Monday, April 29, 2013

This Is Not One of Those Overnight Success Stories

This is the post I've written a thousand times in my head but never needed to put down on paper. This is the post I've dreamed about but never dared to hope I'd write. But then, life has a way of surprising you, and as far as surprises go, this one is pretty good:

From Publishers WeeklyAuthor of the popular blog Mother.Write.(Repeat.) (, Krista Van Dolzer, sold her debut novel, The Regenerated Man, to Shauna Rossano at Putnam. Agent Kate Schafer Testerman at kt literary handled the North American rights deal, and the book is scheduled for winter 2015. The middle grade novel is set in postwar California and, Testerman said, has elements of science fiction, as it follows a young girl who becomes the sole defender of “a bio-engineered Japanese soldier.”

Steve, otherwise known as THE REGENERATED MAN for the uninitiated, has had a bumpy road. When they say publishing slows down (read: comes to a standstill) in the summer, they mean it, so by the time fall rolled around last year, I was already feeling down and out. We'd given Steve a college try (whatever that means). Maybe it was time to pack it in and concentrate on the next manuscript.

Thank goodness Kate doesn't move on as easily as I do.

Long story slightly shorter: Shauna read the manuscript in a few weeks last September, then took it to her ed meeting. They liked it but had some issues. A few weeks later, she sent some notes, and I revised, revised, revised. I loved this manuscript so much, so I was grateful for the opportunity to make it even better. By Christmas, I was spending almost as much time revising as I was sleeping. By the end of January, I was (finally) done.

After Kate read the revision, she used words like "wow" and "amazing" to describe it, but we still had to wait and see what Shauna thought. And wait we did. Shauna was already swamped, conference season was just beginning, and in the ensuing weeks, I convinced myself that she was going to say no, that she would like it but not love it, that we'd be right back where we'd started. Even when I heard she was thrilled with the revision and taking it back to ed meeting, I didn't allow myself to hope. And when things didn't immediately come together, I told myself I'd told me so.

Then one morning, Kate sent me an e-mail. It was Putnam's offer.

How did John Lennon put it? "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans"? I've certainly found that to be true, especially in this business. But maybe, just maybe, that's part of its charm. Having everything figured out is kind of overrated. I'd much rather make it up as I go along.


A huge thank-you to Shauna for loving Steve as much as I do and fighting for him as long and hard as I would have. Another huge thank-you to the amazing and insightful critique partners who read and commented on early drafts: Liesl Shurtliff, Myrna Foster, Amy Sonnichsen, Jenilyn Collings, Ben Spendlove, Kelly Bryson, Mónica Bustamante Wagner, and Tara Dairman. I also have to give a shout-out to the KT Lit Sub Club, whose cheerleading and encouragement kept me (mostly) sane: Elizabeth Briggs, Susan Adrian, Erin Danehy, Sara Beitia, and our newest addition, Amy Sonnichsen. Last but certainly not least, a tip of my hat and a heartfelt hug to the incomparable Kate, granter of wishes and weaver of dreams. I must say, there's something to be said for boundless optimism:)

Oh, and one last thank-you to Honey Bear, our kids, and the rest of our family, but mostly Honey Bear. I don't know how I always manage to leave you out of these. It must be because you're always there, my only constant, the one person in the world who feels so much a part of me that I sometimes forget you're not. Nothing would be quite as bright if I didn't have you to share it with.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Thirty Is the New Twenty: Why New Adult Is Making Inroads

While the term New Adult has been floating around for the last couple of years, it's only really gotten traction in the last couple of months. A few weeks ago, Publishers Marketplace added New Adult as a subcategory, and at around the same time, a so-called New Adult title, Jamie McGuire's WALKING DISASTER, hit the number-one spot on USA Today's best-selling books list.

Now, I can't say what New Adult actually is. Several people have tried, including a writer at Shelf Awareness and another at USA Today, but I don't think anybody really knows where the needle's going to settle. So far, it appears that most New Adult titles are knockoffs of E.L. James's FIFTY SHADES OF GREY, at least according to the deal listings on Publishers Marketplace. But I suspect that this will change, that the category will break out--and in a big way--because of one simple truth:

People aren't growing up as quickly as they used to.

My adulthood in brief: I got married at twenty, had a mortgage by twenty-two, and gave birth to my first child at twenty-three. Now at twenty-nine, I have three kids, am almost a third of the way through that thirty-year mortgage, and will probably be an empty-nester by the time I'm fifty. But what's become increasingly clear to me is that I'm an anomaly among my peers.

The twenties have morphed into a kind of extended adolescence, a time to figure out who you are and what you want without Mom or Dad or the vice principal looking over your shoulder. The legal barriers to self-discovery slide out of the way, and you can pretty much do and be and have it all (provided you can fit it in that two-hundred-dollar backpack you're planning to schlep across Europe or the Himalayas or wherever it is that people go to discover themselves nowadays). I'm not saying that's good or bad (though I do have an opinion on the topic); I'm simply saying that's how it is.

So it's no surprise that a similarly slanted cadre of books are finding a toehold in the marketplace. Twenty-somethings aren't adolescents, but in today's world, they're not adults, either. Readers figured that out a while back, and now New York City is finally catching up.

P.S. Don't miss the additional opinions/thoughts in the comments!

Friday, April 19, 2013

"The Writer's Voice" Details

“The Writer’s Voice” is a multi-blog, multi-agent contest hosted by Cupid of Cupid’s Literary Connection, Brenda Drake of Brenda Drake Writes, Monica B.W. of Love YA, and me. We’re basing it on NBC’s singing reality show The Voice, so the four of us will serve as coaches and select projects for our teams based on their queries and first pages.

Here’s the timeline:

May 1
May 2
Everybody enters the Rafflecopter lottery
The lottery winners sign up on the widget
May 2-10
We select our team members from “The Writer’s Voice” Blogfest
May 10-20
We coach our team members, helping them polish their entries
May 20
We post our team members’ entries on our blogs
May 23-24
Agents vote for their favorites


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 following genres*:

YA fiction (all subgenres)
MG fiction (all subgenres)

To determine who gets to participate in the blogfest, we’ll hold a single-entry Rafflecopter lottery on Wednesday, May 1. Last year, we were overwhelmed by the response, and in many instances, whoever had the fastest fingers--or the fastest Internet connections--made it in. This way, everyone will get an equal chance to participate.

The lottery will remain open for 12 hours on May 1, from 9:00 a.m. EDT to 9:00 p.m. EDT, at which point the Rafflecopter will select 150 random winners. Those winners will then sign up for the blogfest on one of Mister Linky’s Magical Widgets the next day, May 2. Once you sign up on the widget, you’ll post YOUR QUERY and THE FIRST 250 WORDS of your manuscript on your blog.

In summary, you must follow these three steps to enter:

1. Enter the Rafflecopter lottery on May 1 during the submission window listed above.
2. Sign up on the widget on May 2 if you win the lottery.
3. Post your query and the first 250 words of your manuscript on your blog.


We’re building our teams via “The Writer’s Voice” Blogfest, so YOU MUST HAVE A BLOG TO PARTICIPATE IN THIS CONTEST. We don’t care if you’ve had it for five years or five minutes; we just want to be able to fight over you in public:)

We coaches will review the entries and leave a comment on your post that says something like, “I want you!” If more than one of us wants you on her team, you’ll have to pick which coach you want to work with.


We’ll select our 8 team members (plus 1 alternate) by May 10, then spend the next week and a half helping them put a final polish on their entries. You won’t have to take all of our suggestions, of course; we just want to help you make your entry the best that it can be before the agents get a look at it.


