- Crits and Contests
- Success Stories
- Baker's Dozen Success Stories
- General Success Stories
- Published Authors
- Secret Agent Success Stories
- Peter Adam Salomon
- Helene Dunbar
- Beth Hautala
- Monica B.W.
- Leah Petersen
- Danielle Jensen
- Tracy Holczer
- Leigh Talbert Moore
- Alice Loweecey
- Beth Hull
Friday, August 29, 2008
No, really. The level of QUALITY here is unbelievable. I'm not talking about talent, either, though that's certainly in the mix. I'm talking about quality of character -- kindness, dedication, commitment, selflessness, humility, honesty.
Maybe one day we'll have a "Miss Snark's First Victim" conference. I, of course, will wear a mask and a large, red hat.
And we'll invite all the Secret Agents, and we will promise not to hit them up with a single pitch! It'll be all about likemindedness and camaraderie and laughter and encouragement and excellent finger foods.
Who's with me?
Ah, and another thing. I've told you before that I find you all most inspiring. Well, that impression took wing this week, as I revisited a WIP ("the" WIP, if you must know) on which I'd been utterly stuck in the middle of chapter 9, which had meandered in the wrong direction and completely discouraged me. Anyway, I am officially un-stuck and pressing forward.
Sometimes you just don't know how you're going to touch someone else's life!
Have a wonderful weekend, as you all heartily deserve it. And be here bright and early on Monday morning for the official UNVEILING of our Secret Agent!
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Thank you for being so incredibly brave. Sending only 250 words in is like I’ve asked to see a picture of your child, but only her elbow.
This is a wildly subjective business and for as many times as you have been rejected, multiply x clients with y editors each and know that I have been beaten with the no thank you stick quite a bit myself.
Once my identity is revealed there may be a flurry of googling, and much rolling of eyes and harrumphing (“no wonder she didn’t like mine” “I queried her last year!” “she looks like my cousin, Fran” ) and if you compare my fiction and non-fiction sales, it appears as if I have loaded a cannon up with clients and then fired- they are as scattered in range and subject matter as could be. The identifiable trait that they all seem to have is that they understand the foundation and mechanics of writing and are able to build upon that by composing plot and character and facts that are interesting enough but accessible enough to appeal to a wider range of readers.
Ta-da! There you go. That’s the secret.
Okay, there’s a little more to it than that generally fueled by feelings of rage, mourning, ambivalence, desperation, apathy and a pinch of narcissism just for color, but overall you have to just keep refining your technique by reading and writing as much as you can in order to truly establish a solid understanding of what makes a stand out a stand out.
What I am hoping that we all take away from this is that there is such a wide range of agents and editors that you can’t let one or twelve or thirty tell you you ain’t got it, kid. Keep reading what’s on the shelves. Pay attention to your technique and basic writing mechanics. And write. Write like your life depended on it.
Because mine does.
Thank you again for the opportunity to read your work. Best of luck to you all.
Ink to paper, fingers to keyboard, voice to microphone; it's all the same. The seed of story is birthed deep within the brain, only to claw its way around, growing in volume and complexity until someone lets it out. But the process, the path toward light, does not flow like water from a jar.
Instead, it writhes and flows and sticks and squirms and gushes and stops and begins again. Fits and starts, gasps and sputters, thousands of words or only twelve.
Yet we live for the day of its completion.
We question the meaning of "complete," though. When is it finished? How much honing can the raw jewel accept? Is it ever truly the Masterpiece we believed it to be at its conception?
And so we continue, hapless parents believing our child is destined for greatness despite his flaws. Hungry for words of affirmation, we reveal the sacred place to eyes that will nitpick, pens that will strike out entire paragraphs, opinions that will chaff, sting, crush.
Then we continue on, for better or for worse or for the ultimate annihilation of our dream.
This is what stirs us, what inspires us, what feeds the creative frenzy that is our life force, our ultimate place of Being Who We Are. Beyond caffeine, beyond the majesty of nature, beyond the euphoria of romance -- this is where we are beckoned, where the delight of our days begins and ends.
Scorn us, smile at us, leave us to our own devices as you will. We will wend our way with or without you. It is our calling. Our destiny.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
GENRE: commercial fiction
I knew we weren't supposed to make judgments on physical appearances, but I couldn't help it with this couple. For starters, Jessica looked like a perfect 80's cliché, complete with jelly shoes, stirrup pants and side pony-tail; while Hugh sported an argyle sweater-vest that could have come straight from a 1950's yearbook. It was a like watching some new reality series: Clash of the Decades.
I forced myself to concentrate on the woman's face, making note of Jessica's wheedling tone.
"But why can't we get married?" she was saying for the umpteenth time.
Hugh pouted. "You know how my mother feels. She'll never speak to me again if I marry you. And I can't live with that."
"But I don't see why we can't elope and never let her know the difference."
Hugo's mouth twitched almost imperceptibly. But I knew what it meant as soon as I saw it. "Sweetie, it's more complicated than that."
I leaned closer. It could be any second now. Hugh tapped his foot while waiting for Jessica's reply. She pursed her lips as if about to speak and -
Jackpot! Hugh rolled his eyes dramatically upward as Jessica started to rant about how she would only wait for so long before she went into action. I briefly wondered what kind of action she meant, what was she going to hold some sort of spinsterhood protest? But really it didn't matter because the eye-roll said it all. This couple was doomed.
"Doomed. Doomed. Doomed!" I sang out.
