Friday, March 29, 2013

Friday Fricassee

Last Friday of March!  (Who, me? SICK TO DEATH OF WINTER?)

So we've ended up with only 33 entries in the FAKE LOGLINE contest.  YOU GUYS!  You must all hate loglines as much as I do!

But seriously.  I want to give those of you who might've been hesitating outside the door a chance to enter.  So I've extended the submission window to 2 pm EDT today.  Just in case.

Because, really.  It's a great way to practice a logline that doesn't actually count, AND there are lots of critiques to give away!  So if you were teetering on the edge of indecision yesterday, now's your chance.

Enter here.

As for the rest of this Fricassee?  Let's share some fun dreams.  If you're like most authors (whether we'll admit it or not), you sometimes imagine what your novel would look like on the big screen.  You see scenes unfold in your mind, complete with special effects and an awesome soundtrack.

So...who do you see in your lead roles?  Who's going to write your soundtrack?  What other Amazing Things do you foresee for your box office smash?

I'm not big on dreaming up actors.  I see my characters as -- well, themselves.  But I must confess that I've always imagined the villain in my MG fantasy as Johnny Depp.  (No, stop it.  I'm serious.)  I don't think he'd want the role, because it's not big enough (he's offscreen for much of the story), but I think he'd be perfect.  (Because my villain is quite handsome.  And, well.  Johnny Depp.)

I'm much more interested in the soundtrack (being a musician and all).  My top choices?  Hans Zimmer.  Thomas Newman.  Rachel Portman.  Howard Shore.

To name a few.

What are your dreams?  Share! It's always okay to dream big.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Blog Birthday Stuff -- Prizes! Submissions! Deadlines!

The 5-years-of-MSFV celebration is ramping up!  Here's the latest on what's been going on so far:

1.  Submissions for the FAKE LOGLINE CONTEST are open from 8 am EDT today to 8 am EDT tomorrow.

  • Read about crafting loglines HERE.
  • Follow the submission guidelines HERE.
  • PRIZES:  A collection of query and first-chapter critiques from MSFV success story authors.  (And one very special Browncoat prize.)
2.  The deadline for the CREATE A GIFT FOR AUTHORESS CONTEST is April 3.  (I've gotten some cool entries!)
  • Read the guidelines HERE.
  • PRIZES:  First prize is a 3-chapter critique from Authoress ($70 value via Authoress Edits).  Second prize is a 1-chapter critique from Authoress.  And there will be other goodies.  I'm working on it.
3.  April 4 is the blog's actual birthday.  Look for a detailed MSFV RETROSPECTIVE on this day!

4.  There's EVEN MORE FUN scheduled for the second week of April!  But I'll keep you in the dark for now. Because, naturally, I'm going to milk this thing. 

Questions below!  I am so looking forward to reading your FAKE LOGLINE ENTRIES.  And receiving your birthday creations.  And...everything!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

March Secret Agent #50

TITLE: Jane Unwrapped

My name is Jane Ezrael. I am seventeen years old.

And I think I just drowned.

I’m on all fours, palms flat on black sand. Only thin rays of purple light allow me to see. I stand and a dull ache spreads throughout my body, as if my bones are rusted pieces of metal grinding together. A dark haze reaches towards me, swirling around my arms and legs. Grey fog shifts in the distance, like a rolling storm.

I wrap my pink hoodie tighter around myself; it’s soaked through, and my dripping bathing suit still clings to my skin. I have an eerie feeling I’ll never be dry again.

This isn’t right – this isn’t how it’s supposed to be! If I were dead, there wouldn’t be anything left. I couldn’t see or feel or hurt. No, I can’t be dead. I have to wake up and take my chemistry test on Monday. I’m not dead.

“Duncan!” I scream. He has to be around here somewhere. When I fell from my tube and was carried down river – I must have ended up in this weird spot. I’m stranded, that’s all. Duncan is probably looking for me now, laughing that his little sister has embarrassed herself again.

I peer through the haze: still nothing but fog in the distance. There has to be something out there. I take a tentative step. The ground is grainy beneath my bare feet, like the banks of Skutz Falls.

March Secret Agent #49

TITLE: The Lokana Chronicles
GENRE: Adult Fantasy

Vegin considered the man before him, a poor farmer from an outlying village. Tears had carved grooves through the layers of dirt on his face as he begged for mercy. The prince paused for a moment to choose his next words, glancing at his father out of the corner of his eye and wondering if his judgment would be allowed to stand.

But as Vegin opened his mouth to pass sentence on the man, Tol sighed loudly, letting his hand drop against the arm of his throne in irritation. “I’ve heard enough – if you can’t pay your taxes, then you’ll simply have to work off your debt! Guards, take him away!”

“Father, you’re only supposed to observe,” Vegin hissed. “Remember?”

“But your Highness, please! My family – without me, they’ll starve!”

Tol stared at his son, disbelief etched on his face as shock quickly replaced his anger. “I’ll deal with you in a moment,” he said, glaring daggers at Vegin, who rose from his seat and stormed out of the room. “As for you,” he bellowed, returning his attention to the old farmer, “you should have thought of your family before you decided not to pay your taxes. If they die, you’ll have only yourself to blame.”

He dismissed the guards who had appeared at the man’s sides with a wave of his hand. As Tol rose from his throne, he caught his wife’s eye and she leaped to her feet. At least someone jumps at my command, he thought. “Come, Enya!”

March Secret Agent #48

GENRE: YA Paranormal

Our attic door is always padlocked, but on this late Friday afternoon, the stairs descend into the hallway like a lolling tongue from a dark mouth. Before I can climb the steps, a filled white trash bag, and then another, lands at my feet. I jump back in surprise. "Oh!"

Mom hurries down the attic stairs, a plume of dust following her. "Crystal, what are you doing here? I thought you were going to the library."

Crud, my chance to finally get a glimpse inside the attic is thwarted by Mom, the attic ninja.

I huff and cross my arms. "I wanted to see—"

"Can you take these bags to the kitchen for me?" Mom forces a smile and hands me the bags. With a jerk, she turns her back to me, lifts the ladder steps, and locks the attic door.

Maybe she’s hiding my birthday present up there. I turn sixteen on Monday. But that doesn't explain why she's never let me in the attic.

Downstairs, I drop the bags near back door. Although bulky, the bags are surprisingly light. Wonder what's inside them.

Leaning against the counter, I teeter the half-filled swinging-basket. A not quite ripe, fresh-smelling apple rolls out. As I place it on top of the other fruit, Mom enters the kitchen.

She brushes strands of dyed strawberry blonde hair behind her shoulder with her small fingers, and dust drifts onto her golf shirt. "I'm sorry for snapping. You just surprised me."

"What were you doing?"

March Secret Agent #47

GENRE: YA Suspense

The honour of your presence is requested this evening. 6:00PM.

Those were the only words in perfect, jet-black calligraphy that crossed the formal white parchment of the invitation.

I rubbed a thumb across the ink and felt the fine linen texture of paper between my fingers, then flipped the envelope back over and re-read the front. Miss Blakely G. Sullivan was printed in the same elaborate lettering, leaving no doubt this was for me and not my roommate, Amie.

It all felt oddly familiar, even though I couldn’t place why. Maybe it was the richness of the paper. Or the intricate calligraphy that addressed my name in an elegant brush stroke I thought I recognized.

Whatever it was, I knew I’d seen something like this before. I just couldn’t remember where.

Setting it down, I turned towards the black garment bag now hanging from the door of my closet. It had been one thing to see the white letter shoot across the floor from under my front door. But then when I opened it and found only the bag and not a soul in my hallway, well...

Head cocked sideways with hands on my hips, I drummed my fingers as I stared at the poufy black bag. It could’ve easily contained a body, but since it weighed almost nothing, I already knew that couldn’t be true.

A few quick prods to check for any unnatural groans, I tugged at the zipper, not at all expecting the mass of white feathers that spilled out around me.

March Secret Agent #46

TITLE: The Accidental Socialite
GENRE: Women's Fiction

It was 3 A.M and all I wanted was a cheeseburger.

“Miss, we sell only Big Mac after midnight,” said the Bangladeshi McDonalds employee.

“Yes, I understand that and I will pay for a Big Mac, but I would like a cheeseburger, so can you, like, remove a patty and mid bun and hold the secret sauce? Please?”

“Miss I am sorry but we do not have this item now.”

A tall, drunk and incredibly beautiful blonde South African girl appeared at the till next to me.

“I’ll have a hot dog.”

That’s my new best friend, Lucinda.

We walked out of McDonalds still drunk and without our respective food, just a small fries to ‘split’, which really meant Lucinda was going to watch me eat them. As I was elegantly shoving eight fries into my mouth at once, not unlike a four-year-old, I became the unwitting participant of a photo-shoot. I looked around for the celebrity garnering all this attention and it wasn’t until Lucinda slapped the second fistful of fries out of my hand that I realized that celebrity was me.


Less than twenty-four hours earlier, my eighteen-hour flight from Edmonton to London connecting in Denver landed at 9:38 A.M on a grey, drizzly Saturday in late January. I struggled to get my large carry on bag out of the overhead compartment, not just because it was heavy, but also because I had inadvertently rendered myself immobile.

March Secret Agent #45

GENRE: YA Contemporary Fantasy

When I am changing for swim practice after school, I fully understand the cryptic statement my grandmother made this morning. December 6. “You’re 17 ½ now. Today is the day you become a woman,” she had said. “I’ll explain this evening.” In the rush to get out the door, I hadn’t paid close attention, and just chalked it up to her absent-mindedness.

But while I wrestle my swim suit over my unexpectedly curvaceous chest, I realize that, somehow, suddenly, I went from a barely B to a voluptuous D. We’re talking, like, Kate Hudson to Katy Perry.

I pinch myself, and run over to the mirror. The cold, hard tiles beneath my feet remind me that I am awake, though the bright overhead lights make me look like a zombie. I have seen enough—this change is real.

Typically, I fly under the radar at school. To be fair, I’m noticed at the academic awards assemblies, but it sure isn’t for my looks. If anything, my height and lack of curves gets me negative attention. My name is actually Eugénie —Genie for short—but because I’m so tall, the oh-so-original popular kids have been calling me Bean Pole—Beanie—since my growth spurt in sixth grade.