On May 20, we’ll post our team members’ queries and first pages on our blogs so that the agents can review them. Here are the awesome agents who’ll be voting on your entries:

Sarah Davies of Greenhouse Literary Agency

The agents will vote for their favorites on May 23 and 24. Each vote will count as a partial or full request depending on how many votes the entry receives. If an entry receives 1 or 2 votes, those votes will count as partial requests. If an entry receives 3 or more votes, those votes will count as full requests.

Voting will stay open until 9:00 p.m. EDT on May 24, at which point we’ll determine which coach’s team received the most votes. That coach will win bragging rights for time immemorial, and everyone who received requests will be able to submit their materials to all the agents who voted for them. These votes represent serious interest in your project, so PLEASE DON’T ACCEPT AN OFFER OF REPRESENTATION BEFORE GIVING “THE WRITER’S VOICE” AGENTS AN OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE A COMPETING OFFER.

So get those queries and first pages polished up, then meet us back here on Wednesday, May 1, between 9:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. EDT. We can’t wait to read your entries! (And of course, if you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments below.)

*We’re very sorry not to include any adult genres this year. We have to base the genres on the agents’ interests, and this year, all the agents who said yes happen to be agents who represent primarily YA and MG projects. There is a chance that a few more agents will sign up between now and May 1, and if a significant portion of those agents consider adult projects, we’ll certainly add some adult genres. But for now, we’ll stick with this.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

LDS Writer Blogfest: Families Can Be Together Forever

I started this post last weekend, but the words weren't coming out as smoothly as I wanted them to. Like a lot of bloggers, I don't usually struggle with blog posts, so this was frustrating. Now I'm glad they didn't, as this last week has put a completely different spin on everything, including this post.

I had a lot of thrills and frills initially, but what I really wanted to say can be boiled down to these five little words: Families can be together forever. God sent us to this earth as families and asked us to love and serve each other because He knew this simple truth.

I don't know why tragedy strikes some families but misses others. I don't know why some people die young while others live with broken bodies that may or may not function properly. But I do know that all that is unfair in life--and all that is just plain hard--will be made right eventually through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. And I know that in the meantime, His grace is there to lift and heal us.

Almost eight years ago, my aunt died suddenly. She'd battled multiple sclerosis for many years, but none of us expected her to deteriorate so rapidly. My mom didn't even find out she was fading until after she'd already passed away. That was a hard time for our family and especially for my mom, who felt like she'd somehow failed her little sister.

Several years later, I was sitting in the temple, reflecting quietly on life and things, when I got the distinct impression that my aunt wanted to be there , that she wanted to feel the same peace and contentment I was feeling in that moment. At that point, I had never done any family history, but I knew I needed to learn. So I went into my local family history center, the same place I now volunteer every Tuesday night, and asked the little old ladies there what I needed to do so Susan could receive the same temple blessings I had.

This is why I'm so obsessed with family history--because I know that families can be together forever and that this is the way God has prepared for EVERY family to receive that blessing. He knows that the vast majority of His children never had the opportunity to go to the temple during their mortal lives, so He lets their descendants receive those ordinances for them (like the sealing ordinance, which is what binds families together on earth and in heaven). The first time I went to the temple, I received these ordinances for myself. Now every time I go back, I receive them on behalf of one of my ancestors.

I believe in God and His Son, Jesus Christ. I believe that Their whole goal is to lift us up to where They are. I believe They love us and are aware of us and want in every way to bless us. I believe Their ways are higher than our ways and that, even if we don't understand why certain things are happening, we will understand eventually.

I won't be online much for the rest of the week, but if you have a question you think I can answer, feel free to leave it in the comments. I'll respond as soon as I can. (And if you have specific questions about temples, you might check out this post, which at least covers the basics.)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Ms. Sarver's Winners!

Without any ado, the winners:

Best query: #12 NO SUCH THING

NO SUCH THING wins a critique of the first 50 pages!

VIOLENT DELIGHTS wins a copy of one of Ms. Sarver's clients' books, either Sangu Mandanna's THE LOST GIRL or Kim Culbertson's INSTRUCTIONS FOR A BROKEN HEART!

Best first page: #16 IN SIN

IN SIN also wins a critique of the first 50 pages!

And BEYOND THE CASTLE WALL and CRAZY DEEP also win copies of one of Ms. Sarver's clients' books, either Sangu Mandanna's THE LOST GIRL or Kim Culbertson's INSTRUCTIONS FOR A BROKEN HEART!

Congratulations, all! Please e-mail me at kvandolzer(at)gmail(dot)com for details on how to claim your prizes.

Oh, and I also randomly selected winners for my RUMP giveaway. I decided to pick two, since I kept you waiting for an extra day, and here they are:

Angela Citte and S.M. #12 (who also snagged one of Ms. Sarver's top spots!)

Angela and S.M., please e-mail me at kvandolzer(at)gmail(dot)com as well so I can get your copies of RUMP in the mail!

Last but not least, a very big round of applause for everyone who entered and/or critiqued and especially for  Ms. Sarver. This round of "An Agent's Inbox" was a huge success, and that's all thanks to you. I really appreciate it.

There's a lot more excitement coming up on the blog later this week, including all the juicy details on "The Writer's Voice" (which we plan to post this Thursday Friday), so do come back and check those out. Until then!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

"An Agent's Inbox" Is Underway!

And here we go! Check out the entries, then leave some feedback in the comments if you feel so inclined. (ENTRANTS, PLEASE REMEMBER TO CRITIQUE AT LEAST THREE OTHER ENTRIES!) And I'm sure this goes without saying, but please keep your comments constructive (i.e., not rude or mean-spirited). If you want to think like The Agent, you might consider the question, "How much of the entry did you read, and if you didn't read it all, why did you stop?"

Also, don't forget that for every substantive comment you leave on one of the entries between today and Sunday night, I'll give you an entry in my RUMP giveaway. Your comments do have to be substantive (in other words, you can't just say, "I love this!" or "This stinks"), but if you comment on, say, three entries, you'll be entered to win three times. If you comment on TEN entries, you'll be entered to win TEN times, and so on. Anyone may comment, so anyone may win.

I'll announce Ms. Sarver's winners and prizes at the beginning of next week (as well as the random commenter who wins RUMP!), but until then, have at it!

(A few people have asked, so I just wanted to let our newcomers know that I always take out profanity when I'm formatting the entries. In other words, any asterisks you see in the entries are mine. I just prefer to keep things as PG-rated as possible on the blog:) )

An Agent's Inbox #30

Dear Ms. Sarver,

Zorya is seventeen, a high school senior in the Northern California Enclave. Popular at school, living a happy and comfortable life with her wealthy family, she has the best of everything: good grades, the newest smartphone, and the latest clothes.

Sitting in her history class, Zorya isn’t looking at the teacher. She’s looking across the room at David, the strange new boy in her school. She’s fascinated by his appearance, by the way he talks, and even how he eats. He’s the only one in the whole school who’s not like her. The only one who can go out in the daytime.

Zorya is one of the Oameni, now called “Nightwalkers” in polite society. They live on blood, and have great strength, resilience, and very long lives. They are not “undead” or supernatural creatures, but a living, breathing race that had been surviving in concealment for centuries, with only rumors and legends leaking into the Daywalker world.

As far as Zorya is concerned, history is just something you learn in school, but it’s something her parents lived. The Oameni were forced out of hiding fifty years ago. After a brief but bitter war with the Daywalkers, they made peace and began integrating themselves into the Daywalker world, building places like the Enclaves to live and prosper as they preferred.

Now Zorya’s easy life might be about to change. The peace between Daywalkers and Nightwalkers has lasted half a century, but not many know how fragile it is, and what it takes to defend it. Foremost among these defenders are the Aparators--the Protectors--highly-trained members of both races who work in secret and live with one foot in each world. They need bright young people who aren’t weighed down by the memories of war, the poison of prejudice, and the baggage of the old ways.

