Thursday, March 29, 2018

Let the Commenting Begin!

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, "If you were an agent, would you request more of this entry?"

I'll reveal The Agent's identity and announce his or her winners and prizes 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 #13

Dear Mystery Agent,

In The Guardian Mermaid, sisterhood is more than skin and scales. It is forged from a heartstring, tethered to a sword. This 100,000-word young adult fantasy re-imagining of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid" stars Niele, a mermaid princess who becomes human to learn the arts of sword fighting and heroism by tying her life and future to a human princess who is skilled and strong enough to slay a kraken.

When Niele ascends to the surface of the ocean for the first time in her life on her fifteenth birthday, she witnesses two humans sparring with swords on a beach. Over the next few weeks, she trades between her duties as a mermaid princess and her curiosity about these humans--a taboo topic that she can only openly discuss with the Sea Witch Maleah, a salamander sorceress who has assumed the form of a mermaid. When a kraken attacks the humans' ship, Niele witnesses the human princess Neva dive into the water and slay the beast single-handedly. The crippled ship breaks apart and sinks in a storm, and though it goes against all mermaid tradition, Niele saves Princess Neva's life.

Because she wants to learn to be as heroic as Princess Neva, Niele makes a deal with the Sea Witch to become human, trading away her siren magic and long mermaid life for a spell that binds her life to Neva's and turns her into a human. Neva does not recognize Niele or even realize a mermaid saved her life, but she agrees to train this peculiar foreigner. Their friendship grows over the course of their adventures slaying monsters and rescuing helpless villagers, until word comes that Neva's betrothed went missing and Niele begins to feel a strange splintering in the spell that binds her life and heart to Neva's.

The Guardian Mermaid explores the impact of friendship and mentorship on the life of a young asexual woman and honors platonic relationships as equally valuable alongside familial and romantic relationships. I wrote this novel as one of two capstone projects for my MFA from Simmons College. It has been through a rigorous revision process, supported in part by a literary agent. The complete manuscript is available at your request.




I didn't know the meaning of the word.

I did know the gentle push and pull of the sea. I knew how to read the currents, the shifting temperatures, the pressure of the water around me, the fluttering vibration that signaled movement around me. Even in the darkest depths, I would always know when I was alone, where danger lurked, how to find my prey.

My fingers gripped the shaft of my spear tightly. I remained perfectly still in the water, my only movement the slightest pulse of my gills as I breathed, slow and calm. Distance, awareness, and most of all stealth were my greatest allies out here, in the vast openness of the hunting waters. Between me and the ocean's surface, a whole school of fish--tuna, maybe--swam about in blissful ignorance of the predator that lurked beneath them. If I had the mind for it, and maybe a few other merfolk to help, I could have untied the net from around my midriff and used it to bring in a nice haul.

But quantity wasn't the name of the hunt today. Today was all about finding the perfect fish.

The longer I waited, the more I could feel the tingle of motion that moved through the water and across my skin and scales. I used the subtle vibrations to measure the distance between me and the fish, to aim my strike. When I was sure of my prey, I coiled my muscles tightly, then sprang.

An Agent's Inbox #12

Dear Mystery Agent:

I submit to you my YA historical fiction, SECRETS IN THE STONE, which is complete at 72,000 words. It is piloted by an impetuous anti-heroine and contains elements of gothic mystery similar to Kerri Maniscalco's HUNTING PRICE DRACULA.

In Edwardian England, 18-year-old Estella Ripley prepares for Paris where she will meet her mother's family for the first time. But just before she departs, Estella is dumbfounded to learn that she has inherited her late grandfather's eerie island manor where she resides. Estella's plight worsens when she discovers that her fiancé, Edward Maxwell, is scheming to control the vast manor after throwing Estella in an asylum. Unable to face the betrayal of the only person she trusted, and intent on following the clues her grandfather left behind, she flees the island.

Escaping to a remote forest, Estella discovers an unknown glen where a group of Irish fugitives have hidden for nearly a century. She sees the glen-folk as the family she always wanted but never had, and through keen perception of the glen-folks' stories, Estella discerns that the glen is part of her inheritance. But when Edward Maxwell discovers the secret glen, he threatens to expose them and sell the glen if Estella does not return to marry him. Estella must determine how to protect the glen from Edward's vain thirst for power before her inheritance and her future are stolen.

I have a master's degree in English education (grades 7 through 12) with a concentration in writing and musical theatre. Currently I intern at literary agency in NYC reviewing YA manuscripts and preparing Reader Reports. I currently maintain a blog that hosts a small collection of humorous parenting woes.

Thank you for your consideration.



