Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Different Kind of Waiting

Before I was agented, I would often read blog posts by agented authors who declared that the waiting was the same--if not worse--once you passed the gilded entrance of Agentedness and went on submission.  "It's just as bad!"  "Horrible!" "Don't think the waiting game is over once you get here, honey!"

Okay, I'm paraphrasing.  But it was enough to teach me that I needed to brace myself once my Golden Day arrived.  (Which, at the time, seemed like it never would.  You know how that goes.)

Let's face it: If you're the tiniest bit observant, the one thing you learn about the publishing industry is that's it's slow.  Slow, as in, have we all entered a deep meditative state, and are we still breathing?  Slow, as in, will the children for whom I've written this novel be grandparents by the time it's on the shelves?

Slow.

So the ability to wait with grace serves us well, from the critique partner stage (never bug a writing friend to finish a crit) to the query stage (never bug an agent who hasn't responded to your original query) to the submission stage (never bug your agent when there isn't any news from the land of editors).  And it doesn't stop there.  The actual deal-to-finished-book process is extremely long.  And while editors may demand slightly less than reasonable deadlines, they may not always produce the line-edits or editorial letters or copyediting in a timely manner.  So authors must wait.

With grace.

So.  You all know that my novel is on submission, and it's not something I talk about because I don't think it's appropriate.  Professionally, I mean.  If you lived next door and we were having coffee together, you'd get an earful.

But yanno, you've walked this journey with me from the onset of your arrival to the blog, and I like that you're part of it.  So I want to say something enlightening or encouraging or mildly amusing.  Something to keep you in the loop.

And here is it:  The on-submission waiting isn't "the same as" or "worse than" the query-process waiting.  It is, from my perspective, a different kind of waiting, and one that is, ultimately, easier to bear.

Think about it.  An agent is your advocate.  You've done the work on the book, and the rest is up to your agent.  You're responsible to keep writing, keep growing as an author.  And to be ready for whatever happens next.

There's a restfulness inherent in this set-up that I think some authors miss.  It's admittedly easy to become angsty during the submission process.  I mean--it's scary!  You feel naked!  You're terrified that nobody else will love your novel. Or you.  Or anything remotely related to you.

But if you're wise, you eventually take a deep breath and get over all that.  Then you pour yourself a cup of green tea with honey, and you write.

And here's the "different" part: You write without having to do anything else.  No agent research.  No queries.  None of the stuff that used to take up so much of your time.

Folks!  This is so freeing!  And to use this time for angsting would be incredibly counterproductive.

I have no right to talk about "long waits" at this point, anyway.  For Josh and me, it's early in the game.  Remember: slow, slow, slow!  So while I've admittedly stalked an editor or two on my blog and briefly obsessed about this or that, I came fairly quickly to the leave-it-in-Josh's-hands-and-keep-writing mindset.

And I'm here to tell you: Being on submission does not have to be a horrible, nail-bite inducing process.  DON'T LET THEM MAKE YOU BELIEVE OTHERWISE!

That's my public service announcement for the day.

Oh, and I'm almost finished with my WIP.  "Excited" doesn't begin to express my feelings about it.  And the fact that I can FEEL EXCITED ABOUT A WIP while on submission with a different novel makes me feel like I've "arrived" somehow.

I haven't "arrived", of course.  But I'm in a good place.  I love my agent, I love my dystopian-on-submission, I love my WIP, I love my husband, I love the writing community.

It's all good!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Humility and Grammar

No, they're not related.  It just sounded like a cool title so I went with it.

1.  Humility

My 3-chapter critique was auctioned off to the highest bidder in the Write Hope Auction for Japan on Sunday. The winning bid? $251. Very, very generous, and a wonderful contribution to the relief effort for Japan.

It humbles me for two reasons. First, because that's a high value to place on a critique from an anonymous somebody. Which has taught me that my capacity for good in this anonymous blogger role is greater than I had imagined.

Second, because there is no way I could give a donation that generous from my own pocket.  So it's amazing that I was able to give in the form of a critique, and the winner's generosity will now reach out and touch those who are suffering.

So, yes.  I'm humbled.  And appreciative.  And excited to do the critique!

2. Grammar

For those of you who may not be aware, I've started a series called THE BASICS on the Write On! teen blog. The first two posts were about dialogue, and today's is on misplaced modifiers.  (Hence the "grammar".)  While I'm gearing the posts for my teen audience, I think "basics" is something all just-starting-out or still-growing-my-wings writers need to brush up on.  So you're warmly invited to read the posts, which will go up each Tuesday.

That's all for now!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Winners!

Huge congratulations to Ms. McKean's two winning entries in this month's Secret Agent Contest:

#49 Rouge
#50 The Specter of Avery Hill


The prize:  Ms. McKean requests that you send your query and full manuscript.  Please email me at facelesswords(at)gmail.com for specific submission instructions.

Yay! And huzzahs for ALL entrants, as always.

Secret Agent Unveiled: KATE MCKEAN


Thanks and loud applause for the lovely and insightful Kate McKean of Morhaim Literary for being our Secret Agent this month!

Kate's Bio:


Kate McKean is an agent at the Howard Morhaim Literary Agency. After earning her Master's degree in Fiction Writing at the University of Southern Mississippi, she began her career as an agent. She also teaches classes on book publishing at New York University, and fiction writing workshops for Slice Literary Magazine and MediaBistro.com.

Kate's list focuses on fiction of many stripes for both adults and teens, as well as practical and narrative non-fiction, especially craft and humor. Her recent sales include a 3-book paranormal romance series by debut author Delilah S. Dawson, Lucas Klaus' YA novel Everything You Need to Survive the Apocalypse, and UNSTUCK: 52 Ways to Get (and Keep) Your Creativity Flowing by Noah Scalin.

What Kate is currently excited about: 

Contemporary YA and Middle Grade, Adult Paranormal Romance, and Romantic Suspense.

Hooray for another fun round with lots of good feedback!  Winners forthcoming.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday Fricassee

You're catching me in a frenzy of WIP-love.  Having broken through, having found my way, I am now in a place of undying affection.

You all know it won't last.  This journey is fraught with ups and downs.  A psychotic elevator.  A haywire bungee.

The proverbial roller coaster.

But OH! Today I am reveling.

I have to tell you what's made the difference (besides the fact that I actually know where I'm going now).  I took one of the "bad guys," who was originally a not very well developed grown-up type, and made him younger.  Much, much younger.  As in, close to the protagonist's age.  Which is 17.

Bingo.  Instant sexual tension.  Because I made him exquisitely handsome, too.  And he's a jerk.  And dangerous.

So, yeah. I'm having WAY too much fun with this.

I'm 3 to 4 chapters away from finishing the draft.  And I've actually got folks clamoring to read it, not the least of which is my dear husband.

Nope.  Not feeling any pressure at all.  Why would you think so?

Anyway, that's the reason for my goofy smile today.  And the reason I'm inclined to blow off everything else and just write.

Can't do that.  But I want to.

In other news, bidding continues on the 3-chapter MG or YA critique I've offered for WRITE HOPE. There are lots of other goodies to bid on, too! I am blown away by the generosity flowing over there.

Also?  We're cooking up a contest to help spread the word about WRITE ON!. And GROWN-UPS ARE INVITED!  So stay tuned.

That's about it.  I think I'll float my way through the rest of the morning, until I can be reunited with my beloved WIP.

I may hate it on Monday.  But I'm enjoying the heady rush of today.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Write Hope Auction Item

And it's live!

My offer of a 3-chapter critique (MG or YA SFF only) is now live on the Write Hope blog.

GO HERE NOW TO PLACE YOUR BID!

All proceeds go to relief efforts in Japan, via SAVE THE CHILDREN.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

March Secret Agent #ALT-2

TITLE: Faerie Fate
GENRE: Paranormal romance

Holly Reed paced the hospital corridor outside room 532, uncertain if she wanted to enter and accept the consequences. On the other side of the door lay the grandmother she'd never met, apparently in the last losing days of her battle with lung cancer.

An orderly rushed by pushing an empty wheelchair, giving her a quizzical look. She smiled, trying to reassure him that she belonged, but unable to hide how out of place she felt. Arms crossed, she bit her lip and changed direction, passing her grandmother's door again, still hesitant to enter. Across the hall at the nurse's station, their eyes followed her progress back and forth.

"Can I help you with something?" one of the nurses asked, her voice suspicious.

"No," Holly said, "I'm fine."

She'd have to decide soon before they called security and had her removed. She could either leave and spend the rest of her life wondering, or go in and find out why her grandmother had waited until she was on her deathbed to make her only granddaughter's acquaintance.

Taking a deep breath she squared her shoulders. As the nurse glared at her and reached for the phone, Holly gave her a sweet, confident smile and turned her attention to her grandmother's room. The door was already ajar so she leaned into it, swinging it inward on its hinges. She entered the room on silent feet to find an old woman resting peacefully in the bed.

March Secret Agent #ALT-1

TITLE: The Resurrection of Roderick
GENRE: Paranormal Romance

Not knowing the difference between lore and law in the vampire world can get you killed. But rules... now those were meant to be twisted.

Wind slammed Kate's motorcycle helmet as she hit 80mph down Washington State Highway 9, fighting to steer a straight course, as if nature itself resented her presence here. She aimed south for a hole-in-the earth called Gold Belt, her favorite midnight gaming grounds, where passersby stopped for gas on their way to anywhere else. A town where over-groomed yuppies escaping dot-com life and hillbilly hunters collided in bar fights in any of six taverns lining the city's two-block downtown. Prime feeding ground for vampires, who don't distinguish between white trash and city trash, because drunks all stumble to their cars the same.

She eased off the throttle and firmed her thighs against the bike. Through her helmet Kate heard the unearthly whine of jacked-up Honda Civics. Damn idiots found her again. Nate was the pariah of the crew, always creeping up on her hunt and stealing her kills. In her mood, sheâ'd as likely take of his head as a vamp's.

The Civics crawled up beside her bike, their mag wheels winking moonlight at Kate, too close for her to even consider altering course. Like toy cars painted Skittles candy colors. Two blonde brats stuck their heads out both back windows of the grasshopper green car and flipped her off in unison. God, she hated Slayers, especially the twins.

