Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Fickle Market

Or “Whatever Happened to That Other Manuscript I Was Querying?”

You may have noticed that I took Bob’s pitch and query down several weeks ago and replaced them with Steve’s. (Or maybe you haven’t noticed, since you probably don’t scour my sidebar as thoroughly as I do every time I stop by the blog.) I officially stopped querying Bob and started querying Steve in the middle of this month.

I’ve thought about doing a big statistics post like the one I did when I finished querying Bob’s predecessor, but my heart hasn’t been in it. Quite frankly, it takes some doing to crunch the numbers and make the graphs look as pretty and uniform as I want them to look, and I just haven’t wanted to invest the time. (Besides, a lot of those numbers are nearly a year old now, so I’m not sure how useful they would be.)

Instead, I decided to blog about something that really sums up my whole Bob-querying experience, and that’s the fickle market. But first, a little--okay, a lot of--background. (For those of you who’ve been around the blog for a while, a lot of this will be old news, but bear with me.)

I started querying Bob last fall, in late October. He was the third manuscript I’d queried, so I felt like I knew what I was doing. Still, I wasn’t prepared for the response that Bob received. My first three query replies were all partial requests, and one of those partial requests turned into a full request literally overnight. I was ecstatic. I was impatient. I was certain I would have an agent within a week or two.

But then that full request came back as an invitation to revise and resubmit. I told myself this was a victory--not quite the victory I’d been hoping for, but a victory, nonetheless--and buckled down. The agent had some good ideas, and I knew the manuscript would be stronger if I incorporated them. Besides, I could work on the changes through the holidays, when it probably wasn’t wisest to send out fresh queries, anyway, and not lose a lot of time. I didn’t want to lose momentum, after all.

I finished the revision in mid-January and e-mailed it to the agent. A week and a half later, I received her reply. It was kind and complimentary, but she still wasn’t in love enough with the manuscript to take it on. At the time, I was devastated. Now, I look back and realize that agent’s tastes and mine probably wouldn’t have been very compatible over the long haul, anyway.

After drowning my sorrows in a good cup of hot chocolate, I took my stronger manuscript and sent out a fresh batch of queries. I also sent it to the agents who’d requested more material during the weeks I’d spent revising it. Once again, the response was pretty positive. My request rate was over fifty percent, and I pulled in several more partial-turned-full requests.

Then more R&Rs appeared. I picked up my second one in mid-February; by the first week in March, I had three more. I looked at everything they said and decided to undertake a massive revision: flip-flop the narrative responsibilities for my two POV characters and make Adair, the female lead, the more prominent one. I knew it would be a lot of work, but I felt good about it, really good. So good, in fact, that I believe I said something like, “I think this is the story I’ve been trying to tell all along,” in one of my query updates during that time.

This revision--although, in all fairness, it was really more of a rewrite--took me three months. And when I finished, I knew it was the best thing I’d ever written. It really was the story I’d been trying to tell all along.

By this time, I had something like eight agents waiting to read the revision, so I sent it to them straightaway. I tried not to get my hopes up, but deep down, I let my imagination get away from me. Surely at least one of these agents would love the manuscript enough to offer. Surely this was a done deal. And as the days stretched into weeks, then months, and the rejections piled up, I realized it was--but not the kind of “done” I’d hoped for.

The rejections were all eerily similar. They started out by praising various aspects of the manuscript, then finished with some variation of one of these two lines: “But I just didn’t fall in love,” or “Unfortunately, though, the market has really softened up in the last couple of months.” Whereas six or even three months earlier, every agent and her pet Labrador had been trying to sign the next THE HUNGER GAMES, no one wanted a YA dystopian anymore. Editors were no longer biting. The market was saturated.

Did this market saturation account for all of Bob’s rejection? Of course not. If an agent had really loved the manuscript, the market probably wouldn’t have prevented her from offering representation, and I can think of a few YA dystopians, including Mindy McGinnis’s, that recently sold for good money. But the fact remains that during those months when I was working on the revision, something changed. The market shifted. What had been a hot commodity was now barely a lukewarm one. I sent out a few new queries, but my request rate was nowhere near what it had been before.

Moral of the story: The market is a living, breathing thing, and none of us will ever be able to control it. So instead of worrying about the things we can’t change, we’d do better to worry about the things we can. And sometimes, we just have to know when to let go of a manuscript, especially a trendy one, and get to work on the next project.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving in Review

The long Thanksgiving weekend was a busy--but successful--one for us. Here’s what we did:

1. Since our parents live about five minutes apart, Honey Bear and I always eat Thanksgiving dinner twice. We usually take a little bit at this house and a little bit at that, and I swear that’s what I did this year. But I was feeling pretty nauseated by the end of Thanksgiving Take Two. (I’m blaming that on the baby and my squished digestive tract.)

2. The LSU-Arkansas and Alabama-Auburn games weren’t nearly as exciting as I thought they’d be:(

3. Black Friday was pretty leisurely for us this year. We left the house a little before ten in the morning and only went to two stores. We didn’t have to wait in line or even throw an elbow:)

4. Friday night, I rode my first commuter train. (I felt so Eastern and cosmopolitan:) ) We took our kids to Salt Lake City to see the lights at Temple Square and didn’t want to have to worry about parking a car downtown. If you’re ever in Salt Lake during the month of December, definitely plan on stopping there. It’s a sight worth seeing.

5. On Saturday, we celebrated Honey Bear’s grandmother’s eightieth birthday. Grandma Dear, as her grandkids call her, is one of the nicest, most genteel ladies I’ve ever met (and she’s not even from the South). It was wonderful to spend time with so much family and to learn more about this awesome lady.

6. On Sunday, we went to church with HB’s parents. One of the women from their ward, or congregation, gave a lovely talk about living in thanksgiving daily. She didn’t say anything earth-shattering or revolutionary, but her words reminded me to focus more on what I have and less on what I don’t.

Well, I think that sums it up. I could go on, of course, but I don’t want to bore you with the details of road-tripping with a four- and two-year-old. Suffice it to say that there was much screaming, much whining, and much producing of cracker crumbs. But we made it. Barely:)

How was your Thanksgiving weekend?

Monday, November 21, 2011

November's Winners!

And the winners are in! Without further ado, here are Ms. Martindale’s favorite entries:

These entries win a request for the first 100 pages! Yay! Winners, please e-mail me at kvandolzer(at)gmail(dot)com for instructions on how to submit your partials to Ms. Martindale.

But that’s not all! If Ms. Martindale mentioned in her comment that she would read on after getting to the end of your first page, you may send a query letter and the first 10 pages of your manuscript to Ms. Martindale at submissions(at)fullcircleliterary(dot)com. That way, she can check out those extra pages and see if she’s interested in requesting more.

Thank you, Ms. Martindale, for taking the time to give such thoughtful feedback to each and every entry, and a big thank-you to everyone else for entering, critiquing, and cheering each other on.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

"An Agent's Inbox" Underway!

The entries are up, The Agent is here (or will be shortly), and the critiques are flowing in! Entrants, please remember to critique at least 3 other entries; everyone else, critique as many as you want. If you want to think like The Agent, you might consider the question, "How much of the entry did you read, and if you didn't read it all, why did you stop?" as you give your feedback, but I'm sure the entrants would love to hear anything you have to say (so long as it's constructive, of course).

I'll announce Ms. Martindale's winners and prizes no later than next Tuesday, November 22. Until then, critique away!

P.S. Entrants, if you notice any problems with your entries, feel free to leave a comment or shoot me an e-mail so I can fix them.

An Agent's Inbox #20

Dear Ms. Martindale,

All seventeen year old Princess Cinderella ever wanted was to marry her soul mate and live happily ever after, and she thought that was exactly what she signed up for when she tied the knot with the handsome Prince Eric Charming. But, it seems that a union based on shoe size, good looks and dancing ability may not have been the best idea after all. Cindy and Eric have discovered that they don't really like, much less love each other and despite Cinderella's pleas for help, the Fairy Godmother who rescued her from her life of servitude has not responded. It seems that she has retired, leaving Cinderella in the hands of an annoying, second career FG who is still in training.

Life is not at all pleasant around the palace but the worst is yet to come. When Eric disappears, his self obsessed step mother and power hungry brother accuse Cinderella of being responsible. They have her thrown into the Tower of Torture and soon her former unhappy life begins to look like a day at the beach. When she manages to escape, she has no choice but to embark on a journey fraught with danger, loss, coming out, life threatening creatures and surprising friendships. It isn't easy learning how to survive in the Forest of Fear. It's even more difficult deciding if you can love a husband you've never really known. But the toughest challenge of all is figuring out how to be your own Fairy Godmother.

