Tuesday, September 2, 2014

From "An Agent's Inbox" Entry to Published Novel

When S.L. Bynum entered GRIM CRUSH in one of the very first rounds of "An Agent's Inbox," The Agent said that her writing was great but that the concept wasn't for her. Luckily, Crescent Moon Press thought the concept was for them. GRIM CRUSH debuted last month, and Ms. Bynum is here to fill us in on her path to publication. I'm also hosting a giveaway for a copy of the e-book, so don't miss those details at the bottom of the post!

The road to publication is filled with many bumps and obstacles. In my case, it was filled with SIX YEARS of that tough road.

I guess I'll start when I was eighteen, and I first decided I wanted to be a published author. Despite disapproval from family and friends, I followed my heart anyway.

I thought it would be easy, but boy, was I wrong. I wrote a few novels (some that will NEVER see the light of day) and started querying one of them way before it was ready, just because I was so desperate to get published. The rejections poured in like an avalanche. So I got feedback on what I was doing wrong, then I wrote more, better novels. And I edited them. And I did research on how to write better queries.

In 2011, I came up with a novel idea about a female grim reaper who is invisible to all humans except the Native American boy she falls in love with. And I was like, "Hm, this is a YA paranormal romance. And that's what's hot in the market right now. And mine is different, in which the female is the paranormal creature, not the hot guy." So I worked on it, and edited it based off of critiques. And I sent out queries for it. Finally, literary agents were requesting the manuscript. But still, no offers of representation.

I tried entering a few contests, like the lovely Krista Van Dolzer's An Agent's Inbox contest. I got positive feedback from agents, but now they were saying the YA market was getting too saturated with paranormal romances and grim reaper stories.

Grr.

By 2013, agents were rarely taking on any more YA paranormal romances. I thought I might have to self-publish, but before that, my last hope was trying small press publishers. I expected the same thing to happen: multiple rejections. My jaw literally dropped when I got a request for the full manuscript from Crescent Moon Press, which turned into them offering me a contract for publication!

Fast forward a year later, and my book is now available to buy. The process was much faster traditional publishing. So the moral of this story isn't just to never give up, it's about making sure you explore all possible options. When you have a dream, you should be willing to try anything to get there. If your first and most preferred method doesn't work (150 query rejections, anyone?), there are always other options. Who knows, it may turn out better than you thought.

Congratulations, Ms. Bynum, on GRIM CRUSH's release, and thank you for sharing your journey with us. Also, thank you for furnishing an e-book for our giveaway! If you'd like to enter, just tell us in the comments that you'd like to win. Contest is open internationally and closes in one week, on Monday, September 8, at 11:59 p.m. EDT (or 8:59 p.m. PDT). I'll select a random winner the next day.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Ms. Nyen's Winners

Without any ado, Ms. Nyen's winners:

#3 SNOW GLOBE

Congratulations, winners! Ms. Nyen would like to see your first five chapters and a complete synopsis. Please e-mail me at kvandolzer(at)gmail(dot)com for instructions on how to submit your materials.

And for those of you who didn't win, you're welcome to query her directly via her submission guidelines once you've revised your entries. Though she won't be able to offer any additional feedback, she'll be happy to reconsider your queries and first three pages.

Last but certainly not least, a huge thank-you to Ms. Nyen for giving so much of her time to these critiques and a big thank-you to YOU for entering and critiquing. I appreciate your patience as well as your participation. I know I say it every time, but these contests really wouldn't work without you.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Agent = Renee Nyen of kt literary

This month's agent, who certainly went the extra mile, was Renee Nyen of kt literary! She's an up-and-coming agent who's actively building her list, so if you'd like more information, you can find her in several places around the web:

My interview with Ms. Nyen
Ms. Nyen's Twitter feed

And here's a little more about her: "Several years in the editorial department at Random House’s Colorado division provided Renee with the opportunity to work with bestselling and debut authors alike. After leaving Random House, she came to kt literary in early 2013. She loves digging into manuscripts and helping the author shape the best story possible. Though this is great for her profession, it tends to frustrate people watching movies with her.

With a penchant for depressing hipster music and an abiding love for a good adventure story, Renee is always looking for book recommendations. Even if that means creeping on people reading in public. Which she does frequently.

She makes her home in Colorado with her husband, their young daughter, and their hygienically-challenged basset hound."


I'll announce her winners shortly...

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Ready, Set, Critique!

UPDATE: I've noticed that several of the entrants have posted revisions in the comments section of their posts. It's not against the rules, so to speak, so I won't delete those comments, but please be aware that The Agent will only read and comment on the original entries. We don't want to add to his or her workload!

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

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

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

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

An Agent's Inbox #30

Dear Agent,

Cursed to perpetual darkness, the once-great city of Creperi teeters on the brink of ruin. Sixteen-teen-year old Jazzlyn may live among the damned, but what sets her apart also makes her a target.

Creperi’s exiles want what Jazzlyn has--immunity from the Star’s lethal rays--and they’ve figured out a way to get it. When the exiles take her boyfriend, Tristan, hostage, Jazzlyn will do anything to save him. Unfortunately, anything includes traveling to Lumen, the mountain metropolis above the black clouds, and burgling a light-stone from Lumen’s ruler. However, saving Tristan may be the worst mistake of Jazzlyn’s life. Once she makes the trade, the clouds protecting Creperi threaten to break apart. 

Someone doesn’t want her people freed from the dark. The exiles claim they know who it is and, with Jazzlyn's help, how to stop them before the sky opens up. Except in a world ravaged by darkness, secrets claim the spaces torchlight cannot reach and everyone--the exiles, and even Tristan--have something to hide. If Jazzlyn can figure out who to trust before the sky opens up, maybe Creperi has a chance. If not, her city, along with everyone she loves, will burn.

WHERE THERE IS DARK is a 62,000 word young adult fantasy. Jazzlyn’s fight to discover her purpose in a world divided may appeal to readers who’ve enjoyed character driven fantasies in the vein of Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy and the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,
C.A.H.


WHERE THERE IS DARK

Mushrooms thrive in the dark, so they’re the only food that isn’t rationed. The pungent stink wafting through the house is a sure sign we’re having them for breakfast.
Again.

I blow out an exasperated breath and plod downstairs.

Mother stirs a pot of fungi ragoût that boils over the hearth’s open flames. Firelight brings out the red in her hair that’s twisted into a braid over one thin shoulder.

“Jazzlyn.” She looks up as I pause beneath the stone archway that divides the common room from the kitchen. “What took you so long?”

“I was just...” putting off the inevitable.

“Never mind. You’ll have to eat when we get back,” she says. When my face scrunches up, she sets the spoon on the counter and plants a hand on her hip. “What?”

We’re attending another birth this morning, that’s what. “Nothing.” I grab a lantern off the table. “Are you ready to go?”

She nods and we slip out the front door and into the ebony morning, where endless black clouds pulse overhead like a living, breathing thing, blocking the light out, or perhaps, sealing the darkness in. The swaying lantern casts a pale glow over rows of mortar and stone houses and their barren plots of dirt.

I scan the spaces between shadows, grasping for a sign that Father’s returned, even though logic dictates that, if he were inside the city walls, guardians would have found him by now.

An Agent's Inbox #29

Dear Agent,

Ever since her mama drove her car into the Mississippi, sixteen-year-old Bria Dauphine's made it her mission to leave behind her overbearing dad and get the hell out of New Orleans, before the city drives her mad like it did her mom. Since her daddy won’t pay for her to attend college outside the city, and leave her duties as heir to one of the oldest supernatural families behind, she decides to earn the money herself by becoming a paranormal investigator. For the world she lives in is full of strange and magical things--and most of them don’t play nice with humans. That’s where Bria comes in. Takes a clairvoyant to catch a, well, whatever.

