Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Book Recommendation: STEERING TOWARD NORMAL by Rebecca Petruck

I know what you're thinking: since Ms. Petruck and I have the same agent, this post must be part of a setup. But I can assure you that it's not. I've read a bunch of Kate's clients' books, and while I've enjoyed almost all of them--her existing client list was one of the main reasons I signed with her--I've never officially recommended one.

Until now, that is.

Diggy Lawson is resilient. When his mom dumped him on his dad's porch, then rode out of town on a tractor, baby Diggy didn't flinch. After thirteen years together, he and Pop have fallen into a rhythm, one that isn't easily upset by the pranks they're always pulling on each other or even the recently weaned steers that Diggy buys and raises for the state fair. So when one of Diggy's classmates, a kid from town named Wayne, shows up on their doorstep with a shiner and an old suitcase, Diggy doesn't panic--until he discovers that Pop is Wayne's dad, too. 

I loved so many things about this book, but the thing I loved best was Diggy. His character felt so authentic, and the things he grappled with were the same things I grappled with when I was a young kid coming to terms with my adoption. I also loved raising Diggy's steer with him--that's something this suburbanite couldn't have even imagined before picking up this book--and the scenes at the state fair were about as perfect as they could be.

Diggy's story is chock full of humor, honesty, and wisdom (not to mention loads of cow poop). Kate is giving away an ARC of STEERING TOWARD NORMAL on her blog, so skedaddle over there and get your name into that drawing. (And while you're over there, you can also enter to win an ARC of THE SOUND OF LIFE AND EVERYTHING!) You have a few more days to enter, so don't dilly-dally!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

We Have Winners!

Without any ado, the winners of the signed copies of AN UNCOMMON BLUE:

Jeff Krebs
Carla Luna Cullen

Congratulations, all! Please e-mail me at kvandolzer(at)gmail(dot)com with your mailing addresses so I can pass them on to R.C.

And for those of you who didn't win, AN UNCOMMON BLUE is available from all the usual suspects, so if you're still looking for that last-minute gift (or, you know, if you just want one yourself), you can still nab a copy.

Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Happy Kwanzaa!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

From "The Writer's Voice" to Publication

One of the best parts of organizing online writing contests is watching new writers' journeys unfold. R.C. Hancock, who was on my team for the inaugural round of "The Writer's Voice" back in 2012, is one of those writers (and if you want to check out his entry, you can find it here). AN UNCOMMON BLUE went on to sell to Cedar Fort and officially comes out today. I invited R.C. to come back to the blog and tell us the story of how AN UNCOMMON BLUE came to be, and he graciously agreed. Three signed copies of AN UNCOMMON BLUE are also up for grabs, so don't miss those details at the bottom of the post!

I started writing after finishing Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. My first novel was a 200K-word mess about a fat girl. I dumped all my insecurities into her and it read like a diary: disjointed and whiny.

After a couple years of trying to lure an agent with this “tasty” bait, my wife suggested I turn one of my short stories into a novel. The one she liked, I had written for Cricket. (They didn’t buy it.)

The seed of the idea for glowing colored palms had come to me when I was doing a writing exercise from one of my craft books. I did some research about light mixing (i.e., what do orange and green light make?) which inspired a 2K-word story with a surprise ending. (Which later inspired me to give up on my overweight baby and take Blue to new heights.)

So I did. It took about a year to write, and several years to revise and find someone who wanted to publish it.

Here are five reasons I think my second novel was more successful.

1. I’d had years of writing practice.

2. I’d read more books on the craft and learned to apply them

3. I finally connected online and received feedback and support from awesome people like Krista. (Contests rock!)

4. I realized no one wanted to represent or publish a 200K-word debut novel. (Which is why I actually had to split Blue into two different books. I still haven’t learned how to stop at a manageable length.)

5. I learned the value of beta readers. (Thanks, guys!)

As Krista can attest to, transitioning from Writer to Author is a fun change, but also bittersweet. I miss the days when I could spend my time writing whatever I wanted and not have to worry about marketing, or whether I’m hitting social media hard enough. It’s still a lot of fun, and seeing people walking around clutching your book protectively is better than heroin, but a little of the magic is gone when you’re trying to meet a deadline. (This is one reason I was happy to go with a smaller publisher: They’re much less scary when it comes to deadlines and sales numbers.)

I just have to say THANK YOU to Krista, both for picking my story out of the contest slush, helping make my query and first page better, and for pairing me with Carrie Harris, who read the whole thing in two days so I could use her endorsement on my cover. (Discovering her as an author was the best perk. She’s hilarious.)

Carrie Harris IS hilarious. Just saying.

Thank you, R.C., for sharing your story with us (and for furnishing three signed copies for our giveaway!). If YOU (not R.C.) would like to enter, just tell us in the comments that you want to win. Contest is open to U.S. and Canadian residents and closes in one week, on Monday, December 15, at 11:59 p.m. EST. I'll announce the winner the next day, so if you need a last-minute gift--or, if you're like me, a perfectly on-time gift--for the YA book lover in your life, we've got your back.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Interview with an Agent: Madeleine Clark

I'm pleased to welcome Madeleine Clark of Sterling Lord Literistic to the blog to round out the year's additions to my "Interview with an Agent" series. Happy reading!

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

MC: I’ve been at Sterling Lord Literistic for the last three and half years and before that I was working at a publishing house in North Carolina: Algonquin Books to be precise. Like a lot of people in publishing, I was an English major and avid reader who wanted my life to be about books in some form. A classmate pointed me in the direction of the editorial internship at Algonquin and I realized there was a whole world of enthusiastic, intelligent book nerds out there who were churning out the things I was rabidly reading. I was hooked.

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

MC: As an agent, I want to fulfill a lot of roles for my clients and I think different points in the relationship require me to tap into different strengths. From the outset, I’m an editor and collaborator while we get a project where it needs to be. During the submission process, an author needs both a spokesperson to editors and a cheerleader on the sidelines when nerves take hold. When negotiating contracts or establishing marketing/publicity plans, the author needs an advocate and someone that can take the brunt of any uncomfortable conversations so that they can maintain a good relationship with their editor. Basically I want to streamline things so that the author can do what they do best: write! I think mutual respect and trust is huge both during the creative process and for the life of the agent-author relationship.

KV: What do you love about Sterling Lord Literistic? Are there any soon-to-be-released agency titles that you want to give a shout-out to?

MC: There is something very special about working for an agency that has been around for over half a century. Our backlist is full of seminal titles I read or studied or fell in love with before ever knowing about the publishing world (On the Road, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, A Prayer for Owen Meany, etc) and because we are a fairly large boutique agency we have a really varied front list to look forward to every season. In particular, I’m so excited about the paperback release of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (a beautiful story about family, books, and small town charm) as well as Jami Attenberg’s next book, SAINT MAZIE, inspired by a real life woman in Depression-era New York who opened her heart and famed movie theater to neighbors in need. Both of the covers are absolutely gorgeous, by the way. 