Shaking my head at my reflection, I’m annoyed and bewildered by yet another spontaneous, dramatic physical change. I’ve already had to do a lot of adjusting and damage control recently.

March Secret Agent #44


The distance between me and the ground was about five feet. I guess. Okay, I’d fallen further than that in the past and survived. Admittedly, on previous tumbles I hadn’t had four stomping hooves to avoid.

‘You nervous?’ I heard Ben call.

I turned to look at him as he sauntered across the yard, his ruffled golden hair flopping into his face over his sky blue eyes. A girl looked over a rustic stable door, admiring his muscles as they bulged through his tight fitted grey top. It was hard to believe he was related to me.

‘No,’ I replied, trying to sound defiant. Why people around here considered this was fun was beyond me? Horses have their own minds, or did people not realise that?

‘I’ll look after you,’ he said, smiling. He squeezed my hand.

‘It’s supposed to be me looking after you. I’m the older one, remember?’

‘Age is just a number,’ he replied.

Despite his reassurances the churning knots in my stomach were getting tighter. Thank God I hadn’t had any breakfast this morning, otherwise it would definitely be making a second appearance.

‘It could be worse,’ he said. ‘It could’ve been raining.’

I looked up at the sky. It was cloudy as per usual. Typical British weather. Something I still wasn’t used to.

‘Hurry up, Ben,’ Dad called. He was waiting with the rest of the group. ‘You’re holding us all up.’

‘Smile,’ Ben instructed as he jogged back across the muddy concrete and effortlessly leapt onto his horse.

March Secret Agent #43

TITLE: The Stolen Karma Of Nathaniel Valentine
GENRE: Fantasy

The woman straddled him, her dark hair hanging down on either side of her face, tickling his cheeks. She was almost pretty when she smiled, with her full lips and flushed cheeks, but the effect was spoiled by the hunger in her eyes. It reminded him that she was a monster, and that he was about to die.

She leaned forward and kissed him. Nathaniel struggled against her, but the press of her body and lips was too much, like being buried beneath an avalanche, and he gave in. He was flat on his back, cocooned to the floor of his bedroom by spider silk. Her fingers danced above him like a pianist’s as she kissed him, spinning more threads, enshrouding him andcovering his head. He had dreamed about his first kiss thousands of times: this was not how he'd imagined it.

She pulled back suddenly, their lips coming apart with a smack. He gasped in surprise and the sugary flavor of her cherry lip gloss vanished, replaced by the bitter taste of web as she gagged him, smothered his mouth and nose. He was bound head to toe now, tight, claustrophobic, and he fought against the woman, tried to buck her off. She stayed put, looked down at him hungrily, then laughed and ran a delicate finger over the line of his brow. He flinched, tried to scream and couldn’t.

“You look good enough to eat,” she purred. Then she winked.

This was seriously his worst birthday ever.

March Secret Agent #42

GENRE: Sci-fi-Fantasy

Each morning, the deep plum shade of pre-dawn drowns the city of Hisoka Japan. Washing it in a sort of muted loneliness Satoru equates with long nights and quiet suffering, the ghosts of his grandfather’s last words rattling their literary chains. (Between darkness and light, shadow—eyes of the dragonfly.)

Satoru Nakahara has not slept. His mind will not allow it.

Drenched in five a.m. twilight, bare feet to the patio cement, he leans against the red brick wall of his upper-class condominium. The dark clouds are thick and oppressive, overwhelming the moon and stars. Streetlights illuminate the roads with an eerie artificial glow, a vision Satoru finds comforting especially during morning patrol. His gray bathrobe is moist with dew and open down to his chest, exposing a plain white undershirt. Hot coffee in hand, he covets the city’s silence staring hard into the bordering mountains.

Any minute now, he thinks, they will come. But for now, there is absolutely no sound. Not even from the leaves and buds of his large pink cheery tree trembling in the morning wind.

Raising the small black binoculars hung by a strap at his neck, Satoru grins as he peers through the lenses. “There you are,” he whispers, spotting the man-shaped black shadows watching him from the far hills.

Today, there are three: one large, one medium and one small. They are closer than they were yesterday, closer yesterday than the day before that. How long until they catch me, he wonders, raising his coffee cup to his lips.

March Secret Agent #41

TITLE: Summer Lake
GENRE: YA Historical

All I’ve ever wanted is freedom from the paralyzing fear that has haunted me for the last seventeen years. To not have to watch over my shoulder every time I hear footsteps. To not be afraid of what might happen when I turn my back.

It’s only been a few hours, but I finally have it. And it feels damn good. I can breathe easy knowing I’m safe from the shadows that haunt me.

I lean forward, my elbows pressing into the rickety railing that surrounds the wood plank deck. It creaks and groans as I push on it. It’s weathered and beaten with white paint peeling off in uneven patches, exposing the raw wood underneath to the harsh elements.

A fresh start - that’s what this summer will be. A chance to figure things out without distraction. Without being held back by fear.

“Are you going to be ok over here tonight?” My grandmother approaches me from behind, her footsteps echoing in the stillness of the night. An owl hoots in the distance, the sound bouncing off the lake and echoing into the trees.

“Yeah, I’m looking forward to being alone.” I watch the reflection of the moon dance on the water, graceful, like a ballerina.

“I’m glad you decided to come up here for the summer.” Her arm brushes mine as she joins me next to the railing. Side by side, we stare out into the inky blackness of the night.

“There was no way I could stay with my mom."

March Secret Agent #40

TITLE: Savannah's Grace
GENRE: Contemporary YA

I counted back, flipping through the calendar until I located when it happened. It was four weeks and twenty-one hours before the day that set my discovery in motion, before I was reclaimed; revealed. Before I realized who he was.

Having no knowledge of the timer ticking along in the background, I pushed whole grain cereal around in a red plastic bowl. Dried, hard morsels on the far left side, milk in a puddle on the bottom.

A hard thump echoed from Dad’s bedroom. I didn’t react to the sound. My eyes remained steady on my soggy breakfast. Another bump, this time louder. And then a giggle. I rolled my eyes back.

Moments later the source of the noise breezed by me. I refused to look up or even say hello. I wondered how long she’d last. I fought to remember the skinny girl’s name. What was it again? Joy? Veronica? Denise? No, no, those were from the women before.

“Lydia! Hurry up, I’m thirsty,” Dad yelled.

At the sound of her name being called, Lydia whirled around and her bathrobe peeked open, exposing her nude body.

I waited for an apology, but none came. Lydia shoved back low drifting bangs and sauntered back to the bedroom, two bottles of Gatorade grasped by talon-sharp fingers.

Shaking my head, I got up and washed the bowl in the sink. I wandered over to the orange couch and plopped down. I would’ve turned the TV on, but we didn’t have cable.

March Secret Agent #39


Elsie stepped out of the airport shuttlebus and stumbled to a stop. Cars lined both sides of the wide street in front of Mama’s house. There were only two reasons for so many cars—a party or …a death.

Mid-afternoon in a Florida retirement community. The stillness and silence were absolute. It wasn’t a party.

She barely noticed the shuttle driver dropping her suitcases and cat carrier on the sidewalk beside her. Surely she wasn’t too late? Tears filled her eyes as she stared at the front garden Mama had worked so hard to create—coral-flowered hibiscus, violet bougainvillea, even orchids growing in a magnolia tree. It was flourishing, while Mama…

A short, sturdy woman hurried out Mama’s front door. Watching her hustle down the path, Elsie felt as wooden and heavy as an old oak tree. She didn’t move until the woman flung her arms around her and said, “Sweetpea, I’m sorry—”

Elsie Leabeck, librarian, gardener, equestrian and mature adult, gulped in a deep breath of the soft Florida air and screamed at the top of her lungs, “Mama, how could you?”

Mama’s hugging arms had the strength of a woman who dug deep planting holes and hauled bags of peat and manure around her garden. But Mama wasn’t supposed to be strong.

“You said you were on your deathbed with pneumonia,” Elsie yelled. “I broke the lease on my townhouse, quit my job, put Emberly on a horse van and rushed down to take care of you.”

March Secret Agent #38

TITLE: Dragonfriend
GENRE: YA - High Fantasy

The lazy afternoon sun shone down on Munjin as he watched the slow approach of three boys with hate caked under their fingernails. The soft breeze, full of the fine autumn aromas of pine and cut hay, also held the scent of prey. Munjin, frozen as if he watched himself in a dream, stood still as the trio, like harvest scythes, left broken stalks in their wake.

“Munji …”

Munjin stiffened as his name floated over the grass, and rattled the length of his spine. He knew the voice—Silas—and it packed his belly with dread. Not the biggest of the Kolva brothers, or even the meanest, but it was Silas who possessed an unerring ability to find Munjin when he was alone.

He cut his gaze to the nearby creek as it burbled past him. He preferred possible drowning to another round with the village’s premier bullies. Like wolves, the Kolva brothers traveled in packs. Together made a savage fist that hammered unlucky dogs, and lone boys.

Or Munjin could run for the forest; weave through the tall pines and elms along the paths of the woodsmen and trappers. The Kolvas might tire of chasing him. As he gazed at the river one more time, he could almost feel the cold swift waters bearing him away.

No. He was his father's son. He awkwardly adjusted the sheepskin hat that might have fit a larger boy, and waited for the Kolvas.

March Secret Agent #37

TITLE: Bound In Blue
GENRE: YA Contemporary Fantasy

Fear is white and thickly veined with sea-green.

I reached over the bed rail and touched Mom’s cheek, but the industrial clock on the wall ticked loudly and I jerked my hand back fast. She was cold. But she was always cool and thin and strange with her pale, pale eyes. Now they were open and staring and I couldn’t bring myself to close them the way they always do in movies.

The only thing Mom was ever afraid of was a man with silver hair. I saw him once when I was little. Mom pulled me tight against her chest and the sound of her heart was a wave crashing against rocks. That fear crept out of her chest, crawled through my ear, and made its way down to my own wildly beating heart to take up permanent residence.