AFTER HAPPILY EVER AFTER is a YA comic fantasy, complete at 49,000 words.

I am a multi Grammy winning lyricist. My web site [redacted] contains my biography, discography, and a list of the films and theatrical projects I have written for. I was also the co-writer of a television movie, “The Stranger Game”, presented on the Lifetime network and have co-authored a recently released children’s board book, [redacted], published by Sterling. [Redacted] won First Place in the 2011 Purple Dragonfly Awards Board Book category..

The first 250 words appear below. Thank you so much for your time and consideration.



Chapter 1: Princess Cinderella

Cinderella had completed her daily Pilates class and was halfway through her power walk in the royal garden when a footman appeared with an envelope on a silver tray. Since she had never received a letter in her entire life, that in itself was quite strange, but what was stranger still was the news it contained.

It was addressed in a precise yet flowery hand to “Princess Cinderella Charming, The Palace, Kingdom of Once Upon A Time, Fairytale Land, (no zip code required)”. Cinderella sat on a stone bench, staring at it for a long moment. She could think of no one who would possibly write her a letter. She had given her stepmother and stepsisters more than enough money to keep them from ever contacting her again. The letter couldn't be from them, but for some reason she had a bad feeling in her chest. Her heart began to pound. Taking a deep breath, she unsealed the pale pink envelope which opened a bit too easily. Inside was a sheet of pearlescent stationary, so delicate it had to be unfolded very carefully. It had a twinkly wand mounted in the corner. Her eyes raced over the sparkling rose colored script as she read...

My Dear, Dear Clients,

It is with sadness and regret that I am writing to announce my retirement from my position as your Fairy Godmother.

An Agent's Inbox #19

Dear Ms. Martindale,

Sixteen-year-old Justine Kwiatkowski doesn’t believe in magic, she doesn’t believe in reincarnation, and she never planned on having to fill King Arthur’s shoes. All she knows is that last night, the best friend she’s ever had, Gwen Martinez, went missing outside the town of Avalon and she’ll do whatever it takes to get her back.

But if she wants to rescue Gwen, she’ll have to believe in a world she thought only existed in legend, because her best friend happens to be the reincarnation of Guinevere, and fifteen hundred years after the fall of Camelot, the Knights of the Round Table have returned, reborn as New Jersey teens.

Problem is, Mordred and Morgan le Fay are back too, having kidnapped Gwen, and unlike most of the knights, they remember who they once were.

With Mordred murdering the knights before they can regain their memories, Justine has to figure out how to track down the few remaining survivors--a star football player, a brilliant artist teetering on the brink of madness, a high school dropout working odd jobs to support his family--and convince them to bury centuries-old grudges and work together. If she can do that, she just might save her friend, and maybe, the world.

Knights of Avalon, a YA Urban Fantasy, is complete at 95,000 words. While intended to be the first in a series, the book can stand alone. Hopefully this manuscript will be of interest to you. Thank you for your consideration!



Ringing. My eyes fluttered open. Why was there ringing? I scrambled to get my bearings in the darkness. I was in my bedroom, the Bruce Lee posters on the walls told me that much. Through bleary eyes, I could see the alarm clock shining 3:11 back at me. I froze as my gaze settled on my cell phone, lit up with an incoming call. Why would someone call at 3am? I peered at the phone, trying to place the number. Then I took a deep breath and picked up. “Hello?”

“Hi, Justine. I’m sorry to be calling so late.” I immediately recognized the shaky voice on the other end of the line. It was my best friend’s mom, Mrs. Martinez, but I had never heard her sound like this. “Gwen’s not with you, is she?”

My mouth dropped, the question a punch to the gut. There was a murderer on the loose, cutting down the best kids in the state--a fencing champion destined for the Olympics, a martial arts prodigy, an organizer for Habitat for Humanity. Now, three in the morning on a school night, my best friend’s mom couldn’t find her daughter. And Gwen? She was the most incredible person I had ever met. A straight ‘A’ student, she was going to be a heart surgeon and work for Doctors Without Borders one day. There had always been something different about her. She was like the other victims. Special.

An Agent's Inbox #18

Ms. Taylor Martindale:

Greetings! My name is B.C. I have completed a 76,000-word manuscript for a YA paranormal fiction novel titled CANDLELIGHT. I’m writing to you because your profile states that you care most about whether or not stories have engaging characters and vivid worlds. This is a belief I share and want to have in any agent representing my work.

Set in 1873, the story begins when the young Theo Neumann is forced to flee his home after being accused of stealing a revolutionary design for a steam drill from his powerful former employer. Pursued across the country by a sadistic bounty hunter named Wolf, Theo makes his way to Virginia City, Nevada, site of the largest silver rush in American history. He quickly finds a job on one of the many mining crews, all locked in fierce and sometimes violent competition with one another. It is perfect work for someone trying to keep a low profile--as long as you don’t mind the daily risk of injury or death. But deep below the surface of the earth, Theo is about to discover that silver isn’t the only thing hiding in the rock. Something has been listening to the growing noise of the mining--and it is not happy. There are legends about creatures that live in the depths. Some call them Tommyknockers. What is more troubling than what the stories got wrong…is what the stories got right.

CANDLELIGHT is aimed at the young adult demographic, engaging both men and women with a mix of action, mystery, and romance. Blending the historical and the supernatural in the tradition of Harry Turtledove and Susanna Clarke, I worked hard to convey the vivid and boisterous life of frontier boomtowns, while crafting an internally consistent alternate world to engage the imagination.

I have copied the first 250 words of my manuscript into the email below. I thank you for your time and consideration, and hope to hear a favorable reply at your earliest convenience.



Philadelphia, February 25, 1873

The two men lying on the ground coughed and wheezed their last just as the sun dipped below the horizon. The man who had killed them nodded to himself with a look of satisfaction. Sometimes events just happen to align in an aesthetically pleasing way. He left the alley and the now-cooling bodies behind, neither moving slowly nor with much haste.

The sky was a deepening purple tinged by the last rays of the setting sun. Stars were just beginning to appear, barely visible as twinkling points of light. Faint wisps of cloud, high in the atmosphere, wove like ephemeral ribbons just barely beyond the edge of sight. Much closer to the ground, a less graceful kind of ribbon rose up from the countless smokestacks, chimneys, and furnaces of an industrial city still rumbling with the noise of machinery.

A man walked down the cobbled streets. They were now nearly empty that the day-laborers had vanished, returned to their homes or to the nearest bar. A casual observer would have not have given him a second glance. He was garbed in plain, dark clothes of a cut that gave the impression of a man with good taste and fashion sense, but their slightly worn appearance indicated he possessed little in terms of material wealth. A thick, long coat splattered with dark stains wrapped him against the growing chill.

An Agent's Inbox #17

Dear Ms. Martindale,

Joe Kapoor's heart has been wrapped around the adventurous little finger of his best friend, Lilah, for at least ten of his sixteen years. But he's always been the dependable one, nothing like Lilah's string of bad boy ex's. Hoping a little spontaneity will cause a spark, he agrees to leave New York for the summer and accompany her while she visits her father in China. When they arrive in Chongqing, Lilah convinces Joe to skip out on their driver to do a little sightseeing. And everything is perfect, too, until the bag holding all of their valuables goes missing.

Thrust into one of the most densely populated cities in the world without contact information, passports, money, or a phone, they must trek two hundred miles to the closest U.S. Embassy in Chengdu. Joe has always been the one person patient enough to see through Lilah's unconcerned exterior. But when her careless blunders cause a string of disasters, he must find the strength to survive without the comforts of home--and decide if what he wants most is really what he needs.

SURVIVING LILAH is a YA contemporary, complete at 50,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.



I flip my Traveling China guide to the page about Chongqing, and glance over it for the billionth time. I at least want to be able to ask where the bathroom is by the time we land. That way I’m semi-prepared because I know there’s no way Lilah’s going to be. I guess that’s why her mom asked me to come with her to visit her dad for summer break in the first place. Kind of like a chaperon, or something.