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

MC: I’m looking for several different genres right now: realistic YA, literary thrillers, literary fiction with something geographically or culturally unique about it, fiction with a bit of magic, narrative nonfiction that tackles something new and specific, and humor or lifestyle especially in the blog to book space. I am definitely not looking for hardcore fantasy or sci-fi, commercial horror or crime, erotica, romance, diet books, or cookbooks. 

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

MC: I definitely understand the desire to stand out in an agency slush pile but sometimes I think people take that motive too far. Gifts, life-sized scrolls, bright font colors, etc are more distracting than enticing. I also think an author should do his or her best to just be concise, professional, and informative in the cover letter rather than jokey or aggressive or promising the moon in large sweeping statements. If the summary is interesting and clear then I am certainly going to read your pages so don’t feel like the quality of your writing will be judged on the letter alone; your manuscript is where your voice will shine. Also, if we have a genuine connection, please let me know (same university, mutual friend, common interest or hometown--I love it when the world feels small)! The most important thing? Make sure the agent you are querying is looking for the genre you have to offer! 

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

MC: I really want a manuscript I can’t put down. Lately I’ve been reading a lot of submissions from talented writers who haven’t quite worked out a compelling plot. Over vacation I started the Dublin Murder Squad series from Tana French and I’m so obsessed with her ability to toe the line between deeply profound character study and your classic whodunit. Each installment of the series is this sprawling crowd pleaser of a book and I would love to find something that can straddle literary and plot-driven with such aplomb.

On the flip side of that, this isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned my love of literary thrillers and sometimes people take that to mean the more commercial hardboiled detective novels, police procedurals, and CIA-centered conspiracy theory stories. I’m less inclined to be on board for those, dystopian worlds, or YA that sticks too close to familiar territory without a hook. 

KV: What’s the best way to query you?

MC: I’m happy to receive queries by e-mail (madeleine [at] sll [dot] com). For all submissions I prefer a cover letter with a synopsis in the body of the email. For fiction, attach three chapters of the material or for nonfiction attach the proposal. Word documents please!

Thank you, Ms. Clark, for these smart, thoughtful responses. I'm sure I'm not the only one who found these answers impressive.

That's it from me!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Great News for Great Friends

Liz and I have been friends since Kate signed us within a week or two of each other back in the spring of 2012, so when I found out that Albert Whitman wanted to buy Liz's latest sci-fi, I busted out my happy dance. The official announcement is over at Publishers Weekly, but if you don't feel like clicking, I've pasted it below:

"Wendy McClure of Albert Whitman has bought NA author Elizabeth Briggs's first YA project: a science-fiction novel called Future Shock plus a sequel. In the books, a Latina teenager raised in Los Angeles's foster care system with an eidetic memory is recruited by a tech company for a mission--a trip thirty years into the future. Publication is slated for March 2016; Kate Testerman of KT Literary brokered the deal for world English rights."


And in other awesome news, Amy's debut, RED BUTTERFLY, got its first review from Kirkus, and it happened to be starred. (I say "happened to be" like there was ever any doubt, but when I read RED BUTTERFLY many moons ago, it was already poignant and beautiful and everything you'd ever want from your award-winning MG. I'm sure it's only gotten better over time.) It's too long to paste below, but you should definitely check it out (and add it on Goodreads while you're at it!).

What about you? Any exciting news, writing or otherwise, that you'd like to share with us?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Mini (Work-in-) Progress Reports

I haven't had a ton of time to blog lately, so here's a quick roundup of the projects I've been working on:


Word count (to the nearest thousand): 60,000
Status: Chilling like a villain (okay, not really like a villain, but it (sort of) rhymed)
Attitude: Not hostile

Also known as THE SOUND OF LIFE AND EVERYTHING, Steve is the little book that could. It recently occurred to me that I started querying this manuscript three years ago this month, and I'm STILL working on it. Okay, maybe I'm not actively working on it at the moment (and I'm pretty sure most of the heavy lifting is behind me), but I still have at least another round of pass pages to review and who knows what else. That said, holding an ARC in my hands for the first time was a really awesome moment, and I can honestly say that I don't hate this story anymore. I plan to give away an ARC or two on the blog and on Goodreads, but I probably won't get to those giveaways until after the holidays. In the meantime, you can pre-order him and/or add him to your Goodreads list, so if you're interested, you can check out the "Books" page above.


Word count (to the nearest thousand): 44,000
Status: Waiting for first pass pages
Attitude: Excited to see what happens next

We still haven't settled on a new title for Clyde, but since my last update, I have turned in a revision and finished copy edits, so things are moving along. Though the manuscript hasn't been designed yet, Sourcebooks has added this copyright page to the beginning of the document. Like a caterpillar morphing into a butterfly, Clyde is slowly but surely turning into a book.

Clyde the Second

Word count (to the nearest thousand): 48,000
Status: Working on the second draft
Attitude: Amused

I cranked out a few and have spent the last few months cleaning it up and getting reader feedback. Clyde the Second isn't a straight sequel, but it is a companion novel that takes a secondary character from Clyde and turns her into the main character. It's also a math mystery (thanks for the idea, Liz!) set at a summer camp. I'm still not sure if Sourcebooks will even want it, but I've enjoyed writing it, so that's something, at least.

Well, that's all I've got. What have you been working on in the last few months?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


Actually, THE SOUND OF LIFE AND EVERYTHING got this blurb a while ago, but I haven't really appreciated it until now. When this blurb rolled in, I didn't understand that most authors won't have the time or inclination to read the books they're asked to blurb, and even the ones that do might not--or probably won't--be willing to put their names on it for a host of reasons. So this blurb from Tricia Springstubb, who wrote WHAT HAPPENED ON FOX STREET (among other things), has come to mean a lot to me:

"Krista Van Dolzer gives us a treasure in Ella Mae Higbee, a think-for-yourself, do-it-yourself heroine sure to win hearts. Like most of us, Ella Mae believes she knows the difference between right and wrong, until life and truth prove to be much more complicated. This is a story brimming with empathy, humor, forgiveness, and wisdom about what it means to be truly, fully human."

Ms. Springstubb picked up on everything I'd hoped a reader would pick up on, then expressed it in a beautiful, straightforward way. I'm not a hugger, but if I ever meet Ms. Springstubb, I might not be able to resist.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Interactive Interview with an Agent: Julie Gwinn

I'm pleased to welcome Julie Gwinn of The Seymour Agency to the blog for this INTERACTIVE installment of "Interview with an Agent." As always, details on the interactive part are at the bottom of this post, so check out Ms. Gwinn's answers to the usual questions, then get ready to leave a question of your own.

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

JG: I have been agenting full-time since July. I have been involved in the publishing industry for more than a decade, as a trade book marketing manager, editor and finally as fiction publisher. After the fiction line was shut down at my previous publisher, I began working freelance to help edit, consult and manage authors and their projects. My transition to agenting seemed to happen organically from the consulting business.

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

JG: My agenting philosophy is a holistic approach. Since my background encompasses marketing, editing and publishing, I like to work with the author on marketing, developing their platform, content development and ultimately, evaluating their options (digital and print) as they enter into a publishing agreement.

I expect open and honest communication and setting clear expectations at the onset of the working relationship.

