Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Book Recommendations: SECRETS OF A CHARMED LIFE and A FALL OF MARIGOLDS by Susan Meissner

Several months ago, I asked the Twitterverse for women's fiction recommendations, and Ms. Meissner's SECRETS OF A CHARMED LIFE was one of the first replies I got. The summary sounded interesting--she had me at London Blitz--and the book was even better. That got me started on a Susan Meissner binge*, and I also fell in love with A FALL OF MARIGOLDS.

In present-day England, an American history major, Kendra Van Zant, goes to a cottage in the Cotswolds for a prearranged interview with a survivor of the London Blitz. The interviewee, Isabel McFarland, is a reclusive painter whose family is celebrating her ninety-third birthday later that day. After exchanging the usual pleasantries, Kendra pulls out her list of questions, but she can't bring herself to ask any of the questions on her list. So Kendra asks the question that pops into her head instead: "What would you like to tell me about the London Blitz?" Isabel smiles enigmatically, as if, after all these years, someone's finally asked the question she's been waiting to answer. "My name is not Isabel," she says, "and I am not ninety-three years old."

The book then flashes back to 1940, on the eve of the London Blitz. Most of the book takes place in the past, but it's this juxtaposition between past and present that Ms. Meissner is most known for. A FALL OF MARIGOLDS opens in a similar way, with a textile hunter, Taryn Michaels, on the tenth anniversary of September 11th. As Taryn is reintroduced to the hundred-year-old scarf that saved her life that day, we flack back to 1911 and one of the scarf's former owners, a nurse on Ellis Island who's also a survivor of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. Both women lost someone on the days that changed their lives, so both must come to terms with their survivor's guilt and grief.

Both SECRETS and MARIGOLDS are a lovely blend of history, romance, and personal growth, and I eagerly await Ms. Meissner's next book.

*As part of my binge, I also read Ms. Meissner's STARS OF SUNSET BOULEVARD. Though I didn't love it like I loved SECRETS and MARIGOLDS, it was an engaging read, especially if you're a fan of the film Gone with the Wind.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Writing for Charity

Just wanted to let everyone know that I'll be a panelist at this year's Writing for Charity! For those of you who aren't familiar with it, Writing for Charity is a one-day conference for writers and illustrators of children's books. It's organized and run by volunteers, so all the proceeds are donated to charity. Founded by Shannon Hale, it's now in its eleventh year.

I'll be participating on the Queries 101 and Middle Grade panels, which, according to the schedule, will take place at 10:30 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. MST, respectively. That said, the schedule is still in flux, so if you're planning to attend, you'll want to double-check those times before you actually show up.

If you live on or around the Wasatch Front, I hope to see you there!

Writing for Charity

March 11, 2017
9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. MST

Utah Valley University Classroom Building
815 College Drive, Orem, UT 84058

Friday, January 13, 2017

I Can't Write in Third Person

Several years ago (or maybe several more than that), I saw a quote from a well-known novelist that belittled children's literature: "Anyone can write for children," this well-known novelist said, "because anyone can write in first person." (Full disclosure: the quote went something like that, and before you ask me who said it, I'll tell you that I can't remember.)

My knee-jerk reaction was one of righteous indignation: How dare said well-known novelist insult writing for kids! Kids are the only people worth writing for in the first place! But beneath the controversy, there was something sharp and true that this novelist was saying.

Writing in first person is easier than writing in third.

THE SOUND OF LIFE AND EVERYTHING and DON'T VOTE FOR ME are both written in first person. So is DON'T SOLVE THE PUZZLE and the next manuscript I wrote (which is on submission at the moment). So is Bonnie. So is this. So is almost everything I've written since I first signed with an agent.

I love writing in first person because it makes a novel so accessible. Readers can insert themselves into the story because the pronouns insert them into the story. But what I never considered until recently (read: what I never considered until I went back to writing in third person) is that writing in first person also makes the novel more accessible to the person writing it.

When you're writing in first person, your narrative voice and the main character's voice are, of course, one and the same. Even when you're writing in close third, there's some degree of separation between the main character and the narrator, and that separation has somehow changed the way I write, especially the connective tissue. Once I'm entrenched in a scene, I don't find it (as) difficult to write snappy dialogue, but it's in the connective tissue--the transitions between chapters, between sections, between scenes, and even between moments within the same scene--that your voice really shines through. I think that's the major difference between a good book and a great one. Good books have great scenes, but great books have great transitions that make you want to savor every word.

Because the narrative voice is the ONLY thing that makes connective tissue worth reading, the contrast between writing in first and third becomes sharper. In first person, you can borrow your MC's wit and personality to imbue transitions with more life, but you have more work to do when you're writing in third person. It's almost like you have to cultivate a whole other character, one who's never seen but whose voice is always heard.

I don't have it figured out. I'm working on two manuscripts right now, both of which are in third person, and the going has been slow, awkward, and more than slightly frustrating. But maybe I need to cut myself a little slack. Writing in third person is different than writing in first, and the sooner I figure that out, the sooner I might (finally!) make some progress.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Living Christ

Several months ago, I asked myself how I could make my Sabbath-day worship more meaningful, and one of the thoughts I had was that I could memorize "The Living Christ." This proclamation was issued on January 1, 2000, a few weeks before my sixteenth birthday, by fifteen men who stand as special witnesses of Jesus Christ. On last Sunday, exactly one week before Christmas, I memorized the last paragraph, so in keeping with this Christmas season, I thought I'd share it with you.

What follows is my recitation of "The Living Christ." I typed it out just before I wrote this introduction and only referred to my own memory. As such, I probably messed up some of the punctuation and/or capitalization, but I hope the words themselves are accurate. (I did go in and add the scripture references after the fact, though the quotation marks are mine.)

As we commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ two millennia ago, we offer our testimony of the reality of his matchless life and the infinite virtue of his great atoning sacrifice. None other has had so profound an influence upon all who have lived and will yet live upon the earth.

He was the Great Jehovah of the Old Testament, the Messiah of the New. Under the direction of his Father, he was the creator of the earth. “All things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3). Though sinless, he was baptized to fulfill all righteousness. He “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38), yet was despised for it. His gospel was a message of peace and goodwill. He entreated all to follow his example. He walked the roads of Palestine, healing the sick, causing the blind to see, and raising the dead. He taught the truths of eternity, the reality of our premortal existence, the purpose of our life on earth, and the potential for the sons and daughters of God in the life to come.

He instituted the sacrament as a reminder of his great atoning sacrifice. He was arrested and condemned on spurious charges, convicted to satisfy a mob, and sentenced to die on Calvary’s cross. He gave his life to atone for the sins of all mankind. His was a great vicarious gift in behalf of all who would ever live upon the earth.

We solemnly testify that his life, which was central to all human history, neither began in Bethlehem nor concluded on Calvary. He was the Firstborn of the Father, the Only Begotten Son in the flesh, the Redeemer of the world.

He rose from the grave to become “the first fruits of them that slept” (1 Corinthians 15:20). As Risen Lord, he visited among those he had loved in life. He also ministered among his “other sheep” (John 10:16) in ancient America. In the modern world, he and his Father appeared to the boy Joseph Smith, ushering in the long-promised “dispensation of the fullness of times” (Ephesians 1:10).