Rhiannon, listen to me, we cannot be seen. Hide in the shadows and be still and silent.

And as she held me, my fear broke apart like ice on a churning ocean and all the colors of my emotions erupted out of it.

The man didn’t see us.

I once tried to tell Mom about the colors I felt, but she just smiled and looked away. I didn’t try again. It would have been nice to talk with someone about it. I’m sure my colors would be pretty interesting to some psychiatrist bored with the usual budding Unabombers.

But fear is white and an ugly sea-green that matches the color of the hospital walls.

March Secret Agent #36

TITLE: Dark One’s Mistress
GENRE: Adult Fantasy

"Clarabelle!" The cry rang out, scattering the pigeons resting atop the roofs and sending the nearby cats into a fit of hissing as they scampered for cover.

Clara halted on the edge of the street, her face burning as the echo of her mother's manly bellow continued. All around her, men and women paused in their daily business. The street gained an eerie silence. In the past, she'd heard worldlier folk boast that such deathly quiet could only be heard here in Everdark.

Then someone coughed, another person sneezed, and the sounds flooded back. The hum of talk. The clink of coins. A few turned to stare at her, the young woman in question, but mostly, the irate cry seemed to be forgotten.

A sigh huffed through her lips. Why does she have to scream like that? She contented herself with the roll of her eyes, wishing the heat in her cheeks would fade. It wasn't as if she was some small child. She knew her duties well. Knew the streets even better.

She shuffled her burden: bread, half a wheel of cheese, a skin of goat's milk and a tiny, dog-eared book on the world beyond. The last was for herself. Literally titled The World Beyond. Beyond what, she didn't know, but it sounded intriguing.

In the pit of her stomach, she knew concern hadn't driven her mother's voice. Not concern for Clara, anyhow. She'd taken too long, pure and simple. It wasn't her fault the baker's son had gone missing was it now?

March Secret Agent #35

TITLE: Homeschooling Slayer
GENRE: Adult Vampire Satire

Dee hated getting bitten right before the kids’ math lesson. The vampire had taken her by surprise in the bedroom, and now she felt one fang sink into her neck as cold hands gripped her shoulders. Trapped against the dresser, she leaned back as far as he could to stop the other fang from gaining purchase. Her hand shot up between her blouse and her attacker’s chest, jabbing thumb and forefinger into the soft part of her attacker’s lower jaw—hard enough to damage and hopefully shut down the salivary glands.

It was too late.

The enzyme that vampires released to facilitate blood flow hit her bloodstream, and she felt it shoot up into her brain. Light-headed, she could still make out the kids’ voices in the living room.

“Stop touching me!”

“Mom! She touched me first!”

Not the children. Not ever. The strength she needed flooded her muscles. Dee arched her back, clearing her hips far enough from the top drawer so she could reach down with her left hand and tug it open.
Her fingers plunged past a scarf, dug through thick underwear, then got tangled in the more lacy stuff hidden underneath, searching in vain for the feel of hard metal. The vampire lunged to match her motion, straining to get the second fang in.

Dee squeezed his neck viciously, crushing cartilage and tendons, wondering how much time she had until the trance would start. She felt a tendon snap beneath her finger.

March Secret Agent #34

TITLE: Trust
GENRE: Science Fiction

Anastassia Kazan thrummed her fingers on the table between us. “Could you kill someone if I asked you to?”

“You mean, if they attacked you?” I’d accepted the job of acting as her bodyguard, but I didn’t see myself as a thug. I glanced around the hotel room, wondering why she chose to interview me here. Surely the advisor to the entire Narvan System had an office somewhere.

She sat back, shifting her armored coat. “Vayen, you’ve worked in security. Surely you understand the necessity of taking preemptive measures.”

“Yes, of course.”

“Good. First order of business.” Her human mind opened a telepathic connection to mine. The light-skinned face of a Jalvian with white hair and a determined gleam in his eyes popped into my head. “If you see this man, kill him.”

“Not a problem.” I’d waited for orders to kill one of them for years.

“Second.” She pulled a gun from inside her coat and slid it across the table. “Once he finds out you work for me, he’ll want to kill you too.”

Great. From bodyguard, to thug, to target all in less than an hour.

“The good news is you won’t be working alone.” She stood and led me down the hall. After she entered her security codes, the door slid open.

The hotel room, identical to the one we’d met in, contained another Jalvian, younger and muscle-bulked. He tossed his blond hair over his shoulder as his bright blue gaze met mine. My fists clenched.

March Secret Agent #33

TITLE: Unleashed
GENRE: Single Title Contemporary Romance

Cara Medlen felt the growl before she heard it, rumbling through her leg from the dog tensed at her side. She jiggled the leash to break his concentration. “Easy, Casper. You may not realize it yet, but today’s your lucky day.”

He looked up at her with dull eyes, one brown, one blue. A jagged scar creased his face. Ribs and hipbones jutted through his mangy white coat. And oh boy, did he stink. Cara had yet to meet an ugly Boxer, but Casper...well, he had the sort of face that made people move to the other side of the sidewalk.

A face that tugged at a tender spot in her heart.

“It’s a blessing that Triangle Boxer Rescue can take him,” the woman behind the desk, a volunteer named Helen, said. “Shelter life hasn’t been good for him.”

Cara nodded as she handed the signed paperwork to Helen. “We work with a lot of dogs like Casper. I’m sure we’ll have him ready for adoption in no time.”

But the warning she’d received from her Homeowner’s Association over the summer weighed heavily in her mind. Keep her foster dogs in line, or face disciplinary action by the board.

The door to the kennels opened, and raucous barking filled the lobby. Casper peered around her and fixed his gaze on the man who’d come through the door. His posture stiffened, and the hair raised along his spine.

Yep, he was trouble all right.

March Secret Agent #32

TITLE: The Watched Men
GENRE: Fantasy

A woman hunched over the ground in front of the gates,‎ ‏shaking,‭ ‬leaning on her shovel for support.‭ ‬Black scarf tied around her neck,‭ ‬pulled up to cover her mouth.‭ ‬Dark hair with streaks of grey flowed down her shoulders and pooled on her chest,‭ ‬covering her broken heart.

She sobbed as she worked.

Her shovel cut into the hard-packed earth, loosening, turning over the burgundy path, deeply stained from so much blood. All of his blood.

It had always been that way, when a body was found outside the city gates. Not a drop of blood was left in them, but no wound had ever been found on any of the dead to explain how this was possible. Only a twisted look, desperation preserved on their stiff faces, and all of their blood spilled on the ground where they lay.

This was the power of the Nagiris Lion.

The Old Ones called it the Iliagrinnos, the Silent One. Most others dared not speak a name, lest it should hear and come for them. The blood belonged to her husband, whose body had been burned the night before, as was their way. Now it was her duty to cover the blood since no one else could touch it.

Arnot watched through a hole in the palisade wall, heart aching for this woman he didn't even know. He wanted to go and help her, to do the job for her so that she could rest, and grieve.

But it was forbidden.

March Secret Agent #31

TITLE: Wrath for Her Enemies
GENRE: Science Fantasy

After hours of breathing hot, fetid swamp air, Georgia gladly sucked in the rose-and-lemon fragrance of the Magic Center. It flowed into her like a blessing, singing home into her blood and her thoughts. The day's tension evaporated from her muscles, and a warm glow of relief settled in its place.

The glow lasted until she swung the door open and saw that the Mag Center lobby was full of people. Not the spellwrights who belonged there, but Siggers – leaflet-waving members of Science in God’s Service. At Georgia’s entrance, they pivoted and surged toward her. The man closest to her, neatly dressed, his gray hair parted down the middle and combed back behind his ears, waved a cartoon-colored pamphlet at her.

“Do you have a moment, miss? Once you hear our message, you won’t want to keep abusing God’s creations through magic.”

Georgia’s jaw tightened. Her marshy morning examining one spell nexus after another had left her hair sweat-plastered to her forehead, and she smelled bad. Dealing with these idiots would take a level of strength and patience beyond her reach. She swatted the pamphlet away, making sure to hit the pages without touching the man’s fingers. Couldn’t give him an excuse to claim she’d assaulted him.

Lillie, Georgia’s best friend, elbowed her way through the crowd, dodging outstretched hands and soul-saving literature. “Didn’t Dr. Nillsen tell these nutbabies they had to stay outside?” she demanded.

“Guess they forgot.” Georgia laid disbelieving emphasis on the last word.

March Secret Agent #30

TITLE: Cadence

I’m at dinner when they come for me. My heartbeat is in my ears, and the adrenaline rushes in my feet, my hands. I’m sitting at a table by the windows in the Cartwright Institute for Young Women dining hall, eating bad dorm food while my friends discuss the chemistry test we took today. Mira swears she failed the test even though I stayed up half the night helping her prepare for it. And I know they’ve come for me.

There’s an uncomfortable squirming in my gut that has nothing to do with Cartwright’s signature meatloaf mush and its proximity to my mouth. There’s a whispering in my ears, memories of voices and people I have tried desperately to forget.

Mira taps me on the shoulder and I jump, sending my knees into the bottom of the long, rectangular table. Chocolate milk splashes out of my glass and splatters all across my blouse, leaving the pristine white cotton pocked with brown freckles. The other girls around us laugh. Mira offers me a napkin. “Sorry,” she says. I take it with burning cheeks.

“No worries.” I dab at the stains and try to swallow down the rising panic in my throat, making me want to cry or scream or choke. “What is it, Mira?”

“I was wondering what you got for the first question,” she says. Her thin, dark eyebrows scrunch low over her eyes in concern.

March Secret Agent #29

TITLE: Remember Me
GENRE: Women's Fiction

Idaho is my father’s country. It will always speak of him. But underneath, it also whispers another story, one I am careful to never speak of, one I have often wished to forget.

Grief makes forgetting difficult.

Maclain, my husband, steadies me as we form a circle around the newly dug grave, the coffin closed and ready. Beneath my skin, my heart beats like that of a typist's fingers, furiously tapping. It pounds on my ribcage, beating out a message I struggle to understand.