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

JG: Author Pepper Basham has a fiction novel coming out next year titled Twist of Faith that is contemporary women's fiction. I have known Pepper for three years when she pitched to me at a writer's conference. I saw a great writing style, an openness to learn and an eagerness to self-promote. Her novels are funny, witty, engaging and very romantic.

Three non-fiction books by author and professional ballerina Sarah Marr are also coming out next year and use her life in professional dance as a metaphor for life lessons. I've known Sarah for a while as well and love her voice and freshness as she speaks into the busyness of life.

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

JG: I represent all romance (contemporary and historical and romantic suspense), speculative, fantasy, straight suspense, true crime, YA and NA and some non-fiction. 

I do not represent horror as this is not a genre I read and so I'm not familiar with what makes a great horror novel.

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

JG: Pet peeves are typos or bad grammar; having a synopsis that does not match the content; queries before the manuscript is complete; saying the novel will appeal to everyone. 

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

JG: I would love to see great romance with smart, witty banter (either contemporary or historical). I would like to see smart suspense that leaves me questioning 'who dun it' until the end. Cozy mysteries. Sports romance. Military. Unique ideas or plots with twists.

I've seen a lot of dystopian, angels and demons, novels where the protagonist suffers from multiple issues (alcoholism, bulimia, abuse, homelessness).

KV: What's the best way to query you?

Thank you, Ms. Gwinn, for these responses. The genres you listed are some of my favorites, too, so I hope you find a bunch of new clients shortly.

And now for the main event! If you have a question for Ms. Gwinn, feel free to leave it in the comments of this post. She'll drop in periodically and respond to those questions, leaving her answers in the comments also. We'll wrap everything up at 5:00 p.m. EDT (or 2:00 p.m. PDT), but until then, ask away!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Agent-Author Chat: Lisa Jane Weller and Ashley Turcotte

I'm pleased to welcome Lisa Jane Weller of Broadland Literary and Ashley Turcotte, Team Krista alum and "The Writer's Voice" veteran, to the blog. Ms. Turcotte was on my team last year with LUMINARY and on Monica's team this year with TEARLESS, which went on catch the eye of Ms. Weller, one of our ninja agents. She requested a partial, then a full, and the rest, as they say, is what this interview is all about. (Oh, wait, no one says that?)

Hop over to Monica's blog and check out her entry, then pop back over here to get the behind-the-scenes scoop! As usual, Ms. Turcotte's answers will appear in orange, Ms. Weller's in blue.

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

AT: I came up with the idea while watching a movie called The Last Mimzy. I don’t want to say how, because I don’t want to give too much of the movie away. But I will say that, at the end of it, I immediately turned to my husband and asked, “Do tears actually contain DNA?” Turns out the answer is yes. It only took about thirty seconds after that for the main premise of TEARLESS to form in my mind. 

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?

AT: I wrote the first draft of my query when I was about 10,000 words into the manuscript. Then I worked on it off and on during the months that I was writing and editing TEARLESS.

Queries are just about the hardest thing in the world for me to write. Well, let me rephrase that. Good queries are just about the hardest thing in the world for me to write. I can write a terrible query in ten minutes flat. So that’s why I gave myself months to get it right. And even with all that time, I don’t think I ever could’ve gotten there on my own. One of my critique partners heroically held my hand through at least 20 drafts, and she’s the one who helped me really make it shine. 

For me, the big challenge is deciding which information to include. In a fantasy query, you need to include world building details or the reader will have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about. But too much world building? Boring. You need to introduce your characters, obviously--but which ones? I read once that if you have more than three characters mentioned by name in your query, it gets confusing. So narrowing down the entire cast of a novel to only three is always a tough choice. And the hardest part of all is deciding what to use as a hook. Because the last thing you want when an agent finishes reading your query is for her to go, “Who cares?” But you can’t give too much away, or there won’t be anything left to make the agent want to read the book. So many fine lines to walk when writing a query. 

KV: How did Ms. Weller come to request your manuscript?

AT: Lisa saw my query and first 250 words back in May, when I was a member of Mónica Bustamante Wagner’s team for The Writer’s Voice. Lisa was one of the ninja agents, and she requested the first 100 pages. I actually (briefly) talked myself out of entering The Writer’s Voice this year--I’m so glad I talked myself back into it!

KV: Ms. Weller, when you saw Ms. Turcotte's entry in “The Writer’s Voice,” what caught your attention?

LJW: I loved Ashley's pitch for TEARLESS. I thought it was an incredibly high-concept idea, beautifully described and presented. The stakes were clear, the hero and the villain were identified immediately, and the pitch itself gave me a great idea of the direction the story would take.

It was easy to visualise the world of TEARLESS from Ashley's pitch alone (I particularly loved the idea of the villain using creepy puppets as his eyes and ears), and when I read Ashley's first page, I found her main character, Sam, to be instantly likeable. At that point, I knew I wanted to see more!

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

LJW: TEARLESS is a truly wonderful novel, with a main character the reader can really root for. I love Sam's positivity, bravery and determination. He's such a good, kind boy--very heroic, even if he doesn’t realise it. Sam's loyalty to his family and friends (particularly his best friend, Tria) is admirable, and he makes for a very engaging hero. Meanwhile the villain of the piece, Ero, is dangerous, charismatic, and a mystery for Sam to solve.

With this novel, Ashley has backed up what is an incredibly strong concept with equally strong storytelling and characterisation. TEARLESS is a real page-turner and there's a definite sense that anything could happen as the story progresses. I love the twists and turns this story takes along the way and the secrets that are revealed, as Sam digs deeper into the truth behind Ero's magic.

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

LJW: I requested the first 100 pages of TEARLESS from “The Writer’s Voice” and read those pages about a week later. I remember reaching the end of those sample pages and wishing I'd requested the full manuscript, because I just had to know what happened next.

Once Ashley sent me her full manuscript, I read it over the weekend that followed, along with sample pages from another of her novels. Happily, I loved the rest of Ashley's work as much as I did those first 100 pages of TEARLESS, and I contacted her the following week to arrange a time to talk. So from submission to offer of representation, there was roughly a three-week window.

I don't like to keep authors waiting any longer than necessary, so I try to respond to all requested material as quickly as I can. Generally, I'll read and respond to partial manuscript requests within one to four weeks, and to full manuscript requests within two to four weeks, but my response time can vary depending on my workload at the time. When I acknowledge receipt of the requested material, I always advise the author of my expected response time.

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

AT: How to write a query! (I’m only half joking.) There are so many invaluable resources online to at least get you headed in the right direction, and I didn’t know any of them existed back when I started. My personal favorite? Query Shark. If you’re currently in the querying trenches (or intend to be soon), and haven’t checked it out, please, please, please, please, please do so. Read every single post. You won’t regret it.

Other awesome sources of query wisdom? Blogs (especially when posts include the queries writers used to get their agents). Twitter (agents tweet super useful info all the time.) And other writers (if you’re lucky enough to find good critique partners, cherish them and never let them go). 

KV: Ms. Weller, what querying tips do you have?