March Secret Agent #50

TITLE: The Specter of Avery Hill
GENRE: YA paranormal romance

Even now, as they drove up Avery House's driveway, Ella was afraid to look at her dad. Afraid that if she even blinked or took a breath, he'd change his mind about letting her work there for the summer--that he'd force her to return home.

Dreams were like that. You'd work toward them, sneak up on them, reach out and they'd vanish. Like memories of a voice or of a smell, or a touch. Like a garden fading into weeds. Like ghosts.

Better not to breathe.

The driveway swung around an outcrop of moss-coated boulders and the inn appeared, a blur of gables and towers rising from a pool of cedar hedges, gardens and stone ruins.

Ella pushed up the sleeve of her sweater and touched her arm, letting her fingers trace where invisible hands had left bruises on her skin. She shivered as goosebumps prickled beneath her touch--and her grand`mere's words drifted back to her, a watercolor voice, a whisper she had to focus on to remember: "Each sighting, each touch, it is an invitation, a life from the past begging for you to uncover its story, to bring its petite histoire to light."

Dad pumped the brakes as the SUV thumped off the dirt driveway and up onto cobblestones which circled under the inn's portico. He squeezed the SUV past a van decorated with colorful bicycles, and parked behind a Land Rover.

"Ready, kiddo?" he asked.

Taking a deep breath, Ella rubbed the goosebumps from her arm. "Ready."

March Secret Agent #49

TITLE: ROUGE
GENRE: YA historical romance

A trumpet blast, followed by silence. We were all frozen on our marks. Center stage, my arms were raised in a V, and I saw the insides of my eyelids turn from pink to black as the lights went out and the curtain fell, sending the odor of musty velvet swirling around us. Applause filled the house, but on our side was the swift click-clack of tap shoes, the whisper of tights against taffeta, fishnets and feathers. I dropped my arms and exited stage right. My eyes were dazzled after the glare of the spotlight, but I'd done this so many times, I could find my way blind. I caught the small hand waiting for me in the wings as I passed. Not so small anymore, I thought as we navigated the maze of boxes and scenery back to my dressing room.

Everything was drenched in the odor of grease paint and cigar smoke. My throat was dry from singing and the cornstarch used to absorb the damp, and my soles crackled from the rosin that helped us not slip on the glossy stage floor. We passed dancers speaking in low voices about what worked and what didn't and whose fault it was, and the staccato stomp-stomp! of Frank and Carla's flamenco echoed against the cinderblock walls. The dark passage ended at a dim-lit hall lined with tiny dressing rooms where most of us lived. Secretly, of course, as this was not Rampart Street or Canal, and in 1890s New Orleans that meant one thing.

March Secret Agent #48

TITLE: The Gatsby Game
GENRE: Mystery

Some people still think I'm a terrible person because I didn't call the police right away. If I had, we might have avoided one of Hollywood's ten most notorious sex scandals, and I wouldn't have spent a lifetime living down the whole "killer nanny" thing.

But seriously, when I saw Alistair lying on the floor of Delia Kent's motel room that night in 1973, I had no clue I was looking at a corpse. The room was dark, and I didn't see any blood on that brown shag carpet. I thought Alistair was sleeping off the Mandrax he'd stolen from Delia's medicine cabinet.

I admit the floor of your boss's motel room is not the place most people would choose to take a nap, but Alistair Milbourne was nothing like most people--people outside of a Fitzgerald novel anyway.

Besides, I'd have been insane to wake him. He might have started throwing me around the room the way he'd done to Delia earlier that night.

For those of you too young to remember, this took place during the filming of Guido Malatesta's Oscar-winning opus "The Vast Inland Sea," in the California oil town of Taft, previously known as Moron.

Really. I'm not making up a word of this. You can read it all in Delia's bio on Wikipedia. But of course it won't tell you the whole story.

That's because I'm the only one who knows the truth.

March Secret Agent #47

TITLE: In a Pickle
GENRE: Middle Grade

Charlie Pickle led a difficult life, sharing his name with a delicatessen savory. That was strike one. The fact that he was an orphan? An easy strike two. Strike three: the minor detail that he inadvertently and quite punctually leapt back and forth through time.

Monday had been set in the late 1800s, while Wednesday took place in 1902. Friday was 1909, the year before his birth, and Sunday found him in 1915. That was yesterday. Today, July twelfth in good old 1920, found him in deeper trouble than he'd been in for a week.

Sister Mary Lou Ann, the newest nun, loomed over him. "Sister Mary Lee told me all about you," she said, her head bobbing. She looked like a demented penguin.

Charlie tried not to laugh. Laughing in these sorts of situations, he'd learned, never led to anything good. "I'm sure she did."

Lou Ann's glasses slid down her long, thin nose, and her eyes narrowed. "Are you sassing me?"

"No."

She pinched the bridge of her nose and closed her eyes. "Someday, you and I need to have a talk."

At this point, any other boy would have made faces, gestured obscenely or left the room. Instead, Charlie tuned her out, adding the occasional, "Yes, ma'am," and its antithesis, "No, ma'am."

"Did you go to the pier?"

"No, ma'am."

"Were you alone?"

"Yes, ma'am." Charlie stole a glance at the clock on the wall. The time was a little after four, only eight hours before he disappeared.

March Secret Agent #46

TITLE: Maiden's Veil
GENRE: Contemporary women's fiction

Racing through arroyos and barreling down slopes, the wind caught the Barlow family by surprise. The mother and eldest daughter ran from picnic table to fire pit to camper, stashing the lawn chairs inside, battening down the awning that flapped like gunshot, chasing paper plates and cups and napkins that flushed like startled quail. The two boys and their father stood apart, tying handkerchiefs bandit-style across noses and mouths, determined to carry out their annual hunt for potsherds and arrowheads left by the Chemehuevi people who, centuries ago, grappled with the same forceful gusts. No one took notice of Jessamine. The age gap between the twelve-year-old and her older siblings was enough that the three now dismissed their youngest sister, or if not, teased her ruthlessly, calling her 'changeling' for the genetic anomaly, one blue eye and one brown eye, that had emerged after many latent years from their mother's side of the family.

Undeterred by the blowing sand, Jess escaped into the Joshua Tree desert, deer-running along the dusty creek beds, darting around boulders and creosote bushes and the contorted branches of manzanita. The gusts set aloft her long reddish-brown hair, whipped her thin gym shorts and T-shirt against her limbs, brought the resinous scent of the chaparral to her tongue, diffused the escalating heat.

Approaching a tall rise, Jess climbed, brushing past translucent ghost flowers and silvery sage, scrabbling over talus and sliding on scree.

March Secret Agent #45

TITLE: Dust to Dust
GENRE: YA Fantasy

For my sixteenth birthday, my oldest brother tried to kill me again.

I was at Starbuck's getting a celebratory scone when the shadows peeled off the walls and came for me. I cursed and dove for the floor. The hot chick waiting in front of me turned, eyebrows raised over heavily made up eyes. Her perfect lips parted. For a split second I fantasized she was about to ask what I was doing later. Wait, nope, I wasn't getting laid anytime soon. That was actually her screaming because magic shadows were slashing through the fabric of her Grateful Dead t-shirt. One more reason to hate my brother.

I grabbed her leg and yanked her down to the floor with me. Terror was the coffee shop's new special of the day as patrons and employees stampeded for the exit. I suffered a few accidental kicks crab-walking me and my damsel in distress under the nearest table. Which was - wait for it - yup, full of shadows.

Brilliant, Micah.

A midnight black hand reached for my ankle and I tapped my own magic. Dust raced from every corner of the room and stormed the air in furious clouds. The shadows kept coming, undeterred - and Mom wondered why I had insecurity issues. Trent could kill with shadows. Serena could drown you with your own tears. Alice walked through mirrors, Dennis could pull blood from a stone, but me? Oh yeah. Fear the mystic might of my magical dust bunnies!

Lame.

March Secret Agent #44

TITLE: Pushing Up Daisies
GENRE: Contemporary Women's Fiction

Serene: clear and calm, unruffled, placid, tranquil, unperturbed.

The words from the Oxford Dictionary ran through my mind as I tried to remember ever feeling this at peace.

At last, I knew what to do.

I could end the torment and I would be free.

I downed the last of the tablets having liberated them from the individual plastic and foil prison of their blister pack.

Lining them up across the marble of the kitchen bench end to end, tracking a small deep copper colour vein, marvelling at the brilliance of nature.

I abhorred straight lines.

Straight lines depicted order - something long missing from my life.

Supping vodka from the bottle with an insane desire to ensure all the pills were washed well into my stomach.

Fear of the tablets burning through my gullet haunted me, so I made a point of washing down medication properly. Habits were hard things to break, especially bad ones.

I knew.

I had plenty.

Downing the last of those pills - the ones the doctor gives you when you are a little stressed. You can't sleep at night.

Worries of the world getting to you.

Mind refuses to stop racing.

Stress getting the better of you.

My husband struggled with these symptoms, so the doctor, in his wisdom gave him pills.

Wonderful, colourful little pills, to take his worries away. I happened to be my husband's biggest worry.

Those pills would do their job - but not quite how the dear doctor planned.

March Secret Agent #43

TITLE: The Socialite
GENRE: Contemporary women's fiction

Soft music purred at a steady rhythm all around her, and with each beat that vibrated the floor of Salon de Ning, atop The Peninsula New York, her heart throbbed with rampant anticipation. Perched on a brown leather barstool, she waited.

For her latest indiscretion to arrive.

Disgrace. Elena Bancroft repeated the word, only in her head the shrill bite of her grandmother's voice replaced her own. The bartender's gaze lingered at her side--mere inches away from her left breast--where the cut of her dress revealed the first two lowercase letters of the word disgrace, etched in an elegant black script. Unabashed, the guy had been staring there since he'd handed over her drink order, and she'd satisfied his curiosity about her tattoo less than thirty seconds ago.

Although, apparently, he wasn't satisfied just yet.

"So why choose it for a tat? What does it mean?" he asked her.