GENRE: Historical Romance
Carrie did not get cold feet that night; her feet had felt like wooden blocks throughout the entire day. Now, as she lowered the knotted sheets over the windowsill, she prayed those same wooden blocks could be depended on to get her safely to the ground. And then the twelve mile walk to...but there was no sense in thinking about that just yet. She had to get down first.
She looked over the edge of the sill. Far below, her mother's carefully tended rose bushes stood like sentinels in the moonlight. From the bed behind her, Carrie could hear her younger sister's even breathing, and for a moment she wished for nothing else but for Ellen to stir. Wake up, Ellen! Ask me what on earth I'm doing! For God's sake, stop me!
But there was no other sound save the crickets chirping loudly in the crisp nighttime air. Carrie shoved one leg over the window ledge and then the other, and then turned over on her stomach. She took one last look at the room and its sweetly sleeping occupant. Oh, Ellen! I'm sorry I won't be here to go berry picking with you tomorrow, like I promised.
Her bare toes found the first knot, and Carrie forced her hands to grasp the makeshift ladder. For a terrifying moment she flailed, the sheets twisting, and then she slithered down another length, and another, until she found herself dangling close enough to clutch
GENRE: Literary Fiction w/ Commercial Edge
Ashley -- Chapter 1
TITLE: Only Skin Deep
With a light knock at the door, Nurse Vivian Sendek peeked her head into the examination room. “Pardon the interruption, Dr. Planck. There’s a detective here to see you.”
“I have an opening right after Mrs. Downing here.”
“I’ll let him know.” Nurse Sendek lowered her voice. “From the look of that thing on his face, he’s needs some real help.”
She quietly closed the door.
“Once again, Mrs. Downing, I'm sorry, but this growth is not cancerous. I’ve seen plenty of skin cancers and this just isn’t it.”
“What are you writing there?” Mrs. Downing pawed at her chart. “Don't you dare write on there that I have a wart. Where's that other dermatologist? Get him in here so that he can take a look. He'll tell you I have cancer. It runs in my family.”
Mrs. Downing clutched her purse close to her chest, her periwinkle hair nearly falling loose from the curlers.
“Mrs. Downing, this isn't cancer. It's just a plain old wart. Nothing to cause concern.” Dr. Planck jotted some notes onto her chart. “We have several possibilities of treatment.”
Mrs. Downing huffed.
There was another knock at the door, but instead of Nurse Sendek, a short, thick man in a dark suit pushed his way inside the cramped examination room. Nurse Sendek followed on his heels, reprimanding him.
Looking at the man’s face, Planck understood what the nurse meant about the detective needing help: a flame-red rash covered the entire right side of his face.
TITLE: A FATHER'S PROMISE
GENRE: Commercial fiction
Lucas crept to the edge of the field and listened. Nothing -- nothing close anyway. Maybe he'd lost him. He grunted. Fat chance.
Which way now? Blackberries snarled the fence between him and the woods. The creek? No, that's the first place he'd search. Lucas hesitated, then darted back the way he came, getting only a few feet before rustling in a stand of cattails to his left sent him diving into a patch of lank brown grass. Should’ve tried for the woods.
Footsteps splashed through the water, paused, then angled sharply back into the field. The footfalls came even faster -- he'd been seen. Lucas sprinted forward, but got only one step before two paws planted against his shoulder and sent him sprawling.
Flat on his belly, spitting grass out of his mouth, he had two thoughts. One, this spot of ground was altogether too squishy, which meant mud. His mom was going to kill him. And two, the dog sitting on his back weighed as much as Isabel Cutter, the girl who knocked him down and tried to kiss him at school last summer.
He looked over his shoulder and got a glimpse of a lolling pink tongue and white teeth before the beast dropped and began bathing his face. Lucas snorted and choked and buried his face in his arms.
“You got me! You don’t have to drown me.” At least Pax was a better kisser than Izzy.
Charles Franklin Wright always liked firsts. During the first minute of the first day of his first term as President, as he first sat in that big leather chair, which accompanied the Resolute desk on the edge of that historic room, Charles found himself uncharacteristically overcome with utter feelings of awe and reverence.
One minute later, the sensation wore off, and Charles became the first person to desecrate that illustrious political office on the very same day that he swore to honor and uphold its integrity. He did so by blackmailing two Senators, three Congressmen, and a lobbyist into championing his first piece of legislation using illicit information acquired surreptitiously during his first term at the CIA.
President Wright was certainly a man who loved firsts, and of being first, in particular. But this day was different. This was his last day in that chair, and in that office, and in that job, and his early departure was one that was completely unplanned, and totally unforeseen. The reasons for his resignation were a first for the record books, yet this was one first he neither wanted nor relished.
Now, as he slumped into that big leather chair which was no longer his, these last few regretful minutes begrudgingly borrowed, he began scouring with tired eyes that picturesque, oval-shaped room seeking to capture one final indelible memory.
He didn't dare turn on a television, radio, or even open a newspaper; that would be too painful.
Genre: Commercial Fiction
She made so many marks and scribbles with her red pen that Steven wondered if he’d have a recognizable poem left after she was done. He looked around at the other three workshop participants in their group; no one scribbled as much as Charlotte. Even as others offered their feedback, she continued making notes. He was on the edge of his seat when it came her turn to speak, dying to know what about his poem warranted so much red ink.
“I think it’s a little confused,” she said, without looking up.
He frowned. “What parts don’t you understand?”
Her chin snapped up and her eyes met his; she didn’t blink. He got the distinct feeling he’d insulted her somehow. He smiled to show good will, but he didn’t see the flicker of attraction in her eyes that he saw in most women when he smiled at them. He was sure she felt it. But she hid it well.