LJW: I think it's important for an author to research an agent before querying them, to make sure the agent is someone the author would consider working with should they offer representation. There are many different agents out there, all with different levels of experience and areas of expertise, and not every agent will be a good match for every author, or for that author's work.

When it comes to query letters, I personally like a short letter containing all of the relevant information about the novel (title, genre, word count, target audience, plus a few paragraphs detailing the novel's story and main characters) and any relevant author details. I'm looking for authors I can work with in the long-term, so I'm also happy for a query letter to include brief details of other novels an author has either completed or is currently writing.

And don't forget your sample pages! I invite authors to include the first five to ten pages of their manuscript with their query letter, and I always read those sample pages, even if a query letter hasn't quite caught my attention. So if an agent's submission guidelines ask for sample pages, my tip is to include them--it could increase the chance of an agent asking to see more of your work.

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

AT: I know it’s a cliché, but seriously, never ever give up. It took me almost five years from the time I started querying to the time I signed with Lisa. Five years, four manuscripts, and over 200 rejections. (And that doesn’t count the eight years I was writing before I got over my fears and started querying.) I made a ridiculous number of mistakes along the way. (Seriously, the first query I ever sent around? I’d be mortified if anyone ever saw it. Mortified.) But that’s all part of the journey (I decided to throw in another cliché for good measure). So keep learning. Keep writing. Keep sending queries and entering contests.

And for the love of all things good and shiny, make sure you have some critique partners. Good ones. People who you trust, and whose opinions you respect. I would not be the writer I am today without the lovely ladies who helped get me here. 

LJW: If you've written and completed a novel, you've done something many people would love to do, but never will, so be proud of that achievement. If you love writing, and you have stories to tell, then keep writing, and try not to take rejections to heart. If an agent or a publisher turns down a novel, it just means that novel is not quite right for them at that time. Remember, an agent can only successfully represent a limited number of authors, and they will be forced to make hard choices and turn down projects with merit and potential, if they feel those projects aren't a perfect match for them.

I think it's so important for authors to sign with an agent who absolutely loves and understands their work. If an agent turns down your work, it just means they're not your perfect match, and they probably wouldn't be able to offer you the level of enthusiasm you deserve. So don't settle for second best, and don't give up. Keep searching for that perfect match, take note of advice and feedback you receive along the way, and above all, keep writing!

Thank you, ladies, for these wonderfully detailed answers. You've given us a lot to think about. Fingers crossed for a quick sale!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Why We Need Diverse Books

I grew up in a mixed-race home, though I've never thought about it that way until just now. My dad puts the Anglo back in Anglo-Saxon, and I'm not far behind (though I do have enough Filipino and Hawaiian blood in me to work up a nice tan). My mom is half Filipino, but even that's understating it, since her dad was actually Filipino, Chinese, and Spanish. My sister is half Guatemalan, so between the four of us, we represent four of the six populated continents.

I was a teenager before it occurred to me that my sister didn't look like I did (or my mom, for that matter). We grew up in a very white community a few miles north of Salt Lake City, but for some reason, she never stood out. She was just Heather, whirlwind toddler, pint-sized playmate, and occasional stealer of my stuff.

That said, I think my experience was unusual. Most kids do notice race. The schools in our town are forty-five percent white, forty-five percent Hispanic, and ten percent everything else, and I-gots noticed the texture of his African-American classmate's hair on the second day of kindergarten. Luckily, he asked about it, which gave us an opportunity to explain that, even though this boy's hair was different, it had nothing to do with whether he'd make a good friend.

White parents might think it's enough to stick their kids in multicultural settings and expect them to be colorblind, but I don't think anyone is truly colorblind. We're different, we notice, and that's okay. The trick is to talk about the differences so they don't seem so different after all. That's the great thing about diverse books--they allow us to get outside ourselves and see the world for what it really is: a beautiful ocean of diversity, beautiful in many ways precisely because it is diverse.

Thursday, October 2, 2014


What's THE SOUND OF LIFE AND EVERYTHING? Steve's official title! And since I'm sure you hate scrolling as much as I do, let's just cut to the chase:

Hats off to Rose Wong, whose amazing artwork will stretch end-to-end on the final jacket (which I've included at the bottom of this post). She did a great job of capturing the story's essence. And hats off to Shauna for the awesome new title, but then, we're not surprised I couldn't come up with one, are we? :)

I'm sure I'll host an ARC giveaway--or two or three--at some point in the future, but if you've ever wanted to say thank you for anything you've found on the blog, a great way to do it would be to pre-order Steve and/or add him on Goodreads. It feels weird to type that, so I'm going to leave it right there, but just in case you are interested, here are the sales links:

*whistles, walks away*

It's been a while since I've blogged about Steve, so if you have any questions about where he's at (or where he's been), feel free to lay them on me!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Blog's Birthday Giveaway Winners

First off, I just want to say THANK YOU for all your comments and well wishes. I genuinely enjoy blogging, so it feels like more of a hobby than an accomplishment, but I'm glad that you've gotten something out of the blog, too.

As for the giveaways, some of you asked questions that I neglected to answer (smacks forehead), so rest assured that if you said you wanted to be entered in either or both of the giveaways, I entered you. And you could have won both, so I didn't prioritize one over the other. Everyone had an equal chance of winning either or both of the giveaways they entered.

First up, the book winners!

Inspired Mom
Julie DeGuia

Please e-mail me at kvandolzer(at)gmail(dot)com with your mailing addresses and which of the four books you want. (And just so you don't have to click back to that old post, you can choose between a hardcover pre-order of A.L. Sonnichsen's RED BUTTERFLY, a paperback of Liesl Shurtliff's RUMP, a hardcover pre-order of Liesl Shurtliff's JACK (a companion novel to RUMP that stands alone), or a hardcover of Tara Dairman's ALL FOUR STARS.)

And here are the critique winners!

Jessica Silva
Sherry Howard

Feel free to send the first 30 pages of your manuscripts as attachments to kvandolzer(at)gmail(dot)com. I want you to send full chapters, so you're welcome to send up to 35 pages if that will get you to a chapter break. (On the other hand, if you have to choose between 28 pages and 36 pages, please send 28 pages.) Can't wait to read your work!

Finally, please come back tomorrow if you have a few minutes. I plan to reveal Steve's cover right here tomorrow morning!

Monday, September 29, 2014

We Have Winners!

Without any ado, Ms. Jeglinski's winners:


THE COUNTLESS THREADS OF RAE JULY wins a request for the first chapter!


BREAKFAST WITH NERUDA wins a request for the first 50 pages!

First place: #1 THE ONLY WAY TO CHANGE

THE ONLY WAY TO CHANGE wins a full request!

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

Last but certainly not least, a huge thank-you to Ms. Jeglinski for judging this month's round and a huge thank-you to YOU for entering, reading, and commenting. You really are the ones who make these contests work.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

"An Agent's Inbox" Is Live!

And we're off! 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?"

I'll announce Ms. Jeglinski's winners and prizes at the beginning of next week, but until then, have at it!

(Also, just so you're aware, I always take out profanity when I'm formatting the entries. In other words, any asterisks you see in the entries are mine, so you don't need to point them out to the entrants. I just prefer to keep things as PG-rated as possible on the blog.