I look at her now, blond ponytail wrapped in a high bun on her head. She's got her ear buds in, and she’s bobbing to this electronic music that makes me wish I were deaf. Just another reminder of how different we are. In fact, if our mothers hadn’t met during their residency at Beth Israel, and given birth to us five years later at that same hospital, I don't think we ever would've become friends.

My other best friend, Chad, always brings up how bizarre it is that the two most dissimilar people on the planet are still so close. But I look at it in a different way. I’m the yin to her yang. An opposites attract sort of thing. That--and I'm madly in love with her.

"Hey, Joe. You wanna Twizzler?" her voice booms in the airplane’s cabin, talking over a song only she can hear. She stretches out her tan arm, sticking the candy in my face.

An Agent's Inbox #16

Dear Ms. Martindale,

I am seeking representation for A DIFFERENT WINTER, a character-driven YA novel complete at 51,000 words.

When sixteen-year-old Rebecca's busy father dumps his family in Mallorca in the fall of 1974, she must cope with her ill-equipped and hard-drinking mother, an international school full of strangers, and to top it all, learn Spanish.

She is unimpressed by the prospect of another new adventure until she sees Luke, a popular boy with a girlfriend of his own. Determined to get his attention, Rebecca fights off her debilitating shyness to dive into student life. She even joins the first cheerleading squad in Spain.

As each new venture draws her out of her shell, Rebecca slides further from the volatile situation at home. She takes frequent refuge with Katie, an Iowan with a foul mouth and a big heart, and who knows Mallorca like a native. Through Katie, Rebecca befriends Manny, a young Mallorcan fisherman who seems to enjoy an idyllic existence.

When her little brother is injured while under the care of their inebriated mother, guilt and anger consume Rebecca. Then, she inadvertently causes Luke's expulsion and deportation. She flees to the north end of the island, where Manny shows her that his life isn't very different from her own.

I have pasted the first 250 words of A DIFFERENT WINTER below. I hope you will ask to see more. Thank you for your time and consideration.



Mallorca - 1974

We'd hardly arrived, and my parents were arguing in the bedroom. Dad's calm voice intersected Mom's shrill protests. Somewhere in the mix I heard, "New start," and "Time to think.”

"I hope the neighbors don't understand English," my sister Lori said with a smirk as she curled on the sofa with an airplane magazine.

My little brother Michael seemed oblivious to the noise as he rummaged through Dad's suit pockets, probably looking for foreign coins.

I skirted the mound of suitcases in the living room, opened the balcony door and stepped into the heat. Flamenco music filtered from somewhere below, almost obliterated by the hiss of sand pulled to sea by the surf. I closed my eyes and concentrated on the classical notes, if only to drown out my parents.

Dad finally came outside and leaned against the railing. As usual, he hid his impatience behind a serene expression and a freshly lit cigarette.

Inside, the sound of colliding dishes punctuated Mom's side of the argument. She wore her emotions on the outside and dishwashing was always a clear indication of her mood. When she was in good spirits, she sang above the gentle clink of cutlery against crockery. When she was pissed off, plates crashed together like cymbals.

Dad squinted against the sunlight and took a drag on his cigarette. He rubbed his chin with a knuckle and cocked his head at the door. "Don’t worry, she'll get used to this. She always does."

An Agent's Inbox #15

Dear Ms. Martindale,

When newly deceased Rebecca learns she must play matchmaker for an entry ticket to Heaven, she’s totally up for the challenge. Armed with a handful of enviable abilities and charged with finding true love for a pretty college student, Alexis Beckman, Rebecca assumes her task will be fun--and easy. That is, until the boy meant for Alexis steals her own heart instead.

At first, Rebecca thinks Michael’s tendency to turn her insides to melted butter is a freak side effect of Alexis’s obviously growing feelings for him. But the first time Michael and Alexis kiss, only one girl walks away insanely jealous, and it isn’t Alexis.

Feeling cheated of life and love, Rebecca bends Heaven’s rules to get closer to Michael. In the process, she uncovers a haunting secret: not only was Michael’s brother killed six months earlier, but Alexis might have unwittingly played a role in his death. Rebecca knows she holds the one card that could tear Michael and Alexis apart, and must decide if a last chance at love is worth breaking Alexis’s heart…and enduring the h***ish consequences of failing Heaven.

As three fates hang in the balance, Rebecca is only certain of one thing: nothing about her mission is as simple as she thought it would be--especially letting go of life before death.

LIFE BEFORE DEATH is a 78,000 word paranormal romance, with POV alternating between Rebecca and Alexis.

Thank you for your time and consideration,


Of all the white things I would’ve expected to see in Heaven--brilliant white light, fluffy white clouds, angels in white robes--the rear ends of two massive white horses weren’t on the list. Yet there they were, swaying from side to side as they towed the carriage I sat in.

It should have struck me as odd that the man at the reins, dressed in a red tailcoat and black top hat, grinned at me with warm familiarity in spite of the fact that I’d never seen him before. And the fact that I had no idea how I’d wound up in that carriage. It was as if I had materialized from thin air, landed in this moment, and one by one, my senses became aware of everything around me.

Every one of those senses told me I hadn’t gone to Heaven after all.

I’d died, and that much I knew. But the white clouds and white-winged, white-robed angels? Not a one. There was a white light, though--in the distance, emanating from a marbled moon. It bounced against the sky in rhythm with the carriage, causing the ocean beneath it to shimmer. Stout cliffs formed shadowy bulges along most of the shore, topped with palm trees and more glowing dots of light from buildings and streetlamps and cars.

Cars. Not carriages.

Fingers of chilly apprehension uncurled in my stomach, but I forced them down. I wasn’t in Heaven, but I knew a place this beautiful couldn’t be Hell.

An Agent's Inbox #14

Dear Ms. Martindale,

I read that you're looking for light sci-fi, and thought you might be interested in my YA science fiction novel ALTERNATE, complete at 80,000 words.

Sixteen year old Sara Morgan is thrust into a war between parallel universes when she meets Elira Black, an alternate version of herself from another dimension.

The two girls have the same DNA, but couldn't be more different. Sara is more comfortable hacking into unsecured networks than making friends, while Elira leads a resistance against an empire determined to conquer all the worlds of the multiverse.

Elira is a prime, a unique version of Sara with the power to manipulate dark energy to move objects and open portals into parallel worlds. Primes draw strength from their alternates, and Sara is the last one alive--and Elira’s enemies are coming to kill her.

When Elira dies in the attack and makes Sara a prime, Sara gives up her old life to protect her family, and pretends to be Elira. Now she must learn to control her powers and become a leader, while struggling with her feelings for Elira’s boyfriend, to stop the empire from conquering their next target--Earth.

I'm a member of SCBWI and a researcher for a law firm in Los Angeles.

Thank you for your consideration.



The fire alarm blared to life right when I got past the proxy server. Just my luck. It took me all lunch to hack into the school’sr ecord system, and now this.

My fingers flew across the keyboard while the alarm pierced my ears without any hint of giving up. Just another drill. Maybe I could finish this before I had to leave. If not, I'd have to start all over again tomorrow. Cracking the system wasn't hard, but it took a long time to make sure no one could trace it back to me.

Mr. Wilson, my calculus teacher, stuck his head inside the door to the computer lab. “Everyone out. Fire drill.”

The other students grabbed their things and rushed out, but I couldn't leave yet. My brother wasn't adjusting well to our latest move, this time to Los Angeles, and now his grades were too low to get on the school’s soccer team. With tryouts next week, there was no way he’d have time to improve them. Normally I wouldn't condone something like changing grades, but it wasn't my brother's fault he couldn't keep up with school.

Plus, breaking in was fun.

A screen popped up asking for the student's name. I was so close now. I just needed a few more minutes.

“Sara, come on,” Mr. Wilson said, waiting for me at the door.

“I'll be just a minute, sir,” I said, giving him my sweetest smile. “I have to save my English essay and print it out. It's due next period.”

An Agent's Inbox #13

Dear Ms. Martindale:

Five years ago a scientist injected Owen with an invisibility serum. Four years ago he ran away.

When Owen discovered the goal wasn’t scientific advancement, but creating undetectable criminals, he had to get out. A cure wasn’t an option, and returning to his old life too dangerous, so he went into hiding.

Now he lives in a high school--where he has food and shelter, plus it’s the closest to a “normal” life he can get. Owen’s lonely, but at least he’s safe.