Of the Living Christ, the Prophet Joseph wrote: “His eyes were as a flame of fire, the hair of his head was white like the pure snow, his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun, and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, even the voice of Jehovah, saying:

“I am the First and the Last. I am he who liveth; I am he who was slain. I am your advocate with the Father” (D&C 110:3-4).

Of him, the Prophet also wrote: “And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony last of all, which we give of him: that he lives!

“For we saw him, even on the right hand of God, and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father;

“That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God” (D&C 76:22-24).

We declare in words of solemnity that his priesthood and his church have been restored upon the earth--“built upon the foundation of apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20).

We testify that he will someday return to earth. “And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together” (Isaiah 40:5). He will reign as king of kings and rule as lord of lords, and every knee shall bend and every tongue shall speak in worship before him. Each of us will stand to be judged of him according to our works and the desires of our hearts.


We bear testimony, as his duly ordained apostles--that Jesus is the Living Christ, the immortal Son of God. He is the great King Immanuel, who stands today at the right hand of his Father. He is the light, the life, and the hope of the world. His way is the path that leads to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come. God be thanked for the matchless gift of his divine Son.

In memorizing these powerful words, I hope that I can claim, at least in some small way, this beautiful testimony as my own.

*If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below. Conversely, if your question or comment is of a more personal nature, you're always more than welcome to e-mail me at kvandolzer(at)gmail(dot)com.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Are You Hooked?

I entered Bonnie's first page in this week's in-house critique session over at Authoress's blog. This story is probably closer to my own truth than any of the other stories I've written, and for the last couple of months, I've been seriously thinking about self-publishing it. If you have a few minutes, I'd love to hear what you think!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Where Are We Supposed to Go from Here?

I'm not sure what to say right now. I keep logging on to Twitter, scrolling through my feed, getting sad/tired/upset, and logging back out. I can't deal with the world right now, not its hatred, not its violence, not its nastiness.

In some ways, I feel like an outsider looking in. I didn't vote for Mr. Trump, but I didn't vote for Ms. Clinton, either. As a compassionate conservative, I feared--and still fear--a Trump presidency, but I couldn't get behind enough of Ms. Clinton's policies to really get behind her. Add to that the fact that I think they're both compulsive liars who've broken several major laws, and the last thing I wanted to do was give either one my vote. But I'm still in disbelief. I'm still mourning what I thought was the greater of two unhappy outcomes. I'm still sad/tired/upset.

Where are we supposed to go from here? I thought Ms. Clinton's concession speech and President Obama's come-to-Lincoln moment were noble and inspiring, and even Mr. Trump's victory lap was more gracious than I thought it would be. But that hasn't seemed to make one speck of difference on the ground. Xenophobes are jeering. Protesters are marching. Racists are being racist. (I'm trying to construct a time machine and skip ahead to 2020, but science was never my best subject.)

I'm disappointed in my country, which I think made the wrong choice. I'm disappointed in my state, which had a historic opportunity to reject both major-party candidates and vote for real change. (In the end, we voted for the guy everyone thought we would vote for, the guy who's been saying about Muslims what Governor Boggs said about many of our ancestors when, in 1838, Missouri legalized the wholesale killing of Mormons.) And I'm disappointed by the vitriol that's still flying back and forth. President Obama said we weren't Republicans or Democrats but Americans first.

To be honest, I'm not sure that's true.

I don't know where I'm going with this. I don't know why I'm even writing it. I guess I just want to say we can't keep going as we have. We have to change our hearts and minds if we ever hope to be one nation, or someday, we will fall apart.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Five Winners!

Without any ado, Dr. Stender's winners:

#12 THE TITANIC CAPER
#20 ESCAPING FATE

THE TITANIC CAPER and ESCAPING FATE win full requests!

#19 SOUL RIPPER

SOUL RIPPER wins a request for the first 100 pages!

#4 VERY CAREFULLY AND NOT ALL AT ONCE

VERY CAREFULLY wins a request for the first 75 pages!

#23 LIGHT KEEPER

LIGHT KEEPER wins a request for the first 50 pages!

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

Lastly, a big thank-you to Dr. Stender for taking the time to share his insights and a big thank-you to YOU for being brave enough to enter and critique. I know it isn't easy to have your work picked apart, but I hope the experience has been instructive. Best of luck with your other queries, and happy Halloween!

The Agent = Uwe Stender of Triada US Literary Agency

This month's agent was Uwe Stender of Triada US Literary Agency! From his website: "Literary Agent Dr. Uwe Stender is a Full Member of the AAR (Association of Authors' Representatives). He is interested in all kinds of commercial fiction, especially Young Adult, Middle Grade, Mysteries, and Women's Fiction. He is also interested in all kinds of non-fiction projects. But surprise him, his tastes are eclectic, and he may just love what you wrote!

"His favorite five novels right now are: Eleanor And Park, How It Went Down, Code Name Verity, High Fidelity, and The Big Sleep."

If you'd like to connect with Dr. Stender, definitely check out his new Twitter handle, @UweStenderPhD. I'll announce his winners in a few!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

It's "An Agent's Inbox" Time!

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 at the beginning of next week, but until then, have at it!

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

An Agent's Inbox #25

Dear Mystery Agent:

DANGER TASTES DREADFUL is a middle grade fantasy, complete at 34,000 words. Think of the gentle humor and friendship in Eva Ibbotson's THE GREAT GHOST RESCUE with the classic adventure style of the NARNIA books. The novel stands alone, but has series potential.

Ten-year-old Bernie is a troll, and trolls should be fearless. At least, that’s what Bernie’s dad says. But before Bernie gets a chance to prove himself, giants stomp into the forest and steal his parents. Now, the timid, always-hungry Bernie and his mischievous, rock-obsessed best friend, Tish, must travel together across the barren lands to Mount Dreadful and find a way to keep their loved ones from becoming the main course in a giant feast.

Inside Mount Dreadful's smoky caverns, Bernie and Tish discover the giants have enemies of their own who may prove even more dangerous than the giants. Bernie and Tish must figure out who is friend and who is foe, rescue the captured trolls and escape the mountain, all without getting squashed or roasted or eaten alive.

I have published short stories in several small press SFF print anthologies, as well as stories and poetry for both children and adults in magazines such as Beyond Centauri, Strong Verse, and Enchanted Conversation.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Regards,

B.L.


DANGER TASTES DREADFUL

To a troll, trouble had its own spicy, cinnamon smell. Bernie recognized it because a faint whiff always hung around his best friend, Tish. But the tang in the air smelled much stronger. He bent down, close to the ground. His green, sweaty feet stank, but it was something else. He sniffed again, then stuck out a thick, stubby tongue and licked the dirt path.

It tasted bitter, though somehow familiar. Bernie thought about where he might have tasted it before, when he felt a beetle wriggling on his tongue. He spat out slobber-covered twigs and leaves across the path, but caught the beetle and munched on it, enjoying its crunchy flavor.

Bernie stopped chewing. That bitter flavor was the taste of danger! He looked around, but didn’t see anything unusual. No footprints on the path. No looming shadows under the trees. No beady eyes peeking out from behind a bush. Nothing moved except the leaves which danced in the gentle breeze.

Crack!

The loud noise echoed through the forest. Bernie stared in the direction of the mysterious sound. He knew what he should do, what his dad would do. He should investigate, find the trouble, stop the danger. After all, trolls were tough and feared nothing.

At least, that’s what his dad always said, but Bernie didn’t feel tough. His knees wobbled, his ears lay flat and his heart hammered like a woodpecker in his chest.

