Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Ding! Round Two!

The second round of "An Agent's Inbox" is officially underway! Entrants, please remember to critique at least three other entries. Everybody else, feel free to critique as many as you want! (In fact, you might scroll through the entries and comment on the ones that haven't gotten as much feedback, just to spread the love around.)

I'm sure the entrants are looking for any kind of feedback, but if you want to be thinking like The Agent, you could answer 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 winners and the prizes on Tuesday, August 2. See you next week!

An Agent's Inbox #25

Dear Secret Agent,

During Taylor Schuman's freshman year in high school, she exposes a secret that unravels like a snagged thread on a prom dress. Taylor's crushing on her BFF's stepbrother Kyle. Though he barely speaks to them, Taylor hopes he'll ask her to homecoming. One tiny problem--Kyle has a girlfriend.

On the hunt to find the perfect outfits for Spirit Week, the girls discover Kyle's mother's obituary in the attic. It says she was in a coma for a year before she died. That's weird, because they were told Kyle's mother was killed instantly in an automobile accident. Trying to get Kyle to notice her, Taylor shows him the obituary. Tension builds, more like an explosion goes off when Kyle realizes his father lied to him. Except his father's an attorney--he wouldn't lie. A trip to the library isn't exactly the dream date Taylor envisioned, but searching for the truth reveals that Kyle's mother wasn't the only one who died in the accident. After further digging, the pair discovers the identity of the survivor from the other car, Taylor's blind next-door neighbor. Taylor is shocked to learn that she was pregnant at the time of the accident and wants to know who her child is. Taylor uncover a new secret, a hidden adoption, and confronts Kyle's father about this adoption. She knows he's lying and she has the paperwork to prove it. She must decide whether to tell the truth in order to help her neighbor find her child, at the risk of losing her friends and destroying a family, or stay silent--which Taylor isn't prone to do.

A SPECIAL SOMEONE is a young adult mystery (70,000 words), a story that deals with complex issues: death; friendship; and why do parents lie to their children? I am a member of the Society and Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).

Thank you for your time and consideration.



It was my freshman year in high school when I exposed a secret that unraveled like a snagged thread on a prom dress.

“Are you sure your mother wore mini skirts?” I asked.

Malorie and I ran up the creaky staircase into her attic, a dark, traditional jumble of junk. We were on a mission to find disco outfits for Spirit Week. The 70’s were weird. I couldn’t picture my mother wearing a short skirt, too revolting, given her current uniform of black sweatpants and baggy men’s shirts.

Taylor, I’ll take this side,” she pointed her finger across the room “and you look over there.” We started moving boxes off of boxes.

Hidden behind luggage, I found a bin filled with sporting equipment. “Cheerleading tryouts are next week,” I said, smiling down at Kyle’s old Pee Wee football helmet.

“Are you nervous?” Malorie stopped to glance at me then tucked her curls behind her ears.

“What if I don’t make it?” The unknown frightened me.

“You’ll make it.”

More than anything, I wanted to believe her. More than anything, I wanted Kyle to ask me to homecoming.

I worked my way over to the back corner and noticed a wedding dress hanging from one of the rafters. The garment’s gorgeous details shimmered in the dim light. As I pulled the gown toward me the fabric, at the bottom caught on something. I tugged carefully, trying to free the delicate material. When I lifted one side of the dress up, I discovered a large wooden trunk with brass fittings.

An Agent's Inbox #24

Dear Agent,

The last thing Kenz Grayson wants to do is switch high schools right before her senior year. Especially if it means going back to the town where she buried her family secrets, along with her father, seven years before. Unfortunately, that's exactly what her mom's making her do. With little hope for the year ahead, she goes, and watches another chapter of her life close behind her.

Everything changes when Kenz meets Lincoln James. Even though she's warned he's a total serial dater, she finds him irresistible. It doesn't take long before they're inseparable. Except that's when Kenz starts noticing just how many things are blocking her way to true happiness. Then again, with a car accident that almost kills her mom, a sexual abuse allegation against Lincoln, and the truth behind a super-secret operation in his past--she has a lot to worry about.

Kenz is well knows for choosing flight over fight. This time, will she find the strength to fight for what she really needs to be happy?

A NEW DAY is a YA contemporary romance, complete at 67,000 words. It will appeal to smart, fun readers who also enjoy books such as The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen and The Book of Luke by Jenny O'Connell.

Thanks so much for your consideration and I look forward to hearing your comments!



I slammed the car door and rushed past the men putting pieces of my life into a big white truck. I didn't stop until I was right between my mom and the two movers she was leading toward our house.

"What are you doing? It isn't time yet!" I resisted the urge to climb into the truck and push my things back out. Barely.

"Not now, Kenz." We watched our couch emerge through the front door. "You have two nights left to mope around. They're only here for the big furniture right now."

"I'm not going, Mom. I hate it there and I’m not going." I crossed my arms and blinked back tears. The fact I should be embarrassed crossed my mind, but I was too pissed off to care. They weren't supposed to touch my stuff until I was ready. Definitely not today.

"We've discussed this. We're going home." She turned toward me and put one finger in the air as soon as my mouth opened. "Spend tonight with your friends. Tomorrow will be busy and we leave first thing Sunday morning. Both of us."

My original plan was to give one last rational argument for staying in Missouri until I went to college. Seeing the moving van in my driveway a day earlier than expected pushed all my rational thoughts to the side. I left without saying another word.

An Agent's Inbox #23

Dear Amazing Mystery Agent,

Since you’re generous enough to participate in Krista’s contest, and I’m sure you represent some very talented authors whose books resemble mine, I think my manuscript would be a good fit for you.

Sixteen-year-old burn victim Rissa McCall expects sand and sun when she’s shuffled off to Egypt with her little brother Andy during their mother's honeymoon. But while staying with older sister Sophie, Rissa barely has time to enjoy the luxurious resort before a man is killed and someone locks Rissa and her brother in a burning building. The only non-sucky part of the vacation is when she meets seventeen-year-old Rutgar. He ignores her scars and treats her like a ‘Normie’ (a non-burned person). At first, she’s totally psyched a hottie is interested in her, but crashes back to earth when clues point to him being the murderer.

The resort community is hiding a dark secret, but so are the McCalls--each sibling has special powers. When barracudas attack divers and dead birds fall from the sky, Rissa discovers a fabled pharaonic artifact, the Black Ankh, is behind many strange events in the seaside town. She must decide who to trust and outwit enemies who are determined to gain the Ankh's power. If she manages to find the ancient relic, she must re-bury it--unless the whispers in her head can tempt her to use it, which will damn her soul forever.

I’m seeking representation for THE BLACK ANKH, a 70,000 word YA Dark Fantasy/Mystery. I’ve traveled, worked, and lived in Egypt for the past twenty years and use these experiences to write novels set in this exotic and ancient country. I’m planning a platform site based on Egyptian lore and history. THE BLACK ANKH stands alone, but has series potential. My short stories have appeared in such publications as: Beyond Centauri, Niteblade, Spaceports and Spidersilk, and such print anthologies as: Pill Hill Press: Rotting Tales, Blood Bound Books: Rock is Dead, and Whortleberry Press: Christmas Anthology.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



The Normies were staring again.

Rissa fiddled with her fork and avoided their eyes. Even in an Egyptian resort where everyone was a stranger, she was the strangest.

Music crescendoed, and she glanced up as her older sister sang a clear, high note. Beneath the spotlights, Sophie glowed like a golden-haired angel--if angels wore stilettos, mini-skirts, and showed cleavage.

Rissa’s fork banged onto the plate. She couldn’t leave until Andy came back. He was her responsibility, not Sophie’s, no matter what their mom said. Maybe he was lost again. She rose and wove between candlelit tables. The nearest guests paused between mouthfuls, so she tugged her sleeves down, hiding scarred flesh.

Dancing couples parted before her, and she hurried into the garden where crickets chirped their own romantic ballads. Ripe dates from overhanging palms lay scattered on the path. Her boot heels smashed them into the concrete. At the Red Sea Divers sign, she turned toward the restroom building, eyeing the surroundings. Her eleven-year-old brother was nowhere to be seen. How did a kid who could see the future have such a bad sense of direction?

She knocked on the men’s room door. “Andy? It’s been fifteen minutes.”

A high-pitched scream shattered the cricket concerto. She spun and searched the darkness. Sticks snapped as something blundered through the bushes opposite the bathrooms. She shrank back against the wall.

Andy burst through the hedges, his face pale. “Rissa!” He grabbed her hand, dragged her through the underbrush to a shed, and pointed through the open door.

An Agent's Inbox #22

Dear [Agent],

I was represented by the Claire Gerus Literary Agency and we recently parted ways amicably. I see that you are looking for YA sci-fi and thrillers, and I’d like to show you MANAS, complete with series potential at 75,000 words.

