Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Ms. Rossner's Winners!

You should know that Ms. Rossner had a tough time narrowing down her list. In the end, she decided to pick her five favorites and offer them all full requests, but if her comments resonated and you made changes accordingly, you're more than welcome to query her again per her submission guidelines.

And now for those five winners:


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

Lastly but not leastly, a huge thank-you to Ms. Rossner for her exceptionally detailed feedback and a huge thank-you to YOU for entering, reading, and critiquing. For those of you who didn't make it into this month's round, I already have April's round scheduled for the week of April 10, so don't wander away!

The Agent = Rena Rossner of The Deborah Harris Agency

This month's agent was Rena Rossner of The Deborah Harris Agency! From their website: "Rena is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University’s Writing Seminars Program, where she double-majored in poetry and non-fiction writing. She studied at Trinity College, Dublin and holds an MA in History from McGill University in Montreal, Canada. She worked at bookstores in four countries, has written extensively for The Jerusalem Report and The Jerusalem Post, and worked in PR, grant-writing, and website development at The Jerusalem Foundation. She is a writer of both fiction and poetry as well as the author of the cookbook EATING THE BIBLE, which has been translated into five languages.

"Rena is interested in representing Science Fiction, Fantasy and Speculative Fiction in all genres, Adult Literary and Contemporary Fiction especially Upmarket Women’s Fiction, Historical Fiction and Thrillers. She is also actively seeking Young Adult, Middle Grade and Picture Books."

I'll announce her winner(s) in a few, but in the meantime, you can find her on Twitter @renarossner or at her website. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

On Your Marks, Get Set, Critique!

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

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

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

An Agent's Inbox #44

Dear Agent:

Dante Arzola stays as far away from his family’s illicit ​hotel ​business as possible. The need to distance himself from the blood-soaked dealings of his father is only exemplified the night his mother passes away, leaving him with a hole in his heart and three years’ probation. 

In his world of wealth and corruption, his childhood friend has stood as a beacon of goodness and light. Now he wants more than friendship. He wants her.

Sadie Trajkovski isn’t as innocent as Dante thinks.

Blackmailed by her partner during the search for her missing father, Sadie must find a way to protect herself from one man’s callous revenge and keep Dante from learning the truth that dangles right within his view. She is in love with his older, more successful, brother. 

Blinded by their desires, Dante finds himself tangled in the web of organized crime he fought to escape while Sadie follows clues that will lead her to her father and right into the hands of her blackmailer. BLOODLINES meets ABC’S REVENGE in THE ONES WE CRAVE, a 105k diverse family saga and book one of HEIRS.




I can't get caught. 

My stomach turns as I unclench my fists and wipe my palms down the side of my shorts. I can’t. I am so close…so close to the truth, I can taste it, and if I get caught, she’ll take it away from me. She did it once. She’ll do it again.

I keep my eyes locked on the kitchen archway. Toes curled in the plush living room carpet. Sweat gathers under my arms and behind my bent knees, in the area where my boobs meet the underwire of my bra, and I’ve never been so thankful for antiperspirant deodorant.

My heart drums in my ears, much louder than the air conditioning or the gentle wind pulling the smell of salt-water and rain through the open terrace doors. The wall separating us is streaked yellow with sunlight. I can almost see her through it, phone pressed against her ear, probably pacing and definitely with a drink in hand, but nowhere close to suspecting what’s going on right under her nose. With a shaky breath, I inch my hand into my mother’s coat pocket. Slowly. Slowly. Fingers touching metal and plastic. 

This is wrong. Stealing her keys. Breaking into her office.

I should stop. 

Maybe I should listen to Dante’s advice for once. 

The first time he told me ‘some things are better left alone’ was when I was twelve. It was during primary school; I would spend each summer at the Arzola Estate in Coral Gables.

An Agent's Inbox #43

Dear Agent, 

Fifteen year old Connor Gray is registered as a Guardian, gifted to protect the Ungifted, but genetics have other plans. Though he should only have one gift, he has telepathy and telekinesis and his parents say he might develop more. With a power hungry Councilman after Connor for control of these gifts, he must remain hidden to protect himself and his family. When the council send a cursed bounty hunter after him, Connor is forced to risk exposure to save his friends, family, and life itself. Facing blood cursed beings, shady genetics projects, an all-seeing A.I. system, and worst of all, puberty, Connor fights for what's left of his family. On the run, he discovers how to protect the world from a will-enslaving spell that threatens to destroy the gifts for their own good.

GUARD OF THE UNGIFTED: THE FLIGHT OF CONNOR GRAY, is complete at 90,000 words and ready for your consideration. 

In addition to having a B.A. in Creative Writing from Texas A&M University, I have been published in a small, non-profit magazine. Upon your request, I would be more than delighted to send you the entire manuscript. 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Warm regards,


Connor Ellis squinted at the Law of Nations inscribed in golden letters over the red brick entrance of Hunter High. 

...No Gift shall be elevated above the rest…

Nice sentiment. In theory. But in practice?

Wind rippled the green National flag in front of the words, carrying the suggestion, but not the conviction, of winter. Connor flipped up his jacket collar against the cold, adjusted his glasses, then followed the crowd toward the school, eyes still on the cursive letters. A few feet ahead, a senior, Max Anderson, shoved a smaller student to the ground. 

“Watch where you’re going, junk-genes.”

Flinching at the hissed phrase, Connor stopped short. If a teacher overheard the genetic slur, the offending party would’ve gotten kicked out of school without question or argument. Then again, most of them loved Max, particularly the coaches.

Connor cracked his knuckles and glared at the bully. Muscles stood out along his neck and arms, tense beneath tan skin, tight along his jaw. As a Guardian, Max should’ve been protecting the Ungifted but didn't seem to grasp this fact with all his brain cells. Instead, he jerked the kid up by his collar.

Don’t call attention to yourself. Connor clenched both hands in his hoodie pockets and scanned the crowd near the front of the school. Most teachers and APs stood close to the entrance, ushering students inside or directing air traffic into the parking lot. 

Don’t call attention to yourself. You’ve almost made it an entire month under the radar...

An Agent's Inbox #42

Dear Agent:

BAY OF SILENCE (adult contemporary; 81,000 words) centers on an African-American diplomat who jeopardizes his career, marriage, and life to search for his son's remains in the chaos of post-Castro Cuba. After sacrificing everything he values most, he learns that the child, by some miracle, may still be alive. 

Vincent Lucius gets recalled to Washington after losing his seven-year-old in a windsurfing accident off Cuba's north coast. With his marriage fraying and his older son refusing to believe his little brother drowned, Vincent finagles a solo assignment back to strife-torn Cuba. His day job is attempting to prevent the outbreak of civil war. At night he haunts the morgues. Within a few months, the U.S. ambassador banishes him for disregarding embassy priorities. Vincent is boarding the flight home when he hears of a boy resembling his son who drifted onto a remote barrier island. Alive. At the risk of alienating his wife and getting bounced from the foreign service, he pursues this murky hope across Cuba's dangerous terrain. An informant tips off a vengeful real estate mogul whose plans Vincent had thwarted. Whether Vincent’s son or not, the child's fate hinges on who finds him first.

My fiction and humor have appeared in Potomac Review, Hot Hot Phone, and SpliceToday. I am a former U.S. diplomat. My foreign service experience included embassy tours in Moscow, Santo Domingo, Skopje, and Tokyo, plus a stint in Havana. Among my Washington duties was a two-year assignment on Secretary of State Clinton's policy planning staff.

Thank you for considering BAY OF SILENCE. Please find the first page copied below. I look forward to sending you more if the story stirs your interest.



Dimming light, November chill. In a neighborhood outside Washington, D.C., a man raked. Long, smooth strokes. Vincent Lucius normally did his brooding at the dining room table, staring out the window into the thicket of bushes behind the property. The distraction of yardwork provided no relief. Still, there was something pleasing in the motion of his shoulders and hips, a reminder of his physicality. He elevated his right elbow and tucked his left arm close to his torso, the way a gondolier might handle his oar. Not that Vincent had ever been to Europe. After embassy assignments in Guatemala and Venezuela, plus the partial one in Cuba--truncated by tragedy and post-Castro chaos--the State Department saw him as a Latin America guy. Or Africa, of course, if he wanted.

Vincent cleared the walk that led to the front door, creating a channel. On either side lay a sea of yellow, red, and brown. He worked down from the house toward the curb, building up lines of leaves that stretched across the lawn. Little leaf bodies, curled up and dead. He maneuvered the rake with a certain tenderness. The lines turned into waves and the waves grew and by the time they reached the street they were tsunamis.

He could give a rip about protecting the grass, if that was what raking was for, or about which of their Takoma Park neighbors approved and which were fine with leaving things natural. But he figured Sarah would notice. It wasn’t much, he knew. A gesture.

An Agent's Inbox #41


Lilah Kingsley is unfailingly polite, even when she puts lead between the assassin's eyes. With much regret, she decides it would be imprudent to attempt the same against the man who sent the killer--her surrogate father, the president of the United States. 

President Temple wouldn’t be surprised, though. He knows she was responsible for the death of the criminal who kidnapped her and her best friend Harry when they were teenagers. Harry had insisted on taking the blame for it, and Temple had kept their secret. It would be five years before she understood why. As an heiress with connections to two of the world's biggest oil companies, Lilah is the linchpin of Temple's scheme to control the energy sector. Unfortunately, by the time she figures it out, she has already lost to Temple's influence the man she'd planned a future with: Harry. 