The Aparators, including members of Zorya’s own family, have plans for Zorya and David’s future that might be quite a bit different from what they imagined. Zorya is also about to discover that life outside the Enclave is quite a bit different than she imagined, and sometimes a lot more dangerous.

Zorya is contemporary YA speculative fiction, complete at 98,300 words. I have appended the first 250 words below, and would be happy to send further material at your request. Thank you for your time and consideration.



My name’s Zorya. Mother says I’m named after Zorya Vechernyaya, goddess of the Evening Star. That’s sort of cool.

There were fifteen of us in my classroom that fall--the entire high school senior class population of the Northern California Enclave. And then there was David. Named after David, I guess.

He wasn’t one of us. He was one of them.

I propped an arm on my desk and casually leaned my head on my hand, turning my face a bit to the right. That way, I could look at him without...looking like I was looking at him. Up at the front of the room Madame Stefonia was writing something on the whiteboard, so she probably wouldn’t notice right away that I wasn’t paying attention.

The moonlamps were turned up high so David could see well enough to read and write. Their eyes are really bad--I don’t think they can even see colors at night. On the other hand, I could see him just fine. Unlike me, he was watching the teacher and busily taking notes.

He was blonde, which in a room full of black hair made him stick out like a snowball on an asphalt road. He was almost a year older than me, almost a foot taller, and even skinnier. His eyes were dark brown, which was as weird around here as the blonde hair. His voice had a twinge of accent, Texas I think, and my G**, the tan. It was only the third week of school and he hadn’t been here long enough to start losing it.

An Agent's Inbox #29

Dear Ms. Sarver:

Because of your interest in contemporary YA, I believe my novel VIOLENT DELIGHTS would be a good fit for your list.

Sixteen-year-old Jenna and her boyfriend Cass think a suicide pact is the only way out. Between Jenna's friends thinking Cass is a freak, her dad running away with his skanky secretary and their parents trying to keep them apart, it's the only answer. But when the day comes, only one shot is fired.

And Jenna is left alone.

Alone and alive.

Now stuck in therapy, she begins to realize what really went down her junior year.

Why Cass killed himself.

Why she didn't when she promised she would.

And how maybe she hadn't seen Cass for who he really was until too late.

Complete at 67,000 words, VIOLENT DELIGHTS is told in non-linear chronology. I think it will appeal to fans of HEATHERS, HATE LIST by Jennifer Brown and BEFORE I FALL by Lauren Oliver. I am currently an intern for XX agency, and an intern at Entangled Publishing, LLC. I am a regular attendee of Book Expo America, the American Library Association conference and have volunteered for the past two years at the Boston Book Festival. Per the submission guidelines, a sample is pasted below. The full manuscript can be sent upon request.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



Day Zero

Today’s the day.

I can feel it in the pulse that sings through my veins, in the way it rings all the way up to my ears.

I drum my fingers on the desk as I hone in on the ticking hands of the clock.

G**, could it go any slower?

My eyes are instantly drawn to Cass. His dark hair shakes as he grins at me, tapping the edge of his pocket. My eyes land on the bulge there. I can’t stop my smile as he winks. Mr. Garrison coughs in our direction, but I ignore him. Nothing matters to me anymore, nothing but Cass and our plan.

I can’t wait to prove them all wrong. Just me and Cass versus the world, showing them that nothing will keep us apart. Nothing.

I flick my wrist back and forth, stopping for a moment when I realize that this is one of the last times I’ll ever feel my pulse.

The bell rings, sending everyone scattering out the door. I raise my eyebrows at Cass, but he just shakes his head. “Timing is everything, Jenna.”

As we file out into the hallway, Cass grabs my hand in his sweaty palm. How can he be nervous? He’s the one who suggested this. Is he having second thoughts? Should I be having second thoughts? My heart thumps and I swallow, trying to erase all the fear building up inside me. But when he squeezes my hand, reassurance flows through me, and all my doubts fly out the window.

An Agent's Inbox #28

Dear Ms. Sarver,

Sixteen-year-old Olivia doesn’t think she killed her dog, but her blood soaked pajamas say otherwise. If the death of her pet wasn’t bad enough, now someone is tormenting her through cryptic e-mails and a painted locker that screams “Murderer”. At first she writes it off as a cruel prank, but after her drama teacher accuses her of stealing and her crush, Smith, swears they hooked up, Olivia starts to wonder if someone is set on destroying her life or if she’s doing it to herself.
When her mom is attacked and hospitalized, Olivia is sent to the Royal Alexander Center for Mental Health. After a psych evaluation rules out paranoid personality disorder and a video tape catches someone who looks eerily similar to Olivia torching a school shed, she is released from the Center.

Armed with a taste for revenge and Smith, who moonlights as a hacker, Olivia’s out to clear her name and get some payback. But each prank escalates and the price of her revenge could be the lives of the people she loves.
BEAUTIFUL MALEVOLENCE is a young adult thriller completed at 50,000 words. My novel will appeal to fans of PRETTY LITTLE LIARS by Sara Shepard and Jenny Han’s BURN FOR BURN.

My debut novel, Second Hand Lace, is due for release April of 2013 by Turquoise Morning Press. My name is J.L. and I live in Calgary, Alberta with my husband and 2.5 dogs.

Thank you for your time,

I have to bury my best friend today.

Right now, Dad is outside digging a hole next to the oak tree in the backyard. Mom is on her knees at the head of the hole; she doesn’t even look bothered that she’s ruining her new linen pants. She won’t stop adjusting the hastily thrown together wooden cross; she looped Tobin’s collar around it but it won’t sit right. I should go down there and help but I’m not sure if I’m welcome.

Mom can’t even look at me without crying.

She thinks I did it.

I don’t blamer her. They found Tobin in my bed, his golden fur matted with blood, and the butcher knife in my hand even though I was asleep.

I don’t remember a thing, and I don’t think I did it, but it doesn’t matter.

Tobin is dead and Mom hates me.

“Olivia, honey, do you want to come downstairs?” Dad calls from the kitchen.

Dad isn’t mad at me--he knows I’d never hurt Tobin on purpose. He thinks maybe I was sleepwalking or something. They’re taking me to the nut house tomorrow to talk to some shrink.

I climb off my bed, thankful Mom put clean sheets on the rust-colored mattress, and shuffle through my door and down the stairs.

An Agent's Inbox #27

Dear Ms. Sarver,

SHE-EAGLE \ shee – ee-g uh \ noun: 1. A woman who resembles an eagle, as in courageous and protective. 2. A 100,000 word women’s fiction about four friends who, with the power of friendship and the horror of breast cancer, shatter many social and political glass walls during 1980's and 90's because these walls must be shattered.
Lizzy, Ranie, Meredith and Pilar begin annual women-only weekends, and at their first reunion Lizzy purchases a journal with an image of a single Eagle feather and the words SHE-EAGLE embroidered on its cover. They share the journal and come up with ten “She-Eagle” rules since courage and protectiveness are their strengths or, at the very least, their goals.

Lizzy's courage wavers with a breast cancer diagnosis (the same disease that killed her mother in 1963), and she and her friends enlist in the breast cancer war at a time when 88% of physicians and 95% of elected officials are men. Ranie, courageous from birth, joins her brother at the first National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights and realizes how much the AIDS activists can teach the newly formed National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC) about public awareness. Meredith’s 1979 abortion and the doctor’s disregard for her emotional well-being fuels her courage, and she becomes an attorney and connects with the NBCC. Pilar embraces the changing world of computer and a new site called the World Wide Web, and she helps Lizzy research treatment choices but only after she rejects her parent’s belief that women should get married, stay home and have babies.
They are She-Eagles, and their courage is obvious; however, She-Eagles are also protective. The discovery of the BRCA gene mutation for breast cancer ignites Lizzy’s protective instincts and she makes an uncommon choice for her daughter that threatens their 20 year friendship. Can these women, who believe so strongly in choice, accept a choice that’s difficult to understand?