The presiding Bishop bows his head. He speaks of eternal life, something I have never doubted until this very moment. I know my father is not in his body any longer, his spirit gone. But where is he? I look up at the sky. Is he here?

Maclain squeezes my hand at the final Amen. It is over. I have held it together so far, but suddenly feel the need to fling myself onto the dirt and throw a terrific tantrum. But the truth is, I am not a brave person.

Instead of body flinging, I clench my hands, step forward, and break inside.

My three children look up at me, pull on my skirt while my father’s favorite hymn, Be Still, My Soul, echoes on a violin my sister, Angie plays on the Cache Valley hills of Idaho. Our eyes meet. The sweet notes trigger a memory for both of us, brings him back. That boy I try to never think of, who may as well be dead, too.

March Secret Agent #28

TITLE: The Plate Spinner Chronicles
GENRE: Women's Fiction

Paul hung up the wall-mounted phone and stared at it a moment, a dozen unspeakable sentiments running through his head. She had thrown down the gauntlet again and, with the resolve of a stay-at-home dad navigating the grocery store cereal aisle on double coupon day, he braced himself for the imminent battle.

Easing back into the paint-chipped cane back chair at the head of the kitchen table, he tried to remember a time when the sound of her voice triggered a tingle from deep within his chest to the tip of his pinkie toes. Today was not one of those days.

Two pairs of eyes bore holes into his forehead, or at least they tried to. Shifting in his seat, Paul bent his head and twirled more spaghetti onto his fork. Without making eye contact, he announced, “That was your Mom. She had a bad day. Eat up.”

Thomas, thought by many to be destined for a successful career in investigative journalism, asked his father, “What did she say?”

With a fork full of food in his mouth, Paul looked at him and mumbled, “That she’s on her way home.”

“What else did she say?”

Swallowing hard, he replied, “Nothing. Eat.”

“So how do you know that she had a bad day?” the twelve-year-old asked while making quotation marks in the air with his fingers.

“Because when you know someone as long as I’ve known your Mother, you just know.”

“And how long is that exactly?” Thomas persisted.

March Secret Agent #27

TITLE: The Detective's Apprentice
GENRE: YA Historical Mystery

The first thing I noticed about Charlie Becket, the famous London detective, was his eyes. In the street, most people don’t let you see their eyes. The lawyers walking to Chancery, the clerks popping around to the pub for lunch, even the factory workers, their faces smudged with soot—they all walk with their heads down, trying not to see the suffering all around them. The beggars and the orphans, we’re the ones looking up, trying to get someone—anyone—to see us, to take pity on us, to give us a couple coins. Most people just ignore us.

But not Becket.

Pete and I had been begging by the Thames, trying to scrape together a few pence for some dinner, and having rotten luck. The day was ending, the shops closing, and no one had time for two cold, hungry orphans. But then I spotted Becket coming around the corner, his head held high and his eyes darting this way and that—seeing everything, missing nothing.

“Look,” I said to Pete, and pointed. “What about him?”

“You want me to lift his wallet, Daisy?” Pete asked.

I scoffed. “Are you dense? Do you want to get pinched?” Pete was my best friend—my only friend, come to that—but we often disagreed about how to survive in the streets. I liked to smile, curtsy, and charm people out of their money. He favored a more forceful approach.

I shook my head. “No, that man right there—that’s a man who could see his way to feeling generous.”

March Secret Agent #26

TITLE: Talassio
GENRE: Dark Fantasy

They walked single-file and surefooted through the dark woods, their bare feet moving lightly over the damp carpet of earth and leaf and needle, their shifts knotted above their knees so as to clear the brush just coming into blossom. It had been a bitter winter and a rain-filled spring, but now the sky was clear and filled with stars so dense as to cast a glow on the new green leaves. The moon was high and small and when again she could let herself remember that night Elisabeth would realize that it was a sickle, unusually narrow and bright: a tool for reaping, and she should have taken it for a sign.

But that night there had been no thought of signs or much else; there had only been their brisk movement up the hill towards the lake, the soles of their feet black with soil and their calves flashing white from beneath their yellowed, wrinkled shifts, and Mary singing at their head:

Ombra mai fu

di vegetabile

cara ed amabile

soave più

Sweet and clear, a pure contralto her sister’s voice, the Italian curling from her lips to cling to the very air, caught in the breeze and echoing faintly in the valley that fell away beneath them; and Elisabeth found herself humming along, feeling her own soul rising towards the black outlines of oak and elm as if to embrace them.

March Secret Agent #25

TITLE: The Thoughtmaker
GENRE: YA Steampunk

Jessamine swung one arm above her head, trying to make the awkward sleeve of her oversized trench coat slide down to her elbow, while holding a crystal ball in the other.

The man in front of her, bright goggles atop his head and a top hat clenched in his fists, peered eagerly at it as she fluttered her slender fingers in the air. She could tell he was desperate and that made everything easier.

Reading people’s minds was effortless enough, but only after they opened up. The more they listened to what she said, the deeper into their minds she could crawl.

Harumke pilious veriphone stati,” she tomed in a serious voice. It was her own created language. At first, it had been gibberish, meant to provide atmosphere for her customers. But after twelve years of performing the same ritual since she was five, she had come to make the words mean something. Harumke pilious veriphone stati was one of the most familiar phrases she uttered, and it meant “You are a stuffy goat head.”

She closed her eyes, and saw pictures of a woman, dressed in blue silk, her hair rolled up in a turban. The man’s mind was opening to her. She wiggled her pinky underneath the crystal ball to flick a switch on its belly. She felt the movement of a spring inside the golden base as it began to uncoil, swirling a tiny gyroscope to disturb the confetti inside.

March Secret Agent #24

TITLE: Virtue Not Valid

“Make your move, Bevin.” The lights are low in the dining room but my skin is hot, hotter than before. The walls are high but they feel close. Caving. Are the walls caving or am I?


I look up from the hardwood floor. “I will,” I say, getting up and heading over to the cabinet on the other side of the table. I grab the lock hiding behind the china and open the bottom drawer. Take out a vial. “Just Promise me you won’t lurk outside the school. This is gonna take some time.”

Aunt Prue gives me a stern look but takes the vial from me anyway. She pours a drop in her coffee. “We have to get to Cole before the election. We can’t do this on our own.”

Yeah, I know. I also need to go to the supermarket and pick up some virtues. Courage. Celerity. My virtues expired again. All except one. That’s how it’s always been for me. The Patience in my veins won’t let me move a second earlier. If I’m going to get Cole on our side, I have to show Declan that I’m fully equipped for the job.

I put the Promise back in its place and take a vial of Responsibility from Aunt Prue as I head out the door.

Declan isn’t in the crowds of the school entrance but he’s here. He’s always here. Declan doesn’t need to buy virtues to get a perfect attendance. He’s Diligent on his own.

March Secret Agent #23

TITLE: Symphony in Mist
GENRE: Fantasy

Alverai ran the wild grounds of Soledad with his eyes closed, his gift open wide to the night. The path unfolded in his mind like a melody, the ground a bass anchor beneath his feet. Slender birch leaves trembled in the breeze, a light arpeggio of sound. Alverai heard the living connections of the world as music. With a pluck of melody, he could guide the throw of a stone, correct a misstep, slow a fall.
Gift let him parse the harmonies of a heart, glimpse its shadows and
its longings. And Gift kept him, always, apart.

By day, the Masters claimed him. But when Alverai stole from his cell by night, he surrendered to a different, deeper longing. When he ran, his skin dissolved into the melodies of sky and soil. He let the wind ride through him, clean and clear. Thought fell away. Even loneliness left him, as he slipped into the whole.

A dissonant chord teased the edge of his awareness. Alverai rolled to a halt, pushing his gift out past its usual bounds, tracking the sound. Melody kindled inside him, an unmistakable signature. Alverai spun, shattering the demon’s allure. He sprinted through the trees, feet finding the path by instinct. He thought the Masters had stripped away this nightmare, those seven years they’d cut him off from human affection and trained him to a Watcher’s discipline. But fear pummeled him now, drove him back to the heart of Soledad where eighteen trainee Bladesworn slept unaware.

March Secret Agent #22

TITLE: The Outside
GENRE: Fantasy

I noticed the silence first. My neighbor vacuumed every morning. Students chattered in the hallway. Feet stomped on the floor above me. But I heard not a sound. No sunshine caressed my skin. This windowless room could not be my studio apartment. I sat up, massaging my temples as pain coursed through my forehead. Slipping out of an empire sleigh bed, my bare feet touched a cold hardwood floor. A grandfather clock and dresser with a swivel mirror stood opposite me. Time had frozen at 3:05 a.m. All three pieces were crafted from a beautiful walnut and polished to a high sheen. A bronze chandelier with four candles provided light. Where a desk or other furniture could have been set, there was emptiness. Embossed wallpaper peeled off the walls. Last night I had fallen asleep in graduate student housing. Where was I now?

A door lay open in the north-east corner. Had it been there a minute ago? Jeans and a polo shirt had replaced my pajamas. Better not to dwell on how – or who – had changed my clothes. I saw no shoes or the socks I had worn to bed. Fear of the unknown halted my movements, but my choice was to either wait for my kidnappers to appear, or try to escape. I wandered out the door and into the hallway.

Gilt bronze frames hung on the walls. None contained paintings or photos.

March Secret Agent #21

TITLE: Tyger, Burning
GENRE: Adult Urban Fantasy

Pretend you can hear. The scratch of pen on paper. Like mouse claws at a wooden door. Or perhaps like yellow toothpicks, splintering. But you are not a girl anymore, and this game does nothing for you now. You used to spend hours in your room pretending you could hear. The fatty bounce of flies. The cold fur of television static. Or you’d wait until the house was empty and run into the treeless expanse of your backyard. Run until your breath hitched – an undone stitch in your side – tumbled down onto bony knees, breathless, onto pale dirt, and then you’d force yourself to scream and laugh and scream. You knit new words out there, from ropes of spit and gnashing teeth. When your mouth could give no more, you turned onto your back and tried to translate touch to sound. Tried to feel pain as language. You looked up into the sky. Clouds smeared like bird crap.

