Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Agently Wisdom For Querying Authors

You may or may not know that Josh Getzler (my irreplaceable agent) blogs every Tuesday at Hey, There's a Dead Guy in the Living Room.  His post this week offers excellent insight on what to do and what not to do when you query him (and other agents).

Read this and take notes!


And here's an extra bonus:  If you have any questions about querying in general, or about Hannigan Salky Getzler in particular, LEAVE YOUR QUESTIONS IN THE COMMENT BOX HERE.  Josh and Danielle will pop by when they have free moments to offer their wisdom/insight/brilliance.

(Note: Please read the blog post BEFORE asking your questions.)

You're welcome! :)

Drop the Needle -- Critique Guidelines (and a request)

Guidelines for Critique on MSFV:
  • Please leave your critique for each entry in the comment box for that entry.
  • Please choose a screen name to sign your comments. The screen name DOES NOT have to be your real name; however, it needs to be an identifiable name.  ("Anonymous" is not a name.)
  • Critiques should be honest but kind, helpful but sensitive.
  • Critiques that attack the writer or are couched in unkind words will be deleted.*
  • Cheerleading IS NOT THE SAME as critiquing.  Please don't cheerlead.
  • Having said that, it is perfectly acceptable to say positive things about an entry that you feel is strong.  To make these positive comments more helpful, say why it's a strong entry.
  • ENTRANTS: As your way of "giving back", please critique a minimum of 3 other entries.

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

ENTRANTS:  Many of you neglected to include a lead-in.  This is mostly my fault, since I forgot to include this in the original guidelines.  If your excerpt is missing a lead-in, please email it to me today and I will add it to your post.  (Maximum 50 words.)  It will help critiquers to find their way into your scene.  Thank you!

Drop the Needle: Anger #15

TITLE: Kitsune
GENRE: Science Fiction

Cho is a galactic spy and Natsuke showed up at her hotel, compromising her assignment. She kicked him out. He got pissed. She needs his help, so she's on his planet, confronting him about it.

"You know, it was rather cruel of you not to tell me sooner that someone was following me."

Natsuke didn't say anything.

"Seriously, if you had just told me sooner, I might not be in this situation." I might've been able to salvage my assignment. Found some place new, started over.

He put his hands on my shoulders. Their warmth seeped through my thin silk robe. He tried to turn me around to face him, but I shrugged his hands away.

"What are you talking about?" he asked.

"Don't even give me that crap."

"No, Cho, I'm serious. I only meant it as a joke."

I turned around then. "It didn't exactly sound like a joke."

"God, no, well . . ." He slid his hand through his long, unbound hair. "What I mean is that I meant it as a joke."

Right. Sure you did. I glared at him.

"Okay, so I know it didn't really come out as a joke, but, well, things got out of hand. And then I got really mad, and . . ."

"You wanted to get back at me by saying someone was following me."

"Yes?" He seemed almost embarrassed by the admission.

"But someone really was following me."

Natsuke just stared at me, his face blank, like he was hiding his emotions. I knew then that he was telling the truth.

"Actually two someones were following me."

His eyes widened even more. "I am so sorry. If I had known, believe me, I would've told you right away."

At least that made me feel a little better. But, wait-- "If you didn't know anyone was following me, how did you know where to find me?"

Natsuke looked away from me, shifted his stance slightly. Not enough that someone who didn't know him would've noticed, but I had spent nearly two years as his sort-of-girlfriend, sort-of-bodyguard to be good at reading him. Whatever his reason was, he did not want to be having this conversation. Eventually, his eyes took on this soft, almost dreamy-romantic look as he said, "I just need to look up at the stars and I always know where you are."

Drop the Needle: Anger #14

GENRE: YA Romantic Suspense

Sixteen-year-old Sierra Callahan's stalker, Kyle Williams, goes missing. Kyle's parents blame Sierra and have been following and harassing her. Sierra confronts them:

"Stay away from me." I said.

"Not until you tell us what happened to our son."

"Your son had a mental illness and you were too embarrassed to get him help. Instead you intimidated and tormented people. If that didn't work you bribed them to cover up all his crimes."

"My son is a good man." said Mrs. Williams.

"Your son is a monster. Nice parenting there."

"You B****!" Mrs. Williams shouted and lunged for me. Her husband grabbed her arm and held her back.

"Please, Sierra, if you know where he is just tell us and we'll leave you alone." said Mr. Williams.

"Kyle stalks and attacks high school girls. You should check other schools in the area. He needs locked up in a cage."

"He's innocent. All you girls are liars." said Mrs. Williams.

"What we are are his victims. That's what the five of us are. For the rest of our lives we're linked by your son's actions. You have no idea what it's like for me to close my eyes at night and just for a moment I can almost feel his hands on me! The smell of Irish Spring makes me sick to my stomach."

"You little slut. You were asking for it. Just like the others."

"I was a virgin. I had planned to stay that way until my wedding night. Like my parents wanted. Lke my church teaches. I hope the parents of his next victim and there will be another one, put a bullet in his skull."

Mrs. Williams broke free of her husband's grasp. I did nothing as she slapped me across the face.

"Thank you." I lifted my hand and rubbed my cheek. "Now, maybe you and your son can have matching prison jump suits."

Offcer Martinez rushed up. "What is going on here?"

"This woman assaulted me." I said pointing at her. "I want her arrested for assault."

"I never touched her. She's a liar. She led about my son and she's lying now."

"So, then I guess that security camera over there should support your claim." Officer Martinez said.

"What camera?" Mrs. Williams swiveled her head back and forth.

I looked straight ahead and smiled. If only it could be so easy to catch her son.

Drop the Needle: Anger #13

GENRE: Contemporary NA Romance/Thriller

Brendan Donovan is a young cop in the same small beach community in which he grew up. Jamie, his friend from high school (and secretly the one-who-got-away), has returned to town unexpectedly and seems to be hiding something, which raises his interest and concern.

Cursing under his breath, he glanced over at Jamie in the passenger side window. Her mouth was set to a thin line as she eyed him expectantly. Heart still pounding, he reached over to shove open the cruiser door, watching as she slid onto the seat to shut it behind her.

“We really prefer guests to sit in back,” he drawled.

“What are you doing?” she demanded to know.

“I think we already went over this. Just checking out a call.”

“Right, right … an anonymous tip.” Nodding, she slowly drew out the words, each one weighted in more sarcasm than the last. “From someone who saw the car parked in this driveway, behind sand dunes and shrubbery, a mile from the closest main road, and thought it might have been involved in a minor fender bender two towns away.”

“We’re actually very proud of the commitment of our concerned citizens to their local neighborhood watch programs.”

Her gaze sharpened. “I know something is going on with you.”

Brendan finally allowed himself to look directly into her eyes, which always elicited his truths. It was always his undoing. “Right back at ya, sweetheart.”

His blunt, somewhat bitter admission was obviously unexpected. She immediately dropped her calm and cool façade to stammer out a response. “Well, I, … I don’t know what you think that might be, but I can assure you that I’m fine, and even if there was anything wrong, what make you think it’s any of your business to—”

“To what?” he snapped, cutting her off there. “To want to know you’re all right when everything I’ve seen and heard since you’ve been back in town tells me you’re not?” He shook his head with a low, humorless chuckle. “Sorry, but you don’t get to tell me whether or not it’s still my business to be concerned.”

“I don’t believe this! I’m telling you, for the last time, Brendan—I’m okay, all right?”

He held her gaze in the quiet and stillness of the car, the flicker of irritation in her eyes sparking a slow burn of something else. They both quickly looked away.

“I have to go.” She reached for the door.

“Fine.” His grip on the steering wheel tightened on his terse reply.

“I’ll see you later.”

“Yep.” His dark eyes followed her as she walked back up the driveway. “You can count on it.”

Drop the Needle: Anger #12

TITLE: The Sirens of Falkeld
GENRE: YA Fantasy

Pain so sharp, its like a fist. My breath is gone. I’m choking. Drowning in her. In loss. Then it rushes back. Each breath is fire. Scratching and burning. And the cold inside me hardens to ice. “It was nobody’s fault, Brayan,” I say.

“Nobody’s fault?” He repeats.

“It was an accident.” I force my breaths to come slow. A pressure is building behind each one.

“An accident?” He is an echo.

I nod.

“HOW CAN YOU SAY THAT?” His eyes are wild.

“It was nobody’s fault,” I raise my hand, taking a step towards him. He has to stop. He can’t say those words. I have to make him stop.

“IT WAS YOUR FAULT,” he screams.

No. The words twist. Digging into me. I stagger. Her face. Her voice. I can’t breathe.

“You didn’t follow. You wouldn’t let me go after her. We could have been there. We could have stopped her. BUT YOU WOULDN’T LET ME!” He punches the air with the gun. Emphasizing words. Waving it from side to side.

“I didn’t—”

“YOU WOULDN’T LET ME,” spittle flies from his mouth. He clenches his jaw. His neck taught. Face red. A strangled sob escapes him. He grabs at his scalp and drops to his knees.