Ms. Sarver, I have a MS degree in Nutrition and have written health articles for 29 years--a self-published newsletter for frequent travelers (Health Flight), a women’s health column in the Jill Magazine and a blog (A Teaspoon of Sugar). I created a She-Eagle twitter feed dedicated to acknowledging all courageous and protective women (past and present). SHE-EAGLE is my debut novel, and it blends my dedication to health with my strong belief in the power of female friendships.
Below are the first 250 words. Thank you so much for your time and consideration.



February 1961

Helen’s lips felt cemented to her teeth, and her tongue was swollen and stiff. She wanted water but couldn't ask; unsticking her lips took strength and she didn't have any. Her eyelids were too heavy to open too. It was easier to keep them closed, breathe through her nose and just listen. Yet, she knew from other half-awake moments that listening left her feeling confused because she heard the words breast, no choice, life.

Helen knew where she was, Medical College of Virginia, and she knew why she was there, a breast lump biopsy. And there were moments when she was keenly aware of how much she missed her daughter, Lizzy. What she didn't know was why she couldn't fully pull her mind out of the thick cloud around it or why someone, a nurse most likely, shushed her and told her to be still whenever she stirred, trying to reach for her diary with Lizzy’s picture tucked inside.

The cloud began to drift, letting her thoughts take shape, and she realized the familiar hand that had earlier rubbed her left arm and held her left hand wasn't there. Richard must have gone home, she thought, missing his weighty touch and warm pats.

Without warning, the prickliness in her throat was spreading and she needed to swallow but her sandpaper tongue made her gag and then cough. She moved to cover her mouth but her right hand was trapped, her arm was wedged, pinned against her body. Why can't I move my arm? Her eyelids shot open but closed quickly; pain trumped shock.

An Agent's Inbox #26

Dear Melissa Sarver:

Since you are seeking dark tales, I though you might be interested in seeing my YA fantasy novel entitle DOT REAPER. Much like Voces Inocentes (Innocent Voices), it touches on the issue of child soldiers and civil war. The full manuscript and a short synopsis are available upon request.

Fifteen-year-old Maxine Protega became a god and a demon overnight. Prophesied to abolish magic by one faction of her people, and protect it by another, she’s cast into the middle of a campaign that’s ripping her world and her family apart.

Torn from her home in Virginia, Max treks across the sea to an island dominated by power and deception. As armies of magicians gather and take sides, Max tries her hardest to shield her family from the chaos and violence spilling over into the States. But she fails, and the seeds of discord poison the people she’s fighting for, pitting them against each other, and against her.

When a mentor forces Max to accept the Dot Reaper--a brand that chains her to magic’s creators and marks her as their successor--she gains the power to tip the scales of battle either way. When a faction of her family marches against her, Max is caught between her love for magic and the darkness woven into the very fabric of it. Max must ally herself with one side and face the consequences: the extinction of her race, or a war that will decimate her family.

Voces Inocentes (Innocent Voices) meets Richard Connell’s The Most Dangerous Game in this dark cat-and-mouse story with a magical twist. DOT REAPER is a high-concept, 81,000 word YA fantasy set in Richmond, VA and a fictitious island in the Bermuda triangle. An interesting fact about me: I like to rationalize the actions of infamous leaders (inspired by Sun Tzu’s know your enemy and yourself’) Less interesting fact: I was captain of the drum line in high school. Thank you for your time and consideration.



Thick pillows of smoke stung Max's eyes and invaded her lungs as she collapsed against the bedroom door in a coughing fit. Each convulsion ripped through her chest and throat until taking the faintest of breaths felt like swallowing glass. She pushed open the door. A waft of clean air greeted her, but it provided only temporary relief. Max darted to the nearest window and threw it open, taking in deep, agonizing lungfuls of the humid night air.

Having followed her up the stairs, Fabian, Max’s little brother, was by her side in seconds, sputtering and wheezing against the window screen. Max rubbed and patted his back to help him rid the soot from his lungs. When his breathing settled, she turned her attention to the mesh wiring blocking their escape. Max pushed at the middle and sides of the barrier, but only with Fabian’s help was she able to pop the screen’s aligner out of its track. Another push sent it hurtling to the ground.

Placing a steadying hand on her brother’s shoulder as she threw her leg over the windowsill, Max's bare foot met the rough material of the cold roof.

“Okay,” she said, adjusting her weight. “Hold on to--"

Another explosion rocked the house, sending a concussive force through the room. The top of Max’s head slammed against the bottom of the window as she was hurled outside and onto the roof. The coarse shingles scraped and scratched at her arms and legs as she slid down.

Then she was free falling.

An Agent's Inbox #25

Dear Ms. Sarver--

A suspense novel for Young Adults, THE LUCKY FEW is complete at 98,000-words and is the first in a potential series. Similar to Richard Condon's THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, but for teens, THE LUCKY FEW is full of the twists and turns found in Jennifer Rush's debut YA novel ALTERED, mixed in with a splash of the mystery and humor from Ally Carter's HEIST SOCIETY, combining to create a tale that might just make you wonder if it's all possible.

Sixteen-year-old Blakely Sullivan just happens to be the sole heir to billions, thanks to her father who created Sullivan Enterprises--the largest private aeronautics defense company in the world. And following in the mysterious footsteps of her recently murdered mom, she's destined to become one of the most brilliant bio-chemical engineers to ever grace the planet.

Only that last part, she doesn't know yet.

When a mysterious invitation shows up at Blakely's door, she can't help but wonder what she's gotten herself into now. And dinner with none other than her grandfather--along with twelve strange kids her own age, who each bring an incredible sense of déjà vu--wasn't at all what she was expecting.

For over six-hundred years, 99.9% of the world's most powerful and influential leaders, scientists, CEO's--and yes, even most of Hollywood's elite--successfully achieved greatness because of one thing...they were chosen by the clandestine Society of Scion.

And Blakely Sullivan? Well, she's the next in line.

I'm very fortunate to have just completed an exclusive R&R on THE LUCKY FEW with Steven Malk from Writers House. Unfortunately Steve is overwhelmed with his current client list--which now includes those that belonged to his assistant that left late last year--and is unable to take on any new writers at this time. I’m an active member of both the Pacific Northwest Writers Association--and had the good fortunate to pitch to you a few years back at their annual conference--as well as the SCBWI. I founded and head up YAwesome Writers (a critique / support group for YA writers with over 70 members), and love to read all things YA and follow up with reviews on my website. Per the submission guidelines for this contest, I've included the first 250 words; however, if you'd like to consider THE LUCKY FEW, I'd be happy to forward the completed manuscript your way. As well, I'd love for you to visit, for more information on myself and my writing.

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



The honour of your presence is requested this evening. 6:00PM.

Those were the only words in perfect, jet-black calligraphy that crossed the formal white parchment of the invitation.

I rubbed a thumb across the ink and felt the fine linen texture of paper between my fingers, then flipped the envelope back over and re-read the front. Miss Blakely G. Sullivan was printed in the same elaborate lettering, leaving no doubt this was for me and not my roommate, Amie.

It all felt oddly familiar, even though I couldn’t place why. Maybe it was the richness of the paper. Or the intricate calligraphy that addressed my name in an elegant brush stroke I thought I recognized. Whatever it was, I knew I’d seen something like this before. I just couldn’t remember where.

Setting it down, I turned towards the black garment bag now hanging from the door of my closet. It had been one thing to see the white letter shoot across the floor from under my door. But then when I opened it and found only the bag and not a soul in my hallway, well...

Head cocked sideways with hands on my hips, I drummed my fingers as I stared at the poufy black bag. It could’ve easily contained a body, but since it weighed almost nothing, I already knew that couldn’t be true.