"It means Iâ've done a lot of--really bad things," she told him. "Where I'm from, it sort of defines me." She took a long sip of vodka and dry vermouth, then shrugged. "Or so I've been told."

"I've seen my share of strange tats from behind the bar, miss. And, well, pardon me for saying this, but--I've never seen something like that made permanent." He continued ogling the black script as a young boy might gape at the naked women in his very first issue of Playboy.

March Secret Agent #42 - redacted

redacted

March Secret Agent #41

TITLE: Dragon in Trouble
GENRE: Middle Grade Fantasy

When a magnificent Indigo Dragon like me wakes from his nap, he has only one thing on his mind--snack time!

I flew out of my seaside cavern, slitting my eyes against the bright afternoon sun. Waves rippled in the bay and splashed on the white, empty beach. I dived and skimmed the water just for fun. A wave surged up and crashed over my face.

"Pitooey!" I snorted and spat out salt water. Enough fooling around. I was hungry.

The seagulls laughed as I headed for Crissela's wizard tower. They didn't bother me. I was a magnificent Indigo Dragon! I stretched my stupendous wings wide and beat the air with strong, even strokes. The sun warmed my gleaming scales and the rushing wind dried my handsome snout.

Soon the tower's curved stone walls rose above the pine forest. I circled, spying through the huge, open windows. I could see Crissela's red braids dangling over the back of the tapestry chair. I knew I'd have to be very quiet and still. I swooped in and crouched on the green marble tiles, trying not to drool.

I opened my jaws wide and CRUNCH! My diamond teeth sank into my snack.

"Dragon?" Crissela peered over the chair at me. "Can't you crunch more quietly? You know I'm studying for my Exam."

"Sorry," I mumbled. "But these hot coals are crunchy." I snapped up another mouthful and crushed the blazing charcoal nuggets into powdery ash. Yum!

March Secret Agent #40

TITLE: The Weapons of our Warfare
GENRE: Urban Fantasy

Stephen backed the cell phone away from his face and stared at it, searching for a way to say no to the reverend's wife. This was the first Sunday since the breaking of the coven that the reverend had been out of town, so Beverly was alone this weekend and asking him to come over. The fact he was disrobing -- literally taking off his alb in the back room of the church -- magnified the awkward feel of the request. He undid the dual snaps on the front of his left shoulder, freeing that edge of his white vestment. "Did you get sick? Missed you in the congregation this morning."

Beverly's weak voice over the phone got louder, sounding surprised. "You were looking for me?"

Stephen mugged a look at the acolyte, who might have heard. Joanna stopped in the midst of disrobing. Her yellow sweater showed through the part in her white robe as if she were a bouquet of daffodils in delicate wrapping. The young woman motioned for him to muffle his cell phone. When he did, she gave him a mischievous grin. "Ha-cha-cha. Coven breaker. Heartbreaker."

"Don't be disgusting." The words smacked at his hesitation. Stephen was still single at age twenty-five, but he wasn't about to let this smart-alecky acolyte unnerve him. He replied into the phone. "Yes, I tend to pick your face out of the crowd. Tell your husband it makes you feel special."

March Secret Agent #39

TITLE: If I Fall
GENRE: YA

I still had one week to back out. One week to come up with a way to tell Brian that he'd bought all of that climbing equipment for nothing. One week to dread the disappointed look I knew my brother would give me when I told him I still wasn't ready to go climbing outside.

Brian whistled an off-key rock song and I heard him clanking around his room like he'd been doing for the past fifteen minutes. I fell back on my bed and looked at the ceiling. My stomach twisted, its tightness climbing up my throat.

He'd been trying for months to explain how exhilarating it would be to feel the warm breeze across our skin, the rough rock under our fingers, the smooth flow of adrenaline through our veins. Way better than the controlled conditions in the rock gym.

But I liked control. Control was comfortable. Control kept me safe.

The whistling stopped and Brian tapped on my closed bedroom door. "Ready, Bren?"

I pulled myself off my bed and opened the door, trying to look normal.

Brian saw through me, as usual. "Hey, we'll focus on our technique a lot today and make sure you're ready for next week, okay?" His concern held an underlying tone of hope that I couldn't smash by putting off our outdoor climbing trip once again.

I tried to shake my worries away and followed him out of the house. We were just going to the rock gym, same as every Saturday.

March Secret Agent #38

TITLE: Spark (A Fire Girl Novel
GENRE: YA Paranormal

Fire breathed down on her and took a small taste of her skin. The ceiling came crashing down as well, trapping bodies beneath rubble, but all Felicity Brant could do was watch a stray fire dance in her hands. It burned and bubbled on her palms. It left ashes of red hair and shards of skin on the hardwood floor. Yes, there was pain, the teeth marks on her bottom lip showed it, but she held back the tears because whatever water she could provide would not be enough to end it.

She was going to die.

She knew that in matter of minutes, the whole building was coming down and everyone would be trapped.

Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.

The fire was supposed to be her friend, and in fact, her family. If she were like her famous father Frank Brant III, Felicity could do something about the current situation. She could bring the fire into her body and not burn. She could harness it until it battled and died within her. She could save hundreds of lives from the waste of death.

But she couldn't.

Felicity was not her father.

Not yet anyway.

There wasn't a single fiber of magic in her body, not even in her pinkie, which was, in fact, burning up. No longer mesmerized by it, she quickly blew out the flame in her hands as if there were a birthday candle before her and made a wish.

Let me live.

March Secret Agent #37

TITLE: Thrice-Born
GENRE: YA urban fantasy

Andra groaned as the pain in her chest spiked.

"Are you all right, miss?" the elderly librarian asked, looking at her over her glasses.

"Yeah," Andra said. She tried to smile, but it only turned the librarian's concern into suspicion. She had no doubt she looked like a junkie jonesing for her next hit. Which wasn't that far from the truth. She checked her phone for the hundredth time. Nothing.

"Damn it, Robin," she muttered. Her hands shook as she grabbed her bag and walked to the exit, dialing her phone at the same time. The crisp morning air made her eyes water.

"Hey," Robin said. She sighed as the sound of her brother's voice soothed the Crave.

"Hey." She clenched her jaw to keep her teeth from shattering. "I thought we were meeting at the library."

Something crashed on the other end of line. "Right," he said, sounding distracted. "Sorry. It slipped my mind."

"Where are you?" she said, leaning on the nearest wall. Her fingers scratched at her chest.

"Damn it," he said. "Look, remember how I told dad I'd set everything up for your Offering?"

"Yes," she drawled. "Robin, what's going on?"

"I think I just broke the water receptacle."

"You broke the water receptacle." she said. "The one that's been in dad's family for generations."

"It has?" Andy said. "God, I suck. Why did I volunteer for this?"

"Because I'm your favorite sister and you love me?"

"You're my only sister, but I see your point."

March Secret Agent #36

TITLE: Quantum Fires: The Sibyl Reborn
GENRE: Urban Fantasy

Captured by an astral thug after three-thousand years, a disembodied imp glared at its captor, a bully who pestered the dead to resume their spiritual journey. No one knew the futility of arguing better than the imp. Even so, its nature compelled it to try.

"I don't want to live again. No one ever listens to me, so what's the point?"

The enforcer bore a ghostly resemblance to the Greeks who pillaged Troy. It challenged the imp with an impossible task as it marched the prisoner into an astral forest. The imp tried to stamp a non-existent foot when the bully nudged it toward a tree.

"Absolutely not! I've got a right to be dead. What's the climate have to do with me? Pray to Zeus if you don't like the weather."

Poked by an ethereal spear, the imp yelped and scrambled up a trunk. Now a human but still an imp, her new incarnation produced the old frustrations for twenty-one years until she discovered a secret: Trees of Life respond to thoughts.

Three days after her twenty-second birthday, the imp sat perched on a summit in Central Colorado with her eyes closed and her legs entwined in a lotus. She struggled to envision a crowd of supporters at her first pro-green demonstration, but a whim polluted the spell: She wished she could save the planet in a week or less without skipping her favorite hikes.

Unable to stifle the fantasy, she released the image and hoped for the best.

March Secret Agent #35

TITLE: Unearthly Beginnings
GENRE: Paranormal YA

Charlie hesitates at the entrance of the narrow chasm before him, not because he's afraid of its shadowy secrets, but because he's a part of them and he still isn't sure he wants to end it all. Staring down into the pit, so unimposing in appearance, he recognizes it for the abyss that it is.

He has been irreparably marked by the crooked hands of the wolf that dragged him down into the heart of the beast's lair, and changed by the evil that still lives and works within its bowels. A flash of rage breaks through his grief, and doubt prompting him to move forward.

Crouching down he inches ahead his hands digging into the damp soil beneath them. It isn't long before he's able to straighten. A few more steps brings the sounds of whimpers, and mewling, signifying that he's close and that the animal experimentations are still going on. He is only sixteen, but as Charlie crouches in the darkness of that forbidding cavern he feels possitivly ancient. There's a momentary flicker of apprehension as he remembers the iridescent eyes of the caged animal that was his first sight upon awakening in this place just a few weeks ago. Those eyes, which seemed to hold worlds of maleficence and intelligence, haunted Charlie throughout his change. Even as he'd made his illusory escape, the tormented fury of the altered creature had followed him, and the mirthless laughter of the man responsible has never left Charlie's mind.

March Secret Agent #34

TITLE: Venery
GENRE: Adult Urban Fantasy

Damn. Nothing ruins a night like werewolves on the loose.

The tackle from behind caught me off guard. Sharp claws gripped my shoulders and hind legs slammed into my lower back. I shrieked and crashed face-first into the forest floor, eating a mouthful of dirt. Spitting out the soil, I sucked in an angry breath.

How the hell had it snuck up on me?

The beast's hot breath hit the back of my head, feeding my bloodlust. My skin tightened and stretched.

A bone-chilling cry howled in the distance. Another werewolf? The creature on my back froze and barked short, sharp woofs.

An inferno seized my body, and my skin started to split, echoing like meat slapping a cutting board. My inner wolf tore at my chest for release, her whines churning my stomach. A long breath gushed past my lips, and the floodgates burst open. My limbs and bones stretched, and a tail sprouted from my tailbone. I screamed.