“Look, I’m a bird.” She lifts her chin, cawing. She flaps her arms, running down the beach with the wind, scattering a flock of puffins. They squawk, nipping at her heels and flying away. “I’m a Bonnie bird! I’m a Bonnie bird!” She calls after them, running around a bend in the beach and out of sight.

The pictures and words won’t stop. The memories haunt me. Its hell. She is a bird. She is flying away. She disappears. She never returns.

A blue dress on the beach. No brown-eyed girl in sight.

“AND WHAT ABOUT YOU?” A beast—my pain—rages inside me. Frothing and furious. “You were her brother. You let her go off alone. You shouldn’t have listened to me,” my laugh is crazed. “ You should have stopped her.”

His arms drop to his sides. Dazed.

I’m glad.

“If its anyone’s fault, its yours,” I say with hate. The rocks and sea and night are red. It is all I see. Red and rage. Everywhere.

A sound rips from his chest. Like a wounded beast. Inhuman. He charges.

Releasing a scream of my own, I swing a fist. Searching for an arm. A leg. A piece of face. I don't care what. I'm not fast enough. My hand slices air. Brayan slams into me. Its like hitting concrete. Breath hurls from my lungs. I can't breathe. I fall backwards, hitting the ground.

Drop the Needle: Anger #11

GENRE: Romantic Adventure

The scene takes place at an outdoor noodle shop in China. She previously told him how much she despises spooks (espionage agents) and he laughed at her for suspecting he was one. The man has led her to believe he is romantically interested in her and now asks her to help him on a job.

“It might only take a few hours—a day or two—at the most, but I promise it would be well worth your time. It could be life changing for you.”

Her face went blank. She stared at him as she slowly, repeatedly tapped the tips of the chopsticks on the table. Her mind was reeling. The tapping stopped. “So that’s what all this interest in me was about,” she said softly.

“No, no...not exactly,” he stammered, clearly aware he had just made a huge miscalculation.

She felt a switch click in her brain. Once clicked there was no stopping it. The anger started off as a white hot knot deep in her gut that made her nauseous. Then combined with humiliation at the thought of how he had turned her into a googly-eyed school girl lapping up his attention. Rage shot through her veins, her muscles clenched, and her vision narrowed down to a tunnel with the object of her anger square at the end of it.

Her words were slowed, hard-edged, each carefully chosen for effect. “You m*****-f****** son of a b****. You are some kind of a spook. This was just a recruitment game for you.” She rose halfway out of her seat and fixed steely eyes on him. “Don’t you ever, ever dare to presume you know about my life.” She threw the chopsticks down on the table with such force they bounced and flew up in his face.

He rose up and leaned across the table. “Please, Anna, think about this. I’m not—”

She slapped him so hard his head twisted to one side. He took a second to recover and then took a step backward.

“Go do whatever f****ing job you do and don’t ever let me see your face again,” she snarled. The tendons in her neck stood out against flushed skin, her eyes were slits, hard and glaring at him. Her rigid body rested on white knuckles. She crouched over the table, an animal primed to attack.

He picked up his bag, slung it over his shoulder and stood there looking at her for a brief moment. He started to say something, then closed his mouth, and clenched his jaw. Turning on his heel, he walked away melting into the crowd.

Drop the Needle: Anger #10

TITLE: Punishment Summer
GENRE: Young Adult/Contemporary

After we walked in silence for close to an hour, the woods started to look familiar, I didn't trust my eyes at first, but another ten minutes on, I felt sure we were hiking one of the trails Queenie and I had explored together. The dog lifted her nose. I took that as a good sign, but waited. When I spied the log where I ate my first lunch after coming to Grandpa's, I sped up and grabbed Ben's arm. "Are you crazy? If you want to organize a suicide mission, that's fine. But the whole point of suicide is to kill yourself. Not other people."

Queenie growled her support.

Ben's gaze flicked from me to the angry dog. He tore his arm free, then climbed over the downed tree, putting the hunk of wood between him and Queenie. "What? You're freaked out over the guns?"

Guns. Plural. There was more than one gun? My face burned hotter than before. "Yes. I'm freaked out about the guns. And about the huge pot field. That wasn't some itty-bitty operation. What did you drag me into?"

"First, I didn't drag you. You were bored and tagged along. You don't like what happened, next time you don't gotta come with."

I felt like he'd slapped me. I stepped back.

"Second, I told you what I planned to do. If you thought I was making up some story to impress you, that's your problem, not mine. Third, that's the first time I've seen armed guys in any of the fields. That's out of my control. You can either get over it, or we say goodbye right now."

He was right about warning me. That I went with him because I had nothing better to do and thought he was talking big. But his argument still felt like a huge justification. Plus I didn't believe a single word he said about the guns, though I couldn't say why. I stared at Ben, looking for the truth, but his handsome face revealed no sorrow, no regret. That was answer enough. "Then I guess it's goodbye." Queenie and I headed down the slope. I felt Ben's gaze on my back. Grandpa got it right: the guy was bad news.

Drop the Needle: Anger #9

TITLE: Waiting for Paint to Dry
GENRE: Women's Fiction

“I want to know why!” I storm at her.

“Matty, this is stupid. I shouldn’t have to apologize for some foolish thing I may or may not have said when I was a teenager.”

“May not have said?” I scream. I try to breathe. Try to look at her with anything other than disgust.

Eleanor sighs. “I was just, you know…” she says nonchalantly and then stops. When she doesn’t go on, I restrain myself from reaching out and choking her. The look on my face must say as much, because she finally spits it out. “I was jealous, okay? I was just jealous.”

Confused and shocked, I force myself to speak. “Of what?”

“Of you. You had a boyfriend.”

My hands reach up and strangle handfuls of my hair. “Of me? You had a fiancé!”

“But it wasn’t the same.”

“Wasn’t the same?” I say, kneeling before her. “Please explain it to me, because I feel like I’m going crazy here. What wasn’t the same?”

“Jett wanted you and I was jealous. Okay? That’s it.”

“So you…” I shake my head back and forth, eyes blinking, trying to understand. “I don’t get it. You were jealous that that jerk-off wanted me and not you?”

“No. Not that. I just… Forget it,” El says and walks past me.

I slam my hands on the floor and scream. “Forget it?” I get up and run after her, yelling. “He raped me! El!” I grab her arm, swing her around. “Do you have any, any idea what it’s like to be forced to have sex?”

“No, but at least he wanted you!”

“What the f***?” I drop her arm, disgusted by the feel of her skin on my hand. “You are insane. You are f****** insane.” I stalk back to my room.

“At least you know what it feels like to be wanted!” El yells. I hear her catch up to me.

“Get away from me,” I growl at her and grab my things. “I’m not staying here. You are out of your mind.”

“Matty, please. Let me—”

“No!” I snap, gathering up all my stuff. “You don’t get to talk to me!”

The sound of the door slamming behind me doesn’t quite hit the right note, the right amount of force, loudness, deafening roar that I need to hear. I want to crash. To out run this insanity. At the bottom of the stairs, I almost trip on the leg of a pair of jeans dangling from my arms. I take two seconds to repack, re-stuff, and then I’m off. Down the steep hill steps at the back of the yard. Through the newly paved streets at the bottom. Toward the beach.

Anywhere but here.

Drop the Needle: Anger #8

TITLE: The Brightest Star
GENRE: YA Horror

Sixteen-year-old Deirdre has always been overshadowed by her best friend Jordan. She never cared, because secretly she leads a double life as a zombie hunter, and dreams of saving the world. One day, Jordan reveals his plans to become a zombie-slaying vigilante. Deirdre is shocked, and then furious.

“You want to be the hero,” Deirdre said. Somehow, the pencil was in her hand again. It spun round and round in crazy sporadic circles, before skittering to the floor.

“I want you to help me.” Jordan captured her hand, the same hand that lost the pencil. “You’re smart, Dree. You’re the smartest person I know.”

“You should tell that to the school board,” she said stiffly. “They named Melvin Borget dux last year.”

“You’re not just book smart. You’re smart smart.”

“Thanks, buddy.”

He had her hand to his mouth, murmuring words into her fingers. “There’s this fire in you, Dree. You like to pretend it’s not there. Most times you’re quiet, sitting back listening, watching, while everyone else takes the centre stage. No one sees your hunger.”

She tried to tug away. “I’m not hungry.”

“You killed that zombie yesterday. With just one blow. Not anyone could do that.”

“No,” Deirdre said. What she really meant to say was: no, you idiot. Of course not anyone can do that. The real answer sat right in front of him.

But Jordan was lost in his own world. Waking dreams of grandeur danced in his eyes, softening the usual acid green to a soft eucalyptus-leaf colour.

“Join me, Dree. It will be amazing, life transforming.”

She couldn’t take it anymore. Yanking her hands from his grasp, she shoved her chair back, lunging to her feet.

“Let me tell you what isn’t amazing and life transforming. Being your side kick. There. I said it.” Her breath came too fast, the words hurtled out. “In this awesome scenario where you’re the bad-ass superhero, where am I? Kicking butt beside you? Wait, no. I’m Robin while you’re in the Batman suit. I’m Pepper Potts to your Tony Stark, Hermione to your Harry. You’re my best friend. Jordan. But I can’t do this.”