Until a stupid little decision steamrolls into a series of major mistakes, and he gets on the radar of both a girl at the high school and a gang of unvisibles. The organization doesn’t want loose ends. If they find Owen, there’re only two options: they’ll force him back in or they’ll kill him. Owen doesn’t know if these unvisibles are working for the organization or have their own agenda, but he isn’t about to stick around and ask. The smart thing is to get out of town, fast. Except for the girl.

Thanks to Owen’s screw-up, the unvisibles think she has a connection to him, which means she’s in danger too. He has to decide: save himself or protect her.

But not hiding anymore could mean risking more than he realized--like his chance to ever be cured.

UNVISIBLE, a YA paranormal, is complete at 60,000 words. I look forward to hearing from you.



I hated this part.

The bell rang exactly four minutes and forty-eight seconds ago. Which meant I had twelve seconds to get through the next door. I was a hundred yards away, the hall was too crowded for me to run like a normal person, and with AP calculus, I had little hope someone would show up later than me to slip in behind.

Perfect attendance record, gone. Not that they’d give the boy they couldn’t see a certificate.

I skidded toward the door. Closed, of course. Mrs. Harper always closed the door, like she worried someone would want to spy on her lesson. Not likely. Except, well, for me.

Eighteen days without a missed class. Not bad, but nowhere near last spring’s forty-seven-day stretch--lots of art classes and two P.E.s. That’s what I got for challenging myself this semester…and drinking two cokes at lunch. I knew better than that.

I couldn’t pick up Mrs. Harper’s monotone through the thick walls, but stuck around anyway, hoping for a straggler. No luck.

Of course it was this hour I got stuck. The worst hour. The last hour before the seventeen I had to spend alone. Maybe I’d go out tonight. I peeked out the nearest window. It didn’t look like rain. Probably safe.

Probably wasn’t good enough. Getting caught in the rain meant bigger problems than my discomfort level. Like the body-shaped hole I created when I stood in it.

I checked my watch. Still time to make it to the library.

An Agent's Inbox #12

Dear Ms. Taylor Martindale,

Anna’s life reads like a check list.

Straight A’s (Check)
Editor of the school paper (Check)
Volunteering time at the local soup kitchen (Check)
Ivy League (So close she can taste it)
Falling in love with a homeless boy (Not on the list)

Anna’s dad never took into account the impact his words would have or he would never have told her she was good enough for Ivy League. After he was gunned down in the line of duty Anna made a vow to follow through with her dad’s wish. There was nothing and no one, not even her party loving best friend that could convince her to choose her own path. Everything is going according to plan until Dean shows up and forces her to see that while there are many things you can plan, life is not one of them.

Dean never expected to fall in love. He had a plan too. Survive. After being subjected to his foster father’s violent attacks Dean made the hard choice to leave. Now he lives on the streets doing everything he can to get by, refusing to let people help him. But when he meets Anna, he realizes not everyone is out to hurt him.

As they both struggle with their lives and try to figure out how to move forward they need to decide if there is a place for each other in their new lives.

Uncharted Territory is an 80,000 word contemporary YA novel that proves you can’t always map out your future. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.



It is my favorite time of year. Not because autumn arrived overnight splashing color around the forest. Or the fact that pumpkin spice replaced any lingering memory of sun block. All of that pales in comparison to the bigger picture.

The holidays are around the corner which means the community service opportunities are endless. Since the third grade my only goal in life has been acceptance to an Ivy League school. Community service is one of the major steps in securing my acceptance.

Did you know the acceptance rate at Harvard is eight percent? Eight percent! Not that I necessarily want to go to Harvard but it’s on the list. So as you can see I have no room for error.

While my friends, technically friend, are at the mall I’m going through boxes at the Salvation Army. When the weather warms I volunteer my time to build houses with Habitat for Humanity.

My planner is my lifeline. It is where I keep track of all my volunteer work as well as my schoolwork. It keeps me organized and helps me allocate my time efficiently. Every morning I go over my list for the day. Today’s list is short, but important.

1. See Ms. Kittles to sign up for tutoring
2. Physics test
3. Soup kitchen registration

I’ve been volunteering at the soup kitchen since I was twelve. Barney is expecting me, I’m sure. He runs the soup kitchen and always keeps a spot open for my name.

An Agent's Inbox #11

Dear Ms. Martindale,

I like your philosophy on characters, how they make the plot captivating because of who they are, not what is going on around them. I know you are looking for contemporary YA, and I’d like to tell you about my YA Romantic Comedy, WHERE ARE BOYS FROM, URANUS?

Every girl dreams about receiving gooey, sappy love letters--just not from herself.

But seventeen year old Camryn McCaleb doesn’t care how pathetic it is. After the dating disasters she’s been through, she decides that making up a boyfriend and writing letters to herself from him is worth avoiding the guys who splash water on her or pretend to get beat up mid-date.

Cam bases her letters on her crush, Beckham, and things are fantastic. She's all set to share them with her friends, until one of her pals announces that she’s drooling over Beckham too. (Gulp.) On impulse, Cam panics and lies about who her letters are supposed to be from. Finally, the real Beckham admits to jonesing for Camryn, but Cam is half-stoked, half-sick when she starts dating him behind her friend’s back. She doesn’t want to lose her friend or her boyfriend, but it’s only a matter of time before they both discover the secret behind who wrote her letters and the truth of her betrayal.

At approximately 80,000 words, WHERE ARE BOYS FROM, URANUS? holds the same flair as Confessions of a Shopaholic, but for teens. It will also appeal to fans of Anna and the French Kiss. The first 250 words are below. The full manuscript is available on request.

I am seeking a partnership for my writing career. In addition to this project, I have two completed YA manuscripts and two works in progress. I have a degree in English Literature from Brigham Young University-Idaho, and I am an active member of SCBWI. Thank you for your time.



1. Intro To The Dating H*** That Is My Life

Maybe he’s just really shy. That’s why he won’t look at me.

“I like lots of different bands,” I say in response to my date’s fifty-billionth question. But I feel like I’m trying to get to know the steak knife instead of Tyson. All I’ve seen of him since we got to The Mango Grill is the top of his blonde, healthy hair.

He nods. Is it to let me know he’s listening? Or to make me think he’s listening?

Why did I say anything? If I keep quiet maybe he’ll actually look up at me. Maybe he spilled some sauce on his pants and the spot is shaped like a hula dancer.

I tap my fingers on my thigh. The Mango Grill is one of the few good restaurants in Cypress, so I’ve been here a million times. Decals of surfers and beaches cover the walls, and they use real cloth napkins and everything. They even serve sushi here.

“What’s your favorite book, Camryn?” Tyson asks, bobbing his lowered head.

Sorry, are you asking me or your legs? I try to connect how this question has anything to do with what bands I listen to, or if I like sports, or what my religious beliefs are, or any of the other random questions he fired out before those. Up on the mini stage bordered by fake grass, a big Samoan guy starts singing.

An Agent's Inbox #10

Dear Ms. Taylor Martindale:

Fifteen-year-old Angel Morgan has a choice to make--remain human or remain alive.

After an accident leaves her with a partially-robotic brain, Angel doesn't exactly feel human. In fact, she doesn't feel much of anything until one incredible day when her dormant emotions begin flowing back to her.

At first, Angel enjoys her slowly-emerging emotions. But when she's transferred to an all-cyborg school, Angel's databank is not prepared for the frustration and fear that ensue. It's barely been 2.15 days when she intercepts wireless messages about school experiments being conducted on a student--her only friend there. While logic tells Angel it's too dangerous to get involved, her emotions insist that she rescue her friend, even at the risk of her own life. If this is what it means to be human, Angel isn't so sure she wants the job.

UPGRADE (75,000 words) is a complete YA science fiction novel. I am querying you based on your interest in "unique voices" in this genre. I am a Clarion West alumna whose work has appeared in True Confessions, Purpose, and is forthcoming in Highlights for Children. I have also received three Honorable Mentions in the Writers of the Future Contest. Thank you for your time.



Angel's parents were having "the discussion" again. She could tell because the decibels inside the car had risen by 9.5 for the third time. Also, her mother's use of the phrase "too expensive" had signifigantly increased. Angel tried to calculate what factor might have raised the frequency of these arguments. Perhaps she had done something wrong again.

"And what do you get for that money?" her mother asked, throwing her arms up. "Bigger computers."

"You get experts on how cyborgs think, that's what." Angel's father slammed the brakes, almost missing a stop sign. Angel leaned forward with the momentum. It must have been her. Although she'd followed her etiquette protocol flawlessly, that did not always make people happy with her. In the case of her parents, it often had the opposite effect.