The werewolf on my back flexed its claws deeper into my flesh, and continued its howl into the night. Its deafening roar made my elongated fingers dig into the soil. My wolf-muzzle lengthened and a wolf-like form, doubling in size, replaced my female figure. When I raised my head, the werewolf slammed me back into the ground.

A growl rumbled in my chest, and I'd had enough.

March Secret Agent #33

TITLE: After Charlie
GENRE: Women's Fiction

Annie felt something shining in through the window, warming her face. Though she suspected it might be the sun, she never looked up to confirm. Acknowledging a sunny, seventy-degree day in Seattle would only add to her confusion. Her world had already gone ass over teakettle. There was no room on her plate for bizarre atmospheric phenomena.

"Coffee?" A waitress stood beside the table with a steaming carafe. "More coffee?" she repeated, as if Annie had taken her first offer as a mere suggestion that coffee existed.

Annie opened her mouth to give an answer and quickly realized she didn't have one. Coffee. Coffee. It sounded vaguely familiar, but whether or not she required some at the moment was unclear. As of 10:32 that morning, she barely recognized her own name. Her head felt like it was made entirely of marshmallow fluff and her limbs felt like strange objects that had snagged on her sweater. And despite her fully stuffed pocket of Kleenex, all she'd managed to do in the five hours since her dad died was pull her car over and throw up in a Burger King parking lot.

"Yes, she'll have more," Beekie chimed in from across the table, flashing an apologetic smile at the waitress.

Annie watched her mug being filled. She saw a floral tattoo peeking out from under the waitresses sleeve. Purple irises. "The state flower of Tennessee," Annie heard herself say.

The waitress raised her eyebrows and walked away.

March Secret Agent #32

TITLE: Kiss of Death
GENRE: Urban Fantasy

The dead man peered around the corner of Pierce and Martin, watching the woman in the red dress. Of course, Max had been dead in human terms for a long time, far longer than the few months since Jocelyn Reyes pierced his heart with a stake. As far as vampires were concerned though, he was barely an adolescent, albeit one with far more power than most of them would care for. He narrowed his eyes as a man wearing a fedora strode up to his target.

The tightness in Max's muscles didn't ease until the man walked by her without more than a passing glance. The recent trend toward old fashions was driving Max crazy. It was bad enough trying to keep an eye on Jocelyn from the shadows without worrying that every person walking by in a pin-up dress or double-breasted suit was a vampire stuck in a time-warp rather than fashion-conscious banker.

And then there was Jocelyn herself.

Max had promised to leave her alone, to stay out of her life unless she needed him. Yet how could he know when that time would be unless he watched her? Though part of him railed against the logic, he refused to accept that keeping track of her meant he was breaking his word. She moved through life like she believed her troubles had died with him when nothing could be further from the truth.

Besides, when he didn't follow her, he dreamed about her every time he closed his eyes.

March Secret Agent #31

TITLE: BITTERSWEET MELODY
GENRE: YA Paranormal Romance

One thing I can say for sure is I'm the only muse in history to ever have been grounded. I know this is true because my father told me. Well, more like screamed it at me while gripping the heck out of a lightning bolt, holding it over his head like a maniac. He totally over-reacted, of course. I mean, come on. Revoking my Inspiration License and grounding me for a hundred years? That completely sucks!

"Sucks" is a word I learned from my sister Calliope. She spends a lot of time with humans and picks up the best phrases. Whenever she comes home from a case she teaches them to me. Calliope's a lot more fun than my other sisters--and there are many of us, not just three or nine like humans are mislead to believe. And the only one who's ever been suspended from inspiring? That's right: me. It's so unfair. My father says I had it coming, but I swear I'm not a trouble maker; I'm just misunderstood.

But that's all over with now. I've served my time and I'm about to get my freedom back. Don't get me wrong, Mount Olympus is pretty much the most beautiful place ever, but I've had it with being locked up here unable to do what I was born to do.

The last step toward my ticket out of here is a meeting with my Inspiration Officer so I can get my license back. That's where I am now.

March Secret Agent #30

TITLE: BLOOD OF THE GODS
GENRE: Urban Fantasy

This was their meeting place: twenty five marble windows gathered in a circle, connected and supported by twenty five marble latticed beams. Only the leader stood between the bright white, stone walls now. He glanced at each image carved below the arched frames as a strange, cold fear crept into him.

The wind hissed as another arrived and it left the leader chilled further for he knew the news would not be good.

He did not turn, only spoke. "Why must you always use the wind, Akakios? It is not your purpose here. Find the water Haurvatat left, and use it."

"I find freedom with the wind that I do not feel with water."

"Still..."

"Yes. You must practice water with me again." The leader inclined his head and Akakios' deep voice continued. "Our enemy moves with purpose."

"What is he after...and he is our comrade, not our enemy, Akakios."

"I am uncertain of his plan, but we can be assured that it complicates our stay here. Furthermore, if it is sinister, as is seems, does that not make him our enemy?"

"Perhaps. What is he doing, beyond the normal?"

"He torments many lands."

"Is it time to step in and enforce the covenants?" The leader wondered aloud.

Akakios remained silent.

"Have Selene keep an eye on it; she knows him best and can use the wind for stealth. Also, Akakios, I have my eye on the two of you. You cannot break your bond to her, my brother, or there will be... repercussions."

March Secret Agent #29

TITLE: Crooked Little House
GENRE: Contemporary women's fiction

My mother steered our late model Sunfire down the narrow dirt road. Driving twenty miles per hour, as the pitted road necessitated, couldn't stir up a breeze of enough significance to battle the oppressive August heat. I fanned myself with my damp t-shirt while my older sister Norah folded her arms over her chest and glared at the dense line of pine trees outside her window. Though the same sweat beaded her forehead, I knew the heat was the least of her concerns.

"Would it have killed you to wait one day to get the air-conditioning fixed?" Norah said, marking the first words she'd issued in the six-hour drive.

"Why would I pay someone hundreds of dollars to fix it when Darren can do it for free?"

The pride in my mother's voice as she said her Internet lover's name almost awakened a long-dormant bitterness inside me, until I remembered I didn't care.

Gravel crunched as she slowed the car and signaled to turn right. I didn't know why she bothered; we hadn't passed another car since we'd stopped for gas ten miles back. We pulled into the driveway, and the house came into view. My mother drew in a sharp breath. "Oh, look girls, isn't it beautiful?"

The house stood nestled in a pocket of pine trees overlooking a huge, glimmering lake. A big white porch--a stark contrast against the charcoal grey clapboard siding--wrapped around the house, flowerpots of every size and shape sitting on its ledge.

March Secret Agent #28 - redacted

Redacted at author's request (agent interest).

March Secret Agent #27

TITLE: Countless
GENRE: Urban Fantasy

He had found his prey at last. From across the room he took in every detail of her face, though he knew it well. The full lips, thin nose and most of all the deep green eyes. Green like a highland meadow or a piece of lustrous sea glass. His eyes traced the moon-pale curve of her calves, down to her black stilettos. She had raven hair this time, it cascaded down her back in loose curls.

Inhaling deeply, he tasted the air, savoring the moment. Countless years had led to this day. She was finally within his grasp. Right here before him, and completely oblivious to the fact that she was being hunted. From his vantage point near the revolving glass doors, he scanned the throngs of people in suits and skirts. They meant nothing to him - his every malevolent thought focused only on her. A smile curled his lips.

He slid into the crowd, an invisible presence to all those around, who knew not that evil walked among them. He passed to the left of the large mahogany reception desk, his target straight ahead. Only twenty feet separated them now. He moved forward with calm assuredness, closing the distance. Ten feet. He could smell her now, a soft fragrance of jasmine. Five feet.

Reaching out a thin hand, his fingertips touched one perfect obsidian curl. Taking a focused breath, he called on the dark magic that would end her existence, not only her body, her soul as well.

March Secret Agent #26

TITLE: Behind the Hornet's Nest
GENRE: Young Adult

Lewis Stevenson picked up the bone-handled knife just as the back door of the mercantile burst open. He glanced up at the bearded man in the buff-colored duster and brown leather hat who filled the doorway. His cousin, George Roberts.

The smell of horses, sizzling steak and hot iron from the blacksmith shop wafted in on the chilling breeze. George brushed the snow off the brim of his hat and entered. "So this is where you're hiding out."

"I ain't hiding." Lewis cast his eyes down at the crate labeled canned goods. "Can't seem to keep the shelves full, that's all. Every time I turn around, we're out of something."

George stamped the snow off his black boots. "Ha. Any other time we get important visitors here in St. Paul you're out there making sure the platform is sturdy. You're parking wagons for people so-as to keep 'em lined up just right and helping stable their horses. I know you, cousin. You're hiding."

Lewis ripped open the wooden crate, pulled out the packing straw and carried the crate to the front room of the shop. George followed, his boots clumping past the front counter where jars of bright colored candy sticks tempted young merchants. Past the bookshelf full of thick bound books that Lewis hadn't had time to investigate. Past the pickle barrel and the wood stove, snapping with fresh oak. He stopped by the shelf under the front window where Nelson put items he thought would draw people in.

March Secret Agent #25

TITLE: DEATH LESSONS
GENRE: YA Paranormal

"But this isn't your kind of party, Mason."

New town, new school, new start; all I needed now was to get in with the right crowd, and that was going to be with kids across the street behind the huge iron gate.

"What you mean, not my kind of party?" I asked. "You brought us all the way out here, and you have an invite."

Ann peered over the Jeep's steering wheel. She pointed across the street, through the gate, past the guardhouse, and down a long, winding driveway to where a brightly lit mansion was barely visible from the main road.

"I brought us out here so you'd know your place."

Ouch. Subtle. She wanted to show me the box of pretty toys then tell me I couldn't play with them. She'd do same thing when we were little. My answer back then was eating an entire bag of Halloween candy and throwing up all over her mom's dining room table.

My dad was a soldier. He believed that bad luck, serendipity, misfortune, karma, whatever you called it, was the result of choices, yours and others. To him there was no random, and fate was just some complicated combination of all-the-above. Wanted greatness? Go grab it. And I agreed.