There’s just one problem. The only cases Bria receives at first are requests from old ladies asking her to find their cats. And old ladies don’t pay much, if at all. So when the ruling body of supernatural creatures enlists her and Ty--a hot wizard with a past as dark as her own--to consult on a series of murders with ties to voodoo, Bria figures, with her abilities, this will be easy money. But when there’s powerful voodoo, there’s a bokor--a sorcerer who practices dark magic--behind it. And now that bokor knows Bria’s name. If Bria and Ty don’t stop the killer soon, they’re going to be the next ones dead, washed up on the riverbank.

So much for easy money.

At 72,000 words, POSSESSION is a YA Paranormal Noir that I like to think of as Veronica Mars meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer with a dash of Southern Gothic. I believe it will appeal to fans of the aforementioned TV shows as well as those of Rosemary Clement-Moore's YA novels, Kiersten White's Paranormalcy, and The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett. 

Although I'm not a New Orleans native, I visit often and consider the city a home away from home. I won the 2014 Winter SCBWI Student Writer Scholarship for my writing, and I'm a senior at Wellesley College, studying English/Creative Writing and Political Science. I also blog at [redacted] where I review books, interview authors, and discuss diversity in kidlit among other topics. More about my writing projects and myself can be found online at [redacted]. 

Thank you for your time and consideration. 

Sincerely, 
P.C.


POSSESSION

I would’ve been back in bed hours ago if my nose wasn’t acting up, again. I kneel on the ground like I’m about to pray. Only, I’m not. I’ve prayed to St. Anthony three times tonight, yet seeing as I’m still here, cat-less, with less than two hours before school starts, it’s time to turn, once again, to magic. Another power that seems to fail me when I need it most.

The wind’s howl pierces the air as I’m kneeling in the middle of the park. "Here, kitty, kitty." I squeeze my eyes shut and then open them to speed up their adjustment to the darkness. Thanks to my shifter dad, on a good day I can track a smell better than a bloodhound. However there hasn’t been anything good about this summer. My powers have developed a mind of their own, working when they please rather than when I need them to. My therapist said it’s my body’s way of grieving. I stopped seeing my therapist because, well, no duh. Google could’ve told me that.

Alright. Come on, Bria. Focus. What's one little cat? I snort at my mental encouragement. One little cat has been leading me across the entire city. First it was the Warehouse District, then the French Quarter, and then all three St. Louis Cemeteries.

I shudder. Cemeteries, ew.

Now, I’m crawling on dog s*** or something, "Come on, kitty." I clap my hands; the sound echoes through the park. When I picked up the cat’s scent from the third cemetery, I got a vision of the City Park sign. I’ve been searching this park for the past hour. What's the point of being clairvoyant if I don’t see complete images? I shake my head and stand.

I'll just have to tell Mrs. Kato the truth: I am the worst detective ever. I can’t even find a cat.  

An Agent's Inbox #28

Dear Agent:

Seventeen-year-old pianist Grace Armstrong tells at least three lies every day. She tells herself the monsters she sees in reflections are just pictures under glass. She tells the molten-skinned beasts they don’t scare her anymore. And she tells herself that she wants nothing more than to be sane. But sanity means the monsters are real, and there’s no way to be okay with that.

When a boy replaces the monsters in her bedroom mirror, Grace decides nothing's crazier than falling for one of her hallucinations. But as Grace and Luke trade messages through the glass, Grace’s lies transform into truths. Luke makes her want to be sane, the monsters don't scare her half as much as falling for him does, and accidentally touching one of the beasts destroys her theory that the monsters are nothing more than products of her twisted imagination. But love is a truth she can’t afford to tell yet, not even when her grandpa finally teaches her just what her strange connection to mirrors means. Armed with a vague understanding of her ability to travel through reflections, and more lies and mistakes than she can keep track of, Grace hurls herself across the void between worlds to reach a suddenly endangered Luke.

But the monster waiting on the other side of the glass wears a human face and Grace has to tell herself the best lie she’s ever told: she can stop him before he kills again.

Complete at 80,000 words, WHAT LIES BETWEEN is a YA Contemporary Fantasy that will appeal to fans of Lisa Mangum's The Hourglass Door and A.G. Howard's Splintered. I am a member of SCBWI, the founder/leader of my local writers’ guild, and a two time winner of the LDStorymakers First Chapter Contest. I have included the first 250 words as per your submission guidelines.

Best wishes,
K.V.


WHAT LIES BETWEEN

Silence fell in a slow wave as I pulled away from the keys, the final chords of my newest song slipping into the quiet. Morning sunlight bathed the piano and made its edges soft. I slid a hand across the lip of the key bed, loving how the worn wood didn’t shine with the threat of reflection. The threat of monsters.

Mom shuffled into the room, bleary-eyed and yawning. Steam rose from the glossy black mug cradled in her hands. “That didn’t sound like Chopin, Gracie.”

I caught a whiff of coffee and smiled. “And that doesn’t smell like your decaf.” 

She and Dad were doing some sort of cleanse--her idea--and caffeine was forbidden. 

Mom leaned in, the scent of hazelnut heavy on her breath. “Don’t tell your father,” she whispered. 

“Only if you don’t tell Mr. Lee I’m ditching Chopin today.” I crashed out a few upbeat chords. “I swear, if I play one more audition piece, my brain’s going to leak out of my ears.” 

“One day off from audition work and then I crack the whip. I don’t want to get in trouble with Mr. Lee either.”

Mom laughed and caressed my cheek. The heat from her coffee-warmed fingers sank into my skin as rare Vancouver sunlight poured through our condo’s windows. I tensed when the light found her mug, hating how the dark curve of it warped my reflection.

But I hated even more how my distorted face stared back at me for only half a second before the monsters replaced it.

An Agent's Inbox #27

Dear Agent,

In an alternate Victorian England where social prestige stems from a trifecta of blood, money, and magic, sixteen-year old Anna Arden is barred from the society she yearns for by a defect of blood. She is Barren, lacking even the most rudimentary magic. Anna believes she can overcome her defect by marrying the lord she loves, but after inadvertently breaking her sister’s debutante spells, Anna finds herself suitorless, censured by the local Circle of Magic--and worst of all, exiled with her aging grandmother to her grandmother’s native Hungary.

Her life might well be over.

But in Hungary, Anna finds that nothing about her world is quite as it seems. Fissures in the Binding that holds her world’s magic are expanding, and the ancient creatures bound by that spell beg Anna to release them. And as rebellion sweeps across Hungary, Anna’s unique ability to break spells becomes the catalyst everyone is seeking. In the company of nobles, revolutionaries, and gypsies, Anna has a choice: cling to the life she’s always wanted, or risk everything to set the creatures free, win a revolution, and change the face of magic itself.

THE BLOOD ROSE REBELLION is a YA historical fantasy, complete at 90,000 words. The novel can stand alone, but it has series potential. The style and setting would appeal to fans of Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy and Danielle Jensen's STOLEN SONGBIRD.

Sincerely,
R.E.


THE BLOOD ROSE REBELLION

London, April 1847

I did not set out to ruin my sister’s debut.

Indeed, there were any number of things I deliberately did not do that day.

I did not pray for rain, as I knelt in the small chapel of our London townhome that morning, the cold of the floor seeping into my bones. Instead, I listened to Mama’s petition for successful spells and sunshine. Peeking through my lashes at Elizabeth’s placid face, I yearned to ask for disquiet, disorder, and torrential downpours--calamitous words that might have eased, a little, the restless crawling in my heart. But I swallowed the words unsaid. Even should God heed such a treacherous prayer, my father would not. And though Papa’s weather magic would cost him a headache, my sister would dance under clear skies.

I did not argue with Elizabeth, when she banned me from the ballroom where she and Mama were laying the final grounding for her illusions. “You’ll break my concentration,” she said, “and spoil my spells.”

