Thursday, June 14, 2018

All The Writerly Writerness

Dear ones!

I've been in a drafting hole, and I'm still there. (Probably you've seen, oh, maybe a tweet or two about mucking through the mess of this draft.) And in a couple days, I'm leaving for vacation!

I glance wistfully at this blog from time to time, well aware of how I've been neglecting it. Yes, it's summertime time, and yes, I have a lot going on. But once I'm back, I intend to toss up a few in-house critiques for you. SO GET READY.

Why in-house critiques? Because we all need Other Eyeballs on our work. Because this is a safe place (I will gouge out the eyes of anyone who says mean things to you) (Okay, not really, but you know what I mean). Because the reason this community has grown so strong is because of the GIVING. It's one of my favorite things about the writer world. I'll never tire of being a part of this.

So don't give up on me! I'm still here for you.

Lots of new ground for me, now that I've got a book deal. There's definitely a learning curve, and Danielle has been a great coach! You may remember that, when I sold GATHERING STORM, I also sold UNTITLED YA. I was simultaneously thrilled and worried--selling a book that didn't exist yet was probably one of the scariest unknowns for me. And boom! It was handed to me, and onward we went.

So for the past few weeks, in addition to drafting my 1000 words a day, I've had to work up a proposal for 3 potential UNTITLED YA choice, which included a synopsis, opening chapters, and character sketches. The choices are:

1. The book I'm currently drafting.
2. The book I wrote just prior to GATHERING STORM.
3. The very first book I ever wrote, reimagined and rewritten.

All 3 are YA fantasy. All 3 are potential fits for my brand as a YA fantasy author.  All 3 will land, at some point soon, on my editor's desk.

I could drown in what-ifs (What if she hates all 3 ideas? What if the one she chooses ends up being the worst/hardest one? What if someone yells APRIL FOOL?). But I'm choosing not to.

Then there's the amazing thing that happened just a couple days ago. My editor emailed me to let me know I'd received my first blurb--and it's from a Very Big Name, and I almost forgot how to breathe properly as I was reading (and re-reading and re-reading and re-reading) the email.

I actually sank to my knees in the kitchen and thanked God. And then my knees hurt. And I LAUGHED, because it didn't matter WHAT hurt just then.

This blurb. It's...amazing. I feel so affirmed and encouraged and can't stop thinking that this person REALLY LOVED MY NOVEL--and loved it enough to gush about it! And those words are going on my book cover, and everyone will see them.

I am undone.

And so, in the midst of a difficult draft and charting new territory and pressing forward, I received an incredible gift that I never expected. And it's fueled me, so that now I'm feeling all Avenger-like as I muscle through this new story.

Just. Keep. Writing.  Always.

Those words aren't just for me--they're for all of you! No matter where you are in your journey, you really do just have to keep writing. And keep writing. And keep writing some more.

The good things will happen when you least expect them. The fabulous things will happen when you have NO idea anything's on its way. And they'll all be perfectly timed--your perfect story. Your perfect journey. Because it's YOURS.

And that's me, really! I'll see you all when I'm back from my travels.

Write on!

Monday, May 21, 2018

Oh, the Sparkly Winners!

Here you go, my lovelies, from Colleen's very fingers:

Dear authors!

Thank you so much for sharing your first pages with me. I enjoyed each and every one of these, and I hope my comments help. Please remember that mine is only one opinion, and what doesn't work for me may be exactly what another agent is looking for. Consider all of your feedback from not just me but from the other authors and only edit based on those that resonate with you.

I'd love to thank Jillian for inviting me to the Secret Agent party. What an experience! I hope you'll all join me in buying Jillian's book as soon as it's published, binge-reading it in one night, and then posting a thoughtful review for her.

Okay, on to my requests.

I invite all of the authors to check out my bio at, and if you think we're a good match, please send me your query via my Query Manager link.

Query + Synopsis + 50 pages!


Query + Synopsis + Full please!

Please paste your query + synopsis into the body of an email with your MS attached and send to Thank you!

CONGRATULATIONS, all!  Winners: Please be sure to follow Colleen's instructions above. Best of luck!