“I’m not asking you to be my sidekick!” Jordan lunged to his feet as well. “I don’t know where you got that from.”

“Oh, please. I’ve always been your sidekick. Ever since we became friends. I just never used to mind as much.”

Drop the Needle: Anger #7

TITLE: Hunted
GENRE: Epic Fantasy

As a result of an injury, Jim was cut from his NBA team midseason. He wants to position himself to get picked up by another organization and thinks his brother can help him. 

"I just wanted to talk to you for a sec," Jim said.

"Talk away." His brother picked up another plate, piled it with a variety of stuffed pastries, a handful of baby carrots, and a couple cauliflower clumps, then spooned dip into the center.

"Maybe someplace a little more private." Jim edged toward the patio.

"If this is about the golf tournament, my hands are tied."

As his brother added more food to his plate, Jim turned his back on the crowd and lowered his voice another notch. "Somebody in your office must have made a mistake. I confirmed with the steering committee months ago."

"Months ago you were the perfect fit for a celebrity golf tournament." His brother popped a stuffed mushroom into his mouth.

"I'll find another team."

"How many players get picked up mid-season?"

"Iverson did, and Terry."

"Ancient history." Eddie bit into a cracker slathered with cheese.

Jim set his plate of uneaten hors d'oeuvres on the table. "If I'm scheduled to play in your tournament, people will know my knee is okay and—"

"But it's not."

"It will be." It had to be. Jim needed basketball. Whatever it took to get back in the game, he’d do it—hire a personal trainer, work out twenty-four/seven, anything.

Eddie swiped a napkin over his mouth. "I hope your knee will heal, little brother, I really do. But the committee can't wait. They want a star they can promote now. You know, somebody who's actually playing."

Jim took a strangle-hold on his paper cup. How could Eddie of all people talk about him not playing? This was the guy who had failed every attempt to make it to the pros, and now he wanted to pass judgment on Jim? If he didn't need his help . . .

But the truth was, Eddie was his only ticket into the tournament. "You could use your influence to convince them—"

His brother held up a hand. "Only high-profile celebs bring in the kind of donations we need."

"All I'm looking for is some positive publicity." Jim crumpled his empty cup.

"Have you thought about doing something else? Maybe coaching?"

"I'm a player, Eddie, a basketball player." Jim slammed his wadded cup into the trash. Maybe event managers could switch jobs to advertising or PR, but basketball players—the gym-rat kind like he was—stuck with the game they lived for.

"Lighten up, little brother, I'm just trying to help."

"Great, then you can get me into the tournament."

"No chance."

"Yeah, okay. Thanks for all that help." Jim headed for the door before his sarcasm turned to something uglier.

Drop the Needle: Anger #6

TITLE: Man Maid
GENRE: Contemporary Romance

Sadie has just received a phone call from her biggest rival telling her one of her employees is actually a private investigator working for him.

She could hear nothing but the pounding of her heart. Felt only the urge to hit back, to hurt like she'd been hurt. The urge grew as she stormed down the hall to the kitchen where the guys were gathered, restocking for the afternoon cleanings. She saw no one but Wyatt as he emerged from the storage room. The smile crossing his lips fell away quickly.

"You f****** lying bastart! You lied to me."

She sensed the guys shrinking back but the look on Wyatt's face made it impossible for her to stop. The brief look of shock collapsed into knowing guilt.

"You damn liar!" Her hand reached for the nearest object, a bottle of glass cleaner, and it went sailing through the air directly at his damn lying face.

"Whoa!" someone yelled as Wyatt ducked the missile before it crashed into the wall.

Josh grabbed her arm. "Stop it."

She twisted viciously out of his grasp. Any sense lost. The urge to hurt him, to strike back was overwhelming. He'd spied on her guys. Lied to them. They'd welcomed him and he lied to them. The fury boiled over and she rushed at him. He made no move to defend himself.

"You f****** spy! You don't get to quit. You're fired. Get out. Get off my property right now."

He raised his hands. "Sadie, let me explain."

The sight of her company shirt on him sparked her fury higher. She grabbed a fistful of his shirt and twisted hard enough to pull him off balance."Get this off. Take it off and get the hell out of here before I call the police."

She was screaming. She knew this. She could feel the rasp of it in her throat and hear the echoes of it. Saw the stuned faces in her peripheral vision, but she couldn't stop. The idea of Marcus Canard laughing at her enraged her. Laughing at her stupidity. Strong arms came from behind her, enclosing her.

"Let go of him." Josh's voice was calm and commanding in her ear. The anger broke and she slumped back in his arms.

Drop the Needle: Anger #5

TITLE: Vision
GENRE: YA Paranormal

“Shelby, I’m not doing this. You know I don’t believe in past lives.”

Why did I lead with that? I’m such an idiot. “Yeah, I get that, but there’s more. That’s just how it began. First of all, the past life was a famous murderer-Sam showed me a picture and,” she cut me off.

“Ugh, so you’ve involved Sam in this too?”

“Yes, but listen, I saw Michael following me when I was in the city. And we found a picture of you and Dad in Michael’s office with Dad’s face scratched out and,”

“For crying out loud! You went into his office? How did you get in? Oh great, so you’ve involved Celeste and Ben too. Shelby, this is absolutely unacceptable. I’ve made it perfectly clear that I don’t believe in reincarnation. For you to involve everyone we know, casting doubt on Michael’s character based on one of your visions…”

“Mom, Ben even thinks…”

“Enough, this is absolutely enough. I love Michael. I need him. There's been no one else since your father died and I won’t let you ruin this for me,” she said as she paced. “We’ve decided to elope, this weekend in fact, just the two of us. We’re leaving tomorrow. I’ve been waiting to tell you because I’ve been expecting something like this, and I was hoping to avoid it.”

“Mom, I’m sorry. I don’t want you to be unhappy. I just think something isn’t right and you should check it out before you marry him. Maybe he’s sick.”

“There’s nothing wrong with him. I think it’s time for you to look at yourself. Doesn’t it seem strange that you’d see his supposed past life the night we get engaged? Don’t you think it’s a possibility that it’s your subconscious trying to prevent something that makes you unhappy?”

This was going nowhere, she would never believe me. Guess it’s time for damage control.

“Mom, I’m sorry. You’re totally right. I don’t want a stepfather. I miss dad and it’s hard to see you with someone else, even someone as great as Michael. I’m sorry I’ve been being so selfish. It won’t happen again. I promise.”

I walked over to her and put my arms around her. “Please forgive me. Please Mom.”

She stepped back from me and folded her arms. “Okay, Shelby. Let’s try and start over. Michael doesn’t know you feel this way, so let’s keep it to ourselves, okay?”

“I’m really sorry. Please forget I said anything.”

“I’m certainly going to try.”

Drop the Needle: Anger #4

TITLE: Winter on Brimstone Hill
GENRE: YA Contemporary

After a particularly bad snowstorm--which kills off both the power and their livestock--Sarah's two-year-old sister passes away. Her father is angry at himself for her death, and her mother blames him.

Taking another step down the hallway, I see Mom, her back barely visible between the open wood stove and my father.

"This won't change anything," she says.

He tries to push her aside, but she steps between him and the stove.

"Think about what you're doing. This is all we have. In five years, you'll want these. You'll want to remember." She pauses. "I want them."

"There's no room here for things we don't need," he says.

"Like what? What do we have that's extra? The food? Most of it died three days ago. At this rate, we won't even have enough money to buy seeds. My fancy clothes? I haven't had a new pair of pants in three years, Marcin. Three years." He tries to step around her again, but she blocks him. "What else do we have that's extra? Let's see. This wood stove. You know what? We don't even need this. There's too much heat in this god-damned house. Let's get rid of it. What else? Those two light bulbs. We only need one. We can just carry it from room to room. Or better yet, get rid of them altogether. That sounds like a great idea."

My father takes hold of her wrists, and for the first time I see what she's protecting--the shoe box filled with pictures of her history, of us as kids, of Grace.


A hand touches my shoulder, and I jump. Joseph stands behind me, his face pleading.

"Whatever you're trying to say, just say it," my father says. "It'd be nice to have some honesty around here for once."

Mom's practically hysterical. "What else is extra? Hmm, let's think about this for a second. Going to the doctor. That's extra. We don't need that. We certainly don't need to get our daughter's cough checked out. We don't need the extra bills. Isn't that what you said? 'We don't need the extra bills.' Well, I'll tell you what. We don't have them anymore. In fact, we don't have an extra mouth to feed. I bet you like that."

My father's face pulses purple. He twists her arms until the box drops, and finally steps around her.

I grab Joseph's hand hard, so hard that if the hallway weren't shrouded in darkness I'd see our hands purple too.

Drop the Needle: Anger #3

TITLE: House of the Adepts
GENRE: fantasy/mystery

Both Chara and her kinswoman Chynane are escaped serfs. Chara has managed to better herself; Chynane has not. But Chynane has found a powerful and secret protector and was able to inform on Chara and gain reward by it without being exposed herself. When Chara finds out her kinswoman gave her up, she is understandably upset . . . 