But then I did not go to the schoolroom, where I was expected to improve my sketching while James studied his Latin. Instead, I lingered (Mama would say loitered) in the lower hall, watching the servants scurry back and forth with their brooms and buckets and cleaning cloths, in feverish preparation for the ball. I did not rest, as Elizabeth did.

And because of those omissions, I was in the hallway when Lord Frederick Markson Worthing came calling.

An Agent's Inbox #26

Dear Agent,

When Mae Westaway agreed to help her friend, Brooke, hold a séance, she thought it would be like the rest of Brooke’s Wiccan rituals--a whole lot of nothing. 

She was wrong. 

Tonight’s séance is different. There’s someone on Titanic Brooke wants to meet, and she’ll do anything to make it happen. Too bad, things don’t go exactly as planned, and instead of communicating with the dead, she sends Mae back in time to the ship.

Aboard the luxurious liner, Mae is mistaken as a stowaway and brought to Danny O’Sullivan, a young seminary student who helps penniless passengers prepare for a new life in America. He’s eager to learn more about this mysterious new girl who appeared out of nowhere. But, Mae’s lips are sealed. She just wants to go home.

With the clock ticking, Mae sets off to warn the Captain about the iceberg, and prevent Titanic from sinking. She’s hoping that her knowledge of the past, will create a different the future for everyone on board, including herself.

LIFE SET SAIL is a Young Adult Fantasy complete at 54,000 words. I have a bachelor’s degree in religion, a master’s in media arts, and I am a member of SCBWI.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Regards,
M.R.


LIFE SET SAIL

I should of taken it as an omen that it was raining when school let out, but I didn’t. I just figured, this is Florida--it's always miserable.

Glancing down at my watch, I heave a sigh. The séance is not for another five hours, but I'm dreading it already. Supporting your friend's hobby is one thing, but helping her contact the dead? I should get a gold medal for this crap.

"Sure you don't want a ride?” Levin whispers in my ear, his breath warm against my skin. “It’s pouring.”

I clutch the straps of his backpack and hover under the tiny awning of the administration building. "My Mom's already on her way." Pulling him closer, I reach my lips to his. "But, thanks for the offer." 

“Get a room!” Brooke exclaims, walking up and shaking her umbrella, sprinkling us with rain. She shoves a soggy piece of paper in my face. “Here, this is for tonight.”

I quickly snatch it out of her hand. “Fine."

She glares at Levin, "And no bailing again for Mr. Ryan Gosling here." 

I fake a wide Miss. America smile. ”Wouldn't miss it for the world." 

"Practice time. Later, b******." She opens her umbrella, and sprints down the sidewalk to catch up with Oviedo High's unofficial pagan club.

"What was that about?" Levin asks. 

I unfold the paper and glance down at the chicken scratch. "She wants to try another séance." 

"Maybe if you sprinkle some fairy dust on her it'll work this time," he laughs.

An Agent's Inbox #25

Dear Agent's Inbox Contest,

Thirteen-year-old Laurel can’t think of anything worse than the Salem Witch Trials--until her first day at Albert Einstein Junior High. She’s left her family’s trans-dimensional castle to go undercover as a mundane eighth-grader. And in this new, treacherous environment, she soon finds that both her supernatural skills and her snarky familiar, Twee the cat, come in mighty handy.

With a new best friend who would probably ditch her if she knew Laurel could conjure, and a sadistic P.E. teacher picking on them both at every opportunity, life in the mundane world proves trickier than expected.

But when a rogue wendigo tries to kidnap her, Laurel must put aside her middle school woes and defeat the creature before it uses her as a hostage in the otherworldly war her parents are fighting. Laurel thinks she can win, but only time--or a super fabulous farseeing spell--will tell.

Complete at 41,000 words, Miss Spelled is a contemporary upper middle grade fantasy in the tradition of the television shows Bewitched and Sabrina the Teenage Witch. The story stands alone, but has series potential.

Deseret Book published my conspiracy thriller The Book of Jer3miah: Premonition and Zarahemla Books published my YA dark fantasy Dispirited. I’ve had several short stories published, most recently “Seeing Red” in the Altered Perceptions anthology put together by Brandon Sanderson and coming out this month.

As specified in the contest guidelines, I have pasted the first 250 words of Miss Spelled below my personal information. The full manuscript is available at your request. Thank you for your time and consideration.

L.P.


MISS SPELLED

I swear: I did not mean to set the squirrel on fire.

Luckily, Mr. E was there to put out the flames in a heartbeat and heal the poor little thing. I got a sigh and a stern look from my Guardian as the squirrel scampered into the dense bushes that grew up against the fence of our new backyard.

“‘Respect all heaven’s creatures’ is the first rule of magic, Laurel.” From Mr. E’s shoulder, his familiar, Quirk, croaked his agreement.

“Sorry.” I kept myself from rolling my eyes, because I really did feel sorry. Hopefully, squirrels had short memories. “I know.”

I didn’t mention that I’d known all seven Rules of Magic for ten years, and that I’d passed them off in Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and English--and then sworn to keep them all--at my yom kosemet ceremony back in June.

Mr. E was aware of all that. He’d been there at the sanctuary, along with my family and the rest of our house’s staff. His stern face had shone with pride and love that day, and I’d known that he loved me at least as much as my parents did. He and I had always been close--and he was the smartest person I knew--which is why I’d chosen him to be my Guardian.

My familiar rubbed up against my leg, her silky fur tickling my bare skin. “Your fire sigil is still a bit sketchy,” she observed.

“Shut it, Twee,” I said. 

An Agent's Inbox #24

Dear Agent, 

Not many women are magicians in 1870s Paris, but that doesn’t stop Valentina Gianetti--until the day her father is killed onstage. She abandons her dreams to find his killer, and soon finds herself entangled in an underground society of spectacular performers that are much more than they seem.

Helping Valentina in her quest are the honest, Daire O’Flynn and not so-honest, Cooper Mathers. The three follow new leads to old murders, uncovering family secrets, and discovering a conspiracy that transformed a government and removed a king. As Valentina moves in on the truth, she becomes the killer’s next target. With her life, and the lives of those she cares about in jeopardy, she devises a plan she expects will bring due justice. The last thing she expects is to fall in love. 

The Magician’s Daughter is an NA Historical Mystery, complete at 92,000 words. Readers who enjoyed The Historian, The Night Circus, and The Thirteenth Tale will appreciate this novel.

I’m a technical writer by day and an aspiring author by night with an unhealthy addiction to the BBC.

Thank you for your interest,
D.R.


THE MAGICIAN'S DAUGHTER

The Eve of Vienna – 1871

The custard of the small fruit tart gently jiggled with the rumbling of the train.  I was hypnotized by its slight vibration, if only to distract myself from what I soon faced.  The tranquility of my private carriage lulled me into a moment of calm.  I lit the small candle poking from the tart’s middle and closed my eyes. 

“Happy birthday, Mama.”  The flame extinguished before I could take a breath to blow it out.  I smiled.  I didn’t have to turn around to see him standing in the doorway, though he made no sound. Sterling Caindale was, after all, the best magician in Europe.

“Are you prepared for tomorrow?”  His English accent sounded like home.

“I’ve practiced the three acts so many times I could perform them with my eyes closed.”

“Good girl.”  He smiled, the wrinkles around his eyes deepening.  I couldn’t ignore the sad look in his eyes. I wondered what he kept from me.  It wasn’t only his growing paranoia that tipped me off, but the way he became more and more distracted during his performances, almost expecting an interruption.   

 “I have a gift for you,” he said, producing a small red flower between his fingers and presenting it to me.  The instant that my fingertips brushed against its stem, the flower disappeared, and in its place, hung a gold necklace with a simple red pendant.

“It’s beautiful.  Thank you, Father.”  His eyes twinkled.  I knew he appreciated the term.