An Agent's Inbox #24

Dear guest agent,

THE MALATHION EFFECT is a 67,000-word young adult/speculative fiction riff on The Dead Zone and Jay Asher/Carolyn Mackler’s The Future of Us.

Fifteen-year-old Cameron Riker struggles to master a mysterious illness that allows her to see glimpses of the future. Bad ones. She’s both excited and overwhelmed by her new powers. How far into the future can she see? And more importantly--who can she save? 

As Cameron tests her limits, the illness threatens to destroy the health and sanity of her childhood friends, two brothers who have the same strange abilities. When one brother unravels completely, the three confront the gritty reality that to stay alive, they have to stop trying to save the people they see in their visions. But can they live with themselves if they do? 

Cameron and the brothers race to understand why they share the debilitating psychic powers amid family secrets, suicide, and the sparkling swimming pools of their Southern California suburb. Ultimately, they must uncover whether their actions are predetermined and if they have an obligation to help others even though they are victims, too.

A bit about me: I have a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a law degree from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. I previously worked as a prosecutor in Northern California, a political press secretary in Sacramento, and a newspaper reporter in Southern California.

Per your submission guidelines, I have included the first 250 words below. I appreciate your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
S.T.


THE MALATHION EFFECT

People say the Bellamy brothers will end up dead or in prison long before they reach adulthood, and some part of me thinks that might be true. Michael is my age and seems like he could float away at any moment, as if the earth’s gravity isn’t strong enough to hold him. I look to my right and catch the mischief-maker grin that lights up his face. His eyes are the color of Colgate toothpaste--the overly sweet blue gel kind my mom keeps buying even though I’ve told her not to. Gabriel is the opposite. He’s only two years older, but he walks around with his jaw tight and his shoulders sloped, as if he carries mankind’s sins on his back. I sneak a glance to my left, but he’s staring out the window of my brother’s VW bus as we drive up Highway 18 to Devil’s Creek Campground for a late-spring camping trip.

Michael tugs on my ponytail. “I’m glad you decided to come with us, Spammy Cami.” He has this thing where he likes to rhyme my name with ridiculous sounding words and I want to hate him, but I can’t. He’s the closest thing I have to a best friend. 

“Of course,” I say. “Someone has to keep you guys out of trouble.”

I lean into him, my head resting on the narrow, birdlike shoulder poking through his dirty gray T-shirt. I look down at my own clothes and feel grateful: clean jeans and a warm sweatshirt that smells like Tide.

An Agent's Inbox #23

Dear Agent, 

The last of her ancient order, Rapunzel refuses to sit in her tower and be hunted for the magic that now lives in her golden hair alone. Betraying the extraordinary abilities gifted to her through that very magic, she takes up arms and strikes back at those responsible for murdering her family as an assassin like no other. An assassin that won’t stop until the King burns. 

After a botched attempt on the life of the King’s one and only heir, Rapunzel unexpectedly finds herself squirming under the focus of the annoyingly charismatic leader of a growing rebellion group. Every task she undertakes for them forces her to delve deeper in to her past and pushes her towards a decision she hoped to ignore forever; embrace her magic and become the Light Keeper she was destined to be, or let the blood that stains her broken soul pull her completely in to darkness.

Light Keeper, a YA fantasy manuscript geared towards older readers and complete at 60,000 words, is a fairytale twist that will appeal to fans of Sarah J. Maas, Rosamund Hodge and Maria V. Snyder.

When my kids let me, I'm a writer, wanderluster, book nerd, Reiki Master and connoisseur of comfy sweaters and London Fogs. I’ve previously worked as a journalist for Alaska Highway News in Northern British Columbia and have published a motherhood column with them weekly for the past four years. 

As per your submission guidelines, please find the first 250 words of Light Keeper pasted below. The full manuscript is available upon request. Thank-you for your time and consideration. 

Regards,
B.Z.


LIGHT KEEPER

I am a shadow. 

Lurking. Waiting. My knife is cold against the flesh in my worn boot, my bow silent across my back. The patrons of the tavern slowly trickle from dulling their minds and senses with cheap brew and whores without even noticing me standing not three feet from them.

He emerges, loud and boisterous in his drunken state. Three barmaids support his weight out to the street and he rewards them with a firm hand on their bottom, a tongue to their turning cheeks and a casted eye to their chests that have been practically inflated with the pressure exerted by their girdles. They drop him in a heap and turn, giggling, back to the tavern that is still filled with men waiting for their turn. 

He lays alone in the street, sputtering and gagging on his own filth. I step away from the shadows, peeling them from my body like a film from a glass. My hand grasps the thick handle of my dagger, pausing as the swinging doors fly open once more and three men join my target. 

I return to the dark maw of the alley and scale the cobbled wall before swinging myself on to the unevenly tiled roof of the tavern, the gentle slope vibrating with music and voices below. Creeping to the edge of the roof, I peer down at the four men. They laugh and slap each other’s backs before thrusting their hips back and forth, igniting another round of obnoxious guffawing.

An Agent's Inbox #22

Dear Agent,

I am seeking representation for my YA contemporary thriller, THE LAST AMENDMENT, complete at 64,000 words. Framed around society’s festering racial divide, THE LAST AMENDMENT addresses the struggle many people still bear when dealing with race. It’s a story proving that the measure of one’s character is found in the heart, not skin, as the bond of brotherhood restores faith in a time of conflict.

War zones, firing squads, border disputes, bounty hunters, POW torture; all things found in a war movie. But for Barrington Prep seniors Ryan Taylor, Cooper McGill, Marcus Williams, and Michael Villalobos, that was last week. With graduation looming, they’d rather focus on their studies. But since Congress passed the last amendment to the Constitution, splitting the United States into three nations--New America for whites, Luther for blacks, and the Estados for Hispanics--life has become a constant struggle. Lately, though, it’s been hell.

It all started when, without warning, New America’s radical President-elect, Joe Lannister, authorized military strikes against both Luther and the Estados, sending the continent into chaos. Rather than deportation, Marcus (who is black) and Michael (who is Hispanic) are forced into a detainment camp for minorities. After a month of mental and physical torture, Ryan and Cooper help them escape and together, set off to get them home in a world lost to bigotry and fear. Their two-thousand-mile journey through and around said war zones, firing squads, and bounty hunters is colored by the personal pressures brought to bear on all of them in this new world; an experience that will haunt one of them forever.

I have been writing for twenty years, mostly made-for-tv scripts/screenplays and the occasional blog contribution. I also teach writing workshops for at-risk kids, many coming from diverse backgrounds. This story is inspired, in part, by them as a reminder that we, as a society, are better off when we embrace our collective differences.

At your request, additional materials, including the full MS, are available. Should you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact me. Thank you for your generous time.

Regards,
C.D.


THE LAST AMENDMENT

A layer of fine soot, fine as gun powder, covers the south-facing windows of the classroom. The window in the upper left corner has cracks etching from top to bottom, spiraling in parts like a spider web. The dust softens the images beyond the window, like looking through cheesecloth. The blue sky is silent, for a change.

In the distance, behind rolling foothills and a line of lush pines, black smoke spirals hundreds of feet into the air in a tight column. Burning tires maybe; nothing burns darker than a pile of tires. The smoke dances with an occasional flicker, putting me into an early-morning trance.

