is anxious to meet her idol, rock-star artist, Sinjin Reid. She’s desperate to pick up his masterpiece to hang in her exhibit, Victorious Steam. If she doesn't acquire the sculpture, she can kiss her job at the Lafferty Museum good-bye. But when Claire arrives at Sinjin’s estate, tucked in the wooded shores of Lake Michigan, there is no sculpture.

Sinjin Reid hid his metal sculpture, Coal or Steam, after his greedy ex-wife desired it, more than him. He holes up in his studio with his battered ego, until Claire interrupts his brooding and tries to steal the piece of art. After he catches her, Sinjin bribes her. With Claire, he’ll be able to get rid of the bloody thing and make sure it doesn’t get near his ex or any museum.

They abscond with the exhibit and move it to Sinjin’s gallery. Their sketchy alliance deepens. Claire and Sinjin rediscover trust and find love. But before the debut opening, a Steampunk send-off for Coal or Steam, the ploy goes awry. A museum toady makes off with the sculpture. And Claire is kidnapped…at knifepoint.



Claire fiddled with the knobs in the museum’s old VW bus. No air conditioning. Instead, she found an eight-track tape player and a cigarette lighter. Neither were a help on this unexpected Indian summer day.

Since she drove out of the university parking lot, Milwaukee’s sticky heat clung to her like a second skin. She tugged the ill-chosen black turtleneck from around her neck. “The sculpture’s worth it. After the exhibit, I won’t have to play Lawrence Chambers’ indentured art servant anymore.”

She swerved onto the Lake Bluff exit, unused bungee cords and carabiner hooks scraped across the van’s cavernous belly. Heading east on County N toward her destination, the voice on her phone’s GPS announced ten miles to Reid's residence on the shores of Lake Michigan.

The prospect of meeting the rock star of modern art, Sinjin Reid, reduced Claire to a giddy groupie. He was a mixed-media artist, not a pop idol. But his wall sculpture, Coal or Steam, was off the charts.

Her phone rang with the Funeral March. She batted her silver chandelier earring out of the way with her headset and slipped it on.

“Hello, Lawrence.”

“Ms. Raffen, have you retrieved Mr. Reid’s Steampunk, ah, sculpture. I mean the donation, yet?”

Claire heard him snort his phlegm back up into his sinus cavities. She grimaced. “I’m almost at his studio to pick it up. Victorious Steam will open on Thursday night as scheduled. There won’t be any delays.”

“If you’re unable to procure that mass of metal for your new-age dog and pony show, I’ll have to take over the exhibit.”

An Agent's Inbox #6

Dear Agent,

I am seeking representation for my 85,000 Adult Urban Fantasy novel, AFFAIRS OF THE DEAD.

Necromancer Selene Vanream helps ghosts settle their affairs so they can fade to the afterlife. However, after her often illegal methods of helping her clients lands her in trouble (she helped a virginal ghost get laid for example), she’s downgraded to tracking ghosts who hide out, since ghosts that linger too long become murderous beasties. And here Selene thought having an affair with the boss would get her out of trouble, not into it.

While tracking, Selene finds Ethan, a ghost who claims he was ousted from his body and someone else jumped in. Selene suspects reanimation; a power only a minority of necromancers have, including Selene. Reanimation entails bringing a corpse back to life using the soul from a living body, but that doesn’t add up to how Ethan became a ghost. What’s worse, partnered with Micah, a one night stand who turned hostile after, Selene investigates murders where the evidence pinpoints Ethan’s stolen body as the culprit.

When Selene accidentally binds herself to Ethan, she begins to understand the scope of reanimation, and gains power that could put Ethan back into his body. Selene has more than one reason to help Ethan though, because being ghost bound incurs the Rot, which will gradually decay her body due to constant exposure to ghost energy. Throw in a shifting relationship with Micah and a suddenly possessive boss, and Selene will learn just how much trouble you can get into when you don’t follow the rules.