Chara waited until the bounty hunter left then went up to Chynane. “He’s your son.”

“Well, well, here’s Mistress Charadyn lowering herself to speak to me.” Chynane sneered. “Am I supposed to be grateful that a fine lady like you takes an interest in my business? Mind your own!”

“Your son working for the Gagans! Is he in town on their business?”

“No. His Gagan friends are displeased with him over what happened with you.” She laughed bitterly. “And he can’t give me up without being taken himself. So he’s at loose ends. Your friend the Archon wants him out of town. He was asking for money. Why else would he bother to talk to his own mother?”

“Did you promise him money?”

Chynane looked sly. “Everyone knows I’m poor.”

“Not any more. You are wearing new clothes, Chynane, and I saw you buying ham.”

“So what? My business is my own.”

“How did you come by the money?”

“Earned it which is more than you ever did. But as I do work, fine lady, I’ll be off. You need not concern yourself.”

“How did you earn it?”

Chynane laughed shortly. “I sold something. I have more wares than baskets.”

Chara wanted to slap her. “You sold me knowing what it would mean. I want to know how you managed to do a deal with the Gagans and not get caught yourself.”

For an instant an expression of shame crossed Chynane’s face only to be replaced by defiance. “Gave you up? Who says so?”

“You did--in your cups. You admitted it and, Aeglam heard you. Do you think I wouldn’t find out?” Chara’s voice rose in anger.

Chynane shrugged. “So? At last you were worth something to me.”

Chara grabbed her arm. “Who paid you?”

“Leave me alone!” Chynane tried to pull away, but Chara dug in her nails.

“Was it him? Your son? Is that why you were safe?”

“Him? He couldn’t protect anyone.”

“Who paid you?”

“I can keep secrets all right. And even if you knew, it’s someone you can’t touch.”

“I will find out, and then we will see who I can touch.”

“Are you threatening me, Chara? Living up at the House has puffed you up even more if you think you can get the better of me.” Chynane pulled her arm away and went off pushing her way through the crowd.

Drop the Needle: Anger #2

TITLE: The Allergy Club
GENRE: Contemporary YA

Madison went on what was supposed to be a day trip with The Allergy Club, but they got stuck overnight, so she missed her other club's car wash fundraiser. Since the club is a secret, Madison had told her friends she was spending the evening with her family. (Hank is Hailey's brother.)

I climbed out of Hank’s car and sprinted to Hailey in the corner of the grocery store parking lot. A nurse had cleaned up my knee, but a shooting pain still accompanied my every step. I tried not to wince and just focus on Hailey. She threw a sponge into an empty bucket, then set it next to the coiled up hose and a stack of leftover flyers.

“I’m so incredibly sorry,” I said, wishing I’d spent the drive coming up with better words. “There was a bit of a disaster, and we just got back.”

“We, being your family?”

I nodded, inwardly gulping.

“Yeah, that really explains why your parents called my house last night freaking out that you were gone. And my brother was gone all night, too. What, y’all ‘fell asleep somewhere,’ but nothing really happened? Is that what you’re going to pull?”

“No. Gosh no! It’s not that at all.”

“Then what is it?”

A stream of water trickled past us on the concrete. Jamie and Nandita stopped putting away the signs about ten feet away, and I could sense them watching. The concrete would probably be much more accepting of everything I couldn’t say, but I forced my eyes up to Hailey’s.

“I so wish I could tell you, but I just can’t. And you know I can’t keep a secret. So please believe me—it’s important it’s a secret.”

I didn’t believe that so much at first. I thought it was just a club that thought too much of itself. No club could truly need to be a secret.

But the club took in the parts of each of us that made our daily lives a bit of a struggle—the parts of us we couldn’t change. And we didn’t want them to become a bigger deal by talking about them to everyone in our lives. We didn’t want them to become the things that defined us, but we needed a place to deal with them, so eventually we could be free.

That didn’t make sense to me when I joined. When I just wanted to know how to get food into my stomach and not end up in pain. But now it was one of the only things in the world I was certain of.

“I don’t believe you. And I can’t believe that whatever you were doing was more important than this. We really needed you.”

Drop the Needle: Anger #1

GENRE: Literary Science Fiction

Raised as an orphan by an elderly midwife, Jem is ostracized by almost everyone in his village. One of the women in his adopted mother's household, Nadka, is particularly cruel to him, and he's just run into her after returning from his regular errand of fetching eggs.

As soon as she took the crate she saw the broken eggs. She lunged at Jem and slapped him. He’d started to duck and pull back, but she was quicker. The palm and fingers of her small square hand landed hard on his cheek. He winced and stepped back, brushing the earthen wall behind him.

“Goplak didn’t send you off with broken eggs, I’m sure! You incompetent oaf! You can’t even do a simple errand. You’re good for nothing--nothing! Do you hear me?” She came closer, glaring furiously up into his face-- up because he was at least a head taller than she was now. But that detail didn’t seem to intimidate her in the least; she treated him just as she had when he was five years old.

He regarded her with a sulky stare. “Nadka, it wasn’t my fault. There were these wolves-- two of them! They were right outside the door, and I--I ran into them and they . . .”

“I don’t care! They didn’t eat you up, did they? You’re here and you haven’t a mark on you, and you bring me broken eggs! That’s all I see.”

Knowing he was pushing his luck, but feeling the need to push back against her assault, he rolled his eyes and made a face. “How do you know I haven’t a mark on me? You haven’t looked at me. They could have torn one of my arms off and you wouldn’t notice.”

Like a piece of driftwood smoking and hissing on the fire that suddenly bursts into a shower of sparks, Nadka exploded. “Don’t you get sassy with me, you demon! I don’t care how big you are! I’m not afraid of you and I’ll beat you till you bleed!”

Jem leaned back as far as he could, his left shoulder blade pressing hard against the edge of the narrow wooden steps that led down from the outside door, and groaned inwardly. Yes, he’d asked for this--but admitting that didn’t make it any easier to endure.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Winners for Drop the Needle: Anger

Winning numbers have been drawn for Drop the Needle: Anger 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:
  • 3AJ621SC as ENTRY #1


  • SCPRCS4Q as ENTRY #3

  • SWBR3M2J as ENTRY #4

  • VM365T57 as ENTRY #5

  • 5O3C8QTQ as ENTRY #6

  • CJASLPG6 as ENTRY #7

  • BUNAG8MH as ENTRY #8

  • UOKODXD4 as ENTRY #9

  • 2FN3BG3E as ENTRY #10

  • OS0LSUBM as ENTRY #11

  • O276GTVO as ENTRY #12

  • WK4133JF as ENTRY #13

  • H33KFI9C as ENTRY #14

  • EJ1EFF75 as ENTRY #15
The alternates are:

  • 7QAPO7OR as ENTRY #ALT-1

Monday, April 28, 2014

Drop the Needle: ANGER

So here's a specific Drop the Needle for you!

(For the uninitiated:  The term "drop the needle" hearkens from the days of LPs, when college music professors would drop the needle anywhere in the middle of a recording of music and expect the students to know the piece and the composer.  Hence, "dropping the needle" in a novel means starting somewhere in the middle.)

Let's take a look at scenes that contain ANGER.  Specifically:
  • The excerpt should contain dialogue.  It does not have to be mainly dialogue, like when we do the Talking Heads rounds.  But it's challenging to write angry dialogue that doesn't sound dorky or melodramatic, so it'll be a good idea to take a look at that.
  • The excerpt should contain internal dialogue.  Again, not a whole lot--because too much internal dialogue is a pace-killer.  And angry scenes should have a quicker pace, yes?  But angry head-thoughts are an important expression of character anger, so we need some.
A note:  I know anger sometimes involves expletives.  As always, I will asterisk out anything stronger than a hell or a damn. If you'd like to be kind and do it for me, all the better. Just keep the first letter of the word and make the rest of the letters asterisks.

Here are the submission guidelines:
  • Submit up to 400 words from your completed manuscript or carefully proofread WIP.  The focus of the scene is ANGER.
  • Please include a 1- to 2-sentence lead-in to give us a sense of scene and setting. PLEASE DON'T SKIP THIS PART.  There is an extra 50-word allowance for the lead-in. (But please be as brief as possible.)
  • The submission window will be open TOMORROW (Tuesday), from noon to five EDT.
  • Submit your entry HERE.
  • This will be a lottery.  The bot will pick 15 entries and 1 alternate.
  • Winning entries will post on the blog for public critique.
Looking forward to reading your angry scenes!  Please post questions below.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Friday Fricassee

It's so cliché to exclaim about how quickly time passes, right?  But I can't help myself.  It's hard to believe that this is the last Friday of April.