“I’m not confused. Your poem is.”
He looked down at four stanzas of what he considered near-perfect poetry.
“Some of it’s a lot of ornate description. Especially the first few lines of the third stanza. But the entire first stanza is really concise. Like you chose each word for a reason. The style isn’t consistent. And you need to watch your line breaks. They tend to coincide with punctuation marks, which is easy, but not very inventive.”
How strange it was, to be stung by harsh words from such pretty lips.
GENRE: Historical Fiction
Seven shots. Eliza prayed they would they be enough? She trained her father’s Spencer at the door Her little brother, Will, crouched in the corner of the one-room sod house with the twins.
GENRE: Commercial Fiction
Blind dates were the work of the devil, and Presley Gordon's best friend was the devil's apprentice. Oh, she might look innocent enough with those soulful eyes and that gentle demeanor, but Presley knew better.
Lori Meade was the antithesis of innocence when she was on a mission.
She was a demon, pure and simple. A demon with one thing on her devious little mind. Achieving her goal no matter the obstacle presented to her. And for the past six months – ever since she'd entered into a world of perpetual bliss with those fateful words, "I do" – her mission was to pair up all of her single friends so they, too, could live an idyllic life with their soul mate.
It didn't matter if they were on a different path than hers, opting for single-hood over coupledom. Nor did it matter if they had moral objections to swapping dating war stories with an equally dysfunctional stranger. Once Lori set her mind to something, there was virtually no stopping her.
Unfortunately for Presley, she was at the top of Lori's list of friends in need of partners.
Along with the "perfect guy" she was to meet that night for dinner and drinks at a new restaurant called "Le Bistro."
Well, that was two strikes against him already, Presley thought as she re-checked her makeup in the rearview mirror of her Prius.
"I am not going to die. I am not going to die." She muttered the words over and over like a protective mantra as she felt her way through the inky blackness.
That was what she kept telling herself. That was what she'd been telling herself for days now. She wasn't sure how long she'd been imprisoned in this basement. It was too dark to determine the passage of time, but she knew it had been days.
"I am not going to die." It was what she'd told herself every time she'd heard him come for her. Every time he'd touched her, hurt her. It was what she'd told herself every time he left her in the darkness, alone, cold and hungry. It was what she'd told herself, when she'd felt his eyes on her, watching her, even when it seemed she was alone. It was what she'd told herself when she'd awoken from the dream that she was safe and warm in her own bed, to find out that she was still a captive in the windowless, dank, rotting, place.
"I am not going to die."
She'd fought back. The blood flowing from her palm proved it. Even though she couldn't see the cut, she knew she was bleeding badly. The metallic scent of her own blood made her empty stomach lurch. She swallowed down the bitter bile that rose in her throat. She'd hurt him, she was sure of it. Otherwise he would have caught her by now.
TITLE: DEADLY DISILLUSION
Just before the bomb blew, Clay Holt should have foreseen something was wrong. But, no. He was preoccupied. Distracted. Thinking of the six-figure job offer he’d received, and how badly he wanted to get the hell away from Washington, DC.
The damp December air over the city smelled like rotting fish as a raw east wind floated saltwater mist in from Chesapeake Bay. FBI agent Clay Holt and his partner, Paul Herrera, drove out to the Brookland neighborhood in the northeast quadrant of DC to give two other agents a break for lunch. They had been watching a residence suspected of being a drop house for a human trafficking ring from Mexico.
Paul turned the Crown Vic onto the street, two blocks behind the other agents’ car.
“It’s almost one o’clock. I hope Mills and Peters haven’t starved to death,” Clay said, feigning concern and hoping to elicit a smile from his partner. Nada.
As he stared back out his window at the gray clouds suffocating the city, he thought about the position he’d been offered in Colorado, his home state. Where majestic mountains shoot up from the high plains to touch heaven. Where his children would be safe.
The car slowed as they approached the other agents, who appeared to be inside their vehicle.
“I’m glad I’m not pulling these watches,” Paul said. “I used to─”
The other car lifted two feet into the air as a red and orange plume of fire erupted.
GENRE: Mainstream Literary
By the time the Range Rover jolts onto the dirt road, there’s nothing to see but eucalypts and untidy scrub. Jason’s head is thick with fatigue from the three hour drive, and he’s fidgetty with lack of caffeine and his wife’s ultimatum. He has cajoled, bribed and f****d his way to revealing the address shoved in his pocket, but it might cost him his marriage.
Ahead, a mountain range overshadows the land like a low thunderous cloud. The car thumps and judders, and a screen of dust chokes the air behind him. He rounds a corner, and the scruffiness of the bush is abruptly segmented by fences and fields slashed into tidy rectangles.
The cottage is weather board, and in need of a paint.
He’s suddenly tired of the whole damn thing. But he needs to find out what happened to Sam.
Jason slams the car door, and flicks the central locking. He pushes open the gate. A riot of disorderly garden beds pour right up to his feet.
A grey-haired woman emerges from behind a tipi of bean vines. She’s got a wiry strength to her. “Can I help you?”
“I’m looking for Ellen Baker.”
“Yes, that’s me.”
“I’m Sam Wilson’s brother.”
“That’s nice, but I don’t think I know a Sam Wilson.”
“I was told that you do guiding work. Up to Mt Gungurra.”
A wary nod.
“Did you take my brother up there? To the Gate?”
She weighs the trowel in her hand. “Come inside.”
GENRE: Literary Fiction with a Commercial Edge
“Take me with youuu!!” I begged mum desperately.