I jumped from the third floor balcony and imagined my blood splattering the sky-blue hydrangeas below, like the first drops of spring rain. It would have been a triumphant display of divisionism, albeit a bit macabre, but I did not wish to die, not even in the name of art. So when I landed safely on the second floor roof, I huffed in relief.

I lifted the hem of my dress to make sure the tips of my toes were even with the roof ledge. Slowly, I released a finger from the window frame and balanced against the sea breeze. A teasing gust of air tugged my hair from its tortoise shell pins and I swear that wind was playing with me.

"Mind your own business," I mumbled as I lowered myself to a seated position on the terracotta-tiled roof. With the grace of Pablo Fanque on the tightrope, I teetered on the roof as I carefully removed the parchment from my bodice and smoothed its creases, then flicked my wrist until the sterling silver chatelaine's pencil was tight in my fingers.

My pencil flitted across the parchment and the drawing began to take on a personality I had not anticipated. I had already drawn Polly's hands that encompassed the flower (Polly was one of my young maids who had the most perfect skin tone), but the drawing hadn't been really unique until now, when this hydrangea seemed to become cerulean even from pencil-grey scratches.

An Agent's Inbox #11

Dear Agent,

I am seeking representation for my 71,462-word YA Fantasy novel, Even A Broken Heart Will Bleed. Elody is a Wind Spirit. They appear only when the world needs to be saved. A Faerie Prince, split in half at birth, now has two personalities and two bodies, but no memory. A spin on Arthurian legend with a twist of Greek mythology, and a new underwater faerie kingdom.

The Faerie Prince is the long-lost King Arthur. His parents are Merlin, King of the Seelie court, and Morgana Le Fey the Unseelie Queen. They wanted an heir together, but he was stolen from them by the very people they conquered, Finvarra and Oonagh, in order to rule. Years later, Elody is lost in the ocean after her father's ship is wrecked by the aforementioned Prince. He takes her to his underwater kingdom and learns that he doesn't have a twin, but a severed soul. Elody also finds out about being a Wind Spirit, and how she and three other girls (the North, South, East and West winds) are connected and fated to save the world. The same person that kidnapped the prince, Oonagh, is also trying to come back through them and their powers.

I used to have a blog, "Books, Sweets and Other Treats. I reviewed books for a few years and found a passion for writing as well as reading. I also won a few poetry contests during high school. I graduated from Texas A&M Texarkana in 2012 with a Bachelor's degree in Education. I am currently certified to teach EC-6, but choose to stay home with my three children (twin babies and a toddler). I also love to read comic books with my husband, and we might get a little too excited about them! I am an active member of the Choctaw tribe, and love exploring my roots.

If this project intrigues you, I would be happy to send the manuscript for your review. Thank you for your time and consideration.



“Morgana, what in the name of Bodoach do you think you’re doing? How did you even get in here,” Merlin asked, his voice rising with each word. For the King of the Seelie Court, his voice was remarkably high. 

“Quiet, you fool,” responded Morgana. There was nothing comical about her voice. Frost escaped through her pinched lips as she tried to control her anger. “Why do you think I’m here?”

“I don’t know! It’s why I asked!” Merlin was sitting up in his bed, the covers pulled up close to his chin. He looked like a child afraid of what might be lurking in the shadows. 

Morgana Le Fey, Queen of the Unseelie court, had no illusions as why she was here. She needed an heir, and a royal one. This Fodden of a man would have to do, seeing as he was the only other royal still alive. She had killed all the others. That was poor judgement on her part. While Merlin had in fact helped her conquer this realm, he still left a lot to be desired. His skills in battle didn’t transfer to other aspects of his life.

“I’m here for a child,” she finally said.

Merlin’s eyes widened with understanding. “No. No, not tonight. Morgana, be reasonable. It’s too soon. We must wait. Courtship. Err--“he stopped, not knowing what else to say.

“When we set out to claim this realm from Finvarra and Oonagh, you knew this day would come."

An Agent's Inbox #10

Dear Secret Agent,

Seventeen-year-old Charlotte Fairfax has spent the past two months listening to her conservative father give campaign speeches. While he spewed rhetoric about "traditional values" and "the good old days," she planned a very different kind of speech: coming out to the roommate she’s been in love with since freshman year.

The night before she’s due to return to Holmes Academy for senior year, Charlotte finds solace in her favorite queer novel, psyching herself up to come out to her roommate. But when her father interrupts and realizes what she’s reading--and what it means about Charlotte herself--he forbids her from coming out. Ever. If she does, he’ll send her away, somewhere far enough that she can’t hurt his campaign for senate. Or see her roommate again.

Afraid to lose her best friend, Charlotte agrees to stay in the closet. But when all the queer books disappear from the school library--including the one her father caught her reading--Charlotte refuses to remain a silent prop any longer. With the help of her roommate, who Charlotte is half-convinced might be flirting with her, Charlotte launches an underground library. And maybe, just maybe, she’ll find the courage to put her true self on the shelves, too.