AFFAIRS OF THE DEAD can stand alone but has series potential. Thank you for your time and consideration.



I was in a strip club trying to help a ghost get laid, which was challenging, but not impossible. It was just extremely taxing on the necromancer extraordinaire (me) who had to channel energy into the ghost to make her corporeal enough to entice one of the stripper boys. Technically what I was doing was illegal, but it was my job to help ghosts settle their affairs so they could move on to eternally ever after, and Julia’s unfinished business was that she’d died a virgin. I’d made it as easy as I could for her by starting at a strip club; if she couldn’t get some here I wasn’t sure how much lower I could scrape the barrel.

Julia’s prolonged virginity was an enigma to me, even though she claimed she’d been waiting for her soul mate. I just didn’t understand why waiting for her soul mate meant she couldn’t hit up a bar, get drunk, and have a fun, regret filled weekend that included the walk of shame. At least she’d have been in better shape once soul mate came around.

“What do you think about him?” I asked, pointing to one of the oiled up men who were gyrating for the benefit of all the screaming women. He had blond hair and green eyes, and was well muscled but not overly so. Julia looked at him then quickly looked away. I took that as a sign of approval.

“I think this was a bad idea,” she stammered.

An Agent's Inbox #5

Dear Agent,

I am seeking representation for LIFE AFTER LILIES, a women’s fiction manuscript complete at 70,000 words.

Dee Adams never gave second chances much thought…until she became a time-traveling dead woman.

Before she landed on cancer’s hit list, Dee was a commitment-challenged artist who wished her designs lived on gallery walls rather than cereal boxes. Also, she wished her best friends didn’t have to carry on without her, that her ex hadn’t moved on (with someone better), that she’d done more with her nearly 40 years, and that the (d***) cancer had picked someone else.

But for Dee, death is only the beginning. Forced into a play by play of her former life, she quickly learns things are not always as they seem. As she travels between her past and the present she’s no longer a part of, the life she knew begins to unravel: there are dark secrets buried inside her lifelong friendships; she’s shocked by her parents’ betrayal with her one true love; she never should have trusted that medicine woman’s prediction; and she can only blame herself for life's bitter disappointments. With regrets building, friendships failing, and no way to fix any of it from her posthumous perch, she’s left to wonder: Is it ever too late for second chances?

Thank you for your time and consideration.



Lilies. I wasn’t sure I could forgive my mother for this.

I can’t believe she ordered the d*** lilies.

The most unoriginal funeral flower and they were everywhere: on my coffin, in bouquets at each pew and in a giant wreath that encircled a practically life-sized photo of me with a closed-mouth smile. I didn’t remember the photo being taken and as I peered more closely, I had to admit it looked nothing like me. Aside from the crow’s feet that had appeared the day I turned thirty-five. Was that only five years ago? How depressing this was how I would be remembered: two-dimensional and toothless, immortalized in a lily life preserver.

As best as I could figure, I’d been dead about four days. Breast cancer. I’d been disappointed the grim reaper wasn’t arriving thanks to something more exotic, or at least harder to pronounce. Like lieyosarcoma or malignant meningioma. And I was so over the token ribbons plastered on everything from workout socks to concrete trucks. Pastel pink had no business in battle.

I had no clue where I’d been for the last four days, or what came next. But it didn’t matter. I knew my funeral was merely a stopover. I was as dead as those lilies would be by tomorrow, once the oasis dried up.

The flowers’ sickly sweet smell was getting to me, making it hard to think about anything else. Could I ever use a nap, I thought. Being dead was exhausting.

An Agent's Inbox #4

Dear Agent,

Lanterne excels at three things: arithmetic, arranging furniture, and manslaughter.

With the ability to spawn teeth from her skin at will, she’s an impenetrable wall for would-be assassins. Illegally hired to protect one of the few noble houses remaining in Armaze, Lanterne prowls the city to prevent others like herself from killing her employer in a bloody battle for the king’s seat.