I’m still staring at the dancing smoke and gently rubbing the three-inch scar on my forearm when Marcus thumps the back of my head. He leans up to my shoulder before I can turn. “Hey Ryan, you okay, man? It’s only first period and you’re off in la-la land.”

I wake from my self-induced coma and scan the room to make sure our teacher didn’t see me disengaged. Barrington Prep Academy, Colorado’s most prestigious school--according to their brochure--takes a strict line against daydreaming, what my history teacher calls the rotting of our minds through fabricated imagery. He doesn’t get out much. Nobody really does anymore.

I’ve known Marcus for five years. Like me, he hails from the Denver suburbs. We’ve bunked at Barrington since freshman year, when we both realized that neither of us was likely to attract a better roommate.

An Agent's Inbox #21

Dear Agent:

Sixteen-year-old Hikala is an Inhikiod, one of the winged race who live high in their mountain cavern hives, never bothering to look down. Her life is flying the skies and competing in the Inhikiod flying competitions. After a reckless flying challenge injures a higher-ranking Inhikiod, she’s banished to the planet’s surface for a year, forbidden to fly.

Never having set foot on the surface, Hikala struggles to enmesh herself with the indigenous, non-winged Dawk--a race enslaved by the Inhikiod millennia ago. Only knowing the Dawk as servants in her hive, Hikala fights their hatred with the help of Tid, a Dawk who sees her as more than just an Inhikiod. He teaches Hikala fighting skills and helps her navigate the surface challenges of Aardee's bi-annual flooding and its vicious predators.

But as their friendship grows, so do the rumblings of a revolution. The Dawk want Hikala to become a linchpin in their fight to free themselves from their Inhikiod masters. But if Hikala stays to help the Dawk, to be accepted she must give up flying forever, ripping out her soul. If she returns home, she’ll break Tid’s heart and abandon her new friends to the vengeance of the Inhikiod.

Complete at 96,000 words, FIRST5, is young adult epic fantasy in the vein of James Cameron’s Avatar that will capture readers’ imaginations right from the start. It is a stand-alone with series potential. If you’re interested, I am happy to send you the completed manuscript.

Sincerely,
C.D.


FIRST5

Cradled by wind and sunlight, Hikala spun through the sky, a mirror to Sarwa’s flight. With a final triple flip, her blue and his violet wings joined together, ending their doubles sky dance with a colorful flourish. Reluctant to release all that freedom, Hikala floated on her back and screamed her elation to the sky, blue wings cupping the air beneath her. Sarwa only laughed in response, a wide lopsided grin spread across his face. He rarely expressed his joy as unabashedly as she did.

Hikala sighed, thinking the same thought she always did after every perfect sky dance. I want to forget the world and keep flying with Sarwa forever. But they had finished their doubles routine and needed to return inside for their score. Sarwa offered his hand which Hikala reluctantly took as they flew together to the King’s landing pad, the staging platform for this year’s Inhikiod Games. As they landed on the entrance platform to the huge cavern, raucous cheers erupted, surrounding them like a blanket. Hand in hand, Hikala and Sarwa strode across the stone floor while observers trailed behind them. Others touched them as they passed, awe and amazement reflected in their eyes.

From the silence of their dance and the whisper of their wings, the inside noise buffeted Hikala, heightening her sense of elation. With her wings tight to her back and twitching with excitement, she walked to the awards area to wait for the announcement of the winners.

An Agent's Inbox #20

Dear "The Agent,"

Eighteen-year-old Chrestienne hasn’t done anything evil--yet. But according to an ancient prophecy, it’s only a matter of time before she kills her first love and destroys her country, the kingdom of Renland.

Ever since mages confirmed her fate as a child, she’s spent her life in her family’s isolated castle, hoping rumors don’t spread. But they do. An assassination attempt on Chrestienne forces her to flee to the capital city in search of a normal life. Disguised as an illiterate messenger boy, She finds work and even befriends Sebastien, an artistic young nobleman. 

While running messages, Chrestienne discovers a plot to kill the queen and blame another country. She suspects Sebastien’s father might be the ringleader, and telling Sebastien could destroy their relationship. She might be falling in love with Sebastien, too, but she doesn’t want to kill him. 

Saving her country from war might be the only way Chrestienne can finally prove to everyone--most importantly, herself--that she can rewrite her fate. But when every step she takes to avoid it only stains her hands in blood, being anything more than a villain might be beyond her reach.

ESCAPING FATE is YA fantasy complete at 93,000 words with series potential.

Thank you for your consideration,

A.K.


ESCAPING FATE

Do you believe in fate?

Not destiny--the awe-inspiring future of heroes, but fate.

I do. I have no choice. Let me tell you a story.

Long ago there was a seer. She saw her first vision as a child, her last the day before she died. The last was about me.

Five acts will the dark child accomplish, four which will break the hearts of men:
A longed-for babe from the House of gryphons shall take her mother’s life,
A girl from the House of pines shall destroy her father’s greatest treasure,
A maiden with the mark of a scorpion shall pierce her lover’s heart,
A woman with a heart of iron shall weaken the kingdom’s defense,
A villain with no remorse shall bring her lands to dust and ashes.

She’d never been wrong.

#

I crashed through the copse of trees, cedar branches scraping my body, green needles clinging to my dark brown gown.

Breathe. I just had to breathe. 

Breaking through the trees, I raced into the meadow. Mountains towered around me, supporting the sky, their snowy caps rivaling the clouds. The world narrowed to this place, to the blue sky and the purple wildflowers. 

Pausing, I closed my eyes and forced a deep breath, letting the soothing scent of cedar and fresh soil wash over me.

I wanted Loys. No, I needed him.

I needed to bury my face in his white fur and feel his steady heartbeat near mine.

An Agent's Inbox #19

Dear agent:

Two weeks before high school graduation, Eve skips school and the country.

Her grandfather disappeared eight years ago somewhere over the Atlantic. He left behind a scribbled message about family business and an ancient coin Eve swore to keep secret. With no other family or reason to stay, she accepts a mysterious job offer that takes her to Rome, back to familia origins and her grandfather’s missed destination.

Working as an antiquity’s courier at La Galleria seems like a dream come true. Eve wastes no time to make use of her three talents: an innate knowledge of ancient languages, a wonky sense of psychometry, and the ability to eat her weight in pasta. She could go pro on the first and last, but the middle gifting was a problem child.

When handling historical relics, Eve expects the familiar buzz. A flash of lace, inexplicable emotions, but never words and definitely not sentience. She discovers souls embedded within relics. They plead, asking to go home. Ignoring them would have been safer. But she can’t dismiss the Sumerian tablet etched with the same symbol as the coin hidden inside her pendant. Now she must find a way to free the souls and discover what part her grandfather plays.

Eve follows the clues from La Galleria to high profile clients with royal titles and descendants of pharaohs. She must trust her extrasensory perception as she becomes embroiled in an underground soul-trafficking syndicate where souls are power and her’s may be next.

SOUL RIPPER, a 75,000-word young adult speculative novel with thriller elements like A Drop of Night and the international thriller of The Conspiracy of Us. 

My short stories have been featured in Go Read Your Lunch, The Urban Liaison, and The Idaho Magazine. I am also a contributing member of Treasure Valley Critiquers. 

I look forward to hearing from you.

Thanks!

A.D.


SOUL RIPPER

Turns out, using a shoe to find a loved one will get you blown up. No wonder Prince Charming sent someone else. Then again, I’m no princess. If my life were a fairy tale, it would be the Grimm variety. 