She merely laughed. “Come now; you really don’t want to be stuck with your dreary old parents for a whole week.”
“Yeah I do; I really, really do.”
She smiled. “Well it’s too late anyhow- we’re going tomorrow and even if we wanted to we can’t get another ticket.”
I lowered my eyes. “Don’t go then,” I murmured.
Mum frowned. “What?”
“Don’t go!” I yelled in her face before turning and sprinting upstairs to my shared bedroom.
I collapsed on the lower level of the bunk bed, curling my legs up to my chest as I buried my head in the soft white pillow.
“Lucy? Lucy; are you okay?” her tentative voice came as she sat upon the bed, stroking my hair with soft fingers. “Lucy? What’s the matter? Is this about your dad?”
I shook my head.
“What is it then? Is it Frank? Do you not want him to move in yet? Cause it’s okay if you don‘t, he won’t mind.”
“It’s not Frank,” I told her while sitting up. “It’s just that ever since…ever since dad…you’ve never been away for more than a day and now you’re going for a whole week. It just…it just seems strange.”
Mum smiled. “You won’t be alone, you know that right; your sister’s going to come down for the week just to keep an eye on you.” A ghost of a smile flickered on my face as inside my stomach curled up in fear. ‘Just me and Stacey alone for a whole week. She could do whatever she wanted to me and no one would know.’ I flinched at that as my mum continued talking, oblivious to my thoughts. “Now, I’m going to go get dinner, you wanna come with?”
Title: Third one out
The phone rang on Thursday night. I don’t remember which end it rang from, but I do know I was going
to talk to my little sister Crystal. Crystal was the youngest of three. She as long as I could remember had
chocolate color hair and big beautiful brown eyes. So was kind of stringy and goofy looking for most of
her life. When she was born I was fifteen years old and my other sister was twelve. It came as a shock
to my mom when she found out she was pregnant, since she had her tubes tied. She was born early,
about two and half month too early. She was as big as a doll and needed special diapers. I was always
scared to hold her, other then that she was a prefect baby.
noticed that she was not her usual happy self. I could mostly hear it in her voice. Then it hit me like a Mac truck running on all cylinders, words I would never forget. Of chores it started with a story before the bomb was drop right into my lap. It started about this girl who was her friend for some time. I think since she was about eight, I am not really sure.
TITLE: TREASURED LIES
GENRE: Historical Romance
“You destroyed my life, and now you come here to beg?” Edward Courtland, Lord of Fairgate sneered. The hideous grin made his sunken eyes disappear even further into his pasty, wrinkled skin. “Well, go ahead, wife.” The word sounded like a curse on his lips. “Beg.”
Tabitha glared at her husband, her eyes burning with tears she refused to shed. Edward sat propped up on the chaise against his silken pillows. The liquid he swirled in the crystal goblet reflected the candlelight with a strange iridescent glow.
“Edward, please.” Her voice was low and hesitant. She had avoided him whenever possible during the past ten years. Only the magnitude of her love for their son provoked her into his presence now. She cringed as Edward’s face twisted into a cruel scowl.
“You dare come here to beg from me? Get out of my sight, you murdering whore!” Spittle flew from his mouth as he thumped the armrest of the chaise with his free hand.
The hair on the back of her neck stood on end at her husband’s awful, biting words. Every instinct told her to flee, but she steeled herself to try again. Tabitha swallowed her rising panic and took a deep breath as she noticed an empty laudanum vial lying near the whiskey decanter. As Edward tauntingly resumed his agitation of the amber liquid, she realized if he consumed the deadly concoction in his hand, she would never get another chance to speak.
Emily's back ached from lugging the suitcases up from the car. She wasn't going to tell Richard that though. He'd harp on her about being ungrateful that he'd gotten a hotel room instead of making them sleep in the car again.
Richard opened the hotel room door and walked in, leaving Emily to catch it before it slammed in her face. Connor clutched at her sweat pants.
"Sweetheart, let go so I can get your toothbrush. It's past your bedtime." She closed her eyes and put her hand to her forehead. "My purse is in the car."
"So? You don't have no cash," Richard said as he kicked off his shoes and sat on the bed closest to the television. "You and the kid get the bed by the air conditioner. The noise will keep me up all night."
"Connor's toothbrush is in my purse," Emily said.
"He can skip it tonight."
Frustration built up inside her. "And will you be the one taking him to the dentist when he gets a tooth ache?"
Richard scowled, his long blonde hair hanging in his face. "Well, go get it then. Here's the key card." He tossed it in her direction. "And take the kid with you."
She took Connor's hand, leading him out to the hallway. He perked up as soon as Richard was out of sight. "Can I go push the elevator button, Mommy?"
Genre: Historical Romance
Antonia stared at the gown with its low, tight fitting bodice of dark green silk overlaid with cream-colored lace. She wondered once again what had made her choose it for tonight's ball, with all the sorrowful memories it carried in its delicate folds. She nodded at her nursemaid, who bent down with a groan and helped her wriggle into the garment. Holding on to the maid's hand, she steadied herself, her vision going blurry. The gown had been a favorite of Lady Eleanor’s, and sorrow weighed down her limbs at the thought. Antonia sighed. "I am exactly her image." But the knowledge was small comfort.
As her stout nursemaid began lacing her gown with sausage-like fingers, Antonia smoothed out a single wrinkle in the exquisite fabric. She fluffed out the full, draping skirts, carefully releasing the lace covering of her sleeve from its catch on her jeweled rings.