An Agent's Inbox #23

Dear Agent,

I have been working on my YA fantasy novel, Favored, since 2007. I’m submitting to “An Agent’s Inbox” because after several intense rounds with my critique partners and beta readers, we believe it is ready for fine-tuning. Your guidance would give me the feedback I need to make it shine.

Favored is the story of sixteen-year-old Lucy Howland, an Empath whose half-baked plans to fight poverty through stealing are thwarted by the secretive Brittany Kennedy, who’s after her for a power Lucy doesn’t even have.

Lucy’s plan to balance the inequalities that surround her takes off when she discovers a remarkable new power she can mold to her will. She wields it to break into the houses of the ignorant-wealthy people in small-town Victoria Falls, but it’s not enough. When Lucy meets a mysterious pair of twenty-somethings--Brittany and Jesse--intuition tells her to stay away but she refuses to listen. Instead, she obsesses over them, sure they’re hiding something.

Jesse and Brittany have a scheme of their own. With Jesse’s help, Brittany whisks Lucy off to a remote cabin, where Brittany will steal Lucy’s power and Jesse will erase her memory when they’re done. After Lucy escapes, Jesse reveals he’s working undercover for the supernatural police agency, Morality. He delivers Lucy to his uncle, Mason, who returns her to safety. Her relief at being home is short-lived, however, as mysteries unravel to offer truths involving family, her powers, a mission of her own, and the possibility of love with her sister’s lifelong crush.

As evidenced by the success of novels like Fire and Divergent, YA readers enjoy stories about characters overcoming challenges and finding a stronger version of themselves in the process. They will cheer and cry along with Lucy, and Lucy’s desire to leave the world a better place than she found it will resonate with YA readers of all ages.

Favored, set in upstate New York, is a completed manuscript at 59,000 words. The story is reminiscent of Little Women with a pinch of X-men. 

I’m a board member for the Maryland Writers’ Association and have used that experience to build my network and enrich my knowledge of writing, publishing, marketing, and platform building. I have strong ties to the DC area YA community, including a teen writing program I run in a local library. With the assistance of the vibrant writing community here, I will promote my novel at events for teen readers and through the network of published authors.

As stated in the “An Agent’s Inbox” guidelines, I have included the 250 words. Thank you for considering Favored.

My best,
C.N.


FAVORED

­If Lucy Howland had sensed the change a simple conversation would unleash on her life, she might have stayed home on that hot summer day. Then again, she might not have.

Every Tuesday during the break from school, Lucy and her friend Holden Davis met at the same place. Today, Lucy swallowed the heavy air more than breathed it. It had been that way lately, typical for upstate New York in August.

In two weeks their junior year would begin. Many of their friends fixated--online and in person--on their mixed emotions. But Lucy’s attention had been busy elsewhere, numbing her to the approaching school year, even knowing it was her sister Molly’s senior year.

As she sat perspiring on the cracked blue park bench, staring out over Maple Pond, she tried to wrap herself in Holden’s brightness.

This had become their place since they first cut class together two years before. They found a walking path through the dense woods around their high school. Thick pine trees provided cover no matter the season.

No birds called or crickets chirped. The creatures saved their music for the more bearable, darker hours of dawn and dusk. 

The more Lucy tried to clear her mind, the more the unwanted thoughts hung around.

“Hey,” whispered Holden. “Where did you go?”

He said it as if he were knocking on a door, full of “let me in.” Instead of answering, Lucy counted how many breaths he took before he knocked again. Six. 

An Agent's Inbox #22

Dear Agent,

Payton has 5 people in her life and they will all break her heart.
Her dad will use her.
Her mom will betray her.
Her boyfriend will manipulate her.
Her best friend will lie to her.
And Bunny will mold her into a monster.

In a near future, where the wealthy graft animal parts on their bodies so they can be stronger, look younger and live longer, 17-year-old Payton doesn't know who she is or where she fits in, yet she has the means to craft herself into any creature she can imagine. But even money can't save her, especially, when everyone has an agenda, even the ones she loves.

SKINNED: Payton Whitworth - Phase One is a complete 87,000 YA Sci-fi Thriller. Think The Island of Dr. Moreau meets Uglies.

Sincerely,
A.A.


MONSTERED

I never thought about the strength of a chimpanzee or the roughness of its fingers until the first time Jimmy touched me. This will be the second. We're hiding out in my closet with it's purple painted walls and pink trim, one of the many ways Mom tries to keep me young and silent. Yet my mind questions everything as my body continues to grow, molding me into a woman. And by the hungry look in Jimmy's eyes, a desirable one. That scares Mom all the more. People notice me now, some even listen. I'm a threat. A threat to her, this house, Dad's clinic, their entire way of life.

Yet here Jimmy and I are, no matter the cost. My parents would disown me for this betrayal and sever Jimmy. My head knows this but my heart doesn't care and neither does Jimmy's.

My chest rises and falls as excitement builds beneath my skin. Jimmy's eyes devour me with a need mostly human. But the other part of his gaze, the animal part, scares me more than he knows.

He moves toward me and the fur on my neck heats up and I want to scratch it like a mangy cat.

"I love when that happens," Jimmy says and for a moment I think he can sense my uncomfortable itching. Then I notice my feathers splaying. I pull them back down and shove them back behind my ears.

"I can't control them," I say, feeling my cheeks warm.

An Agent's Inbox #21

Dear Agent:

Set in a cult in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, IF I PROMISE YOU THE SUN is a YA love story wrapped in a gothic sci-fi thriller. Told in alternating points of view, it is complete at 93,000 words.

Sixteen-year-old Eve Thomas doesn’t mind that no one is allowed to leave Nova Vita, an Amish-like religious community that rejects most technology and has perfected solar power. Except for the OCD and tics linked to her photographic memory--and the occasional bout of wanderlust--life in her mountain home is paradise.

But when her little brother shows signs of a genetic disorder the cult won’t treat, Eve questions her religion’s reliance on God and its refusal of the modern world. As she searches frantically for a cure, Eve has no idea that an eighteen-year-old boy named Mana Aquino has been watching her.

A migrant worker brought by the cult from the garbage slums of Manila, Mana is determined to kill the cult’s leader--the madman who used his sister as a human sacrifice and treats all migrant workers like slaves. He just can’t seem to get anywhere near his prey.

After Mana learns about Eve’s powerful memory, he offers to sneak medicine to her brother, if she’ll serve as his human camera, gathering information that could ruin the bishop. If Eve can bring herself to trust Mana and accept his offer, she’ll commit a crime that will destroy the only home she’s ever known. If she says no, her beloved brother’s as good as dead.

I hold an M.A. in creative writing from Syracuse University, am a member of SCBWI, and have published several reviews of children’s books in The New York Times.

Thanks so much for your consideration!

H.L.D.


IF I PROMISE YOU THE SUN

Dying children can’t shock me.

Whether I’m stabbing them with a kitchen knife or they’re burning in a house fire. Whether it’s me or a disease or a natural disaster doing the killing. It happens every day in the dark corners of my obsessive mind.

Mama and I wrestle my sister into the kitchen chair so the medics can find a vein and fill a vial with her blood. Restraining a furious six-year-old is no easy task.

“Let me go!” Theresa shouts, bucking like a wild animal under our hands.

I gasp for breath as her bare foot wallops my gut.

“Theresa Marie Thomas, you cooperate right now,” Mama says in a voice that could freeze the sun.

Once the needle’s in, my sister’s limbs relax and her hazel eyes widen. I let out a long breath as we all stare at the thin red stream shooting up into the glass--it’s too beautiful for anyone to take away.

Every child in Nova Vita is being tested for an illness so rare, we’ve become famous for it. And everyone who tests positive will die. Bishop Conner asked researchers from the University of Virginia to study us, as long as they don’t interfere with our beliefs. This year, we’ll know ahead of time who we’re going to lose.

