Thursday, May 25, 2017

Call For Submissions: FIRST KISS

We haven't done smoochies in a long time, so let's have at it!

A first kiss scene needs a delicate balance all its own.  Have you accomplished it?  Let your peers help you find out!

On FRIDAY, MAY 26 (tomorrow), submissions will open for a First Kiss critique round.

*Submissions will open at NOON EDT and will close at midnight.
*Your submission should consist of a BRIEF LEAD-IN (give us a setting for the scene) and an up-to 250-word excerpt that includes your characters' FIRST KISS.
*All categories (MG, YA, NA, Adult) will be accepted.
*NO EROTICA.  My intention is always to keep this site PG-13, in honor of my younger readers.
*Submit your entry HERE.
*The bot will choose 25 entries after the submission window closes.  The entries will post on the blog on TUESDAY, MAY 30 for public critique.

Questions?  Ask below!  Looking forward to reading your kisses. :)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Whispering Into the Void


It finally happened.  So much life was unfolding in my lap that something had to seriously give.  And "something" apparently equals "blog".

All is well.  I was simply...doing life.

I'm fresh off a glorious 2-week visit with my parents, who hadn't traveled to see us in almost 2 years. To say that our time together was blessed is an understatement.  They timed their visit to coincide with a ridiculous amount of family gatherings and celebrations, as well as a performance by our city's symphony orchestra in which Mr. A and I sang with the chorus.

(I won't even go into how incredible it was to look across the hall and into the balcony, and to see my parents sitting there.  Yes, my dad really did stand up and wave his arms.  He has always been my biggest fan.)

At any rate, their visit also happened just as I was set to dig into a round of post-submission revisions on my current manuscript.  And despite my initial intention to get some writing in whenever I could, it proved impossible.

Which is fine.  I dug in again yesterday, and this afternoon is slated for all things writerly.

But I've got to admit something.

After so many years of writing--so many years of being agented without a sale--I found that I didn't miss it at all during the past couple of weeks.  And now that I'm jumping in again (as always!), I find I'm simply doing it because IT'S WHAT I DO.

I'm not particularly excited.

I'm not particularly optimistic.

I'm not particularly feeling my groove.

Honestly?  Doing this because "it's what I do" is okay.  I really believe this.  No emotions, no dreams, no effort to stay connected to the YA writing world the way I used to.  Just doing my work, and doing it to the best of my ability.  Working hard.  Carefully considering editorial notes.  Making my story into the best possible thing it can be.

So many of you have stayed with me throughout my journey, from wherever your point of entry may have been.  I could list dozens of names (mostly nicknames!) that really mean something to me when I see them in a comment box or on Twitter or Facebook or in my inbox.  If I tried to create that list, I'd fall short, because I'd inadvertently leave people out.  So I'm not going to try.

But to all of you -- THANK YOU!

I'm here.  I'm writing.  I've got THE MOST AMAZING AND TALENTED AGENT A GAL COULD HOPE FOR.  I've also got a husband who's behind me 100 percent, a gaggle of beta readers and critique partners who are truly life-givers, and a brain that just doesn't want to stop telling stories.  (I sprouted a brand new story idea just yesterday--at the worst possible time, naturally.)

I've also got this blog thing, and I'm working on some summer offerings for you.  So start polishing your first pages!  I promise to get things rolling again soon.

Also?  I'd love for you to say hello today.  Maybe even let me know where you are in your own journey, so I can come up alongside you the way you've come up alongside me.

Muchos abrazos!  And more to come.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Aaaaaand Our Winners!

Here are Nicole's picks:

Honorable Mentions: Query, synopsis, chapter summaries and first 15 pages

Entry # 35 - Frigid
Entry # 41 - Vailen House and the Maraydon Seal
Entry # 44 - This Isn’t Shakespeare

Runners-up: Query, synopsis, chapter summaries and first 25 pages

Entry #9 - In Her Own Skin
Entry #23 - A Beastly Beauty
Entry #40 - Divine Architects

Grand Prize: Query, synopsis, chapter summaries and full manuscript

Entry # 1 - Saving Emmaline
Entry # 16 - Hidden Agenda

Congratulations!  Winners, please email me at facelesswords(at) for specific submission instructions.

GREAT round, everyone!

Secret Agent Unveiled: Nicole Payne

Huge amounts of thanks and applause to our lovely and gracious Secret Agent, Nicole Payne of Golden Wheat Literary!  