Antonia’s lips pursed slightly. The esteemed Lady Eleanor was in the grave and Antonia wore this exquisite gown in her memory. She would go to the ball in her place tonight. Antonia’s eyes welled up with tears. These she dashed away angrily, trembling with fury and pain, guilt and sorrow. "I killed my mother," she thought. Her throat tightened and she fought to swallow her grief. Suddenly overcome with anger at herself, she chased away these thoughts, lifting her head proudly and blinking back tears which clung to her eyelashes, threatening to spill down her cheeks.
Lexy shielded her eyes from the afternoon sun and stared at the castle in disbelief. For someone obsessed with her own appearance, Cara certainly took pains to make the prop for the roller coaster look as degraded as possible.
The front gates sagged as if they’d given up and decided to allow entrance to anyone. Not that Lexy imagined many people would chose to enter the ridiculous castle if it weren’t for the roller coaster housed inside. No happily ever afters found here, she imagined the castle saying, kindly take your fairy tales somewhere else.
The odd thing was, she felt as if she recognized the castle. Absolute craziness, but she closed her eyes and tried to remember.
“Lexy?” Cara’s voice shattered her concentration. “Sorry I’m late.”
Lexy’s eyes popped open and focused again on the castle.
“Hello,” Cara said. “Over here.”
Yes, this was the Cara she knew, a picture of utter perfection. Not one strand of long, black hair askew, tailored shirt just the right hue to match her lively blue eyes, and neatly pressed, white shorts that dared dirt to even think about smudging the crisp linen. Lexy looked down at her own outfit. Wrinkled khaki shorts and a faded pink tee shirt. Well, not everyone was cut out for the upper class.
“You okay?” Cara asked.
“That,” Lexy pointed, “is the ugliest castle I’ve ever seen.”
Genre: Historical Fiction
The man in the corner of the tavern had not looked straight at Thomas even once. Observing someone without being noticed in a public place requires the discipline to seek incidental eye contact with that person. The lanky man lacked that discipline.
His eyes would flit past Thomas, or focus on a point right behind him. Thomas did not make the same mistake. He studied his watcher openly for a moment, and then smiled politely as their gazes crossed. The man's face flushed.
Thomas feigned not to notice. He scanned the rest of the smoky common room, searching for a second man. The lanky one was an amateur. He could be a decoy, used by a more experienced spy. The Holy See had many good spies, and assassins. Thomas was sure they were hunting him, eager to catch their former colleague.
A bald man, sitting at a table near the door, caught Thomas's attention. Broad-shouldered, like a soldier, he was watching a game of dice between some craftsmen next to him. Every now and then he would lift his head and take in the scenery. Only after he started talking with the men playing dice, Thomas relaxed a bit. The craftsmen all seemed to know the soldier.
"Looking for something, stranger?"
Startled, Thomas blinked. Then he grinned at the waitress, hiding his annoyance at being caught off-guard. He eased back his dagger into its sheath under the table. "Sorry, lass. Your beauty stunned me. I'll have another ale."
If whoever had their finger on her buzzer didn’t take it off in the next two seconds, Kate was going to grab a knife and remove it herself. Kids fooling around or someone who’d forgotten their key. Always a guy. Always her buzzer. Kate stomped barefoot to the intercom.
“What?” she snapped.
“Kate Evans? I’ve a delivery of flowers.”
Regret for her abrupt tone was tempered by disbelief. “For me?”
“Yes, if you’re Kate Evans.”
“Who are they from?”
A heavy sigh preceded a rustling noise. “It says -- for Kate from a secret admirer.”
Her lungs locked.
“Want to let me up?”
She pressed the release switch and leaned against the wall, excitement bubbling until she convinced herself it was a joke.
But the doorbell rang, and through the peephole Kate saw a fair-haired guy holding a large bouquet of flowers. She checked the chain was secure and opened the door.
“Could you leave them on the floor, please.”
Once he’d walked away, Kate removed the chain. As she turned the handle, the door slammed into her and for a moment she thought there had been an explosion. She fell on the floor, flowers scattering everywhere. The door closed and he dropped to his knees at her side. Kate opened her mouth to scream and he smiled.
“Marry me, Kate.”
Shock killed the scream in her throat. “Who…who are you?”
“Your future husband.”
No matter how bad I looked, her pious husband would send me back as soon as he found out about…
TITLE: The Edge of Memory
GENRE: Commercial Fiction
October 21, 1951
Thea Greyson pulled the afghan she'd knitted him close and pretended she could smell his pipe tobacco. A fluttery tapping sounded between the thunderclaps. "Now who could be calling at this hour?" she asked David's picture as she rose from the armchair.
She peeked outside and then threw the door wide. "Good Heavens, child! You're soaked to the bone." Thea shuttled the girl indoors. "What's a little girl like you doing out in this storm?"
The girl shivered, slopping rainwater across the floor. "Mama said… but I felt so…" Her hands balled into fists and she clamped her lips together.
Thea brushed ropes of soggy hair aside as she looked the child over. Don't see anything broke or bleeding. "You're not from this town or I'd know your sweet face. You lost, honey?"
Hazel eyes searched Thea's for a moment before a single nod.
Thea smiled. "Don't you worry. I'll help you find your mama."
The child sighed as the afghan slipped around her shoulders. "Thanks, Missus."
"What's your name, sweets?"
The girl's blue lips twitched and her chest quivered in quick shallow breaths. With a violent shake of her head, she backed away unsteadily. Glaze swept over her eyes. Before Thea could ask what was wrong, the girl's head bowed forward and she slumped to the floor.