THE LIBRARY OF UNSPOKEN THINGS is complete at 78,000 words. In 2017, I was a fellow in the Lambda Literary Writer's Retreat for Emerging LGBTQ Voices, where I workshopped this story. I also worked with mentor Isabel Sterling during Author Mentor Match to revise and edit this manuscript. I have previously written under the pen name Lucy Hallowell for both and, and had my short story Dragon Slayer published as part of an anthology.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



My father's trying to spin money into power. My job is to be nice to the old guy sitting next to me whose idea of conversation involves staring at my boobs while I tell him for the fourth time where I go to school. Nevermind that we're sitting around a table covered with a linen tablecloth, crystal, and silverware made of actual silver, this guy doesn't have the manners to look me in the eye. Instead, he keeps glancing at my chest. This wouldn't have happened if my mom let me where what I wanted to this stupid event.

This afternoon, she sighed and handed me the dress I have on. "Jeans and a t-shirt are not appropriate for a formal dinner with your father's most important donors."

I wonder if she'd think boob staring is appropriate or if it's okay because it's a rich man doing it.

My father's voice wafts across the table. "That's right, Jim. The country's going to h***."

H*** is this dinner party.

I look over at my mom. She's trying to seem interested in what a small man with thick glasses is saying. I don't blame her for struggling to make her face seem fascinated, I got stuck talking to him for fifteen minute during the cocktail hour. I had no idea someone could talk so much about naval history in the 1600's.

A clutch of servers in white shirts appear to clear away our plates.

An Agent's Inbox #9

Dear Mystery Agent: 

When eleven-year old, Kimberley Adams’ Shakespeare-scholar grandfather, Abu, suddenly dies, Kimberley worries he won’t be able to fulfill their plan of contacting her from the afterlife. Her frustration grows worse when Abu’s sister, Tia Tatiana, explains Abu’s remains will be interred thousands of miles from her in Puerto Rico, which Kimberley, despite her Latinx roots, fears is too far away for a spiritual connection.

In a desperate attempt to make her great aunt change her mind, Kimberley unwittingly splits herself in two. Her double, a crying girl who remains passively obedient, assumes Kimberley’s role in her family while the real Kimberley becomes invisible to her loved ones. 

Following cues from a bat, seemingly a spirit guide, the invisible Kimberley pursues her goal to communicate with her grandfather. However, the spirit world and the real world continue to overlap mysteriously. When she meets a ghostly young boy and his sister who ask her to retrieve a lost book of Shakespeare, her actions initiate a chain of events that reveal sorrowful family secrets. To win back her place in her own family, Kimberley must decide who she is and what she believes or she will be destined to watch from a shadowy limbo as her crying double bumbles through her own life without her.

UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY is middle grade contemporary, with a good helping of magic, complete at 46,000 words.

I am an English and ESL teacher in Arlington, Virginia and am a member of SCBWI. I have an MFA in poetry and in working on this manuscript have become a mentee in Author-Mentor-Match (rnd 3), a YA and MG, web-based mentorship opportunity.



Something’s squeaking under the bed, maybe an animal.

I wish I were home in my own bedroom in LA. Instead, I’m alone, eating leftover pizza in Aunt Gloria’s guest bedroom. The ceiling fan going tick-tick-tick makes the humid Connecticut August almost cool. I pull my legs up under me--criss-cross applesauce--on the nubby quilt. 

It’s true. Most of the time, I like being alone. Being alone gives me time to think about stuff. Trouble is, the stuff I’m thinking about today takes me back to that depressing aquarium in the hospital waiting room. All day I sat there watching the guppies chase the angel fish and trying not to cry.

Because I’m eleven and a half, I was supposed to sit and read. Even if Abu is my very favorite person in the whole wide world, no one under 12 is allowed in the ICU. 

ICU is a funny name for the emergency wing of a hospital. I imagined a big glass room with glass walls around all the beds. There, all the important relatives and specialist doctors can watch the patients hooked to machines without touching, only looking. They’re like, “I see you.” But Mama says ICU stands for Intensive Care Unit.

Mama and Aunt Gloria are still there with Abu, my grandfather. 

There’s the squeaking again. It’s probably a mouse. It’s true I’m not afraid of mice, but I don’t want one running up my leg. My leg kind of tickles when I imagine that.

An Agent's Inbox #8

Dear Agent's Inbox,

In Prince Deacon’s kingdom, getting married means an irreversible bond of mind and body. His parents want him to put duty before love and marry the princess of a neighboring kingdom, but the thought of sharing a consciousness with a stranger repulses him. He never thought he'd fall for his intended’s younger sister, Elony, a girl who has visions of the future. The problem is that Elony is in love with her childhood best friend, Caz.

