Friday, September 28, 2012

Agent-Author Chat: Beth Miller and Noelle Henry

I’m thrilled to welcome Beth Miller of Writers House and one of her newest clients, Noelle Henry, to the blog. Or perhaps I should say BACK to the blog, in Ms. Henry’s case. If you were around for “The Writer’s Voice” back in May, you’ll probably recognize Ms. Henry’s query, as she and FACE THE MUSIC were on my team.

Ms. Henry didn’t end up signing with any of the agents from “The Writer’s Voice,” but she did end up catching the attention of another agent shortly thereafter. When she e-mailed me to let me know she’d signed with Ms. Miller, I knew I had to interview them both:)

Ms. Henry’s query and responses will appear in orange, Ms. Miller’s in blue. Happy reading!

Ms. Henry’s Query Tate's dad used to say, “When words fail, music speaks.” It's the one language she could always hear. Not with her ears, which haven't worked since birth, but with her heart. To the faculty at Ravenswood Fine Arts Academy, she's a cello prodigy. To her peers...let's just say they don't call her Beethoven because they like her.

Through three years of concerts and solos and duels for chair placements, Tate has always been defined by what she lacks instead of what she has. But this year is different. This year she has Silverton. The prospect of a full ride to the most prestigious music college on the West Coast is enough to make the daily torture known as high school worth it. If she wins that scholarship, she'll finally find the one place where music overrides her disability. All she has to do is practice really hard, be nothing less than perfect and--duet with pianist Jared Lynch?

In a stunning twist, Silverton decides on a theme competition this year, partnering Tate with the one boy who both frustrates and fascinates her. Jared's rich, he's popular, and he's dating the she-devil rival cellist who crowned Tate Grand Marshal of the freak parade. He also has a passion for music that she yearns to understand and secrets as complicated as Prokofiev's Sinfonia Concertante. But as they clash over their duet--she wants to play it safe; he wants to risk everything--it's clear that he has the power to see through the deafness Tate brandishes like a shield.

FACE THE MUSIC, a 75,000-word contemporary young adult romance, follows Tate Donovan and Jared Lynch as they learn about love, loss, and being true to themselves.

I have studied the violin for thirty years, and have a passion for classical music that shines through in this novel. I am also a former Romance Writers of America Golden Heart finalist in romantic suspense.

I commented on your fabulous guest post at, and as per your guidelines, have pasted the first five pages below. I would be pleased to send you a partial or the completed manuscript upon request. Thank you so much for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

KV: Ms. Henry, how did you first come up with the idea for FACE THE MUSIC?

NH: When I was in high school (a long, long time ago, LOL), there was a blind cellist in our orchestra. I was fascinated by the way she learned music--both by ear and by Braille sheet music. Her disability never kept her from doing the things she loved. She walked the halls between classes like everyone else, she tried out (and performed) in the school musicals, and she even played the piano. So, I’d have to say she was the initial catalyst for the story.

Of course, it wasn’t until many years later that I picked up my love of writing again. I started with contemporary romance and then romantic suspense and then one day, Tate started speaking to me. She said, “Everyone calls me Beethoven.” And I knew I had to find out why, even though I’d never written young adult before and was absolutely sure I didn’t have the chops to do it well. But, honestly, I had nothing to lose by giving it a go. So I did.

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?

NH: I’ve never written a query before I’ve finished a manuscript. I always like to have the complete character arcs in place, because I know that needs to be the focus of my query.

I think I rewrote the query to FACE THE MUSIC three or four times. I wanted to start with Tate because she is the story, and because of that, I ended up writing the query in first person, hoping to really inject her voice into it. And then I entered a little contest called The Writer’s Voice (you may have heard of it!) and was picked for the amazing Team Krista (you may have heard of her too. LOL) and she helped me see that Tate’s voice could still shine through in a third person query. That query was the final version, and the one I used to attract agents.

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

NH: The hardest part was probably the first line. I kept rewriting it and nothing clicked. I wanted a way for the query reader to intuitively know that Tate was deaf without me having to spell it out because I felt that Tate doesn’t really go around thinking, ‘Hey, look at me, I’m deaf.’ She was born deaf. That’s her world-view. And I really wanted that to come through in the query.

The easiest part, I think, was tackling the way Jared forced her to change the way she viewed herself. And I think that’s because it was fresh in my mind at the time.

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

BM: There were several things that caught my attention--the first is that I had just done a guest blog at Waterworld Mermaids, and she referenced that blog in her query. I had invited those who commented on the blog to query me, so that was one thing that had me reading closely.

But more importantly, I just love YA romance, and Noelle’s story touched all the right notes with me. The heroine is a cellist at a performing arts high school, and Noelle also mentioned that she herself is a violinist with a passion for classical music. And she’d included the first few pages, which were well-written and compelling. So all in all, she had a fantastic query!

KV: How quickly did you read FACE THE MUSIC? Is that pretty typical of your response times on requested material, or do those vary?

BM: I just looked back through my e-mails. It looks like it took me about a month to reply to the query, which is about right these days, unfortunately. I asked for the full manuscript, and about two weeks later I touched base to say I was reading, and then a week after that I got in touch again to say I’d loved it. In the interim, I was getting some reads from a few colleagues.

It’s hard to say what my response time is for requested material. It really depends on what’s going on at the office. Unfortunately, submissions are lower priority, coming after managing the current clients. I try to read material I’m excited about quickly, but sometimes it does take a few weeks.

KV: You ended up asking Ms. Henry for a revision before you officially signed her. How do you decide whether to request revisions or offer representation?

BM: With FACE THE MUSIC, I really loved the story and the writing, but there were a few major plot points that needed some attention. I wanted to make sure Noelle was open to doing them, first of all--which she was!--and that she was able to revise well.

KV: Obviously, the revision met--or exceeded--your expectations. What did you love about FACE THE MUSIC?

BM: It exceeded my expectations! Noelle is an author who can take revision suggestions and then put her own spin on them. She didn’t just make the changes I suggested; she also tweaked other things here and there, making an already great story even better. I loved the love story, the music, the heartbreak--and of course, the boy. :) There were moments that made me get teary-eyed. I just loved it.

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

NH: A query is not about plot points. Get to the heart of your story as quickly as you can. That’s what agents want to see. Show why readers should care about your characters: what they want, why they want it and why they can’t have it. Make sure those stakes are high enough! Try to find that unique element that makes your story different from everything else that’s out there and really make that element shine through in your blurb.

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

BM: Do your research and target agents you think will make the best fit--don’t just blast your query out into the world. Be professional and courteous. Proofread your query letter. Remember that the query is the first impression of you that an agent has--if your query is poorly written or unprofessional, they aren’t likely to want to see your work.

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

BM: Write a great story. Keep trying, even if you don’t succeed with your first manuscript, or even your second. Writing is a skill, and like other skills, it can be improved with practice. Read a lot, so you know what else is out there in your genre. And don’t give up!

NH: Well, I’d definitely echo Beth’s statement about not giving up. Sometimes it’s hard not to feel like you’re working so hard for nothing, but the one thing I’ve learned is that writers need to write for themselves, first and foremost. Only seeing the end goal can lead to burn out and frustration.

Ask yourself why you’re writing your book. Find a story that you’re passionate to tell. That passion will shine through in your writing, and when you believe so strongly in a book, chances are you’ll eventually find a home for it.

Thanks again, ladies, for sharing your story with us. And may I just say WOOHOO? :) Here’s hoping for a quick sale!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Gearing Up to Write a Query?

I’ve read a lot of queries. When you’ve spent as many years in the query trenches as I have, that’s just what happens. I’ve written probably two dozen drafts of queries for my own manuscripts, and I’ve done my time at sites like Absolute Write and Nathan Bransford’s forums, reading, learning, critiquing. Hosting “An Agent’s Inbox” has also exposed me to mountains of queries, and I can assure you I’ve read every single one of them. (You can thank Gmail and Blogger’s inability to preserve each other’s formatting for that.)

All of this is the roundabout way of saying I’ve had a little time to figure out what works and what doesn’t, and as I read through the “Gearing Up to Get an Agent” entries last week, one thought kept running through my head:

I don’t think these entries are as good as some of the other judges seem to think.