After we let Theresa go, I avoid Mama’s eyes and mouth a prayer, then tap the back of the chair four times. Not because I want to, but because I can’t stop myself.

An Agent's Inbox #20

Dear Agent,

In Velkenshire, magic use by the Wandering folk (Romany Gypsies) is illegal. When twelve year old Lumin Donato accidentally transforms a charm bracelet into gold coins and uses them to buy food for her starving family, the city guard arrests her. Her father offers to serve the jail sentence in her place, making Lumin the sole caretaker of her blind younger brother, Olek, as well as their dog, horse, and wheeled home.

Learning that Pa has been transferred to Prince Jarron’s dungeon, Lumin decides to seek the aid of the legendary Shuvanis, or Romany witches, who are in hiding and rumored to be plotting against the Prince to save their people. But even if she finds the Shuvanis, they’ll expect her to use her powers, and magic is how she ended up in this mess in the first place. If she doesn’t, Pa faces execution with the rest of their kin. 

THE SHUVANI’S SPELL is a middle grade fantasy, complete at 48,000 words. This novel was a finalist in the 2013 and 2014 RMFW Colorado Gold Writing contest. I recently sold my first short story, also featuring Romany characters, to Penny Dread Tales IV.

Thank you,
K.S.


THE SHUVANI’S SPELL

No one expects to be duped by the blind beggar child with tears welling in his eyes. While Olek distracts the unsuspecting merchant woman with his well practiced act, I strike like a viper, swiping a trinket or bauble from the wares strewn across the counter and slip it into my hip bag. This time I spy a bracelet made of delicate golden charms linked together. It should be enough to trade for a plump bag of potatoes in the next town. Then, turning on a theatrical smile, I shout my brother’s name and run towards him with open arms. Grabbing his hand, I apologize to the lady and lead Olek away in haste before she notices the empty spot on her table.

The marketplace is a hubbub of shouting merchants as Olek and I weave our way through the crowd, passing by stalls of fine silks and silver pendants that cost more than Pa’s wagon. Scarves of indigo and amethyst swirl like smoke in the gentle breeze, catching my eye, but I duck my head and hurry past. I will never get to wear a pretty silk scarf in my knotted black curls. Pa says there’s no sense in admiring luxuries if you can barely afford a loaf of bread to feed yourself. To our right, a rotund seller shouts over his table covered with toys carved from pinewood, vying for my little brother’s attention. Not that Olek can see the miniature menagerie of animals anyway. 

An Agent's Inbox #19

Dear Agent,

With her homemade hairstyles, lack of hand-eye coordination, and cheeks that turn scarlet at the very idea of talking to the perfectly sculpted socialites at her Southern California high school, seventeen-year-old Cassidy Richards is the ideal canvas for bullies to use to perfect their art. So Cassidy’s loyal friend since middle school creates a 12-Step Confidence Intervention Program to start her senior year fresh and give Cassidy the confidence boost she needs.

As Cassidy stumbles through the steps of the program, she accidentally flashes a group of guys from her school, gets called out in class for crying during a reading of her ex's poem, and goes on a horrendous date that lands her in jail.When things finally seem like they're getting better, Cassidy makes the stupidest bet of her life with her biggest bully, Cadee. If Cassidy can't get the attention of her crush, who is dating Cadee, she'll lose the bet, resulting in Cadee picking Cassidy's date to Homecoming and wearing a 'loser' sign that would clash with any dress.

AWKWARD ANONYMOUS is a YA contemporary novel, complete at 75,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
S.J.C.


AWKWARD ANONYMOUS

As I stood in a pool of my own vomit, I realized it was entirely Veronica's fault. She told me to break up with Seth. It was number one on her stupid 12-Step Confidence Intervention Program. In theory, yeah, it made sense as she explained it to me. Seth and I had reached Act III in our relationship and it was starting to feel like more of a tragedy than a fairytale.

When we first started dating, we couldn't keep our hands and eyes off each other. An infatuation induced filter covered our eyes so that we viewed the other as a perfect specimen.

Now when we kissed, my mind kept wandering, wondering if I put the cap back on the toothpaste or if there were any movies out that I wanted to see.

So I could understand Veronica's point that Seth and I needed to break up.

But standing on my front porch, staring at the puke covering our legs and shoes, maybe I picked a bad night. Maybe Veronica was wrong. Maybe we should stay together. Maybe...

"Son of a..." A string of swear words tumbled from Seth's mouth. A caring boyfriend would be concerned about my health, not freaking out about how gross it was. As if I couldn't see that. Or smell it.

"Sorry." I covered my mouth with my hand and took a gulp, letting the nastiness ooze back down.

"Sorry?" Seth kept swearing. I'd never heard him drop so many f-bombs in one sentence. "Disgusting, Cassidy. What's wrong with you?"

An Agent's Inbox #18

Dear Agent,

Please find enclosed the first 250 words of PLAYING PREDATOR, a steampunk New Adult retelling of “Little Red Riding Hood” with dark romantic elements. It will appeal to fans of steampunk authors Gail Carriger, Kady Cross, and Meljean Brook, and to readers who wish to see more diversity. The estimated word count is 85,000.

Scarlett Zhou vows to save her virginity for marriage. Haunted by the sexually-transmitted disease VAIN, which killed both of her parents, Scarlett studies at Sylva University with the hopes of researching for a cure. While she is determined to stay pure throughout her academic career, one wolfishly handsome professor, Jude Tanner, sees her virginity as a prize to be won. As much as Scarlett denies his advances, he knows that she is not as innocent as she seems. When Jude catches Scarlett violating a university policy, he makes a deal: she can choose to stay a virgin until marriage, or be expelled from Sylva University and become his slave.

Of course Scarlett chooses the former, and despite their growing friendship and common goal to find a cure for VAIN, Jude tempts her and slowly gnaws away her innocence. Will Scarlett be able to honor her parents’ deaths by remaining a virgin and finding a cure? Or will she succumb to her love and lust for Professor Tanner and become his slave?

I am a published writer specializing in speculative fiction with people of color, as demonstrated by Amok: An Anthology of Asia-Pacific Speculative Fiction (2014), and in gothic romance, as shown in the anthology Darker Edge of Desire (2014), in which my short story, “Devoured by Envy,” was praised by Publishers Weekly as the “most Gothic of the successful stories.” I am also an active member of the BDSM community in San Francisco, and a biology major at UC Berkeley--two very different experiences that have lent inspirations to the subjects and setting in my novel.

Thank you so much for your time and consideration.

Cordially,
J.W.


PLAYING PREDATOR

Chapter One--Deathbed

My mother did not want me to tell her good-bye. In her last moments, she refused to have me by her deathbed.

“Please,” she implored my father with the labored rise and falls of her chest, “take the children to the cellar.”

“Scarlett! Teddy! Hurry along now!”

“No!” I clutched my mother’s thin hand as I collapsed to my knees. I took no heed of the blue veins that bulged along her fingers, of the shadows staining the hollows of her eyes, nor of her parched, papery lips. She was immortalized in my memory with her midnight tresses, the flush of her fair skin, and the warmth of health blooming in her smooth, supple palms.

“Mama, I don’t want to go! I want to stay with you!”

Mother gasped. A bead of sweat rolled past her temple. She pressed her free hand to her throat as she coughed, lurching on her back, the final minutes of her life forcing spasms along her spine.

Baba yanked on my shoulder. He held my little brother, Teddy, by one hand.

“Scarlett, time to go! Down to the cellar.”

Turning a deaf ear to my screeches, he slung me over his broad shoulder, as easily as a burlap sack. He whisked Teddy and me out of the bedchamber to the kitchen. Coriander and ginger scented the air, and darkness slammed above my head. With the snap of the lock, Baba trapped my brother and me among the sacks of flour, rice, and dried fruit.