In case you missed it, we had an "imposter" Secret Agent leaving feedback this time, and Nicole was right on it, pointing out each time when the feedback was not actually from her.  It's difficult for me to keep up with the amount of comments that come through during contests like this, so I'm especially grateful that Nicole took the time to sort this out for me.

(Incidentally, I don't think our imposter had any malicious intent.  I'm just a little baffled as to why someone else decided to take the Secret Agent moniker--it's never happened before!)

Nicole's bio:

Nicole Payne is a new literary agent at Golden Wheat Literary. She has a B.S. in Biology and a M.S. in Forensic Genetics. Maybe that’s why she now uses her background to investigate for new books. It must be in her DNA.

What she's looking for:

She’s particularly interested in YA, NA, and Adult in Speculative Fiction, Romance, Romantic Comedy, Mysteries, Contemporary, Suspense, and Thriller. However, if the writing and story are amazing, she’s quick to snatch up exceptions, so if you think you’re a good fit, send her a query and see if you can convince her likewise.

Thanks again, Nicole!  Winners forthcoming.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Friday Fricassee

I've gotta say -- you've ROCKED the critique for this month's Secret Agent Contest!  It's so encouraging to watch my inbox continually refill with all your comments.  WELL DONE.

If you've been meaning to leave feedback but haven't had time yet--no worries!  You can continue to leave your comments throughout the weekend.  I'll unveil our Secret Agent and announce the winners on Monday.

For several years, I ran 10 of these contests a year, every month except June and December.  It got to be a little much--I needed to feel less pulled away from my writing, for one thing, and for another--well, I think I was feeling a bit of blog burnout!

Truth is, when I started this blog (9 years ago this month!), there wasn't much out there in the way of online contests for writers.  I forged new ground, and people were excited!  After a while, though, more and more other contests popped up--some fantastic, some not so much--and it felt like such a contest glut that I wasn't sure I wanted to keep swimming in the overcrowded pool.  Scheduling became an ever-increasing issue, as it seemed there was always something else going on whenever I scheduled something of my own.  I didn't have the time or the wherewithal to try to keep track of everything going on out there, just to keep from double scheduling something.

I mean, that sort of thing can be exhausting.  (But I did just use the word wherewithal in a sentence, which is kinda cool.)

So I cut back, and it felt great.  Then I cut back even more, and I find that I've lowered my "writing stress" (because, yes, blogging is writing).  Still, I sometimes wistfully look at the list of past Secret Agents on my sidebar, and I feel like a slacker.  I've got a gang of over 60 success story authors who landed their agents through one of my contests, and that's an awesome feeling!  I want to see more of that; I want to add new names to our Success Story Facebook Group.

But.  I've got to stay with this truncated version of the contest schedule.  And I'm grateful that this week's Secret Agent Contest generated so much energy and participation.  I have always loved the community that sprang up around this blog almost from its inception.  KEEP BEING YOUR WONDERFUL SELVES.

I've still got a few Secret Agent Contests up my sleeve.  And of course I'll keep hosting the in-house critiques.  But the glory days of monthly Secret Agents surrounded by nearly-incessant crit sessions are over.

HAVING SAID THAT: I'm still, as always, interested in hearing what you'd love to see here in the upcoming months.  Is there a particular critique round we haven't done in a while that you'd love to throw your work into?  Is there something we've never done that you think I should consider?  Let me know your thoughts in the comment box!  This blog is for you, after all.

Thanks for reading...thanks for being here.  Some of you are oh-my-goodness-long-timers.  I so appreciate you.

And now I'm going to wrap this up and go have coffee with my sister, who now lives here.  We haven't lived in the same state since I graduated from college, which was ages ago.  I'm still pinching myself that she's actually here!

How's that for a happy, feel-good sendoff?  :)  Blessings on your weekend, my friends--and remember to shoot me your thoughts and ideas!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

For Writers: My Premiere Critique

It's been a while since I've posted information about the critiques I offer.  In addition to my normal, 30-page critique for $95, I occasionally open up a slot for a Premiere Critique, as time permits.