The name on my airplane ticket stub said Genevieve, but no one called me that. Most call me Eve. Other regrettable monikers like, Ton of Beef, were given by the all-state quarterback during a particularly ravenous lunch break. He shouldn’t have put his throwing hand where it didn’t belong--between my fork and last chicken nugget. The minor scratch reverted him back to kindergarten. The bovine simile stuck.

Mom said I made an easy target, impossible to miss really. It came with the territory of being over six foot tall. You get used to it, sort of.

No, I don’t play sports. 

No, the air isn’t better up here. 

No, that isn’t an Adam’s apple. 

It’s Eve. Just Eve.

Until yesterday, I was a high school student with a major case of senioritis. Today? A suicide mission flying the friendly skies. 

My legs pretzeled into the confined space littered with peanut wrappers and crumbs from a meal I didn’t remember eating. A generous Italian flight attendant took pity once we reached international waters and kept the vino flowing. My airline-assigned “friend”--the lucky person assigned to seat 44 A, mercifully shifted in her seat, taking her angry art deco earrings with her. For the last several hours she slept, snoring against my shirt, as her hostile drop earring pressed against my shoulder, yelling at me.

An Agent's Inbox #18

Dear Agent,

On a cloudless, hot and sunny morning in August of 1989, Chris Carter and Jimmy Vale began what would become the last sane day of their lives. The two inseparable high school friends were off on the adventure of a lifetime, a cross-country trip in Jimmy’s car that began in New York and would take them wherever destiny called. A fateful decision to go northwest on Interstate 90 instead of southwest on Route 66 would lead them through the North Woods of Wisconsin and into the hands of The Cleaner; the ancient servant of The One. Over the next twenty years, Jimmy embraces the evil and Chris, at first succumbs but eventually rejects it. Their contrasting tales of success and misery are the background to the investigation of a series of missing girls: girls that The Cleaner has disposed of.

FBI Special Agent Kimberly Watson is a certified genius, an over achiever, a loner and a rules breaker. There is a folder on her laptop titled “Dead Girls.” She lives for her work devoting every minute of every day to finding an end to the seemingly endless supply of missing people cases. Her idea of intimacy is a one-night stand. Her specialty is looking for connections in open cases, which might tie the victims together; not routine connections, things no one else would locate. What she finds is a connection between a series of disappearances and the lifestyle of the very successful, ever-youthful rock star, Jimmy Vale.

Her investigation leads her to Chris Carter, a man who has had his life ripped apart by circumstances way beyond his control. The two become allies in a battle against an evil that has existed in the North Woods since before the white settlers, before the Woodland Indians, before the mound builders. It is an ancient evil brimming with shape shifting, murder and cannibalism.

In a whirlwind mission that takes the reader across the country, Kimberly Watson must trust the research of a man who appears crazy. She has to break all the rules, to join with him and help discover the forces at work, find their perpetrators and then understand how to defeat them.

DEAD GIRLS is a thriller; a work of adult mystery and horror. Its 80,000 words and 275 pages will introduce you to characters you will want to see more of. The settings include New York City, Hollywood, Denver and the area of the North Woods in Wisconsin.

It is my third complete manuscript and the first I am offering to you for representation. I have painstakingly researched, completed multiple rewrites and searched for the agent/agency that I feel would be the best fit for them and me. I have followed you personally on Twitter and am aware of your reputation, enamored of your obvious enthusiasm for your clients and would consider myself incredibly lucky to be represented by you and your agency.

I have included the first 250 words below and hope they will entice you to request some or all of the remaining manuscript. Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,
R.T.


DEAD GIRLS

Part One: A Forest Dark

Chapter I: 1853

In the dream, he split his father’s face in half with the long handled ax, while the dog watched through shrewd hungry eyes: Thick, mucous-like drool dripped from the corners of its toothy canine grin. 

“Lijah?” his father’s angry voice called from the big room, rousing him form a state somewhere between dream and hallucination. “You gowna slep the whole day away? G****** boy, needs to get some fishin done so’s we can et tonight.” Elijah Elder sat up and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. He winced from the sharp and sudden pain in his ribs; a quick reminder of yesterday’s beating. The room he slept in was barely closet-sized and when he was sitting, his head brushed against the logs that provided the upper perimeter of his tiny bedroom. His mattress was straw on dirt and the door was nothing more than a scrap of old canvas from someone’s long ago discarded tent. 

When he parted the stiff cloths to slip out, the first rays of early dawn poked through dirty windows to give a smoky illumination to the one austere room that made up the Elder family’s cabin. It smelled of earth, fried animal fat and burnt pine. His mama, still sleeping, wheezed a low coarse snore through whistling lips and his father had already rolled over and gone back to sleep. It was the same every morning; the unchanging routine of a moonshiner.

An Agent's Inbox #17

Dear The Agent,

The first time you fall in love can pave the way in the journey of who you were always meant to be.

When high-school freshman Arielle falls in love with Blake, the cute new boy, she never expects to have her heart broken, but that’s what happens when Blake freaks out about the future and bails. It doesn’t take long for him to come to his senses and realize he and Arielle belong together, but Arielle is leery to go back down the same path. In the end, she can’t resist him so they get back together and give their young love another try. When it comes time for Blake to move from small town Ohio back to South Carolina, Arielle is devastated when he thinks long distance can’t work and breaks up with her a second time--on the same day her father dies. 

In Young Love (57,000 words, Young Adult, Contemporary Realistic), Arielle struggles with the ups and downs of her first love, a best friend she suspects is on drugs, and the loss of a parent, but still learns to stand on her own two feet in this modern day Sixteen Candles meets Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park.

This is my first Young Adult contemporary manuscript (The Loss of Innocence Series, Book One). My Young Adult fantasy series, including Above the Flames (April 2016), Surrounded by Flames (April 2017), and Conquering the Flames (to be determined) are published with Limitless Publishing. I am also active on Facebook [redacted] as well as Twitter [redacted] and on my website [redacted].

Thank you for taking the time to review my query. I hope to hear from you soon.

Sincerely,
C.F.


YOUNG LOVE

The bus rolled to a stop. The big, yellow, germ infested, smelly tank opened its folding doors, letting her in. Arielle hesitated, pausing with her hand on the bar she always used to pull herself up the steep steps. Her fingers trembled and her palm sweated. She should be hurrying as Mrs. O’Neil gave her the raised eyebrow, but there wasn’t a reason to hurry since the bus drivers had to wait if they could see a student. Arielle pulled her hand down and wiped her palm on her jeans, then reattached her hand to the bar and climbed the stairs this time, chalking her nerves up to first-day-of-school-jitters.

She smiled at the bus driver and Arielle could feel how lopsided it was. “Hi, Mrs. O’Neill. How was your summer?”

Mrs. O’Neill reached over, pulling the handle toward her to close the door. “Great, Arielle. It’s nice to see you again.”

Arielle nodded, stepping down the narrow aisle before her until she fell into a seat about halfway down. The seats were slippery, so she grabbed the back of the one in front of her as she slid to the window, leaning back and staring outside as the air from the brakes released from the bus and it trotted along. It didn’t take long to gain speed, and soon the bus flew along, way too fast. It was always like that. Arielle’s parents’ car never accelerated so quickly. She didn’t understand what the difference could be, since a bus was a lot bigger than a car.