An Agent's Inbox #17

Dear Agent,

DREW HORRIBLE AND THE GREAT DRAGON POO EVASION is a good mix of Harry Potter (I know, I know, comparing my work to Ms. Rowling is probably a no-no, but I truly feel Drew’s world is Potter-esk) and Septimus Heap, with a little bit of How to Train Your Dragon thrown into the mix.

Ten-year-old Drew Horrible has always been a failure in his father’s eyes. As the son of the High Chancellor of Evil (who, for fun, turns people into mice and feeds them to his cats--and that’s when he’s in a good mood), Drew is expected to follow in his father’s mean and nasty footsteps as the up-and-coming ruler of the Outlander Realm. Unfortunately, Drew never could live up to his father’s horrible expectations.

Hoping to redeem himself as a worthy heir, Drew sets out to the Outlander Academy, where young villains-in-training learn to fight knights, ward off sock gnomes, and above all, avoid a low ranking on the student Scoreboards, which can lead to a lifetime of squalor and public shaming.

And, quite possibly, dragon poop-shoveling.

Drew soon finds himself in danger of falling into last place on the Scoreboards, and he’s certain bad luck has boxed up his irrevocable fate with a big fat bow on top. But when a deadly sickness starts working its way through the Outlander Realm, Drew learns a secret that could bring about a cure--but could cost him future as heir--or even his life--in the process. Taking care to steer clear of a lifetime of becoming Dragon Poo Drew, Drew finally has the chance to prove himself as future leader of the Realm--if he can embrace his own kind of Horrible.  

DREW HORRIBLE is 77,000 words of MG fantasy. I'd be honored if you would consider it for representation, and I hope to hear from you soon.

Sincerely,
M.R.


DREW HORRIBLE AND THE GREAT DRAGON POO EVASION

Timothy Sparrow stopped to catch his breath. He’d spent the better part of the last ten minutes chasing after a sock gnome, who’d jumped right out of a honeyberry bush, shrieking like a wild banshee. There was nothing quite like having your socks magically ripped right from your ankles, and this gnome had been particularly nasty, with putrid breath and fingernails six inches long. Socks weren’t normally worth the trouble of battling a gnome, but this pair had been a gift from his dear ol’ granny Mavis. And you just don’t mess with socks from granny.

“Oh, fuzz-dudders,” Timothy sighed, taking notice of his war-torn appearance. The gnome had fought admirably, tearing the hem of Timothy’s emerald robes to shreds. The Chancellor would not approve, and now Timothy would have to sneak into the castle through the kitchens to avoid a vicious scolding--or something worse, depending on the Chancellor’s disposition.

The gong sounded eleven, and Timothy reached into his robe, removing a small, crumpled paper. Unfolding it slowly, his eyes scanned the first three words for the hundredth time.

Death is coming.

He knew he should tell Drew Horrible what he’d seen, but couldn’t seem to find the right way to do it. Was there a right way to tell someone that he was the only thing standing between the entire Realm and certain terrible death?

It wasn’t exactly light dinner conversation.

An Agent's Inbox #16

Dear Awesome Agent,

For twelve year old Jake Evans, life without baseball is out of the question. This season, his team has a legitimate shot at going all the way to Williamsport. And at the first practice, Jake finds out he's a top contender for the traveling team playing in a tournament in Japan at the end of the summer. But when he finds out he might be benched for the season because he's failing Language Arts, he panics. He'll do anything do play.

Lucky for Jake, his teacher offers him an extra credit assignment to help him bring up his grade. Lucky, that is, until Jake finds out what it is. Advance to the school spelling bee. The problem is, Jake can't spell. He's struggled with school his whole life. In last year's classroom spelling bee, he couldn't even spell tulip right. A mistake his arch-enemy, and school bully, Kyle Filbert still teases him about. Well, that and the fact that Jake's adopted and doesn't look anything like his blond haired, blue eyed parents.

As Jake struggles to learn to spell words he can't even pronounce, he realizes he may not touch the mound this season, much less travel to Williamsport or Japan. So, Jake enlists the help of his best friend, and sixth grade know-it-all, Brit to help him study. Because if he doesn't hunker down and learn to spell, he'll never escape Kyle's bullying, he may not move to the next grade, and he could lose his one and only shot at little league stardom.

BEE STADIUM is a contemporary middle grade novel complete at 44,000 words. I am a member of SCBWI. 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
L.L.


BEE STADIUM

Harrison Templeton has a big fat head. Thankfully I sit right behind him. When I slouch, Mrs. Cooper, my seventh-period Language Arts Teacher, can't see a single hair on my entirely proportionally sized head. 

My right knee taps in time with each second--thirty minutes to go. I've been waiting for-freaking-ever for the first day of baseball practice. This year we might go all the way to the Little League World Series.

"Can anyone tell me from what point of view the Red Badge of Courage is written?" Mrs. Cooper asks, pacing in front of the white board wielding a dry erase marker like a bayonet.

Ugh. I'd rather eat moldy broccoli than read this book.

They should let us read something cool, like The Boy Who Saved Baseball or The Wild Pitch. Heck, I kind of even liked Holes. All this talk of themes and symbolism makes me want to poke my eye out with my number two pencil.

I duck out of her line of sight. She's going to call on someone to read out loud soon.

My eyes blur and I can smell the grass on the field as I wind up to pitch. "Strike!" the ump yells.

“Jake?” I snap my head forward as my heart hammers.

“What?” My voice comes out high, like a girl.

Next to me, Kyle Filbert snickers, his black hair flopping forward and covering one of his eyes like a pirate's eye patch. I shoot my arch-enemy a dirty look.

An Agent's Inbox #15

Dear Agent,

I’m seeking representation for Compulsion and Chaos, a 95,000 word YA fantasy set in a desert world with elements of Persian mythology.

Blighted babies should be given to the desert. To do otherwise is to invite the wrath of the gods.

Because of Meron’s blighted ear, she’s been ostracized by her tribe: blamed for every lost camel and sick child, and betrothed to an old man who already has two wives. And he only agreed to marry her because he owes her father a favor.

On the night of her wedding ceremony, raiders attack, slaughtering Meron’s tribe and leaving her alone in the middle of the desert, still wearing her wedding clothes. Her survival depends on crossing a land riddled with dangers: giant crabs that suck their victims dry, and immortal beings she thought were myths. When she’s captured by djinn--shapeshifting monsters that prey on humans--Meron is given a choice: die with the other captives or discover who’s been enslaving the djinn and why. If she succeeds, she and the other captives will be freed. If she fails, they’ll be dinner.

As the trail leads her closer to the dark kingdom next door and the beasts that guard it, Meron learns why the djinn selected her for this task and she discovers a secret that could propel her to the upper echelons of society, blighted or not.

This is my first novel. I hope it will appeal to fans of Rae Carson’s Girl of Fire and Thorns and Tamora Pierce’s Tortall series. As requested, the first 250 words are included below.

Sincerely,
T.J.C.


COMPULSION AND CHAOS

Meron had noticed the split seam months ago. It was the perfect location for spying: the inner corner of an auxiliary tent, usually reserved for food and the servants who delivered it. She pulled two more stitches out of the leather panels, widening the hole so she could watch her husband. He whirled and stamped to the beat of the bendir, breaking away from the woman, then clutching her again possessively before the line of dancers moved.

The woman was twenty years older than Meron, at least, though she carried her age lightly. She was dressed in a bright red kaftan with a gold sash, a perfect complement for the gold cloth and red embroidery that Meron’s husband wore. Red and gold, gold and red, circling each other, moving apart, coming together again. The woman moved confidently, smiling up at Meron’s husband when he touched her.

This must be his first wife. The second wife and her two daughters, who were Meron’s age, watched from the sidelines. Meron had met them once before, when her husband had come to negotiate the marriage price: fifty camels, half loaded with spices and half with iron, ready to be sold as soon as her father reached the coast. It was a hefty price to pay for a second daughter, especially one who’d been blighted by the gods. 