TITLE: The Crichton Heir
GENRE: Historical Romance
“How was I to know the bloody sheep would make a mess of the garden?”
Margaret Sinclair mumbled, as she crawled through the rich dark mud. Scratching her nose, she cringed from the smell; another smudge left on her cheek.
The look on Frederick's face when he realized his sheep were missing made it worth it. Almost.
“Why do I behave so unseemly? Control…must learn control.”
“Talk to yourself often, lass?”
The unfamiliar deep voice made Margaret’s body tense. Closing her eyes, she prayed to be swallowed up by the nearest steaming dung heap; on second thought, maybe not.
Margaret looked up, blowing the unruly curls off her sweaty forehead. A pair of large riding boots was a yard away. Her eyes traveled up to brown form fitting riding breeches and a fine linen shirt that hung open.
Feeling heat spread to her cheeks, Margaret knew she was blushing. She hoped he hadn't noticed.
Obviously amused by young girls up to their teeth in filth, a deep rumble forced Margaret to meet his laughing pale green eyes. Her breath caught.
Patrick found the girl amusing, until her eyes locked onto his. An
involuntary shudder ran through him. He should avoid this enticing woman he had thought merely a girl. Patrick didn't need Laird Sinclair angry that he had dallied with a servant, and yet…
“I may prolong my stay if all the Laird’s wenches are as hard-working and dirty as you seem to be.” Patrick smirked, cocking an eyebrow.
Please remember that if you have submitted an entry, you need to leave feedback on at least five of the submissions. Mutual back-scratching sort of thing.
Keep your eyes open for our "Secret Agent" who will be leaving feedback any time between today and Sunday (most likely sooner than later).
And critters -- be honest but be nice. Remember, no "Someone should have burned your fingers off years ago."
Anyway, I already know how awesome you all are. *smile*
Okay, here we go!
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Anyway, a big thank you to Terri Rainer for sending me the following:
For skiffy paranormal authors:
Writers Of The Future, which boasts a $5000 prize potential. No entry fee.
For romance writers:
Agent Scott Eagen's Category Romance Challenge, starting in October.
And for everyone, but only running for a few more days:
The Worst Storyline Ever Contest
So there you have it. Of course, if these fun little contests keep you from your daily MSFV visits, I will have to, ur, boycott them.
No, not really. I'm not that needy.
Enjoy. And see you tomorrow for our Big Day!
Submissions were way down this time -- good news for our Secret Agent and those of you who submitted, perhaps. Not good news for those of you chomping at the bit for lots of good stuff to read and comment on!
I think I've realized just how many skiffy authors frequent this blog. That, and children's authors. Ah, well. You're all excellent sports. You know that we can all learn a lot from reading agent comments in all genres, not just our own.
So. Entries will be posted tomorrow. I've got some links to other contests I'll be posting later today, thanks to one of our faithful readers.
Now I'm off to finish my coffee.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Here are the guidelines -- PLEASE READ CAREFULLY:
Please submit THE FIRST 250 WORDS of your completed manuscript to facelesswords(at)gmail.com. You have from now until Tuesday, August 26 at 9:00 am EDT (2:00 PM London) to send your submission. Submissions sent after the 9:00 am time stamp will not be included.
The contest is open FOR THE FOLLOWING GENRES ONLY:
Commercial fiction (no fantasy or sci/fi)
Literary fiction with a commercial edge
ABSOLUTELY NO CHILDREN'S BOOKS (any age).
Please format your submission as follows:
TITLE and GENRE at the TOP of the page.
Please -- no boldface, underline, or funky fonts. (Italics are OK, but please not for the title/genre.)
Please -- include a SCREEN NAME that I can use for identification purposes. It is not necessary to use your real name. All submissions will be posted anonymously.
ONLY ONE SUBMISSION per person. Subsequent submissions will be deleted. (It's a matter of sanity.)
By submitting your work to Miss Snark's First Victim, you are giving inherent permission for a) your work to be posted anonymously on this site; and b) your work to be critiqued by the readership of this blog and by our Secret Agent.
Language deemed "too offensive" by Authoress will be bleeped with asterisks, as per my "rules" page (see link to the left). Otherwise, your writing will not be edited in any way, except for formatting issues that may pop up (let's hope they don't).
Submissions that do not follow these guidelines will be subject to elimination from the contest.
So...you're sure you've read them carefully, yes? Because I hate rejecting things. Ur, people.
Okay, here we go! I'm uber-excited. Your posts will appear on Wednesday, ripe for the critting.
Best wishes to all!
Friday, August 22, 2008
Our second official Secret Agent Are You Hooked? will be open for submissions on Monday at 9:00 am EDT, with precise submission guidelines posted at that time. Please do not send your submission until you've seen the post.
Meanwhile, I think I'd better prepare a stash of chocolate in my office so I can nibble whilst posting. Chocolate-y keyboard notwithstanding, I think it might make the entire experience more fulfilling. At least for me.
Last Friday, your comments were so inspiring. I'm seriously going to be reading through them again as I attempt to become better focused as we move into the fall season. Something about "new beginnings" and all that. (Which doesn't make sense, considering that everything is actually dying at that time of year...)
So never hesitate to share what you're working on and where you're at. I really do believe that this kind of back-and-forth dialogue makes a difference in our lives-as-writers. I've told Mr. Authoress more than once that I have yet to find a truly snarky, difficult, hard-to-love aspiring (or published) author online. It's amazing to be counted among such a fine group of humans.
Well, mostly humans. I'm not so sure about Merc...