So here I was, making my own future. Carpe Diem. Fortune favors the bold. With her eyebrows up, head ever-so-slightly forward, and lips pressed together, Ann gave me her usual 'Mason-I-told-you-so' look.

"Screw that," I said. "I want in."

March Secret Agent #24

TITLE: Something Everybody Needs
GENRE: Contemporary Women's Fiction

Rebecca Grove has lived seventy years, long enough to realize that nobody knows anything, luck and success are the same thing, and being good at something is exactly as fulfilling as being good at nothing. All the so-called skills and techniques she has spent her career worrying about, practicing, perfecting, have melted away over the decades into a gentle blend of success and failure. She has held on to a single, incontrovertible fact, one tiny piece of knowledge that gets her out of bed and through the brass stage door of whichever theater is her workplace that week: she knows that she is an absolute, beyond all doubt, put-her-in-the-record-books expert at the art of stealing scenes.

Knowing how to steal a scene is a rather specific discipline. It is not the perfect recipe for red velvet cake, the way to make money without having to work hard for it, the no-fail path to getting and keeping a man. Those few who know it well enough to teach it are not sought-after experts, waiting atop Himalayan peaks for weary supplicants or smiling blankly outward from the retouched covers of self-help books.

Rebecca is not territorial about her expertise; does a concert pianist mind teaching a fat-fingered child how to bang out "Fur Elise" on his mother's baby grand? She would be happy to explain her secrets to anyone at all, if only they were wise enough--brave enough--to ask her.

March Secret Agent #23

TITLE: Ravenous Dusk
GENRE: Urban Fantasy

The room was spinning, no wait, maybe I was the one spinning. I stopped, and wobbled my way onto a bar stool.

"You know, it pisses me off that I live in a world where people don't go away when they die!" I said, taking a long drink. "I mean, isn't death supposed to be the ultimate end? The grand finale? The Big Bang?"

"Actually, the Big Bang is that theory by scientists about the formation of the universe..." I turned around and shot the speaker a glare that was strong enough to cut off his sentence.

"Now Liam? Really?" I said. Liam sighed.

"Sorry, I forgot logic isn't welcome during 'drunken times with Blake'."

"Exactly," I said. "Now, where was I?" I got up again and started pacing. Liam was sitting hunched over the one beer he'd been nursing for the past hour, and watched as I took my bottle to the head and chugged it, then tossed it onto the bar and demanded another from the bartender.

"Raving about people not being gone when they die," Liam said dully. He actually took a drink; I must really be annoying the hell out of him tonight.

"Right! What's with all the damn ghosts Liam? Did you know when I was twelve my dead grandmother's ghost decided to jump into some old lady, ring my doorbell, and offer me candy from her purse?"

March Secret Agent #22

TITLE: Broken Promises
GENRE: Contemporary Women's Fiction

I don't like mirrors.

They're too honest. They expose every flaw; lay everything bare. They tell your deepest secrets and the one I'm looking into now is especially brutal. Mirrors can be your best friend or your worst enemy. They gain strength from your emotions and sometimes, they spit your pain back in your face.

I don't know who the person is in the glass and it's not the bad lighting or the bruises that are distorting the reflection. It's the shame and denial that have made the figure staring back with shadowed eyes, sad and unrecognizable. The image looks like a mug shot taken after a bar fight that belongs in the police blotter in Saturday mornings newspaper. Mascara smudged under swollen, red-rimmed eyes and streaks of black staining a bruised face. It tells a story of violence and suffering. Of sadness.

The humiliation is suffocating.

I keep telling myself that if I keep looking, eventually I'll find me again. So far all I see is a stranger who has made one bad decision after another. Someone who doesn't know how to ask for help even though they are neck deep in quicksand and going down fast.

March Secret Agent #21

TITLE: THE CANDLE DARK WICKED
GENRE: YA Fantasy

Teagan cared about being a pitcher first, a girl second--maybe that explained why her boobs remained straight A's just like her marks in school. At least they allowed her the freedom to whip a softball fast. Almost as fast as the punch she threw at her friend Mike for kissing her sans permission slip after she tossed a shutout earlier today. Nothing soft with her knuckleball. She grinned, knowing Mike's shoulder hurt more than his pride.

The reason she'd fouled his romantic play was as simple as 1-2-3. One month, two years and three days. The age differences between them. Too bad his parents didn't drink that bottle of wine a few years earlier. She found him cute, especially when he shivered as their lips touched.

Now, the brand should be spanked new teenager would see her for the first time in a dress, her hair combed and not hidden under a cap. She'd dressed like this to visit her twin sister, AKA Sleeping Beauty in the hospital knowing somehow it made her happy.

Well she didn't have to make Mike happy, so she stepped off the bus and pushed a crunched up baseball cap onto her short red hair. They waited for her on the front porch, Mike, his sore shoulder, and Rachel, her best friend.

"Why are we messing with voodoo dolls?" Mike said.

Teagan frowned. "I promised my sister and they're not voodoo dolls."

"Good because I forgot to bring a chicken."

March Secret Agent #20

TITLE: THE ABDUCTION OF EMILY
GENRE: Mystery

He waited.

It was still and tranquil under the trees. The only sound was a quiet drip, a remnant of the drizzle that had just passed through. There was little light. The road passed by not far away, but there were no streetlights and the clouds blocked what little the moon and stars would have provided.

The houses were larger out here, and farther apart. Funny... growing up in Brooklyn, he had always pictured Long Island as filled with sand, stunted pine trees and scrub, redolent of salt and sea. He looked about. He was surrounded by oak and maple and birch, engulfed with the smells of rotting leaves and rich loam. He had always known that there were forests and fields and farms, but he was still surprised to see them.

Traffic had been unusually light and he'd arrived earlier than expected. His car was tucked out of sight behind a screen of trees and bushes. He had even draped mottled brown and green towels over windows and lights that faced the road to eliminate reflections, just in case an infrequent vehicle happened by.

He was more nervous than he thought he'd be. He had anticipated some adrenalin, enough so that he had made sure to go to the bathroom before leaving, but he knew he was ready. He had taken more than two years in planning and preparation and spent more than he had expected, but everything on his list had been checked off and all that remained was to begin.

March Secret Agent #19

TITLE: Harbinger
GENRE: Urban Fantasy

I despise most Gods and I can guarantee the feeling is mutual. But, I don't have to like them I just have to work for them. As long as they leave me alone in my god-free city I am happy. Today I am most definitely not.

I shoved the heavy wood and glass door open and stumbled into the crowd. The heat of a hundred bodies blasted over me and burnt off the last of my goose bumps. Murray's Bar was popular at the best of times but tonight it was crammed close to the legal safety limit. I wove through alcohol drenched bodies to the old wooden bar which ran its entire length. It wasn't hard to imagine dapper dandies leaning against it drinking their Pimm's when it was shiny and new. I waved at Kevin, one of the barmen serving the dehydrated customers.

"Hi Phi, you look nice. Special occasion?" He eyed my new look curiously. The red shift dress with an obscenely short hemline my aunt had tricked me into wearing was a far cry from my usual jeans and t-shirt.

"No. I had to borrow some clothes, mine were a bit worse for wear. What's with the crowd?" I had to shout to be heard above the music and voices. I couldn't lean over the bar to get closer unless I wanted to give the guys standing behind me a bonus eye-full.

March Secret Agent #18

TITLE: Terry and the Folding Rule of Time
GENRE: MG Fantasy (time travel)

I slammed the door of my locker hard enough that it bounced open again. The magnetic name tag my Mom gave me fell off, but no one cared. They were all too busy trying to get to class on time. Not me though. I hated old Bodger on the best of days but most of all when he taught science. Especially on a Monday morning. I was looking forward to forget about him in one and a half years.

I picked up my name tag and stuck it back to the inside of the door. TERESA ROOTS. It was Mom's idea. She thought it would remind my schoolmates that I am not a boy despite my mostly close cropped hair. I chewed on a straw-colored strand of my bangs. The pink flowers around the writing set my nerves on edge each time, but so far, no one had done me a favor and stolen the tag. I couldn't throw it away either, or Mom would be furious. She always found out things like that. If she had her way, I would wear skirts - not washed out jeans - and paint my bedroom pink with a unicorn border.

I closed my locker more gently and sauntered to our classroom. In my imagination, I anticipated old Bodger's face when he sat down and noticed that the upholstery of his chair was soaking wet.

March Secret Agent #17

TITLE: Publish and Perish
GENRE: Mystery

"How about a bourbon?" Professor Stuart Busby reluctantly asked, moving to his corner file cabinet, letting his displeasure show by scowling at his gold Rolex. He opened the top drawer where he kept his stash of booze.

"Sure, on a night like this." Busby's visitor shivered, set a large briefcase by the leather chair opposite Busby's, and watched water drip from the thin black plastic raincoat. "I'm ruining your rug."

"Nonsense." Busby flipped a hand. "And it's a Kashan. Persian, you know. But not all that valuable." His pink-rimmed eyes flicked behind gold wire glasses, taking in the dark blue and red patterned carpet. He turned back to the file cabinet and busied himself with a bottle and tumbler.

A sudden gust of wind rattled the window, causing Busby to look out. From his fifth floor office in Albright Hall he usually had a view, over the top branches of an old oak tree, of the architecturally-stunning new music and theater complex on the far side of the Triangle and, beyond that, the peaks of the Colorado Rockies. That night, however, rain streaked the window and obscured any glimpse of the campus and mountains. "One shot?"

"One is fine. I won't be here long."

Busby handed his visitor a tumbler before adding another shot to his own and settling into his oxblood-red leather desk chair. He raised his tumbler. "To the end of another semester at beloved old Royster University."

"What about Christmas? It's Christmas Eve, after all."

March Secret Agent #16

TITLE: A Delicious Misunderstanding
GENRE: MG

Ivan was not having a very good day. His parents had kicked him out of the house, it was snowing, and a mysterious, robed man was chasing him through the woods.

"Get away!" Ivan yelled. He grabbed a stick from the ground and held it out like a sword.