An Agent's Inbox #16

Dear Agent,

A few years ago, as I was complaining about the lack of literature with lesbian characters, a friend of mine recommended The Miseducation of Cameron Post. I pick it up at the library the following week and it remains one of my favorite novels. Not long after reading The Miseducation of Cameron Post, I started writing A View From Pokhara. It is a memoir about travel, coming to terms with my queer identity and a bizarre relationship between me and a boy named Anup. It is roughly 90,000 words.

The moment I arrived, I knew I had made a mistake going to Nepal. I was a twenty-two-year-old na├»ve woman who had never traveled alone. More than once I got lost in Kathmandu’s confusing streets until I stumbled into Durbar Square and met Anup, a twelve-year-old street kid, wise in the ways of the world. He quickly saw my desperation. A short conversation and a cup of tea later, he had convinced me that I needed to take him trekking. Hiking in the Himalayan Mountains was arduous. Despite being in shape, I had never encountered anything so physically demanding. I grew ill, first from a head cold and then from altitude sickness. I wanted to give up, but Anup refused to let me. He had promised to be my guide but acted more as a cheerleader. Then he discovered my secret: I was in love with a woman. Instead of judging me, he dared me to confront my emotions and to accept myself as I was.

Books I admire include In Light of India by Octavio Paz, Memoirs by Pablo Neruda, The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemmingway, The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer and Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson. I spent many summers traveling. Recently, I earned an MFA from Fairleigh Dickinson University where I worked closely with Tom Kennedy, Walter Cummins and Minna Proctor. While at FDU, I worked as the assistant editor of The Literary Review. My stories and essays have been featured in several journals including Inside the Bell Jar, Italian Americana, Linden Avenue Literary Journal, Atticus Review, and Literary Explorer.

I can be reached by phone at [redacted] or email at [redacted]. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best Regards,
E.J.


A VIEW FROM POKHARA

Kathmandu
1997

Leaving the plane, I clenched my guidebook to my chest, took a deep breath of stale dry air and tried to wrap my mind around the fact that I had landed in Kathmandu. Korea was light years away and New York even further. Dog-eared pages, splotches of coffee and tiny red spider-like asterisks marred the pages of the book. Having committed places and facts to memory I felt prepared, a student ready to ace an exam. As I approached the exit, I was seized by fear when a child’s flip book rose up in my mind. An invisible hand snapped the photos, a sharp shuffle of forbidden images, tragedies that could occur.

As if to contest my anxiety, the guidebook clearly stated, “Nepal is perhaps among the safest countries in the world for women travelers,” Great! I thought, breathing deeply. For months, I’d been filled with apprehension. The whispered warnings and worse-case scenarios that my mother, the worry queen, had planted in my mind all those years ago blossomed anew. I pored over the pages on “Women Travelers” and “Dangers and Annoyances” in my Lonely Planet. Knowing that the country was safe reassured me, until the following sentence shattered my fragile sense of security; “However, as is the case in most countries, women should still be cautious, especially when trekking. Never trek alone.” Those last three words echoed in my head as I walked off the plane that first day, beating against my brain until I felt the swell of a minor headache.

An Agent's Inbox #15

Dear Agent,

When attempting to topple a crime boss you think is framing your wife for murder and your son for arson, it would be a good idea to check that they're not on his payroll. Doubting their innocence is another stumbling block. In IS THERE A WITCH DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE (Adult Mystery, 80,000 words), a satire of our greatest American pastimes: baseball, fame, gambling, adultery, murder, motherhood, fatherhood, and political corruption, our reigning pop idol is the son of the crime family Lou believes responsible for poisoning his pal and setting fire to the club they owned together. But Lou’s son is in the idol’s band and Lou’s former radical wife is wanted for questioning by the corrupt chief of police. Though Lou suspects his wife is guilty of many things, murder has not been high on the list. Until she mysteriously disappears, along with their son. Then Lou must confront his doubts while he fights to save his family, as only an out of shape, unemployed, former high school pitcher can.

Sincerely,
B.P.


IS THERE A WITCH DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE

At two minutes to noon, two weeks before Christmas, Lou Cooper was summoned into his boss’s office at Marvelous Memories, Inc. in Durham Crossing, Connecticut, where he’d toiled in pleasant anonymity for the past twenty five years writing catalog copy. There he was given two choices. He could take the generous package they offered, or be escorted from the building by security without benefit of fifty weeks of severance pay. Twenty minutes later, after choosing the former, he entered Gwen’s Styling Salon for his regular monthly trim, giddy and disoriented.

“I am now presiding over the waning days of my hair,” he announced as he stumbled toward the backless shampoo seat. “Why don’t you gimme a buzz cut,” he then told Gwen. “And, what the h***, let’s dye it blond.”

With an unexpected afternoon off--with perhaps the rest of his life off--Lou decided this would be the perfect opportunity to look in on Crunchtime, the heavy metal nightclub into which he and his wife had just sunk a boatload of money. Maybe he could persuade the owner, Hank Saunders, to offer him the Crunchtime account to launch his nascent PR firm, or an assistant manager position, or a role as part-time bartender or even a gig as talent scout. Gunning his eighteen-year-old Zephyr toward a familiar forbidden crossroads of a district no assemblyman had ever claimed, almost out of Bordenville but not quite East Ferry, Lou was more excited than he’d been in a dozen years.

An Agent's Inbox #14

Dear Agent,

By twelve years old, Ebele Xia Scott's spent half of her life auditioning and she's well on her way to stardom, having performed on Broadway's brightest stages. But Ebi's dreams go dark when her adoptive parents move the whole family to tiny Princeton, NJ. Now if she wants to act professionally, she'll have to audition for the local regional theatre's production of A CHRISTMAS CAROL. 

Ebi expects to awe her castmates with her experience and talent, maybe even teaching them a thing or two about real theatre, until she is forced to share her role with two other girls. Taking matters into her own hands, she concocts a series of sabotages to convince the girls a theatre ghost is haunting them, to scare them into quitting. What Ebi doesn't realize is an actual ghost is waiting in the wings, ready to lead her through scenes of her past, present, and future to show Ebi the importance of collaboration, friendship, and the magic of theatre. 

UPSTAGED, a middle grade contemporary fantasy complete at 51,000 words, is a retelling of Charles Dickens' A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Fans of the authenticity of Tim Federle's BETTER NATE THAN EVER and the heart of Raina Telgemeier's DRAMA will find much to love in UPSTAGED. 

I am currently an MFA student in Children's Literature at Hollins University. My short fiction has been published and podcasted. When I'm not writing (or reading!), I make costumes for the same Tony Award-winning regional theatre that Ebi snubs. I haven't met any ghosts (yet). 

Sincerely,
J.C.J.


UPSTAGED

DIRECTOR'S Theatre Ghost's NOTE 

Marley's dead to start off. That's necessary info, so when he shows up to chat with Scrooge, it's scary. People think of A Christmas Carol as a Christmas story, but it's a ghost story too. In fact, the ghosts are my favorite part. Which might not be surprising, since I'm a ghost too. But I'm not scary and I'm definitely not dead. We'll get into that more later. 

Right now, I want to introduce you to someone. Every few years a person's essence is so disruptive that it jolts me from my rest in McCarter Theatre's dusty, abandoned tower. Ebele Xia Scott is the loudest, and Scroogiest, I've ever heard in the fifty years I've hung around the theatre. Not that Ebi's greedy for money. She just really, really wants--other things. But you'll see soon enough. 