"She doesn't need more experts," her mother said. "She needs to socialize with other teens. She can get that anywhere."

"Yeah? Maybe with less than a year left, I don't want to send her just anywhere." Angel's father fell silent as he checked for traffic. Her mother did not wait for him to continue.

"Well, let's try to get Angel's opinion."

"Please don't ask her again. She'll just--"

"Hush." If the interruption upset her father, Angel saw no indication in his facial gestures. Her mother smiled and tried to rotate herself a full 180 degrees, but the seatbelt only allowed her 97.

"Angel, dear, what do you...?"

Person speaking to me--feign interest, Angel thought.

An Agent's Inbox #9

Dear Ms. Martindale,

Please consider my young adult urban fantasy, PRINCE OF CITY NIGHTS, complete at 60,000 words. I love how courteous, professional, and passionate you seem from your online interviews, and I hope my manuscript fits your tastes.

Among the glittering lights and flash advertisements of Shadowglen City, shy seventeen-year-old Tabby Green is cursed with the duty to cleanse human souls of evil. When the government discovers her secret, they kidnap her rebellious younger sister to use as bait. They want her power, and the mayor wants revenge for the murder of his wife--something he’s convinced is Tabby’s fault.

To free her sister, Tabby ventures into the outer city districts and finds more than shadows in the darkness. Special law enforcers march the streets, picking up anyone they deem suspicious and never bringing them back. Street scum hunt for easy targets, looking for more than just a meal. A beast stalks Tabby from the alleyways, stinking of rotten flesh.

With so many obstacles and only one clue to her sister’s whereabouts--follow the beast--desperation hits.

Enter Thief, a charming, well-dressed street crim who seems keen to help. Too keen. The people of Shadowglen are never who they appear to be, and Tabby knows Thief’s hiding something. The more secrets she uncovers in the search for her sister, the more she realizes it’s not the shadows on the outside she should watch out for. It’s the shadows within.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



Tabby bobbed a curtsy in her Sweet Lolita dress, all frills and ruffles and lace. The closest late-night shoppers stopped to gawk. She kept her head down and resisted the urge to scuttle into the café behind her.

The pink dress clashed with her mini red plaits, she had sweat patches under her sleeves, and the café had mold on the ceiling.

None of that mattered. Frills and ruffles hooked customers, every time.

She swept her arms towards the café entrance and steadied her breath. “Evening. Anyone want an icy drink?”

It was a hot night. The crowd was tired. She was a shop greeter in a novelty dress.

The onlookers edged forward and she encouraged them with what she hoped was a flirty smile.

But oh, to be home in jeans, sipping on a nutri-drink and adding touches of paint to the newest picture on her bedroom wall. Away from the lights and the noise and the masses of people.

Her gaze snagged on a man. He was leaning against a shop window across the bustling plaza square. There was nothing overly noticeable about him, but his stare raked her dress in a way that made her shudder. His internal shadows billowed like dark clouds before a storm.

Everyone had shadows. His were worse. His needed to be dealt with.

An Agent's Inbox #8

Dear Ms. Martindale:

The entire fifth grade class thinks Stella is weird, like her late grandmother, the town psychic. Grandmother Hummingbird taught Stella about animal messages--and the Animal Spirits. If you pay attention to the animals that cross your path, you will receive messages to help you. When Stella tells her classmates she’s seen strange bats, no one believes her, but Stella believes it’s a sign.

While researching the mysterious bats, Stella discovers that Grandmother Hummingbird’s death was no accident--she was murdered. Her quest to learn more leads her to secret city, where animals monitor the Earth's environment and Dog Biscuit Day is a holiday. The big boss of flora and fauna, Mother Nature, recruits Stella to follow in her grandmother’s footsteps and become an Earth Keeper.

In Earth Keeper training, Stella studies many animal languages and finds more clues about her grandmother’s death. Stella barks, chirps, and hisses, but when she sings to a whale, she learns about the ultimate evil--a plot to make a potion of doom. The fumes from this wicked brew could take down Mother Nature and the Earth in a wave of devastating air pollution. And the villain behind the sinister scheme, Ziegfried, could be her grandmother’s murderer. Now Stella must awaken her own psychic abilities and work with the Animal Spirits--to stop him.

Because you are seeking new concepts in fantasy, I am inquiring as to your interest in POTION OF DOOM, my 36,500-word middle grade novel. Pasted below are the first 250 words.

I have 20+ years experience as an environmental engineer and I illustrated and co-authored, XXXXXXX. I am also a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Thank you for your time and attention.



Her teacher was wrong! Not all bats were nocturnal. Stella LaPlant flipped through the notebook on her school desk. She kept an animal journal and the bats she had seen were odd--maybe a new species. She pushed her sunglasses further up her nose and scoured her entries under “Strange Sightings. ”

Her finger slid down the page. Yes! She raised her hand and blurted. “Yesterday, I saw bats--large bats--flying in broad daylight. I know that we have bats in North Carolina, but these were some sort of giant mutant species. ” Leaning forward, she tapped the page. “And they had a ‘Z’ on their bellies! ”

The teacher dropped her eraser. “What?”

The entire Possum Trot Elementary fifth grade class fell silent, and looked at Stella as if she’d just blown peas out of her nose.

“Stella, that’s very…interesting.” The teacher rolled her eyes and turned back to the board.

Stella’s shoulders fell as snickers surrounded her. She should have known nobody would believe her. She shouldn’t have said mutants. Now she’d have to put up with another round of teasing.

“Woof, woof, dog eyes,” Cody whispered behind her. Stella clenched her teeth. She always wore sunglasses, even inside, to hide her eyes. Her classmates said she must be part animal, because only dogs and cats could have one blue eye and one brown eye. What was wrong with being like an animal? Her Grandmother Hummingbird, the town psychic, had taught Stella about Animal Medicine.

An Agent's Inbox #7

Dear Ms. Martindale:

Seventeen-year-old Dodge Tellman would do anything to win the Game, but his competitors have an advantage he can't afford: enhanced senses and extra, mechanical limbs.

Dodge lives in the slums of a high-tech megalopolis. The crime rate is higher than the graduation rate, his underpaid parents take pills to stay awake for 60-hour work shifts, and his four-person family lives in a three-room apartment. But if Dodge's team wins the Game, they'll finally have a ticket out. The team of Gamers who conquer the objectives of all seven levels win a new life for themselves and their families, a life aboard a luxury space cruiser headed to colonize a distant planet. And whether the objective is Dare, which means forcing yourself to take insane risks, or something more vicious, like the fight-oriented Dispatch, the number-one asset a Gamer can have is a good operation.

Most of the Game's previous winners have had advanced surgery, but the only operation Dodge can afford is a Chancer. A roulette. He won't know what the operators have done to his body until he walks into the Game, where the implants will activate. There's no guarantee of getting his money's worth, but going in without any surgery at all would be like asking to lose. In the ten years of the Game, no one's won without physical enhancements.

When Dodge and his team first enter the Gamescape, he comes face to face with his worst case scenario: zero difference in his body. No operation. But he's changing, all right. Little by little, level by level, he's transforming into something without a conscience. Something with the capacity--with the sick desire--to slaughter his teammates, his closest friends.

He can still win the Game, if he's willing to stay in the Gamescape and fight the metamorphosis.

But if he can't keep control, he'll lose everything. His family's future. His best friends. His humanity.

And there's no going back.

I'M GAME (72,000 words) is a sci-fi thriller for young adults. I have short fiction in Bad Austen, an anthology to be published November 2011 by Adams Media. I've enclosed my first 250 words below--thank you so much for your time and consideration, and for judging the Agent's Inbox contest!



The com on my wall buzzes, spitting out the voice of my best friend Tag. “Dodge, you there?”

I don’t want to extract myself from my bunk’s covers to answer. The heating in our apartment shell is broken for the second time this winter, and besides this bundle of blankets, there’s no way to ward off the chill leaking in around my bedroom window.

Despite my lack of response, Tag keeps talking. “I know you’re there, bud. Sitting in your bunk and trying to ignore me. Don’t think you’re getting away with it--I’m gonna keep talking until you answer.” A pause. “Yes, that was a threat.”

I roll my eyes. Tag’s not kidding, either. He’ll go on for hours if I don’t shut him up.