"Stop being silly, Ivan," said the man, suddenly materializing in front of him. "I was just trying to scare you. Now put the stick down. You're going to poke out an eye with that thing." As the man leaned forward, an eye fell out of his hood. He held it up for Ivan to see before popping it back in.

"I said get away!" said Ivan, almost tripping over his own feet.

"And I said put the stick down! It's a very dangerous item. If you broke it in half, for instance, it would be terrible."

Ivan looked at the stick in his hands, and then back up at the shadowy figure. Although he couldn't see the man's face, Ivan felt evil emanating from him. Raising the stick above his head, he brought it crashing down over his knee.

"Help!" Ivan said, suddenly falling as if the earth had opened up under him. He looked up to see the robed figure jump into the hole after him. The man turned two neat somersaults before coming even with Ivan.

"I told you not to break that stick in half. Two halves make a whole, or a hole. Whichever one it is, you fell in."

March Secret Agent #15

TITLE: UNTITLED
GENRE: YA Contemporary

Either I was dreaming all day, or Edward Cullen is going to my school. If you don't know who I'm talking about you're living under a rock--hello! He's just the sexiest vampire hero of all time. Anyway, the guy looks nothing like him--short blond hair, Dolce and Gabbana glasses, hideous cargo pants and a blue t-shirt. And of course he wasn't him. But his animal magnetism told me he was close enough.

His locker is next to mine so I took the opportunity to woo him with my doe eyes, my Santorini Eyes as my mom calls them, which no man can ever resist. (It has to do with my mom and dad and their honeymoon in Greece, but I really hate thinking about older brother's creation process. Way too much information.). When he looked in my direction I gave him a small smile But not enough to make him think I actually cared for him, just enough to make him curious. He grinned back at me and blushed, and I knew I had him.

As I walked away I peeked over my shoulder, but only for a moment. He almost looked like he wanted to say something, and I'd like to think that he was going to comment on my great walk or my butt...
but he was probably just going to warn me that I was walking into a pipe. Which I did. Who puts a pipe in the middle of the hallway? Someone should sue the architect.

March Secret Agent #14

TITLE: The Magic Withheld
GENRE: Contemporary fantasy

The mugger tripped and sprawled on the sidewalk, his face breaking the fall. Viscous curses oozed from between his fingers as he sat up. It was at that moment Justus Aubre lost the inner battle he had waged after tripping the mugger. He exploded in laughter.

The mugger, glaring over sausage thick fingers, was about the funniest thing he'd seen in a while. Strange that it was laughing that earned him such a savage look and not the cause of the face plant, the rope of conjured Air.

Under the streetlights in the dark parking lot, people from the concert shifted, the individuals eyeing the scene then moving away. The elderly victim rubbed his bare wrist with gnarled fingers leaving Justus to grind his teeth. All this fuss over an old man's flashy gold watch made for complications tried to avoid.

Like drawing attention to his abilities. Not good. He must not lose control again.

He stood slack-hipped, smiled at the mugger, and gripped his emotions in a mental fist, holding the squirming elements. He must not lose control…

Calm. Stay calm, stay focused.

“Whatcha think you're laughin' at,” the thug said.

“It doesn't take rocket surgery to figure that out,” Justus said.

Damn. Laughing and talking too much, what a combination.

The mugger sucked in a breath then scrunched his face into a crooked mass, as if the cool night air had razored past those broken teeth like sharp glass.

March Secret Agent #13

TITLE: Splashback
GENRE: YA Thriller

The Sour Patch Kids in the bottom of Heidi Maverick's sparkly clutch probably bothered him the most.

The Sour Patch Kids, or the ticket stub from that new boy band's concert.

The Sour Patch Kids, or the ticket stub, or the cotton candy flavored lip gloss.

As he dug deeper into the purse, those random bits of garbage tickled his hands with worry. He thought he'd picked the right girl this time. From afar, this Heidi had looked like a high school upperclassman, slutty and desperate--just the kind he usually took. He had even chatted her up to make sure her family wouldn't come looking: sure enough, her parents were another dead-beat dad and overworked mom. Looked good and normal. Most importantly, she seemed profitable. So, he had signaled to his partner and spiked her drink.

Now she lay unconscious in front of him, half an hour away from that party. Each slow breath stripped away another week from her face, and that's when he grabbed her purse, wondering if he could figure out her real age.

His fingers his her fake ID first. Danielle Schmal, twenty-one.

No one would buy that. It was a stretch to believe she was a young eighteen. Then again, the people at the party from which they'd come didn't much care about things like the legal drinking age--or anything legal, for that matter. A pocket of the wallet hid her real ID, an ASB card from the local public high school.

He looked closer and blinked.

March Secret Agent #12

TITLE: Star Ruby
GENRE: YA

A couple hundred heads swiveled towards me as I pushed open the heavy
doors to the gym. The gym's bleachers were filled with silent
students, all dressed in Fara I Viking's vomitrocious prep school
uniform. All staring at me.

I paused to let them get a good look at my non-regulation skinny jeans
and eyed the garish Viking ship painted on the gym's wall. Vikings.
Ha. Barbarians and destroyers, but I had to give it to them. They
didn't let a little thing like no compasses keep them off the oceans.
They just glared at the stars and plowed through the Atlantic.

I could do the same. I nodded at the ship and strolled to the back of
the bleachers. A blond girl with braided pigtails stared me down and
said, "You can't sit there." I sat down and crossed my legs anyway.
(

"Assigned seats," she hissed at me.

"Bummer." I settled back in my seat, and her eyes bugged out behind
her purple cat-eyed glasses.

A teacher leaned into the microphone at the podium. "Miss Demir? Miss
Eva Demir?" reverberated through the gym.

Awkward. I knew my search would involve some sacrifices, and I guess
my first sacrifice had to be my dignity. I raised my hand and wagged
my fingers at him.

March Secret Agent #11

TITLE: Blemish
GENRE: YA Historical

Manila, Philippines, 1909

Lucito opened the mansion door to a gaunt stranger in police garb. Behind him, other policemen stood in a v, their backs to the evening street lamps and their faces in shadow.

"Is this the Garcia residence?" the man asked.

"It is," Lucito said. "How may I help you, Officer?"

"Inspector Sulpicio Paredes." He handed Lucito a card. "Here to see Maria Estrella Garcia."

It said "Policia de Sanitario" – the dreaded Health Police. The Garcias' head-servant re-read it to make sure, then stole a look at the policemen. One held a pair of handcuffs. The others carried rifles. Lucito composed himself, then said, "I'm afraid she is unavailable."

"Already in bed, at this hour?"

"Oh, no, Officer! She is hosting a ball here. For her seventeenth birthday."

"No wonder this blasted street is congested," the inspector muttered.

"Perhaps," Lucito suggested, "you'd like to speak with her father, Don Jaime, first?"

"Her seventeeth birthday, is it?" When Lucito nodded, the inspector said, "Very well."

"If you will please wait here." Lucito began to close the door, but the inspector jammed the butt of his rifle in the opening.

"My men will wait outside," he said. "I will wait inside."

In the mansion's ballroom, Maria Estrella Garcia -Maristella to her intimates - smiled to herself. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Pancho Villanueva watching her across the dance floor. She had successfully eluded him for the last hour. It served him right for being late.

March Secret Agent #10

TITLE: SMALL BOY'S MANUAL OF SELF-DEFENSE
GENRE: MG with graphics

I'm "The Perfect Target" for older kids because I wear glasses, and I'm small for eleven years old.
My goal last year was not to be noticed, but it didn't work. You'd think I had a neon sign on my back that said, "Pick On Me." One thing I get picked on for is that I don't wear clothes like everyone else.

If you have the wrong name, like I do, they'll tease you, too. Try Everett Walter Winston. Think about it. E.W.W. That's EWW! When I get old enough, I'm changing my name to Iron Man or The Hulk. You also get picked on if you have a squeaky voice… Geez, I have that, too. This year my goal is to learn self-defense, so I don't get picked on so much. Last night, when I was playing a video game instead of
doing my homework, I heard my mom's footsteps in the hall.

Geez, I forgot to shut my door again. I covered up my computer screen quick and turned the game off just when the knight was going to slay a dragon.

Mom waved some paper and pens in the air, "You should write down whatever you learn about self-defense and share it with other kids."

What? Where did she get that crazy idea?

"I'll give you a bigger allowance if you do."

Of course, I said, "Okay." Who doesn't want a bigger allowance?

March Secret Agent #9

TITLE: NIGHT SKY
GENRE: YA

Taking a breath about kills me right now. I thought tonight would be different. Tonight would be the night we'd dance together, we'd move together, and she'd finally start to feel some of the things I do when we touch. But she doesn't. The way she's dancing with Eric, every part of her pressed against him, makes me want to throw my fist through something. Maybe his face.

The thing is, I knew it could happen - that she could end up with another guy. But I didn't know it would hurt this much.

My body's fading into numbness, probably from shock. Because Eric? He practically has player stamped across his forehead. Even his football friends can't stand him, I know 'cause some of them are my friends, too. Sarah's smarter than this.

His face bends down as they dance, hers tilts up in anticipation. And then there's me. Alone. Standing off to the side, slowly being crushed by the inevitable. Because she picked him, over me.

I can't stay here and watch this - breathing is important, and something I can't do in the same room as them.

I push my way through what suddenly feels like masses of dancing couples, out the heavy doors of the school, and stop.

Now I can breathe. The screeching brakes of the city bus travels across the parking lot. Crap. I sprint and grab the doors at the last second. I'm alone. Alone on the one night I wouldn't mind distraction.

March Secret Agent #8

 TITLE: Double-faced
GENRE: YA

My last day of summer vacation and here I was, roasting in this dratted car with its busted air conditioning, while Mom ran errands. Tomorrow would be worse. I sighed. If Mom hadn't lost her job we'd still be in Detroit, and I wouldn't be starting tenth grade in a new school. Many of my friends had stayed on, their parents still looking, still hoping.

The pavement shimmered in the heat as I stepped out of the car, squinting against the blazing Arizona sun. I wiped my sweaty palms on my shorts and turned.