Now I only read the entries on my assigned blog (and as you read on, it’s going to become pretty apparent which blog that was if you followed the contest), and I really, really, REALLY don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I only want to point out a few of the overarching problems I noticed in the hopes that, someday, somewhere, this might help someone make it through the hair-pulling, teeth-gnashing experience that is writing a query.

1. Contemporary queries, perhaps more than any others, have to showcase compelling, unique hooks. So many of the contemporary entries I read relied too heavily on a hot-button topic to draw the reader in. If you’re hoping your current, edgy subject matter will carry your query (“SUICIDE!” “ADDICTION!” “SEXUAL ORIENTATION!”), you’re probably going to be disappointed. The vast majority of the contemporary entries in this contest addressed one of these issues, so the issue in and of itself isn’t a strong enough hook. You need to do something more with it.

2. Historical queries must entrench us in their time periods and, at the same time, introduce us to timeless characters and/or problems. Historicals are tough, no doubt about it. You have around two hundred words to introduce us to a world and character we won’t immediately relate to, and yet you have to do it in such a way that we’ll see the parallels to our own lives. Most of the historical queries in this contest didn’t quite rise to this standard, at least in my opinion. I either didn’t buy the voice (because I thought it sounded too modern), or I didn’t buy the world.

3. When everything is said and done, tastes really are subjective. After I finished my first read-through, I had exactly ten entries on my short list but only felt strongly about three. I ended up crossing a few of those off and adding a few others, but one that I kept coming back to was also one that didn’t have the strongest hook. Still, I had a personal weakness for that type of story, so even though I knew it had some problems, I voted for it, anyway, and I stand by that vote. An agent may very well do the same.

Last but not least, I’ll add that there’s no one right way to write a query--and that there’s certainly no one person who has all of this figured out. So take this with a grain of salt, and keep plugging away. All the blog posts in the world won’t teach you what you’ll learn simply by giving it a try.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Ms. Marini's Winners

And here they are!

First place: #9 RIP HER TO SHREDS

RIP HER TO SHREDS wins a request for the first 50 pages!

Second place: #10 COUGARS ON THE DOCK

COUGARS ON THE DOCK wins a request for the first 40 pages!


THE LOOKING-GLASS HOUSE wins a request for the first 30 pages!

Fourth place: #1 TEMPLE FALLS

TEMPLE FALLS wins a request for the first 20 pages!

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

Also, Ms. Marini wanted me to tell you that she was quite impressed with the quality of the entries on the whole. Feel free to query her via her regular query address if you feel so inclined, especially if she mentioned she'd keep reading your entry.

I'm out!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Let the Critiquing Begin!

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 Ms. Marini'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 Ms. Marini,

Becoming a witch isn’t what sixteen-year-old Hannah Slaughtery expects when she enrolls in an exclusive boarding school. Neither is fighting against monsters she doesn’t believe in.

After an aerial assault by mythical basilisks, Hannah discovers she’s one of five students that make up the next generation of Partizans, a band of supernatural warriors whose origins date back to the dawn of man. In order to stand against a ruthless and tyrannical empire of demons, Hannah must make a choice. She can refuse her calling and enter a supernatural witness protection program to save her adopted family, or overcome her fear and accept her battle-filled legacy.

Regardless of her decision, there’s one thing Hannah knows for sure: the carefree days of her youth have come to a screeching halt.

THE PARTIZANS, is a completed 74,000 word YA paranormal with series potential. I saw in an interview on the blog Shiny that you are seeking works with a fresh take on the paranormal and a fully realized world, which has been my goal with this manuscript. It meshes together several different paranormal creatures with classic mythology and will appeal to fans of the Hex Hall series.

Per the submission guideline, the first 250 words are enclosed below.

Thank you for your consideration and I look forward to hearing from you.



Hannah Slaughtery’s courage faltered as the iron gate creaked open. The late afternoon light filtered through the snow-topped pine trees as she steered her car through the fence, the only thing that seperated Piaculum Academy from the rest of the world. Inching forward, something in the wind caused a shiver to ripple down her spine. It was as if the air was charged with bursts of electricity. Like something wasn’t quite right, and yet, as she continued down the drive, she felt protected for the first time in her life. Up ahead was a security checkpoint with tinted windows manned by a guard with a military haircut and aviator sunglasses. As he opened the window, Hannah noticed the faint scent of coconut sunscreen, which struck her as odd. After all, it was mid-December.

“Identification,” he said, surveying the back seat.

She fumbled for her wallet and pulled out her driver’s license, giving him a shy smile, which he didn’t return.

Hannah faced him as he confirmed the honey blonde, blue eyed girl in the picture matched the driver in front of him. He thrust the license back through the window and said, “So you’re Hannah. Huh. Not what I was expecting,”

Her ears registered disappointment, but she didn’t understand why. He certainly didn’t offer any further explanation.

“Just stay on this main road until you get to Garrett Manor. If you get lost, don’t bother using your phone. You won’t get a signal.”

And that was it.

An Agent's Inbox #19

Dear Ms. Marini,

Because of your preference for edgy YA, and also books with a supernatural bent, I think you might be interested in GHOST LIGHT.

After a heart transplant saves seventeen-year-old Natasha Bassett from the genetic disorder that killed her twin brother Nico, she adopts his lifelong goal of landing the lead in the Richard McAlister Shakespeare Program’s production of Hamlet.

The program only accepts boys, so Natasha takes off for London armed with Nico’s clothes and her survivor’s guilt. She’s banking on her broodiness to send her straight to Hamlet since she’s up against Britain’s most ebullient eighteen-year-old. Alleyn Edwards is so chipper that even his wheelchair radiates enthusiasm. Unfortunately, he’s the best actor Natasha has ever seen, and her feelings for him quickly become harder to hide than her B-cups.

Also, her brother’s spirit is trapped on the physical plane until she gets the role, and he’s willing to do anything to ensure his own return to the grave. Vengeful as he is, the ghost retains the essence of the boy Natasha desperately misses, but if she doesn’t find the strength to let go before the final cast list goes up, she and her rival/crush will become the victims of an increasingly sinister shade.

GHOST LIGHT is a dark Twelfth Night complete with boy-girl-girl love triangle. It is complete at 76,000 words.

I am a member of SCBWI and an MA/MFA candidate in children's literature at Simmons College. My blog, "Sense and Disability" chronicles my misadventures as a young woman with a disability.

Thanks for your consideration,



Upon seeing loved ones appear at the Heathrow Airport arrivals gate, most people show increased excitement--shouting, jumping, tears, etc. At my approach, the bespectacled man in tweed stopped jumping around yelling, “Oi! Bassett!” He gaped like he’d seen a ghost.

In a way, he had.

The sensation of ghost-seeing didn’t have to be sparked by having an ephemeral being appear in front of you. It could come from tripping over a pair of abandoned shoes in the foyer, catching a whiff of cologne on an old coat, or reading a name printed on an official-looking letter on a Wednesday in October. I should have been desperate to escape those things. Instead, I’d charted a course that would inflict them on others.

The closer I got to my godfather, the paler he became, until his skin tone matched the crisp white paper of the acceptance letter in my bag. My luggage trolley fought to list to the left, preferring to join an Indian family reuniting at the end of the ramp. I didn’t blame it.
“Hi, Willis,” I said. Maybe I should have waited to make my transformation. I’d ducked into the family restroom on the way to customs to eliminate any chickening out opportunities. I’d been too focused on my own anxieties. Typical of my post-Nico mindset.
Next to us little girl shrieked and threw herself into her father’s arms. This snapped my godfather out of his catatonia and he held his arms out to me. “Well met, gentle Natasha.”

An Agent's Inbox #18

Dear Ms. Marini,

The day after her mother dies, shadows start stalking sixteen-year-old Talitha Martin. To start over and be safe, she must hide her biggest secret: that her body keeps turning into smoke.

Except secrets, like smoke, are impossible to contain. When emotional stress causes Talitha to shift, it’s witnessed by her new neighbour Caspar. However, instead of running away--or exposing her secret--Caspar is intrigued. His stubborn friendship is unshakable even when the shadows attack Caspar and Talitha. They’re saved not by her smoke, but by two beings forged from flame: the Ascended.