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
So this weekend I bumped into some folks I haven't seen in almost ten years. (Nice folks, not the kind of folks you were hoping you'd never see again.)
"I saw you walking by," said Old Friend, "and I said to my wife, 'Hey, that looks like *insert Authoress's real name*." But then I said, 'But she's not old enough to be *insert Authoress's real name*!"
I almost kissed him. This guy is younger than I am. By several years. His wife is younger still. And he thought I was too young to be me.
Too young to be me!
I'm sure the myth was shattered when he got a closer look. But the warm glow wasn't shattered -- not for me. If old friends mistake me for a sipper of the fountain of youth, I'm going to revel in it until my wrinkles are too deep to allow me to play anymore.
So I'm a bit boosted. Stoked, even.
Sometimes it doesn't take much, you know?
Anyway, so I've been thinking. Two things, really:
1. If you submitted a first page during our last Secret Agent contest, please don't re-submit the same page unless you've done substantial revisions.
Here's why. You've already gotten a lot of feedback and critique on your page. If you submit it "as is" you're going to get the same feedback and critique. You're also going to annoy all the folks who recognize the excerpt.
Now I don't really have the time to track this. So it's the honor system. If you get publicly lynched by the crit mob for submitting an identical page, you can't claim lack of fair warning.
2. I'm certain there were two things, but now I can't remember what the second one was. (And this is the person you're entrusting your submissions to.)
Ah! I've just remembered.
On leaving feedback:
The vast majority of you are gracious, tactful, helpful, appropriate. However there were a few -- a very tiny bit of few -- comments that I felt compelled to delete last time. They had that lack of grace and tact that made them feel astringent instead of beneficial.
I mean, if something doesn't grab you at all, you could write:
"If this were the last book on the shelf, I wouldn't buy it."
"Someone should have chopped your fingers off before you learned how to hold a pencil."
However, if you choose to do so, your comment will be short-lived, as I will annihilate it as soon as I find it.
A better choice for something that doesn't grab you at all:
"I'm sorry, this didn't grab me. The main reason is..."
Okay? And like I said, most of you don't need to hear this.
That's all for now. I don't want to clog up Monday's submission guidelines with all this extra stuff, so keep your eyes open for anything else I end up rambling about in the next two or three days.
Aren't you glad you've subscribed to the blog? (And if you haven't, um...why not?)
Monday, August 18, 2008
The call for submissions for our next Secret Agent contest will be this coming Monday, August 25th.
Please do not send submissions early. Submissions will open as soon as I post the call, and will close in 24 hours.
Full submission guidelines will be posted. I'm reminding you once again to please follow them carefully.
IMPORTANT: This Secret Agent round will include ONLY the following genres:
Commercial fiction (no fantasy or sci/fi)
Literary fiction with a commercial edge
ABSOLUTELY NO CHILDREN'S BOOKS (any age).
(I know, I know. I write children's books, too. But not all the Secret Agents who come to play are going to rep children's books. You'll get your day in the sun. I promise.)
Ask your questions here and now. But remember that the details will be included on the actual call.
Just polish your first page and get ready to submit!
Oh, and please be kind and refrain from asking me to further define the above genres. You know what you write and you know where it belongs. If you're not sure about the name of a sub-sub-sub-genre, then I'm sure as heck not going to know what you're talking about, either. *wink*
And the countdown begins!
Friday, August 15, 2008
(Notice I didn't ask about your recreational activities. That's because one assumes that most writers don't actually set weekends apart in their minds as "non-writing" days. I mean, is there such a thing as a "non-writing" day?)
Big News: Our next SECRET AGENT contest is set up and ready to go! I'll be posting some Early Information For My Faithful Readers on Monday. I think we've worked out some kinks, and there will be some stringent guidelines to follow -- all for the sake of making it easier on our Secret Agent and all the devoted feedback-givers.
So please be good and follow the directions. I can't tell you how painful the thought of disqualifying an entry would be. I'm just not good with that. (Who, me? Rejection issues?)
And that's your teaser for the day! Love me or hate me, you'll have to wait until Monday for more.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
"Tell your mom to have another baby!"
"No, I want this baby."
"Well, maybe I'll have to sell him for sale and then you can buy him!"
That's an über-weird conversation. To give it a little perspective, the wee speakers couldn't have been more than five years old apiece.
Ah. The world according to a very small child.
Which brings me to my point. When writing for children, it's imperative that the voice of the story -- and of the characters -- resonates in the child's world. Authenticity in dialogue, both internal and external, is a skill to be honed and re-honed in the world of kidlit. If a main character has inner thoughts that seem like they belong inside the head of a thirty-year-old, then something isn't right.
In pondering the snippet of dialogue to which I was privy yesterday, it struck me how "normal" it was for the tykes engaging in it. To them, the idea of selling a baby brother to your neighbor wasn't odd in the least. And as I listened to their amusing exchange, I felt like I was "allowed into" their very real world. I didn't question it; I didn't worry that something was "off."
That's the way it should feel when we read the dialogue of not-quite-grown characters. We shouldn't question it, struggle with it, roll our eyes in dismay at it. And in order to provide this delightful experience for our readers, we need to write with a level of authenticity that accomplishes this.
Adult fiction will often have a youngster or two on its pages, so the same thing applies. Your twelve-year-old secondary character needs to be as believable as your twenty-nine-year-old protagonist. You can't just make him a little shorter with the same vocabulary.
And the bottom line is, if you want to learn how to get into the world of children -- their language, their perceptions, their reactions -- you need to spend time with children. You've heard the ridiculously old adage "write what you know." Well, you have to "know" children in order to write them.