But Lilah will not let President Temple dictate the operations of the oil cartel built on her sacrifices. When she chucked aside her Harvard law degree to create the consortium, she'd decided she would be no one’s puppet. Not the president’s and especially not Harry’s though he controls one-third of the votes. 

Forced to work with her treasonous lover, hating and needing with equal passion, she is confronted by the discovery that Temple's assassin was targeting Harry, not her. Endure, expose, or execute? If Lilah cooperates with the president and agrees to be a rubber-stamp ruler, she can save Harry's life. She can, of course, expose the president and let the cartel disintegrate. Or she can put her own bullet through Harry's heart.

At 108,000 words, The Insurrection is an epic thriller spanning the tumultuous seventies and eighties. An excerpt is pasted below.



January 1974
Egypt-Libya border

The blades of the search-and-rescue helicopter cut through salty air one thousand feet above the Mediterranean. The steep escarpment came into Temple’s view, sparse vegetation between ridges. His headset sputtered over the roar of the engines.

“Senator,” said the pilot, “I think that’s Lilah.” 

Fingers clenched around the doorframe, Temple leaned into the wind and surveyed the scene below. Vehicles bound for Alexandria were stalled on the hilly pass by Gaddafi’s border patrol. The soldiers had separated the men from the women, holding them at gunpoint away from the caravan. Temple strained to spot the girl. “Where?” he shouted into the mouthpiece, blinking away gritty sand.

“Not with the crowd, sir. Check the port side,” the pilot said. “Look for yellow clothes.”

There. A figure running between boulders, her robes fluttering behind. Lilah was a couple of hundred feet from the group under inspection, concealing herself behind the limestone formations. She looked up at the chopper before plastering herself to the side of a rock. After weeks of reconnaissance, they’d located one of the abducted teenagers, the daughter of the late ambassador. “She’s hiding from the border patrol,” Temple muttered. “What about the boy? There were two kids.”

“Probably with the caravan. Let me--” The pilot stopped to curse. “We have a problem, Senator.”

One of the soldiers had detached himself from his team to follow Lilah. If she got caught, there was little a single search-and-rescue chopper could do to help. Temple grabbed the AK-47.

An Agent's Inbox #40

Dear An-Agent's-Inbox Agent,

Maggie Morris spent every night of her childhood by her bedroom window, waiting for a flying boy who never came. Now eighteen and at the cusp of her society debut, Maggie is dismayed to find that becoming an adult isn’t as adventurous as she hoped it would be. Corsets pinch, afternoon teas bore, and the handsome suitor her mother picked out is nothing like the heroes in her favorite books. Just as Maggie fears true love and happiness only exist in fairytales, in flies Peter, finally ready to whisk her away to Neverland. Once there, she discovers life on the island is wildly different from her grandmother’s stories. The Lost Boys are long gone, victims of a mysterious tribe of Shadow Eaters and Peter’s forgetfulness leaves her in peril more often than not. Captain Hartfield is not a pirate at all but a handsome, hooked naval officer and Peter’s twin brother. He sees beyond Maggie’s beauty to appreciate her curious mind and hunger for knowledge. They fall in love but their life together is threatened when the King of the Shadow Eaters fixes his attention on Maggie. Will Maggie ever be able to grow up on her own terms?

At 108,000 words, my debut YA novel, Grasping at Shadows, is Once Upon a Time meets Downton Abbey and will appeal to fans of Robin McKinley’s Beauty and Libba Bray’s A Great and Terrible Beauty.

I have a BFA in Theatre Design and Production from the University of Michigan and after working in the nonprofit arts world for many years, I am adept at actively promoting my own work.

I believe Maggie’s dilemma is a fresh take on Peter Pan that has not been told before. I am prepared to send the full manuscript upon request. I look forward to hearing from you.



I wish he’d come tonight.

Maggie opened her eyes to stare down the cluster of flickering candles dotting her birthday cake. It got harder and harder every year to blow them out in one breath, but she knew she must to have any hope of her wish coming true. She swept her gaze across the long banquet table, acutely aware of the number of guests watching her. Maggie took a deep breath but was stopped with a pointed look from her mother.

“Not yet, darling. Your father wants to make his speech first. Bertram?”

Though her mother’s voice was light and even, Maggie could tell she had disappointed Jane by not knowing the order of events. Blood rushed to her cheeks. How embarrassing to have so many people see her mistake. She looked down the long table to where her best friends, Freddie and Cecil sat. The girls offered back sympathetic smiles.

There were so many rules to follow now that she was eighteen! It was her first time attending a dinner party with so many of her parent’s friends and she’d hope to get everything right. Instead, she’d jumped ahead to make her birthday wish, exactly as a little girl would. Though she looked the part of an adult now, with her hair pinned up in the latest fashion and her new, longer dress, she felt miserably uncomfortable, an imposter.

Across the dining room, her father picked up a flute of champagne and cleared his throat, quieting the crowd.

An Agent's Inbox #39

Dear Agent:

In return for helping an earthbound spirit, a traumatized opera diva demands the identity of her birth mother, a woman whose past will cause the diva to question everything she believes about her personal moral compass. GHOST SAVIORS is an Adult Contemporary Urban Fantasy novel complete at 96,000 words. It is a stand-alone novel with series potential.

Sixteen years ago, opera diva Krista Bonner banished her beloved guardian ghost Owen when he refused to identify her birth mother. Now traumatized with the loss of her singing voice after witnessing her husband’s murder, Krista is grateful for Owen’s return, but balks when he asks her to help an earthbound spirit in a secluded mountain mansion. Yet she recognizes an opportunity to get what she’s always wanted: in exchange for her help, Krista demands Owen reveal the woman who gave up Krista for adoption. Krista is convinced that the love of her blood mother will ease the pain she’s carried for years of an abusive childhood and prove the true catharsis to regain her voice.

Owen is Krista’s only connection to the world of spirits. She dreads interacting with this new ghost. But with the New York Met awaiting Krista’s spring performance, and fearing she may never sing again, the opera diva struggles to overcome paralyzing inner turmoil, all while navigating the threats and regrets of the living and the dead.

The GRAVE series by Darynda Jones and THE GRAVEYARD BOOK by Neil Gaiman contain similar content and themes as GHOST SAVIORS.

About me: A former legal secretary with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and a DDS degree, I practiced cosmetic dentistry and oral surgery for twenty-five years. Now my focus is on writing novels and perfecting my craft by attending intensive workshops and writer’s conferences.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best regards,


“Krista!” My psychiatrist raced toward me, her long white coat flapping about her legs like an apparition in the fog. “You left without saying goodbye.”

“They said you were tied up in meetings.” A scattering of late morning clouds spat intermittent rain onto the parking lot’s pavement and kicked up a chill breeze. “You’re sure about this?”

“About releasing you? You’ve always held the power to stay or go.” She met my stare and pulled her white coat closed. “The real world is out there waiting.”

I considered a small piece of gravel near the toe of my shoe, then kicked it to the side. The real world. Would the supernatural fall into that category? They were real enough for some of us. Could I manage two months of dealing with the dead? Maybe they’d make me feel more alive.

I looked up. Mirth played in her smile.

“The world needs your beautiful voice. I feel guilty denying anyone the privilege of hearing it, so focus on your singing.” She hesitated. “Something else you should know. A woman called every week to check on you. With patient privacy laws, we said we had no one registered by that name, but she never stopped calling.”

“A woman?” 

My attorney Tess Lange waited in the car a few feet away. She raised her hands in question; I shook my head. Other than Tess, every so-called friend and acquaintance had vanished from my life, one by one, after my husband’s murder.

An Agent's Inbox #38

An Agents Inbox,

Thank you for the opportunity to submit an entry. I know your time is valuable so I’ll get right to it.

KING is a glossy, modern retelling of the story of Israel’s King David where instead of a throne at stake, the battle ensues for the heart of Abrianna King and the company her grandfather, Samuel, has left behind.

Bria has been raised by her grandparents in the shelter of Brooklyn. When her grandfather has a heart attack, she is forced to move with her mother to the Upper East Side. Here she meets Jon and they quickly become a couple, their bond formed on friendship, racial ambiguity and parental obligation. When she meets David on the beach, she is forced to confront the stagnancy of her relationship with Jon and her quick attraction to someone else. Once it’s revealed that David is Jon’s adopted brother and that he too has ties to her grandfather and the company he left behind, her world is upended. Bodyguards, mercenaries and a life on the run become her new normal. Previously one to hide behind others, she finds her voice and an ability to fight those twice her size with a set of gifts bestowed by her grandfather upon her creation. He, after all, is the one that set it all in motion, who put music in her heart, fire in her soul and breathed life into her genes.

A Young Adult Romance with a twist of Sci-Fi, KING has a word count of 118,000. While it is easily a stand-alone novel, I have begun book two of the series and intend for there to be four total over time.

Most of my professional experience has been in business and behind the scenes of the beauty industry. I began working towards a professional writing career two years ago and have every plan to pursue it long term and continue to learn and grow as a writer. 

I welcome your response and appreciate your time. 