An Agent's Inbox #14

Dear Agent’s Inbox:

No respectable home in Orchard Knob is complete without at least one resident specter, and most folks can’t imagine life any other way--except for Oliver. There hasn’t been a ghost in his house since long before he was born. And bein’ that Oliver’s pa is the town’s mortician, everyone knows they should have more ghosts than anyone.

So when the ghost of Elijah Banks shows up saying his niece, Lena, is dead and that Oliver’s the only one who can keep her from crossing over, Oliver is certain ol’ Elijah has gone soft in the head. Especially when Elijah claims helping Lena will also solve Oliver’s ghost dilemma.

It’s crazy talk is what it is.

But then Pa decides to train Oliver in the family business using Grandpa’s old embalming room in the cellar--on the same day Lena’s body arrives. One accident with an embalming hose later and Oliver’s seein’ things no one else can, like the dark tethers attacking the town’s ghosts at night. And if that weren’t enough, Pa starts calling him things like “sensitive.”  

Now Oliver needs answers if he has any hope of helping Elijah and Lena--and even his own family--who might accidentally be responsible for the attacks on the town’s ghosts. Before long it’s a race against his grandpa’s long-forgotten ghost machine, and a dark ghost’s monstrous plan, to keep the tethers from consuming Lena and the rest of the town’s houseghosts. And Oliver’s gonna get his answers, and maybe even save the town, just as soon as he can get up enough nerve to go back in his cellar.

OLIVER’S GHOST MACHINE is an upper MG horror novel with steampunk elements, complete at 54,000 words. I’m a member of SCBWI and currently spend my daytime hours spinning tales for my seventh grade students in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Thank you,
K.Y.


OLIVER’S GHOST MACHINE

There are no ghosts in our house. Haven’t been since before I was born. Ma gets embarrassed if we mention it out in public but, I mean, it ain’t like everyone in town doesn’t know. Pa even says we used to be wealthy before word got out that our last houseghost up and disappeared. But without a houseghost to review Pa’s contracts and such, it wasn’t long before folks started cheatin’ him out of money. Truth is, about the only thing we have left now is this rickety old ghost-free house.

We don’t know why our houseghosts abandoned us. Oh sure, houseghosts cross over all the time. Unfinished business gets finished and all that. Sometimes they get a little fuzzy in the head too, but the worst is when their death state starts to show. That can get pretty ugly. But unless you live in my house, another houseghost is always ready to replace the last.

That’s why I was completely caught off-guard when I came nose-to-aether-wisps with the ghost of Elijah Banks in our outhouse. To be fair he didn’t look any happier about it than I was. My hair was sticking up every which way (in other words, same as always) and I was trying to scrub the sleep outta my eyes. I staggered once and pulled open that door and began to relieve myself--right on old Elijah’s lap.

“Put that thing away boy! Can’t stay long.”

An Agent's Inbox #13

Dear Agent,

An undercover operative for the clandestine group known as the Institute, seventeen-year-old Kat's job is to befriend volatile teenagers in order to ascertain their risk to society.

Her latest assignment is Audrey Foreman, a girl who sees monsters. A girl the Institute deems violent, high risk. Kat must gather enough evidence to justify Audrey's arrest before any actual crime is committed, but there's just one problem: Audrey isn't dangerous and the Institute doesn't care.

So when Kat finds traces of a mission that imploded two years ago in the same town, she suspects she's actually there to tie up loose ends. Working to uncover Audrey's connection to the old case, Kat begins to doubt the Institute's infallibility--especially when she examines the private jobs it sometimes accepts. But this is no time to have a moral crisis: the agent involved in the original case is still undercover at the local high school and eager to report back on Kat's changing priorities. He can't leave, not until Audrey has been silenced, and if Kat doesn't help then she could lose her job, her friends, even her life. Especially if Audrey's monsters turn out to be real.

THE TURNOVER is young adult mystery complete at 80,000 words. 

Thank you for your time and consideration,

S.A.


THE TURNOVER

It starts like any other case: I get a file. Audrey Foreman. By the time I finish reading, it's midday. There’s a note on the last page: See Cas.

I phone the office.

“Cas?” I say. “Why not Robin?”

“He’s busy. Cas is doing this one.”

“But, Robin’s my handler.”

The phone goes dead, but I don't move. 

“Hey, ” says Bee, coming into the room with her sketchpad. “What's up?”

“I have to see Cas.”

“Cas?” She looks at me, and together we revel in the weirdness. I take my cardigan off the back of the chair and go. Plait my hair in the elevator.

Cas is in her study with the door open, so I just walk on in.

“Kat,” she says, without looking up. “Darling. Take a seat.”

You’d expect us to be cutting edge, here at the institute, but the offices are very nineties. A tiny cactus sits on the desk. There’s a rip in my chair, and I pluck at it while I wait. If she doesn't mention Robin, neither will I. But I want to. I've trained and worked with Robin for my entire seventeen years, so why am I sitting in her office?

“Read everything?”

“Yes.”

“Give me a summary.”

“Audrey Foreman.” I say. “She’s seventeen, lives in a place named Corrbee. It’s a tourist trap. She works weekends in a gift shop, summers in a funfair. She doesn’t have any friends: That’s our first worry. She’s bullied, talks about it online in a 'worrying' manner: We start surveillance. Months pass, she gets worse. Blogs about seeing monsters, like, real monsters. So now we send in the SWAT team.”

An Agent's Inbox #12

Dear Agent,

In the present, Lara, an introspective, occasionally intuitive fourteen-year-old, goes to Wales with her dad. He’s a climate-change scientist researching his theory that Arthur’s Wasteland was caused by a super-volcano. But then Lara meets Finnian, an itinerant musician, and her curiosity is piqued by something odd about his walking-stick, which is not nearly as ordinary as it looks. Finnian’s belligerent young cousin, Red, gets jealous and insists the stick has been promised to him.

In the distant past, Gildas, an impressionable and talented young scribe, joins the Welsh court of the legendary Arthur, King of Britain. He and Arthur use a stone just like the one in Finnian’s walking-stick to unleash a cataclysm. But neither of them expect the devastating consequences that transform Britain into Arthur’s Wasteland. Consumed by guilt and self-loathing, Gildas must find a way to make amends.

Lara discovers there are some decisions she has to make all by herself. But first she will need Red and a scruffy dog’s help to discover the whole truth about Finnian, the staff, and whether it was really Gildas that caused the Wasteland. The only problem is Red hates her guts. As does his dog. But the stakes become clear when they realise that Finnian’s fate is hanging in the balance and Lara must make the choice that will determine what becomes of him.

FINNIAN’S QUEST is an 85 000 word YA fantasy. It is a remix of modern science and Arthurian tradition with parallel timelines in the present (Lara) and the past (Gildas). 

Thank you for your time and consideration,

M.V.B.


FINNIAN’S QUEST

A tramp with a bedraggled dog dozed outside a small supermarket. Nobody paid him any attention except mothers of small children who bustled their offspring quickly past. Every now and again the tramp’s head jerked upwards like he’d just woken up and he’d twirl the stick he held loosely in his hands. Then he’d subside back into himself. If any  passerby noticed him, they would have sworn he was asleep.

A solitary teenager stumbled and almost fell on a loose stone in the pavement. Optimistically dressed for the grey, overcast day, she shivered in t-shirt and shorts. Her body was all sharp, slender angles, awkward elbows and bony knees.

The tramp jerked up again. He spun his stick. 

The girl caught a glimpse of it out of the corner of her eye. It started to glow very softly, tugging at a distant part of her brain. She paused for the blink of an eye, before swinging through the doors into the supermarket. 

The tramp stared after her.