For now, just settle in. 

Relax. 

And enjoy the show. 

Act I, scene 1: 

Whoever scheduled Carol auditions for late August was as dumb as a doornail. By twelve, Ebi did not consider herself a method actor, but she still sat under the biggest air conditioning vent she found in the chaotic theatre lobby, and imagined herself on the cold, winter streets of a Dickensian London. Past the other child actors and their anxious, milling moms, the glass doors revealed a late afternoon hazy with heat.

An Agent's Inbox #13

Dear Mystery Agent,

Thank you so much for your participation in this contest! I’m looking forward to your insights, and can’t wait to read your reactions to the entries.

ONCE UPON A WITNESS is an upper middle grade of 60,000 words. This fairytale mashup is ELLA ENCHANTED meets SHREK, in which an enterprising ex-princess discovers that the Organization of Fairy Godmothers is using the Island of Witness Protection to dispose of anyone who doesn’t fit their idea of a happily ever after.

When Princess Esme finds herself unjustly banished to the Island of Witness Protection by her manipulative Fairy Godmother, she’d do anything to return home. But her trouble is only getting started. While digging into the Island’s secrets, she learns that her frenemy has taken over her kingdom and imprisoned her friends, and that her Fairy Godmother has no plans to bring Esme back. Unfortunately, getting off the Island without her Fairy Godmother’s help seems impossible. The Maphea (Magicians Against Princesses Happily Ever After) guards the secret, and Esme’s only allies are the reportedly evil creatures a nice princess wouldn’t claim as friends. As her misfortunes grow--she’s chased by wraiths through a dungeon, her pocket dragon tries to kill her frog prince friend, and she unwittingly unleashes the magic of a deadly basilisk mirror--Esme wonders if her Fairy Godmother could be right. What if she doesn’t deserve a happily ever after?

In addition to writing middle grades, I work as a content editor for Red Adept Publishing. I also write romantic suspense under the pseudonym Lily Black. Storm of Attraction will release from RAP in spring of 2017. My MG novel NinChicks took third place overall in the SCBWI Carolinas 2013 fiction writing contest, and first among middle grades.

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


ONCE UPON A WITNESS

Chapter One: Wherein the Princess Befriends a Dragon

In Fairyland, a princess should never run. Neither should she hide. And refusing to take tea with a visiting Prime Minister? Any princess worthy of the title would rather sleep on a pile of frozen peas.

Yet I was doing all three.

I dodged around another corner of the castle, and squeezed into a small side closet. I kept my fingers on the handle of the door, so it didn’t quite latch. Feather dusters tickled the back of my neck, and bundled sheets pressed close from the shelves around me. In the darkness I listened.

I heard the tramp of many boots walking by my hiding place, and the stiff rustle of women’s full skirts. His honorable Sir, the Prime Minister of Kingdom Hogsmallow, must have recruited half my lords and ladies to help him look for me.

Once they’d passed, I stepped out and walked quickly down the hall in the direction they’d come from. Two minutes of careful walking and cautious watching later, I slipped into a tiny side parlor where I knew I’d be safe. My old nurse, Gertie, was the only person who used this and she would never tell on me. Truth, she’d probably hide me. Unfortunately Gertie was in the small bedroom behind the parlor, taking her nap, so I’d have to sit tight and wait for her to wake on her own and help me out of my mess.

An Agent's Inbox #12

Dear Mystery Agent,.

The RMS Titanic, a stolen pocket watch, and a coded message plunge energetic and impulsive twelve-year old Savannah James into the depths of a mystery. While attending a Titanic exhibit, Savannah and her best friend Zach accidentally foil a heist and end up with a stolen artifact--a pocket watch from the famous ship with a cryptic message engraved inside. Savannah is certain the riddle is the first clue to a mysterious treasure. She enlists Zach’s help and the pair embarks on a quest to decipher the code and find the treasure before the thieves discover they have the watch and come after them. Adventure and intrigue ensue as Savannah and the crooks vie for the treasure in my middle grade novel, THE TITANIC CAPER.

THE TITANIC CAPER is 45,000 words and complete. Although written as the first in a series, it can stand alone. I am an active member of the SCBWI and Savvy Authors and am currently studying with author/mentor Joyce Sweeney.

Thank you for considering THE TITANIC CAPER, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,
L.J.B.C.


THE TITANIC CAPER

The sign said Ticketed Passengers--line up here.

That’s me.

I ran to the bottom of the gangplank, grabbed both sides of the railing and leaned back as far as my arms would stretch.

“Wow.” I stared at the hatch at the top of the ramp. “That’s the gateway to another time and place.”

On the other side of the door, I pictured elegant men and women strolling down the corridors, greeting one another with old-timey manners and kisses on gloved hands. It was a scene right out of those old black and white movies I used to watch on television. And soon, I was going to be one of them. You know, elegant and mature.

I couldn’t wait any more--I had to see what was up there. Dignity, smignity. I ran up the gangplank.

Heavy, clunking footsteps from behind shook the steep walkway.

“Savannah, wait up.”

“Nuh-uh, Zach. You catch up. I don’t want to be late.”

“Come on. I’m like four steps behind.”

“Okay. But hurry.” I stopped and turned around to wait for my best friend. “Our boarding time is scheduled for one o’clock.” I held up two tickets with a drawing of a grand ocean liner and waved them in Zach’s direction. “That’s in five minutes.”

“I don’t think it’s going to take us five whole minutes to walk the plank.” Zach grinned at me. “That was a good one, wasn’t it?”

“Uh. No,” I replied.

“You just don’t know what’s funny."

An Agent's Inbox #11

Dear Agent,

In SIMON GREY AND THE MARCH OF A HUNDRED GHOSTS (MG historical fantasy, 45,000 words), twelve-year-old Simon goes to sea to flee from his “gift” of seeing ghosts--and finds, when marooned in Tokugawa Japan, that only what he fears most can save him.

London, 1620. Simon Grey signs up as a cabin boy on a ship bound for Japan, hoping that a long sea voyage will provide some relief from the ghosts he sees wherever he goes on land. But a shipwreck leaves him stranded alone on the shore of Japan--which, under the new Shogun, is now a much more dangerous place for foreigners. And when the Shogun’s advisor, the sorcerer Daima, learns of Simon’s ability, he imprisons him, determined to extract his “secret” by any means necessary. With the help of yokai (quirky spirits from Japanese folklore), Simon and his fellow prisoner Yukiko Winter, daughter of an English sailor-turned-samurai and a yokai snow woman, escape and try to find a way home. But when Daima kidnaps Yukiko’s father, and Yukiko surrenders herself as a ransom for his life, Simon must persuade the yokai to help rescue them from the Shogun’s stronghold of Edo Castle.

Yokai will be familiar to readers of Kathryn Tanquary’s THE NIGHT PARADE, or fans of the “Yo-kai Watch” video game and anime series. The success of this franchise (with over 400,000 units of the video game alone sold since its U.S. release last November), along with the “Pokemon Go” boom and the recent theatrical release of “Kubo and the Two Strings”, all suggest that Japan-themed fantasy is experiencing a new surge of popularity, and Simon Grey stands poised to ride the crest of this wave. The book could stand alone or inaugurate a series (the second book is already in progress).