Thank you,



“In that book which is my memory,
on the first page of the chapter that is the day when I first met you,
appear the words, ‘Here begins a new life’.”

--Dante Alighieri, La Vita Nuova

Color flooded into view as I lifted my sunglasses, surveying the helicopter that hovered in the distance. Relentless blades marred the perfect horizon, cloudless sky now split from cerulean sea. Palms dotting the edges of the white sand shore waved in response, beckoning me forward. I shifted my backpack onto my shoulder and walked from the room, the edges of my bandanna whipping around my head, threatening to release my mass my curls. I breathed in deeply, the salt, the sunshine heavy on the wind. I knew my mother would be lecturing me about my posture; about my bag, my hair, my clothes. I smiled to myself. My mother wasn’t here. 

Having visited this beach since childhood, I made my way easily through the maze of resort pools. My dated swimsuit and cut-offs a curious contrast to the half-clothed spring breakers writhing to the music pulsing overhead. I felt buoyant and light, could hear my grandmother urging me forward. Go, be free while you can. This brought another smile to my lips as I twirled and danced my way through the crowd, enjoying their energy as I headed down the path. 

It drove my mother crazy that I visited here so often. Every time I returned to Mexico, she marked it as a lost opportunity to further my exposure to different parts of the world--correction--her self-designated and pre-approved parts of the world.

An Agent's Inbox #37

Dear Agent,

Interfering with fate’s time line requires a choice. And for every choice, there is a cost.

Dr. Alice Whithers re-lived a day for the first time seventeen years ago. When her mother died the next morning, Alice vowed to only live the first of her todays from then on. The price of using her gift again was simply too high. But when she causes a lethal car accident, she sees no alternative. Perhaps saving the driver will balance the cosmic scales, providing atonement for her mother’s death. Or perhaps, it will require an even greater price. The only thing Alice is sure of, is that doing nothing will cost her very soul.

Tonight, she’ll choose which version of the day to keep. Tomorrow, she’ll face the consequences.

THE FIRST TODAY (82,000 words) is an adult speculative thriller that will appeal to fans of CJ Lyon’s FAREWELL TO DREAMS, and the Gwyneth Paltrow movie Sliding Doors. It is a standalone with series potential and is my debut. As a practicing emergency physician assistant, I have firsthand knowledge of the daily life-and-death decisions made by medical personnel. 

Thank you for your time and consideration.



Day 1: Take 1 7:32 p.m.

Today. No matter how many times I relive it, or how many years go by, everything comes back to that first today. Same accident. Same day. Another child without his mother. Another death I couldn’t avoid.

Splashes of crimson, a toddler’s wails, and unshed tears swarm to overwhelm my senses. As I close my eyes, car horns blare and metallic salt assails my nose. For several long seconds, I’m lost, bouncing between the past, the present, and my nightmares.

I take a deep breath, inhaling brine and exhaust. Wooden planks thud beneath my feet. The boardwalk. I’m downtown, strolling between the bay and Route 101, with my boyfriend. Walking in the last place I stood with my mom as we listened to the water lick the shore.

Why, of all days, did I agree to come here?

Because it’s time to move on. Seventeen years avoiding this place are enough.

I squeeze Michael’s hand. Having him beside me and Granny safe at home, that’s all I need. That’s all I want. And that’s enough, even today.

Michael returns the squeeze. “I saw something about a fatal accident on Newmark this morning. Is that why you’re so quiet?”

Michael knows I can’t really talk about my patients. But he also knows Coos Bay Area Hospital is the only one for almost a hundred miles, and there’s only one physician in the emergency department at a time. If the accident happened around the start of my shift or later, I cared for the victim.

An Agent's Inbox #36

Dear Agent:

Two estranged brothers finally meet, only to discover that one must kill the other for the kingdom to survive.

After years with only swords and tomes as companions, seventeen-year-old Prince Vaeldhei finds his first true friend with the arrival of his surly half-brother, Mordred--a boy even more familiar with rejection and loneliness than Vael. However, an ancient prophecy haunts Mordred’s footsteps--he is destined to kill their father in a battle that will destroy Britain. Vael may not believe in fate’s power, but that means little to the superstitious kingdom seeking his older brother’s death.

Though Mordred’s sorceress mother attempts to use him as a pawn in her plot to destroy Camelot, Vael vows to show Mordred that destinies can be rewritten. He’ll fight her and her manipulations at every turn, but she’s far too powerful for Vael and Mordred to overcome on their own. Vael resorts to enlisting her alluring and mysterious former apprentice for aid--a risky move, especially since she seems hell-bent on tearing the brothers apart. If Vael cannot free Mordred from his mother’s twisted grasp, he will have to watch his father and Camelot fall or kill his only friend--his brother.

THE PENDRAGON’S SON is a standalone YA Fantasy novel with series potential, complete at 91,000 words. An excerpt from this manuscript received the Superior Award from the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) Creative Writing Contest and the ACSI Regional Creative Writing Festival. I was also chosen by Kelly Hopkins as an unofficial mentee in PitchWars 2016 with this novel. I am a Latina currently living in Pennsylvania with my husband, my reptiles, and my books.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



As I hurried down the castle’s vast stone corridor to meet my half-brother for the first time, his name echoed around me, uttered like a curse: Mordred.

The vaulted doorway of the Great Hall loomed ahead, hewn from stone older than the ages. Squaring my shoulders and forcing my spine straight as a sword, I marched toward the raised dais, careful to keep my pace steady--calm and collected as a Prince of Camelot should be. At least I hoped I looked that way. My muscles strained as my legs urged me forward. Every step was too fast, yet the dais still seemed far away. 

Armored knights and soldiers filled either side of the high-ceilinged hall. I passed them and focused straight ahead on the three thrones, though as hard as I tried, I could not block out the poisonous words infusing the room, burning my ears.

“How is that bastard Mordred still alive?” A knight to my right sneered. 

“Vermin never did die easy,” another said.

I bit my tongue, not for the first time that day. Such disrespect, all because of an unfounded--and unreliable--prophecy made decades ago. 

My heels clipped against the stones. No point in arguing with them. They wouldn’t heed me, prince or not. In terms of garnering respect, Mordred and I stood on almost equal ground. Though I was King Arthur’s son, my rank did not erase the years he spent avoiding me.

Or the lies the queen had spread about me.

An Agent's Inbox #35

Dear Agent:

YA Fantasy
68,000 words

When a heist gone wrong costs Reis her humanity, she must decide what's more important--the relic keeping her alive or her best friend's life.

Shrewd thief Reis has survived the last two years on Honolulu’s streets thanks to Dex. All grown up, she’s no longer the fragile little girl who needs his help, she’s a brazen girl who knows what she wants: him. So, when the perfect job presents itself--swiping a relic for a huge reward--she seizes the chance to match Dex’s whims and crafty thinking, and maybe even catch his eye.

Together they go to Maui, but stealing the enchanted gem is more troublesome than Reis ever imagined. First, she gets robbed of her humanity. Second, a spell binds her to the Akaiman, an enchanted tribe of ancestral beings. Then she’s held in a cavern tucked beneath the waters of the Pacific Ocean. That’s when she discovers that the relic is extraordinary and she wasn’t the only one sent to capture it. 

Upon learning that the Akaiman’s lives and civilization will be destroyed if the relic’s power is harnessed incorrectly, Reis seeks out Dex to convince him not to go through with the heist, but when he can’t be found, she’s plagued with doubts over his loyalty. Amidst the chaos, Reis’ search leads her to someone much more dangerous who gives her the most brutal ultimatum.



I’m going to die. Not even kidding. The stench of sun-softened ahi is all around me, melding into every breath I take, and I’m convinced if this sweltering humidity doesn’t kill me, the reeking fumes will. Glamorous, right? It wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t have to plant myself next to the fishmonger’s stall, but this is the densest area of the street market and ergo the best outpost. To my great misfortune. 

I shield my nose and search the sea of faces that bob around me--ah, there’s a good one. I lunge onto the street and follow him. He’s walking so fast he doesn’t even notice who’s behind him. Me, short enough to be under his direct line of sight, skin that blends against the backdrop of tan wooden stalls.

I count thirty-five paces as I weave through the crowd and not once does he look back. I don’t expect him to. He’s an absent target, someone whose attention is focused elsewhere. As for me, my attention cannot be absent. I keep a dual focus, with eyes on him and the chaos surrounding us. 

The sun has only begun its fall into the horizon, but already there’s a strange mix of silhouettes and synergy. As daylight slips away, magic rises like wisps from the dust, breeding adventure and mischief, sorcery and mayhem. In this part of town nighttime brings on a certain type of hunger. Gaggles of young partygoers have hit the streets.

An Agent's Inbox #34

Dear Agent's Inbox,

Fifteen-year-old Marley Faye Tessinger doesn’t want to be a criminal anymore. Her abusive, meth-dealing bio-mom is dead, giving her a chance to live the clean life she’s always longed for. Her new adoptive family accepts everything about her, even her magic.

But Marley throws away that risk-free life to break into the headquarters of a multi-million dollar software company. Their CEO knows Marley’s secret: She is one of the last descendants in a family of ‘Slicers’--witches whose blood can bring art to life. The company’s white-collar witches have already kidnapped her half-brother Liam--a schizophrenic seer who, like Marley, knows exactly when and how he’s going to die.