Across from you now, Dr. Zoe LeBlanc puts down her clipboard. Tucks a wayward strand of hair behind her ear. Blonde. Late-summer sun.

That’s all? she signs.

Uncross your arms and lean against the table. You nod.

She takes you by the hand, tests the range of each joint. She focuses on your fingers next, first to fourth, then squeezes. The back of your hand pops open.

I don’t know, she signs, if we can improve the… She pauses, blinking. Her eyes are gray. She fingerspells, N-E-R-V-E C-O-N-N-E-C-T-I-O-N.

Withdraw your hand.

March Secret Agent #20

TITLE: Edgefield
GENRE: Fantasy (Magical Realism)

March, 2005

Dean Adams leaned against the door of his rental car, squinted at the glowing orb behind the overcast, and examined the building. Squatting on a grassy knoll above the parking area, the hotel reminded him of a sprawling English manor house. The two wings of rooms bracketing each end reached out toward him like the forelegs of a crouching stone beast. The third floor dormer windows protruded like eyes. A shiver whisked across his shoulders. Looks like it either wants to eat me or hug me.

His friend Tom, a Portland native, had suggested the hotel as a comfortable, but unusual place to stay while Dean attended the National Journalists’ Convention. “A departure from the ordinary … with a checkered past,” he’d said with an enigmatic smile.

Dean read on the website that it used to be some kind of county institution. Two locals had renovated the abandoned derelict, converting it into a quaint inn. It certainly exuded an air of mystery. And something else.

He rubbed his puffy eyelids and shifted his gaze to the center entry. The mouth of the creature. A spacious veranda with a wide flight of stairs funneled guests through brass-framed double doors. The red-lettered sign over the gray portico read EDGEFIELD.

Every path wound toward the hotel’s main entrance. Guess I don't have much of a choice. At least it’s got a bar. He sighed, shut the car door, and muttered, “What the hell did I get myself into?”

March Secret Agent #19

GENRE: YA Mystery

Evan pulled a paperback book from his back pocket before going into the stall that had a big OUT OF ORDER sign on the door. The toilet itself was blocked off with a board so it made an okay place to sit and read. He was reading The Martian Chronicles for the thousandth time when he heard the door open and froze. Voices made him aware he was no longer alone in the bathroom. "I gotta take a piss," said a voice Evan knew well. One of the prime bullies. El Primo Bully himself. Or EPB as Evan called him. Winchester Barrett, the third. His father owned the biggest factory in three counties and EPB never let anyone forget it. Evan didn’t want EPB to notice him so he kept quiet and pulled his feet up so he sat cross-legged on the board.

“After school, we’ll take him to the clearing near the Oak tree, beat the shit outta him and see how smart his mouth is tomorrow, deal?” EPB said. Evan heard a flush.

“Deal,” said another voice. The door creaked and footsteps echoed going away. Evan sighed and opened the stall door. He peered out. It was safe, they were gone. He relaxed his shoulders, and went out into the hallway just as the bell rang.

March Secret Agent #18

GENRE: Science Fiction

I dug past my daughters’ toys to the bottom of my purse and slapped the money on the counter.

“Nice pony,” the barista said, pointing.

“Uh, what?” my hand went to the side of my head. Sure enough, tucked behind my ear was the pink pony my girls had been fighting over on their way to daycare. I put it in my pocket. “Yeah, kids you know?”

The barista nodded and handed me my brownie and tea. Caffeine and chocolate could fix anything. Okay, they couldn’t fix anything, but it would distract me from the sleep lost to a two-year-old’s potty accident and my husband cancelling our dinner plans, again. If I didn’t know better…

With my brownie bag in hand, I stepped out into the desert morning. I could still beat my boss to the labs if traffic was light. The cracked sidewalk caught the edge of my Converse. A plum tree sprayed the parking lot in blossoms, and weeds tried to push apart the pavement. They’d be dead in days. The desert was like that.

A high pitched whistle filled the air. Then it dropped in pitch, like a bomb in a video game or mortar fire in a movie about World War I.

My head snapped up to find the source, but before my eyes made it to the sky, my car exploded. On pure instinct, I threw myself away from the fireball.

March Secret Agent #17

TITLE: Rainbow Tears
GENRE: Women's Fiction

It took just one of the plastic rings, thrown haphazardly with impressive force, plus a little luck, and the fate of the goldfish swimming in it’s plastic bag was sealed. Fat seagulls, spoiled year round by tourists exchanging their winters for a visit to the southern California beach town circled overhead, while the music of the historic Ferris wheel echoed in the background.

“Gunner, you won!” cried Nora in surprise. She certainly hadn’t expected the ring to lasso the glass bottle like that, especially when David had thrown all five of his unsuccessfully.

“Wow, nice job! You should have thrown mine, too,” said David, scooping Gunner up and tossing him easily into the air.

Gunner’s face was the picture of childhood glee as his father set him down and the attendant handed him his new pet. He was so excited, he immediately began jumping up and down and clapping his hands. The goldfish swam spastically in it’s flailing prison until Nora, resisting the urge to become caught up in the magic of her son’s enthusiasm until after the animal was safe, deftly removed it from his hands.

“Whoa, easy honey. You have to be gentle with your fish,” she said, feeling sorry for the creature whose new owner was a hyper four-year-old boy. She knew her son couldn’t possibly understand the fragile nature of the life he’d been holding in his hands only moments ago. In that instant, she didn’t fully understand life’s transience either.

March Secret Agent #16

GENRE: YA Fantasy

Nolan’s eyelids felt as though they were weighted with lead, but he fought to keep them open. He knew he needed to sleep, but he felt like if he lay down right now he’d wake up with fingers so frozen he’d be able to snap them off. Three inches from Kris’s magical fire, they were just getting enough sensation back now to feel as though he’d stuffed them into a sack full of needles.

“How can it be this cold even with the fire burning?” Kris murmured. By the firelight, Nolan could see her breath mist out in front of her. A crack in her lower lip shone with blood, contrasting sharply with the chalkiness of her cheeks. Very stiffly, she reached to unlace her left boot. She winced as she pulled her foot free to massage her toes.

“It’s like the mountains eat the heat up,” Nolan said. “How do you feel? Do you think you can…”

Kris nodded tiredly. “I can keep it going.”

Nolan held her eyes. “Don’t burn yourself out.”

She snorted. “Don’t tell me how to do magic, Nolan. I’ve been rationing all I can. I’m fine.” She stuffed her left foot back into the boot and pulled her right foot out. “How much farther, do you think?”

Nolan shrugged and breathed into his hands. “We have three days until midwinter. I think it’ll take us right until the end.”

March Secret Agent #15

GENRE: YA Sci-Fi Dystopian

The crows are restless again.

Their raucous caws echo off the crumbling brick walls of HV-a. I wonder if they miss the wide expanse of sky they were used to before nuclear explosions wiped out everything beyond the Barrier, if they despise the force field for blocking entrance to the rest of the world. I doubt it though.

I hop over a rusted piece of metal, my regulation boots skidding in the mud and scan the ruddy clouds above. The sun will be up soon. Then the drones—the President’s workers—will come with our rations, and they will force us to bow down to the leaders who allow us to live. The gesture is a reminder that the children of the insurgents were spared because the leaders of the Citadel are just and forgiving.


I feel eyes studying me as I pick my way through broken glass and scraggly brush. From the corner of my eye, I watch a guard adjust the plasma rifle on his shoulder while yawning widely. The sky reflects off the plastic shield covering his face. He will not call out to me. I’m sixteen but scrawny for my age—I present no threat. All he sees is a girl with unremarkable brown hair and eyes, skin made dark by hours spent in the sun. The blue pants and shirt of HV-a hang off my body and make me appear weak.

I will use that to my advantage as I have done these many months.

March Secret Agent #14

TITLE: Untitled
GENRE: YA Fantasy

I lean against the wall, trying to listen for movement over the light, whistle-y, breeze. My black hair is too short to pull back—why did I insist on cutting it?—so I hold my bangs out of my eyes with one hand and cup the other around my ear. There's more activity going on around the corner than I'd like. Of course there is, it's four o'clock. The daily harvest is being brought in.

Ten minutes earlier and I could have avoided it. I just had to take the scenic route. Although, to be honest, for someone who's worked in a nursery full of crying babies, anything outside the walls of the Hive could be considered scenic.

I lick my lips and peek around the corner, my heart behaving like it stepped in quicksand at the sight of all the ladies assembled in three orderly lines, waiting to check in their large loads. Why did I have to waste all that time looking for four leaf clovers? Maybe if I'd found one it would've helped.

Who am I kidding?

Well, there's no getting through the front gate, but there has to be at least one window open. I mean, it's a beautiful day, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who's dying to enjoy a little summer air. I twitch my long, translucent wings as I look up the length of the outer wall.

One more peek around the corner, and then I take off flying, careful to stay out of view of the windows.

March Secret Agent #13

GENRE: YA Romantic Comedy

Parker Blake leaned against my locker as if he owned it. "So, Laurel, are you in?"

He smelled of pine trees and spoke in a deep voice that made me tingle.

While my fingers fumbled with the lock, my brain tried to remember the combination. "Am I in on what?"

"The spring break cruise."

I spun the dial on my lock and opened the door with a loud click-clunk. The cruise topped my To Do list.

I pictured myself lounging on the deck of a ship, salty mist soft on my face, sun warm on my back, and lilting voices in the distance.

My daydream faded. "No cruise for me. No cash." I slid my senior English book off the shelf and dumped it into my bag, along with my dreams.

"You refused to grovel? I don't blame you. That would make you look wimpy, which you're not, and not very bright, which you are."

"Thanks. Like that helps." I slammed my locker shut and started down the hall.

He stepped in beside me. "You can still go. I have a proposition for you."

Not again. "What kind of a proposition this time?"

He shoved a handful of blond hair out of his eyes. "Nothing hard. It's simple. I promise."

"Where have I heard that before?" I snarled and pretended my hands were paws with extra-sharp claws that I batted at him. "It better not be illegal."

He grinned and ducked away from my claw-paws. "Illegal? Nah. Immoral, maybe."