Last but not least, entrants, if you find a Krista-generated error in your post, feel free to shoot me an e-mail, and I'll correct it straightaway.)

An Agent's Inbox #20

Dear Melissa:

Lis Fairchild is excited to meet her sister’s boyfriend, right up until she recognizes him as the random stranger she hooked up with the last time she was home. When Lis tells her sister what happened, she locks herself in her room and refuses to speak to Lis. 

To assuage her guilt, Lis joins The Hallowell Agency, a group of women devoted to exposing cheating husbands and boyfriends. She might have broken her sister’s heart, but at least she can help make sure no other girl has to feel that way. 

She is assigned to investigate Will Stratford, who looks exactly like a young Captain Kirk--on whom Lis has had a crush since her dad introduced her to Star Trek at thirteen. Lis falls hard for Will, but if he responds to her advances…then he’s the kind of guy she can’t fall for.

Lis is ready to leave the Agency and its deceptions behind, until they take on a new client: Lis’s mom. Lis can’t believe that her geeky dad would get his Kling-on with another woman. It’s up to her to find the truth and keep her family together.

BOLDLY GO is a 70,000 word work of Women’s Fiction. Lis volunteers at a vet clinic, which I think will appeal to your love of animals (although I will admit Lis is more of a “dog person”).

Thank you for your consideration, and for participating in An Agent’s Inbox.



It was Nick's fault, really. If he hadn't broken up with me, then lied about leaving Fort Collins, I wouldn't have driven home to Laramie. I wouldn't have missed a shift at work and gotten fired. And then I wouldn't have tried to cheer myself up by going to the second dirtiest bar in Laramie and hooking up with the first guy who showed any interest. Which was how I met Wyatt the first time.

The second time I met Wyatt, he was late for dinner.

Mom and Dad were both glaring at Adele. I felt bad for my little sister, withering under their combined stares, so I tried to help her out by lightening the mood.

"There's a guy in my Biochem class who looks just like a young William Shatner."

They completely ignored me, even Mom, who had been harping on me to get over Nick ever since the "incident" in July. But instead of asking whether I knew his name (I didn't), they started in on Adele.

"Did you tell your boyfriend that we'd be eating dinner promptly at six?" Dad asked. Adele nodded meekly.

"Did he tell you he was going to be late?" Mom that time. Adele shook her head.

I pulled my phone out from its hiding place under my leg. Mom is very strict about not having our phones at the dinner table, but she was too preoccupied with Adele's boyfriend being ten minutes late to notice me checking my e-mail.    

An Agent's Inbox #19

Ms. Jeglinski,

Since historical romance is on your #MSWL, I thought you might be a good fit for my novel. THE SAPPHIRE LEGACY is a 75,000-word historical romance set in Victorian England.

Mae Blackthorne has been taught how to ride dressage, embroider pillows and dance the waltz. So when her brother’s death puts the family’s shipbuilding business in her hands, it isn’t long before the business is in bankruptcy and Mae is penniless. Forced to take a post as governess, Mae thinks she’s doomed to a life of poverty. That is, until she meets Ethan Locke, a pirate who offers her an enticing opportunity to recover her wealth.

Unbeknownst to Mae, her family had been using their shipbuilding business to shroud generations of successful piracy. Locke, who was once partners with her father, has an old score to settle. He claims that her father stole from him an object of great value: a sapphire that can give its owner eternal life. As her father’s last surviving heir, Mae is Locke’s only hope of finding it along with her family’s secret fortune.

Agreeing to work together and split the fortune amongst themselves, there’s no denying the spark of attraction between them. But they’re not alone in their search. The true owners of the sapphire, who operate an elite secret society, are far more powerful than Mae and Locke could’ve ever imagined. And as the dangerous men close in, Mae fears she has much more to lose than just a second chance at luxury. She could lose any chance she has for love, or life.

THE SAPPHIRE LEGACY has similarities to Amanda Quick’s successful Arcane Society novels.

My query and the first 250 words have been featured in both the "Sun Versus Snow" and "Writer's Voice" query contests. With a degree in journalism, I have written for various publications including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Session Daily, a news service provided by the Minnesota House of Representatives. As an undergraduate, I also received an award for writing about women’s issues.

The first 250 words are below.

Thank you for your consideration.



May 1836, somewhere on the Atlantic

Ethan Locke tightened his grip on two leather bound books, ready to run. The distant high pitch screech of a whistle signaled departure. He had only a few minutes to make it back to ship so he and his crew could set sail.

But he couldn’t go. Not just yet. Mixed in with the mahogany furnishings of the captain’s quarters, he caught a flash of gold. Behind red velvet curtains swaying with the ship, a small gold chest fell in and out of view. It was hidden for a reason. Without a doubt whatever was inside would be valuable indeed.

Of course he couldn’t leave now. Greed beckoned him. Disregarding his need for haste, he inched his way to the chest, pulled back the curtain and lifted its unsecured lid.

Disappointment dropped through him. Without a lock, it might not have been valuable after all. But as soon as his eyes met the contents, his breath caught. The books he had been so grateful to find thudded to the floor.

Two items were suspended in black velvet. The first he noticed was a small blue bottle strangely attached to a silver chain. That didn’t seem worth much. But the other item, also on a silver chain, was a sapphire and blue like the deepest ocean. As if in a kind of protection, it was wrapped in swirling silver filigree. Though the lamps in the cabin had gone dim, it sparkled nonetheless. Deep within, a dazzling fire blazed.

An Agent's Inbox #18

Dear Melissa, 

Twelve year old JADEN has a lot to live up to. His father is Sudner’s greatest hero. He wants to be the warrior everyone is expecting, but Jaden prefers books to battles. When he hid in a tree as his father was captured by the fierce race of WARGAULS, his feeling of failure was compounded. Jaden sets off on a quest to redeem himself and rescue his father.

In the midst of being stuck traveling with the bully from battle school, as well as fighting off a sea monster and sorceress, Jaden discovers an even harder assignment is placed on his shoulders. He’s been called by the leaders of a hidden kingdom to become the Guardian of Sudner.  To do so, he’ll not only have to learn old magic, but somehow find the courage to defeat the Wargauls in a battle for the survival of Sudner.

THE GUARDIAN OF SUDNER is an uplifting middle grade fantasy adventure that will be appealing to reluctant readers because of its fast pace and an extended story arc for a series. Something I feel sets it apart from current fantasy is the father/son relationship theme. Throughout the story, three boys are dealing with their feelings of living up to what their fathers expect.  

I’ve enclosed the first chapter for you to consider. The entire manuscript is available upon request. It runs about 57,000 words in length.

Though this is my first novel, I have previously written for Meridian Magazine, Latter-day Homeschooling, Women’s Day, The Boer Goat, Brio, and Cleaner Times.  

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



Jaden Andreist put off leaving for as long as possible, but no sudden illness had overtaken him.  It was time for battle class. Reluctantly, he put his elements book away and made his way out the castle doors.