Zellie, a prodigy spy with pink hair and a penchant for knitting, is sent to London to acquire Oliver, a smooth hacker with geeky good looks and access to genetics firm Pyxis. Zellie’s link to the ‘Project Manas’ data, hidden within the Pyxis mainframe, sends the pair on a speeding adventure through the bowels of London’s punk underground to romantic Paris streets and murky Venice canals. Can Zellie uncover the missing pieces of ‘Project Manas’ before a rogue agent with murderous intentions catches up to her?

In addition to years of professional editing, I have extensive experience writing professionally in both traditional print and online media.

Attached below are the first 250 words, as per your request. I would be honored if you would consider representing MANAS.

Thank you for your consideration and attention,


“Any time you’re ready,” I whispered into my headset. “I’m a go on your signal. Of course, I’m comfortable where I am, too, if you’d like to continue taking your sweet-a** time.”

Fifty stories below me, Trey grunted. “Keep your pants on, little one. You’ll get your shot. This isn’t as easy as it looks.”

Through our camtacts--nanobot technology built into contacts--I watched Trey lunge again at the metal backdoor in the subway station. My viewer, attached to my wrist, showed four quadrants with different locations. Each contained a direct link to the rest of my team--Trey, Jace, Marienne and Emerson. Altogether, a deadly quintet.

The reception on Trey’s quadrant fuzzed as he made contact with the rusted metal. “Have you even broken a sweat?” he asked, most of his attention focused on busting down the back door into the building to use as our escape route.

“I am a sniper, not a strong-armed brute,” I said sweetly. I was teasing him, but part of me wanted action, which I wouldn’t get unless something went wrong. Such is the role of the mission lead--boring.

“Never send a woman to do a man’s job.”

“Will you two shut up? You’re interfering with my feed,” Marienne snapped. Our resident hacker, she sat in the cafĂ© across the street. I watched her orange fingernails click across the laptop’s keyboard. “OK, I’m waiting at the gates of the system mainframe. Your word and I’ll get the door.”

An Agent's Inbox #21

Dear Agent,

When Andy gazes through his catcher’s mask and flashes the fastball sign to his brother during a high school baseball game, little does Andy realize it’s the last communication he’ll ever have with him.

Andy, a solid defensive catcher with a weak stick, is fortunate to have a spot on the talent-packed varsity baseball team in his senior year at a new school; whereas his younger brother, Daniel, still a junior, is the team’s ace. With his 88-mile-per-hour fastball and six-foot-two frame, Daniel has Major League scouts drooling.

Andy and Daniel share a messy bedroom, a passion for playing baseball, and a pact to always be best buds. They also share painful memories of their dysfunctional childhood. Andy, however, is the one burdened by issues, including low self-esteem and anxiety; a shaky relationship with his father; and the hideous scar covering half of his face, a result of his now-absent mother having steam-pressed his face with a clothes iron when he was a toddler.

Midseason, Andy and Daniel are trying to close out a no-hit game when a batter belts a comebacker that nails Daniel in the head. Daniel collapses on the mound. Shortly after being airlifted to the hospital, he passes away. While Andy is on a leave of absence from school--his emotions raw: grief, denial, anger, confusion, guilt, and loneliness--his team advances to the championship game. Andy is sure Daniel would have wanted him to go back to school and play in the big game. But can Andy find the strength?

BATTERY BROTHERS is a 52,000-word young adult novel with a strong sports theme. I have 12 years of experience as a professional copywriter, and my in-depth knowledge of baseball comes from my own experience as a college team player. Thank you for your consideration.



“Give the ball a ride, Andy!” Daniel rested his tall, wiry frame against the brick schoolyard wall.

I assumed a batting stance--knees slightly bent, knuckles aligned, right elbow cocked, eyes glued on Jason Huckabee, the pitcher.

Jason spit on the blacktop and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. Jason was about six foot, stocky. Me, I was just a regular-sized seventeen-year-old.

I twirled the stickball bat, my breath clouding in front of my face.

Jason planted his gorilla-sized sneakers on the chalk-drawn pitcher’s line. “Two down. Nobody on. Seven to three--good guys.”

“Bring it,” I muttered. A gust of wind slapped the scarred side of my face, making my left eye twitch.

If Daniel had been pitching in today’s two-on-two, brothers vs. brothers stickball game, our cousins Jason and Nathan wouldn’t have any runs. No bull. Daniel’s 88 mile-per-hour heat would have done the job. But Daniel doesn’t pitch tennis balls. Not anymore. Not after being tagged a phenom and scouted by the pros. The risk of him throwing out his holier-than-holy arm at the age of sixteen was too great.

Jason wound up, a herky-jerky motion. The pitch smoked in high and tight, forcing me to backpedal.

“In the box?” I asked, grinning at him.

“Just missed,” Jason said, scooping up the rebounding ball. The pitcher, having the best view of the 32-by-24-inch box sprayed on the wall, got final say on balls and strikes.

An Agent's Inbox #20

Dr. Agent Inbox:

In a post-apocalyptic world, Azure Lane starts her first day as an instructor at the mandated school. But the dark secret that permeates through Room 0 doesn’t take long to rear its ugly head. And it’s only the beginning. Of the worst school year ever.

THE NEW BREED, a 50,000 word count YA horror novel, twists into the dark realm of YA when Azure realizes that if the students don’t perform up to standard, they are disposed of. Literally.

But there is no way in h*** that she is just going to stand by and watch the peril unfold. She came to fight. Yet, her misguided attempts at heroism become a tangled web of right and wrong. Because, let’s be honest, sometimes it gets a bit muddled in there, especially when immediate death is an option.

I thank you for considering my creation. The complete manuscript anxiously awaits your call.

Best Regards,


Across from the schoolhouse, Lyla and Ingrid step out of the Red Line onto Landing E. Her baby is in a bright teal dress with curling white ribbons that loop in the back. Her dark brown hair is pulled back in braids that mimic the ribbons and form a perfect bow.

To the right, the door to Landing F slides open and Sloane and Kieran file out. She dressed him in an argyle sweater vest with a cream pinstripe underneath. I smile at Sloane. Kieran grins back a toothy smile, with big rosy cheeks. I’m sure Sloane added a little rouge to get that glow, but I won’t give up her secret.

“Kieran looks great.”

“Thanks. I was going for professional, yet playful.”

“Well, frankly, you nailed it. But did you see Lyla’s baby? In the teal with the ribbons?”

Sloane looks straight over to where Lyla and Ingrid are awkwardly working out the inevitable.

“Oh, wow. She looks awesome.”

“I know, perfect.” I let my eyes linger a quick second. Maybe I could do Roe’s hair like that.

“Well, let me see you Little Miss Thing. Now where could she be? Roe? Roe? Where is my dazzling Roe?”

Roe can barely see her from underneath her exaggerated striped hat, but it was just too cute to pass up. Her little hand curls around my finger. She beams up at Sloane.

An Agent's Inbox #19

Dear Agent,

Seventeen-year-old London Howell is stunned when the girl he finds rummaging through his closet claims he "created" her. But before he can get her to the police, he's confronted by the House of Dering. As the city’s ruling family, the Derings maintain the order and secrecy of the city’s magi. London learns that he's a magus, and the only way to determine how he created the girl is to find a sieve, someone who can siphon magic and reveal his abilities. Sounds great, except sieves aren't listed in the Yellow Pages, and London's not interested in leaving his ailing dad to chase fairy tales. That is, until his dad goes missing.

A magus' power lies in his soul, which can be ripped free and harnessed as a weapon, and the Derings aren't the only ones who think London's got one h*** of an arsenal. With his dad abducted by an unknown enemy, London must accept the help of the Derings, including Abby, the beautiful but exasperating Dering princess with a penchant for kicking him.

Saving his dad means uncovering where the girl came from and what, exactly, London is, but as the search for answers grows desperate, he begins to question whether the Derings are his protectors or his captors. Add to that the fact his dad's been keeping some pretty serious secrets, and London has no idea whom to trust. Now, he must piece together the truth before he loses not only his dad, but his soul as well.

SOUL WITHOUT A BOY is complete at 80,000 words and is set in modern-day England. Its opening pages placed as a finalist in the YA category of Wisconsin Romance Writers of America Fabulous Five contest. My short fiction has been published in Daily Science Fiction, and I have a degree in Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.



On his thirteenth lap around the block, London Howell spotted the monster watching him. It was crouched against the wooden post of a neighbor's mailbox, little more than a shadow with large-knuckled fingers that raked at empty air.

London stifled a groan. Sprinting through his neighborhood at midnight was annoying enough without an unwanted audience. He stopped to catch his breath beneath a lamppost, his hand braced against the cool iron.