When Caz gets trapped in a magical wasteland, Deacon doesn’t hesitate to help Elony save him. But rescuing him accidentally opens the door to an ancient prison, and Caz becomes possessed by a Shade, the spirit of a power-hungry king who serves the death god. For centuries, the Shade has waited to be freed so he can resume his reign of terror, collecting souls for his master.

With both their hearts on the line, Deacon and Elony must stop the Shade before it plunges the land into an age of darkness. If they can’t find a way to destroy the Shade without killing Caz, they’ll have to decide what’s more important: saving Caz, or saving their kingdoms.

CROWN OF ASH AND STARS, complete at 83,000 words, is a dual point-of-view young adult fantasy that will appeal to readers of Kristin Cashore's GRACELING and Sarah J Maas's THRONE OF GLASS.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



Chapter 1: Elony

Bastian nudged my shoulder, a playful attempt to knock me off balance. “Ready to face defeat, Elony?”

I didn’t budge, the muscles in my legs taut and ready. “Not today, brother. You may be older, but you certainly aren’t wiser, or you’d know you have no chance in beating me."

His lip curled up in a smirk. “Don’t forget that I’m also stronger, faster, and going to make you eat my dust.”

On my right, my best friend, Caz, brushed a strand of raven hair from his face, looking far too at ease when we were seconds away from beginning the race. He caught me eyeing him, sizing up my competition. He winked, and flashed me a smile.

I tossed my wind swept braid over my shoulder and dug my heel into the dirt. I would not let Caz distract me. Not this time. These races were my favorite part of our training, of honing our abilities, and I was not going to let his goofy grin throw me off my game. Again.

The stone archway of the labyrinth loomed ahead of us, at least five different paths visible from where we stood. Each path twisted their way deeper into the maze, their secret obstacles waiting to trap us.

I released the block I held on my ability, letting the visions flood my mind. The future danced around the edge of my consciousness, and the familiar pull made my head pulse with effort. It sent an icy chill rippling over my skin. With only a split second passing in the present, the next few minutes played out in my mind.

An Agent's Inbox #7

Dear Agent:

In 2052, tubular transcycles and decrepit hovercycles crowd the narrow streets of Kyoto, Japan. But it’s the glistening speedcycles that rule the roads. Hovering speedcycles have revolutionized transportation in Japan and the Samurai speedcycle dominates them all. Not just for transportation, high velocity racing has become a competitive sport and every five years the prestigious Oban Race occurs in Tokyo. 

Sixteen year-old Aya Minami is an unwilling thief scrambling from job to job on her dented hovercycle. Her tenuous existence on the edge of Japanese society means her life is at the mercy of the man who tells her what to steal. But when she steals the wrong thing for her boss, she has to come up with a lot of money or end up in prison. 

Her boss offers her a deal. First, get into the Oban Race; he’ll fund the qualifier fees and forge the paperwork. Then, find a specific rich kid, on a Samurai speedcycle, and when the moment is right, make a steal and run. Aya agrees, but with a plan of her own. She’ll enter the Oban Race, but intends to win, allowing her to escape her boss with the prize money and start over somewhere she can be free.

So she rides to Osaka and finds the rich kid, Hiroki Matsumoto. But as she spends time with Hiroki and his group of friends--the Pink Ninjas--she starts to feel guilty. The Ninjas welcome her, no questions asked and even help her learn how to ride. Her times get faster and faster. Then as the Oban Race rushes toward her, Aya’s boss reminds her of their agreement. 

Aya rockets toward Tokyo, but whether toward freedom or failure, she’s going too fast to know.

SAMURAI RACING is a YA science fiction novel complete at 70,000 words that could stand-alone or have a sequel. It is like Marie Lu’s WARCROSS meets the FAST AND THE FURIOUS, but with flying motorcycles. 

[Redacted] grew up around motorcycles, even riding one to preschool (with a parent driving of course) and has always been captivated by the rumble of the engine and freedom of driving. She lives in Kyoto, Japan. 



"I can't believe she drives that thing." 

Mrs. Yamada's words drifted toward me, sagging along the damp, stale air of Kyoto in the summer. My back faced my neighbors as I stepped into the low ceilinged garage. A new transcycle, shiny and silver sat in the middle of the space; the tiny dent in the back meant it was purchased for a discount. But even with a discount I wouldn't be able to afford the four-seater. Off to the side, barely fitting in the narrow space, sat a small red hovercycle, its chipped paint and outdated mechanics making it almost worthless. I squeezed beside the transcycle and grabbed the handlebars on my hovercycle, dodging a spider web as I wheeled it out of the garage.