He’d been practicing for months with Klevi, one of the top battle students, in exchange for tutoring him in runes.  A week ago he felt confident. He’d been sparring better than ever. He’d even won two of their duels. But today was different. Today was Jaden’s turn in the sparring circle.

The other boys in class loved sparring. It was the best part of turning twelve. No longer were they trapped doing nothing but endless boring drills in battle training. Now they got to show off their skill going head to head in real duels, even if they were using dummy swords. For the other boys it was a dream come true. For Jaden, it felt more like a nightmare. He preferred books to battles. If you made a mistake with a book, no one died.

“Jaden, wait up!”

He turned around and saw his friend Brandon running, his wavy brown hair bouncing. Jaden laughed and looked to see if any girls were around. If they were, they’d probably be sighing. The girls loved Brandon--and his hair.

“I thought I was the last one to head to battle training,” Jaden said when Brandon caught up.

“I wish. I was trapped getting lectured by my father about not taking school seriously enough.”

An Agent's Inbox #17

Dear Melissa Jeglinski,

I am looking for representation for a fantasy series of which I am working on the second volume. Angelhaven is a follow on series from The Green Woman which I finished self-publishing this summer after retrieving my rights from Musa Publishing. Angelhaven (70,000 words) picks up the stories of the main characters of The Green Woman three years into their utopian dream. Which is beginning to turn just a little sour.

This is a YA/crossover series. There is no ‘adult’ content, gratuitous gore or sex, so although the main characters are in their late teens/early twenties, the story is completely accessible to teenage readers. It is a story of a utopia, a place where myth and fantasy play a part, and a love story for some of the characters, who still have to find themselves in a new world where the old laws of brute force and obedience no longer hold sway.

After the grim dystopia of Providence, the people liberated from the tyranny of the Elders have begun to build a new life in the Garden. The magic that created the Garden is fading as they take their destinies in hand. But a wind of change is blowing through the idyll. Two winds. A strange, soft wind from out the west brings a hint of summer to the end of the hard winter, and the whispered promise of better things to come from an unknown golden man. At the same time, a black wind howls down from the barbarian fort in the mountain pass promising bloodshed and death.

The love that built Angelhaven is faltering and the wild Scyldings will wield the axe that puts it to the test.

You can see The Green Woman books and read a short bio on my Amazon author page here:


As well as Angelhaven I am also querying a YA apocalyptic (not post-apocalyptic) two part story set in a crumbling shopping mall at the end of the world.

Thank you for accepting to read my submission.




Scyld stood on the edge of the rocky outcrop and looked down from the mountain, over the treetops and the river Wildbach. He held a hand over his eyes to shield them from the glare of the sun. In the other hand he held an axe, its head resting on the ground at his feet. He noted the plumes of white smoke that the breeze caught and dispersed, and he scowled.

The wind veered briefly round to the west bringing with it the spring smells of damp earth and pinewoods. Scyld wrinkled his nose. He could not quite smell the fires in the hearths, the cattle in the pastures, the food cooking and the thousand other smells that meant settlement. But he knew it was there. Beyond the river Wildbach, beyond the forest of beech and oak it was there, the outlanders’ village.

The man frowned, drawing shaggy brows together. His fingers tightened around the haft of the axe, not in fear but in anger. Scyld was not the chief of his people for nothing. He knew where the outlanders came from, knew what it meant. While the Scyldings had fought to survive the terror unleashed by the furious gods, famine, cold, and man-eating demons spawned by the endless night, others had had an easier time. The völva who sent him blood dreams and war visions had shown him.

In his dreams he had crossed the Wildbach, crossed the mountains beyond, to the Great River and the desolation of its further bank. He had seen the strange fort, the dome of steel and crystal that protected the lucky ones from the death and destruction around them. And now they had emerged. Like butterflies.

An Agent's Inbox #16

Greetings Melissa Jeglinski,

The Knight Agency has a great reputation. When I discovered you were up for the September Agent Inbox, I jumped at the chance to introduce for consideration of representation my 72,000-word-count YA dystopian, DEAD GIRL RUNNING.

Eighteen-year-old SILVIA WOOD has never heard of an unplanned pregnancy. Because of the New Order, there is no more war. Rape and domestic violence have been eliminated. Unemployment is at zero percent. The cameras of Panopticus keep the citizens safe…and obedient.

Eight years ago, Silvia's father died in an industrial accident. After suffering through years of Psychotherapy Services and Mandated Medications for depression and multiple suicide attempts, she longs to work in Botanical Sciences. When the Occupation Exam determines she must work in Mortuary Sciences instead, she wonders if the New Order assigned her to the morgue to push her over the edge.

To appease her disappointed mother, the once famous violinist YOSHE WOOD, Silvia enters the Race for Citizen Glory, in an attempt to stand out in the crowd of Equals. After she begins training with "golden boy" LIAM HARMAN, she discovers he also lost his father in the same accident that ruined Silvia's life. When Silvia meets and falls for FRANCO HARMAN, Liam's older cousin, his paranoid intensity makes her question what really happened to her father. As the race nears, Silvia realizes that she's not only running for glory, she's running for her life.

DEAD GIRL RUNNING is a cross between THE GIVER, THE HANDMAIDEN'S TALE, and Agenda 21.

My first novel, How to Date Dead Guys, (a New Adult Urban Fantasy) was published in July 2014 by Curiosity Quills. I've learned so much this past year about making important connections and promoting myself as a professional writer. Now I'd like an agent's guidance to take my career to the next level. Besides writing fiction, I’ve penned articles for the Post Bulletin newspaper (for my Pet Vet column), RunMinnesota magazine, the DVM360 journal, and The Wagazine.

Per your instructions, the first 250 words are included below.

I look forward to hearing from you,



My tenth birthday was the worst day of my life. Dad had to work late, because his replacement didn't show up on time. Mom and I waited for him to come home.

Eight years later, we're still waiting.

Most kids would've requested a Vacation Pass for their eighteenth birthday, but not me. I'd rather forget the whole thing and help Gus prepare the chilled bodies in the hospital mortuary. I drag myself out of bed and pull on teal scrubs.

I fumble for socks and shoes, and a ray of early sunlight glints off my dad's picture hanging on the wall across the room. Once again, his blue eyes capture mine, as if he needs to tell me something important. On the floor beneath the photo sits a memory trunk full of how things used to be. But I won't open it today. I just can't.

Dishes clink in the kitchen. Mom calls out, "Hurry up, Silvia. I've got a surprise for you."

She sounds happy, but I can't tell if it's real. Since Dad's death, both of us have done a lot of pretending. So far this year we've been able to avoid Psychotherapy Services and Mandated Medications, but sometimes I wonder if I was sent down to Mortuary Sciences to push me over the edge. Fortunately, I find autopsies intriguing, not depressing. And since I never got to see Dad's body after the accident, caring for other people's dead soothes the empty ache inside.

An Agent's Inbox #15

Dear Ms. Jeglinski, 
I am writing to seek representation for my novel BY A CHARM AN  A CURSE. Complete at 65,000 words, it's a standalone Young Adult Contemporary Fantasy told from two points of view.   