I slide out of my bunk, the icy air calling the hair on the back of my neck to attention. As I rub the goosebumps away, my fingers trail over the microchip beneath my hair. The rectangular chunk of circuiting is cold to the touch.

I kick my way through the clutter on my floor and slap my hand onto the wall-com. “Yeah. What’s going on?”

“There you are.” Tag’s voice vibrates in the old silver disk. “The guys wanna go out. You coming?”

I’m tempted to say no. If I go, they’ll ask me what I’m going to pitch.

Tag pitched Army. I knew he’d do it--it’s a rich kid thing. When they pitch, they get their extras plugged under their natural-born arms, one more arm on each side.

An Agent's Inbox #6

Dear Ms. Martindale,

What would you do if every time you touched someone, you saw how they died?

17-year-old Wyndy Julyette, seemingly a normal girl, awakens to find herself orphaned, mute, and cursed to see how other people die--before it happens.

From there, things increase from bad to worse as she seals herself off from all human contact, from even communicating. Moving in with her cruel uncle Lord Tucker, Wyndy and her twin sister Rian have to leave everything behind, including Wyndy’s best friend, Michael. However, the twins also gain a follower, a flattering yet disturbing man in charge of the “peacekeeping” Scarlet Guard.

As Wyndy adjusts to this new life, a boy shows up from the mystical North, a place the Scarlet Guard has sworn doesn’t exist. Wyndy discovers that all these strange ties are related, in more ways than she could ever imagine, to her own situation. Her Untouchable gift, her curse, is embedded in the very formation of the island as she knows it.

In a world where magic is feared and color distinctions reign, Wyndy must fight with all her being against what is easy and what is right. The final confrontation leaves Wyndy with an impossible choice between good and evil, between selfishness and altruism, between love and loss…

Complete at 140,980 words, Hero: First of the Wyndy Julyette Chronicles is YA fantasy, which may appeal to readers of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and Matched by Ally Condie. Per your submission requirements, I have enclosed the first 250 words.

My name is D.G. and I’m a broke college student. For seven years writing has been my passion, a stress reliever and a perfect way to unwind. I have been gripped with the love for recording how characters react to scenarios I drop them into. All my novels are very character driven. Hero is the first manuscript that I have polished and made publish-ready, yet I am currently revising my second novel as well.

Thank you again, Ms. Martindale, for reviewing my project and I hope to hear from you at your earliest convenience.



A red cup. Blue water in it.

Too blue. 

A flash of red fabric. A black eye.

Fire. Hot and sticky. Burning my skin. Clouding my eyes with smoke. Stealing the breath away from me.

Propelling through our three-room house; stumbling through the door and into my parent’s bedroom. Seeing them lying in their bed, motionless, caught up in the flames. Their faces start to change, turn to ash before me…

Day 1

“The window, the--are you crazy, Wyndy! Don’t open the door!” Rian shrieked. Her voice was distorted over the hiss and crackle of flames just outside our bedroom.

I didn’t care. I had to see for myself.

The covers tangled my feet and I fell out of bed on my hands and knees. The air was dense with smoke and I blinked hard, clearing sleep and the itching pain from my eyes. Rian fumbled through the dark to find me, her cough and hoarse cry of “Wyndy” enough to make me stop.

Growling and ignoring the pain on my palms and knees, I lurched upright and grabbed Rian’s hand, the gloves I’d been too tired to strip off earlier still hugging my fingers. Rian latched onto me instantly, her fingernails like claws, as I towed her towards the window.

“Stay behind me,” I wheezed sharply. The only answer Rian gave me was a choking sob. No time to think now; just get her out of this burning house and then see for myself if it was true.

An Agent's Inbox #5

Dear Taylor:

I've read that you’re drawn to character-driven stories, and I hope you’ll consider representing my novel DUSTED, a young adult urban fantasy set in modern-day San Antonio.

For sixteen years, tabloids nationwide have maligned Brina, the infamous human-pixie hybrid. Both humans and pixies find her odd, but not even Brina knows how odd she really is. Though she’s always envied how the pixie royal family can produce all eight kinds of dust, she’s never imagined doing it herself. But then…

When Brina wakes up with multicolored sheets the morning after her brief kidnapping, an ancient secret begins to unravel. Soon, Brina attracts the attention of a group of ruthless rebels, who’ve been snatching at the edges of the secret for years, and are convinced she can help them tear it wide open. She’ll need her wits and her wings free and clear to contend with the rebels, dodge high school dust addicts, learn some dust control…and decide if a certain handsome human is too good to be true.

Because the rebels are right, and Brina’s blood could start a revolution. Worse: no one who knows it, no one who can prevent it, can even breathe a word of it. Compulsion spells are a b****.

Fans of WINGS by Aprilynne Pike will enjoy the blending of the real and the supernatural in DUSTED, which is complete at 98,000 words. The first 248 words are attached below.

As a criminal defense lawyer, I’ve learned about the drug trade directly from traffickers and addicts. I’ve published a paper on the juvenile death penalty, but this is my first novel. The death penalty paper was easier.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



Brina knew better than to go out in public looking less than her questionable best. But she was late, it was rush hour, and home was thirty minutes away by car…but only ten by air. So she left her human-sized purse and car keys with her best friend Moira and launched her mouse-sized self out the palace window into the sweltering air of San Antonio, Texas.

The first flash came from her left and, like an idiot, she twisted toward it. Which is how the photographer’s zoom lens caught her: eyes opened wide, long braid slicked back from her face with her own sweat, and limbs sticking out at startled angles from her workout tank and short-shorts. All of it glowing softly brown in the dusk.

As a special bonus, the magazine’s cover photo captured the moment her four bright white wings froze in shock, sending her plummeting a few feet downward. The resulting portrait could have been entitled “Freak, Falling” but instead the headline proclaimed: “Human-Pixie Hybrids: The Last American Taboo.” That worked, too.

Naturally, the cover was taped to her locker first thing Tuesday morning. It hadn’t been torn carefully, and a jagged gash ripped halfway through Brina’s right wing. As if she needed help looking ridiculous.

Brina stopped in the middle of the hallway and forced herself to breathe. Stretched her lips into a slight smile. Pressed her head to the side, as if pondering a pleasant surprise. Ignored the churning in her stomach.

An Agent's Inbox #4

Dear Ms. Martindale,

Theater tart turned Constantinople's premier courtesan, Theodora accompanies her wealthy patron to the frontiers of the Byzantine Empire. He promised her a bronze marriage belt and the red sandals of a patrician, but abandons her before either realizes she carries his child. Alone with an infant son and no means of survival, Theodora sells her body to make her way back to the capital. There she is introduced to Emperor Justinian.

He wants her.

But Theodora can be mother or Empress, not both.

The Emperor needs a wife who can provide him with an heir, not a woman with a son to tangle the line to the throne. Theodora must decide what's more important: keeping the son the Emperor can never know about or pleasing the powerful man who claims to love her.

THE SECRET HISTORY is historical fiction complete at 100,000 words.

I am a history teacher who has traveled to Istanbul for research and am currently at work on my next novel about the daughters of Genghis Khan.

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



My life began the night death visited our house.

I lay on the straw pallet with my sisters and listened to Comito grind her teeth and Anastasia’s even breathing in the dark. An animal snorted in the distance, probably the scraggly new bear Father had acquired to train for the Greens, a beast scarcely fit for the spectacle of the Hippodrome. The fleas were bad tonight and Constantinople’s sticky heat made the stench of the nearby garbage heap especially pungent. I missed our old home in Cyprus, the salty smell of the Mediterranean and the cicadas’ screams amidst the olive trees. Our ramshackle house near Constantinople’s amphitheater could scarcely compare.

There was a shuffle in the dark--possibly a rat--but then my father grunted.

“Quiet, Acacius.” My mother giggled. “You’ll wake the girls.”

She gave a little moan as I snuggled into Anastasia’s bare back, hoping for more dreams like last night’s fantasy of roasted goat with mint yogurt. Comito claimed I made cow eyes at the butcher’s son when Mother sent us to collect our monthly grain ration today, but in truth I was more impressed with the fresh leg of goat hanging from his stall than the cut of his calves under his tunica. It seemed like years since we’d had meat.

“Acacius.” My mother’s tone was the same she used when my father came home after too much wine at the Boar’s Eye. There was another sound, a thud like a sack of flour hitting the ground. “Acacius!”