So yesterday was my birthday, and I had an absolutely lovely day, which included the following:
  • Gorgeous weather.  All day.
  • A shopping trip to my favorite boutique, gift certificate in hand (from Christmas, because SPRING CLOTHES)
  • A woman sitting outside the pub shouting, "THAT DRESS IS BEAUTIFUL!" to me as I walk by.  Twice.  (Seriously?  I've never had a compliment shouted at me by a complete stranger before.)
  • A lovely lunch date with a fellow writer/dancer (she's more dancer than writer, so we were a good balance).
  • Sending my latest finished project to Josh.  (Yes, I did this on my birthday. Because SENDING FINISHED PROJECTS MAKES ME HAPPY.)
  • Dinner out with Mr. A.  (Except, I was still full from lunch.  So I had an Angry Orchard and watched him eat pizza.)
  • CAKE  (This one doesn't need further explanation.)

So I'm feeling rather pampered and content this morning.  I don't even have to mention the GIFTS OF CHOCOLATE that came my way.  (Am I that transparent? :P)  I now have a stash in my upstairs drawer that's bound to last me at least, oh, 3 days.

You know words make me as happy as chocolate does (it's true), so today I'd like to hear from you!  Here's the question:  Do you have that one fabulous, elusive, I'm-almost-afraid-to-think-about-this story idea in your head/notebook/file folder?  You know what I mean.  It's such a cool concept, and you see huge potential, but you just haven't started it yet for whatever reason.  Or maybe you have started it, but it's more like piddling and prodding than actual writing, because this thing feels a bit bigger than you.

I've got one of those.  Actually, I'm certain it's supposed to be my next "new project" (I'm currently working on rewrites of other things).  And my stomach sort of drops whenever I think about this new thing.

I say "thing" because it's not even a story idea yet.  It's a world and it's a premise, and I love it (and hate it a little).  I can't even decide whether to make it MG or YA.  But dang, I've got a playlist, so that's something.

It actually exhausts me to think about writing it.  Which is probably a clear indication that I ABSOLUTELY NEED TO WRITE IT.


So tell me I'm not alone.  (I already know I'm not, but I LOVE to hear your stories!)

And happy weekend!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Spuds (a.k.a. The Beauty of Voice)

I'm going to tell you to do something I've never told you to do before, and it's this:

I want you to read a picture book.  Out loud.  To yourself or to a loved one (or, if you're really lucky, to a child).  Specifically, I want you to read this:

There I was, doing my weekly grocery shopping.  If I hadn't zipped over to the back entrance to grab a coupon from a store flyer, I would have completely missed the "bargain bin" of books.  (I know, right?  Books in a grocery store.)  Of course I had to take a quick peek--especially considering the "80% off" sign.

Right on top sat this luscious-looking book by Karen Hesse.  The cover drew me in immediately (which is saying a lot, because I find many picture book illustrations cloying at best).  I cracked open the book, not expecting too much (again, it's hard to find a superbly written picture book).

And I was transfixed.  In fact, by the end, my eyes were tearing up.  Not because it's a sad book (it isn't, really), but because it was so beautiful that I was moved to tears.

Seriously.  So I bought it. 

That's not the only reason I want you to read it, though.  The beauty of SPUDS is in its voice.  The author's careful word choices and spare language perfectly capture the setting and draw you immediately into the narrator's world.

Here is the opening page:

The night me and Maybelle and Eddie harvested potatoes,
Ma was workin' night shift.
Our ma, she's mighty fine,
but lately it seems like she got nothin' left over,
not even for us kids.

Hold me back, you say.  That first sentence has a pronoun error!

Exactly.  The story is told by Jack, the middle of 3 siblings, and that's the way he talks.  We are completely inside his head on every page.  As such, we feel like we know him--really know him--and care about what happens as the story unfolds.

So Jack and his siblings sneak out at night, after their mother leaves to work the night shift, in order to "harvest" some potatoes from Mr. Kenney's field.  Which brings us to what is probably my favorite page in the entire book:

We three kids headed out Waddell Road in that rattle-bang fashion. 
Maybelle, she goosed us with the meals Ma'd make out'a them spuds.
"You'll see.  Ma's gonna boil 'em, and bake 'em.  She's gonna
slice 'em thin as fingernails and fry 'em up crusty brown with
lots of salt sparklin'."
Man, my mouth juiced up just thinkin' about it.

Luscious!  "Rattle-bang" perfectly describes the kids pulling a wagon along the side of the road.  And how about slices "thin as fingernails"?  Can't you just see them, all crackly good on your plate?  And the "salt sparklin'" says so much more than just "salt" or "salty" could ever say.  (Because salt does sparkle when the light catches it--have you noticed?)

Picture books are HARD to write (as anyone who has tried knows).  Language needs to be spare yet beautiful, conveying a simple tale in simple language in such a way that the story is compelling--and also that it's a pleasure to read out loud (since these books are primarily meant for reading to children, right?).

(Side note:  I read this book out loud to Mr. A, so that he could experience the beauty of the language.  I'm sad to say that it did not resonate with him the way I'd expected it to.  But then, he's not a writer.  Or a child.)

I'm sure you can see by now how this translates to our novel-writing.  We have a lot more words to play with, true.  But we should still take this careful, choose-each-word-like-it's-a-diamond approach, too, because it will make our writing sing.  And voice?  We already know that voice is where it's at.  I believe that it's voice, more than anything else, that ultimately draws us into a tale, whether we're aware of it or not.

You may or may not like Karen Hesse's story, but you must admit that it's got a powerful voice.  The voice might not speak to you--you might totally hate it--but as a writer, you can acknowledge that it's there.

That's what your novel needs.  VOICE.  It's not something that can be taught; it's something that can be CAUGHT.  By reading good stuff, and by continuing to write and write and write (until our voice develops).

I've written exactly one picture book (it's not amazing) and will probably revisit this category at some point.  So I'm always interested to see what's out there.  Here are two others I've recently discovered that are worth taking a look at:


AT THE BOARDWALK by Kelly Ramsdell Fineman

Now get thee to your local library or bookstore (or, um, grocery store) and grab SPUDS.  Read it quietly, read it out loud, read it so that the words seep into your soul.  Then, take what you've learned and apply it to your own work.

I am going to do the same!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Three-Page Edits -- Available

I'm caught up on all my 3-page edits, which I weave in between my larger projects.  If you've been wanting to hire me for your opening 3 pages, I'm all yours!

The details:

  • Full line edit of your first 3 pages, plus an editorial letter
  • $18, payable via Paypal
  • 1- to 4-week turnaround, depending on my schedule
Email me at authoress.edits(at) to get into the queue!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Friday Fricassee

What a fabulous week of critique!  I'd love to hear your thoughts about the unfolding of this latest First Line Grabber.  Did any of your favorites make it to the final round?  Did the pages live up to the original first sentences?

It's fascinating to read the sometimes completely bipolar responses from agents, too.  A reminder, for sure, of how subjective this business is.  True, there is always not-so-good writing or not-quite-ready writing that comes down the pike (as all agents and editors know), but even among the GOOD writing examples, there are so many shades of yes and no--and it all has to do with personal taste, sense of style, and flat-out opinion.

All that to say--keep writing!  And grand applause to our five winners--not just for winning the critiques, but for being brave enough to throw your work into the public arena for professional scrutiny.  No small thing, that!   Applause, too, for your good work.

As for me, I'm happy to report that I've just become unstuck after over a week of stuckness on a backstory point.  There's nothing quite like going absolutely nowhere for eight or nine days, right?  So now that I think (hope!) I've finally got this thing nailed, I can continue with my rewrite.

I've ramped up my ballet recently by adding a second class to my week.  You've heard me gush about my ballet classes before--but you haven't heard me gush about MY NEW TEACHER.  He (yes! HE!) is absolutely amazing.  I am swimming in major teacher crush.  He's a beautiful dancer and a wonderful teacher.  And on my first day in class, he told me that I had nice feet.

Biggest.  Compliment.  Ever.  If you dance, you know what it means to have "nice feet".  Believe me, my feet are SO not where they need to be, but that little bit of affirmation has made me more determined than ever to work harder and get better.

(On Monday he said that I had "great power" in my legs.  I may have to hire this guy to follow me around and say positive things to me all day.  Though, Mr. A. already knows about my legs, because I kick him when he snores.  Yes, I do.  Don't judge. ;) )

Sad part?  I had an x-ray on my left big toe this week because it's been bothering me (and interfering with my releve and demi-pointe).  Diagnosis?  Teeny-tiny bone spur.  Dr. Toes wants me to wrap it in K-tape for classes, and to get this weird shoe insert thing to keep it immobile during the day so that the inflammation has a chance to go down.

Just...ugh.  Right?

So now I'm seriously looking into essential oils, which I'm learning are extremely beneficial in treating bone spurs.  And yes, popping a couple of Ibuprofen before class, just to give myself an edge.

It's so freeing to lose myself so completely in something I love, without the pressure of having to be really good at it.  (Because I'm not.)  I'm not going to let my dumb toe stop me.

Story of my life, right?  Pressing on through adversity, not giving up when obstacles clog the way.  But you already know all these things--because you're doing the same thing I am.

I love that we're in this thing--and LIFE--together.

Have a joyful weekend!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

First Line Grabbers -- Winning Excerpts

And here they are!  Congratulations to our five winners, whose first 3 pages received the most votes from our agent panel.