“It’s not her,” a small, skinny boy sat down beside the tramp and caressed the dog. “She didn’t see it.”

“She saw it alright.”

“Not really. She only half-saw it. I see it better than that.”

“It’s not the same thing. You know what to look for.”

“She’s just a stupid tourist.” The boy picked up a pebble and threw it viciously in front of him.

“This might not be what you think it is.”

“Well, what is it then?”

An Agent's Inbox #11

Dear Agent,

I was made aware that you're looking for New Adult in this years Agents Inbox contest and I believe you would be pleased with my novel, Autumn Fire. It's a Fantasy complete at 75,000 words.

All Naomi Holmes wanted to do after her father died was to leave. Not just from her less than loving mother and sister, but the killings.

On one night, she decided to go on her daily jog just before city curfew. Not only does she find the source of the slaughters, but thanks to Nate Selly, she's brought into a war between 2 species: One is a 6' green, scaled demon with pitch black eyes, and tiny fangs for teeth. The other is a group of people Nate is involved with that apparently has 'magical powers' that calls themselves Warriors. After she joins the Warriors--though not without fighting and yelling at them--she has to travel around the globe with them to gather crystals for more strength.

For these people, they're pleased to have found their savior. As for Naomi, all she wants to do is to go back home. However, as time passes, it comes to her attention that there's another threat that the warriors know about yet haven't told her. After demanding an answer, one of them is abducted as bait for her. Because she's the only one who can use the crystals, Isaac Silverman wants her dead. Even though part of her was yelling to get out now, she was convinced the other Warriors would rather continue to find the crystals rather than rescue their friend. So, Naomi has to take it into her own hands to save one of her own kidnappers.

There are a few parts where Naomi has to fight hand-to-hand frequently. As someone who's taking Krav Maga classes, I feel I'm suited to write this book.

Thank you for the chance and your time.

Sincerely,
S.O.


AUTUMN FIRE

It was around 8:30pm that the local news had another broadcast about another slain body. They didn't show the corpse out of respect for the loved ones, but described it as a young Latino female. This had been going on for about 12 years: a body would be found with wide, deep gashes or strange bite marks. After an hour, the body disappeared. Some families had been furious and demanded to see the hospital footage, and from what aired on the news, there were pitch black pits where the eyes used to be and 2 rows of fangs before the screen went out.

Some people have freaked out and started screaming that the zombie apocalypse had started, but Naomi Holmes didn't believe that. If that were the case, the "zombies" would attack the first people it would find which would usually be the doctors and nurses. However, even so, Naomi found herself gripping her kneecaps in her hands tightly, sitting on the couch, as she watched the broadcast unfold. When a picture of the deceased girl showed up, she had light brown eyes, a wide grin, and wavy black hair flowing past her shoulders. She didn't look much older than Naomi.

"Naomi, are you going to eat or what?" her mom barked from the kitchen.

After flinching, Naomi looked out of the living room door. She wasn't planning to since she ate a late lunch today, but knew if she tried protesting, her mom would start on how important it is to eat three meals a day. As if she didn't get that enough from her old Health teacher in school.

An Agent's Inbox #10

Dear Agent,

Rhiannon Oliver aka “Rhi” is introduced into the world of the Grigori when she learns that her father is an angel, making her a child of the Nephilim. Meeting him for the first time on her 18th birthday. With his guidance, she must learn to use her new and developing angelic abilities that have now been awakened.

When Rhi meets Jax, another Nephilim, the two immediately sense a connection. Unfortunately they don’t have time to see how that connection will develop because they step right into the path of the leader of the fallen angels, who wants to use them for his own evil plans.

On the Run from the fallen angels, Rhi and Jax must cast their fears aside and find the strength deep within them, and enter the battle between the Grigori and the Fallen. If they fail, the fallen will bring about their own version of h*** on Earth, and use the kids to do it.

ANGEL’S RUN is a young adult fantasy complete at 82,000 words. It is a stand-alone novel with series potential. I live in Oregon with my very large blended family. I work in the medical insurance field, but my passion is writing. Thank you for your time and consideration. 

Best,
M.M.


ANGEL’S RUN

I could clearly hear the footsteps as they got closer to my bedroom door, hand raising to knock as it did every morning. “Rhi time to wake up”! “Big day today”! My mom, Charlotte called from outside the door. I Groaned and sat up in bed. I had been in the middle of the dream I’d been having since I was about 14 before waking up about two minutes ago. I was at the beach, my favorite place in the world and I was soaring over the ocean waves like I was a bird. I had the most beautiful pair of white downy wings, that glowed with a pink pearlescent sheen when the sunlight hit them just right. The best part was that I was wearing my beloved skinny jeans that used to fit me, but were now sitting in my “to wear again after losing 20 pounds” pile in the closet. Shoving the flowery pink and white down comforter off me, I threw feet down onto my fuzzy pink carpet. I slipped on my robe and rubbed the sleep out of my eyes. “Coming mom” I called out before she could knock again.

I felt different, yes definitely different. I knew turning 18 meant that I was now a legal adult, and I was responsible for myself now, and could basically do what I wanted, but that wasn’t it. I felt stronger. I felt like I could take on the world.

An Agent's Inbox #9

Dear Agent,

I am delighted at this opportunity to be part of Krista Van Dolzer's "An Agent's Inbox" contest and look forward to your input on my novel.

Cole’s Fear List won’t stop growing. Soon it could trap him inside a box smaller than the linen closet where he hides to skip school. But Cole can’t tell Mom and Dad about his phobias, because he’s sure they already think he’s a freak. Worried they’re right, Cole runs. A 79-mile road trip on his tricked-out riding mower is a leap for any twelve-year-old. But for a boy who hates leaving his own house, it’s terrifying.

But not as scary as losing Lace, the long-distance friend who promises she can cure fear. If Cole can get Lace to safety before her stepdad sends her away, maybe then he can outrun his anxieties. But even if he outwits search helicopters, thieves, and the highway patrol, once his fears catch up with him, Cole will need all of his creative genius to reinvent what it means to be brave and normal.

Lawnmower, Leaving, complete at 56,000 words, is a contemporary middle grade. It combines an adventure along red rock trails with Autism Spectrum Disorder elements reminiscent of a higher-functioning Mockingbird, The London Eye, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. 

I am trained as a lawyer, but prefer fiction to legal briefs. I have published magazine articles, and my novels have won writing awards. I work with the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Conference, including two years as head conference assistant, and am a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,
R.R.B.


LAWNMOWER, LEAVING

Leaving Reason, One. Mom thinks I’m stupid enough to run over my best friend.

One, my wheels hit the pressure switch I hid in the grass. Two, the rope tied to the chassis pulls Brock to the right spot in the lawn. Three, one sprinkler spurts up, spraying Brock.

He runs off the lawn. “You planned that.”

“Perfect timing.” I check the camera replay and smile. 

“What’s with the weird grin? Does it look like I peed my pants?”

“Maybe.” My invention worked. At least I’m good at something.

“Delete it, okay?” 

“Fine. But only if you drive.” I reach for the foot sled I made by welding cookie sheets.

But first Mom’s on the porch. Then all the sprinklers go off, soaking the front steps and Mom. The smell of wet cement reminds me I’m not just weird, but stupid. I didn’t unplug the timer. I turn off the water, then she points her pen at me. It’s the one Mom chews when she pays bills. “Mowers have blades, Cole. What if you ran over Brock’s foot?” 

The riding mower’s off, but Mom’s words buzz louder than engine noise. Going barefoot always felt good. Safe. Until now.

Mom taps her pen, probably adding to her “Fix Cole" Plan. Maybe I can make her smile. “We’re recording a video.” I hold up the camera. “It’s called, ‘Don’t Try this at Home.’

Brock laughs.

Mom doesn’t. “You can’t try it at our home either. Sorry.”