In the beginning, Lanterne is complacent standing by while her city falls apart. But when she discovers the sudden murder of the one person she trusts, Lanterne realizes her greatest enemy may not be assassins lurking in the dark, but a reigning priest who will stop at nothing to convert a “heathen” people--even if it means awakening a centuries-old plague to drive them to his gods.

CITY OF TEETH is a 101,000-word adult epic fantasy. I hold a degree in English and editing from Brigham Young University and currently work as a technical writer and editor in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Thank you so much for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.



He killed Tamus.

Lanterne paused at the end of the hallway, eyes flickering between the fallen guard and the Scion who had murdered him--a young man with narrow shoulders and a third arm protruding from his chest, the hand of which gripped a bloody dagger. Tamus’s kerosene lamp glinted against the floor, not three inches from his lifeless hand.

The Scion smiled and sucked his third arm back into his exposed chest, passing the dagger to his right hand as he did so. Oddly early for an assassination--Lanterne had only been on patrol half an hour before hearing Tamus’s shout. She didn’t recognize the Scion before her, even as he stepped over the guard’s body and into the light. He was new.

He was stupid.

Lanterne reached for the kama on her back--small crescent scythes with jagged blades--and the Scion charged, spawning a new arm under each of his own. Lanterne ran to meet him, shoulder sliding against the left wall. He tried to grab her with the left spawned arm as he slashed with his natural right. She ducked, blocked the blade with the handle of a kama. Where were his other knives? No arm-spawning Scion would bring only one weapon.

And she was right; he reached for a sword at his left side; a poor choice, in these closed quarters. A poor choice, to start a fight wielding only one dagger. The breeders had gotten stupid with their training.

An Agent's Inbox #3

Dear Agent,

Pete's life isn't great, but he gets along. It's not like he's the only person in the world to have an alcoholic for a mother and a dad who's AWOL. So what if he releases the pressure with a joint or a stolen car every now and then? He doesn't keep the cars. He's not hurting anyone.

Sonny's life isn't great, but it's better than most. There are worse things than moving away from your friends or being ignored by your workaholic mother. But knowing this doesn't make it easier when your mother interrupts your conversation to take a phone call. When that happens, the cute guy flirting from the expensive car is a welcomed distraction. At least until he loses control of the car and smashes it right into her.

Pete and Sonny may wake in different hospitals, but they wake with something in common. Both have received blood tainted with the power to manipulate space, to be wherever they want in an instant. The people with whom the power originated are being hunted through worlds, leaving more dead behind them every time they flee. Pete and Sonny could help. Or they could keep themselves to themselves and stay alive.

But the more time they spend exploring their newfound abilities, the more attention they draw and the more their options disappear. It isn't long before they realize that to keep from being prey, they must become the hunters.

ONE HUNDRED KNOWN WORLDS is a completed, 83,000 word young adult contemporary fantasy. I am a member of SCBWI, attend a weekly writers' group, and blog regularly. I'd be happy to send additional materials upon request.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



The way Pete saw it, he was doing the guy a favor. You didn’t leave a Maserati Quattroporte parked on Patterson, with the doors unlocked no less, without wanting it gone. Simple as that. Parking a Maserati in this part of Southie was just another way of saying, “Hey man, I could really use the insurance money right now. Help a guy out.”

Pete was nothing if not helpful.

How to liberate a car was the only useful skill his father had seen fit to pass on before he'd become no more than a name on the bottom of sporadic child support checks. Pete had paid attention. It took a few minutes--he was rusty on his big game skills--but he worked it out. It didn’t hurt that the windows were tinted all to hell and back, either. He ducked below the dash to work, so no one was going to see him unless they opened the door.

When the engine purred to life, so did he, electric excitement coursing from the gas pedal right up through his body. He felt like a king as he eased into the midday traffic. King of what, he didn't know, but it didn't matter for now. For now all that mattered was how the pulse of the Maserati became his own, and how he didn't have to think about anything but the feel of the road beneath him. Time to celebrate.

He fished a smoke from his stash and lit up.