Now Marley knows that she only has thirteen months left to live. Thirteen months to save the brother who stole peanut butter for her when she was hungry and who tried to protect her from their bio-mom’s abuse.

Too bad thirteen months just isn’t enough time.

THE ART OF IN-BETWEEN is a YA contemporary fantasy novel complete at 88,000 words. It’s a bit like Y.A. Dresden Files mixed with a dash of Orphan Black, meant to appeal to fans of Holly Black and Maggie Stiefvater. I’m an award-winning former newspaper reporter and editor. My manuscript was a winner of the #pg70pit YA writing contest under the code name, “She Blinded Me with Science.” 

Thank you for your time,



On the night of my kidnapped brother’s twenty-first birthday, I jumped off the roof of a skyscraper with a rope in one hand and a live, bagged chicken in the other. At this altitude, the wind hit me like a cold battering ram. It ripped through my dark ponytail and slammed against the goggles strapped over my ski mask.

My adoptive sister, Ninette, rappelled down beside me. Our nylon ropes unreeled from our harnesses, hissing as we paralleled our own reflections down eighteen stories of lightly-tinted glass. I’ve never really been afraid of heights before, but sitting in our farm’s backyard peach tree was different than jumping down a 180-foot drop.

I shouldn’t have been so terrified. I knew I wasn’t going to die tonight. That’s because I was going to die on my seventeenth birthday, crushed under the bumper of a blue Honda Civic. I knew that because I’d seen it in a dream. My visions about the future were rare and muddled, but if the Make-a-Wish Foundation accepted prophetic dreams as diagnoses, I’d definitely be getting a free trip to Disneyland.

Knowing I wasn’t going to end up as some pulpy red smear of sidewalk putty should have been reassuring. Too bad logic didn’t keep my stomach from tying itself into tight pink knots. I tried to focus on our target instead--a twenty-fifth story window. It was the only one that had lines of magic light wriggling against the glass.

An Agent's Inbox #33

To whom it may concern, 

Sometimes the toughest enemies to defeat are those that fight by your side. 

The Order of the Key is a work of edgy Young Adult Urban Fantasy complete at 98,000 words. The novel contains a unique power system which faces off with a world working parallel to ours. Though the book can stand alone, I have plans for a potential six book series. While The Order of the Key can be classified as YA, it has been written for an audience of YA readers who have grown up; it has crossover appeal.

Jacklyn Madison is the girl with her nose stuck in a comic book and her heart captivated by stories of heroes and villains. When a mysterious beast attacks her near her New York City home, she quickly discovers her own origin story--she’s the long lost member of The Order of the Key, a group of humans with unique gifts that protect humanity from creatures spilling through inter-dimensional rifts. She and her family join the Order in exchange for protection and a chance to allow Jacklyn to understand her birthright. However, when she questions some of the Order’s out-of-touch views, she lands herself in the center of a power struggle between the group’s leader, Lavinia, and her idealistic son, Kyp--the boy who is slowly turning from her childhood best friend to her possible teenage romance. When Kyp asks her to join a rebellion against his mother, she agrees and finds herself entangled in a world of suspicion, deceit, and death. Viewed as a target on one side and a weapon on the other, Jacklyn must prevent the Order from being overwhelmed by Lavinia and the inter-dimensional threat or it’s her loved ones who will face the consequences.

I am a multi-genre writer living in Bronx, NY, with my husband, son, and a cacophony of cats. My short fiction has appeared in the anthologies Things You Can Create and Best New Writing 2017, as well as Sliver of Stone Magazine, The Greenwich Village Literary Review, The Holiday CafĂ©, and Twisted Sister Literary. I received the Editor’s Choice Award for my work in the Best New Writing anthology. 

In addition to being a contributor to the website All The Way YA, I maintain a semi-monthly blog at [redacted] where I discuss my adventures in juggling aspects of my life such as motherhood, writing, and the very serious businesses of fangirling and multiple forms of geekery.

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




Chapter 1: Just That Quickly 

I just wanted to go for a walk. Just a moment to cool off and forget what a crappy day I was having. What I got was a real live monster standing down the block from me--silver, saliva-dripping teeth glinting in the light of a nearby street lamp. Its teeth were the only part of the creature clearly visible in the dark alley. The rest was little more than oil dumped over a sack of bones. It was broad, and the tight space of the alley slowed its stride to a shuffle.

A monster, like the kind I read about in the stacks of comics I’d been collecting for as long as I could remember. Except not constructed of paper, ink, and a sprinkling of imagination. 

Everything within me screamed, telling me to turn and run before it saw me, but my feet were rooted to the ground. When I finally did manage a step, it shrieked, a sound shrill enough to leave my ears ringing long after the scream ended.

My eighteenth birthday had been one big disappointment. Nobody at school remembered, my mom missed my first track win of the year, and I returned home to find my siblings baking the cake Mom had promised she’d make for me. So what did I do? I left the apartment so I could return calmer, ready to enjoy the surprise Gana and Morgan had whipped up. I went for a walk.

An Agent's Inbox #32

Dear Agent:

Title: Dylan
Category and Genre: Literary Fiction/Magical Realism
Word Count: 70K

Most everyone in the family calls Dylan “slow.” Worse, his abusive mother claims he’s wicked. He might not think fast, and it takes him awhile to form the words he wants, but Dylan has magic. He can spin marbles from oyster shells, and whip up Chicken Alfredo by tapping his thumbs together. In fact, he hopes to be a famous chef someday and put his magic to good use. Right now, the only one to appreciate his supernatural abilities is his loving uncle and caretaker, a disabled Vietnam veteran. When Uncle Jim dies, Dylan’s Aunt Agnes sells the house the two lived in, and ships Dylan off to an adult boarding home. There Dylan meets an equally gifted but troubled young lady named Liona.

With a rocky beginning, Dylan finally finds a friend in Liona whose mind-reading abilities makes it easier for him to communicate. Just when he settles into his new life a precious gift from his deceased uncle is destroyed. Despondent, Dylan flees to the beach and the oyster beds where he feels most at home, and where his magical empowerment comes from. His old Vietnamese friend, Tim Lan offers him a room in his shanty in exchange for his magically-made pearls. Dylan is tormented by the suspect requests of Tim Lan, for the old man takes his pearls to town and they mysteriously disappear. He’s muddled by his feelings for Liona for he’s never had a girlfriend before. His nightmare ensues when his drug addicted mother, who had once washed her hands of him, returns to exploit his gifts. He’s never stood up to her, and he risks losing everything he’s worked for--his relationship with Liona, with Tim Lan, and any hopes of independence--if he lets her destroy him.



By the time I was eighteen I didn’t care what Aunt Agnes said about me. I was happy. I had the two things that I needed most. Uncle Jim, and magic.

“He doesn’t connect the dots right,” Aunt Agnes complained to my cousin Shirley the night she drove me and Uncle Jim home from my graduation ceremony. My cousin always sat in front whenever we went anywhere. Shirley looked over her shoulder at me and scoffed while Aunt Agnes kept talking. “He can’t carry on a civil conversation. In fact, I don’t know if he is past the third-grade level of reading.”

I rolled my eyes. But Uncle Jim growled and then went into a coughing fit. He didn’t say anything though. How could he? He was facing the back of the van sitting in a wheel chair behind me. Once we got home, Aunt Agnes lowered the lift, and Uncle Jim steam-rolled into the house. I followed him inside with Aunt Agnes at my heels. Uncle Jim threw his baseball cap on the couch, and grumbled something fierce, maneuvering his chair through the litter in our living room. I could see a fight coming because Aunt Agnes and Uncle Jim fought a lot. Usually about me. I appreciated his support, but I didn’t like him yelling. The noise reminded me of my mother and the wicked years. I dodged into my room and waited for Aunt Agnes to leave, holding my hands over my ears until the front door slammed.

An Agent's Inbox #31

Dear "The Agent":

I would be honored if you would consider representing TROWEL AND ERROR, a contemporary romance complete at 70,000 words. Per your guidelines, I have pasted the first 250 words of my manuscript below.

It’s 1986 and Eleanor Blake is an archaeologist at the Smithsonian. A traumatic assault on a dig frightens her into giving up field work, the part of her profession she loves most. She hides behind her desk job, refusing to admit that she’s unhappy. On a road trip to install an exhibit at a rural museum, she picks up a woman during a thunderstorm. When the pedestrian climbs into her car, she realizes her mistake: it's a man.

Their situations are similar. Eleanor is afraid to pursue her life’s work; Tom Gage has given up his dream of acting on the stage, accepting a movie role to please his demanding parents. A sense of connection over their personal challenges and some strong mutual attraction leads to what Eleanor intends as a one-night stand. Still, it’s hard to say good-bye and the two continue to travel together. As their feelings deepen, bitter arguments erupt. Tom gives Eleanor unwanted career advice he isn't willing to take himself, and Eleanor resents his interference. When she returns home, Tom follows her, hoping to repair the damage. Instead of being flattered, Eleanor views his attention as creepy obsession and sends him away.

An opportunity to return to the field, this time as project director, gives Eleanor a sense of purpose and control. She beings to regain her confidence, determined that a past she can't change won't negatively impact her future. When a strange coincidence brings Tom back into her life, she opens herself to the possibility that a relationship with him is another step forward. From the Great Smoky Mountains, to the National Museum of Natural History, to a Spanish mission in California, Eleanor finds the courage to pursue a life of purpose and fulfillment. But that new life may take her away from the man she now loves, and separate them permanently.