A walking, talking bundle of low self-esteem, seventeen-year-old Emma is seduced by the boy in a carnival fortune-telling booth, and kisses him. But with the kiss comes a curse, and immediately Emma’s skin petrifies until all she can feel is a brutal cold. The next day, deprived of her family and friends, she learns that the only way she can free herself is by passing on the curse to another rube. 
Thanks to the charm protecting LeGrand’s Carnival Fantastic, apprentice carpenter Alan is preternaturally lucky. He has never experienced any hardship, much less heartbreak. When the new girl shows up, he desperately wants to help her, but doing so means putting himself at risk of being the next recipient of the curse. 
Alan and Emma are convinced they’ve found a solution--break the curse.  But when the charm begins to weaken as a result, endangering everyone who calls LeGrand’s home, they have to decide if the cost of their own freedom is worth the destruction of the carnival.  

I am a graphic designer for the University of Houston’s College of Education. I live in the suburbs of Houston with my husband, two kids, and neurotic dogs. I have a weakness for makeup, nice paper, and good chocolate. 



Jules can’t sing for s***.  But there she is, howling a painfully off-key song to the boy in the box, making a fool of herself.  It’s cringe-worthy, but then, most of the things that Jules does are mortifying, so this is really just par for the course.

“Jules!” I have to yell to be heard over screaming children and the rush of the roller coaster running on questionably assembled tracks nearby.  I tighten my coat, a small measure in a losing battle against the cold.  “Leave the guy alone, he’s just doing his job.

And it’s a lame-a** job at that.  The carnival has set up a wood and glass booth to look like one of those old automated fortunetellers.  The bottom half is ornately carved wood painted a fiery red that almost glows, and the panels of glass making up the top half are covered in swirling gold paint proclaiming Futures seen!  Fortunes told!  Small bulbous lights line the ceiling of the booth, filling it with a warm light, but it doesn’t hide the fact that the paint is chipping and the glass is covered in sticky, child-sized fingerprints.

Inside, the poor schmuck in question stands at attention, arms held out in awkward angles like he’s going to start doing the robot at any minute.  His face is painted white, with rosy red circles dotting his cheeks and dark powder shaping his eyebrows into wry arches.  His glossy, plastic-y black hair has been styled into a slick wave that makes me think of a 1920s soda jerk.  He’s seriously cute.  But I’m here with Jules, so I don’t stand a chance.

An Agent's Inbox #14


An Agent's Inbox #13

Dear Ms. Jeglinski:

When seventeen-year-old Nadari Clarke is blinded, her Damage is the second reason her society wants her dead. The first reason she kept secret, with the help of her father, for ten years. She is a violinist.

With her father's influence, she escapes death and is instead sent to a place that holds hundreds of people, all Damaged. She soon learns they are all phenomenal artists as well. Musicians, artists and designers, whose televised executions were mandatory viewing, practice their art freely. In fact, the government commissions their art as propaganda to keep the rest of the citizens in line.

Nadari must relearn even simple things, like how to walk and how to eat, but not how to play the violin. She's the virtuoso she's always been, and those in charge want her music. So do a group of revolutionaries, who are busy making propaganda of their own. They want to prove to citizens that the Damaged aren't all dead, and neither is art. Solomon, a deaf painter and Nadari's only friend, tells her the revolutionaries are trouble and she should avoid them.

Then news reaches them that Nadari's father has gone missing, and the revolutionaries are more enraged than she is. Every step toward finding out why takes her deeper into a conspiracy that seems more likely with every revelation. But accepting it means accepting her father as a man she never really knew. And if he really is wanted by the government, going back home to find him makes reason number three she should be dead.

DAMAGED is a YA light dystopian complete at 78,000 words. It should appeal to those who enjoy the themes and writing of Gathering Blue and the grit and sense of place of Makiia Lucier’s A Death-Struck Year. I have a Bachelor’s degree in English and work as a technical editor. Per your guidelines, the first 250 words are pasted below.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



I am a criminal. It’s been ten years and I’ve never been caught, but every televised shooting reminds me the inevitable is just a bullet away. There was another one at midnight. They’re always at midnight and always at full volume. Muting the television doesn’t help. It’s impossible to sleep through them. Hours after the blast, I’m still shaken.

Thirteen, my favorite Blue, slips into my bedroom to clean. She does her job and I don’t do mine, staying perched on the edge of my bed, half-watching as she picks up my laundry. She runs a hand along her shaved head. “You okay?”

She practically raised me. I don’t acknowledge her.

When she leaves, my father, Aba, appears at the door. “Nadari? Are you ready yet?” He intrudes when I don’t answer. “Not even dressed?”

I glance at my closet. The Blues organize my clothes onto wooden hangers, shirts ironed, jeans folded evenly. To the far right are dresses I never wear. They block the tiny entrance to a room only my father and I know about. Inside is my violin. I think about the woman whose execution still rings in my ears. Hers was a flute. Close enough.

Aba follows my stare. “The police don’t go digging around Lair Hill,” he says. “They don’t think we commit those kinds of crimes.”

He’s kept me safe from suspicion for ten years. I should trust him.

I don’t.

An Agent's Inbox #12

Dear Melissa,

Jack Straw’s father is dying.

It’s the summer of his 14th year, when Jack and his father discover a body in Mespat Cove. The body is a time bomb, a wellspring of death waiting to be unleashed upon the world. It carries an incurable virus, which quickly sends Jack’s dad into a coma. If that wasn’t bad enough, the sheriff then accuses Jack’s dad of murder, as the body was that of an old enemy.

It’s rumored the victim had been living next to the water in an old van, which meant he would have been exposed to the virus at dangerous levels. Determined to prove his father’s innocence, Jack returns to Mespat Cove with his buddy Joe. While searching the van for evidence of habitation, they get into a confrontation with the dead man’s son. They end up in the water, where they’re sucked into a whirlpool. After a near-death experience, they find themselves on the treeless world of Galanthia.

There, Jack learns, is the cure that will save his father’s life. It lies within the mist-enshrouded valley of Okenwode, as does the promise of trees for a dying world. But according to Marko--Galanthia’s wizened but sagacious leader--no Galanthian has ever set foot within its borders. A man named Belas has seen to that, a fallen Druid h***-bent on keeping the valley’s treasures out of reach to all. Long before Jack’s arrival, he surrounded Okenwode with Red Widow spiders the size of men, rendering it impenetrable.

There is only one way to breach the Red Widows. Jack must decipher a key left for him by Fengilly, a mysterious figure now long gone. Fengilly predicted Jack’s arrival, and claimed the key was meant for him and him alone, that only he could solve it.

Who was Fengilly? Can Jack believe the legend that surrounds him, or is it all nothing more than a fanciful tale, as many Galanthians believe? It seems Jack has little choice. The cure that can save his father’s life lies within Okenwode. To reach it, Jack must decipher Fengilly’s key and put it to the use for which it was intended. If he fails, his father will die.

The Key to Okenwode is a YA fantasy complete at 114,000 words. I believe it will appeal to fans of The Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan, and Not a Drop to Drink (a wonderful book!) by Mindy McGinnis.