An Agent's Inbox #3

Dear Ms. Martindale:

Eleven-year-old Gladys Gatsby loves to cook, but no one in fast-food-obsessed East Dumpsford shares her passion--especially not her parents, who ban her from the kitchen after one teeny, tiny crème-brûlée-triggered fire. Gladys finds a new creative outlet in an essay contest in which she writes about her dream job: becoming a restaurant critic for The New York Times. But when her essay lands on a Times editor’s desk, Gladys finds herself taking on that job a lot sooner than she expected!

Her first assignment: review Classy Cakes, a fancy new “dessert bistro” in New York City. To sneak into the city and the restaurant, Gladys will need help from every friend she’s got--and possibly from her worst enemy, Charissa Bentley. The most popular, meanest girl in the sixth grade is having a birthday party in Manhattan, and if Gladys can get herself invited, she just might manage to meet her deadline and hang on to her dream job.

GLADYS GATSBY TAKES THE CAKE is a 48,000-word, humorous middle-grade novel about a girl who can’t wait to be a grown-up, even if that means biting off more (delicious, gourmet food) than she can chew. The novel stands alone but has series potential. I’ve read that you enjoy cooking, so I think that this project could be a great fit for you.

I graduated from Dartmouth College with a B.A. in Creative Writing and have a play published in the anthology FISHAMBLE FIRSTS (New Island, 2008). My plays and screenplays have been shortlisted for several major awards, which are detailed on my website, [redacted].

I would be happy to send my complete manuscript upon your request and have pasted the first page below. Thank you so much for your consideration.



Gladys Gatsby stood at the counter, the spout of her father’s heavy blowtorch poised over the top of the first ceramic cup. Her finger hovered over the trigger button that was supposed to turn her plain little custards into crunchy, tasty treats. That's when she heard a car door slam outside.

Gladys froze for a second, but then she checked the clock. 5:16--still a good 44 minutes before her parents were due home from work, and they were never early. It’s probably just the neighbors, she told herself, and with that, she took a deep breath and pulled the trigger.

Several things happened at once. With a hiss, a blue flame several inches longer than Gladys had expected shot out of the blowtorch, passing clear over the far edge of the first custard. With a whoosh, the wind outside changed direction and began to blow in through the kitchen window, setting the gauzy blue and white curtains aflutter. And with a jingle and a grinding noise and finally a click, someone turned a key in the Gatsbys’ front door.

A moment later, she heard her parents’ footsteps in the hall.

“Gladdy!” her dad called. “We’ve got pizza!”

Fudge! Gladys thought. She tried to release the trigger on the blowtorch, but to her horror, the spout kept shooting flame. She pumped on it desperately with her finger, but that only seemed to make the flame get bigger.

Their footsteps were getting louder.

An Agent's Inbox #2

Dear Ms. Martindale,

In the multiple interviews you’ve given (Krista’s included, thank you Krista!) and your agent bio, you’ve stressed that you are looking for characters, and my manuscript is all about the characters!

THE ADVENTURES OF BIC AND BILL is the story of Bill, Daddy, an ornery goat named Del Ray, the return of Bill’s massive Momma, and a boxing rat. It is told from the POV of a miss-educated chicken named Bic.

When Momma, escapes her indentured service as a prize fighter to the circus, and busts back to the farm, Bill’s happier than a hound dog to have his Momma back. But soon enough Bill, Daddy, and all the animals on the farm are glum as can be, and terrified of Momma’s terrible wrath, and enormous apatite. If Bill’s twice as big as three water buffalo and just as strong, Momma’s bigger and stronger. So when Momma sees how the farms been running since she left for the circus back when Bill was just a giant baby she’s as angry as an exploded hornets nest.

But when the four tiny brothers of the Terral, Ferral, Derral, and Merral Brothers Circus, come calling to collect Momma, and Momma refuses, Daddy proposes a deal that involves Momma, the circus brothers, himself, Bill, and the farm all in one go.

The brothers will host a boxing match that pits Momma against a champion of Daddy’s choosing. If Momma wins she takes the winnings from the fight and pays off her debt to the circus brothers. If Daddy’s champion wins, Momma must return to the circus.

Now, Bic, Bill, and Daddy must capture and train the only living creature that stands a chance in the ring against, Momma Kill Punch Janice. Mr Rat. a six foot tall boxing rat who Daddy tried to sell to Butcher Pete after Bill knocked him unconscious with his gardening club for raiding the chicken coop.

THE ADVENTURES OF BIC AND BILL is a MG boy's adventure novel complete at 35,000 words.

I am a co-founder of the writing and comedy community which receives 6,000 to 8,000 page views a month, and at four months old, is still growing in readership.

Thank you for your time,


“Lift her higher so I can get at them rats Bill!” shouts Daddy from the porch, pointing his long stocked double barreled shotgun fiendishly under the chicken coop.

Lifting the coop a little higher is easy cause Bill’s stronger than a Mississippi tugboat. Gripping that hen house at the base an raising his elbow, Bill pulls it up enough that he can peek at what’s underneath. Tha Rat’s, glaring back at Bill, growling big as a Cincinnati steam train an meaner than a honey badger in a bee’s nest. Bill’s got his gardening club in one hand an wants to hit that big barracuda toothed rodent right in the skull so he can’t eat no more chickens.

“That’s it Bill, lift it higher! WOOO WEEE I can see that big varmint now!” Hollers Daddy, hopping back an forth on the porch, “Just like you’re do’n Bill, keep go’n higher so I can get a shot at him! Real high Bill!”

Daddy’s got Bill excited now. All exuberant like, Bill goes on an gives that coop a heave. He done sends the chicken house flipping through the air to land ten feet away, smack upside down on its roof.

There’s that rat, exposed big as a python in a playpen. Daddy takes one look at the monster an straight away faints of shock at the size of the thing. He collapses on the porch firing off both barrels as he goes down. One slug goes skipping off towards the sun an the other flies directly at that giant rodent.

An Agent's Inbox #1

Dear Ms. Martindale,

I am seeking representation for HERE TODAY, a humorous women’s fiction novel complete at 84,000 words. After reading your interviews on GotYA and Mother.Write, I think we might be a good fit.

Nate Cather, a world-famous actor, is stalking his own biggest fan. In the public eye since age 15, Nate doesn’t have many normal friends, but he does have Mary K Dallof, a fan who has written him every week for ten years. Nate looks forward to hearing from Mary K more than anyone can ever know--after all, people pay to watch movies starring dashing-and-refreshingly-scandal-free Nate Cather, not the real one.

But when Mary K’s wedding announcement arrives, Nate realizes his one chance at true love is slipping away. Ignoring the protests of his brother/manager Tom, Nate sets off to break up Mary K’s engagement, hopefully without destroying his career in the process. Unfortunately, wooing Mary K requires avoiding her suspicious older sister and maintaining a healthy dislike for her infuriatingly nice fiancé. And he thought shaving his head to disguise himself was tough.

When Tom reports that the tabloids are on his trail, Nate has to decide whether he’s going to risk his career for Mary K--who, as it turns out, isn’t as easy to talk to in real life as she was in his head. Mary K, on the other hand, must pick between true love and a life-long crush. Told from the alternating perspectives of Nate and Mary K, HERE TODAY takes place over the five days before Mary K’s wedding.

I was a columnist and copy editor at The Daily Utah Chronicle, my college newspaper, from 2003 to 2007. I have also worked as a marketing assistant for Shadow Mountain Publishing. This is my first novel.

Thank you for your time.



One of the many, many nice things about being both rich and good-looking is that I’m not going to be convicted of a crime anytime soon. Take stalking. It’s technically a crime, and I suppose I could be accused of dabbling in quote-unquote stalking.

See, I’m Nathan Cather. Yeah. The Nathan Cather--the one who probably has a couple stalkers of his own? You’ve probably seen my movies, watched my TV shows, read my interviews. Some of you might have even visited my website.

This isn’t arrogance--it’s fact. Sometimes I meet people who pretend they’re too smart to know who I am, too mature to pay attention to who I broke up with last or how much money I make. “Nathan Cather, huh? What do you do for a living?” They, my friends, are full of it. Everybody knows Nathan Cather--anyone who says otherwise is lying. I’ve been in two TV series and twenty-three movies, dozens of magazine covers, and hosted SNL three times.