The monster across the street moved, shifting on spindly legs that trembled like branches in a storm. Its eyes glowed in the dim evening.

London had learned that if he ignored the monsters hard enough, eventually, they went away. Didn't help his doubts about his sanity, but at least it had worked. But they'd been showing up more frequently in recent weeks, and the watching-him thing was new. Pretending something wasn't there was a lot harder when it was staring at him.

His mobile vibrated in his back pocket and, with a glance at the screen, he picked up.

"You sound like a goat on the rack," Amun said in greeting.

"How," London asked between breaths, "do you know what a tortured goat sounds like?" He shook out his legs, but it didn't help. Even running for three miles hadn't burned off the energy. Great. He considered just rolling into a ditch and letting the monsters have their way with his bones. Or whatever it was they wanted.

"Animal Sacrifices Hour. Wednesday nights at eight. Bring your own blood bucket."

"Brilliant mental image. Thanks."

An Agent's Inbox #18

Dear Agent's Name,

I am a writer of literary fiction who recently received a fellowship to Ragdale to work on a novel-in-progress about a family of downwinders in northern Arizona. I noted from your list for this competition that you represent literary fiction.  I would like to present to you my completed novel, a dark literary work that could best be described as Crime and Punishment in first century Palestine.

Didymus wants to forget his father sold him into slavery for the price of a broken donkey and a few coins. He wants to erase his memories of murdering his abusive master to escape to freedom. And he succeeds. Almost. After ten years of struggle, he has reinvented himself into a successful caravan driver in Tiberias.

But when his business partner, Nathaniel, acknowledges he's revealed Didymus' crimes to a man named Jesus of Nazareth, Didymus realizes the secrets in his past could destroy the life he has so carefully crafted. If Jesus turns him in to the Roman authorities, he faces arrest and crucifixion. He will do anything--even kill again--to prevent that gruesome fate.

He pursues Jesus from Capernaum to Jericho to Jerusalem. But he never expects to fall in love with the mysterious Tabitha, a former leper who claims she was healed by the Jewish prophet. Now he must choose: lie to the only woman who has ever cared for him, or risk losing her forever by telling the truth.

THE BLOOD OF A STONE is complete at 95,000 words.

I hold an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and am the recipient of a creative writing fellowship from the Arizona Commission on the Arts. My short fiction has won awards from Writer's Digest National Writing Competition, Wind Literary Magazine, New Millennium Awards, and the Dallas/Fort Worth Writer's Conference, among others. Other short pieces have been published in print and online.

Thank you for your time and consideration. Per your guidelines, the first 250 words are pasted below.

Best Regards,



The red-bellied spider crept out of the crevice in the wall, picking her way carefully over the rough-hewn rock. This was her domain. The trench between the stable wall and the hillside had been filled with trash and debris, providing a ready breeding ground for her insect prey. Spinning out a slender thread, she dropped perilously close to a thatch of tangled black hair.

The hair belonged to a boy who was oblivious to the danger lurking above. Last week or two weeks before that--he didn't know the exact date--he had reached the age when most young men seek a wife. But this man-child was not destined to marry. Didymus was a slave.

Balancing his bare feet on a mound of rotting fruit, Didymus squeezed deeper into his hiding place where he could watch the argument between the Nabataean and Nathaniel unobserved. His master, the Nabataean, wanted Nathaniel to travel to the great city of Petra to purchase a pair of camels. It had been almost a year since Didymus's father had sold him to the camel driver for the price of an ancient donkey and a handful of coins. The other slave, Nathaniel, had become Didymus's only friend and a shield from the Nabataean's abuse. Now the master planned to send Nathaniel away. Fighting back his fear, Didymus strained to hear their discussion.

Nathaniel didn't raise his voice--he would never do that to their master--but he was angry.

An Agent's Inbox #17

Dear Mystery Agent,

I hope you enjoy this little bit of JIM AND JACK, a story aimed at and beta-read by boys ages 12-16. Nine out of ten said they'd read a sequel and would recommend it to friends. The tenth wanted a vampire in it.

When fourteen-year-old Brian Edwards finds a box in the attic filled with old newspaper clippings and a signet ring just like his grandfather’s, he realizes that he’s stumbled across the family secret: Jack.

With Grandpa Jim going into assisted-living, Brian's dad decides that he and Brian should move to the Ohio River island where the Edwards family has lived since 1802. Resentful about his new life in the boonies, Brian's negative attitude is stalled by his discovery that at age fifteen, Grandpa Jim was framed for a crime by an identical twin Brian has never even heard of. The twin died suddenly with no explanations, and Grandpa Jim has not spoken of him since. Brian feels badly for his grandfather, but he has his own problems. The past would be the last thing on his mind, if he could just stop turning up clues about Jack.

Brian's present-day story alternates with Jim and Jack's in 1929. When Jim unwittingly decides to pursue his twin's secret crush, Jack retaliates with a series of poor decisions that end in his mysterious death. The stories converge in the last few chapters. When Brian finds out what really happened to Jack, his own troubles are quickly put into perspective, and Grandpa Jim can finally make sense of the past.

At 56,000 words, JIM AND JACK is a younger YA realistic literary mystery which includes a potentially interactive glossary of historical references. I am a sixth grade language-arts teacher working on my master's degree in gifted education, as well as an amateur genealogist. The story is loosely based on actual events that happened in my own family in the early 1900s.

Thank you for your consideration.



Jack awakened early, the island still in slumber except for the songbirds, whose chaotic warbling kept him from rolling over and going back to sleep. He listened for the different voices, identifying first a thrush, then a cardinal and a robin. A mourning dove cooed its gentle trill and he could hear the distant tapping of a woodpecker.

A jay screeched overhead, breaking the peacefulness of the moment. Jack rolled over in the half-light to examine his identical twin, asleep in the other bed. Jim was lying on his side with his mouth slightly open, a light snore issuing softly with each breath.

“Jim!” Jack hissed. His brother remained motionless, pajama-clad legs entangled in the white cotton bedspread.

With a grin, Jack reached over to the desk and tore a corner off some scrap paper. Wadding it up, he tossed it, aiming for Jim’s mouth but missing, the pellet landing instead in the dark curls of his brother’s hair.

Jack sat up and tried again, managing to land the crumpled paper near his twin’s right eye. Jim, still asleep, rubbed his hand against his brow, but fell back to deeper slumber. Jack aimed his third try more carefully, and the paper landed right in Jim’s mouth.

The results were impressive. Jack gaped as Jim sat bolt upright, choking, an expression of confusion and consternation on his face. Coughing the offending wad into his hand, he shot an accusing look at Jack. “What was that for?” he demanded, bleary eyed.

An Agent's Inbox #16

Dear (Agent's Name Here),

Three years ago, Naomi Williams was wrongly convicted of murder. Now eighteen, she’s awaiting a transfer to an adult prison when she receives a mysterious visitor. The man reveals that he’s a government official responsible for her imprisonment, but that’s the least of his bad news. The abusive boyfriend Naomi killed in self defense was the son of an important Renegade leader. Now the Renegades--a U.S. based terrorist organization--want her dead.

Her best chance for survival lies with the secret agency to which her visitor belongs. Naomi is assured that working for the government will allow her to fight back against the Renegades and avoid further jail time. All she has to do is make it through training and she’ll be ready to take on the terrorists. When her first assignment ends with an unexpected rescue, Naomi isn’t sure what to think. Especially since the boy she saves seems to have quite a few enemies of his own.

James Knox, a member of a notorious street gang, is used to watching his own back, until he angers a rival who would’ve killed him without Naomi’s interference. Once his wounds heal he gets a chance to thank her, only to find that Naomi isn’t particularly comfortable trusting him.

In trying to cut her tenuous ties to James, Naomi accidentally gives him enough information to uncover the truth about her employment. Now she’s caught between accepting his help in her fight against the terrorists and pushing him away for his own safety. If the government finds out what James knows it could mean death for both of them.

THE RECRUITED is a work of YA fiction, complete at 84,000 words. It is the first in a potential trilogy, but capable of standing on its own. Thank you for your time and consideration.



Chapter One: The Offer

Naomi Williams ran, tearing over the grass towards the concrete wall sixty yards away. She had maybe half a minute left to reach it, thirty seconds to push her legs as hard as they could go until she was out of time. Off to her right, clumps of uniformed girls paid her little attention, glancing up only after she’d blown by them.

Ten seconds. Five. Naomi slapped a hand against the wall just as the loud, metallic buzz of an industrial bell called them back inside. Breathless and panting, she braced both hands against the rough surface and leaned forward, dark hair hanging in her face as she stretched out the backs of her calves. There was never enough time for everything that running entailed. If she chose to stretch properly beforehand that took five minutes off her running time. If she didn’t, the cramps hit sooner. It was a battle she couldn’t win.