I’ve won several awards in the annual Boise Weekly Fiction 101 contest, ranging from first place to honorable mention. I’ve led several writers’ groups, and have studied under award-winning author Alan Heathcock and Bram Stoker nominee David Oppegaard.

Thank you for your time and consideration,


Jack Straw never thought of himself as lucky. For one thing, he’d been born with a birthmark on his chest in the most unfortunate of shapes--that of a heart. His mother told him it was a sign that he’d been blessed, but Jack knew better. It was a curse, pure and simple--the curse of the unlucky, which was the worst curse of them all. A line ran up through the birthmark at a forty-five degree angle, exiting the top of the heart and ending in a triangular point just below his collarbone.

It was no wonder, then, that they called him Cupid. The first time he heard that word was at the Dooley Lake municipal pool. He had removed his shirt, baring his skinny four-year-old chest for all the world to see, along with the birthmark like a vivid purple stain. Someone called him Cupid, which quickly turned into Stupid Cupid, a nickname that stuck. Whenever his mother was out of earshot, the other children would chant those two little words in that sing-songy, thoughtless manner particular to cruel children throughout history.

One day his mom bought him a cherry sno-cone at the concession stand. It was a typical summer afternoon. The blue water dazzled in the sun. The clean scent of chlorine hung in the air, along with the high, bright sounds of children splashing and playing. He was wandering along near the kiddie pool, slurping away when an older boy grabbed the sno-cone from his hand.

An Agent's Inbox #11

Dear Melissa,

“I will always hate IT!” Ali, age twelve, protests angrily when she learns that she will be getting a sibling. She is happy as an only child, and likes her three-person family the way it is. This news, received on the heels of a rejection from her beloved ballet school is more than she can take. On top of all that, her friends abandon her for summer camp while she is stuck babysitting her neighbor’s kid, and Ali is dreading the summer before it even starts.

But, when Ali discovers her mother's diary written when her mother was the same age, her world is rocked and becomes her focus. Ali immerses herself in the parallels and differences of her life vs. the snapshot of her mom’s life from the diary and uncovers more about herself and her family than she bargained for, including a horrible tragedy that she knew nothing about.

Complete at 22,000 words, The Diary of Lois Lane tells the story of pivotal periods in both Ali’s and her mother’s life as they struggle to come-of-age during different decades. This middle grade novel might appeal to the readers of Judy Blume’s realistic fiction books, such as Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret and recently, Lindsey Leavitt’s Going Vintage.

I am seeking an agent who shares my interest in helping children touched by loss to understand that life can be complicated, with sometimes unforeseeable highs and lows.

I won a short story writing contest on and was published in a monthly parenting magazine, Parentguide News. I am also a member of SCBWI.

I look forward to hearing from you.



Saturday, 8/2/1980, 9:30pm

Dear Diary,

It was so hot today--over 91. Like everyday this summer, Mom and I went to the beach. The weatherman called it the 3 H’s--hazy, hot and humid, and all you could do was sit in the water. I'm so waterlogged that the tips of my fingers are still pruny. The air didn't move at all, and despite what Mom says, there’s not always a breeze at the ocean. Anyway, I think I like the lockerboy with the green eyes that crinkle when he smiles. He asked me today if I’m enjoying the summer. I bet he thinks that I’m older than I am, like maybe 16 or 17. A lot of people at the beach assume that I’m older.

I wish that my friends were around. I think that I'm the only Jewish kid on Long Island who doesn't go to sleepaway camp. The beach is okay, but I wish I could go to camp instead. Where else will I ever kiss a boy? Last summer, all my friends came home gushing about boys. The raids when the boys and girls secretly get together at night sound weird, but fun. Mom says sleepaway is too expensive. I think that she just wants me around. Grrrr...
Lois Lane

Ali slammed the leather diary shut. Her mom was talking about kissing BOYS! Who is Lois Lane? Her mom’s name is Lois, but Lane wasn’t her last name--it was Berman.

An Agent's Inbox #10

Dear Ms. Jeglinski:

I am contacting you because in an interview in Women on Writing, you said you are looking for something fresh with a great voice. In Breakfast With Neruda, eighteen-year-old Michael Flynn of Rooster, Ohio, is spending his summer cleaning up the high school--his community service sentence after being expelled near the end of his senior year for hiding explosives in his locker. He had planned to blow up his now ex-best friend’s car, but that plan backfired, costing him a friendship, a girlfriend, and his high school graduation. But these are the least of his problems.

Only Michael’s immediate family knows he lives in a 1982 Ford LTD station wagon he calls the Blue Whale. That is until Shelly Miller, a mysterious girl also working off community service, catches him sleeping in the Whale on school property one morning.

One of Michael’s secrets is he chooses to live in his car rather than with the uncontrollable filth inside his mother’s home. Michael’s half-brother Jeff has already moved out, and his half-sister Annie now lives on the back porch.  Michael fears Children’s Services will find out and place Annie in foster care, making his mother’s already tenuous grasp with reality more precarious.
Michael’s other problem is he has no idea who his real father is, and his mother won’t tell him.  With Shelly’s help, Michael discovers answers to the riddles in his life.

Breakfast With Neruda is contemporary YA of approximately 72,000 words, and the novel will appeal to fans of John Green, Laurie Halse Anderson, Maureen Johnson and David Levithan.  If you imagine a twenty-first century Huck Finn meeting a hard edged Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice, you get a sense of the dynamic between Michael and Shelly.

I have more than twenty years as a high school teacher/librarian and have had poetry and prose published in anthologies and journals including Mischief, Caprice and Other Poetic Devices5AMThe Cleveland Plain DealerThe Book Report, andWomen’s Words, and hold an MFA from Goucher College in Creative Nonfiction. Over the years I’ve honed my speaking skills by presenting at educational conferences and poetry readings, and I’ve done standup comedy, so having a platform which includes public appearances does not scare me. Working with high school kids requires bravery, a sense of humor and flexibility.

I hope you enjoy the first page of Breakfast With Neruda and I look forward to hearing from you soon.



Green was the silence, wet was the light, the month of June trembled like a butterfly.”
Pablo Neruda

The hallway is dark, and looks abandoned except for the clanging of metal against tile. Earl, the head custodian, fills a giant bucket near the janitor’s closet. He looks up at me, nods, and keeps filling the pail.

“How come it’s so dark in here?” I ask.

“We all look better in the dark,” Earl says. He laughs and reveals a gold front tooth. He’s a raggedy guy of about sixty who always has a cud of tobacco in his mouth. “Power’s still out from the storm.”

“Oh yeah,” I say, nodding, pretending to know anything about the power outage. It had stormed as if the apocalypse arrived last night. I hold out my hand. "Michael Flynn, reporting for duty."

"I know who you are.” Earl shuts off the hose and looks me over. "Listen, kid, I know what you did to get stuck here all summer, and I don't put up with any crap," he says. "We clear on that?"

"Yes, sir," I respond.

He wheels the bucket into the hallway and I follow. “First thing you’re gonna do is start cleaning out the lockers.” He snorts. “Kind of ironic for you.” My face reddens, and Earl gestures to the end of the hallway. “Start at that end and work your way back. Take a big trash can with you.”