The Ascended came down to Earth to find the vessel--a reincarnated Ascended who can help them in the war against the shadows. Since Talitha’s power enables her to find and protect this human vessel, the Ascended promise to help her learn to control it, but only if she agrees to help. When Caspar’s life is linked to that of the vessel, she can’t back out of the agreement.

Now, Talitha must harness her powers fast or let the shadows win. Either way, her dreams of a normal life just went up in smoke.

OF FIRE AND SHADOW is a YA Urban Fantasy completed at 63,500 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



My mother died a week ago. Smoke inhalation, the coroner’s report said.

The problem: there was no fire.

The cause: my freakish power. Not that I could admit it, unless I wanted to become a science experiment, or thrown in jail.

I leaned against the rough brick wall of the lawyer’s office and nearly crossed my arms, except something across the road caught my eye.

The shadows across the road were oddly darker than the midday sun warranted, as if they had swallowed the very ground. Goosebumps prickled down my neck.

I stepped away from the wall, intrigued by the shadows.

Something, or someone, stood in the shadows across the street. I squinted, trying to overcome the glare of sunlight off towering office buildings. The figure swayed like branches caught in a breeze. My eyebrows furrowed as I stepped into the gutter, ignoring the cars blurring past. The shadows writhed and crept towards the buildings, the figure moving in their safety.


I spun and faced my grandma’s inquiring face. She’d finished inside the lawyer’s office--finished with the aftermath of my failure. I swallowed hard and glanced back at the shadowed trees and sidewalk. They were normal.

“Everything sorted?” I asked and shook my head to clear it. It wasn’t the first time I’d seen the writhing shadows.

She squinted at me through her round glasses. “Yes.”

Grandma thought I was too young to know about all the legal affairs involved with my guardianship. So a simple yes was the best I could’ve hoped for.

An Agent's Inbox #17

Dear Ms. Marini,

My middle grade manuscript, SILVER POOL OF LIGHT, seems to fit into the wish list on your website well. It has an element of magic and a dash of the workings of the space-time continuum.

Eve Tilton is the kind of eleven-year-old you would expect to be much more interested in shopping for her next celebrity gala than anything that happened a hundred years ago. But Eve is captivated by Jane Mayhew, who lives on Martha’s Vineyard in 1872, because Jane writes to her. In an old diary, through time. From 1872. Eve and Jane’s letter-writing and eventual friendship across a century is so, so much better than shopping for party dresses, even for a girl on the fringe of celebrity.

Their differences lie in the fact that Jane, who barely remembers her mother, has a passionate desire to sail the seven seas while Eve, who was with her mother when she drowned, has a passionate fear of the ocean. Since they live 140 years apart and communicate through letters, it doesn’t seem to be a problem until Jane is invited to go on a whaling voyage around the world, and Eve finds out, to her horror, that the ship is doomed. Eve’s focus on saving Jane is splintered when she is suddenly invited deeper into the polished world of her famous friends. The best friend Eve’s ever had is about to die, and every choice she makes seems to lead Jane to a horrible, watery fate.

SILVER POOL OF LIGHT is about the importance of true friendship, family secrets, and how we are connected to everyone around us, living or not. It is complete at 46,000 words. Comparison titles could be Bigger than a Breadbox by Laurel Snyder or When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. I have completed novel writing workshops at the University of Iowa, Emerson College, and SCBWI.

Best of luck to you at Gelfman Schneider and thank you for reading the contest entries.



Not all attics are full of shadows, spider webs, and ugly hatboxes dotted with evidence of unwelcome creatures; those are the kind of attics where children get locked away. Some attics smell like lavender soap, are strewn with wonderful treasures, and if the right child should come in at the right moment, are full of possibilities.

The treasures in Aunt Tibby’s attic were mostly old diaries. Crooked, nearly toppling stacks of antique journals and ships’ logs covered the wooden floorboards and wide shelves, because the museum had run out of room and Aunt Tibby wasn’t about to throw them away. Heavens no.

Even if she’d wanted to, Eve Tilton, Aunt Tibby’s grandniece, would never have let her. Somewhere, in one of the piles of old leather and cloth-covered books, was a diary of particular interest to Eve. Its author was a girl also named Eve, and eleven years ago, Mama read it. Then she named her baby after this diary-writing Eve.

Eve Tilton wondered what was it about diary-writing Eve that had impressed Mama? Daddy wouldn’t say. He didn’t like to talk about Mama, ever; he said it still hurt too much. He said it was better to focus on The Now.

Aunt Tibby had forgotten which diary it was, so for months, every time she visited her great-aunt on Martha’s Vineyard, Eve searched. She scoured, explored, and rummaged around in the attic. Maybe diary-Eve would have advice on how to act when she felt too tired to be cheerful or too lonely to be kind.

An Agent's Inbox #16

Dear Ms. Marini,

Princess Far has always known how it feels to die.

She is a Relic, a person who has visions from their past lives, and she has spent her entire life guarding this secret. In the ancient legends, Relics sold their souls to demons in exchange for unstoppable magic, and most people believe all Relics must be exterminated. None of Far’s past lives match the horrors of the legends, but even she doesn’t know the origins of her memories, demonic or otherwise.

After the sudden death of her sister, eighteen-year-old Far must assume membership in the kingdom’s Council, but all she knows how to do is be invisible.

When a dark order of magi invades her kingdom and thrusts her people into a world war, Far’s past-life knowledge becomes her most powerful weapon. She is the only one who knows the order's secret. But somehow, they also know hers. She must decide if exposure is worth the protection of her people.

Because if those same people learned what she really is, they’d nail her to a fiery stake. Crown and all.

RELIC is Young Adult fantasy complete at 85,000 words with series potential. The self-discovery, past-life romance, and world war make it a cross between GRACELING, A GAME OF THRONES, and THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS.



I’ve died this way before.

Before, I stumbled into the wrong place at the wrong time. But now, from the burning in the stranger’s eyes, I know he has every intention of killing me.

I wonder, does he see her too?

Her name is Far. All my life, I have been haunted by memories. I don’t know about magic or destiny or death. But they do. There are thousands of memories and dozens of lives trapped inside me. Or maybe I am trapped inside them.

His footsteps behind me grow louder. When I try to push myself up from the forest floor, my chest smashes back to the ground.

The footsteps stop. I hear his breathing behind me. A heavy inhale. A slow, relaxed exhale. I can’t see him, but I think he’s smiling.

I squeeze my eyes shut and try to recall how it feels to be stabbed. For once, the memories don’t come.

Of all the memories, Far's are the clearest, so close to the surface that sometimes I believe they’re my memories. That I am Far. That she is me.

Of course that can’t be true. Her tiara is my baseball cap. Her magical tattoos are my tan lines. Her creepy past-life sketches are my inspirational posters.

I’m not Far.

I’m not.

But I can’t let it go. I can’t convince myself that I’m my own, separate person when one crucial piece of evidence is missing: Far never died. Her life ended without even a whisper, as if existence has a pause button.

I can’t help but think it has something to do with me.

An Agent's Inbox #15

Dear Ms. Marini,

Superpowers and daydreams don’t mix, especially when saving a planet.

Thirteen year old Jimmy Ranfaz is the best at everything he does, all in his daydreams. So, when his psychic superpowers activate, he does great things, terrible...yes...but great. With him endangering every living thing on Earth, destiny crashes his door when the tree-descended humans of Ulfitron herald him as the reincarnation of their previous saviour against the warring world of Tyzet, who threaten to wipe the Ulfitronians clean off the planet.

Jimmy crashes and burns through his training, earning merit badges in mediocrity and frustration. His dreams of being the all-conquering superhero are shattered when he barely survives a massive assault by Tyzet. Saddled with a powerful Ulfitronian trainee, whose condescension drives Jimmy up a wall; he sets out to find the legendary trees which gave incredible power to his predecessor.

But within the journey lies a deep deception, which not only betrays him as a decoy for his partner but also brings out a chilling truth: he is the villain reincarnated. With the attack threatening Ulfitron days away, Jimmy must decide whether to die saving thousands of Ulfitronians who betrayed him or pursue the quest for the legendary trees and the unlimited power he always dreamed of.