Raising her head, she craned her neck to see past the top of the concrete. From where she stood, the barbed wire curling along the top of the wall blotted out part of the sky.

“Williams,” a woman’s voice barked from near the entrance to the yard. “Get over here.”

Naomi drew a hand across her forehead, trying to wipe away some of the sweat. It wasn’t like she could go inside and put on a clean outfit. In juvenile prison, there were no changes of clothes at midday.

An Agent's Inbox #15

Dear Mystery Agent from ‘An Agent’s Inbox’,

Thank you for participating in Krista’s, ‘An Agent’s Inbox’. I very much enjoy her blog and am grateful for the opportunity to introduce you to my work.

I am seeking representation for my realistic young adult/crossover series, The Children of Inaos. The protagonist, Ava Shore, leads her country in an uprising against its suppressive government, with the help of eight other misplaced souls. Think modern day Egypt and Lybia, cloaked in a riveting fictional tale whose characters remind you of your best friends, siblings and children. They are in the throws of normal adolescent angst and the leaders of a revolution.

In the first book, Sacrifice, Ava is thrown into servitude after watching her own government murder her mother. She spends three years in captivity, and then reemerges into civilization only to have the King’s murder placed on her head.

Ava flees to the most dangerous part of the country and receives protection from the most feared gang in the land. She falls in love with a member of the gang and is content with hiding. But the government’s relentless pursuit forces Ava to make a stand. She loses what she loves the most, and gains the fervor to hide no longer.

The Children of Inaos: Sacrifice, the first in a four part series, closes at 120,000 words. It is my first non-technical piece, as currently I am an Engineer by trade. I enjoy releasing my creativity through writing, acting in theatrical productions and singing in the local music scene.

Thank you very much for your time and consideration. The first 250 words are found below. A complete manuscript of the first book is available upon request.



The man without a name walked silently down the damp, dark hallway. He didn’t need light. He had been here many times before.

If he was any other man, he would think about things, meaningful or insignificant, as he walked along by himself, answering the summons from his boss. But he wasn’t any other man. He was a man without his own name, his own thoughts, his own feelings. An outer shell that encased nothing, because there was nothing inside.

Time didn’t have meaning. He waited till he was summoned, performed the task asked of him, and went back to waiting. If he cared, he might have thought about what he was like before he was nothing, but he didn’t care. He was a tool, a weapon, no more.

At the end of the dark hallway, he grabbed for the handle that couldn’t be seen but was there. With ease he placed the key in the lock and turned it. The earth shattering screams hit him as soon as the door was open a crack.

He didn’t even flinch.

He had the fleeting realization that he wasn’t being summoned for the task that was already underway. He didn’t think to question what he was needed for. What did it matter? He was asked to come, so he came.

The click of the door behind him sealed in the bloodcurdling screams. The man followed the sounds of terror and the pleas of innocence.

When he reached the cell at the end of the hall he stopped in the shadows and waited, watching.

An Agent's Inbox #14

Dear Agent's Inbox,

Seventeen-year-old Jerome Harold Prewitt III is not the first to fall from the pillars, but he is the first to survive.

To protect identities, everyone has a title. Jerome’s is “The Boy,” which does not convey much importance. But from age twelve, he has suspected that someone is out to get him. It could be nothing, but when a jungle cat attacks him in a suburban cemetery, he panics. He’s fortunate the girl with brown eyes he just met (sitting on her own headstone, no less) knows how to handle wild animals.

Over the years, she returns again and again to save him as attempts on his life continue. That is until the latest assailant takes her by mistake, leaving Jerome falling from the pillars--the massive structures that support whole neighborhoods miles above the polluted surface.

Now Jerome is stuck in the Underworld, a debtors’ work camp, with no one to rely on but himself. As he searches for answers as to why anyone would want to kill him, or save him for that matter, he learns the Brown-Eyed Girl has her own secret--one that could lead to the end of the world if discovered by her abductors. She's a time-traveller. All Jerome has to do now is find his answers, stop the attacks, rescue the damsel, get home, and save the world. No big deal.

THE GIRL WITH BROWN EYES is an 84,000-word YA fantasy. I have included the first page. The full manuscript is available upon request.  Thank you for your consideration.



"You shouldn’t do that.” The Boy narrowed his eyes and glared with all the indignation called for in such a situation.

"Do what?" The target of his fury, a girl no older than he, swung her legs back and forth.

At twelve and not old enough for a title, the Boy kept his focus on himself, but he had stopped his daily walk through the cemetery at a sight even he could not ignore.

The girl had brown eyes, but as for her other features, he had not taken the time to notice them. He found something else far more interesting. "What you’re doing, sitting on that headstone there."

"And why shouldn’t I?" Her question seemed genuine, but the Boy could not fathom how she could not see the issue with her actions.

"Because. Someone died there."

The Brown-Eyed Girl brushed an orange leaf from the headstone. "No they didn’t. Not one of these people died here. They all died at home in their beds, or abroad in the world, or wherever it suited the world best to have them die."

The Boy paused in surprise at her response, but could not deny she was right. Few people died in cemeteries, and even fewer died in the spot they were to be buried--the rare exceptions being people who were buried alive of course. "Well, I’m sure that person doesn’t want you sitting on his headstone.”

"Oh, I’m quite certain she doesn’t mind."

The Boy jolted. Who did she think she was? He puffed up his chest. "And how can you be so certain?"

She ran her fingers through her hair and shook it loose. "Because,” she said, “this headstone is mine.”

An Agent's Inbox #13

Dear Secret Agent,

The Orange Lake sheriff has ruled Hap Taskett’s death a simple drowning. But for Hap’s eighteen year old daughter, Leanne, there’s nothing simple about it. Especially when her wild older sister Claudette insists--despite all evidence to the contrary--that she is responsible, then disappears down the highway without even a goodbye.

With her father's dilapidated motel crumbling around her in the slick North Florida heat, Leanne prepares an escape of her own: college, marriage and all the trappings of a normal life. Then Citra Starke, a strange backwoods girl, appears on her doorstep and despite her instincts, Leanne takes her in as a sort of surrogate sister.

But Citra has more connection to the family than she lets on, and she hopes to uncover keys to what she believes was Hap’s murder. Now, careful Leanne must track her missing sister and piece together the secrets of her father’s life--and death--if she is to salvage what’s left of her tattered family.

ORANGE LAKE is contemporary, “book club” fiction, an edgier, Southern Where the Heart Is. It is told in alternating points of view and is complete at 83,000 words.

I grew up in Florida and spent several years teaching in the rural communities around Orange Lake. I’ve also attended the ***’s Master’s program in Creative Writing (where I won a teaching assistantship) and have been fortunate to work with many talented writers--including ***, ***, and ***-- while developing my craft. I’ve published several poems and a few short stories in literary magazines such as *** and ***. I am an active member of *** Writers community.

I've included the first 250 words of my manuscript below.



Leanne watched as Daddy pushed the canoe into the shallows, his rolled-up jeans already soaked through at the knees. Her sister Claudette sulked in the bow. They expected Leanne to come along but it’d been years since family outings, and today was no day for one: wind hissing across the lake, sky the dull white of an old sheet.

Daddy tilted his head toward the vacant middle seat. “Come on.”

Leanne hesitated. She had no desire to witness this latest argument, whatever its origin. Claudette was pissed, Daddy too, though also jittery and tense.

Leanne would be off to college soon. She didn’t need them.  The wind plowed her short bangs from her forehead and numbed her cheeks. She shook her head, started up the slope to the lodge. It was the one time she’d refused them.

And later this seemed the hinge on which the whole day turned.  If she had just gone ahead and played her part, the good girl, the calm in all their bluff and bluster, none of the rest would have happened.

She was standing at the kitchen sink when she heard the shouting: tourists with high, frightened voices. “Holys***! Holys***!” honked over the lake, like the call of some strange bird.

She ran out to the stoop, but the canoe was nowhere in sight. Instead, a bass boat headed for the put-in. And Claudette hunched inside it, her face all fury and fear. The boat scraped up on the ramp.

Where was Daddy?

An Agent's Inbox #12

Dear Agent:

A steam-powered Earth, where civilised men live in the skies and the land is a battleground, is facing annihilation. The only one who can save it is a disaffected young man who would rather watch it all burn.

The dystopian society aboard the flying city of Himmelberg has robbed eighteen-year-old Konrad Adler of his parents, his home, even his right to exist as a member of society. All he wants now is to find a place where he can live in peace, but that will be a long road for Konrad. Lord Dragomir, who conducts gruesome experiments on people, has a special interest in acquiring Konrad as his next subject.