A few quick prods to check for any unnatural groans, I tugged at the zipper, not at all expecting the mass of white feathers that spilled out around me.

An Agent's Inbox #24

Ms. Melissa Sarver,

Lexy’s not the type of girl to stand by and watch a fight--after all she’s been training all of her life to fight the infected. In her world there are two simple rules 1. Zombies are bad. 2. Werewolves are worse. But when a rogue zombie breaks into her family’s compound it sets off a series of events that challenge everything Lexy’s ever been taught.

Then Lexy learns her boyfriend Jason has become infected. Stunned and reeling from the news Lexy runs away straight into a trap. She’s abducted by a kickass werewolf clan--turns out that they’ve been genetically engineered to combat zombies and protect humanity. Kaden, their leader, promises Lexy that they can save Jason if she’ll join them in their fight. The only catch is she has to change. Lexy has to choose between following what her family has taught her or following Kaden, a werewolf, for a chance to save Jason, the boy--I mean zombie of her dreams.

NIGHTFALLEN, a young adult thriller complete at 72,000 words, will appeal to readers who loved the pace and intrigue of DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth and the twist and turns of THE MAZE RUNNER by James Dashner. I am querying you because of your interest in thrillers. The manuscript is available upon request. Thank you for your consideration.



The men in the clearing look lost, far away from home knowing they will never go back. My father takes us out on purifying missions every week. We put the infected to rest and burn their bodies in hopes of washing them clean again.

The light filters through the trees casting green shadows on the ground. It should smell clean out in the middle of nowhere, but instead there is an overwhelming stench of decay. My father stands in front of the group, signaling men to move around the clearing.

I step next to him. With his hand on my shoulder, he leans in next to my ear. “Lexy, there are twelve in the clearing. They may have reinforcements.”

I nod, and grab my sword in one hand, my knife in another. I peer through the trees. A group is gathered around a small fire. The infected look tired. A few have the gray bubbles spreading up along their faces. They shouldn’t be able to fight back as quickly as the others. I watch as each man from our group steps into place, blocking any escape path.

At my dad’s signal, I step into the clearing alone. I walk until the talking stops and everyone in the group is staring at me. Twelve sets of eyes, and still no one moves. I wait. “Are you lost?” one of the infected asks. His voice is rough.

An Agent's Inbox #23

Dear Melissa Sarver,

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

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

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

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

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

THE KEY TO LIFE is a literary fiction love story full of adventure that will appeal to hopeless romantics of all ages. It is complete at about 80,000 words. My own experiences of love and love lost, finding what I’m looking for and then running away, passion and heartbreak, have led me to the writing of this manuscript.

Thank you for your time and consideration. The first 250 words are enclosed. I look forward to sharing my full manuscript with you.



“The truth of the matter is…I think you’re amazing!” Matt stammered as he stood there on uneasy legs, the effects of half a bottle of rum finally becoming visible.

“Did you hear me? I think you’re amazing and…I’m in love with you.” These last five words were barely audible as he uttered them with a great sigh, just before passing out.

Matt was a tall man, nearly six foot nine, and like a big boulder being tossed from a rooftop onto the pavement, he didn’t land quietly.

In any other circumstance Anna probably would have tried to cushion his fall by attempting to catch him, but being completely shocked by Matt’s words, Anna had remained frozen to the spot, unable to react.

Gripping her chest, she could feel her heart pulsing with worry, worry that increased with each new beat. Matt was her boss, but over the years he’d also become a pretty good friend, a good friend who was going through a tough time, and although she’d wanted to help him anyway she could, the last thing she’d wanted was for things to become awkward between them. Still stunned, she just stood there, now with one hand gripping her slender waist and the other hand twirling a stubborn piece of hair back behind her ear while Matt’s words echoed in her head.

Once the initial shock of Matt’s statement subsided, she turned her attention to the incapacitated giant who now lay at her feet.

An Agent's Inbox #22

Dear Ms. Sarver:

Red hair is already a curse--those afflicted are either hunted by Serpents or killed by citizens to keep the curse away. So red hair that suddenly comes alive and decides to fight back just cemented the world’s last redhead on the genetically doomed list.

Red, a naïve sixteen-year-old girl, lives protected from these truths until the day she is seized. Removed from her island. Quarantined. Put on trial. Almost executed for the forbidden color of her hair. Spared only because her captors believe she holds crucial information needed to win the Serpent War.

The problem: Red knows nothing of any war-changing secret.

The bigger problem: Red’s hair is no longer just red. It's now alive. And it makes her want to do things. Things her sheltered mind can't even begin to comprehend.

The biggest problem: The salacious strands have targeted James, her kidnappers’ greatest asset against the demon Serpents.

Forced to help her abductors by trying to remember information she never had, Red faces the possibly her capture was no accident. Is she an innocent victim caught in the crosshairs of war or the oblivious weapon of the Serpents, designed and delivered for destruction? No matter the answer, survival hinges on escaping before her captors discover the secret of her living hair.

Which presents her with the culmination of all her problems: James. She can't control her lascivious locks when he's around. And he's always around.

At 100,000 words, RED: ROOT TO SOUL, spikes fantasy with age appropriate erotic romance in high-concept YA fiction. I'm a University of Richmond Law School graduate and family law practitioner. Although my writing credentials may extend only as far as understanding the power, and sometimes danger, of a good hair day, I am an avid reader and writer of fiction.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



The screeching sliced through air, practically boxing my ears with its intensity.

Son of a--

I stumbled from the water and raced naked to the cabin, cursing loudly. I could do that--curse loud and run naked--Simon was gone. Not that I enjoyed running naked through the forest, but when the screeching started, I knew to run.

Ignoring the towel on the rail, I scrambled back into my dirty clothes and plunged my hand into the container by the door, not pausing until the muddy mixture covered every inch of hair and exposed skin. Only then would my heart begin to settle. I wasn’t afraid of Outsiders anymore; it was the manic screeching that wound me up.

We had an agreement with our screechy cohabitants. Well, Simon did. Or so he claimed. I viewed it along the lines of taking advantage of serendipitous behavior. We lived alone, sharing the island with the monkeys. Turned out they spurned Outsiders, too. More, if you took into account their shrieking. Seriously, the sound could scrape the skin from the insides of your ears. And when the monkeys screeched, we were warned. Serendipitous …once you got past the whole inner ear peeling problem.

Based on the screeching going on now, Outsiders had definitely arrived. Which meant I smeared myself in muddy gook and ran. It was a Rule. An Island Rule. And breaking this Rule before had provided a glimpse of Simon’s wrath--not a scene to revisit willingly.

An Agent's Inbox #21

Dear Melissa Sarver,

Seventeen-year-old Mikaela doesn’t mind if her parents embarrass her or not when she brings over her boyfriend for the first time; she just hopes they don’t kill him.

MY LIFE AND TROUBLES AS A TEENAGE ASSASSIN is a 64,000-word YA thriller novel.

Seventeen-year-old Mikaela used to drink alcohol and do drugs until she met the love of her life, Cory, who helped her change into a better person. Now she just has to protect him from her parents, who work as top-secret assassins that kill in the name of justice. After all, they already killed her bad boy ex for some horrible crime. So when Cory’s brother is found to be guilty of heinous murders and Cory is suspected to be an accessory, Mikaela fears for her new boyfriend’s life. Therefore, she comes up with the insane idea to thrust herself into the unethical family business to protect him. At first she refuses to get blood on her own hands, but eventually she begins to understand why some people don’t deserve to live. Still, she’d better prove Cory is innocent as soon as possible, before she gets in too deep and considers taking up killing as a future career. Then again, maybe Cory isn’t as innocent as she thought he was…

MY LIFE AND TROUBLES AS A TEENAGE ASSASSIN is kind of like a DEXTER novel for teens. One of my short stories was recently an honorable mention in the Writers of the Future contest, and I have been a finalist in many blog writing contests. I also have a short story published in the WITHOUT TITLE anthology.