AVERAGELY EXTRAORDINARY is a 68,000 word MG Sci-Fi guide for choosing quirky, inefficient and altogether useless superheroes. With a unique look into the world of space-time continuum, I hope the nerdy explanations of new naturalx laws in the novel will pique your interest.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Kind Regards,


“Blast it! I’ll be late,” Jimmy swore, looking at his watch. As he turned away from the window, the sleeve of his polo caught. He tugged and it tore.

He directed a death glare towards the window sill, but saw nothing which could’ve snagged it.

I don’t have time for this. Jimmy rushed out of his room and jumped down half the flight of stairs.

“Young man, how many times have I told you not to do that? Start behaving like you’re thirteen.” His mother’s voice barely registered, as he dashed outside.

I can’t be late today. Not today. C’mon, seven minutes, I can do it.

He skipped past the slew of morning joggers dodging left and right while twisting in mid-jumps to avoid the mailboxes and benches.

He accelerated. Blood pumped through his veins and his heart thumped. Hands like sharp knives cut through the wind and legs in perfect sync pound the ground at increasing intervals. He overtook Carl Lewis. He thrust forward. Past Owens! Just one to beat. He was gaining. Level now. His eyes watered with his last burst of strength. He neared the finish line. And...

He crashed into a garbage can, tripped and went flying through the air skidding to the end of a kerb. His knees hurt and his glasses were skewed and balanced precariously on the bridge of his nose.

People stopped to look at him. Some muttered about carelessness while other teenagers groaned about garbage cans being kept at all the wrong places.

An Agent's Inbox #14

Dear Ms. Marini,

Considering your interest in YA fiction, I hope my YA mystery with paranormal elements will appeal to you.

Most teens would do anything to have a celebrity parent. Diya would do anything to give hers up.

Adopted from an Indian slum as an infant by her movie star mother, she's grown up, amidst whippings and alcoholic meltdowns, into a sixteen-year-old with prematurely thick skin and a deep hatred for her abusive mom. Seventeen-year-old Matthew grew up in a different type of family--the Seer's disciples. He guards a powerful crystal with the ability to control minds, a crystal entrusted to Matt's grandfather by his Indian Seer.

When Diya crashes her car en route to her aunt's house, Matthew hauls her out of the wreck and recognizes Diya for who she is--the Seer's granddaughter. He needs her help to find the missing mind control crystal and trap a murderer.

Someone's using the crystal to force people to kill themselves and masking the murders as suicides. And Matt knows Diya is the only person who can reverse the crystal's power. If he can convince her of her true identity.

Diya, though, is not too keen to believe anyone, however hot he is. Plus, she has her own list of murder suspects. And, Matt, with his unusual abilities, is way up at the top.

But when her aunt is nearly killed, the threat hits home. Now the teens have to pool their abilities to try and outsmart the killer, before he figures out who they are and destroys them first.

MIRE is complete at 70,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.



Most kids would do anything to have a movie star parent, but as far as Diya was concerned, having a celebrity parent was way over-rated. If she had the choice between Miranda and being stranded on a deserted island without Wi-Fi, she knew what she'd pick.

That thought echoed in her mind, as she found herself in yet another staring stand-off with her mother across the length of the humongous dining table. Miranda’s hard face rivaled the cold wooden surface of the table.

Diya took a deep breath and counted to ten, waiting for the familiar explosion. And then it came.

“You’re not going anywhere, you brat. You owe me.” Miranda's skin stretched tight over high cheekbones, courtesy of the most popular plastic surgeon in LA. Any more stretching, and it would rip right down the middle. “I want you at the benefit.”

“No.” There was no way she was staying here another second. She'd planned to leave right after school, but Miranda had caught her in the hallway and sprung the event on her.

A line of white crept around Miranda's compressed lips, a sure sign of an impending tantrum.

Diya's mouth went dry, but she forced herself to meet the woman's glare with a steady gaze. Years of verbal sparring had taught her one thing. Miranda could spot a chink in your armor from a mile away.

An Agent's Inbox #13

Dear Victoria Marini,

Fifteen-year-old Clay goes to Strawberry Hill for the camping, not the ghost hunting. His friend’s stories about a ghost on the hill and her fairy friends are not exactly the stuff nightmares are made of, especially since ghosts aren’t real and fairies are lame. Sure, people have died for unexplained reasons on Strawberry Hill, but that was before modern day science. A fresh body would solve the mystery, not that he is volunteering. Science can explain anything.

At first, the only thing Clay discovers during the ghost hunt is that the electromagnetic field detector can double as a football on a long boring night. Then he stumbles on the ghost and her friends, an ancient race of creatures once known as the fey. They give him access to their power, with an unnamed price attached to its use. He doesn’t plan to find out what that price is until his friend’s sister is hit by a car. Payment doesn’t even cross his mind when he puts his hand on her back and feels her bones realign through her skin.

Clay is instructed to return to Strawberry Hill at midsummer for payment, but the fey won’t tell him why. He tries to convince himself that everything is normal, which is difficult to do with a ghost and the bloodthirsty fey tagging along. No one is safe when the shadows have teeth. All he has to do is survive until midsummer and hope the fey let him go home when they’re done with him. If Clay isn’t careful, he could end up as another ghost on Strawberry Hill.

A classic ghost story with a twist, SHE CAME FROM THE HILL is for the younger end of YA and is complete at 58,000 words. Tweens and young teens who enjoyed the creepiness of Neil Gaiman’s THE GRAVEYARD BOOK and friendships in the classic movie THE GOONIES may enjoy this. Thank you for taking the time to read my query.



Nothing thrived at the far end of the park. Even laughter died at the first stunted tree. Clay tightened the straps on his overnight pack and pedaled up the steep path. He could have skipped the shortcut if Alex, who had the communication skills of a wet cell phone, called an hour earlier. Thick dust swirled around him and filled his lungs, making it difficult to breathe. He pedaled faster, his feet moving with the rhythm of his breath.

Dust clung to his skin like cobwebs, even after he left the park behind. He coasted down the road and skidded to a stop in Alex’s driveway. His friends were scattered around the yard, none of them in uniform. Clay brushed the dust from his scout shirt. They needed to take scouting more seriously, even if they were only going because none of them could drive yet. A summer without camping wouldn’t be summer.

Alex aimed a small camcorder at him and a light flashed in Clay’s eyes.

Clay shaded his face with his hands. “Alex!”

“The enhanced light works!” Alex turned it off, leaving Clay seeing spots.

“What’s the camera for?”

Alex shut the screen, leaned forward, and whispered, “The camera sees what we can’t.”

“Cameras don’t see. They record.” The scout master didn't let them go anywhere at night, no matter how quietly they sneaked out of the tent. Alex would not bring his camera unless he had a plan for it. “Is there really a scout camp this weekend?”

An Agent's Inbox #12

Dear Ms. Marini:

Running from post-college responsibilities, Amanda Smith travels to Pécs, Hungary to research her grandpapa's beginnings. Instead, she falls in love with the history and culture of the city, a Gypsy dancer named Luca, and Luca’s family. A shocking photograph of her grandpapa wearing a hammer and sickle makes her abandon her search for answers and focus on her relationship with Luca. She agrees to marry him despite her family’s protestations.

Before the wedding, her grandpapa’s brother comes into town with family secrets that exposes old wounds and a connection with Luca’s clan. As the Gypsy family rejects Amanda, no one tells her why except to acknowledge her innocence. Even her fiancé walks away because of clan loyalties. Now she questions everything she knew about her beloved grandpapa and must repair the wounds she didn’t intend to open.

I am a regular attendee of DFW Writer’s Conference and have recently spent time in Pécs, Hungary, exploring the city and its culture.

WITHOUT BORDERS is multi-cultural/women’s fiction complete at 80,000 words.

Below you will find the first 250 words of the novel. Thank you for your consideration.



Music distracted Amanda from her search for her mother’s gift. Wild, erratic tones that couldn’t be ignored. She dropped the scarf she was considering and followed the sounds through the mild scattering of shoppers, down the street she had become so familiar with in the past week of her visit. She turned a corner past a peach-colored building.

In front of the café Amanda visited often, a plump woman in blue jeans fiddled on a cracked violin. Her dark hair danced and jerked with the movements of her playing. A boy, no older than fifteen, sat behind her beating a drum, and a man whose face had been baked in the sun provided harmony with his accordion. In his yellow and crimson tunic, he was the only one who wore the traditional garb of his people. Amanda had read Gypsy bands had gone out of style, yet this group of musicians gathered an audience on the corner of a walking path in Pécs, Hungary.