Desperate to avoid landing on the Lord's operating table, Konrad stows away on a salvage gyrocopter. When the gyro crashes in the wilderness, Konrad finds himself hunted by both Dragomir and the savage synari whose martial prowess forced normal humans into the skies. As peace eludes Konrad, he finds himself at a crossroads--turn and fight Dragomir or simply save himself.

The journey will take Konrad across the Atlantic, battling sky-pirates alongside the alluring, yet aloof Zylphia, to the trenches of battle in the Carribean and back again.

Aetherstorm is a young-adult steampunk (for contest purposes this could be YA light fantasy or alternate SF, either is true) adventure at 77,000 words.

I am an army veteran and a member of the SCBWI. Thank you for your consideration.



Konrad Adler wormed his lanky frame up the steam conduit, and tried to ignore the burning in his shoulders. The duct had been shut down for maintenance moments earlier and the heat was enough to suck the air straight out of his lungs. In five minutes it would be cool enough for the cleaning crew; he had that much time to sneak into Otto Dragomir's laboratory, steal a couple of vials and escape.

Sweat ran in a steady stream down his face, heat and nerves drew moisture from him like a wrung sponge. Normally Konrad avoided anything that whiffed of criminal enterprise, he picked through refuse to sell, or ran errands for half-pennies to help his father out. That would not cover it this time though, they needed some serious coin, or he and his father would be finished.

He squirmed past the sixth access hatch. The brass wheel that opened the seventh hatch, the one leading to Dragomir's laboratory, was just a floor above. Another minute of squirming through the thick, oily air brought him abreast of his destination. Konrad reached out to turn the wheel, but the metal seared his hands. He choked back a gasp of pain and rolled his sleeves over his hands to try again. The wheel would not turn.

Konrad shifted his position and pressed his back against the duct wall. With only a thin layer of algensilk fabric to protect him, his skin began to scald within seconds.

An Agent's Inbox #11

Dear Mystery Agent,

Since your identity is a secret, I can’t begin my query with the reasons I chose to query you, but since one of the genres listed in the competition brief was YA contemporary,  I thought you might be interested in CHASING THE TAILLIGHTS, my 87,000 word contemporary YA novel told in alternating POVs.

Lucy and Tony share only their genetic code and a love of rock music. Tony’s the driven high achiever, the champion diver destined for greatness. Lucy’s biggest concern is getting Cute Guy from the burger joint to ask her out.

After a car accident kills their parents, Lucy and Tony are forced to rely on one another--and decide whether to reveal their secrets. Tony has a crush on Jake, his best friend, while what Lucy knows about the accident is so devastating it sends her into a spiral of self-destruction.

As the siblings struggle to overcome a lifetime of past conflicts and jealousies, they discover they might have more in common than they ever thought.

My short stories have appeared in Halfway Down The Stairs, A Fly in Amber, Daily Flash Anthology, The Barrier Islands Review, Death Rattle, Drastic Measures, Residential Aliens, Cutlass and Musket: Tales of Piratical Skullduggery, and Rapunzel’s  Daughter: After the Happily Ever After, among others.

Per your submission requirements, you will find the first 250 words below. Thank you for your time and consideration.



The darkness is absolute. I’m not sure if my eyes are open or closed. I strain to push the lids up, but they’re already wide. Something covers my mouth and nose, making breathing difficult. My lungs burn for air, but I can only suck in tiny mouthfuls through whatever smothers my face.

I turn my head, crying out as a savage bolt of pain shoots through it. Teetering on the edge of consciousness, wavy grey lines waft across the blank space before my eyes. I struggle to keep my wits about me--what’s left of them--fighting the darkness threatening to drown me. Certain now I won’t pass out, I gasp for breath. There’s nothing covering my face. It was the ground my nose and mouth were pressed into.

The ground?  Wet. Greasy. Reeking of something that reminds me of…gas? Reaching out my left hand, I try to find something to hold onto. My fingers scrabble over small objects, pebbles perhaps, that skitter away beneath my touch. I reach further, wrapping my fist around them. Pain prickles my fingertips. Not pebbles. Glass. Small, sharp shards of glass.

Using my torn hand, I drag myself forward, an inch, maybe two. I can’t move my legs, can’t even feel them. Raising my head, I see light. Not a lot of light, but light. Red light, bright at one end, dull at the other. I know what this is. I do. My heart thumps at the side of my head and I can almost hear the gears of my brain creaking to make sense of this weird red glow.

An Agent's Inbox #10

Dear Agent,

Seventeen year old Olga finally has a plan: make Random notice her as more than the girl next door. She’s only been in love with him ever since they bonded over their horrible names in kindergarten.

Just as Olga dares to hope her plan is working, lightning strikes during their first spring sail on Lake Michigan. She barely saves his life and they’re rushed to the hospital. There, a nurse orders some tests which reveal Random has leukemia. So much for the saying “lightning never strikes twice.”

The cancer is treatable, but Random develops a defeated attitude after breezing through life until now. Olga decides to write her own prescription in the form of a list titled “18 Things.” The list consists of eighteen quests they must accomplish before his eighteenth birthday. Now all she has to do is learn how to heli-snowboard, pull off the perfect prank, break a world record--oh, and cope with interferences from her strict mother, a smitten head cheerleader and Random’s cynicism. What she doesn’t count on is discovering the beauty and strength within herself, and his secret love for her, in the process. Time for a new plan: persuade Random to believe in the same lesson she’s learned on their journey. Pain is the price you pay to love, and it’s worth it. She must risk her own heart, but if she fails, she risks losing her soul-mate forever.

At 75,000 words, 18 THINGS is a coming-of-age story about friendship, love, and the turmoil of real life. In its own unique way, it could be described as a young adult version of The Bucket List meets A Walk to Remember with some unexpected twists.

After working with adolescents as a youth group volunteer and teaching elementary school for the past ten years, I feel connected to today’s young adults. I’m a member of SCBWI, YA-RWA, RWA-PRO and Southwest Florida Romance Writers. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society already agreed to review the book upon publication in its national newsletter. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Very Best Regards,


I needed a change. The first of April caused me to realize I’d been a fool carrying a secret crush for Random Lee since kindergarten. The hair dye was step one in my master plan of making him notice me as more than the girl in pigtails he used to chase at recess.

“Why does my shower look like a scene from a slasher movie?” I ask my best friend Nicole, towering over me. She laughs diabolically, pretending to wield a knife. “This is not funny. Did you read the instructions right?”

Cocking her head to the left, she says, “Hang on, this may hurt a bit.” She scrubs in the conditioner and rinses fiercely.

Five minutes later I study the color in the mirror. “Crap.” Although curls turn darker in winter when Michigan doesn’t see sunlight, it had never before been devoid of all brown and gold.

“You look like you dyed your hair with Kool-Aid,” Nic comments, not helping.

I pick up the box and examine the photo. “I don’t understand. It warns the results may vary slightly from the color in the picture, but this isn’t even close to Strawberry Blonde.”

Nic gives me a one-armed hug. “You’re red-hot, Olga. If Random can’t see that, then he’s the fool.”

I still cringe at the sound of my name. My parents wanting to honor my Russian grandmother, they dubbed me Olga Worontzoff. They had good intentions, but whatever, the world is full of those. Case in point, my debauched hair.

An Agent's Inbox #9

Dear Agent:

Sixteen-year-old Jessica Jacobs is a super spy, a famous actress, and a princess.

Okay, not really, but she likes to daydream she’s all of those things and more. So when she wakes up with a medieval knight pointing his sword at her throat, Jessica thinks it’s just another daydream. Until she realizes that, 1- dude is actually causing her neck to bleed, 2- her dress is so hideous she never would have daydreamed herself into it, and 3- Zac Efron is nowhere in sight.

After pondering her sanity at length, Jessica is left with one option: ride out her time in Crazy Medieval Land until she can figure out a way home. Unfortunately, riding it out means working for the Count’s slutty daughter and doing her best to avoid Lord Pervy’s wandering hands. It sucks being the peon instead of the princess.

Enter Lord Alric, AKA: knight-in-freaking-hot-armor. It would be easy to let him protect her, but Jessica refuses to be a damsel-in-distress. She convinces him to teach her to swordfight, and amidst her inner pleas for him to take his shirt off, she falls for his selflessness and playful smile. Could time have brought them together? And if so, why are so many people conspiring to keep them apart? Like Lord Alric’s parents who betroth him to another. Or Lord Pervy who decides that if he can’t have Jessica, then no one will.

Happily ever after was so much easier in her daydreams.

Daze and Knights is an 87,000 word YA time-travel novel about an average girl facing the kind of adventures she always imagined. I have started a sequel where Jessica finds herself in Virginia during the American Revolution.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



Chapter 1: Blake The Snake

He was supposed to be my knight in shining armor. My prince charming. The guy who would sweep me off my feet, treat me like a princess, all that stuff.