The manuscript is complete and available upon request. Thank you for your time and consideration.



Please don’t let my parents kill my boyfriend this time, I prayed. I had avoided this moment for as long as I could, but of course, it had to happen.

And I know what you’re thinking. No parent literally kills their daughter’s boyfriend, no matter how many tattoos and piercings he may have. Well, first of all, Cory only has piercings on his ears, and one tattoo on his back, but that’s not the point.

My parents would literally kill my boyfriend.

“Mikaela?” Cory’s voice broke through my thoughts. I could feel his eyes watching me from where he sat in the passenger’s seat.

“Yeah?” I clutched the steering wheel and stared out the windshield, even though I’d already parked the car and cut it off. We had arrived at my gray, suburban two-story house. An ordinary home that made my parents appear normal to the outside world.

“Are you okay? I know you’re nervous about this, but you look pale.”

“I’m not nervous.”

“Riiight. It took us fifteen minutes to get here, and it’s a ten-minute ride from my house to yours. And now look at you. Geez, we’re just having dinner with your parents.”

“It’s not just dinner. It’s a boyfriend-meets-the-parents dinner.” I swallowed.

“Yeah, and everything’s going to be fine. So why do you look scared to go inside your own house?”

If only he knew. “I just have a lot on my mind.”

“Like what?”

Like how you might end up at the bottom of a river, courtesy of my parents.

An Agent's Inbox #20

Dear Melissa,

I see you're specifically looking for YA magical realism. As such, I think you may find interest in my YA magical realism novel, THE RIDDLE OF LEGEND, which is based around a legend I grew up hearing, and is set in the forest named for that same legend.

The legend says no one spends a night in Tate’s Hell and comes out alive--but seventeen-year-old Delia Ray and her best friends are going to be the first.

With enough supplies packed to last a week, Delia and her friends are going to celebrate the end of high school by facing the legend of Tate’s Hell. This trip is exactly what Delia needs to get her mind off her feelings for Keler, and to finally confess the secret that she’s been keeping from everyone: she is dying.

But the discovery of a waterfall inside the forest changes everything.

Delia starts seeing and hearing things that no one else can see. Then, her group starts attacking each other in the nighttime, only to have no memory of it in the morning. When they try to leave the forest, they can’t get out--every path they take leads them straight back to the waterfall.

Maybe Delia’s nonsensical hallucinations are the key to saving everyone. But she has to solve the riddle before it’s too late because whatever is trapping them there has no intention of letting them out alive.

I am a member of YALitChat and SCBWI. I also blog at

Thank you for your time and consideration.



Six weeks to live. Brain tumor. Inoperable. The words can’t be real.

I can’t be facing the same tumor that killed my mom.

College starts in eight weeks, and I won’t be alive.

My little sister will have lost her mother and sister both to cancer.

This isn’t happening.

How will I tell my friends?

A flash of movement and a whimper in the corner of the changing room has me whirling around to see who could have snuck in. But no one is there. I blink and rub my hands across my face. It must have been a trick of the light.

Maybe my brain is already failing.

Dad is at the door in an instant, guiding me by the shoulders down the hall toward the elevator. Toward what little life I have left.

The murals on the walls that seemed cute and cheerful before now have a darker tinge. The teddy bear’s gaze is somehow foreboding, where before it was delighted.

That sensation of being watched follows me. Maybe people can sense that I’m dying. They all see a dead girl walking. Or maybe it’s my imagination.

When Dad and I reach the elevator, he presses the button while keeping one hand on my shoulder. It dings a moment later, the doors swishing open to reveal one of the last people I want to face right now: Blair.
We both freeze. In this moment it doesn’t matter that we’ve been best friends our whole lives, because I wish she’d disappear.

An Agent's Inbox #19

Dear Ms. Melissa Sarver,

My blind date at age sixteen didn’t have to tell me I was ugly. His silent action of massive distance between our two bodies as we walked into the restaurant screamed he was embarrassed to be paired together. During dinner when he moved to a different table to sit alone rather than next to me, I had a choice to make. To believe I was ugly. Or rise with courage.
Ms. Sarver, I would be honored to have your representation for my issue-based book, WHITE BEES. Written like a novel, WHITE BEES is a 97,000-word young adult memoir.
WHITE BEES braids together the emotional complications of bearing a bilateral cleft palate, the medical attention needed to correct it, and the optimism vital to climbing above it. This is a story about scars and how to wear them. Opening on my first day of high school, WHITE BEES--a title derived from observing the flight of snowfall--taps into the universal theme of searching for inner beauty, despite the conflict of a world overrun with the ideal of perfection.

WHITE BEES parallels my life growing up and the life of my protective older sister, Jeannie. I endure being bullied, the sting of prank calls, and multiple surgeries. Jeannie dates, models, and competes in pageants. I hide my private conflict deep inside, where all my dark days are held in quiet reserve waiting for freedom--and the pain is worth it for the Junior Prom fairy tale ending that comes at the age of seventeen, just before a late winter storm.
My publications include over fifty articles for Deseret News,, the Salt Lake Tribune, and the Box Elder News Journal. Deseret Digital Media presented me with an award for excellence in writing regarding my contributions. I am a frequent motivational speaker to youth groups on the topics of overcoming challenges and the power of one positive person to change the course of a life for good.

Thank you, Ms. Sarver, for your valuable time and consideration of my memoir, WHITE BEES. I look forward to hearing from you.
My mother has loved me from the very start.
She has only ever seen me the way God does, and that has never changed. I must have felt her faith as she took me in her arms the day I was born and looked upon my tangled face and into my new, blue eyes with courage and complete understanding--knowing the road ahead would be laced with trials and mixed with grace.
Above my basement bedroom, I heard Mom opening and shutting cupboard doors, the weight of her feet flexing the creaky floor in the rhythm of a new morning. I turned my head and inhaled the worn scent of my blue pillowcase, a faint blend of hairspray and salt water. My first day of high school wasn’t supposed to start this way--the same way all of my other school years had started. I tucked the warm blankets beneath my chin and wondered how I would fit in with the thousand new students I was about to meet. The boys would undoubtedly look at me, turn away, and think, Oh! That girl’s face! What’s wrong with her? My chances of feeling accepted and finding dates would vanish as first impressions materialized, and instead, I would be left with a familiar feeling of rejection. I pulled my right leg to my chest and hugged my knee, then dropped my hand to trace the inch-long scar on my ankle from an IV I’d had as a new baby.

An Agent's Inbox #18

Dear Ms. Sarver,

Lora Winters' dyed hair and stick-on tattoos are the disguise of a fugitive. A one-way ticket to London and a fake passport are shoved in her bag. She doesn't know when she'll see her parents again, but there hadn't been time for a tearful goodbye to ruin her heavy mascara. Because Lora is on the run.

When con man Charles Holguin slipped from his high-security prison without a trace, he had one goal: to find Lora Winters. But Lora doesn't know why. The last thing she wants is to spend Christmas vacation with a bodyguard watching her every move. She wants answers. Starting with the boy she's stuck with.

Bodyguard Cole Davis is infuriating with his crooked smile and mysterious past. At 18, he looks more like one of Lora's classmates than a deadly secret agent. He's hiding something behind that strong-and-silent façade. And Lora plans to use her own means of sleuthing to find out--even if it means losing Cole.

Lora delves into Cole's world of espionage: sneaking behind locked doors in Milan, stealing Vespas (and kisses) in Paris, and knocking out a would-be assassin with a roundhouse kick. But even Cole's high tech gadgets can't uncover Holguin's motive. Lora must be the one to unearth her family's dark past, and in the process, decide if she can trust anyone but herself.