You don't have to give birth to or raise or sign a two-year lease on a child in order to accomplish this. Hang at a playground. Take your hyperactive nephew to the pool. Babysit. Let your hair down and spend some time with small people. Listen to their words, their games, their songs. If they're teenagers, listen to their fears and dislikes and passions and the latest teen-speak. Learn to laugh with them, cry with them, pay attention to the meaning behind their words.
They really are endlessly fascinating. And if you can grab hold of the fascination, regardless of age level, you will transfer that sense of immediacy and reality to your characters.
There's your challenge. Make what you can of it.
I think I'll take a walk!
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Good stuff to read. Because you all want to learn, incrementally, how to write the very best query letter you can.
Find out what worked for one agent. Bearing in mind, of course, that agents are like snowflakes. Though, truly, a fabulous query letter will trump personal differences.
After you've read the blog post, come on over here and share what you've learned.
Monday, August 11, 2008
But please. Please don't call me Miss Snark. I don't strive to "be" her; I never meant to step into her stilettos.
Now, I'm not being testy. (Or snarky, as it were.) I'm just treading lightly on hallowed ground. (Well, that's a bit melodramatic.) Miss Snark singlehandedly changed the agent/author playing field. She reached from behind the sacred curtains and bestowed knowledge, insight, correction, and, when nobody was looking, kindness.
(I know this is true. She once sent me a "hug" in an email.)
Hundreds (nay, thousands) of writers mourned the shutting down of her blog. It's still out there, archived. So the wealth of information is available to you even today. My lil' blog is not a diluted attempt to add to or supplant Miss Snark's trove of writerly treasure.
I'm only pointing this out because I've been addressed as "Miss Snark" in emails now and again, and I've been listed on blog rolls as "Miss Snark." So might you, dear whoever-you-ares, make that teeny-tiny change for me?
Because I am starting to have nightmares about bereaved, sycophantic Snarklings coming after me with cleavers and poisoned quill pens, mouths frothing, eyes rolling, soulless voices chanting in surreal unison.
Death to the mocker! Death to the mocker!
I'm certain that none of you want my blood on your hands.
And anyway, George Clooney is too old for me.
And I hate dogs. Especially poodles, which aren't really dogs, anyway.
That about covers it. I'm terribly fond of my readers (am I the only writer who forms emotional attachments to her readers? Surely not...) and I simply want to make the distinction between who I'm honoring and who I am.
I am Authoress. For better, for worse, for no clearly marked purpose.
Thanks. I feel better now.
Friday, August 8, 2008
(Yes, I'm a foodie. No, I don't cook to the level I wish I could. Reason? Can't afford the ingredients!)
I'm still working on adding your blog URLS to the sidebar. If you discover a problem once yours is up, don't hesitate to email me (as some of you already have!).
You'll be glad to know that our next Secret Agent Are You Hooked? has been officially written in stone. Entries are going to be more carefully kept to a manageable limit, at the request of our Secret Agent. (Our new SA took note of Holly's 115 submissions and, well, blanched a bit.)
I'm working out the details. Announcements will be made once I've got all the snarls unsnarled.
So don't tell too many of your friends this time. *wink*
Seriously, I'm excited! And we've got an upcoming author interview about which I'm really excited, too.
I like this blog thing!
Oh, but I've got to say something. What's up with our little Thirty-Word-String story from Monday? Granted, your talent is shining through as always. But...Calliope and Nathan are still sitting at the table! Where's the action? Why are we still dawdling over the frittata and chicken noodle soup?
As it stands, it's a form rejection.
And that's enough rambling for this Friday. You know I love when you're chatty, so I'll be checking the comments box over the weekend.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
If you have a writerly blog and would like it to be listed here, please email me the URL at facelesswords(at)gmail.com. Please state whether you are an ASPIRING AUTHOR or a PUBLISHED AUTHOR, as I will be creating two separate lists.
(Notice they will both be labeled "author." But you knew I'd do that.)
I'll be taking a quick peek at each blog that's sent, just to make sure there aren't any nekked ladies or the worship of Dark Forces included. But overall, if you're a writer and you blog, I'd like to include you here.
Monday, August 4, 2008
(Okay, so maybe I don't feel like cutting and pasting anything this week. Something tells me you're all going to give me a little grace here.)
Ahem. There's a lot of talent represented in my readership! So I'm eager to see you have some fun with words. Here's how to play:
Read what's been written so far. Write THE NEXT 30 WORDS. No more, no less. No period if you haven't come to the end of a sentence yet. No end quotes if the dialogue has broken off in the middle. 30 words. And make them flow naturally out of the preceding words.
Oh, and one more thing: Your 30 words MUST contain one of the following words:
CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP
Yes, you may choose a word that's already been used by someone else -- but not a word that has been used in the 30-word segment right before yours.
Do you think we can shoot for a 1500 word story? That would mean 50 comments.
I will start the story in the comment box, to keep things all together.
Okie dokie? Show me your stuff!
Friday, August 1, 2008
For those of you who were inspired by the interview with Olugbemisola -- isn't she a breath of fresh air, though? I'm so excited for her, and was truly honored that she took the time for an interview.
Finally, a bit of fodder for some discussion: Have you all seen THIS? Somebody is a marketing genius, that's for sure. Yes, I'll buy it. But I won't pre-order. I'm not that besotted with Ms. Rowling's work.
Is it overkill? Enough of Harry already? Or does this little gem make your eyes glisten with thankful tears? Curious (nosy?) minds want to know!