So I pose the question: Who is going to find me guilty of stalking? Most women want me to stalk them. And sure, laws probably should apply to everyone equally, but let’s be real. Don’t some apply a little more to the dude who drips his own blood on a girl’s car, and a little less to the international movie star?

I’m just saying.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Now Accepting Entries

UPDATE: We filled out last slot at 3:30 p.m. EST (or 12:30 p.m. PST). If you sent your entry before that, check your spam filter for my reply. If you think there might be a problem, feel free to e-mail me. Entries go up on Wednesday, so stay tuned!

I'm now accepting entries for November’s round of "An Agent's Inbox"! Here's a quick refresher:

The Rules

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

2. IF YOU PARTICIPATED IN ANY OF THE PREVIOUS ROUNDS OF “AN AGENT’S INBOX,” please DO NOT participate in this one UNLESS YOU HAVE A NEW MANUSCRIPT that meets the criteria listed above. I have a pretty good memory, and I will disqualify previous entries. If the entry slots don’t fill up by Tuesday, November 15, I may allow previous 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. EST (OR 7:00 A.M. PST). 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, Taylor Martindale* of Full Circle Literary, will select both the winners and the prizes. She might pick 20 winners, or she might only pick one. She might offer full requests, 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 she would a normal batch of queries. Essentially, she’ll 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 fiction (all subgenres)
MG fiction (all subgenres)
Women's fiction (historical, multicultural, and book club)

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.

*I know this probably goes without saying, but you should probably treat this round a little differently because you already know who The Agent is. Specifically, if Ms. Martindale has already rejected your query, YOU PROBABLY DON’T WANT TO ENTER UNLESS YOU’VE MADE SIGNIFICANT CHANGES TO YOUR QUERY AND/OR MANUSCRIPT. I’m not going to say you can’t enter (mostly because I have no way to police it), but you--and she--are going to get a lot more out of this contest if you enter something The Agent hasn’t seen before.

Friday, November 11, 2011

"An Agent's Inbox" Contest Alert


“An Agent's Inbox” is exactly what it sounds like--next week, I'm turning the blog into an agent's inbox, a public one. We'll get to see 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, November 14, and then I'll post them next Wednesday, November 16. The entrants and anyone else who wishes to review them may comment until the following Tuesday, November 22, when I'll announce the winners.

Those winners will be chosen by The Agent, and this month, The Agent is Taylor Martindale* of Full Circle Literary!


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 ANY OF THE PREVIOUS ROUNDS OF “AN AGENT’S INBOX,” please DO NOT participate in this one UNLESS YOU HAVE A NEW MANUSCRIPT that meets the criteria listed above. I have a pretty good memory, and I will disqualify previous entries. If the entry slots don’t fill up by Tuesday, November 15, I may allow previous 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. EST (OR 7:00 A.M. PST). 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 she might only pick one. The Agent might offer full requests, 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 she would a normal batch of queries. Essentially, she’ll 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, November 14, at 10:00 a.m. EST! At that time, you may send your entries to kvandolzer(at)gmail(dot)com. Looking forward to it!

The Genres

YA fiction (all subgenres)
MG fiction (all subgenres)
Women’s fiction (historical, multicultural, and book club)

If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments below!

*I know this probably goes without saying, but if you’re thinking about entering, you should probably treat this round a little differently because you already know who The Agent is. Feel free to do a little research and include personalization in your queries. Also, if Ms. Martindale has already rejected your query, YOU PROBABLY DON’T WANT TO ENTER UNLESS YOU’VE MADE SIGNIFICANT CHANGES TO YOUR QUERY AND/OR MANUSCRIPT. I’m not going to say you can’t enter (mostly because I have no way to police it), but you--and she--are going to get a lot more out of this contest if you enter something The Agent hasn’t seen before.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Interview with an Agent: Kathleen Rushall

Excited to share an unusual Wednesday edition of "Interview with an Agent" with you! Today’s interview features Kathleen Rushall of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. Ms. Rushall has a jam-packed schedule this week, so the interview’s not interactive, but her answers to the usual questions are quite informative, I think. Happy reading!

KV: How long have you been agenting, and how did you get into it?

KR: First of all, thank you so much for interviewing me! I really appreciate it and I love to appear on blogs like Mother. Write. (Repeat.)--places where we all have the same passion.

I officially became an agent in May of 2011, but I was assisting other agents with their projects and on administrative tasks in an agency before that. I interned at the Sandra Dijkstra Agency for six months and then worked at Waterside Productions for about a year and a half before becoming an agent with Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.

KV: How would you summarize your personal agenting philosophy? What do you expect from an agent-author relationship?

KR: I look at the author-agent relationship as a give and take. I really view it as a partnership. Like all strong partnerships, it should be built on communication, respect, and honesty. I expect authors to work hard, to always strive for improvement (good writing is a process), to have initiative, and to be open and upfront about their ideas, brainstorming, and goals. And I hope they expect the same from me as their agent.

KV: What genres do you represent? What genres do you definitely NOT represent?

KR: I represent children’s fiction including picture books (looking for quirky, character-driven, and funny), middle grade, and young adult fiction. For both YA and middle grade books, the voice is paramount (haven’t heard that before, eh?).

For middle grade books, I’m looking for something with a strong voice that’s fast paced with good character development. I’m really open to anything: girl-centric, multicultural, boy POV, adventure, fantasy, contemporary, etc.

For YA I especially love Southern gothic, thrillers, mysteries, I’d love to find a good ghost story, historical fiction (Western, anyone?), romance, science fiction. Again, a memorable and engaging voice is key and I’m really looking for that unique plot with characters I care about. So, sorry to be completely unoriginal here, but voice and hook are important!

I’m also representing adult nonfiction in the areas of crafts (DIY), how-to, pop culture, parenting, business, and health.

KV: Are you interested in picture book writers who AREN'T illustrators?

KR: I actually prefer picture book writers who are just writing the text. I'm not currently looking for illustrators. Great question!

KV: What query pet peeves and/or pitfalls should writers avoid when querying you?

KR: Honestly, it’s just simple things. I think anyone reading this blog is already on the right track with the preparation. Things like not putting the title of the book in the query letter or not addressing me specifically at the opening (please no “Dear Agent”s or, worse still, “Dear Sir”s).

The only other thing is to make sure you’re ready. You should have your critique partners help you decide this--have people read over your letter and, of course, your manuscript. Edit edit edit. This is your first impression so you want to make sure it’s as strong as possible.

KV: You only want to see the query letter in a writer’s initial contact (if the writer queries by e-mail), but several respected industry sites have advised writers to include a few sample pages at the bottom of every query, whether the agent asked for them or not. So if a writer goes ahead and adds those pages, do you find that more assertive or obnoxious?

KR: Actually, I would love to see the first ten pages of the manuscript included in the body of the e-mail with the query letter.

I know there is a lot of conflicting information online on various sites about which agent wants what for each submission; I feel bad for the confusion! If you don’t include the first ten pages, that’s fine; I will always request what I want to see. Just makes it nice and easy when it’s already in the letter. But please no attachments of the full manuscript with the initial query letter.

KV: What are you looking for in a manuscript right now? What are you tired of seeing at the moment?

KR: Since I’m open to a wide range, it seems like it may be most helpful here to focus on what I’m not looking for.

Right now, for YA, I’m burned out on paranormal “creatures” (this can include anything from vampires to werewolves to angels to fairies). There are exceptions (like I said, I’m into ghosts and witches), but paranormal romance and dystopians aren’t something I’m currently looking for.

For picture books, I don’t represent rhyming texts, and the book really has to make me laugh for me to love it. I want humor in my picture books!

For middle grade, I don’t want anything too “quiet.” There really has to be a strong hook that keeps the story moving. I hope this helps!

KV: What’s the best way to query you?

KR: The best way to query me is electronically. I do accept snail mail queries, but I prefer e-mails. Just e-mail me your query letter and the first ten pages of your book (in the body of the e-mail vs. as an attachment) at

For picture books, please go ahead and include your picture book text in the e-mail as well. For nonfiction proposals, you can just include your query letter and I can ask for your proposal. Can’t wait to see what’s out there!

Thanks again, Ms. Rushall, for taking the time to answer these questions. And good luck to everyone who decides to query. I won’t be surprised if that’s quite a few of you:)

P.S. Don’t forget to drop by this Friday for more details on next week’s round of “An Agent’s Inbox.” Taylor Martindale of Full Circle Literary is going to be The Agent, and I know she’s ready and raring to go. Looking forward to next week!