A gasp in the crowd drew Amanda’s attention to a man who somersaulted from out of nowhere. He must have been lurking among the spectators, waiting for his cue. He wore a gold vest over his bronze muscles, looking reminiscent of idol statues often seen in India. His quick steps moved to the music and he slapped his body in a rhythmic percussion. The audience clapped as the music escalated faster and louder as the dancer kept in time.

An Agent's Inbox #11

Dear Ms. Marini,

When Hallie Hartman’s life turns into nothing short of a freak-show, she realizes she took her mind-numbingly ordinary life for granted. She didn’t expect running into Colton Dane would change everything. He’s tall, dark, and swoon-worthy. This should have been awesome but she knows he’s hiding something. His cryptic answers have Hallie yearning to punch him--whenever she’s not thinking about kissing him. So not awesome. When she finally uncovers the truth, she finds he’s not just from out of town.

He’s an alien.

As if that wasn’t enough to have her questioning her sanity, she discovers the rest of his secrets are far more shocking. Colton’s a part of the Megaera, an outcasted rebel faction, who wants Hallie to join them. She doesn’t know why the deranged alien mafia group thinks she can help them--they’re the ones who can manipulate energy. She has to accept the truth being shoved in her face and find a way to trust Colton. There are worse things than being a prisoner or a pawn in some otherworldly game--like being dead.

UNCOVERED is a YA paranormal romance complete at 59,000 words. It will appeal to readers of Jennifer Armentrout’s OBSIDIAN and Becca Fitzpatrick’s HUSH, HUSH. This novel is a stand-alone but has series potential.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

P.S. I also love dance parties and fuzzy sweaters. Who doesn’t?



My entire life has consisted of a level of normalcy that makes me want to stab myself in the eye with a pen simply for dramatic effect. The only thing exceptional about me is how fast I can run but what is that going to do for me? Now, if I could find a way to run straight out of my dull life and into one that’s electrifying, maybe I’d have a use for it.

Wind whipped past me, blowing strands of my long, dark hair backwards as I imagined the recognizable setting fading away. Instead, I pictured vivid ambers and gold swirling together under the glow from the early-evening light. I could almost feel the sun’s rays warming my skin. As if to taunt me, a frigid blast of air blew through the tree branches, causing them to quiver and bend. Reality smacked me in the face, shattering my perfect mental image.

I was running my usual path that took me between the apartments, past the office buildings and Saffron Park. I looked down to turn my iPod up louder, hoping to drown out my thoughts. Just before I placed it back into my pocket, I slammed into something rock solid. The impact was so intense it sent me bouncing backwards with what felt like a wave of compressed air. I crashed onto the hard pavement. Cursing, I reached over to grab my iPod and looked up to see what I’d run into.

Not what--who.

An Agent's Inbox #10


Hadley Barrington has lived in France long enough to know she wants nothing to do with Oklahoma or the old wooden yacht she inherited from her mother. But she does want to know what caused her mother's death. And to sell the boat so she can get back to her life as a successful jewelry designer and free French woman, unfettered by any desire for long term relationships.

Zane wants nothing to do with anyone who is not all-American. His future lies right here on Grand Lake, Oklahoma. And that includes marrying a local girl…when he finds the right one. But his comfortable world dissolves into spicy chaos when his father asks him to take on the mission of making sure the tiny Parisian beauty leaves the lake--and the country--as soon as possible.

Zane is a hunky, Native American solution to Hadley's problem of getting the boat ready to sell, with his long dark hair and the amber pendant dangling on his handsome bronze chest. But Barrington women are dangerous for the men in his family, and he must keep secret what he knows about her mother’s last days. A secret that might rock Hadley’s French view of love. The story is set on Grand Lake ‘O the Cherokees. The “front side” is a playground of wealthy oil men and a unique wooden boat culture. The “back side” is where the locals, many of them Native American, live out their lives, often in poverty.

My book, a story of returning home, culture shock, and finding true love, might be called Through Amber Smoke, Cougars on the Dock, or Eurotrash Accent. The manuscript is complete and consists of 75,000 words. It fits firmly into the Contemporary Romance genre.

I am a professional non-fiction writer and teacher in business and the university. My short play, Every Boat’s for Sale, was recently performed in a local theatre. This story was inspired by my fascination with boats and my involvement in the wooden boat culture of Grand Lake, Oklahoma. In fact, a significant portion of the book was written on a boat.

I blog about my writing, tweet about it (over 1000 followers), maintain a Facebook Page and an author fan page.



Hadley frowned and rubbed her sweaty palms on the seat of her shorts. Why wasn’t the door shut? Was someone on board? She paused to listen, but all she could hear was the creaking of the wooden dock and her own heart pounding. Her expression, more a grimace than a smile, hurt her face. Nothing else could go wrong after the h*** of the last couple days. She’d used up her share of bad luck. She was sure of it. All she wanted was to sell the stupid boat and head back home to France. With her toe, she nudged the door of the neglected old yacht the rest of the way open, then squinted into the dim interior, wary of spiders and other creatures that thrived in abandoned places.

“Are you Hadley?” A voice erupted from the shadows, sending her scrambling backwards up the stairs and out onto the deck. Her gaze darted up and down the deserted dock. Could anyone hear her scream, if that’s what she decided to do? Forget screaming. She was alone. She’d handle this man herself. Sucking in her breath and keeping a safe distance, Hadley faced the stranger. She stood as tall as she could, crossed her arms, lifted her chin and tried her best to appear intimidating.

Oui. I am Hadley.” She hoped the golden man couldn't hear the tremble in her voice. “But who are you, Monsieur, and why are you on my boat?”

An Agent's Inbox #9

Dear Ms. Marini,

The Wretched Gretchens will shatter your eardrums, and they’re not going to apologize. But the teen all-girl band is facing an inevitable breakup. Lead singer Charlie, who croons like Patsy Cline on steroids, is leaving Portland for college at the end of the summer, and her bandmates won’t fit in her suitcase.

A prom-night battle of the bands victory snags the Wretched Gretchens the opening slot on a West Coast tour with Rorschach, indie darlings hoping to mimic the airy charm of their debut album. Charlie seizes the chance to make her last summer with her best friends matter, even if it means abandoning the unrequited crush all her songs are about.

Charlie’s not the only one running away. Beautiful but impetuous guitarist Roxanne wants to forget the high school diploma she didn’t exactly finish, and Rorschach’s frontman, a golden-voiced Texan with curls luscious as Jim Morrison’s, is a sexy distraction. Earnest Layla, Roxanne’s younger sister, wants a song with a killer bass solo and a closeness with the sister who always pushes her away. And fresh-from-therapy drummer M.J. escapes a secret she can’t even tell her friends--if only every city on the tour would quit reminding her about it. Exhausting shows, all-night parties and piercing heartbreaks strain the increasingly fragile bonds of the Gretchens’ sisterhood as they struggle with what binds them beyond the love of a catchy hand-clap chorus.

RIP HER TO SHREDS is contemporary YA complete at 73,000 words and told from alternating third-person perspectives.

I understand you’re looking for edgy contemporary YA with a commercial hook, and I believe this book would be a great fit. I admire the honesty and humor in interviews you’ve done, and I appreciate the valuable publishing insight you offer on Twitter and your blog.

My background is in journalism, and I produce a public radio show for Seattle’s NPR station. I played in an all-girl band in high school, though unfortunately, no one told me I couldn’t sing on key.

Thank you very much for your time and consideration.



In the green room, she’d be herself again.

Away from the cymbals clanging in her ears and the bass trembling in her belly, she’d be Charlie the dork. Charlie the siren, that girl who shimmied and gyrated and crooned like she knew how to string sentences together, would be dead. The real Charlotte Bray usually fumbled through basic conversations. She was the one who wanted to lose. She was the one who wanted it all to be over.

Charlie clamped the mic back onto the stand, turned her back on the applause and hurried off the stage. Safety. Finally.

But Roxanne Young collapsed onto the couch first, and Charlie watched her skillfully maneuver around the scrubbed-out stain that was once dirt or vomit or something more sinister.