May the critiquing begin!  Critique is open to everyone.  Entrants, please critique at least 2 other entries, so that you are "giving back".

Our agent panel will also be leaving their feedback over the next few days, so keep your eye out for that!

Again, here are the seven lovely agents on our panel:

Enjoy, everyone!

First Line Grabber Winners #5

TITLE: Punishment Summer
GENRE: Young Adult/Contemporary

Maybe if I hadn't downed that last shot of tequila, I would've noticed Dad sitting at the desk as I climbed through my bedroom window. Instead, I tumbled over the sill and thumped to the floor with all the grace of a 118-pound bowling ball, my nose landing inches from a brown loafer. Dad's brown loafer. Uh-oh.

I rose to my knees and swayed. My brain scrambled. How could I talk my way out of this one? The frown twisting Dad's mouth didn't help in the inspiration department. But the tequila played a part, too. My stomach lurched. I stumbled to my feet and ran for the bathroom. I managed to lift the toilet lid just as my insides volcanoed out.

When my Mount St. Helens impersonation wound down to dry heaves, Dad spoke from the doorway. "Clean yourself up and get packed." His voice sounded as cold as the tile beneath my knees.

I grabbed the rim of the toilet bowl and looked up at him. "What?"

Dad's face loomed pale in the hall light. He crossed his arms over his broad chest. "You need to pack your stuff. Now."

"Pack for what?"

"You're going to your grandfather's. For the summer. Wash up then grab everything you'll need. It's cold there. Pack your boots, wool socks, that heavy jacket."

Caught somewhere between the tequila fog and reality, I rubbed my face. It sure felt real. "Why am I going to Grandpa's?"

Dad took a noisy breath. "I know you snuck out two weeks ago, Nicole. And then there's tonight."


"Don't. I already saw the pictures Gemma posted of you two.Grounding you isn't getting the job done."

I slumped back on my haunches. "So, you're shipping me off to Grandpa's? I screw up and you send me away? How's that fair?"

"Fair? You want to talk about fair?"

The roar of his voice made me want to puke again.

"In a fair world, I'd have two daughters. In a fair world, you'd have two parents. Life isn't fair. You should know that by now." His strong hand grabbed the door frame as a grimace twisted his face.

In the half-light, he no longer looked like my dad.

"Get packed. You've got fifteen minutes."

I staggered to my feet and leaned against the sink. After rinsing my mouth and face, I tottered back to my room. Inside the closet, I pushed aside the shoes piled on top of my duffle bag. Dad knew I wouldn't dig in my heels. I may have been the queen of the late night sneak-out, but I was no fighter. Dad was the one always ready to rumble. Normally I was pretty good at hiding the kind of stuff that set him off. Not that we spent much time together. I hadn't seen him this mad since-

My stomach lurched again.

No. Thinking about that was a mistake. My insides felt rocky enough.

First Line Grabber Winners #4

TITLE: The Heartsmith
GENRE: YA Steampunk Fantasy

I carry my heavy basket of hearts down the crowded cobblestone road. Business men in top hats look down their noses at me while women in long, muslin dresses pick up their skirts as they pass me by. The warm sunshine shimmers off the brick buildings lining the street like stalwart soldiers and illuminates their colorful doors. I’m looking for the red one.

Red, and all its color variants from crimson to pink, is considered garish, almost rude. It’s their color and the people of Ager City don’t like their type. My pink pinafore is probably what made the women skirt past me. I mean, who do I think I am, wearing pink? It pays to stand out in the business, though. Everyone in Talier Marketplace knows where to get the best hearts- the girl in pink.

I’m not going to the square to hawk my wares quite yet. I need to see the man at the red door, The Heartsmith. Hearts aren’t much good if they are broken and even less good if they aren’t imbued. A regular, old heart is worth only a single gold piece, while one imbued with purity is worth one hundred. The Snatchers always go for the purest heart in the room. It’s helpful to have one on hand at night. Children squeal with laughter as they run by me playing Snatcher and Knight. Until five years ago, Snatchers were thought to be the heart-stealing, soul-sucking monsters of the past. Now, they are all too real.

The red door materializes out of the wave of people rushing home for lunch, perched between a cobalt door and a canary yellow one. It always makes me smile, especially when the nobles wrinkle their noses or turn their heads. They’d most likely form a committee to remove or repaint the door, but heart vendors are untouchable. We’re needed too badly. I make sure to smile at a woman barely containing her disgust at my dress before bouncing up the stairs and knocking on the red door. A few moments later a clatter comes from inside, followed by a loud oomph. The door bangs open.

“Alessa, you’re early.” Bernard’s wiry, gray mustache sparkles like an opal as sun glints off the heart soot gathered in his hair.

“No, I’m on time. You’ve just forgotten to check the clock.”

I barge past him, brushing the shimmering dust off my shoulders. The house is surprisingly sparse for a man of Bernard’s station and age. The parlor is empty with white walls and a set of dark wooden stairs leading up. Heart soot sparkles across the wooden floor, clinging in knots and crevices. Bernard trails behind me muttering under his breath about time as I traipse to the back of the house. At the end of the parlor hall is another red door, this one heavy and made out of metal. I grip the door and give it a big heave. It groans as the hinges give way and the door slowly swings open.

First Line Grabber Winners #3

TITLE: The Day I Ruled the World
GENRE: MG Fantasy

Spying is rude, and I would never, never do it. Not without a good reason anyway, like needing to know if my parents suspected I'd been practicing spells in secret.

For Snooper's Delight, I needed a mirror, some magic, and a little privacy. Good thing I had my own bedroom, so I wouldn’t be interrupted by bossy older sisters or nosy younger brothers.

I settled cross-legged on my bed and tugged on my pajama shorts to de-wedgie them, making the mattress bounce under me. When it was still again, I balanced the mirror on my knee. I hadn’t turned on the lamp when I woke up, so the only light in the room came through my window, reflected from the planet below. We arrived in orbit around Peregrine during the night. Living in a house that was also a spaceship meant that we got to travel across the galaxy and sleep through the disgusting parts.

To focus the magic, I imagined the kitchen where Mom and Dad would be, alone before all the kids got up. I pictured the counter along the back wall and the big dining table. When the mental image was as clear as I could make it, I let it slide into the mirror and replace the reflection. My brain gave a satisfied sigh, and I opened my eyes. The mirror showed my parents at the kitchen table, plates of eggs and toast and glasses of juice set out in front of them. The picture was so perfect, I could almost smell the food.

I had one second to feel proud of my success before the side-effects hit me, the slam of crazy emotions that came with every spell. This time it was a wave of totally-out-of-proportion, what-the-heck-does-this-have-to-do-with-anything sadness. My eyes filled with tears, and I wanted to bury my face in my pillow and sob.

Misery squeezed in until I ordered myself to stop it, just stop. None of this was real, and none of it could hurt me if I didn’t let it. I stomp-stomp-stomped the feeling down and made myself ignore it. Mom was wrong. I was ready to handle magic and everything that went with it. Brushing tears off my cheeks, I picked up the mirror and watched my parents.

Mom scooped up a bite of eggs. The fork clicked against the plate.

While he ate, Dad talked about the inventory he had bought for his business on our last trip. He picked up his napkin and wiped butter off his chin. “I’m a little worried about Teddy.”

At the mention of my name, I leaned forward and held my breath.

“She’s been kind of moody lately,” he continued.

Mom dropped her fork, and it landed with a clatter. “Oh, that little sneak.”

Dad stared at her. “Sneak?”

Mom nodded. “ Sneak. She isn’t just moody. She’s been doing magic.”

My stomach flipped over. They suspected.

First Line Grabber Winners #2

TITLE: The Duel
GENRE: Historical Suspense with Romantic Elements

Cambridge, England. 7 March 1733.

What did a man wear when he might die before sunrise?

Thomas Calderwood, Baron of Montwine, thrust his head into a crisp linen shirt. It smelled of bran starch and the hedgerow where it had dried, sun-bleached after laundering. He pulled on his indigo waistcoat with silk-embroidered buttons, sewn in Spitalfields. Not his finest but well-fitted. Dark enough to blend into the early morning shadows, loose enough to raise his pistol-arm swiftly. Handsome enough to meet his Maker–but No!

Blood wouldn’t mar this dashing swoop of cravat today, nor any another, God willing.

Knife, slipped in his boot. Dagger, sheathed in his belt. Hands–clenched and unclenched, awakening reluctantly, readying themselves. Tom shrugged into his favorite wool coat, thick-napped, dark brown like his hair. His fingers combed through stubborn curls and tied them back in an efficient queue. Candlelight flickered in the mirror. He cut a fine figure.

Fine, fine. Two French pistols in their case. Alexander’s.

He slung his brother’s satchel on his shoulder and cantered down the dark stairs. A desultory lantern lit the mews. The horses shied but Robin steadied them. Tom mounted and nodded for the young servant to follow.

They rode hard, past the Cock-and-Bull Tavern, past the Colleges. The morning star gleamed above a church spire. A sign? Tom prayed it so.