He wasn’t supposed to be the guy who kicked me out of his car more than four blocks from my house before speeding away without looking back.

Worst. Date. Ever.

I daydreamed about Blake Chapman asking me out since middle school. His sandy blond hair and cocky smile were enough to make me woozy. In a good way.

Too bad he didn’t actually like me. He only asked me out to make my best friend jealous. When I wouldn’t dish the dirt on Dani, pay for dinner, or give him any (in that order), he dumped me on the side of the road. Now he makes me woozy in an I-want-to-vomit kind of way.

“I can’t believe he would do that!” Dani whispered during Algebra the next day. “He always seemed like a nice guy.” She flicked her eyes to Blake who sat with his head down, texting underneath the desk.

“He probably wouldn’t do that to you,” I whispered back, trying to keep the bitterness from my voice. Plucking at the pages of my textbook, I avoided looking in his direction.

“Oh Jess, I would never go out with him. What a jerk!”

I couldn’t stop my gaze from straying towards him. “Yeah.”  He looked up then, noticed me looking, and smirked. Crap.

An Agent's Inbox #8

Dear Agent,

Getting into a car accident was the second to last thing Maggie Lyons expected on prom night. The last thing she expected? Finding out she’s part machine.

Turns out, there are a lot of things Maggie didn’t suspect. Like the fact she almost died when she was four. And her parents let a stranger replace her broken parts with technology more advanced than anything on the Syfy channel. Or that her geekoid next door neighbor, Tommy, is hiding in the backseat of her car when she runs away in the middle of the night.

But that’s just the way her weekend is going.

Now Maggie and Tommy are on the lam in a stolen car, running from the police, the doctor who might be on to her condition, and the bald dude with a seriously bad attitude tailing them. Tommy would give anything to have her newly manifested strength, but Maggie’s not so keen--even a simple tickle fight could turn deadly. All she wants is to find her Maker and get her human parts restored.  As they follow clues on a cross-country road trip, Tommy totally cramps her style, but he is beginning to distract her from the guy who wrapped his car around a tree on prom night. That’s problem in itself--geek love is definitely not a part of Maggie’s plan. If only she can find her Maker, maybe, just maybe, she can go back to life as normal.

Then Maggie meets the others like her. Turns out, there’s a lot more to be afraid of than winding up under a microscope.

I’m seeking representation for CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE CYBORG, a YA science fiction novel complete at 71,000 words. I have a MS in Arts Administration from Boston University and as the former marketing director of a professional theatre, I can actively promote my work.

I understand you’re looking for young adult projects, including science fiction. Per the submission guidelines, the first 250 words of CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE CYBORG are enclosed below. I would be happy to supply additional sample chapters or a full manuscript upon request.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



Weightlessness is a funny thing.

One moment ago, Dean and I were joking about the stupid, lime-green dress his ex-girlfriend wore to prom. His cheeks dimpled when he laughed.

Now his car skids over the embankment. Our bodies are a blur of pink satin and black tuxedo. My insides lurch and jerk, like knots trying to untie themselves. Dean's face is a blank sheet of confusion and me, well, I don't know how I look but I'm sure it isn't pretty. The freefall ends when we hit the tree. All that remains is pain and panic. And noise. All kinds of noise. Screams, creaks, and cracks from all sides. I can't feel my legs or arms, but I'm standing and screaming and tugging at the crumpled car door.

Dean's stuck. I have to get him out.

Gas fumes sting my nose and burn my chest. I tear the door off the car and nearly tear Dean's arm off, too. He tumbles out and I drag him toward the field. The car explodes, flames consuming it in a burst of red and orange. The force throws us back from the wreck. I sit in the long grass in my tattered dress, barely aware of the hot metal in my hands or Dean unconscious at my side. I can't tear my eyes off my left arm.

It's ruined.

The skin's ripped open, gaping from wrist to elbow, but I hardly bleed. I try to make sense of it, but my arm isn't right...

An Agent's Inbox #7

Dear 'The Agent',

BRYNNA'S HEART is my debut YA contemporary novel with first-person narration, alternating between the two protagonists, Brynna and Beckett. It is complete at 95k words.

Beckett is a nationally-ranked high school football star with a successful future just begging for him to arrive. But then he meets this girl…and she is pretty and funny and amazing and everything a girl should be and everything he ever wanted a girl to be. Only he meets her in the hospital where she is recovering from her 6th open-heart surgery. Adam introduced him to Brynna. Adam is Beckett’s first friend after moving to Mentor, Ohio from Northern California. Adam happens to also be Brynna’s very best friend since preschool. So this is the girl Adam never stops talking about.

Beckett’s mother believes he is throwing away his future by choosing to be with ‘this girl’. Beckett must convince her and everyone else otherwise. Brynna must learn to trust Beckett because sometimes people do stick around, even if you get sick. Adam must learn to share his best friend while letting go of the love of his life.

And one night, their lives will change forever. Brynna’s heart fails. As they wait for a heart, the news of the accident travels fast. Miraculously, and with many deciding factors involved, a heart becomes available. Tragically, it is from someone Brynna knows. Her friends are being wheeled into the ER downstairs, one by one, from the car accident. Adam was in one of the cars.

I am highly qualified to tell this story because, like my protagonist, I grew up with congenital heart defects. It was trying to be a teenage girl with an 8-inch jagged red scar running down the middle of my chest. I know exactly how it feels to be a teenager in the hospital and many of the scenes ooze with memories from my life. I am a national in-demand speaker and writer for the American Heart Association and other non-profit organizations. I am a current SCBWI member.

I am happy to share my manuscript with you.



I had this dream that I was lying in bed, half-naked, with two good-looking boys on either side of me. As a 17-year-old girl, that’s a fairly decent dream to have.

Only…it wasn’t a dream. It was real.

And the two good-looking boys were Carter and Adam, which is totally gross because Carter is my brother and Adam is my best friend. My bed was actually a hospital bed and my half-nakedness was due to the fact that I had changed from my cute pajamas to an ugly hospital gown. Us long-term kids are allowed to wear our own PJ’s unless we are having a procedure done.

And you know what? Heart surgery sucks. This I know. In fact, I am a bona fide expert. I can tell from the look on Dr. Ingraham’s face, as he slides closer to the ultrasound screen, that I am going to need another surgery. Mom is standing behind him, forcing a smile as if to tell me everything is copacetic. She is grinding her teeth and her eyes are glassy which tells me otherwise.

I feel tears begin to well in my eyes. Why do I have to cry? I just can’t blink because tears will fall and everyone will know I am scared. Don’t blink. I rub the back of my hand against my nose to stop the drip. The plastic tube scratches the inside of my nostrils. Stupid oxygen. All around my room is the evidence that I am sick. Again. Monitors are everywhere; machines are beeping; tubes connect me from my IV to the bags of fluid hanging from metal poles.

An Agent's Inbox #6

Dear Agent:

Seventeen-year-old Jess Kaplan is a saboteur. Her biggest target--herself.

Relationships don’t stand a chance with Jess after the loss of her father, for which she feels partly responsible, and the gradual realization that the only man she ever loved is dead. Despite the academic and social-networking possibilities, school has merely become a show and Jess, the expert player, has fooled all but the forbidden RJ Montag who intuitively winks his way into her life from the quad below the Mt. Escala High School balcony. But, for as long as Jess can recall, Kaplans do not consort with Montags, which perhaps intrigues her further, but likewise offers the built-in excuse to allow her inner-saboteur to strike. Though RJ’s bright-blue eyes with the dark rims, his broad chest, and the silky way he says her name, gives her every reason to persist.

LIFE IS CLASSIC, a contemporary YA complete at 89,500, is a juxtaposition of the modern teen with classic literature and film. It is a product of those distressing high school years when I, like Jess, lost my father, became a relationship saboteur, and learned early on that heavy s*** and teenage drama can, indeed, coexist. Today I have a front row seat on said “s***” and “drama” from a new perspective--that of a teacher and confidante.

Thank you for the opportunity. Looking forward to hearing from you!

Best Regards,


He walked across the quad like he owned the place, capturing the desirous eyes of females in every direction, exuding confidence and indifference. As I stood up the stairs from him at the little balcony on the main level, I watched too. There’s no harm in looking. But that would be where it stopped. RJ Montag could never be more than that to me.

First, I would have to get in line. But more importantly, my mother would never have it. There was some long-running feud between the Kaplans and the Montags. Never spoken of. Never resolved. And the product, RJ and I ran in different circles; we’d just never really crossed paths. Until today.