Roxanne hugged her blue Ibanez guitar to her lap. “Well. We were f****** awful,” she said, dragging her lucky pick along the E string she’d re-fitted earlier that day and propping her legs onto her amp. “Weren’t we?” she asked, waiting for someone to deny it.

The rest of The Wretched Gretchens rushed the green room. The air conditioning was on full-blast, but after baking under the lights on stage, Charlie welcomed the breeze, and she could tell at least two of her bandmates badly needed to reapply their deodorant. Charlie tried not to think about her own sticky armpits and claimed her own cushion on the couch, careful not to invade her best friend’s personal space.

An Agent's Inbox #8

Ms. Victoria Marini:

Amanda Leonard doesn't know who her mother was. She wishes she did.

Amanda does know when the world is going to end. She wishes she didn't.

There's a clock inside her head, and it's counting down to the apocalypse. She has never told anyone--not even her only family, the four "uncles" that adopted and raised her after her mom died. She has spent most her life trying to ignore it, but time is finally running out. The doomsday clock will strike midnight shortly after her upcoming eighteenth birthday.

Desperate for answers, Amanda digs through the remnants of her family's history, unearthing dark truths about her past, her uncles, her mother, and even herself.  She is not just a bystander to the approaching apocalypse, but its harbinger. For the first time in her life, she has power--but that power comes with a price. She will be forced to give something up: her life, her family, or her world. If she doesn't…she will lose everything. The walls of isolation Amanda spent her whole life building will come crashing down when she finds that the end of the world starts at home.

TIMES NONE, complete at 86,000 words, is a YA contemporary fantasy that examines the end of the world through the lenses of small-town intrigue, the bonds of family, and one young woman's journey to adulthood. I chose to query you because you have indicated a desire to see manuscripts that are about relationships, and TIMES NONE is at its heart about relationships: between friends, between family, and even between the self and the external world. Thank you for your consideration.



The other clock ticked.

Amanda Leonard looked out the window and saw the end of the world. The bus ride was not going well.

The flat, snowy fields of Minnesota were gone, replaced by a desolate wasteland, pocked and cratered like a burn wound. No sun was visible behind the low-hanging smog of ash and smoke, but a lurid, bloody glow illuminated the scene.

It was a nightmarish pairing: a clock in her head to let her know how much time was left, and visions to show her what was to come every time it ticked. Well, "clock" was a bit of a stretch--it was closer to instinct than timekeeping. The units of measurement were so erratic she had given up trying to make sense of them years ago.

She hated it.

There were no signs of life visible in the empty desert of blackened rubble. It wasn't much a view, but at least it was always the same. Or it had been, until recently. A bitter, rusty taste filled her mouth as she realized she was biting her the inside of her cheek hard enough to draw blood.

Wait. Be patient. Be calm. It will pass.

Finally, the images faded, shimmering like a heat haze on a summer day. The world returned to normal, and the other clock was silent once more. Amanda let out a sigh of relief.

An Agent's Inbox #7

Dear Ms. Marini,

I am seeking representation for my novel, FINDERS KEEPERS, and since your website mentions you like urban fantasy as well as mystery, mayhem, and romance, I thought you might be interested. FINDERS KEEPERS is an 82,000 word urban fantasy.

After a near-miss with a nervous breakdown, Brenna Moriarity gave up magic, and her life has been much easier without it, thank you very much. And it's not like she's wanting for things to keep her busy. Between her duties as an on-air radio personality, hitting up Seattle’s clubs with her friends, avoiding a tyrannical coven leader, and keeping away from her delicious boss, there’s no time for practicing the craft.

But her gift won’t let her go so easily. See, Brenna can find things when no one else can. Things that may be better off lost.

Unbeknownst to Brenna, her best friend and fellow witch steals Merwyn's Ruby, a gem so powerful that in the hands of a lesser witch, it can control the user, instead of the other way around. Brenna's on the verge of having to leave town to avoid joining the local coven, and he thinks if she can wield the ruby, the coven leader will have to leave her alone and she won't have to move. His plan dies a quick death when someone steals it from him. Now he’s desperate to get it back, and Brenna’s the only one who can help him.

Having a gem as dangerous and seductive as Merwyn's Ruby loose in the city is bad enough. Having it fall into the wrong hands would be even worse. Trapped by love and loyalty to her friend, Brenna agrees to help, even though the search may rip her sanity to shreds.

I am a member of PNWA and RWA, and my work has finaled in the Emerald City Openers Contest and the FF & P's On the Far Side contest. I have included the first page below. Thank you very much for your time.

Best regards,



“Brenna, come on. When have I ever led you wrong?”

I scowled at the wall, wishing Jared was in front of me instead of on the other end of the phone. I wanted him to see my face. “How about more often than not?”

“Look, just because there was that one time the spirit got loose and wrecked your mom’s pantry--”

“And the time where I had to go searching through your ex-girlfriend’s bedroom. And the time we had to break into the school. And the time you lost your keys at that party, only to remember you’d lent them to your brother, leading him to get in the accident...” S***. Should not have gone there. “Jer, I’m sorry.”

The line was quiet except for the faint background noises on Jared’s end of the phone. “‘S okay, Bren. That was pure stupidity on my part.” The accident, a massive back end collision on a slick road in the middle of January, had ended up putting Jared’s younger brother, who hadn’t had his license long, in the hospital for a month. While he’d fully recovered, it was still a “no-go” subject between us.

I took a deep breath. “It’s still a no, Jared. I mean it. No more magic for me.”

An Agent's Inbox #6

Dear Ms. Marini,

I was excited to see on your website that you're looking for dark/edgy YA and truly original tales like Graceling. I love Kristin Cashore, too, and I just completed a revision to make my own YA novel darker. (I'll let you decide if it's edgy.)

A week before graduation, sixteen-year-old Bruno Nazaire murders someone outside his seventh period class. Even if the guy deserved it, now Bruno must become someone else to avoid being identified as the killer. That means a haircut, a change of wardrobe, and most important, getting rid of his once cherished Blue.

In Télesphore, the glowing color of a person’s palm determines their place in society, and touching hands with another mixes the colors permanently. Once a member of the Blue elite, now Bruno must do the unthinkable and dilute his color to stay one step ahead of the investigators. Suddenly he’s visiting parts town he never new existed, and making friends with people he would’ve crossed the street to avoid only weeks ago.

But the officials hunting him are getting smarter, and in a city enclosed by jagged iron fences, there are only so many places to hide. At the last minute, Bruno’s parents arrange a deal to clear his name and get his life back. All Bruno has to do turn his back on those in the Red slums that look to him as a leader, dump his new smoking-hot girlfriend, and let a Green boy die in his place.

Yeah right.
Complete at 94,000 words, AN UNCOMMON BLUE is a YA sci-fi with a colorful twist. My previous publications include a collection of comedy sketches by Meriwether Publishing, and various other skits for Brand X Comedy, a university performance troupe. I have a BS degree in Youth Leadership, which provides me with insight into adolescent trends and struggles. I am also a member of SCBWI.
Thank you for your time. I've included the fist page of my manuscript for your consideration.
There are three unspoken rules in high school rugby.
1. Your team members are family.
2. You support your family.
3. This support must be shown periodically with an affectionate slap on the backside.
After four years as the starting right winger, I had almost gotten used to this. Almost. At least I no longer felt the urge to bloody my teammate’s nose when they tried it.
But in the middle of the hall? No way. During school hours my glutes were off limits.
I whirled around to explain this to whichever of my idiotic team members was behind me, only to find myself face to face with an attractive redhead.
“Hey, Bruno,” Drea said with a smirk. “Ready for the test?”
I opened my mouth but no sound came out.
Even with her super-short hair, Drea was stunning. Before last summer she’d often been mistaken for a boy, but that all ended when puberty hit. With both fists.
I recovered from my embarrassment enough to nod.
She leaned against the lockers. Her pale white skin reflected the light from her blue palm.
“History should be a breeze compared to pre-calc. I wanted to stab myself in the eye when I got to that section on antiderivatives.”
I mumbled something incoherent and fumbled with my lock.
Without warning she came up close and spoke in a half-whisper. Her hair smelled like coconut. “I know someone that likes you. If you hurry, we might have time to talk before the final.”