"That hovercycle looks like it's going to fall apart any second," Mr. Yamada said to his wife. 

Mrs. Yamada hobbled toward her husband as he watered the collection of flowering plants in front of their home. Their outdoor slippers made a scrapping shuffle as they moved from plant to plant, watering each with more care than they'd give a person. Their older transcycle, a covered six-seater, sat underneath a tarp wedged in the small space between their house and the street. 

"Doesn't help the way she drives it." Mrs. Yamada picked a few dying buds off a small rose bush. "Last week I saw her drive through a construction site and jump across a half-finished building." 

Two weeks ago, I wanted to point out.

An Agent's Inbox #6

Dear Agent:

In the laboratory, every experimental test subject is expendable--but fifteen-year-old Avery is determined to be more than another forgotten number.

With only a hazy memory of her life as Test Subject 215, Avery’s surprised when her powers surface during an experiment--then disappear after her daily medications. She knows the key to answers is in the cold and cunning Dr. Baring, who hunts for the origin and extent of her abilities. Avery’s ability to heal herself and control the five senses around her grows stronger, heightening her gift to avoid guards and manipulate her own environment. But with the medications making her powers disappear, she must rely on her own strength as well.

After Rae, a fellow test subject, attempts an escape and fails, Avery gains a feisty cellmate with the same goals: find answers and escape. Despite being tortured for protecting another subject, Avery is tempted by Rae’s rebellious spirit to fight back. But Rae is hiding something, only half-answering questions, and Avery doubts her trustworthiness.

When the girls break into Dr. Baring’s office, they discover Avery’s file dates back only nine days, not the many years of her murky memory… and worse, an experiment is scheduled that will pit subject against subject--making Rae her rival. Rae plans an escape, inviting Avery along. Now, Avery must make a choice: trust her cellmate or submit to the scientists. But with security tightened, they risk their lives and failing means facing a fate worse than death--life as a subject.

Readers who love the strong female friendship in Susan Dennard’s Truthwitch and the powers and mystery in X-Men will enjoy A FIRE TO RESIST, a young adult science fiction novel complete at 98,000 words. I currently work as a bookseller at Barnes& Noble, where I have been for over three years, and have gained knowledge in bookselling and promoting. Thank you for your time and consideration.



“He’s late.” Her small whisper shattered the silence. Subject 210 lay on the lone cot bolted to the black floor along the wall of our cell. She shivered, with a force to rattle the bed, and her ankle bracelet knocked against the wall. Dirty blonde hair fell over the cot’s edge, messy from her fitful sleep. Her big blue eyes stared through the glass door, as if watching a scene only she could see. 

I glanced through the transparent pane. Nurses and overseers hustled about, their daily routine beginning. Other subjects traversed the hallway beyond our cell door, each garbed in poorly fitted grey outfits. A cell group followed their overseer in a loose mass. Behind the confident posture of the tanned woman, the pale kids curled into themselves, hands tucked against their bodies.

I sighed. “Yeah, he’s late.”

“He’s going to be angry.” Her small figure drowned in oversized grey shirt and pants, pooling around her tiny waist and shoulders. The rattling increased as her shaking grew faster--from fear, not chills.

That’s nothing new. I pulled my knees to my chest, bare feet sliding against the frigid stone, and wrapped my hands around my ankles. The thick metal band shackled on my right side felt like ice under my fingers. “It’ll be okay.”

It was probably a lie, but it calmed her. Subject 210 shifted her wide gaze to me, biting her lip blue. A purple bruise on her jaw shone in the dim light.

An Agent's Inbox #5

Dear Agent,

Nobody can see the portal to a parallel world that opens whenever Charlotte Ashdown is bored; that is, except Eleanor, her double in that world and the only other person who can see the portal. Charlotte’s parents worry that she’s talking to the air instead of making real friends at school and treat her like she’s broken. Fragile. A problem to solve. But Eleanor is Charlotte’s best friend--her only friend.

After Charlotte sees Eleanor getting bullied at school, Eleanor reveals that she believes the two girls switched worlds as babies. In Eleanor’s world, everyone has a power that is activated by a certain emotion, working like Charlotte’s boredom. Charlotte offers to switch places with Eleanor, pretend to be her, show off her portal power, and then reverse the switch. But nothing goes according to plan: Eleanor’s family can’t see the portal either, the bullies are merciless, Eleanor refuses to switch back, and no one at school will even talk to her. Unless Charlotte can make real friends--something she has never been good at--she could remain there as an outcast for the rest of her life.

THE WORLD IN THE WINDOW is middle-grade contemporary fantasy, complete at 44,000 words. It stands alone with series potential and presents solutions for bullying supported by current research. In addition to writing, I am a professional freelance copy editor, a piano teacher, and a mother of four boys.