I am a former archaeologist with more than twenty years of museum experience. I worked for the Smithsonian's natural history museum and later for the institution’s national outreach programs. I am active on Twitter [redacted] and on my blog at [redacted].

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

Warmest regards,


Eleanor Blake glanced with trepidation at the menacing clouds gathering on the horizon. She hated the thought of driving through a storm, but the prospect of delaying her journey was worse. Random gusts of wind buffeted the car and raindrops spattered the windshield. She fumbled for the wipers control in the unfamiliar vehicle, finding it just as the deluge hit.

Red lights glared and she tapped the brakes. The speed of the traffic slowed until it was stopped altogether. The car windows were fogged, the glass pebbled with raindrops, making it hard to see. But something was moving out there. A lone figure, obscured by a heavy pack, only jeans and a pair of hiking boots she imagined squelching through the puddles visible. Eleanor was sympathetic, but every warning she had ever heard about hitchhikers clamored in her mind. Offering this stranger a ride might be kind, but that didn't make it right. Not for her. The walker removed the pack and set it on the ground, looking into the distance. Water dripped from the end of a ponytail and ran down the back of a denim jacket. A ponytail? A woman! Her initial sympathy was rekindled, the sense of possible danger faded. She hit her directional signal and pulled over, pressing the button to lower the window.

“Can I give you a ride?”

The head turned and Eleanor's eyes widened as a jolt of adrenaline flooded her stomach. The person looking back at her was a man.

An Agent's Inbox #30

Dear Agent:

When fourteen-year-old Zinnia discovers Mom’s high school diary hidden in an old Back to the Future lunchbox, she realizes her dad exists. He knows about her even though Mom’s always denied she ever told him.

Zinnia’s rules-obsessed world tugs at her conscience, but she keeps reading the diary because she’s sure it contains Dad’s identity. She’s counting on him to have tips for handling her anxiety and compulsions. If she only knew why the diary was stored inside that dusty old lunchbox or how come her vest and skateboard make her Marty McFly’s double. Next, the neighbor pulls up in a fancy new DeLorean, and Zinnia meets a cute store clerk named Martin. If she’s going to figure out what it all means, she’ll need to find her dad, but time’s running out

When Mom wants to clear out the attic for a yard sale and mentions the lunchbox, Zinnia panics: come clean or layer more lies and secrets between them. How can she expect Mom to tell the truth about Dad if Zinnia’s secretly reading her diary?

If Zinnia doesn’t confront Mom soon, she might never meet her dad. All she wants is to be brave like Marty McFly and fix her broken family. Instead, she’s doing a bang up job tearing it apart.

If only Zinnia understood that not all secrets are meant to be shared.

ON THE ROAD TO MARTY MCFLY, a 66,000-word young adult contemporary novel with elements of magical realism, will appeal to fans of Rainbow Rowell and FINDING AUDREY by Sophie Kinsella.

Logos Publishing House released my first two novels, THIS GIRL CLIMBS TREES (MG) and BIRDS ON A WIRE (YA). My most recent work appeared in The Writing Disorder, and I am a member of the SCBWI. I maintain an active blog at [redacted] and teach writing strategies to middle school students--the inspirations for my stories.

I have pasted the first 250 words below.



When the last six months of my life turned into a television reality show for closet organizers, Mom signed me up for therapy. Which explains why I’m presently crouched on the floor untangling rug fringe, combing each thread straight. Like that matters.

It does to me.

“How do you feel, Zinnia?” Seated in a narrow leather chair, Lisa the Scribbler flips through pages then sets the pad in her lap. “Is the…sizzling in your chest gone?”

Focused on straightening synthetic yellow fiber, my brain’s firing neurons and hormones settle. And, yes, the sizzling’s gone. Lisa says repetitive tasks soothe me, and that’s okay as long as I can stop them.

So far, so good.

Today’s our fourth session in two months, and her office is still a mess. Papers pile on her desk; some in folders, some not.

“Like I said, if something eases your nerves, and no one’s getting hurt, go for it.” Lisa tucks a purple streak of hair behind her ear. What is she…twenty-five?

No diplomas on her wall, just weird posters.

I can’t stand the silence, so I blurt out the question I’ve been chewing on for two months: “Is it true anxiety’s passed down? I mean, my mom’s the least organized person I know, but…”

“What’s your dad like?”

The million dollar question. I swallow. “Never met him.”

“Oh.” She lifts her pad and scribbles. “Is he alive?”

G**, I never even thought of that. Thanks, Lisa. “I don’t know. Mom keeps him a secret."

An Agent's Inbox #29

Dear Agent:

I offer for your consideration Tarrowburn, a YA alternate world fantasy featuring a mystery of otherworldly proportions and a headstrong female protagonist with the power to solve it.

At 18, Moreina di Bianco is perhaps the youngest of small town village healers and nothing more…or at least that’s what she’d like to believe, but visions that plague only her serve to remind her on a regular basis that she’ll always be different. Despite her second sight, Reina is one of the few citizens in the kingdom of Castilles who doesn’t believe in the thousand-year-old White Sorceress Prophecy. How could a talisman and a lone woman save the kingdom from a war that has raged on for the last two years, a war whose borders creep closer with each passing day? So, when ironically unforeseen circumstances declare Reina the White Sorceress with the ability to rescue the kingdom from the grasp of a power-hungry General, she’s forced to accept the truth within the prophecy’s words and must take fate into her own hands. 

Reluctant to accept help, Reina’s only company on her journey is her estranged and mysterious childhood friend, Quinn D’Arturio, and a dashing captain who claims to be her protector. There’s just one problem with her new companions. They, too, are featured in the prophecy. But what woman wants a suitor, let alone two, when she’s faced with ending a war, finding the true king, and rightfully seating him on the throne?

Tarrowburn, a 100,000 word, “chosen one” fantasy is the second novel I’ve completed, but the first I’ve written with the intention of doing something other than stashing in a desk drawer. Though it is a stand-alone novel, it is intended to be the first of a trilogy. Growing up, I was strongly influenced by the world-building talents of Anne McCaffrey and C.S. Friedman and quickly fell in love with both dragons and magic. Comparable titles for Tarrowburn might include Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Mass, White Hart by Sarah Dalton, or The Forgetting by Sharon Cameron. I have an undergraduate degree in Marine Science and a Master’s in Business Administration, but writing has long been my true passion. After working in a variety of roles in pharmaceuticals and in animal welfare, I currently work as a freelance writer and am actively pursuing novel-writing as a full-time career. As requested, I have included the first 250 words below. I would be happy to provide you with a partial or full manuscript at your request. Thank you for your time, and I hope to hear from you soon.

Best Regards,



The problem with magic, I’d quickly discovered, is that just because you have it, everyone assumes that surely you must know how to use it. Naturally, that was how I’d ended up in this situation, tied to a molding, wooden chair in a leaking tent, while men just the other side of the weathered canvas flap discussed my impending execution with near childlike excitement.

For my adversaries, my abilities symbolized the kingdom’s single hope of all that could possibly defeat them and the power-hungry tyrant they stood for. My use of magic epitomized the heart of the Resistance movement, representing all too well exactly how they could be conquered. I only wished the solution I needed were as defined to me as that fear which drove my enemies.

For those who would call me a savior, even now I was still quite certain that I represented a hope that I couldn’t possibly ever live up to. I was a beacon of light in a very dark time, a flickering torch, a symbol of radiance for all on Liron. And yet, none were so acutely aware as I of just how quickly a flame could be diminished. A single breath, a puff of air, and the flame? Extinguished forever. Such would be the case for me if I could not manage to piece together the maddening riddle that continued to elude me. It was a puzzle I must solve...and soon.

An Agent's Inbox #28

Dear Agent,

A Knight of the Blood is an urban fantasy targeted at adults and is complete at 90,134 words. It is intended as the first of a series, but works well as a stand-alone.

An ancient blood war rips Griffin’s life apart. Both sides want his blood. He must choose who gets it. Sometimes fate sucks.

What fresh hell must Griffin endure? A monster that can’t possibly exist, a man with impossible powers, and an ancient war raging beneath the veneer of civilization; these are unveiled to Griffin as he is recruited into the Order, a covert organization dedicated to the preservation of mankind. He will begin to explore his own untapped potential and face an enemy of his own making, more deadly than any ever faced by the Order.

Monsters. Heroes. Cinnamon. These are the things that Griffin is exposed to as he searches for the answers to questions that haunt him. Who his real parents were, why they left him, and what the h*** was that thing that just ate his adoptive father?

Griffin must discover his own hidden power, risk his life and love, and learn to lead a group of superhuman guerilla fighters descended from ancient knights. If he succeeds, the world spins on unaware. If he fails, well, he won’t be here to worry about what happens then.

Stephen Roth at [redacted] is my critique/editing partner. He is the published author of A Plot For Pridemore. I also have connections with T.K. Barber, author and PR intern for Inklings Literary.

My marketing plan includes a strong social media presence, placement in several local bookstores with local author platforms, book signings, participation at book festivals and literary conferences as a vendor/speaker, YouTube videos, print advertisement and Amazon feature placement.