NO REST FOR THE WANTED, a high-concept YA thriller, is 99,000 words and might appeal to fans of Ally Carter. Although I have never stolen a Vespa or owned a fake passport, I do tend to count the surveillance cameras when I go to a museum. Just in case.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



The surveillance room was empty. The guard who usually worked the night shift had disappeared down the hall in search of caffeine. He'd worked there for twenty-seven years, and not once had there been a breakout. That was, until he took that ill-timed coffee break.

Surveillance videos covered the large wall. There must have been hundreds of different screens showing every square inch of the underground complex. Some cameras showed empty hallways; others displayed large rooms filled with unoccupied cubicles. It was much harder to stay awake when there wasn't anyone to watch at 1:14 am. Most of the occupants were asleep in their apartments. One screen showed a lone swimmer doing laps in the pool. Another showed five people convened at the center console, analyzing a map of the Transylvanian Alps. Even the hangar was closed for the night.

Everything was quiet.

But not for long.

There was one man whom the guard should have never taken his eyes off. He wasn't particularly interesting. The man was sitting on a spring mattress, his head bent so that only the top of his slicked dark head could be seen. His own clothes had been switched out for a gray jumpsuit. His hands were clasped behind his back with handcuffs. The room was bare except for a bed with a ragged blanket, a toilet in the corner, and a Bible, which sat on his pillow, forgotten.

There was nothing about the man that could have foreshadowed the events to follow.

An Agent's Inbox #17

Dear Ms. Sarver,

I think you'll enjoy my quirky, light-hearted middle-grade novel, BEING THE QUEEN. While the novel itself is firmly contemporary, I believe it will also appeal to your interest in "a hint of historical" as the main character learns about medieval English history and the Arthurian legends.

Twelve-year-old Sabrina Tate doesn’t know who she is anymore. Last year, she was Kayleigh’s best friend and popular, and no one knew about the Me’s--the imaginary identities Sabrina still uses when she’s stressed, even though she knows she’s past the age of pretending. Now, following a very public confrontation with Kayleigh on the first day of seventh grade, everyone thinks Sabrina is crazy and Kayleigh won’t talk to her.

When Sabrina’s middle school hosts a competition to be the queen of the Arthurian Feast, Sabrina thinks winning may be her chance to get noticed for something good. But Sabrina doesn’t count on Kayleigh’s desperate need to win or her refusal to let their friendship die quietly. As Sabrina struggles to compete with Kayleigh and learn about the Arthurian legends, she begins to question almost everything she thought she knew about herself.

Eventually, Sabrina must confront what happened between her and Kayleigh and take responsibility for the new identity she’s forging. If she doesn’t, she could win the competition but lose everything else: her new friends, her self-respect, and the only boy who can actually see her behind all her Me’s.

BEING THE QUEEN is a contemporary upper-middle-grade novel, complete at 58,000 words. It may appeal to fans of Michael Beil, Erin Dionne, Jenny Lundquist, and Wendy Mass.

Thank you for your consideration.



The first day of seventh grade, I was almost late to school--because of pirates. Not Johnny Depp pirates or even cool historical pirates like Sir Walter Raleigh. But still, pirates.

I circled my room like a giant bird of prey, my backpack flapping on my back. My feet, encased in shiny new Mary Janes, tapped out a restless rhythm as I moved around and around the wood floor, dodging the edges of my desk and leaping over a small pile of dirty laundry.

“Sabrina?” My little sister’s voice jolted me.

Grace stood in my doorway, her blonde hair already coming out of her two braids. She held out a battered eye patch. “Play pirates with me?”

I looked at my watch. 7:54. Six minutes until it was time to leave. Thirty-six minutes until I officially started middle school.

“Please?” Her voice lifted, pleading. “I need you to help me find my lucky rainbow socks. I buried them, and now I can’t find them.”

“How buried? In-the-garden buried or under-your-bed buried?” With Grace, it was always better to ask.

She rolled her eyes at me. “In my room. Duh.”

“Okay, I’ll play. But just for a minute.” I let my backpack slide to the floor.

I put the eye patch on.

As I followed Grace across the hall, a familiar swagger came into my walk. It shouldn’t feel this good to be Raven--not today, not when I was starting seventh grade and officially too old to pretend like this.

An Agent's Inbox #16

Dear Ms. Sarver,

Sixteen-year-old Olivia Scott handles her twin sister's latest suicide attempt like she handles everything: with dry eyes and head held high. Just this once, though, she lets herself email her best friends for support. And thanks to the wonders of the "reply-all" button, she unintentionally spills everything to two of the last people she'd ever choose.

Olivia's terrified. One little email, and the whole school could know every grisly detail about her family by tomorrow. About Kat's suicide attempts. About Olivia's sex life. About Kat being gay. About them living in fear of their violent, evangelical father.

It comes as a shock when, instead of spreading the word, the unintended recipients reach out to her. Olivia finds out she has more in common with a douchebag stoner and a popular alcoholic than she could've imagined. But soon they start entrusting her with their own secrets, burdening her with more lies, cover-ups, and misery than one person can handle.

Vicious rumors start breaking out: someone's sleeping with a teacher, someone's a violent sociopath, someone's a closeted pansexual. Olivia can tell the truth and ruin her new friends' lives, or keep quiet and destroy her sanity along with the lives of innocent bystanders. But if she does spill her friends' secrets, nothing's stopping them from paying her back in kind. As she knows, all it takes is one errant email. If her father finds out about her promiscuity and Kat's homosexuality, they'll both be in mortal danger by morning.

IN SIN is a dark 69,000-word YA contemporary told from the perspectives of seven high schoolers, one for each of the seven deadly sins. As per the contest guidelines, I've pasted my first 250 words below.

I blog and tweet under a pen name, R.R. I also run a Tumblr with over 5,000 followers at

Thank you for your time and consideration.




Kat Scott

When you take them one at a time, twenty-five pills feel like nothing at all.

Count them up slow. Let them slide their way down. Do it all nice and gentle.

After all, it’s just one more repetitive motion. Fits right in with the ones we practice every day (speaking, smiling, breathing). And soon you’ll find the room’s starting to fade, and you’ll be happier about it than you’ve been about anything in a long time.

Finally, some peace.

I locked myself in. Dad’s at work, and Olivia shouldn’t be back until four. No more failures. This time is for real.

My mind’s starting to drift and float when my body convulses, and then I’m trapped back inside myself and I want out but –

A cry yanks itself from my throat. I jerk off the bed. Pain, red-hot, grinding and unavoidable. Like someone’s stabbing me through the stomach with an iron stake. I smack the floor skull-first, but it’s nothing compared to the agony knotting itself up through my chest. More noises leak from my mouth.

I almost want to laugh. There’s a sort of relief in this kind of hurt and ah, let me die, just let it end--J**** C*****, is that really too much to ask?

Bile coils up in my throat. I swallow it back. I swallow everything. Just a few more minutes.

The world spins in and collapses.


Olivia Scott

Okay, seriously, can someone explain why they call it a “personal life” when it’s the one part of my life everyone knows?

An Agent's Inbox #15

Dear Ms. Sarver,

After being captured during a brutal raid, the future wavers tenuously before Britta Magnusson. Thrust into the midst of an unfamiliar world, she must rely on her stubborn will to survive.

The novel THE LAND OF MANY WATERS (89,300 words) is a story of survival and acceptance set in the 1860s when tensions run high between the native people and newly arrived settlers. After a harrowing raid in which her family members are killed, Britta finds herself at the mercy of a Dakota warrior named Ohitekah Chayton. The longer she remains unharmed, the stronger her will to survive becomes and she slowly learns to accept her place amongst the native tribe. Yet will all of the Dakota people accept an outsider as one of their own? And can Britta ever replace the wife Ohitekah Chayton lost to the white man's sickness?