Below are the first 250 words of THE WORLD IN THE WINDOW.



Chapter 1: Pants

“We can talk about anything you want to talk about,” Dr. Lawrence said. But what she really meant was, “Tell me about Eleanor.” It was so obvious. No matter what Charlotte said, Dr. Lawrence asked a question about Eleanor.

Charlotte said, “My birthday is in one month;” Dr. Lawrence asked if Eleanor’s birthday was the same day (it was). Charlotte said she hoped she didn’t have too much homework that day; Dr. Lawrence wanted to know if she had friends she wanted to play with after she was done. Charlotte said, “Not really.”

Mom always wanted to know if Charlotte had friends. She did have friends, sort of. There were kids at school who were fun to hang out with sometimes, but there wasn’t anyone like Marie had been in kindergarten and first grade, before she moved away. But really, Mom was overthinking it. Charlotte could hang out with Eleanor whenever she was bored.

Dr. Lawrence was a psychologist; Charlotte had read the word on the door and looked it up online after her last appointment. Mom called Dr. Lawrence a feelings doctor, which sounded like something you’d tell a four-year-old, whereas Charlotte was almost twelve. A psychologist’s job was to evaluate and study how people behaved, which Mom said meant they listened to people and helped them solve their problems. Charlotte didn’t need help solving her problems. Or at least not the problem Mom thought she needed to solve, which was seeing Eleanor. That wasn’t a problem.

An Agent's Inbox #4

Dear Wonderful Agent,

When 17-year-old Greer Carson loses her insulin after planning her own kidnapping, her whole scheme unravels.

I see on your Manuscript Wish List you are interested in stories with “big questions at their center,” and I believe A GREEN AND BRITTLE TREE addresses sexual assault with gentle hope for the victims.

My YA suspense/thriller stands at 70,000 words, with alternating POV, and told in less than a 24-hour time frame.

Set in the fictional town of Walburn, Washington, on the outskirts of Seattle, Kenny’s girlfriend Greer is abducted, setting off memories of a suppressed past molestation. Kenny has no idea that Greer masterminded her own abduction to reveal the abuse of her now deceased little brother at the hands of the same pedophile that abused Kenny: her father, Pastor Carson.

Kenny searches for Greer before she goes into diabetic shock. As pieces of his memory attack him, Kenny realizes he must go to the police to save others. As pieces of his childhood, still hidden, batter him he becomes enraged, facing Carson one last time.

At books end, Kenny realizes the abuse he suffered at the hands of Greer’s father was not his fault, and he is not the coward he once believed.

I’ve attended numerous writing conferences, including both New York and California, SCBWI, and Chautauqua Highlights Conference. I include the first ten pages here. This is a simultaneous submission.



Chapter One
Saturday Night

Park lights flicker the moment I turn the truck engine off and Greer lays her head on my shoulder.
“Dude,” Lucky, my best friend says, sitting on the other side of Greer. He holds a joint out to her, that looks like finely rolled prosciutto. “Gotta take a leak,” he says sounding like he’s going to burst.

Coughing, he opens the door of the Dodge, sending a screech to mingle with the night sounds, and grabs his smokes from his tee shirt pocket, at the same time.

“Kenny, we need to talk,” Greer says.

Oh, no. Talking, to Greer, means discussing our feelings. She’s big on feelings. Probably because of the fact her dad’s a Pastor.

She tugs on the necklace I gave her five months ago.

From a distance, the sound of a motor edges closer. Kids playing chicken on the quiet streets? So, Walburn. Nothing to do. The three of us have been coming to Strathemen’s all summer after closing the restaurant down. More than once we’ve had to leave early because other people came to party. But not tonight. We got here first. Maybe they live in one of those houses.

Across the parking lot, the perfect row of houses keeps guard with their porch lights on. Tidy yards, neat lives.

“Instead of talking,” I say. Then I kiss Greer long and hard. The frog orchestra at Stratheman's Park accompanies us, the automatic sprinklers shooting on with their cha-cha-chugging, for background.

An Agent's Inbox #3

Dear Agent,

Imagine that there’s another you out there somewhere--or three other yous. When 12-year old Cecilia’s parents announce their divorce, Cecilia thinks the worst thing imaginable has happened. Then her favorite science teacher, Ms. Z, is kidnapped by Ms. Y, a mysterious look alike who needs Ms. Z to reprogram the universe she came from. Their counterpart, the eccentric Ms. X, promises Cecilia adventure and the possibility of happiness in another universe if she accompanies her to save Ms. Z--and Cecilia says yes. 

They are transported via a black hole to a simulated universe almost identical to this one--almost. Cecilia is enthralled by the similarities as well as the differences. Everything here is greener and cleaner, and when she meets her family, they seem so much happier. Only things aren’t always as they appear, and as Cecilia and Vera, the simulated universe’s version of herself, try to track down Ms. Z, she learns that sometimes the worst thing imaginable turns out to be not so bad. 