My previous novel, The Harrowing, won Notable Indie Book of the Year from Shelf Unbound Magazine, a B.R.A.G. medallion from IndieBRAG.com and a Pitch Perfect Pick from Underground Book Reviews.

I am the father of two boys, husband to a writer/PR intern and human to a crazy cat. I love reading, writing, and Oxford commas.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



It was dark. Really dark. And foggy. Asher felt like he was trying to breathe soup. Some kind of nasty broth like they serve you in the hospital. Food designed to be bad so you’d want to get better and go home. It was that kind of night. It wrapped around Asher, embracing him.

He moved through it with a fluid grace. His prey was elusive, but he would find it, and he would kill it. His eyes pierced the darkness, laying bare a landscape ghosted pale with moonlight. That was enough for Asher.

He blazed across the forested countryside like a painter’s brush across a canvas, swift and sure. The humid night air stroked his skin with the feather-light caresses of a lover. The black sky arced overhead, broken by the twinkling of a myriad of stars.

“Ugh,” he said. His nose wrinkled in distaste. Blood. He hated the smell of blood. His hound dog nose led him to the source. A short distance to the left of his original path, he found the body.

“D***,” he said.

She was so young. She had been mercilessly mauled. The d***** brute hadn’t even pretended to make a meal out of her, it had simply shredded her like pork and left her to rot. It was nothing less than murder. He crouched beside the corpse. The sharp, ferrous scent of her blood assaulted him. His nostrils flared. He closed his eyes and sighed. The women were the worst. He could pretend to himself that men had a fighting chance.

An Agent's Inbox #27

Dear Agent,

A small-town teen thinks taking part in his older brother’s Bigfoot hoax is a great idea--until a real-life monster attacks.

Thirteen-year-old Tim records video of MoMo--a Bigfoot-like creature that first terrorized his dying hometown many years ago. The video goes viral overnight. When Tim discovers a furry costume in his family’s storage shed, he realizes what he saw wasn’t a monster, but a hoax put on by his brother and the mayor’s son in hopes of reviving the town. Afraid that his brother could lose his football scholarship if they’re caught, Tim reluctantly joins their plot.

Reporters, amateur monster hunters, and even a reality television crew flock to town in response to the social media frenzy Tim’s video creates. But then a real monster arrives, killing pets, livestock, and eventually humans. The town’s Monster Hill is transformed into a danger zone, inhabited by MoMo and crawling with trigger-happy hunters eager to kill it.

Struggling under the weight of the lies he’s told to protect the plot, Tim convinces the other two boys to stop their hoax. When the mayor’s son sneaks off to Monster Hill for one last ill-advised appearance in his MoMo costume, Tim must take action to save the people he cares about.

#MoMoLives, an upper middle grade horror novel, is complete at 51,000 words. It is inspired by actual events that happened in my hometown when I was ten years old. I wrote this novel because of its connection to my childhood, but most of my writing projects are science fiction rather than horror.

Thank you so much for your time and consideration.



Note to self: Next time the Conroy twins ask me to play hide and seek on Monster Hill at sunset, tell them to get lost.

I caught Robbie in his usual hiding place about five minutes ago. Now I’m after Mitch, who’s not only better at hiding, he loves to startle me.

A twig cracks in the distance, putting me on high alert. I move toward the noise, but Mitch is gone when I get there. The sun slips down over the top of the hill; pretty soon I won’t see anything as the shadows grow even darker.

More rustling comes from a few feet behind me. Mitch is making more noise than usual tonight; he’s giving himself away. I get a whiff of something foul on a light breeze that’s kicked up. I bet he stepped in dog crap again. That kid’s a magnet for the stuff.

My phone vibrates as I turn toward the noise. Mitch’s text glows on the backlit screen: “Mom called me in when Robbie came home. You win.”

A chill shoots down my spine. If Mitch is at home, who’s sneaking up on me? Or maybe it’s something, not someone. After all, I am on Monster Hill.

POP! A thicker branch behind me breaks. I catch movement out of the corner of my eye, and turn quickly enough that I get a brief glimpse of a hulking, shadowy form in the darkness. Its eyes shine as it steps closer.

“YAAAAAH!” I sprint for home.

An Agent's Inbox #26

March 14, 2017

Hello Agent!

To participate in #AnAgentsinbox, I am respectfully submitting for your review the first 250 words of of my middle grade, magical realism novel, JAZ AND THE MYSTERIOUS TABLET: FARAWAY WORLD.

Twelve-year-old Jackson Alexander Zane--aka Jaz--wants more than anything to live the kind of life he reads about in his books. In his novel-life, his mom’s job would be able to afford a big house with a yard, instead of a tiny, apartment in a building filled with senior citizens. He would have lots of friends nearby and they’d ride to school together, hang out at each other’s houses and share interesting adventures. His chief modes of entertainment would be much more than escaping into library books and playing chess with an elderly neighbor. Oh--and he would also have a dad.

When Jaz and his mom suddenly inherit a farm in Michigan, he is excited and terrified at the same time. But the shock of the move is nothing compared to the knowledge that the farm was left to them by paternal grandparents he didn’t even know he had. And to top it off, his mother confesses that his father didn’t really die before he was born. In fact, he had disappeared, never to be heard from again.

While exploring his new hundred-acre “backyard,” Jaz discovers items with inexplicable properties. Giant boulders that can be moved with one hand and bushes that can block sound are early indicators his new home isn’t a normal farm. But when he uncovers a hidden box containing a tablet covered in strange markings and indentations, Jaz begins to realize all the bizarre components are related to his father’s disappearance.

With the help of his two new friends--science nerd AJ, as well as sassy, street-smart Issy--Jaz sets out on a quest to decipher the cryptic clues needed to solve the mystery of the tablet. He’s certain if they’re successful, it will lead to finding his dad, and just as certain his dad will be lost forever if they are not.

Jaz and the Mysterious Tablet: Faraway World is a story of an isolated boy who will risk his life and his dream of a home and friends for a chance to save his father. It is complete at approximately 71,000 words, and will be enjoyed by fans of THE LABYRINTH SOCIETY: THE VERSAILLES VENDETTA, by Angie Kelly.

I am an upper middle-aged debut author gearing up to retire, at which time I will write full-time. Like Jaz, I grew up isolated on a Michigan farm reading for adventure. I welcome your constructive suggestions and critique.

Thank you in advance for your review of my submission. I hope to receive a request for further reading. Please feel free to contact me with any question you might have.



The last normal thing he did was try to beat Mr. Thompson in a game of chess.


At twelve years of age, Jackson Alexander Zane--a.k.a. Jaz--had yet to best the man who had introduced him to the game five years before. He had immediately become hooked, loving the stealth and strategy in pretty much the same way boys like to play Army. His chess matches kind of felt like he was on an adventure, deciphering clues and solving a mystery at the same time. It was such a contrast to his own routine life.

However, despite the elderly man’s effort after the games, patiently explaining what the boy did wrong, Jaz had yet to win a game.

The game had been in progress about an hour when a knock vaguely penetrated Jaz’s concentration. He knew it would be his mom telling him she was home, so he rested his chin on his stacked fists and kept his attention on the game.

Sure enough, in response to Mr. Thompson’s “come in,” he saw his mother walk gracefully through the door out of the corner of his eye. “I see you’re at it again,” she said, smiling while her son glared at the chest board.

He didn’t look up. “It’s a tight game.”

Focused, he missed Elizabeth Zane roll her eyes. It was the same thing day after day. “Alright, but come straight upstairs as soon as you finish,” he heard her say. “I’m going to get the mail.”

An Agent's Inbox #25

Dear Agent:

During the first few weeks of her freshman year, the dead just won’t leave Becky alone.

She’s always seen them, and has managed to tune them out, or at least hide from them. Since she started high school, though, they’ve been more insistent--appearing repeatedly and unexpectedly, making eye contact, asking questions.

It’s bad enough that Becky’s only friend has lost interest in her, leaving her to fend for herself against a dismissive mother and abusive brother, and that her name has been scrawled in a bathroom stall on a list of “Ugly Freshmen.” So, when a spirit pounds Becky’s bedroom door, calling her name, demanding she come out, she breaks, realizing that the dead have conspired with the living to hijack her sense of safety and self-worth.

Becky is only one of the desperate souls who have called this house home during its one hundred-year existence--souls like Charles, who isolates the family he builds the house for at the beginning of the century, and Barbara, whose husband is taken prisoner during the war in the Pacific; like Lester, an unemployed loser who prefers MTV to social interaction, and Preston, an unfulfilled public employee who hosts punk-rock shows in the house’s basement. They can help Becky reclaim her life and correct her trajectory, but only if Becky is willing to face her fears of both the living and dead and take back her sense of self.

Alternating between five perspectives and time periods, FRIDAY NIGHT AT HUMBLE HOUSE (literary fiction, 104,000 words) tells the story of these characters and the house that shaped them. As they search for meaning in their tangled lives, they will affect each other in ways they could never understand--and will never know.

For twelve years, my nonfiction has appeared in several print and online music magazines. Since earning my bachelor’s degree from Lake Forest College, I have taught literature, writing, and journalism to high school students in Chicago’s northwest suburbs. I received my master’s degree in 2014 from DePaul University’s School of New Learning, where I studied writing, editing, and publishing, and have applied what I learned to my classroom ever since.