March Secret Agent #12

TITLE: The Sidewalk's Regrets
GENRE: YA Contemporary

The notes swim on the page, blurring before my eyes. My bow stutters across the bridge and I wince at the piercing noise that squawks out as the E-string breaks.

“G**damn!” I want to throw the bow across the room, but I know better. I set it down on the table beside me instead. I glance at the clock. Four fifteen. Great. I got an hour in. Maybe a little more. That’s going to get this piece nailed. Not. Stupid Shostakovich. Whoever picked this to be the compulsory piece for the summer school auditions deserves a kick in the a**.

I place my violin on the table while I scrabble through the paper envelopes of strings I keep inside the case’s lining. I know I don’t have a spare E because I broke one last week too. In the same measure. There’s clearly something wrong with my technique in that section. I have to ask Mr. Dobson about that when I go to my lesson tomorrow. I’ll have to get a new E-string before then too. One hasn’t miraculously appeared, despite my wishes.

With a sigh, I pack my violin into its case, pausing to run a hand over the warm, golden wood before shutting the lid. It’s like locking away my best friend. It is locking away my best friend. God knows I spend more time with my instrument than I do with anyone else.

March Secret Agent #11

GENRE: YA thriller

“A,” I said under my breath. Even my whisper held confidence. I’m not sure how I knew it, but it always gave me a rush when I was right. And that happened a lot.

“Oooh, I’m sorry,” said the host. “The answer is actually A, the Judicial branch. We’re going to take a short time out before we wrap up our quiz bowl with the tie-breaking question. We’ll be back in five.”

“I can’t believe you’ve gotten every question right, you’re such a brain,” my little brother Torrey said beside me in the audience. He, my sister and I sat in Johnston Hall, a gorgeous building that resembled a gothic cathedral, part of Marquette University. I loved buildings that looked like they could be part of a video game. Schools from all over had brought their best teams to the state-wide competition. Yet another thing I couldn’t get enough of. You’d think I’d be up on the stage instead of in the audience. But I was there on a top-secret mission. Well, more like against my parents’ wishes. I wasn’t on any of the teams.

“Yeah, well, you’ll know the answers too when you’re in high school.”

“But they didn’t know every answer.”

“That’s because they don’t study enough.”

“Whatever you say. I’ve never seen you study. Oh, and, by the way, didn’t Mom and Dad forbid you from watching game shows?”

March Secret Agent #10

TITLE: Bloodlines
GENRE: Urban Fantasy

I left Kooper’s Tavern and made my way across the street. The usual trappings were already in place--yellow tape, flashing lights, scattered personnel. The only thing missing was the sickly sweet smell of spilt blood. The call I’d received indicated I’d find a burned body at the center of this crime scene. But even one burned beyond recognition would’ve contained enough blood for my senses to register. That I couldn’t meant one of two things--my senses were off, or there was no blood to be detected. Neither option was good.

I navigated past the police barricade, looking for a familiar face. Closer to the water, I saw one. At the entrance to Broadway Pier stood uniformed street officer Darnel Mells, every bit of his six-foot four frame on edge.

When I reached him, he handed me the clipboard he was carrying.

“Logbooks are for official police investigations.” I added my name, and then looked up at Mells. “So tell me, why am I signing this?”

“I called, you didn’t pick up.”

“Dammit, Mells.”

“Someone called 911. By the time I arrived, it was too late to move the body.” He glanced behind him. “Not that there’s much left to move.”

“Our kind at play?”

“You’re the expert on vamps gone wild.”

The end of the pier was cordoned off with a stretch of grey, fraying rope. As M.E. on the scene, anything on the other side of that rope was my domain. I lifted it up, stepped under it, and got to work.

March Secret Agent #9

TITLE: The Temple of Ardyn
GENRE: Fantasy

Anyone else would have thought him mad to even suggest it, but Taryn knew better. If Brandt said the heavy oak door in the cellar of the pub was a portal to another world, she was at least willing to humor him. She’d learned over the past twenty-three years to keep quiet and trust the old man. He often made outlandish claims, and they almost always came true.

“It will be an adventure.” Brandt said, the crinkles near his eyes folding into deep creases with his smile. “The best we’ve ever had.”

With deft fingers he traced around the frame, then the door itself, pressing against it as if the wood might speak to him. She was about to turn away when her pendant sent a shock of heat against her skin. Singing she was used to, pain was new. A moment later the doorway blazed with amber light and then the door was gone.

Instead of a storeroom filled with casks of ale and old chairs, Taryn stared into a gaping blackness. “Bloody hell.”

Brandt reprimanded her for cursing and she mumbled an apology, eyes fixed on the emptiness before her.

“Take my hand and whatever you do, don’t let go.” Brandt gripped her hand firmly, “There’s no telling where you might end up.”

“Where does it lead?” The darkness pulled at her with a curious desperation.

“Aelinae, darling.” Motioning to the nonexistent doorway her grandfather said, “You’d be surprised at what is possible if you look beyond what you think you know.”

March Secret Agent #8

TITLE: The Children of Chaos: TELOS
GENRE: YA Paranormal

It was going to be the best weekend of my life.

I stood at the end of the walkway, absorbed in a daydream, oblivious to the cloud of exhaust engulfing me as the bus pulled away…until I inhaled and nearly died coughing. Urged forward, I moved toward my front door.

I couldn’t believe it was finally here, my fifteenth birthday.

And he was coming.

It was going to be perfect.

“You’ll ruin everything!” Mom’s voice carried through the open windows, effectively killing my fantasy of his lips on mine.

I sighed. She was doing it again. The littlest spot of dirt could set her off, especially if we were expecting company. I swear, if she wrecks my weekend just because of some dumb dust bunny… Gripping the front door’s handle, I hesitated going inside and running the risk of her recruiting me.

“No! You can’t! Get out! Get out and leave us alone!”

The handle ripped out of my hand and, as I stumbled forward, strong arms caught me. “Oh! I’m so…” I looked up at the stranger holding me. Ho-ly jeez.

Tousled, chestnut hair fell in waves to his chin. My gaze drifted past his perfect lips and high cheekbones to lashes I would’ve killed for and eyes the oddest shade of violet I’d ever seen. He blinked and they changed, becoming brilliant, deep-blue oceans. An overwhelming sense of familiarity filled me as I drowned in those eyes, unable to look away. “Do I, do I know you?”

March Secret Agent #7

GENRE: YA Fantasy

Life’s biggest decisions are made in under a second. Like whether to go left or right when you’re all that stands between a penalty kick and a loss. Especially in a small town where girls’ high school soccer rated right up there with varsity football. Forget that I didn’t make the penalty in the first place. If I went wrong, the loss would be my fault. Welcome to my life.

My hands twitched. I crouched, ready to spring in whatever direction the ball went. Breaths came deep and slow as I tried to quiet my mind so I could hear my body. Not the easiest thing when a thousand eyes were on me. Even harder when none of those eyes belonged to my parents. But to block this kick, I needed to let my body in control. Something that hadn’t come easy since we moved here. More twitching. More breathing. Kick already!

The moment came. Along with a soccer ball at a good 40 mph. Time for that huge life decision. Left. Or right. I wanted to block it so bad, I ached.

Of course, I didn’t. Went left instead of right, but not for any reason you’d think. My body wanted to go right, but at the last moment, a dark smoky shadow popped into my peripheral vision. My left periphery. That’s all it took to pull me in the wrong direction. The ball sailed to my right and disappeared into the net along with any delusions I had about not being a loser.

March Secret Agent #6

TITLE: For Sparta
GENRE: Historical Women's Fiction

Her mother's words echoed in the dark of the bedchamber, athough they had been uttered weeks before. Be happy for him. Or act as though you are. Melaina's duty was made quite clear on that day during the month of Karneios when she and her brother turned seven. For that was the age Niko would leave forever with the army and train to be a soldier. Now, that day had come. And now, her duty haunted her.

Melaina squirmed on the hard floor and leaned her sweaty back against the wall. The summer air hung heavy in the room, hot as a brazier being fed fresh coals. But it wasn't the heat that had kept her awake for so long. She had sat on the floor all night, avoiding her bed and hoping to avoid sleep. The same nightmare about her brother had invaded her dreams the last two nights in a row, and she wouldn't chance it again. Was it an omen? She swiped at her wet cheeks.

Be happy for him. Or act as though you are.
Those were her two options, her obligation to her brother and to Sparta. Yet while the first rays of dawn pierced the black night like the bronze of her father's spear, Melaina failed miserably at both.

She sniffed, halting Niko's snores across the room. He sat up and rubbed sleep from his eyes. Never again would she see that familiar head of loose dark curls before anyone else in the household.

March Secret Agent #5

TITLE: Darkness in Mind
GENRE: Science Fiction

Brian brought his face close to the ship’s tiny porthole, fogging the space-glass as he looked out. He steadied himself in the darkness, gripping the wall bar to support his weightless body while he wiped the window with a sleeve. Outside, the forbidding world of Mars floated beyond his one-man craft—a red marble of desert rolling against the black felt of space. It looked so innocent.

“Maja!” he whispered, fogging the glass again. His gut tightened at the old name of the planet that held his ship in its grasp. On Earth that name had long since become nothing but a curse. It had been two centuries since the self-proclaimed Righteous escaped the devastation of the Tumult, carrying away Earth’s precious resources to found their Mars colony Maja Arkanis—their Kingdom of God. It would take more than two centuries for Earth to forget.

He wiped the glass again, searching Mars’ mid-northern latitudes for some architectural trace of the Martian theocracy’s sand-shielded walls and thick bio-domes. He knew the colony would be impossible to distinguish during the day, but still he searched. He was the first Earthan ever to set eyes on Mars since the Kingdom’s founding. He wondered if he would also be the last.

He forced himself to take a deep breath, tried to relax. Back on Earth he’d laughed at the irony of the government using Mars—the old god of war—to slingshot his ship into the outer solar system on a mission of peace. He wasn’t laughing now.

March Secret Agent #4

GENRE: YA edgy contemporary

A thick, yellowing fingernail strikes the edge of my desk; two succinct taps forcing me to look up from my poetic masterpiece. Mrs. Hickenlooper's eyes bulge as if her three hefty chins are attempting to choke the life out of her. Her labored breathing only supports the effect of strangulation. "Am I boring you Mister Blackwell?"