My debut short story, “Let This Cup Pass from Me”, is due to be published in New Rivers Press’s American Fiction #15 anthology in November. Other manuscripts of mine have won the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Colorado Gold Award (Action/Thriller, 2013 and 2016) and made the finals for the Pacific Northwest Writers’ Association literary competition (Mystery/Thriller, 2013), the Killer Nashville Claymore Award (2013) and the Adventure Writers’ Competition (2015). When not writing, I teach English at a Japanese university, dividing my time between the suburbs of Tokyo and Mount Desert Island, Maine.

Thank you very much for your time and attention.

Best wishes,
C.K.


SIMON GREY AND THE MARCH OF A HUNDRED GHOSTS

It was time. I couldn’t stay in London any longer; I had to go to sea again.

I went down to the docks at Rotherhithe on that fateful summer day in 1620, hoping for a ship with an awe-inspiring name like Red Dragon or Scourge of Malice. But the only vessels anchored there were an East Indiaman called the Nutmeg and a cargo fluyt called the Mayflower. The names didn’t leave much to choose between them.

I tried the Mayflower first. “Excuse me, sir?” I called to the captain, dressed all in austere black except for his white ruff and stockings. “Could you tell me where this ship is headed?”

He gave me a cursory glance. “Southampton to take on some passengers, and then America. To start a colony in New England.”

“Do you need a ship’s boy, sir?”

He looked hard at me, and I could tell what he was thinking. Why does this boy want to go to sea? He looks a bit too well-kept for one of the usual cases: orphaned, or running away from cruel parents, or sent away to make one less mouth to feed.

And he was right, but I wasn’t about to tell him the real reason just yet.

“Very well, then,” he finally said.

I stepped aboard. I hesitated to ask another question, but after my last voyage, I had to be sure.

“Sir, I hope you won’t think I’m mad, but…has any of your crew ever said anything about ghosts?”

An Agent's Inbox #10

Dear Agent,

THE BETTER MAN, a YA science fiction novel complete at 63,000 words offers something of a YA twist on FIGHT CLUB in that the alternate (and more stable) personality attempts to keep the weaker original personality suppressed instead of sharing time in the body.

Jared’s headaches are getting worse. Bystanders might point to his purging, Pedialyte-based diet, or the stress of being a seventeen-year-old prescription drug dealer as likely causes, but Jared knows the truth.

Adam, the original personality, is pushing his way back.

When Adam ejects him from the body, Jared finds himself on the outside looking in for the first time in four years. Adam complains he never expected to be gone for four years when he gave up control of the body. Before he couldn’t handle the world due to his paralyzing depression and anxiety, but now Adam’s on a mission to regain his life.

As far as Jared's concerned, Adam isn't a viable option, as he’s already tried to kill the body more than once. However, seeking help from Adam’s family and friends is a risk – if they discover Jared’s only the alter, they may choose to keep the original and destroy him in the process.

Sincerely,
J.S.


THE BETTER MAN

Jared struggled to focus through the worst headache he’d ever experienced. It’d been two days of feeling the combustion engine in his head rev and watching the tachometer needle jump. Upshift, downshift--it didn’t matter. Nothing helped. The RPM continued to skyrocket, and he was about to redline thanks to the stream of garbage that spewed from his girlfriend’s mouth.

“So I was telling Taji how I have the water cold when I brush my teeth. But she has it warm, and that’s so nasty.” Candice yammered as the car idled at the traffic light. 

Jared drummed his fingertips on the steering wheel and blocked out the discussion of ideal water temperatures. He filtered most of the stupid things Candice said. He didn’t care how beautiful she was, how intelligent she wasn’t, or that he could sleep with her if he wanted. She was considered a prize among his friends. They wanted her, and he was always the better man.

Prize or not, what I wouldn’t give for silence. The pain in his head disintegrated his bulls*** sifter and her nonsense sailed through to further gum the engine.

“Amber sided with me about the cold water. But it can’t be like ice cold--”

“Babe, do you have any Codeine?” He ran his hand across his face. The pressure was overwhelming. Mixing the Codeine was dangerous, but what was the greater risk? If he chewed the pill, it might enter his system quickly and he’d be able to drive home.

An Agent's Inbox #9

Dear Agent,

In Grace, NC, everyone knows what everyone else is doing. That is until murder turns almost everyone into a suspect in UNEASY GRACE.

Taylor Markesan, former soccer star and recent new-girl nobody, and Jay Slade, loner, swim star and favorite victim of the town bully, meet unexpectedly at a high school assembly where the principal announces that a popular student is missing. Instantly attracted to each other, Taylor and Jay attempt to ignore the rumors swirling around them and concentrate on getting to know each other, but when the missing boy is found, brutally murdered, Jay is viewed with suspicion because of his family’s connection to a similar murder, and Taylor finds herself reluctantly dragged into the controversy through a series of mysterious texts that appear to provide clues linking the two crimes. Despite their growing attraction to each other, Jay can’t understand Taylor’s fascination with the murders, and Taylor can’t overcome her worries that Jay’s reluctance to confront his families past and present actions may be keeping him from facing ugly truths. When the coffin of the twenty-year-old murder victim uproots itself in a violent storm, a fire that may have been started by Jay’s brother breaks out in the middle school, and a provocative DJ with close ties to Taylor is shot, the two seniors must reexamine their views, assess their priorities and try to find a way to trust each other and unravel the complex connections between their families and the two murders.

Told in dual POV, UNEASY GRACE, a 70,000 YA mystery about hidden identities, deep-rooted secrets, and elaborate cover-ups that pits family against family, friend against friend, and boyfriend against girlfriend, is not only the story of two murders twenty years apart that have eerie similarities, but also the story of two people who try to make sense of the violence that rocks their town and their families.

A former high school English and creative writing teacher who learned much from my students about the complexities of growing up, I continue to learn through critique groups and courses, workshops and conferences offered by SCBWI, AWP, Writer’s Digest, and KITLIT College. I’ve written another YA novel as well as an MG fantasy. My work has been chosen as worthy of merit in the 2012 San Francisco Writing Contest, 2015 Rate Your Story Novel Contest and 2016 Sun vs. Snow and Pitch Madness Contests.

I appreciate your time and attention to my work. The first 250 words are included below.

Sincerely,
S.T.P.


UNEASY GRACE

He lifted the fork to his mouth hardly listening to his mother’s prattle about her happy childhood in Grace. They’d lived here now for almost ten months and all of the wonderful and charming things that had been a part of his mother’s girlhood seemed like wispy myth to him; the friends, the picnics by the river, the serenity of the moonlight were as foreign to him as life on some distant planet. 

“My friends and I loved to explore the old cemetery near Front Street, “his mother said, leaning her head back against the scratched wood of the dinning chair and staring up as if some long-ago remembrance was imprinted on the ceiling.

Jay chewed and closed his eyes against his mother’s memories, but the minute she said “friends” the image of a lifeless body, blood oozing down a pale neck came anyway. He choked and coughed unable to get the gruesome picture out of his mind. If he stayed here, he’d be sick for sure.

His brother Mike stared at him; his mother stopped talking and frowned. What could he say to them? “I need some air; it’s too d*** hot in here,” he blurted.

“Language, young man,” his mother admonished.

“Sorry, Mom,” he ducked his head to her and brushed her check with a quick kiss. “I’ll be back in a few.”

His mother pushed her arm toward Mike, her fingers circling his wrist. “Now don’t you jump up and leave too.”

Mike’s expression implored rescue.