As requested, I have pasted 250 words of my manuscript below. Thank you for this opportunity and I hope to hear from you soon.



Becky McLaughlin – September 21st, 2011

“Sir,” it invaded her subconscious, a voice like a blade of grass tickling her ear. "Sir, you're not allowed to sleep in study hall."

Becky emerged from limbs that crissed across her desk and rested her chin on a bare, freckled wrist. It took two seconds for her to identify the blurry silhouette hovering above her as Mr. Stucor, her study hall teacher. "Sorry," she said, unable to correct his mistake, uncertain how.

"Sir?" someone whispered behind her. "Oh my g**, did he just call her sir?" One snicker sparked another until laughter bubbled all around Becky, circled her until she swore she heard someone say, "Well, she does sort of look like a guy."

The laughter echoed in her mind, disrupting the small, unprotected piles of self-confidence she had been storing there. Did he really think I was a boy? she wondered. Am I dressed like a boy today or something? To distract herself, she fixed her gaze on the shallow trough on her desk where a pencil or pen is supposed to sit; some artist, who had carved "F** U" into the resin, said what she couldn't.

She felt her phone purr silently in the thigh pocket of her pants. With a sly, subconscious motion, she crammed her hand into her pocket and tucked her phone in the nook of her palm. After poking the touch screen a couple of times, she read a triptych of texts from Frances:

"someone wrote something in the c hall bathroom about u”

An Agent's Inbox #24

Dear Agent's Inbox,

A.J. Sinclair thought losing her husband to a drunk driver, and raising two young sons, one with autism, was hard enough. Mankind’s largest volcanic eruption proved her wrong. Navigating across a country dealing with the aftermath, she’s on a desperate journey to the epicenter to find her missing son, with a mysterious stranger by her side. 

A trip to Yellowstone National Park with her brother and her two young sons, Will and Finn, seemed the perfect way for A.J. to honor Harrison a year after his death. It had been his dream, after all, to take Will, their gifted son with autism, to the place of his obsessions. For the first time in ages, A.J. doesn’t feel alone as her now family of three makes the first step toward healing. But when the return flight is overbooked, and Will is overcooked, she flies home with just him, leaving her brother and Finn behind to catch the next flight. She didn’t expect the belly of the earth to erupt only hours later. 

On the road with Will, she must get to Colorado from the East coast, at any cost. She’s driving blind, with hope as her compass, in the ash-ridden bedlam that’s beginning to overtake the country. Along the way she meets up with Reid Gregory, a man harboring his own secret demons; he travels the road of perdition west to find his sister. A.J. is thrust into a journey where she’s forced to heal her past, accept the present, and embrace uncertainty. With the most unlikely of companions, she knows they will not fade away without a fight. 

WILL NOT FADE AWAY, is women’s fiction (98,000 words). It’s a story of hope and redemption for two tortured hearts and one quirky boy. My background is in science, education, and parenting my own special needs children. I write for Outdoor Families Magazine and have published in peer-reviewed science journals. My historical-supernatural romance, A Hundred Kisses, is set to be released by The Wild Rose Press on May 17th. 

I look forward to hearing from you. The first 250 words are pasted below.

Kind Regards,


The scream burned like molten lava. It raced through my veins like a painful lahar, chunks of volcanic rock tearing my capillaries.

Jolted awake, I sat up, my heart racing as I listened. Silence.

I shuddered with recollection. The searing heat still charred my skin. I rubbed my temple.

Who? What-?

G**, it had been a dream. I could taste ash on my tongue.

I blinked a few times. Pre-dawn light crept across the meadow and rocks as I scanned our campsite. Were we camping again? A foggy heaviness filled my mind. I pinched the bridge of my nose. Will hated camping, despite his love of the outdoors. Where was Harrison? He knew he couldn’t duck behind a bush for a quick pee, not when he was the one assigned to Will for our camp nights. Will grew scared if left alone. Will wandered. Finn was the one usually nestled close to me, snoring through all the bumps in the night, with his knee digging into my back.

I blinked again as my cognition shifted from the blurry haze of sleep to the sharp perception of waking. I rubbed my eyes…there was no tent. And no Finn or Harrison.

A soft drizzle pattered on the ground. Rain. Darkness. I shivered in my sleeping bag.

I saw only two sleeping bags: mine and Will’s, and his lay empty. Panic gripped me as my brain caught up to my eyes, the rain clarifying my memory. I was not camping with the family.

An Agent's Inbox #23

Dear Agent,

DESIGNS OF EUPHORIA, a YA science fiction novel complete at 69,000 words, can be likened to Red Rising meets Lightless.

Seventeen-year-old Lottie accepts that her first love is a genetically modified warrior loyal to an emerging AI. At least until she discovers that the machine is systemically stamping out all dissent and diversity on its quest to build Plato’s perfectly just city.

When the lives of her family get caught in its path, Lottie realizes the fight to save them is much bigger than herself. Pockets of impoverished provincials and groups of vengeful exiled warriors have launched a counteroffensive. But the uprising captures her father, thinking he works for the AI.

Now with her love and family on one side and a ragtag cabal that she believes in on the other, Lottie must choose what--and whom--she’s willing to sacrifice to stop the encroaching army of warriors and exobots.

I am happy to send the full manuscript upon request. Thank you very much for your time.



The second to last time Dad lay buried between the sacks, every part of me hoped he’d stay there. I had no idea that the next time, I'd be a sobbing mess, begging him to get up.

Grains of sand whipped around us, scattering as we neared West Gate. Our transport cruised along with the low hum of autopilot, running a methodical scan over the deserted terrain. I’d stopped paying attention hours ago. Now sitting hunched over, I flipped through page after page of the tattered book. A slow ache rippled through my shoulder blades. Everything hurt, everything always hurt, by the time we got to the gate. 

The transport’s display ignited. A growing orange glow scrawled across the interface the same moment a shrill ding sounded warning: they’d identified us. Cursing myself for not moving sooner, I slammed the book closed and jumped up. A hollow slip ran between the interior wall and flat deck. Two quick bangs and the rusty casing opened enough for me to hide the gift inside. A good kick and it closed. Once settled, I switched navigation to semi-manual mode and queued a couple controls. We floated forward.

Up ahead, warriors stood erect with their backs against chiseled stone, looking as greyed and weathered as the wall they guarded, but also as proud. On our approach, the darkened silhouettes shifted, drawing electrified braided spears outward. Black synthetic leathers ran smoothly over their bodies, concealing the source of their inhuman strength: exogear. A cold shiver ran down my spine.

An Agent's Inbox #22

March 20th 2017

Dear Agent,

Please consider my science-fiction novel, The Guides, complete at 80,000 words. This is a standalone work, or could serve as the first in a trilogy. The book features an obsessive connection between two predestined beings exploring an amazing parallel dimension, set in the lush backdrop of the past and future of the Bavarian forests of Germany.

Lena is a blonde, brainy twenty-something high school physics teacher who has just started her summer break. She is traveling back to her mother’s childhood home in Germany to save her family’s heirlooms after her awful aunt has threatened to sell the house and all of its contents. There, she meets Sebastian, a strikingly handsome young physicist at the nearby university, and she falls hard. Swept away in what seems like the picturesque summer romance, Lena gets grounded fast as she makes a disturbing discovery. Sebastian reveals to her that he is one of hundreds of immortals on Earth called Guides, who have the ability to travel to another dimension. The ultimate goal of these mysterious beings, is to transition the inhabitants of our dimension to Beta when the earth is no longer hospitable for life, or other forces threaten our current dimension. Lena learns that like him, she has no copy of herself in Beta and is destined to become a Guide.

With this newly discovered reality staring her in the face, she quickly realizes she has to leave the life she knows and break from all of the relationships she has created. Giving into the pull of the overwhelming magnetism Sebastian has over and the beauty and radiance of Beta, she agrees to help in whatever way asked of her by the Guides.

Because of the physical differences of Beta to our dimension, like gravitational forces and the chemical makeup of their atmosphere, it will take months of Lena training in a dream-like state before she is prepared to make the full journey through the portal to Beta. During those training sessions, Lena finally begins to feel like she belongs for the first time in her life and becomes obsessed with the life she has been living on Beta. She learns that she is a well-respected scientist with high power and intelligence. She is stunned to discover that she and Sebastian are anything but strangers, they are, in fact, married. Anna, the leader of the Guides, teaches her that there are many threats to their kind. The portals have become increasingly unstable and a pair of rogue Guides have their target set on the newest addition to the order, Lena.

At the advice of the elder Guides, she is forced to travel to Beta alone to avoid becoming discovered. With very little training, Lena finds herself in a foreign place, faced with the consequences of her decision, and searching desperately for Sebastian and the Guides who promised her this new world.

About me:

Outside of my incessant daydream of becoming an inspirational and notable author, my real life day job is that of a pediatric practice administrator, for a busy, six-provider practice. I live in High Springs, Florida with a most amazing son and hilarious and musically talented husband.

Much gratitude and love,


The plane touched down with an emphatic thump, nicely capturing the essence of the trip to Germany with my mother up to this point.