The first bell had rung, indicating the end of lunch. I was lingering at the top of the balcony delighting in this quintessential So Cal November afternoon. Cool air. Warm sun. My favorite. I’d also slipped into a bit of a trance. RJ was down below, floating through the middle of the quad--the pit as we called it. My heart beat faster. I was marveling at his beauty. He didn’t fit in here. He seemed too good for us.

I was up on my toes all but leaning over the balcony. Good G**, if I could have seen myself. It was as though gravity was pulling me toward him as he walked right below me headed toward the Main Building. I had almost torn myself away when, at the last minute, he looked up.

An Agent's Inbox #5

Dear Mystery Agent,

Seventeen-year-old Isis has spent her whole life hiding. She hides the dreams that regularly come true, and the strange things that happen around her. She hides the bruises from her mom’s psychotic episodes. But it’s easier to hide her headaches that are steadily getting worse and hope that insanity doesn’t really run in the family, than to fight against something beyond her control.

All that changes the day Isis uses her powers to save herself from an exploding car. Dane, a classmate, witnesses the event and pulls Isis into a battle between two secret societies. Dane has the answers Isis wants. He can help her learn to control her powers and hang onto her sanity. She is drawn to his charms until her cousin, Kalli, shows up to persuade her to join the other side.

Then Isis discovers she has the power to control people through their dreams, a skill very few people possess. When Isis pieces together the warnings from her dreams she discovers an impending bombing planned by Kalli’s group. Isis can stop it, but she has to choose between saving her cousin and stopping the attack. A choice no ordinary girl should make. Good thing Isis is anything but ordinary.

DREAMING ISIS, a young adult contemporary fantasy novel, is complete at 56,000 words. It will appeal to readers who loved the intrigue of THE SUMMONING by Kelley Armstrong and to those who enjoyed the paranormal romance of NEED by Carrie Jones.

I am a graduate of Brigham Young University, where I studied English teaching with a focus on young adult literature. If you would like to consider DREAMING ISIS, I would be glad to send you the complete manuscript at your request. Thank you for your time and consideration.



"Peer tutoring?" I pushed my chair away from the table in front of me, making loud skidding sounds against the tile.

"Isis, it's the last step in the counseling program," Sonya peered over glasses at me as she shuffled things in the file. She had her PhD in clinical psychology and was running the program my mom had forced me into with the help of my old psychiatrist.

"But have you looked at my file?" I picked at a scratch in the table. Then forced my hands still in my lap. "I don't fit into the normal peer tutoring candidates. My grades are perfect. My attendance at school is good, and I've got friends. I get along with others. Not to mention I've already been accepted into all of the colleges I applied for. I could see this if you wanted me to tutor, but I'm not about to be tutored by someone else."

"Peer tutoring allows you to practice the skills that you have learned in this program. Your completion of the entire program will allow us to include you in the case studies and program brochures. It's the last step and then you won't need to come to the weekly support group meetings anymore."

"And if I don't do it?" I asked.

"Then I won't be able to graduate you from the program. And I'll have to call your mother." Sonya shrugged her shoulders and put the file on the table.

An Agent's Inbox #4

Dear Agent Inbox,

Seventeen-year-old Kara Delancey manages her OCD with a sense of humor and fiercely loyal friends, especially the boy next door. Kara’s been best friends with Riley Jenner since they cage-fought in the same playpen. They share everything from an addiction to game shows to their own signature dance style (picture drunk ninjas with an inner ear infection). Sure, Riley has buff biceps and sex-bait eyes; he's also the boy who ate her glue stick in preschool and barfed on her birthday cake in the third grade. They have a friendship that predates hormones and hotness, a bond that's stronger than their growing attraction to each other. Or so she thought.

Everything changes when Kara's sister dies in a tragic accident her junior year. As her family falls apart, her relationship with Riley grows deeper. He’s always there for her, even when her OCD goes manic: panic attacks drive her to quit the gymnastics team she loves; excessive double checking results in an ACT score that's so low, she couldn't get into college with a crowbar; and compulsions lead to a humiliating driver’s ed accident and a new nickname--Beware-A-Kara. But when Kara’s anxiety ultimately causes her to sabotage her budding romance with Riley, she’s completely on her own. Now it’s up to her to fight her way back to normal before she loses something more--her life.

Please consider my 84,000-word YA contemporary novel NOTHING LEFT TO LOSE BUT ME. I’ve pasted the first 250 words per the contest rules. Thank you for your consideration.



Riley Jenner is more obvious than a fat guy in a Speedo. At least, he is to me.

I can always tell when he likes a girl by the way his eyebrows do this split-second twitch. I know that he’s bluffing when he holds his poker cards with two hands, and that he’ll always throw a curveball on a three and two count. I can guess what songs are on his latest playlist and which of my miniskirts he thinks are too short.

After being friends our whole lives, we’re like those twins who communicate with their own secret language. So when he starts to get weird on me, I know something’s up. All I’ve got to do is read the closed captioning of his body language.

He plops down on the couch next to me and takes a swig from his can of Cherry Coke.


I pretend I don’t hear him. Jeopardy’s on and Alex Trebek is announcing the first round categories.


I fix my eyes on the game board, hoping Annoying Best Friends is one of the categories. I could kill in that column.


“I know what you’re doing. Knock it off.”

He tilts his head like he’s draining water from his ear. “What do you mean? I’m not doing anything. I’m just enjoying my drink.” He raises the can like I need proof and takes another slug.


Out of the corner of my eye, I see him snicker.

“Very funny,” I say.

An Agent's Inbox #3

Dear Secret Agent,

SWIMMING WITH TCHAIKOVSKY, complete at 65,000 words, is a young adult light fantasy, in the vein of Jennifer Donnelly’s REVOLUTION.

Fifteen-year-old Sally arrives in St. Petersburg, Russia focused only on her upcoming cello competition. But when her host father Misha is kidnapped in retaliation for his exposé about the corrupt local government, her music takes on new meaning,

With Misha’s grandmother’s scarf around her neck and her cello’s bow carving out the music of Russia’s past, Sally starts to see visions. Street children perform an impromptu opera about the tsar. A young woman, exhausted from factory work, dances with a seagull. When she sees a flock of birds whispering “Misha” with their wing beats, it becomes clear the visions are offering clues to help rescue him as they trace the lives of his grandmother and mother. His grandmother faced the tsar’s cannons to defend a crowd of protesters. His mother endured torture at the hands of Stalin’s regime rather than falsely accuse her first love. Not the sort of women who’d let hoodlums kidnap their Misha without a fight.

Drawing on the visions, Sally organizes a mass protest about the kidnapping even though it means risking arrest on foreign soil. Now on the run from government agents, Sally must decipher the rest of the clues before Misha becomes yet another voice permanently silenced by the government.

I majored in Russian at [redacted] and lived with a host family in St. Petersburg.  I’m also a member of SCBWI. The first 250 words are below.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



That chair shouldn’t be empty.

Sally kept her eyes on her bowl. He had to be coming back. It must be a mistake. Some sort of misunderstanding.

As Sally chased down the last bit of kashi, the scrape of her spoon against the bowl was deafening in the silent kitchen. Beside Sally, her host sister Irina had stopped eating breakfast long ago and now sat cross-legged in her chair, facing the window. Without a word, Sally’s host mother ladled yet another serving of kashi into Sally’s bowl.

“Thank you,” Sally murmured in Russian. She couldn’t bear to tell her she was too full. To do that she’d have to look up into those unblinking eyes.

Yesterday evening her host father, Mikhail Gregorovich, had been sitting in that chair, drinking tea. His mug was still on the table where he'd left it. He’d only gone out to walk the dog.

That frantic barking was still echoing in her head. It had been loud enough to send them tearing down the apartment stairwell--only to arrive too late.

But Sally had to stay focused. She’d been preparing for this competition her whole life. It was the only reason she was here, and her time slot was just a few hours away. Even if their explanation of what had happened was true, what could she do to help? Nothing.

Anyway, it couldn’t be true. What government was willing to kidnap an innocent man in broad daylight?

Sally stood up. “I should get going.”

An Agent's Inbox #2

Dear Agent,

On Annika Fitzsimmons’s eighteenth birthday, she learns she is a Traveler--someone born with the ability to move through Past Events and to change the future for the better. That explains the vivid, excruciatingly painful dreams she's had since she was eight years old, but not the same blue-eyed boy she sees in each one.

When Nik arrives at the underground compound of Traveler's City for initiation, she discovers her ability to move through time without the aid of computers or coordinates is rare--the stuff of legend. Only one fellow initiate can do the same: Davis, the boy with the blue eyes from her dreams. Nik and Davis soon discover they are Bonded Natural Travelers, born to Travel together no matter what.