An Agent's Inbox #5

Dear Victoria Marini,

I read on your blog that you enjoy “a romantic element, mayhem & mystery.” For this reason, I hope you will be interested in my novel of literary fiction set in Cline, Texas in 1964.

Twenty-year-old Margaret Harmond is haunted by her Catholic upbringing, her desire for other women, and the ghost of her mother, whose suicide she witnessed at the age of eight. While training for the sisterhood in a Catholic home for unwed mothers, Margaret finds herself tempted by one of the pregnant teenage girls and throws herself further into her work by joining the local Civil Rights Movement. But as she begins to investigate the disappearances of young black men, she finds herself caught in a web of corruption, endangering the lives of those she loves most and bringing her closer to the one person she was trying to avoid.

THE LOOKING-GLASS HOUSE is complete at 75,000 words. I recently received my MFA in fiction from Purdue University, where I currently teach composition and creative writing courses. My work has appeared in The Albion Review and REAL: Regarding Arts and Letters.

Included below are the first 250 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.



March of 1964 in Cline, Texas was unseasonably warm. The frost had melted and the azaleas were beginning to bloom, their fuchsia flowers rippling across the grounds of Saint Therese's Home for Girls. Inside, the chapel was stuffy and quiet. No breeze came from the open windows, and dust particles hung motionless in the sunlight. Twelve pregnant girls knelt in the pews, praying. The only sounds came from the kneelers creaking as the girls shifted. Sister Mary Catherine, Mother Superior of Saint Therese's, sat in a burgundy mohair arm chair at the front of the chapel with a rosary in her hands, as if her eyes were closed because she too was praying. All the girls, though, knew she was sleeping.

But even with Mother Superior beginning to snore, a hum as monotonous as the bees outside who droned from blossom to blossom, fat and drunk on azalea nectar, the girls could not relax, because Margaret watched them from the back pew.

Charlotte,” she snapped at a girl who rested her butt on the pew behind her. Margaret had been taught to pray on her knees with her back straight and her eyes closed.

“My back hurts, Miss Margaret,” the girl whined.

“Suffering makes us stronger,” Margaret answered. And she would know.

Margaret sat in the middle of the pew, her knees pinched together, her feet pointed slightly beneath her, her hands folded in her lap, clutching a Bible and a small pocketbook with enough cash for the month's groceries.

An Agent's Inbox #4

Dear Ms. Marini,

I read on Literary Rambles that you are seeking a fresh take on YA paranormal and I believe I have accomplished that with THE THINGS THAT ARE and I hope you agree.

Sixteen-year-old Brooks Hartwel has stopped trying to save the murder victims she sees in her prophetic dreams. Clashes with police, a strained relationship with her mom, and a lifetime supply of psych meds hardly seems worth her failed attempts. Besides, screwing up her life for strangers is a bit too heroic, even for her.

Then her dreams become personal--she is the next murder victim. Unable to ignore her impending death, she races to reveal the killer before he finds her. But instead she discovers her prophetic dreams are linked to a society of demigods responsible for her father’s death and the boy she loves is one of them.

The Society of Soteira was created to rule man in secrecy, but a rogue group of demigods has formed and are wickedly determined to see Brooks dead. Or so she thinks. As she plunges into the mysterious world of the Soteirans, she learns that all is not as it seems and she must unravel the truth and choose her own fate, even if it means losing the boy she loves and in the end her life.

THE THINGS THAT ARE is a young adult, paranormal novel complete at 112,000 words. Though a stand-alone novel, it is the first of a planned trilogy with the second and third books titled THE THINGS THAT WERE and THE THINGS THAT ARE TO BE.

As instructed I have included the first 250 words below. If you are interested I would be happy to provide the complete manuscript. Thank you for your time and consideration.



Stalker. That was what everyone at school would call me if I were caught. But honestly, I could care less.

I peeked over the bushes again. He was sitting on the wooden porch swing with his legs resting on the railing in front of him and his phone pressed to his ear. If I had to listen to one more round of I’m sorry baby and you’re right baby, I was going to voluntarily face the humiliation and give myself up.

Hiding outside of my rival Christina’s house was not a planned event. It was an unfortunate event caused by a momentary hiccup in my sanity. We needed more ice for the barn party, so I had volunteered and took the opportunity to drive by her house on the way back from The Quick Stop. But, I didn’t just drive by. I hid the car and physically sneaked around her house, to try and catch a glimpse inside. Now I was stuck crouching behind the prickly hedges in her front yard because some boy had stormed outside onto her front porch before I could escape. I think he was arguing with his girlfriend.  If he had a girlfriend, maybe he shouldn’t be at another girls house, but that was none of my business. My business was finding a way to get back to Sam’s car that was parked halfway up the street before she sent out a search party or before I was spotted.

An Agent's Inbox #3

Dear Ms. Marini,

A humanlike girl with an affinity to plants arrives on Earth to defend our garden from invasion. To learn English, she deciphers Dr Seuss and christens herself, Sam I Am. Each day here, she ages a year. Trillions of neurotransmitters inside her stomach, called Logic Cells, give advice inside her head. Bad enough these gut feelings never shut up, but they can also override her motor functions, guaranteeing Sam complies with the planned airborne immunization of humans against alien mind-control. At eighteen-days-old her Logic Cells will release pheromones to seduce a male to pollinate her spores before Sam’s dispersal sack explodes and she wilts, giving duel meaning to her plant teen response--that blows.

But at day-fourteen, soldiers with Yertle the Turtle shells on their heads discover her landing pod. Sam escapes, helped by Brooke, a teenage girl with leukemia. Attracted to Brooke’s brother Dylan, Sam hopes her Logic Cells intervene because at three days (years) younger than him, he avoids her like he might catch a dose--of poison ivy. This changes after Sam saves Dylan from an alien attack, because his thankyou kiss helps her realize, allowing Logic Cells to manipulate humans makes her no better than the invading tree reapers. Now prior to completing her mission, Sam hopes to give Dylan what he desires before her Logic Cells play Chemical Cupid. A cure for the disease circulating in Brooke’s red sap--even if she has to cut out her own stomach to do it.

PLANTED (I CAN WATER MYSELF) is a standalone 83,000-word young adult science fiction with series potential. I was the founder and president of Strategy First, a worldwide publisher of entertainment software for twenty years. Our franchise titles, Disciples, a fantasy, and Jagged Alliance, an adventure role-playing release, sold over one million copies worldwide respectively and were geared to a young adult audience.



I struggled with the onslaught of moisture in my eyes, fearing my Logic Cells would ask questions. Breathe…I needed to breathe and not think about the box. Think…think about something else…the first mutilation I deciphered in the dead forest named library. Its words helped me respond to a worker who had asked my name.

“Sam I am,” I said.
She laughed. “Where’s your mother, Sam?”
I pointed upward.
She touched my limb. “You poor dear.”
I almost forgot--never reveal Mother orbited Earth.

No, thinking of the genocide called books did not help. It made me want to grow thorns on my twigs and drop from the tree to mount a rescue, but knowing my Logic Cells would interfere--tears fell instead of me.
You are wasting fluids. What is wrong? my Logic Cells asked.
I refused to respond.

My permanent stomachache growled again. If you cannot speak, because someone may hear. Signal us with your twigs.
How about I manifest into a giant redwood and stomp my stumps while shouting ‘Fee-fi-fo-fum, I smell the blood of a human,’ but no, that ability along with Logic Cells helping remained a fairy tale. So I knotted all my twigs into a fist except one and gave my Logic Cells the middle twig. One signaled human warriors. Two, the Swarm.
Branches snapped. Humans dressed in green paraded through the forest. Sunlight glinted from the barbs attached to their weapons as they stabbed bushes. They had the box--now they wanted me.

An Agent's Inbox #2

Dear Victoria,

Ally Rodriguez doesn’t daydream about prom, first kisses, or midnight strolls on the beach. When skin contact has the power to immerse you in visions that will eventually strip your sanity and leave you in a world where you can’t tell flashbacks from reality, you don’t dream of being touched at all.