Premiere Critique:

  • detailed line edit of your first 75 pages
  • editorial letter
  • guaranteed 1-week turnaround
  • $260 payable in 2 installments (via Paypal)
  • no first drafts 
  • all genres except erotica/erotic romance
  • all categories (MG, YA, NA, Adult)
  • specializing in science fiction, fantasy, and YA
These slots are always filled on a first come, first served basis.  If you are interested in the current opening, please email me at authoress.edits(at)

Secret Agent Critique Guidelines

It's actually been quite a while since we've had a Secret Agent Contest!  We've picked up a lot of new readers lately (*waves to new readers*), so here's a quick overview:

  • Once the 50 entries have posted, all readers may leave critique in the comment box of each entry.  
  • While the critiquing is going on, our Secret Agent will appear and also leave feedback--for ALL 50 ENTRIES!  This is great not only for the folks who entered, but for everyone who takes the time to read through to see how a literary agent responds to various opening pages.
  • Next Monday, I will post the identity of our Secret Agent AND the winning entries.
    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.

April Secret Agent #50

TITLE: The Wizard
GENRE: YA Science Fiction

I stared at Heath’s face hovering above me as I lay there on the gentle slope of my roof. The almost black night sky behind his head made him look as if he was floating in space. I let my fingers run across his cheek. I was so warm my skin was almost sweaty. My cotton shorts bared my legs to the air outside, and a quick, cooler breeze swept over us. I shivered, but still felt hot to the touch.
“Cold?” Heath asked me, sliding one hand across the skin on my waist under my shirt. The other reached up, and his fingers were in my hair. His legs between mine. I couldn’t answer him. The sound of my own voice would make things too real.

Heath and I were friends in name, but not in action. Because when he kissed me I forgot we didn’t belong together. Not in that lovey way. We meant not to. But we sometimes collapsed together into that brain-numbness of lips on lips and body pressed to body. Lately, I found myself waiting for the next time.

A loud screech cut through the air.

I froze.

The strange noise filled all the dark silence, a shrieking wave of sound slapping against my house.

Heath pushed up onto his knees. I sat up, craning my head.

“What was that?”

April Secret Agent #49

GENRE: Adult Contemporary

An ocean wave was coming to devour the Isle of Man.

Eoin Wade waited on the Tower of Refuge ramparts. The stout, neatly bricked fortress glowed red and green under artificial spotlights. It sat on a patch of stone and sand four hundred yards from the shoreline of Douglas, the Isle of Man’s capital city. On the horizon, the jagged outline of the English coast peeked through the mist above the approaching wave. Every breath brought the tide a meter closer. Sixty more breaths to go, if Eoin was lucky.

At Eoin’s back stood a line of three-storey Victorian guesthouses. Vacancy signs creaked on their hinges. Pigeons shuddered under flake-painted eaves. The pre-dawn sky was salmon flesh in colour. There was still time until silver-haired shoppers and leather-clad motorcyclists filled the promenade behind him. Provided that the ocean didn’t fill it first.

Black hair trailed from Eoin’s oilskin hood. Salty air rushed through his trimmed beard, making his face itch. Heavy metal screeched from the earbuds hanging from his shirt collar. To think there was once a time, a long, yawning river of time, when he couldn’t stuff his head with Motorhead or Thin Lizzy. Was it from so distant an age, when letting music leak from little sponges into your ears would’ve been considered witchcraft? Of course, the centuries had flown by since Eoin’s longship first caressed these sands. Too many.

The most pointless thoughts stirred in Eoin’s head when he was afraid.

April Secret Agent #48

TITLE: Bits and Pieces
GENRE: YA Romance

My biggest failure is being born. My second is not mailing Mitchell Dobson’s birthday card. Two years ago, it was enough knowing that a guy with the collegiate world at his feet also felt crushed by doubt. No need to ruin a chance moment being a fangirl. He knew my photographs, said he liked them. Why not? His antics on the football field filled many of the frames. He seemed convinced that if I really loved photography, I should major in it in college.

Maybe. Until that day, I did love photography. For now, we tolerate each other because a sudden split would prompt questions I don’t want to answer, even with my best friend Zoe.

“You’re a real pro, Bits.” Zoe sits by my side in the afternoon shade of her screened-in porch, her laptop perched on her knees. “My parents will love these.” She scrolls through the images from her senior picture photo shoot. Even in black and white, her smile jumps right out of the image to wrap the viewer in a big hug. “You’ll get into CalArts for sure.”

“They’d have to give me major bucks. Waiving the application fee wouldn’t hurt either.”

“Your dad will find a job.” She throws an arm over my shoulder. The scent of her strawberry shampoo tickles my nose. “He just has to find the right one.”

Before we’re hungry and homeless, I hope. It would be too pathetic if Dad and I were evicted from our tiny garage apartment.