Eight hoofs on cobblestones beat a tattoo in his head. Their horses careened between carts headed to market on the bridge arching over the Cam. Farmers, too, up before the sun in market-day rituals. This Saturday of nearly-spring was dawning fair.

They dismounted at the fields outside town, their footfalls quiet from sinking in soft mud. Withered grass stretched across the meadow and rustled in the March wind.

A good day for a duel. It had been too cold to practice in the snow and ice. Tom’s nose twinged, sorely chapped from the illness that had plagued him all winter.

He coughed. No good, that. He feared it would distract him.

Fear would distract him.

Must concentrate.

The sharp chill of dawn heightened all his senses. He could almost hear the earl’s stallions whinnying in the distance and charging across the fens. He was fortunate this wasn’t a joust, for he’d never match the earl’s horsemanship.

But he had finesse with flintlock and cartridge. Robin held the case open. Tom claimed his weapon and hefted the long, slim gilded gun in his hand. He molded his grip to the carved burlwood stock and ran a bare finger along the metal barrel, bracingly cold. His leather gloves were warm and supple, so no matter.

The matter was this: Turn, pace, count. Turn. Fire.

His arm rose steady, his mind clear of all but the fulsome need for vengeance. His heart would take satisfaction in the shot, whate’er the outcome.

When his finger jerked, his ears rang with the report.


The sun rose at last, blinding him.

Why was he facing east? That was a mistake. He’d know better next time.

"Good aim, Sir!"

First Line Grabber Winners #1

TITLE: Man Maid
GENRE: Contemporary Romance

Friday should not start with a dead cat - that seemed more of a Monday sort of problem. Even worse, it was a client's dead cat. Sadie Martin ended the call and slumped back in her desk chair. Her black and white mutt, Jack, came over to sniff the phone dangling from her hand. "Seriously," she asked the ceiling. "For real? This is happening?"

The ceiling didn't answer and when Jack found no treat in her hand, he went back to his doggy bed with an aggrieved sigh. Sadie hauled herself out of the chair with her own sigh. Dead cat. She grabbed her purse and pointed at Jack. "Stay!"

He obeyed. Mostly because he was already back to sleep. Sadie shook her head as she headed down the hall while digging in the purse for her keys. Dog never listens to a word I say anyway.

"Hey, Molly?" she called. "Rosie's dead and Heidi is flipping the freak out so I've got to get over there and. . .."

The words stuttered to a stop as her mouth fell open. There was an honest to God angel sitting in the small reception area. She glanced in the direction of her receptionist's desk but it was empty. "Who are you?"

The man stood. "Wyatt Anderson. I have a nine thirty interview."

"Oh s***. I mean, sorry. Hold on. I've got a bit of a situation."

She backtracked to the kitchen where she spotted Molly coming out of the supply room with a pack of printer paper. "There's a man out there," Sadie whispered.

"Must be your interview.Is he cute?"

"No, he is not cute. He's freaking gorgeous."

Good looking guys hanging out in her lobby was nothing new. Her entire company was built on them. Man Maid's business model was simple: hot guys cleaned your house or business. But her guys were only that - guys. Young guys who were only hot in the abstract. They were like her little brothers or something. This guy was a blond, tanned, full grown hunk of a man.

She and Molly returned to the reception area. The small space with the two wingback chairs and Molly's desk seemed even smaller with him standing there. He smiled somewhat uncertainly at the two of them. Smile lines bracketed his eyes as twin dimples appeared in his cheeks. Sadie's first impression of an angel disintegrated. He was no angel. A fallen one maybe but there was too much devil in his smile. She'd never found blond men very attraction. They seemed too pretty for her. This man was not pretty, no, he was ruggedly handsome. His dark blond hair was wavy and a tad shaggy. Brown brows arched over hazel eyes. His nose looked like it may have been broken in the past and his lips made a women wonder how they might feel against hers.

She shook his hand and managed to choke out, "Sadie Martin, nice to meet you." A thrill ran up her arm at the touch. Holy cow.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

First Line Grabber: Round 2 Winners!

According to the votes of our illustrious agent panel o'seven, the following 5 entries are our clear winners:

#6 - Man Maid
#7 - The Day I Ruled the World
#9 - The Duel
#12 - The Heartsmith
#14 - Punishment Summer

Congratulations, winners!  You are cordially invited to submit your FIRST 2 PAGES (maximum 500 words) for public critique.  In additional to critique from our regulars, you will each receive critique from THE SEVEN PARTICIPATING AGENTS (of which a minimum of 3, and maximum of 6, voted for YOUR entry!).

Please submit your first 2 pages HERE.  Submit by the end of today, because the posts will go up tomorrow, and critiquing will begin immediately.

It'll be fun to see how these 5 openings will develop!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

First Line Grabber--Round Two

Welcome to Round 2 of the First Sentence Grabber!

1.  Critique may begin immediately.
2.  Our agent panel will be READING these, but NOT CRITIQUING.  They will send me their five favorites each, and I will tally the votes to come up with our FIVE WINNERS.
3.  Winners will be announced on WEDNESDAY, and their opening 2 pages will post on THURSDAY.
4.  Our agent panel will be critiquing the winning entries!

Rules of engagement for critique are same as always--honesty with kindness.


First Line Grabber Round 2 #15

TITLE: The Thing About Sam
GENRE: NA Contemporary

We met like any other couple—at a narcotics anonymous meeting in downtown Chicago.

It was my cousin Jon’s birthday, and because our group of friends constantly referred to me as the world’s worst gift giver, I’d decided to utilize the revolutionary technique of just asking him what he wanted. I didn’t know what technique he’d been using when he said, “I want you to come to a narcotics anonymous meeting with me tomorrow night.”

First Line Grabber Round 2 #14

TITLE: Punishment Summer
GENRE: Young Adult/Contemporary

Maybe if I hadn't downed that last shot of tequila, I would've noticed Dad sitting at the desk as I climbed through my bedroom window. Instead, I tumbled over the sill and thumped to the floor with all the grace of a 118-pound bowling ball, my nose landing inches from a brown loafer. Dad's brown loafer.

First Line Grabber Round 2 #13

TITLE: Chaos and the Dark
GENRE: Fiction

I began to worry when my reflection stopped looking me in the eye. A hard blink and the typical mimicry returned, green eyes staring back at me. I decided that telling Lydia was out of the question; she already thought I was insane and I had no desire to prove her right.

First Line Grabber Round 2 #12

TITLE: The Heartsmith
GENRE: YA Steampunk Fantasy
I carry my heavy basket of hearts down the crowded cobblestone road. Business men in top hats and monocles sniff as I move past them, while women in long, muslin dresses pick up their skirts as they pass me by. The warm sunshine shimmers off the brick buildings lining the street like stalwart soldiers, illuminating their colorful doors, I’m looking for the red one.

First Line Grabber Round 2 #11

TITLE: Cadence
GENRE: YA Thriller

The first of the plain black SUVs arrives at one thirty. I’m studying with Mira and a mob of other juniors before our sixth period chemistry test. Through the warped, floor-to-ceiling windows of the Cartwright Institute for Young Women’s drafty old library, the SUV’s tinted windows reflect sunlight and barren branches.

First Line Grabber Round 2 #10

TITLE: The Cray
GENRE: YA Fiction

Minutes before the Turney, Union Square had the energy of a hornet’s nest trapped under a bucket. Heavily armed Constables skirted the crowd, their stiff grey uniforms looking miserable in the sweltering mid-day glare. One mean looking Consy eyed Palov and me pretty good.

First Line Grabber Round 2 #9

TITLE: The Duel
GENRE: Historical Suspense with Romantic Elements

What did a man wear when he might die before sunrise? Thomas Calderwood, Baron of Montwine, stomped into his boots and thrust his head into a crisp linen shirt. It smelled of bran starch and the hedgerow bushes where it had dried, sun-bleached after laundering.

First Line Grabber Round 2 #8

GENRE: Upper MG Science Fiction

It wasn't the first time Kade had hacked the Venusian maintenance system, but it was one of the best. If he had to put a number to it (there was little he didn't put a number to), he'd give it a 9.7 out of 10. The 9.8 and 9.9 scores were reserved for something epic he hadn't thought of yet, and 10.0 was for the day he would finally reprogram how his robotic body looked.

First Line Grabber Round 2 #7

TITLE: The Day I Ruled the World
GENRE: MG Fantasy

Spying is rude, and I would never, never do it. Not without a good reason, like needing to know if my parents suspected I'd been practicing spells in secret.

For Snooper's Delight, I needed a mirror, some magic, and little privacy.

First Line Grabber Round 2 #6

TITLE: Man Maid
GENRE: Contemporary Romance

Friday shouldn't start with a dead cat - that seemed more like a Monday sort of problem. Even worse, it was a client's dead cat. Sadie Martin ended the call and slumped back in her chair.

First Line Grabber Round 2 #5

TITLE: Sherwood Revisited
GENRE: Commercial Fiction

It is a mistake to think that sleepy towns house sleepy people content to nap through life. This was the first mistake Ryan Huntington made since his return from Afghanistan. Restless, he watched the town of Nott, Montana creak and groan before it settled back into the protective crook of Sherwood Forest.