An elderly brown-skinned woman hurried across the pedestrian crossing, her gaze fixed on me. Even across that distance her dark eyes seemed to bore into me. She reached the curb, and gathering her long blue embroidered skirt with one hand and holding on to her orange fringed scarf with the other, she sped towards me. I tried to step out of her way, but my feet seemed glued to the pavement. I could only stare as she lifted a gnarled hand to my shoulder, saying in a soft, lilting voice, "I knew you'd come. I'd been waiting."

Waiting? I felt my eyes widen. What the heck! Was she crazy?

Callused fingers tightened around my bare upper arm. "You have to help us, before he destroys us." Her wide, terror-stricken eyes started out of her face.

March Secret Agent #7 redacted

March Secret Agent #6

TITLE: Red Velvet Death
GENRE: Urban Fantasy

It occurred to me how stupid I looked brandishing a toilet brush while preparing to leap out at the intruder in my kitchen. The men's boxers and oversized Hello Kitty tee-shirt didn't help my cause much. I made a mental note to buy myself a baseball bat, should I live through the next few minutes. And maybe some grownup pajamas.

I'm not my brightest first thing in the morning.

I craned my neck around the corner and peered into the kitchen.

My newspaper was tented around the intruder. He hummed to himself, and a cup of coffee disappeared behind the paper. The humming paused for a sip, then resumed its tuneless refrain.

I was irritated, but also curious. I suppose I should have been more alarmed, but who breaks into a house with ill intent and stops to make coffee and read the paper? My guest turned the page, and my throat locked in mid-swallow. The chalky, bony fingers holding the edges of the San Francisco Chronicle were familiar.

I ducked my head into the hallway and leaned against the wall for support, gulping air. I knew those hands. I clutched the toilet brush as if it had the power to ward off nightmares. In the flash of a forgotten memory, I saw the hands grabbing at my closet doorframe, reaching to snatch out my eyes. My most terrifying childhood fear came back to me as the truth it was. I was five again, and monsters were real.

March Secret Agent #5

TITLE: Best Friends Forever
GENRE: YA Paranormal Thriller

Sam's face blurred behind the cloud of smoke hovering in the still, cool air. Emily thought it made her look like an angel. If angels were Goth and wingless with a taste for whisky and weed.

Tara sat hip-to-hip with her dark hero in flawless skinny jeans and designer hoodie, poking random hanging O's with her impossibly long fingernails. Her skin was so tanned she made Sam look like a ghost. That was the point as far as anyone knew.

Madison took a delicate swig from the bottle and burped into her fist. She giggled before handing it to Emily. The smooth sides slipped in her fingers. She had to lift it with both hands. The familiar fire filled her mouth, burning a path to her stomach.

"To us!" Sam's black-rimmed eyes were bloodshot from the booze and the smoke. She handed off the joint to Tara who sucked at it eagerly, pink lip-gloss leaving a messy ring around the yellowing paper.

Emily hoisted the bottle and saluted, filling her mouth one last time before returning it to Madison who helped herself. Sam's belch was a work of art, echoing back from the trees. They all laughed. The small fire crackled in answer.

Emily discarded her sandals and extended her toes toward the flames, shivering as the dew-wet grass brushed the back of her bare thighs.

A train whistle mourned in the distance. Their ride was calling.

March Secret Agent #4

TITLE: Pink Tigers
GENRE: Contemporary Women's Fiction

Megan reached for the cold metal handle; her hand shook like an addict on withdrawal. Get a grip woman. She'd faced larger giants than the pint-sized ones beyond the gymnasium door. One. She took a breath. Two. The muffled roar of the crowd as it echoed throughout the empty corridors of the school surged towards her, resonating in her ears like the echo of a freight train in an empty station. An explosion of panic threatened to overwhelm her as tiny dots clouded her vision.

Not now. Please God, not now.

Over one hundred children waited inside the gymnasium for her. This was not the time for a panic attack to hit. Megan took a deep breath, her nostrils flared as she wrestled to calm herself. She reached for the handle again, only to have her hand slip. It was drenched in sweat.

Her body trembled, her heart beat thundering in her ears. Dammit, her pills were at home and there wasn't enough chocolate in her purse to still her fears. She pictured Peter's smug stance this morning when he told her she should just concentrate on being a mom.To their own children.

Except she was. That's what he refused to understand.

If she didn't step through those doors, she'd hate herself forever. One more thing to add to the guilt. Through gritted teeth she yanked open the door and plastered a smile on her face.

March Secret Agent #3

TITLE: The Keeping-Box
GENRE: YA Fantasy

The first thing Bianca noticed about the visitor was the blood caked on his face. The second thing she noticed was that he wasn't human.

"Much apologies," he said as he shut the door of the apothecary shop behind him. His voice, heavily accented, came from somewhere deep in his chest. "Did not want intrude. No other choice."

She stared, transfixed, while the forgotten rag in her hand dripped water onto the floor. Fantastical creatures like this weren't real; they only existed in legend. Yet here one stood, in the flesh, breathing the same air that she breathed. He was no taller than a child; his mouth and nose looked more like a wildcat's than a human's. And the blood on his wrinkled brown skin was as green as tarnished copper.

She gathered enough wits to answer, "It's all right," and clamped back the dozen or so questions she wanted to ask. She tossed aside the rag and dried her hands on her apron. "Sit down," she said, indicating the chair near the counter. "I'll get bandages and salves."

"Salves? What is salves?"

"For your wounds."

He continued to look perplexed, touching his face with an absent gesture as if his injuries were the last thing on his mind. "Much thanks, but not wish that. Wish other thing."

"Other thing?" Bianca repeated. What else could he need with his face like that? Why had he burst into this shop, if not to have his wounds tended?

With a desperate look he said, "Hide."

March Secret Agent #2

TITLE: Going for Kona
GENRE: Contemporary Women's Fiction

My pink bike sliced through the early morning fog at 20 miles per hour. The heavy dew collected on my sunglasses, making it impossible for me to see County Road 2672 extending in a crooked line in front of me. I shouldn't have worn the glasses, but it was too late to take them off unless I pulled over, a tricky proposition in a stream of over one hundred blinded cyclists.

"I can't see s***," I said to my husband.

"I don't see any either," he said.

A laugh escaped my nervous lips. "Adrian. I'm serious. I need to take off my glasses."

Before he could answer, we both swerved to avoid a bicyclist pedaling in the center of the road, just fast enough to stay upright. Objects in fog are closer than they appear.

"Excuse the cart, please," Adrian shouted at him, like the annoying mini-shuttle drivers in the walkways at DFW airport, but with his customary joie de vivre. When Adrian shouted at people, they smiled. As did this fellow, moving to the right.

"Sorry! Have a great ride!"

"You, too," Adrian said.

I licked the moisture off my lips, then reached up and wiped them with my gloved hands. I only succeeded in smearing the condensation around. I didn't dare touch the glasses.

"Adrian?" I moved closer so he could hear me.

"Yes, honey?"

"I really can't see. I either need my glasses off or we need to slow down." Given a choice, Adrian - a competitive triathlete - never slowed down.

March Secret Agent #1

TITLE: Leap of Faith
GENRE: Woman's Fiction

She was chest deep when she lost sight of him. The wave that took him down broke across the jetty and Leni cringed at the thought of flesh and bone colliding with the rock barrier. His head was bleeding when she reached him. His lungs were saturated and he was unconscious; dead weight. It took both her arms to hold him against her chest.

The tide was with her and the current seemed to surrender to her will. The greatest difficulty was dragging him out of the shallow water. The exertion warmed her body and escalated her temper. He was a novice. And alone. The man had no business on a surfboard.

She resuscitated him, and while he coughed up the salt water from his lungs, she surveyed his injuries. His eyes fluttered open--deep-ocean blue and unfocused. He squeezed them shut and a shiver of pain took him back into oblivion. It was impossible to look at his face and hold onto her irritation.
She took a calming breath and stacked her palms over the gash on his forehead and gasped. A flare of heat pulsated from the center of her lower back. She pulled her hands away and the sensation left her. It felt like her birthmark was the source of the heat, but that seemed impossible--for anyone else, impossible. She reached around and pressed her fingertips over the tiny star-shaped mark. Then, she leaned in and rested her other hand on his shoulder. The heat returned.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Write Hope Auction For Japan

Public service announcement!

The fine folks at Write Hope are auctioning off kidlit books, critiques, and other prizes to raise money for the emergency relief fund of Save the Children.  It's all in a bid to offer help for the devastated people of Japan.

Mine's not on the block yet, but I've offered a 3-chapter critique of a completed MG or YA SF/F manuscript.  I'll give you heads up when it goes live so you can scoot over there and wildly outbid each other.

In the meantime, head on over and see what other goodies are available right now!  It's a wonderful way for the writing community to give what we can in the wake of a disaster that's truly too big for most of us to fathom.

I'm honored, as always, to be a part of the wonderful and giving writing community!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Submission Reminder

Good morning!

Just a reminder that the two submission windows for this week's Secret Agent round open at:

  • NOON EDT (first 25 entries)
  • 7:00 PM EDT (second 25 entries and 2 alternates)
I won't be posting the opens and closes for 2 reasons.  First, because they often fill up so fast I miss them.  Second, because I don't want you to rely on seeing the post show up.  Sometimes there's a lag, and if you wait, you'll miss your opportunity.  Use a reliable online clock.

Good luck!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday Fricassee

Dare I say it? It FEELS like spring today!

First, a huge thank-you to everyone who commented on Wednesday's post.  Amazing how differently we all approach things, isn't it?  I have to chuckle when the hardcore plotters insist the answer lies in carefully outlined plans.  For a plotter, that's definitely true!  And I assure you I have TRIED to make myself do that.

I'm more convinced than ever that pantsing and plotting are genetic.  Unchangeable.

Sure, you can teach a plotter to loosen up a little bit in order to let some organic growth happen.  And you can teach a pantser that getting some main concepts in order is a good way to avoiding painting yourself into a corner.  But I believe the essence of each will remain pretty much the same.

It's funny, because I'm actually a fairly administrative person (oh, you noticed?).  As a matter of fact, I once worked as an administrative secretary.  Dotted those i's and whatnot.  But when it comes to stories?  My brain works differently.