Cecilia travels from universe to universe seeing her life play out in a variety of ways and getting to know facets of herself she’d previously ignored. Vera proves to be a great friend, while Alexandra, from Ms. Y’s universe, is a bastion of misery. Meanwhile, Ms. X seems lost between hero and foil, and Ms. Y seems to be doing everything mathematically possible to make capture impossible.

A Blip in the Universe is a 53,000 word middle grade science-fiction novel. I have included the first 250 words. I have a degree in English with a concentration in Creative Writing, and work as a freelance writer. I love physics, and had as much fun researching for this book as I did writing it. 

Thanks for your consideration,
M. R.


On a Thursday so gray that the world looked like the backdrop of a black and white movie, Cecilia Parker still believed that she was the only Cecilia Parker in existence. This wasn’t true, of course; there were many versions of Cecilia Parker in many different universes, but Cecilia had no way of knowing this. 

Not yet, anyway.

As she did every morning on her walk to school, she prepared herself for the day. She would arrive at the school eleven-and-a-half minutes after leaving her house, and she would keep her head down from the moment she stepped on school property until she reached the evergreen-painted front doors. She would ignore the small huddled groups of fellow seventh-graders, she would pretend she didn’t hear their whispers as she passed. Twenty-seven seconds later, she would open her locker, place in it her backpack and lunch, and withdraw from it her Algebra and Literature books, as well as her brown-paper covered reading book. Focusing on the black diamond pattern on the linoleum floors, she would walk to her classroom, find her desk, sit down without catching her feet on any of the metallic chair legs, and open her reading book until homeroom started. She would not become so enthralled with her book that she was unaware that the bell rang and the teacher was taking attendance. She would pinch herself repeatedly to keep this from happening, to avoid that awful moment when the entire class yelled, “Cecilia!” at the same time and then laughed at her expense.

An Agent's Inbox #2

Dear Mystery Agent,

The weather changes fast in Colorado, especially if something (or someone) is controlling it.

On the day twelve-year-old Hazel Jones was born, massive tidal waves and tsunamis devastated Earth. Growing up in the wrecked world, Hazel spends her days jerry-rigging broken farm equipment, scavenging through abandoned houses, weeding never-ending rows of potatoes and wondering what could have destroyed the world. But her family and friends are tired of her endless, unanswerable questions.

When a raging wild fire threatens their Colorado homestead, Hazel’s father takes her to a hidden shed where he uses a weather-controlling machine called the SnowMaker to create an enormous rainstorm and douse the flames. Hazel presses her dad about the origin of this mysterious machine, but he’s reluctant to tell her the truth. Until they find themselves in the middle of a ferocious weather war with the man who originally owned the SnowMaker. 

There isn’t time for more questions, their homestead, crops and orchards are at stake. If Hazel can't keep up a protective defense against the artificial rain, hail, and wind attacks, she will have to make a new plan. It’s time for an avalanche-style offensive to bury her enemy.

SNOWMAKER is an upper middle grade climate fiction, complete at 54,000 words. Readers who enjoy books like SKY JUMPERS by Peggy Eddleman, PARCHED by Melanie Crowder, or MacGyver's duct-tape-chewing-gum-solutions will also be entertained by SNOWMAKER.

I am a freelance writer and a member of SCBWI and Northern Colorado Writers. My work has appeared in Sierra Trading Post, Mamalode, Flash Fiction Online, Advice from Nature and local publications. My short story ‘Double Yellow’ received honorable mention awards from Glimmer Train and Molotov Cocktail and I’m currently writing it into a novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration,


Hazel leaned on the overturned car to catch her breath. “What’s it stuck on?”

“Think it’s that side mirror?” Britt pointed and stretched her shoulders.

Jess jogged to the back of the pick-up truck. Parched grass crunched under her boots. She returned with a baseball bat. "Who wants first swing?"

Britt said, “Hazel should take it. Maybe her birthday luck will outweigh the broken-mirror-bad luck she’s about to unleash.”

Hazel spun a tire and let it drag against her hand. Bits of rotten rubber flaked onto her fingers. "Birthday luck is supposed to be good?" She took the bat from Jess and squeezed the handle. "You can't have forgotten I was born on the worst day ever."

Britt wiped sweat off her forehead. “Nope. Can’t forget that.”

Hazel tested her grip, cocked the bat over her head and brought it down hard on the car's passenger side mirror. Broken mirror fragments skittered around her boots, but the mirror still hung from the car by a few coated wires. She opened her pocket knife, sliced through them, and kicked everything away. "Let's flip this car."