"I assume that's rhetorical," I say flatly, returning my focus to scratching the letter "S" in the top left corner of my notebook. Muffled laughter rebounds around the classroom causing Mrs. Hickenlooper's bulbous eyes to narrow, which is no easy feat.

"Out," Mrs. Hickenlooper hisses, jutting her sausage finger in the direction of the exit, as if I'm too stupid to locate it for myself. I feel another sarcastic remark bubbling up, something about my 4.3 GPA, but I swallow it back down as I casually finish the last of my scratching.


Now F – * – * – * – T – H – I – S will be visible in the top margin of at least the next thirty sheets of notebook paper. I know it isn't particularly clever, or imaginative even, but I smile at my handiwork all the same. Then I calmly collect my belongings, and stroll out of AP Macroeconomics unsure of how, exactly, forcing me to leave all this is a punishment. A few of my classmates cower as I pass, surely expecting an outburst of some sort. The thing is, I just don't care enough to oblige.

March Secret Agent #3

TITLE: Distracted Living
GENRE: Women’s Fiction

It was a perfect morning in Chicago. The kind of day when cold and snow were forgotten and every harsh word forgiven. As Cilla Perkins drove east on Wacker Drive, her hair blowing in the breeze and her phone in the passenger seat, she wondered why people would live anywhere else.

The infinite possibility of the morning stretched from the Chicago River to Lake Michigan, giving Cilla hope that Blake Klemensky would forgive and forget and move forward with their New Year’s wedding.

The imposing fortress of the Merchandise Mart rose in front of her. To her left, the curving green glass of 333 Wacker caught the morning sky as it hugged the bend of the river. Cilla thought of the gleaming glass set down among the older stone structures as Chicago’s man-made mountains..

She had been texting Blake since dawn, knowing he slept with his phone an inch from his head. She also knew he rose early every day to work on a different muscle group. He must have seen her apologies and her invitation to lunch at the Billy Goat. They had quarreled the night before over watching a Cubs game on TV versus going to a gallery opening. All she said was she was tired of watching sports all the time. That his glory days as an athlete were over and that he should work on developing something besides his muscles.

March Secret Agent #2

TITLE: The Legacy of the Eye
GENRE: Science Fiction Romance (Adult)

Catrine blinked as her eyes adjusted to the brightness outside the main school building. She should have worn a hat. She stared at the school gate, less than a hundred feet away. Just the thought of walking through it for the first time churned her empty stomach. She glanced at David as he closed the heavy pine door behind them. After sixteen years at the Academy of Demia, her best friend looked ready to conquer the galaxy.

“Maybe we should go over your speech one more time,” she said.

His smile dimmed. “I've practiced it five times just today.”

“Four. And you’re still forgetting to mention that the tutors will be traveling to their pupil’s home planet. That’s a big point in the proposal.”

“Do you want to give the speech?”

Her inside twisted in knots. “No.”

"Then stop fretting. If the council hadn’t liked our idea, they wouldn’t have requested an audience.”

“They probably read the proposal once. How much do you think they grasped? You’ve read it a dozen times and you still forget some of the details. I should have made you write it.”

David's smile returned, brighter than ever. “Then it wouldn’t have been perfect.”

"Or written at all."

But Catrine could not keep the corners of her mouth from twitching. David reached for her hand and she latched onto his. He led her down the front steps towards the open gate. The gravel crunched under their feet.

March Secret Agent #1

TITLE: Game Changer
GENRE: Contemporary Upper YA, boy-focused

Jenn and her freckled shoulders had me s***-faced drunk on the smell of cocoa butter and the curves of her green bikini. Somehow, Ethan had convinced her to come to our annual Labor Day at the river, even though she’d only stopped hating me two weeks back. My brother worked his charm in almost supernatural ways. Damn, I owed him.

Our last big hurrah before school. The cap of another summer spent in the armpit town of Milton, where spontaneous combustion felt like a real possibility. Especially for Ethan and me, working in Dad’s shop through the whole thing. My best friend, Langdon, spent the season up to his a** in lemonade and air conditioning, tutoring Mandarin Chinese and Russian to kids two towns over. He had no clue what a summer in coveralls and exhaust fumes felt like. That kind of ball-sweat-hot made so much as a toe dipped in the river water almost better than an orgasm. Jenn added to the mix, though, quite possibly pushed it over the edge of almost. Maybe the reality of her was why I forgot the fireworks we’d snuck over state lines for. Not the best use of fake IDs and money, unless the fact that it was senior year was considered: the last Labor Day before Lang and I left for California to become more than just two additions to the Grover-High-Graduates-Stuck-in-Milton-for-Life Club.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


I know how much you all LOVE TO WRITE LOGLINES!

Now's your chance to compete for some critterly prizes.  (I've got a bunch of query and first chapter critiques to give away, courtesy of my beloved MSFV Success Stories Top Secret Society.)

Here's the deal:
  • Just because it's fake doesn't mean it doesn't follow logline rules. WRITE YOUR LOGLINE THE CORRECT WAY.
  • Your logline can be funny or intriguing or incredibly clever.  But it has to BE A LOGLINE.
  • Use THE WEB FORM to submit your logline.
  • Maximum word count: 60 (shorter is better)
  • Submissions will open at 8:00 EDT on Thursday, March 28 and will close at 8:00 EDT on Friday, March 29
  • A maximum of 75 entries will be allowed.  If that maximum is reached before the end of the submission window, the window will close.
  • 2 alternates will be chosen, in the event that there are entries that do not meet the requirements (in which case, an alternate will take the place of the disqualified entry).
  • All 75 entries will post on the blog on Tuesday, April 2.
  • Round One:  Blog readers may vote YES or NO on each entry, to determine whether the entry is good enough to go on to Round Two.
  • Round Two: The top 30 loglines will be judged by Holly Bodger, our Logline Queen!
  • A plethora of prizes will be disbursed.
  • One Very Unique Prize will be awarded to a deserving Browncoat among the contestants. That's all I'm saying right now.
Roll up your sleeves and churn out your fake logline!  Questions below.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Winners for March Secret Agent

Winning numbers have been drawn for March Secret Agent and the owners have all been emailed their entry numbers.

If you didn't get an email, I'm sorry; that means your ticket number wasn't selected.

Here is the complete list, so you may double check:
  • 3ZEWL2V2 as ENTRY #1

  • W34YWEI5 as ENTRY #2

  • 9ILUT19Z as ENTRY #3

  • BLMZ81T1 as ENTRY #4


  • 0DTZMB0U as ENTRY #6

  • VV68CP7E as ENTRY #7

  • HLLI0M7G as ENTRY #8

  • T40R65GF as ENTRY #9

  • MLD0ED4O as ENTRY #10

  • AXAQKQA6 as ENTRY #11

  • NZ42Q3E3 as ENTRY #12

  • PNMDWK6K as ENTRY #13


  • X5QKLCGN as ENTRY #15


  • Q648KQ5J as ENTRY #17

  • V6IM8VNA as ENTRY #18


  • 2F9D24GQ as ENTRY #20

  • ASIANK24 as ENTRY #21

  • U8T448HR as ENTRY #22

  • WYZJVE2Y as ENTRY #23

  • 2W93RC80 as ENTRY #24

  • 75FME0A8 as ENTRY #25

  • 7SD0A1J6 as ENTRY #26

  • GVHZR2RM as ENTRY #27

  • XHMAAD91 as ENTRY #28

  • 4SZ71G8P as ENTRY #29

  • AER1FFKD as ENTRY #30

  • 70YM2SFB as ENTRY #31

  • CD41FN4H as ENTRY #32

  • DXA3HIGU as ENTRY #33

  • G6IDVABC as ENTRY #34

  • T6BBXLIM as ENTRY #35

  • 0Y6ZSDKF as ENTRY #36

  • 280409UX as ENTRY #37

  • N5PFKLM3 as ENTRY #38

  • 97K61DUJ as ENTRY #39

  • 2MZ9LAKV as ENTRY #40

  • DWRKEHN9 as ENTRY #41

  • L026ZMVG as ENTRY #42

  • NA8WXMUO as ENTRY #43

  • C8WN1MIY as ENTRY #44

  • WPM4YMA8 as ENTRY #45


  • MZTCOTX7 as ENTRY #47

  • 81MPCCBE as ENTRY #48

  • RIF43LE4 as ENTRY #49

  • HBHNA6J1 as ENTRY #50
The alternates are:

  • XZ177VFD as ENTRY #ALT-1

  • X79BS7IG as ENTRY #ALT-2

Friday, March 22, 2013

Friday Fricassee

I want to talk about triggers.

You know this writerly journey is a constant up-and-down ride, yes?  Whether we are drafting or revising or querying or waiting on editor subs, we can swing from euphoria to despair and back again before lunch time.  Or sometimes the ride is slower; we'll bubble happily along for weeks, and then SOMETHING happens that tips our little canoe.  Suddenly, we're in the water.

Drowning, as it were.

Sometimes the trigger is obvious:  We've been waiting for six months to hear back from Dream Agent on the requested full--and we receive a form rejection.  Or our favorite crit partner sends us the line edits on our Fine New Baby--and she's ripped it to shreds.  Or we finally get an email from our recalcitrant agent--and it's a forwarded rejection from one of our top-pick editors.

And no matter how "together" we are, the emotions of these moments are real and we need to walk through them.

The problem comes afterward, when the SOMETHING casts a shadow on our writing in general.  Makes us question why we press on.  Makes us despair that we've been doing nothing but wasting time for the past years.

Sometimes we cry a little (especially if we're female).  Sometimes we rail.  Sometimes we withdraw.  Sometimes we can't seem to put two words together that makes sense.

Sometimes we quit.

All those reactionary things, though, are preceded by a trigger.  And aside from the most obvious of all (that would be REJECTION), what are some of your personal triggers?  What is it that can send you to the brink of despair (if you're not careful)?

Is it the offhand remark of a non-writing friend?  ("So, why aren't you published yet?")