Of course, I LOVE charts and formulas and beat sheets.  Actually using them, however, remains an uphill battle.

All that to preface this:  Yesterday I had my big plot breakthrough!  Largely scribbled in a ridiculously illegible hand in my yellow notebook.  The scribbling continued this morning during my coffee time.  And hopefully, the writing will follow in full force later today.

Huzzah!

How did it finally happen, you ask?  Um.  I don't know!  I had seriously just drawn a very sad face on the notebook page, with fat tears trailing from scrunched eyes.  And the words "I'm this close to giving up."

Yeah.  I'm a little dramatic when I write notes.

Then I turned the page, and it broke.  For me, it was a God moment.

And of course, my designated time at the coffee house was nearly over by the time I felt like I was ready to take my newfound direction and put words to it.  No worries, thought I.  I'll just get some writing in later in the evening.

Hello, my name is Authoress and I am Not-A-Night-Owl.  I dozed off in my chair.

So, yay!  New day, new words.  I am certain your advice and encouragement played a part in my breakthrough.

I haven't felt EXCITED about this WIP in several weeks.  Stuckage will do that to you, yanno?  So now I'm ready for the writer's retreat in Paris that keeps popping up on my Facebook page.  (Seriously. If they're not going to fund it for me, don't splash it in my face!)

Signing off happy this week.  Hope you are, too!  See you all Monday during the submission frenzy!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Oh, To Be Spock

I'm struggling through the Final Push To The Big Climax on my WIP.  And it makes my brain hurt.

Know why?  Because, in order to make things work in a novel, it's got to be backed by LOGICAL MOTIVATION.  Not just motivation, which can be tricky enough.  (As in, why did Ricardo steal his mother's pink stilettos in the first place?)  But it has to make sense.  Lots and lots of sense.  (Ricardo stole his mother's pink stilettos because he knew his father had hidden the Sacred Jewels inside the heels.)

Logic is not my strong point.

My husband, of course, knows this.  He is highly amused by what he calls
"(insert-Authoress's-real-name)-logic".  Which, of course, is always illogical.

You can imagine how hard plotting is for me.

You can imagine, also, how astounded I am when someone describes my novel as "well plotted."  As though that couldn't possibly have happened.

Yeah.  It's that hard.

So here I am.  Moving SO slowly through this last important bit of story.  Chapter 24.  Which may as well be Chapter 4, for as little progress as I've made in the past two weeks.  I know how the novel ends--really, I do!  But it's the Getting There that's killing me.

It's all that logical, this-action-will-lead-to-that-action.  The character motivation.  The REASONS that lead to the big Boom.

Bleh.

It can't possibly be true that I'm the only author who struggles with logic.  (And if it is true, I'm sure I don't want to know.)  So please.  If you're one of those struggles-with-logic authors, please share your survival techniques!

And if logic comes more easily for you, I want to hear from you, too.  Sometimes watching someone else's brain work is a marvelous way to learn!

Okay.  Sitting back and awaiting your words of wisdom.

Monday, March 14, 2011

March Secret Agent Early Info

Please note: This is NOT the call for submissions! The contest will open NEXT Monday, March 21.

SUBMISSION GUIDELINES (please read carefully):

* There will be TWO SEPARATE SUBMISSION WINDOWS. Each window will be open for 2 hours and will receive a maximum of 25 entries. This is to accommodate my other-side-of-the-globe readers.
* SUBMISSION WINDOW #1: Monday, March 21, NOON to 2:00 PM EDT or 25 entries, WHICHEVER COMES FIRST.
* SUBMISSION WINDOW #2: Monday, March 21, 7:00 to 9:00 PM EDT or 25 entries, WHICHEVER COMES FIRST.
* 2 alternates will be chosen from the second submission window.
* PLEASE NOTE: You are responsible for figuring out your own time zone. "Time Zone differences" are NOT a reason for not getting your entry in.
* Submissions received before the contest opens will be rejected.
* Submissions are for COMPLETED MANUSCRIPTS ONLY. If you wouldn't want an agent to read the entire thing, DON'T SEND IT. If an "entire thing" doesn't exist, you shouldn't even be reading these rules.
* Manuscripts THAT HAVE BEEN IN A SECRET AGENT CONTEST DURING THE PAST SIX MONTHS (September-February) will not be accepted.
* You may submit A DIFFERENT MANUSCRIPT if you've participated in any previous Secret Agent contests.
* Only ONE ENTRY per person per contest. If you send more than one, your subsequent entry(ies) will be rejected.
* If you are a PAST WINNER, please DO NOT ENTER THIS CONTEST. (Unless it's a different manuscript.)
* Submissions are for THE FIRST 250 WORDS of your manuscript. Please do not stop in the middle of a

Your submission for this contest should be formatted EXACTLY as follows:

SCREEN NAME: Your Screen Name Here
TITLE: Your Title Here
GENRE: Your Genre Here

(Followed by the excerpt here.)

* No "chapter one," chapter titles, etc.
* You will receive a confirmation email with your post number.
* Submissions go to authoress.submissions(at)gmail.com. They DO NOT GO to my facelesswords address. Or any other address.
*PLAIN TEXT is your best bet! And if you receive a rejection notice that claims you didn't include TITLE, etc., please TYPE THE SCREEN NAME, TITLE, AND GENRE BY HAND and resubmit. (In other words, don't copy and paste that part.)
*It doesn't matter what you put in the subject line.  The only thing you MUST NOT do is to use "RE:" The bot will think you are attempting to respond to an email, and will reject you.


As always, there is no fee to enter the Secret Agent contest.

This month's contest will include the following genres:

  • YA and MG (no SF or epic fantasy)
  • Contemporary women's fiction
  • Paranormal romance
  • Urban fantasy
  • Mystery
Questions below!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday Fricasee

So I've realized there are a lot of new readers/participators here, which is something that seems to escape me.  I tend to think about this community as a static entity--My Blog Family, as it were.  And of course, no online community is static.  People leave, people arrive.  People send expensive chocolate.

(Well, nobody's actually done that.)*

Anyway, allow me to correct my error and WARMLY WELCOME everyone who has recently arrived.  I imagine that the weight of the archives may prove ponderous, and at some point I may have to do something about that.  For now, your best best is to check out "Authoress" and "Crits and Contests" and "FAQ" above.  The Success Stories are on hold because, frankly, I just haven't had the time to compile them into a readable order.

Perhaps a few bullet points are in order:

  • Concerning critiques and contests:  All entries are posted anonymously out of respect for the authors.  It is admittedly easier to put our work in a public forum without attaching our name.  Some of you wouldn't mind; some of you would rather ingest termite sticks than let people know an excerpt is yours.  In any case, I want you all to know that your identity will never be attached to your work unless you attach it yourself.
  • If your work is posted here, you are (strongly) encouraged to critique a minimum of 5 other entries.  I believe in "give and take" and not "take and take."
  • Almost every question you could think of is answered somewhere on the blog.  When I post submission guidelines, read them carefully, as they contain all the information you will need for submitting.  HOWEVER: Don't hesitate to email me if you're confused about something.  Also if you notice an error in your entry in a contest/critique.  Because I will always--ALWAYS--fix formatting errors.  We all want our work to look pretty.
  • The DONATE button to the right is voluntary.  I do pay a nominal monthly hosting fee for the automated submission system that Michael Wulf has so graciously created for me (and is still working to perfect--this guy is amazing).  Among other things. So aside from simply receiving your gifts as a "thank you," there are actually things for which I have to pay, and your generosity makes it easier.  
  • If you haven't subscribed to the blog, I suggest a feed instead of email.  The email subscription brings the latest posts directly to your inbox, but if it's time-sensitive, like an off-the-cuff call for submissions, you'll miss it, because the emails goes out only once a day.  Also, I think you'll benefit more from being an active part of the community that happens in the comment boxes here.  I often receive emails that are meant to be comments because email subscribers have hit "reply" instead of clicking over to the blog.  In short--I'd like you to take your seat at the party!
Let today's comment box be a free-for-all for any questions from newbies AND oldies!  I'm sure there are things I simply haven't thought of, or that I've answered before but you feel need to be more prominently displayed.  I want this blog to be first-time-user-friendly, and I know you can help me accomplish that.

I may strive to be highly organized, but there's way too much scatter in my brain.  Amazing I can throw together a novel at all.

(Meh.  "Throw."  Totally wrong word.)

Have a joyous weekend!



* To be perfectly honest, I did receive expensive chocolates from someone when I signed with Josh.  Champagne truffles, actually.  But then, they came from one of my dearly beloved writing buddies/crit partners.  Not a random writerly person.  (There. I feel better now.)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Drop the Needle: REVELATION #48

TITLE: Tarawera
GENRE: Upper YA/Cross

Close to beginning after MC intro.

The cat's eye circled into itself. A beautiful small shell tucked in amongst the sand, hidden and yet wishing to be found – a secret woven tight around its centre. They were the smallest of treasures my eyes would search for along the black volcanic sand, and because of that held the highest reward.


My initial delight at such a find was a high pitched squeal that brought my mother to me, her enthusiasm matching mine, always. We were the cat's eye finders. We were the finders of all things. We were we, until the one day there was only me.


Scattered in the top drawer of her desk, amongst her drawings and notes, I found the letters, unfinished, folded and opened so many times, the paper frail and thin, looked older than they could possibly be.


Unfolding each one carefully, I felt the struggle in them, in whatever she'd wanted to say. For the most part, they were just pages of Dear Sophie and then a pooling of ink from a shoddy pen stuck in that one spot, except for one.


I wanted to take you back, but…. And then another puddle of ink. Back where? Another question. Another something left hanging.


What are these? I'd asked my father, but he shrugged his shoulders and left the room. You couldn't ask him much, not yet. He was still wandering around room to room looking for what he could no longer find.


And I remembered Toodles in Peter Pan, the little man who lost his marbles and spent his entire life searching for them, and I watched my father with his hair wild and unkempt, and how he would now stop in the middle of a room, look around him and then turn away to another.


I thought then of handing him his own bag of marbles, if I thought it would help.