Secret Agent Unveiled: Colleen Oefelein

Huge thanks for our lovely and enthusiastic Secret Agent, Colleen Oefelein of the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency!

Jennifer's Bio:

I’m a fairly new agent with The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency (since February 2018), and I’m actively and very excitedly building my list. Prior to working with New York’s Jennifer De Chiara, I was an associate agent, agent assistant, and PR manager with Inklings Literary Agency, which was where I began my publishing career as an intern several years ago. Prior to that, I'd retired from the Air Force, where I was an officer and engineer working space launch. I hold a BS from Penn State in Chemical Engineering with a focus in Biotechnology, and I also hold a BS in German. Some of my off-the-wall talents include flying helicopters and speaking in 10-codes, which I picked up while working emergency dispatch for Alaska State Troopers. As a published YA author, I can greatly appreciate the journey to publication and always look for opportunities to mentor pre-published authors. As an agent, I host several online and conference workshops such as Rejection Correction, Pitch Perfect, “Reel” Inspiration, and Un-Dreary Your Query.

What she's looking for:

I represent authors of picture books, middle grade, young adult, and adult books in a range of genres. In general I love to see anything high-concept, fast-paced, and in deep POV. I love dark tales, flaw-ridden main characters, and unreliably evil antagonists. I shy away from anything with insta-drama or overly emotional responses in the opening pages from characters I haven't gotten to know yet.

In YA, I badly want a Faust retelling, and a retelling of a more obscure fable, fairy tale, or lesser-known cultural myth. Also in YA, a mystery/suspense/thriller based on or inspired by the David Grunwald murder (one that smartly navigates the culture of teen cannabis use and violence). I’d also love to see a suspense or thriller that involves identity policing. In YA SciFi, urban fantasy, or dystopian, a story that calls to mind THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN;

In MG and YA, I’d love to see a non-didactic, fresh perspective from a main character who struggles to fit in to or feels ostracized from his/her marginalized community;

In MG, YA, or Adult: anything by or based on an Alaska Native POV; and a thriller or mystery involving painted rocks.

In Adult: Romance and romantic suspense between multi-dimensional characters. Please no insta-love.

Winners forthcoming!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

May Secret Agent Critique Guidelines

We've got a fun mix of genres this time!

Guidelines for Critique on MSFV:
  • Please leave your critique for each entry in the comment box for that entry.
  • Please choose a screen name to sign your comments. The screen name DOES NOT have to be your real name; however, it needs to be an identifiable name.  ("Anonymous" is not a name.)
  • Critiques should be honest but kind, helpful but sensitive.
  • Critiques that attack the writer or are couched in unkind words will be deleted.*
  • Cheerleading IS NOT THE SAME as critiquing.  Please don't cheerlead.
  • Having said that, it is perfectly acceptable to say positive things about an entry that you feel is strong.  To make these positive comments more helpful, say why it's a strong entry.
  • ENTRANTS: As your way of "giving back", please critique a minimum of 5 other entries.

*I can't possibly read every comment.  If you ever see a comment that is truly snarky, please email me.  I count on your help.

May Secret Agent Contest #50

TITLE: Wide Open
GENRE: YA Contemporary

It must have been my promise to Daddy that made me agree to this. Mom didn't even have to talk me into it much; I just said yes. Because it's an adventure, like Daddy would've said, and because Fisher said they only had space for thirty. That's only twenty-nine other people.

Still. Am I crazy? A senior class trip with twenty-nine people I have nothing in common with. They have, at best, ignored me completely, and at worst outright made fun of me. I've learned to wrap a protective layer around my heart, so I won't be hurt by them. They don't like me, I don't like them. It's peaceful and mutual. So why am I going again?

I groan and press my face into my pillow. It really must be for Daddy. He would have wanted this. Invitations don't exactly come pouring in for me, so really, I never had much of a choice.

Mom knocks on my bedroom door frame. "You up?"

I sit up too fast. "Yeah."

She enters and perches on the end of my bed. I've always thought Mom is beautiful. Streaks of silver run through her long, honey-gold hair. Her face is heart-shaped and kind, her eyes like two green pools. I remember when they used to sparkle. Now they're deep and veiled. Typical Mom, burying her pain so no one else will have to deal with it.