An unsympathetic spouse?  ("I'm going golfing all weekend, so you're in charge of the kids. Is that okay?)

A broken promise?  ("Dear Client, I'm taking your manuscript with me to the conference so I can have notes to you on Monday. Love, Agent"  ...and Monday comes and goes...and the NEXT Monday comes and goes...)

Or are you fairly resilient with the small things?

(I made those up, by the way. Nobody has ever said those things to me. Not yet, anyway.)

Share your trigger points!  And share how you get through the dark times without quitting.  Because someone might be reading this today WHO REALLY NEEDS HELP COPING.

That's right.  We're never truly alone.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


One of the things I love about hanging out with creative people is...creativity!  So I've come up with a contest that will allow you to dig into your creative resources and strut your stuff.

Here's the skinny:

  • In celebration of MSFV's 5th birthday, you are invited to submit A CREATIVE GIFT, MADE BY YOU.  All gifts must be related to AUTHORESS or THE BLOG in some way.
  • Once you've made your gift, email it to me at facelesswords(at)  Attachments are acceptable.  
  • Important:  Please put AUTHORESS BIRTHDAY GIFT in the subject line.
  • The deadline is midnight EDT on April 3.  Any submissions received after this date will be disqualified.
  • I will look at EVERY SINGLE ENTRY and decide which my favorites are.  The winners will be posted on the blog...and will receive prizes. 

Here are some ideas:
  • A poem about Authoress/the blog
  • A picture of what you think Authoress looks like (holy crap, this is a scary one)
  • A short story about Authoress/the blog
  • A song that you've written about Authoress
  • A fake author web page for Authoress
You get the idea!  Mainly, I'm looking for UNIQUE, CREATIVE gifts, either serious or funny.  I'm giving you heads up now so that you'll have a couple weeks to work on your creation.

Please, nothing inappropriate.  (You know. No nekkid people, no corpses, no close-up pictures of your armpits...)

I'll announce winners during the week of April 15.  Which is extra fun, because it's the week before my REAL birthday!

Sound good? I'm excited to see what you come up with!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Update on Authoress Edits

It's funny the way editing manuscripts has become part of the pulse of my life.  Had you asked me a year ago if I could see myself doing this, I probably would have screamed, "NO! BY EVERYTHING SACRED, NO!"

What's funnier is how much I am enjoying it.  Not that it's not a lot of work.  Most of the manuscripts that have passed my desk so far have required a fair amount of line editing. But there's something incredibly satisfying about helping writers obtain clarity and direction for their work.

Having said that:

In seriously considering the amount of time I've been putting into each critique, I have decided to raise my price on May 1.  The new rate will be $95 per partial.

The current rate of $70 will apply through April 30.  So if you want to get into the queue before the rate goes up, now's your chance!

My schedule is already running into July, so plan accordingly.

Want some fun statistics?

Of the manuscripts I've edited so far, here's the breakdown:

53% YA
24% MG
11.5% SF
11.5% Women's fiction

And here's the breakdown of the YA:

33% Contemporary
33% Fantasy
11% Mystery
11% Romance
11% SF

Finally? Make sure you pop over to my Authoress Edits Facebook page and give it a nice, juicy LIKE. That way, if you're not quite ready to hire me, you can keep on top of things, as far as the queue goes. (I really am expecting it to shrink a bit.  A four-month lead time can't last forever, right?)

End of bulletin!  Please remember that all editing inquiries go to authoress.edits(at)

Monday, March 18, 2013

March Secret Agent Early Info

Please note: This is NOT the call for submissions! The contest will open next Monday, March 25.

SUBMISSION GUIDELINES (please read carefully):

*There are TWO WAYS to enter: a) via email to authoress.submissions(at) OR via web form at
* THIS WILL BE A LOTTERY: The submission window will be open from NOON to 5:00 PM EDT.  Once the submission window is closed, the bot will randomly choose the winning entries.
* 2 alternates will also be accepted, for a total of 52 entries.
* 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 WON A CONTEST WITHIN THE PAST 12 MONTHS (i.e., offered any kind of prize from a Secret Agent), 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

GO HERE to submit via our web form.

If you choose to submit via email, 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 lottery number.
* Submissions go to authoress.submissions(at) They DO NOT GO to my facelesswords address. Or any other address.
*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:
  • Science Fiction and Fantasy
  • Women's Fiction (including Romance)
  • Cozy Mysteries
  • YA (all genres)
(NOTE: PLEASE don't email me and ask things like, "Is MG accepted?" or "Does YA include SF?"  1. If it's not on the above list, it's not included. 2. If I say "all genres" behind YA, that's what I mean.  Muchas gracias!)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Friday Fricassee

Could that be a whiff of spring I smell in the air? Hold me back! This winter has tried valiantly to drag me into the doldrums. But I've prevailed!  Barely.

(Gads, I hate winter, though.)

So, I have news, but it's news completely without details.

The happy truth is this:  I've sold a short story.

And that is all I can say.

For one thing, the details aren't in ink yet.  For another--well, I'm anonymous.  And the story will not be published by "Authoress".

I've struggled with that decision.  I mean, you're MY PEOPLE, right?  I think a lot of you would be happy to know where to find the story.  But--at least right now--I can't do that.

Josh and I have planned from the beginning to unveil my identity when we sell a novel.  (Not that that's not completely terrifying to me...but we'll save that topic for another day.)  (Unveiling my identity, that is.  Selling a novel is not terrifying.) And while this short story sale is a THRILL for me, I need to keep it separate from my blog.

I do, after all, have a real name.  And that's the one I'm going to use when I'm a bonafide, this-is-for-real, published author.

(Actually, I'm using a slightly changed version of my real name, which I guess makes it an almost-pen name.)

Anyway -- YOU CAN STILL BE HAPPY ALONG WITH ME!  Three things make me especially excited about this sale:

1.  It's the first short I've ever written.  (Well, not including elementary school.)
2.  It's in a genre in which I've never written before.
3.  I adore the editor.

And there you have it!  I'm sorry I have to be so irritatingly vague.  I've been sitting on this good news for a while, unsure of what to do with it, really.  I haven't even announced it publicly to my Real Life People, because the details haven't been finalized.  (Oh, this industry!)

But I'm delighted!  And who knows--maybe by the time it goes to print, I will have a Reason to unveil my identity.  And then you will have two Authoress works to buy/borrow/beg and read.

Thanks for sharing my happy!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Five Years of MSFV!

It's true!  Miss Snark's First Victim will be turning 5 on April 4.

Five years!  Who'd've thunk.  I created the blog on a whim--seriously.  I was on the computer one day (a P.C. of all things--this was my pre-Mac era) and I suddenly thought, "Hey! I should start an anonymous blog for writers!"

Really.  That's how it happened.  No forethought, no mulling it over.  I popped onto Blogger and typed "Miss Snark's First Victim" as the title of my new blog.


You probably want to pause for a moment in order to ingest the profound content of that post.


At any rate, it's amazing and fun to think that this ol' choo-choo has been chugging for 5 years.  And we're going to CELEBRATE!

How, you ask?  Like this:

  • We're going to have a FAKE LOGLINE CONTEST.  With prizes.  You're going to love this. 
  • I'm going to post an MSFV RETROSPECTIVE, including chronological links to all the landmark posts over the past 5 years.  (If you're relatively new to the blog, this will be especially enlightening for you.)
  • We're going to play TINY AGENT.  Think: photos of literary agents when they were little--without names attached.
  • We're going to have a CREATE A "GIFT" FOR AUTHORESS contest.  (This is when you get to show off a little, while competing for a prize.)
Sounds fun, yes?  I'll post all the details for the FAKE LOGLINE CONTEST on Tuesday, March 19.  And we'll go on from there.

Yay!  Spread the word!  And bring champagne.  (And chocolate.  And cupcakes.  And confetti.)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

When I Have Nothing To Say

Hard to imagine, isn't it?

Words come easily for me.  I don't draft my blog posts days in advance and toil over them until it's time to post.  I simply...write them.

At my sister's wedding, I didn't have a speech prepared on nifty little note cards (though I tried valiantly to do that).  I stood up, took the microphone, and winged it.  And had the audience laughing almost immediately.

Chatting with the guy at the register at Whole Foods, whipping up an email to voice my complaint about a faulty product, keeping a lively conversation going with my neighborhood-whom-I-see-maybe-five-times-a-year--I can do it all with aplomb.

So when I find myself at a loss for words, it's because either a) I'm so angry/stunned/hurt that words fail me, or b) I'm burned out.

Hello, letter B.

Contests are easy--they run themselves.  (Well, mostly.)  Success stories are easy--someone else writes them.  And Friday Fricassee has a feel all its own.  Sometimes I get stuck on it, but usually it flows just fine.

It's weeks like this -- fallow weeks between contests -- that put the pressure on me to be lively and entertaining and informative.  Usually I'm up for the challenge!  But sometimes...ugh.

I'll be fair to myself.  I've just finished a challenging revision (hooray!) while keeping my WIP moving forward (woot! woot!).  Words have been leaking from my fingers while I sleep.  So, yeah.  Word overload.

And I don't take lightly what I choose to say here.  You're important to me.  A sort of "tribe", if you will.  I care about the integrity of the blog for your sake.  I want to foster the sense of community here every time I set my hands to the keyboard.  I root for you, I talk about you, I pray for you.

Yes, I do.

You've given so much to this place, and so much to me.  You've been the safety net I never expected--the cheering, low and steady, that has kept me, sometimes, from utter despair.  All this for running a blog for writers?  I am truly blessed.

So I have this incredible sense of I-don't-want-to-let-you-down.  Yes, that's part of my personality.  (Authoress, the gal-who-doesn't-ever-want-to-make-a-mistake.)  But it's also a responsibility thing.  I'm here as a resource, and that's an important role.  I take it seriously.

The good news is that I don't take myself seriously.  And I'm learning, more and more each year, how to give myself grace.  That's been hard.

Well.  Look at that.  I've written a blog post!  And all I had to do was to focus on how valuable you are, not only as readers, but as fellow wordsmiths and human beings.

Thank you for being an inspiration!