But Ally’s fear of touch takes a back seat when detectives discover the body of a classmate dumped in the orange groves. With no suspects or leads, the entire school is spooked and a bully decides Ally is going to be his next outlet, but testing the limits of her no-touch-attitude is the wrong move. During the struggle Ally has a vision and accidentally shoves it back into him, knocking him unconscious. When the green-eyed god of baseball, Eric Nichols, tries to break it up, he catches a glimpse of the vision and is determined to find the truth about what he saw. His new mission brings them closer than Ally imagined possible, forcing her to question everything she thought she knew about her ability, like how and why Eric can see the visions, and why they can sometimes touch without her seeing a vision at all. But when a video of Ally having a flashback lands on the cell phone of Eric’s dad, the lead detective in the murder case, he pieces together the truth and reveals a family secret in order to enlist her help in finding the killer.

All she has to do is touch the body.

Touching Darkness, a YA Mystery, is a stand-alone novel with series potential. It is complete at 80,000 words and will appeal to fans of Kimberly Derting’s The Body Finder. My Romance novella, “One Last Shot”, is contracted for an October release with Evernight Publishing.

Thank you.



I should have kept my mouth shut. I should have sat in my chair, ducked my head, and ignored the fact that Kyle Pollard was being a complete a** for no reason…again. But there was something in the look on Shane’s face; fear was part of it, but there was more. Impotent rage. That feeling that no matter how mad Shane got, he would never be able to retaliate; a feeling I knew all too well. Girls with secrets don’t make so much as a ripple in the glassy surface of their peers’ awareness and they sure as h*** don’t make a tidal wave by mouthing off to a jerk. Shane obviously agreed that cowering in the shadows was better than bleeding in the spotlight, but the smug satisfaction in Kyle’s eyes pierced something inside me and I was on my feet before I knew what happened.

“What did you say?” Kyle asked.

Sweat erupted from my pores, but it was too late to walk away. “Why can’t you just leave people the h*** alone?” My heart threatened to explode; words continued to spew. “If you spent half as much time paying attention in class as you do harassing everyone else maybe you wouldn’t be taking this class for the third freaking time.” D*** it felt good to be on the giving end for once.

Kyle’s eyes widened then narrowed into the glare of a predator aching to pounce. His fists shook at his sides. No one so much as breathed, much less moved to intervene.

An Agent's Inbox #1

Dear Ms. Marini,

Banished from the palace after her father’s death, fourteen year old Nara is no longer a princess. Now her egomaniac cousin Roman sits on the throne as king. But Nara is the only one who can hear the Gods, and those Gods are angry. Darkness is the first plague, followed by the frogs and the flies. And the Gods are just getting warmed up.

By unraveling the cryptic clues the Gods send to her dreams, Nara thinks she knows how to stop the plagues. The Gods want a temple. Nara advises Roman to begin construction on the temple at once, and Roman commands the commoners work as laborers. While Roman enjoys massages and pedicures, Nara must continue to decipher the mysterious clues from the Gods to end the worsening plagues.

Damian is a crippled commoner, but he has a big voice and bright ideas. Despite his disability, he smarts his way onto the construction site. But Damian doesn’t believe a temple is the right solution to the worsening plague problem. The laborers grow weary and angry, and rally around Damian; the visionary with a crooked leg.

Nara must stand in Roman’s shadow while trying to save the kingdom. She misses her father, and aches for palace life again. And now Damian, a mere commoner, is challenging everything. But when Nara and Damian’s mothers fall victim to the worse plague yet, a mystery illness that puts them near death, the teens must work together before the Gods destroy everything they hold dear.

TEMPLE FALLS, a middle grade fantasy novel of 50,000 words, is told from the point of view of both Nara and Damian, appealing to girl and boy readers. The book stands alone, but has series potential. I like to think of it as a PG rated version of THE GAME OF THRONES meets THE MYSTERIOUS BENEDICT SOCIETY.

Thank you for taking the time to consider this submission. Per your guidelines, I have included the first 250 words below.



Nara pushed her way through the soup of darkness. Her shoes clicked against the marble pathway towards the royal palace. Blackness covered her like a thick cloak, weighing her down; even though it was only lunch time. The absence of daylight still gave Nara the creeps. It had been like this for three weeks.

But she knew how to fix it.

And she would tell her stupid cousin, even though he hardly deserved it. Anything was better than living under a dark cloud all day, every day.

It was strange coming to the palace without her maidens and royal guardsmen. But now that Nara and her mom were no longer palace residents, the entourage was gone.

The guardsman at the palace gate, a fellow by the name of Warner who Nara had known since birth, bowed his head slightly as he pushed open the heavy iron gate letting Nara inside. “Good day, Lady Nara,” he pronounced.

Nara with a dismissive flick of her wrist said, “Day? Is that what this is? I can’t tell anymore.”

The oppressive darkness covering the kingdom of Chernadova indeed made it hard to tell day from night. For three weeks, since the death of Nara’s father, it was as if the Gods decided it would be a good idea to cover the kingdom with a large, dirty, dishrag. And every day the dishrag grew dirtier.

“Yes, my Lady. It certainly is a strange phenomenon.” Warner paused for a moment, shuffling his feet before continuing. “What do you make of this oddity?”

Monday, September 17, 2012

Now Accepting Entries

UPDATE: We're full! (Actually, we were full within the first two seconds...) I've responded to every e-mail sent before 1:50 p.m. EDT (or 10:50 a.m. PDT), so if you didn't make it in this time, do come back next month!

I’m now accepting entries for September’s round of “An Agent’s Inbox”! Here’s a quick refresher:

The Rules

1. To enter, your manuscript must meet two conditions: First, it must be COMPLETE, POLISHED, AND READY TO QUERY, and second, it must be in one of the genres The Agent represents (which are listed at the bottom of this post).

2. IF YOU PARTICIPATED IN EITHER OF THE 2012 ROUNDS OF “AN AGENT’S INBOX,” please DO NOT participate in this one UNLESS YOUR HAVE A NEW MANUSCRIPT that meets the criteria listed above. I have a pretty good memory, and I will disqualify previous entries. If the entry slots don’t fill up by Tuesday, September 18, I may allow previous participants to enter, but honestly, I don’t expect them to last that long.

3. All entries must include A QUERY and THE FIRST 250 WORDS of your manuscript. You must paste these items IN THE BODY OF YOUR E-MAIL; otherwise, I'll disqualify it.

4. THE ENTRY WINDOW OPENS AT 1:00 P.M. EDT (OR 10:00 A.M. PDT). Please note that this is A DIFFERENT TIME than normal, so plan accordingly! Once the entry window opens, I'll accept the first 20 entries. I won't accept any entries sent before the entry window opens or after the first 20 slots fill up.

5. If your entry makes it in, I'll send you a confirmation e-mail with a post number. If your entry doesn't make it in, I'll still send you an e-mail, but it won't have a post number.

6. If your entry makes it in, YOU MUST COMMENT ON AT LEAST 3 OTHER ENTRIES.

The Prizes The Agent, Victoria Marini* of Gelfman Schneider Literary Agents, Inc., will select both the winners and the prizes. She might pick 20 winners, or she might only pick one. She might offer full requests, or she might only ask to see another page. It all depends on how good the entries are.

Please keep in mind that THIS CONTEST ISN'T FOR THE FAINT OF HEART. I've encouraged The Agent to treat the entries exactly as she would a normal batch of queries. Essentially, The Agent will be answering the question, "How much of the entry did you read, and if you didn't read it all, why did you stop?" I think this process will be instructive for all of us, but if you enter, you need to be prepared to hear exactly what The Agent thinks of your query and first page.

The Genres

MG fiction (all subgenres)
YA fiction (all subgenres)
Adult fiction (all subgenres except erotica)

To enter, please send an e-mail with YOUR QUERY and THE FIRST 250 WORDS of your manuscript to kvandolzer(at)gmail(dot)com. And please, please, please remember to PASTE THESE ITEMS IN THE BODY OF THE E-MAIL.
*I know this probably goes without saying, but if you’re thinking about entering, you should probably treat this round a little differently than you would if you didn’t already know The Agent’s identity. Feel free to do a little research and include personalization in your queries. Also, if Ms. Marini has already rejected your query, YOU PROBABLY DON’T WANT TO ENTER UNLESS YOU’VE MADE SIGNIFICANT CHANGES TO YOUR QUERY AND/OR MANUSCRIPT. I’m not going to say you can’t enter (mostly because I have no way to police it), but you--and she--are going to get a lot more out of this contest if you enter something The Agent hasn’t seen before.