THE LAND OF MANY WATERS tells the story of a woman who learns to stand up for herself and stay true to her heart, no matter the opinion of a majority of her peers. After perusing your agency's website and reading a few interviews online, I thought you might be interested in a story of women's fiction placed in an historical setting. You also stated you "love anything that teaches about anohter place and time through the lens of the character", something I feel my novel accomplishes. My story takes a sympathetic view of the plight suffered by Native Americans during westward expansion. Most human experiences are not a simple matter of "black and white". Many shades of gray color any man's existence, such as Ohitekah Chayton. A complexity Britta learns to understand and respect. Subtle shifts in language help reveal the changing of a biased mindset and the customs of a world lost are embraced by an outsider.

I graduated with a B.A. from Columbia College-Chicago where my major was Fiction Writing. I was employed for a time as sports reporter for Star Publications in Chicago's south suburbs where I covered high school basketball, baseball and softball on a strict deadline. I am currently working on my next novel.

I have added the first 250 words of the novel below as per the contest guidelines. Please let me know if you would like me to send a detailed synopsis and/or any chapters. Thank you for your time and consideration.



The cloudless sky stretched endlessly toward the horizon and it seemed as if a thousand ships might easily glide along the smooth, blue surface. Britta Magnusson paused uncharacteristically in her chore and stared longingly, the two heavy buckets of fresh milk nearly ripping her shoulder joints from the sockets. She was remembering her own journey aboard ship. The sailing had been anything but smooth and the sea water had certainly not sparkled in hues of such a heavenly blue, but a longing persisted just the same. Shaking the momentary nonsense from her head, she resumed at a weary trudge toward the farmhouse skillfully constructed of sturdy timbers.

Beyond, and to all sides, stretched the green-gold waves of the field. The healthy crop of corn undulated in the early morning breeze, reminding Britta yet again of her voyage to America ten years ago.

The memory was more than bittersweet since she still longed for the Swedish landscape, the patchwork quilt of wheat and yellow-flowered rapeseed fields. She yearned for the gently rolling hillsides of the Magnusson farm and the mild climate which made snow a rare treat in winter unlike the windblown blizzards which were the norm for the Minnesotan plains. Neither did her former home at the southernmost tip of Sweden endure the sweltering heat of mid-summer. A heat she now toiled in under the August sky. Wanting to wipe her perspiring brow, Britta was forced to refrain since she had no free hands and she continued to daydream about days gone by.

An Agent's Inbox #14

Dear Ms. Sarver:

Sicily Carson must be crazy to think that she can fix her family, especially if she’s thinking it from within the walls of a crazy house.

Meet her relatives--a paranoid mother with gambling issues and a favorite child (not Sicily); a doting father who probably would have died from her mother’s aggravation anyway if he didn’t succumb to cancer instead; a selfish playboy of a brother who proudly has a wife, girlfriend, and a mistress; a wandering, irresponsible, and unstable brother who thinks that common sense is a form of currency; and a dependent and helpless younger sister who is held captive by her epilepsy.

With a family like that, particularly one who expects their successful yet gullible daughter and sister to pay their accruing debts and solve their self-inflicted problems, there is no wonder as to how Sicily earned an all-expenses-paid, 30-day staycation in a psychiatric treatment facility.

Upon her release, Sicily tries to resume her pre-committed life. Using a list of goals that she created in the loony bin, Sicily embarks on a mission to mend relationships within her family, including her distant yet devoted husband, who left her when their marriage became too swollen with her family’s greed, and her Luciferistic father-in-law who judges by socioeconomic status. But when a family secret emerges in the midst of reconciling with her mother, Sicily is left to question and consider the real meaning of family.

The diluted meaning of “family” is defined by greed, prejudice, and secrets in WE’RE FAMILY…RIGHT? (women’s fiction) and is completed at 78,000 words. It may appeal to readers who enjoy lightweight family-oriented plots and stories led by a conflicted, yet relatable and witty, female protagonist.

Per your instruction, the first 250 words of my manuscript are included below. Thank you for your time and consideration.



It has been years since I have known such peace, albeit it’s peace that has been forced upon me. No voices exist other than the one I hear in my head. There is no cell phone to answer, and no demands or requests are being asked of me. Sitting here in a chilly corner with my heavy head leaning against my bent knees, my mind ponders the nagging question, “Why did it take me this long to free myself from the incessant stress?” Here I am, isolated in a single room decorated in only one color--white. Even my clothes are white, but that jacket I was forced to wear on Day 1 was insanely--no pun intended--uncomfortable. My hair--oh G**--hasn’t seen a flat iron in 168 hours. My roots are curling, and my poor skin has faded from delicate caramel to gritty sand. I wonder about ways in which my life could have been different, if altering perhaps just one aspect of my past life could have altered my painful present. I don’t want to be here, but my stubbornness doesn’t want to admit that I need to be here.

“Wake up, Ms. Carson,” says an orderly as she lifts me from the floor. After the third day of suffering from bed springs piercing my back, the floor seemed like a bearable solution. “It’s time to go.”

The orderly leads me through a maze of troubled, unfamiliar walls.

An Agent's Inbox #13

Dear Mrs. Sarver,

The End of September is the story of a Russian spy who sacrifices his career to save a young American woman from a rogue U.S. defense contractor.

When her brother dies in a horrific auto accident, Christine Taylor’s life is turned upside down. Not only do her parents blame her for the wreck that killed him, they pressure her to join Aether Services to sober her up. But Aether isn’t rehab. It’s a defense contractor that supplies the CIA with undercover operatives.

Inside Aether’s training facility, Chris befriends Alex Berezin, an ex-Marine just back from Afghanistan. As administrator of the company’s experimental program, Alex knows Chris will be drugged and brainwashed, sent on an impossible mission that will cost her life. So, he decides to help her escape--but not before they steal a cache of incriminating documents off the company’s computers.

They flee to Moscow and Chris learns the truth about Alex’s connections with Russian intelligence. She vows to go public with the stolen documents--anything to save the women still bound to the company’s illegal programs. But Alex is betrayed. Aether’s security forces are sold the location of their hideout, and mercy is not their recourse. Not with millions in government contracts at stake.

The manuscript is complete at 93,500 words. It’s literary fiction. A thriller, but also a love story about two incredibly damaged people trying to make peace with the demons of their past.

I recently received my BFA from College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan. As an artist and photographer, I believe the principals of visual art are just as useful in creating atmosphere and mood on paper as they are behind the lens.

Thank you for your time and consideration,


In the past year, Chris had woken up in some very unusual places: a pile of musty laundry in Keener’s basement, a canoe floating down the AuSable, a field of spruce seedlings at Bailey’s Tree Farm. That was the genius of alcohol. Always a surprise ending.

But this was different.

She was on the floor of a locker room, her wrists zip tied together across her stomach. Her flannel was gone, replaced with a t-shirt with the word DOME splashed across the front. Her jeans had been exchanged for black sweatpants, her Converse for white Keds. Am I dreaming? she wondered, struggling to her feet. Did I smoke something rotten? But then she saw it plastered to the door: the globe-like logo of Aether Services.

Her skin burned as she rinsed the cut on her forehead, caked with dried blood. She looked like hell. Felt like hell. Her dark eyes were bloodshot and puffy and her head pounded as though she’d just woken from a long night of partying. A few too many drinks around the campfire, a few too many cigarettes. She splashed more water on her face, in her mouth. The water tasted disgusting.

In the mirror, Chris saw the door open. Two men walked in. The first was dressed head-to-toe in desert camouflage, no rank insignia or patches to distinguish him, just a nametape across his breast that for all her squinting she couldn’t make out.