But Traveling is dangerous, and sometimes people die. That’s what happened to the husband of the charismatic Director of Traveler's City. When Nik and Davis are repeatedly pulled into the same treacherous Events that caused his death, they realize the Director has taken on the dangerous, and illegal, task of changing her husband's fate.  Now, to keep the Director from killing them, violating Traveler’s Law, and changing Current Events as they know it, Nik and Davis must risk their own lives to stop her. As they discover the truth and what they truly mean to each other, they’ll learn just how far someone with power will go to save the one she loves.

THE TRAVELERS is a Young Adult novel complete at 81,000 words and stands alone. Thank you for taking the time to consider my submission.



Nik's head swam in a swirl of sensations, images, and emotions. The smell of coffee. Confusion. Waist aprons and high heels. Excitement. Cherry pie. Strength. Blue eyes. Love, so deep.


More than anything else, these dreams were pain, stabbing at her skin from the inside and invading every inch of her body. Pain so agonizing that nothing else mattered. Not the usual pounding in her head made worse by a strange, aching heaviness. Not the rank smell of vomit on her shirt.

Not even Brian, her best friend, telling her he didn't love her.

Oh, G**. Brian. It all rushed back now. Next door in his basement last night, just like any other night, but with too much alcohol, and too much bravery.

The horrible collage faded, dream bleeding into reality, one kind of pain blending into another. Everything receded to the background except those piercing blue eyes, the ones that showed up in every dream since she was eight. The boy they belonged to was always there, always confident, and the memory of him always took the edge off the pain. He was one thing she couldn't forget, even if she had wanted to.

The smell of brewing coffee hung in the air, convincing her to drag her head off the pillow. Caffeine usually helped stop the pounding.

"Nik?” called Mom, "Annika! Six forty five now!  Out the door in ten minutes!" Nik hauled herself upright, holding a groan back in her throat.

An Agent's Inbox #1


Monday, July 25, 2011

Now Accepting Entries

UPDATE: And that's a wrap! Our 25 entries are set; they'll go up first thing Wednesday morning. I've responded to every e-mail received as of 8:35 p.m. EDT. If you didn't get a confirmation from me, please e-mail me again and let me know.

I'm now accepting entries for the second round of "An Agent's Inbox"! (Actually, I started accepting entries about half an hour ago, but I overslept and forgot to get this post set up on Saturday. I'm embarrassed and totally apologize for the delay. If you sent your entry at or after 10:00 a.m. EDT, it still counts!) Here's a quick refresher:

The Rules

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

2. IF YOU PARTICIPATED IN LAST MONTH’S “AN AGENT’S INBOX” CONTEST, please DO NOT participate in this one. I have a pretty good memory, and I will disqualify previous entries. If the entry slots don’t fill up by Tuesday, July 26, I may allow last month’s participants to enter, but I’m not going to make that decision right now.

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

4. THE ENTRY WINDOW OPENS AT 10:00 A.M. EDT (OR 7:00 A.M. PDT). Once the entry window opens, I'll accept the first 20 entries. I won't accept any entries sent before the entry window opens or after the first 20 slots fill up.

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

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

The Prizes The Agent will select both the winners and the prizes. The Agent might pick 20 winners, or he or she might only pick one. The Agent might offer full requests, or he or she might only ask to see another page. It all depends on how good the entries are.

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

The Genres

YA Contemporary/Realistic Fiction
YA Science Fiction
YA Light Fantasy
YA Mystery
YA Horror
Adult Literary Fiction
Adult Magical Realism
Adult Horror
Adult Dark Mystery

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

Friday, July 22, 2011

"An Agent's Inbox" Contest Alert


For those of you who missed last month’s contest, here’s a brief introduction: "An Agent's Inbox" is exactly what it sounds like--next week, I'm turning the blog into an agent's inbox, a public one. We'll get to see 20 queries along with their first pages, and we'll get to hear what a bona fide agent thinks of each one.

The queries and first pages will be yours, of course. I'll accept your entries this Monday, July 25, and then I'll post them next Wednesday, July 27. The entrants and anyone else who wishes to review them may comment on them until the following Tuesday, August 2, when I'll announce the winners. Those winners will be chosen by The Agent, who will remain nameless for now, and he or she will offer whatever prizes he or she wishes.

The Rules

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

2. IF YOU PARTICIPATED IN LAST MONTH’S “AN AGENT’S INBOX” CONTEST, please DO NOT participate in this one. I have a pretty good memory, and I will disqualify previous entries. If the entry slots don’t fill up by Tuesday, July 26, I may allow last month’s participants to enter, but I’m not going to make that decision right now.

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

4. THE ENTRY WINDOW OPENS AT 10:00 A.M. EDT (OR 7:00 A.M. PDT). (Note that this is significantly earlier than last month.) Once the entry window opens, I'll accept the first 20 entries. I won't accept any entries sent before the entry window opens or after the first 20 slots fill up.

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

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

The Prizes The Agent will select both the winners and the prizes. The Agent might pick 20 winners, or he or she might only pick one. The Agent might offer full requests, or he or she might only ask to see another page. It all depends on how good the entries are.

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

So get those queries and first pages polished up, then meet us back here on Monday, July 25, at 10:00 a.m. EDT! At that time, you may send your entries to kvandolzer(at)gmail(dot)com. Looking forward to it!

The Genres

YA Contemporary/Realistic Fiction
YA Science Fiction
YA Light Fantasy
YA Mystery
YA Horror
Adult Literary Fiction
Adult Magical Realism
Adult Horror
Adult Dark Mystery

(If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments below...)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Book Recommendation: THE SURVIVORS CLUB (Plus Nifty Subtitle) by Ben Sherwood

My mother-in-law recommended this book to me a while ago, but I didn’t get a chance to read it until we moved in with her for a month while Honey Bear was working on some graduate courses up in northern Utah (which is another blog post entirely). THE SURVIVORS CLUB was worth the wait.

A journalist by trade, Mr. Sherwood drew on his investigative expertise to interview survivors of all shapes and sizes. Essentially, he asked them all one question: What does it take to survive? Their answers are as disparate as their experiences.

I loved how Mr. Sherwood addressed both the science and the stories of survival. And the stories are incredible. I’m still trying to decide which one’s my favorite. Is it the story of the young man who jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge and decided halfway down he didn’t want to die, or the story of the fighter pilot who punched out of his jet--which was traveling faster than the speed of sound--mere seconds before it slammed into the ocean? Hard to say. But Mr. Sherwood doesn’t stop there. As the subtitle implies (“The Secrets and Science that Could Save Your Life”), he also teaches you how to survive, say, hypothermia and which seats are safest on a plane. How useful.

If you like quirky, unexpected, unforgettable nonfiction along the lines of Malcolm Gladwell’s OUTLIERS or Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner’s FREAKONOMICS, you’ll love THE SURVIVORS CLUB. I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

On Waiting

Waiting, I've decided, is as much a part of writing as writing is a part of writing. You wait for your subconscious to work out tricky plot points. You wait for beta readers to read through your manuscript. You wait to hear back on your queries, and if you're lucky enough to get a request, you wait to hear back on those. If you're lucky enough to land an agent, you wait to hear back from editors, and on and on and on. You wait and wait and wait, and some days are good, and others aren't so good, and after a while, even on the good days, you start to wonder if maybe, just maybe, you're starting to go a little crazy...

Or maybe that's just me:)

But in all seriousness, I've been thinking about this waiting for a few weeks now and had a few thoughts I wanted to share. Many of you know that I finished Bob's revision about six weeks ago, and since then, I've been--you guessed it--waiting. And the truth is, I didn't think I'd have to wait this long. You always hear these stories about writers who submit their revisions and have an offer within, like, twelve hours. Why don't we ever hear the stories about writers who wait...and wait...and wait before receiving any kind of response?

I suspect it's because those stories aren't as newsworthy. "Writer waits six months to receive an offer of representation" isn't nearly as exciting as "Writer wakes up to agents mud-wrestling in her front yard over her manuscript," and "Writer receives many compliments from agents, shelves project after eight months" never makes the front page (let alone the tenth). And yet having to wait isn't something to be ashamed of. In fact, I daresay waiting is the period of time in which we grow the most.

We often talk about how to cope with waiting (namely, get to work on your next project, spend time with your family, and GET TO WORK ON YOUR NEXT PROJECT), but we don't talk as much about how waiting refines us, how it shows us what we're made of. There's a big difference between waiting and waiting well, and the only way we ever learn how to do the latter is if things don't go the way we want them to (or at least not right away).

I still don't know exactly how to let our waiting change us, how to let it push us to become better people, but I do know we'll never become the people we can be without those opportunities. So I'm trying to look at it that way. I'm trying to see this waiting as a Krista-refining period of time. That way, if I ever achieve this crazy dream of landing an agent (and, fingers crossed, a book deal), I will have achieved even more.