I looked over at my mother and met her eyes, gave a weak smile, and slowly released the grip of her hand, now that we had landed safely on the ground. I broke our stare to watch the wing flaps thrash roughly against the air, challenging their hinges, and making the wind whistle loudly outside of my window. I felt the power of the brakes and reflected on the physics behind this thrilling feeling. Understanding the science behind slightly frightening events always brought me comfort. 

I was surprised that this tradition still continued, that of reaching for my mother’s hand upon takeoff and landing. Something about the sheer speed it takes to launch the 200 ton barrel of steel into the air instills a sense of excitement, finality and fear into my heart. I suppose the reason for the trip also had my emotions on somewhat of a turbulent ride, an uncomfortable feeling for me, an expert at tucking them completely out of sight, out of mind.

As the plane taxied up the runway, I started to make out the familiar silhouette of the Munich airport. A sense of relief rushed over me as I realized I was once again back in the country that I have always had an undeniable connection to. My sentimental moment was quickly interrupted as Mother managed to irritate the passenger across the aisle by rushing to get her bags from the overhead compartment before the seatbelt light had been turned off.

An Agent's Inbox #21

Dear Agent:

Murder, blackmail and power plays are as common as street signs in the gritty, mob-run town Nick and his younger sister call home. When she gets kidnapped, the texts that follow give him one choice and no options: do the hits or she dies.

Nick's reward for a kill is a fist-full of precious seconds to hear his sister's voice. He wants nothing more than to find her and exact revenge on the men responsible. But one hit leads to an unexpected rescue, and he spends the next three weeks avoiding the woman who looked at him like a savior, instead of a killer. Any contact could make her another pawn in the mob’s sick game of blood-chess, but Nick’s restless, lonely mind keeps dragging him back to the headstrong, fearless, and beautiful Scarlet.

Three weeks of hell in a splint leaves Scarlet with far too much time to fantasize about her knight-in-shining-hoodie. And even though her near-mugging with a side of injury showed her firsthand the darkness lurking in her city, she’s determined to go on like nothing happened. That is, until a blown light bulb puts her face-to-face with the hazel-eyed hero of her desperate, ridiculous dreams.

When another terrifying attack paves the way for tragedy, Nick and Scarlet’s passion overwhelms them in the aftermath. But one stupid mistake is all it takes for Nick's worst fear to come true. Now Scarlet is caught by a sick mobster with designs on her family’s apparent position, and he’s forcing Nick to choose between saving his sister or Scarlet. Or lose them both.

LOVE IN THE SHADOWS is a romantic thriller that sits at 75,502 words. It's a stand alone novel with a planned series and has a HFN.

I'm an avid romance reader and a PR Intern with Inklings Literary. My tasks vary, but presently I create ad images, set up book signings, and maintain the agency’s Twitter account. Seeing first-hand what marketing an author entails has given me huge insight into how to run the business side of writing.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



Nick rested his back against the cold, gray brick wall of the alley. The air was thick with the stench of damp pavement and he took a steadying breath. Just another hit. Just some thug that needed to be put down. No big deal.

He should have closed the store early and taken his sister to that stupid party himself.

A patrol car rolled past the opening, and Nick froze, then frowned and cracked his neck.

If he had, they might be at home, arguing over why she couldn’t have a boyfriend. Or why he thought her music was stupid. Now his thoughts were filled with how she’d be the next time he heard her voice. If she was eating. If they had hurt her again.

Nick gripped the 9mm, twisting the silencer again for good measure, and closed his eyes as he tilted his head to listen. Rustling trash from his left, a bat chitter from above the roof lines, and voices. He leaned away from the wall and scanned the area. Two men staggered down the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street. Nick shook his head. Probably out looking for drugs or late night action. He checked his watch. One minute. A boisterous voice seeped through the hinge crack, and he steeled himself.

“--Valentine punks are all the same. Bring my d*** money tomorrow, Matches. I ain't playin'."

The steel back door of the club scraped against the molding as it inched open, and Nick rotated to face it, gun ready in his outstretched arm.

An Agent's Inbox #20

Dear Agent,

My 93,000 word manuscript titled THE CERITH FLOWER is a layered, lush and immersive fantasy. As you're open to acquiring adult fiction in this vein, it might be a good fit for your list.

Symphony's nightmares never fade. In an alternate earth of hunter-gatherers, hooded predators known as poachers troll the forest each night in search of human skins. Moons ago, they took Symphony’s mate as one of their victims. Now they steal her one and only friend. Symphony isn't capable of handling another loss. There are no tears left in her to shed. So she doesn't cry--she fights. Ignoring her elder’s warnings, she runs after the poachers to save her friend, a forbidden act given its certainty of death. Her path leads her to the Kid: a mute recluse and inventor with a history of violence; a man who Symphony finds together fascinating and frightening. After all, he almost killed her the first time they met; and he owes penance for that near-fatal incident. Symphony needs a skilled tracker--one crazy enough to join her suicide mission. As the two misfits journey through an unforgiving landscape, for Symphony, what began as a quest to save a dear friend could end in something entirely different--a dark love that could break her once and for all.

THE CERITH FLOWER weaves elements of suspense, romance, and folklore into an upmarket fantasy. Aimed at fans of Morgenstern's THE NIGHT CIRCUS or Jemisin's THE INHERITANCE TRILOGY, the work explores what it means to be human through one woman’s quest to heal her heart. It won the Pg70Pit writing contest for voice under the code name, "Only then I am human," as well as the Pitch to Publication contest in November 2016. I studied creative writing at the Humber School for Writers and obtained an interdisciplinary PhD from York University. My recent publications include short fiction in Firewords Quarterly, (forthcoming April 2017), in addition to nonfiction essays on posthumanism and surrealism, both topics that influence my storytelling.

The first 250 words of my novel are pasted below. I’d be happy to send you the full manuscript and/or a synopsis upon request. Thank you for considering my work.

Kind Regards,


Only fools would look forward to dancing by dark when death stalked the forest. Symphony of the Cloud People shimmied up an oak tree, the calluses on her feet pushing on knobs and joints in the bark. She had no intention of participating in the festivities--not now, nor during any nightfall. She settled into a fork, mindful of sharp twigs, and leaned back to catch her breath. The others wouldn’t find her. Not this high. Weighing little more than seven stone had its advantages. Only Ethon dared climb higher, though that had more to do with his wiry build than his weight. Symphony, on the other hand, was the thinnest woman in her tribe and had the upper body of a twelve-year-old girl. This hadn’t stopped their scout, Yanik, from giving her two extra tents to carry to their new campsite, but Symphony had learned long ago to swallow her complaints. Sore muscles were better than pity.

She shrugged off the straps of her rucksack just far enough to dig into a side pocket for a bandana. Tucked within the folds was a methoxy leaf shaped like a teardrop. Symphony licked her lips. She needed this. Closing her eyes, she stuffed the weed into her mouth, mashed the veins into a pulp, and swallowed. She wrinkled her nose at the aftertaste and waited. In no hurry, she was content to loll against the oak for as long as it took the drug to enter her bloodstream.

An Agent's Inbox #19

Dear Agent:

Thank you for taking the time to consider my work titled, Beyond the Lonely Oak

I am a student at Antelope Valley College and am working towards my bachelor’s degree in English. Beyond the Lonely Oak is currently finished, I've had it read and edited by a professional editor and it falls in the adult romance/fantasy genre. The word count is clocked at 75,180. 

Some say that a love story starts at the very beginning, but what if it doesn't truly begin until the middle? After suffering a horrible car wreck and loosing ten years of memories, Ava Radcliffe moves away from her home town to make a new life for herself. She is the star ballerina at a company in Dallas and things are finally looking up when a strange manuscript arrives in the mail. Before she can begin to read the story, her grandmothers passes and she is forced to return home to the town she had left behind years earlier. As a series of events unfold, she finds that she may have left behind more than she realized. Who is the elusive Braden and why does he claim to know her? She must navigate through the last book her grandmother wrote before her death to find the answers and rediscover her destiny. Even if those answers are the most unlikely of all truths. 

I have been developing a following on Wattpad and Facebook in order to promote the attached work. Within the first two weeks of my novel being on Wattpad it received 1000 reads and over 100 votes. I am including the first ten pages in the body of this e-mail and if requested can send over the entire book. 

Thank you for taking the time to consider representing my work. I hope to hear from you. 




There was so much blood. A crimson inferno of fear. His face kept slipping in and out of her vision, a mirage of molten beauty that she couldn't keep solid. He had become an intangible photograph, and that photograph was burning away to embers.

She screamed, pulling at the restraints around her wrists. Why couldn't they understand? She wasn't crazy; she was desperate.

More blood, bright red and brilliant against the white. They had warned her that if she couldn't stop hurting herself, they would give her the needle again. Didn't they realize, that once the pain was gone, he would be too? She thrashed and pulled wildly at the restraints, forcing her body to feel alive despite the medication and magic that was pulling her away from herself.

"Don't leave me!" she yelled over and over until her voice was raw and painful.

A woman's face came into view, the lines of time ravaging the familiar landscape. How had she aged so drastically?

"Grams?" she muttered. Her grandmother had been trying to say something to her, her face taut and concerned, as she reached out and placed a hand on Ava's moving body.

The room around her had grown chaotic. Three nurses ran in to hold her down. Her grandmother was still speaking, but Ava couldn't focus on anything other than her own desperation. 

He would be gone soon.

She let out a terrified scream as they thrust the needle into her arm.