“Want my help this time?” Marco yelled from his perch on top of the pick-up. Grinning, he wiped his glasses with the cleanest section of his shirt. “Knew you girls couldn’t do it without me.”

Hazel turned her back on her older brother. "No way, Marco. We got this." She looked at Britt and Jess. "Right?" The sisters nodded and tried different grips. Stubborn friends are the best.

An Agent's Inbox #1

Dear Agent’s Inbox,

Conceived in rape and crippled by lifelong pain, Adria is burdened with an ability to hear people’s thoughts and emotions. Though civilization is full of gifted people, there’s only one man who’s rumored to share her abilities: Edom, their government’s dictator. A man who would hunt her down if he knew he wasn’t the only one. 

When Adria’s protector, Hutch is overcome by addiction and takes his own life, his actions catalyze her family’s suffering and push her closer to being discovered. She’s only a silhouette of who she needs to be, but how can she trust herself when she hears everyone else’s voice but never her own?

FreeBird is a YA character-driven-Sci-fi, 107,500-word novel and is the first book in a planned trilogy.

Thank you for your time and consideration!



Chapter One: Adria

"Give me your hand!" The man reached out to Adria, his fat callused fingers stretching for her. Adria kept her arms behind her back, while her eyes flicked around the tent. That was, if anyone could have called it a tent. The entire thing had been jumbled together by hanging curtains and privacy panels, making it more of a hole carved in a trash heap than anything else.

The man dropped his hand and smiled at her. His smile widened for a moment, then he dropped that too. He turned to her teacher.

"Hutch, she has to let me, or I can't do anything for you."

"She can strap herself in," Hutch said.

Hutch gestured toward the table, waiting for Adria, but not looking at her directly. She stared at Hutch, searching for a way to communicate. She had been waiting for this moment for as long as she could remember. This was too important to risk on this man, but Hutch didn't look back. It was one of his dark days again.

The only sound was the hollow hum and repetitive ticks of machinery outside. Factory noises, covering the nearby voices beyond the tent, transforming words into murmurs. Adria didn't have to hear them to understand their meanings. She could already feel their fear and secrets. This wasn’t a respectful place for anyone living under the rule of the Fifth Imperium. This was the public market. If she screamed, no one would come.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Now Accepting Entries

I'm now accepting entries for this week's round of "An Agent's Inbox." Here's a quick refresher:

The Rules

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

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

3. THE ENTRY WINDOW OPENS AT 11:00 A.M. EDT (OR 8:00 A.M. PDT). Once the entry window opens, I'll accept the first 25 entries. I won't accept any entries sent before the entry window opens or after the first 25 slots fill up.

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

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

The Prizes The Agent will select both the winners and the prizes. The Agent might pick 25 winners, or he or she might only pick one. The Agent might offer full requests, or he or she might only ask to see another page. It all depends on how good the entries are.

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

So get those queries and first pages polished up, then meet us back here on Monday, March 26, at 11:00 a.m. EDT! At that time, you may send your entries to kvandolzer(at)gmail(dot)com. Looking forward to it!

The Genres

MG fiction (all genres)
YA fiction (all genres)

To enter, please send an e-mail with YOUR QUERY and THE FIRST 250 WORDS of your manuscript to kvandolzer(at)gmail(dot)com. And please, please, please remember to PASTE THESE ITEMS IN THE BODY OF THE E-MAIL.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

"An Agent's Inbox" Contest Alert


“An Agent's Inbox” is exactly what it sounds like--next week, I'm turning the blog into an agent's inbox, a public one. We'll get to see 25 queries along with their first pages, and we'll get to hear what a bona fide agent thinks of each one.

The queries and first pages will be yours, of course. I'll accept your entries this Monday, March 26, and then I'll post them next Wednesday, March 28. The entrants and anyone else who wishes to review them may comment until the following Monday or Tuesday, April 2 or 3, when I'll announce the winners.

Those winners will be chosen by The Agent, who shall remain nameless for now.

The Rules

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

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

3. THE ENTRY WINDOW OPENS AT 11:00 A.M. EDT (OR 8:00 A.M. PDT). Once the entry window opens, I'll accept the first 25 entries. I won't accept any entries sent before the entry window opens or after the first 25 slots fill up.

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

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

The Prizes The Agent will select both the winners and the prizes. The Agent might pick 25 winners, or he or she might only pick one. The Agent might offer full requests, or he or she might only ask to see another page. It all depends on how good the entries are.

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

So get those queries and first pages polished up, then meet us back here on Monday, March 26, at 11:00 a.m. EDT! At that time, you may send your entries to kvandolzer(at)gmail(dot)com. Looking forward to it!

The Genres

MG fiction (all genres)
YA fiction (all genres)

And of course, if you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments below!