First Line Grabber Round 2 #4

TITLE: Ice Queen

For the love of all things not genetically modified, just this once, please let me get to the bus without a Jeremy Watters run-in.

Racing though the empty gym I slam my backpack into the double doors as the final bell rings. Almost there—

First Line Grabber Round 2 #3

TITLE: The Swinging Tree
GENRE: Speculative Fiction

In the shadow of a crumbling, crooked building sits the Swinging Tree. You might think from its name that children play among its old branches, but children dare not walk in its shadow, or frolic under its furled boughs. No one in the district remembers who planted it, or how it grew in such a small pilfer of dirt, but grow it did; the tree’s branches reached up toward the sky, wheezing for light.

First Line Grabber Round 2 #2

TITLE: Twice a Ghost
GENRE: YA Fantasy

Mother said they move within the walls.

Embrie strained her ears for stealthy whispers on the stone, a creak of wood. For what was not the skitter of rodent feet, but crept about nonetheless.

First Line Grabber Round 2 #1

TITLE: Hildamay Humphrey's Incredibly Boring Life
GENRE: MG Fiction

Hildamay Humphrey was eleven years old, but I am sad to say that she was entirely unaware of that fact. Thinking she was an adult, she didn't begin her days as most eleven-year-olds do: eating breakfast with her family, going to school, playing with friends, cracking a ... well, you know what I mean. On the day that we meet her, she's waking up on a sunny morning, looking forward to the perfectly boring Tuesday ahead.

Monday, April 14, 2014

First Line Grabber: Our Participating Agents

Here is our panel of agents for the First Line Grabber:

Here's how the next round works:

1.  The 15 3-sentence entries will post on Tuesday morning.
2.  Our panel of agents will read the entries and email me their FIVE FAVORITES.
3.  I will tally their votes to come up with the FIVE FINALISTS.
4.  If there is a tie, my vote will be the tie-breaker.
5.  Meanwhile, the 15 excerpts will be OPEN TO YOUR CRITIQUE.  

On Wednesday, I will post the winning entry numbers, so that the 5 winners can send me their first 2 pages.  These pages will post on Thursday, during which time all the participating agents will leave their critique for all 5 entries.  (Blog readers may also critique!)

Capiche?  Please leave your questions below!

First Line Grabber: ROUND ONE WINNERS

Here are the 15 winning entries from our first round, as per your votes:


Congratulations!  If your number is listed above, YOU WILL MOVE ON TO ROUND 2.

INSTRUCTIONS:  Winners, PLEASE ENTER THE FIRST 3 SENTENCES OF YOUR MANUSCRIPT TODAY.  Yes, today.  As soon as you read this, DO IT.  The winning entries will post TOMORROW (Tuesday).

Enter your 3 sentences HERE.

Once the entries post, they will be open for critique.  PLEASE NOTE:  This is NOT a voting round.  Our participating agents will be voting for THEIR favorites privately.  If you want to critique the entries, just treat them as normal critiques.

Hooray!  Onward we go.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Friday Fricassee

In honor of Mr. A's birthday (and he's even taken the day off--good for him!), I offer some words of celebration:

  • Every word you write is a success.  Not because it's the right word, or because it won't be edited later, or even because it's a grand sort of gesture deserving attention and praise.  But simply because YOU HAVE WRITTEN IT.  Every word on every day that you write is a step toward completing your novel.  And that is worth celebrating.
  • Stories are an integral part of our human experience--we never stop telling them or listening to them or living them.  So, as a writer, YOU are an integral part of humanity, putting into words the stories that enrich our lives and pull us out of the mundane and into the deeper parts of our brains.
  • After all the hard work of plotting and drafting and revising and editing, your story is A GIFT.  It is a gift to everyone who reads it, and a gift to yourself.  Stories are meant for sharing, so as a writer, you are living a life of SHARING, whether you're aware of it or not.
  • Every word of encouragement you offer to a fellow writer, every critique you lovingly (and sometimes painfully) inflict on someone's manuscript, every word of advice or gentle suggestion or bit of commiseration you offer to someone else--THIS WILL NEVER RETURN VOID.  You are sowing into the lives and spirits other others, and into the writing community at large.  And you will receive in equal measure.
  • If you're crying in a corner over the latest rejection or a stuck place or an overwhelming sense of failure, THERE IS ALWAYS SOMEONE OUT THERE who will put his arm around your shoulders and let you know that you're not alone.  And that you can KEEP GOING.  Then, when the angst has passed, you WILL keep going.

So to everyone who has hit a hard spot...or a blank spot...or a lonely spot:  YOU CAN DO THIS THING.  We're all in it together, and it's a wonderful celebration of the way we've been created to create.

Enjoy your weekend!  And I'll see you Monday with the results of our First Line Grabber.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

First Line Grabber: Rules of Engagement

Okay, we're ready to roll with our 30 entries!  Please note:  This is NOT a "normal critique".  Here are the guidelines:

  • Each comment must begin with YES or NO, followed by a brief explanation of WHY you were either hooked (YES) or not hooked (NO).
  • YES or NO comments without an explanation behind them WILL BE DISCOUNTED.
  • Only ONE comment per reader per entry! Multiple comments by the same person on the same entry will be ignored.
  • NO ANONYMOUS COMMENTS! Please use your regular screen name or Blogger account (if you have one).
  • Unlike other critique rounds and contests, ENTRANTS MAY NOT COMMENT.

Critiquing will close at midnight this Saturday (any comments that trickle in after then will not be counted toward the totals).  The 15 entries with the most YES critiques will move on to Round Two, which will go live on Monday the 14th.

May the fun begin!

First Line Grabber #30

GENRE: Upper MG Science Fiction

It wasn't the first time Kade had hacked the Venusian maintenance system, but it was one of the best.

First Line Grabber #29

TITLE: Summoner Battles
GENRE: YA Magical Realism

"ARE YOU READY FOR A BATTLE?" The announcer blared over the speakers in deafening tones.

First Line Grabber #28

TITLE: Cadence
GENRE: YA Thriller

The first of the plain black SUVs arrives at one thirty.

First Line Grabber #27

TITLE: When the Up Came Down
GENRE: MG Fantasy

It was no surprise Zander McCloud was bored.

First Line Grabber #26

TITLE: Hildamay Humphrey's Incredibly Boring Life
GENRE: MG Fiction

Hildamay Humphrey was eleven years old, but I am sad to say that she was entirely unaware of that fact.

First Line Grabber #25

TITLE: The Thing About Sam
GENRE: NA Contemporary

We met like any other couple—at a narcotics anonymous meeting in downtown Chicago.

First Line Grabber #24

TITLE: Savanna Child
GENRE: Mainstream fiction

Butterflies live only a few days, and the morning I learned that I came to understand my whole life.

First Line Grabber #23

TITLE: Ice Queen

For the love of all things not genetically modified, just this once, please let me get to the bus without a Jeremy Watters run in.

First Line Grabber #22

GENRE: MG Fantasy

Spying is rude, and I would never, never do it.

First Line Grabber #21

TITLE: Shifter
GENRE: YA Fantasy

This wasn't Brae's first time stealing.

First Line Grabber #20

TITLE: The Roaring Silence
GENRE: Urban/Historical Fantasy

Soil fell through Harrison’s fingers and onto his grandfather’s casket.

First Line Grabber #19

TITLE: No Reception

We both have curly, long, strawberry-blond hair and freckles, lots of freckles.

First Line Grabber #18

TITLE: Entwined
GENRE: YA Fantasy

I sat slouched my desk, listening to Mr. Pitman's lecture on ancestry; the whole where your roots originated from thing never appealed to me.

First Line Grabber #17

TITLE: Man Maid
GENRE: Contemporary Romance

Friday shouldn't start with a dead cat, that seemed more like a Monday sort of problem.

First Line Grabber #16

TITLE: Sherwood Revisited
GENRE: Fiction

It is a mistake to think that sleepy towns house sleepy people content to nap through life.

First Line Grabber #15

TITLE: Chaos and the Dark
GENRE: Fiction

I began to worry when my reflection stopped looking me in the eye.

First Line Grabber #14

GENRE: Young Adult/Contemporary

Maybe if I hadn't downed that last shot of tequila, I would've noticed Dad sitting at the desk as I climbed through my bedroom window.

First Line Grabber #13

TITLE: The Heartsmith
GENRE: YA Fantasy

I carry my heavy basket of hearts down the crowded, cobble road.

First Line Grabber #12

TITLE: Rescue Me
GENRE: Contemporary LGBT

"Hey Jacoby, ready to clean?" Hollister McIntosh called.

First Line Grabber #11

TITLE: The Silver Sphere
GENRE: MG Fantasy

Their foster parents would worry if Cecilia and Maya didn’t return home soon.

First Line Grabber #10

TITLE: Twice a Ghost
GENRE: YA fantasy

Mother said they move within the walls.

First Line Grabber #9

TITLE: Golden Hills
GENRE: New Adult Contemporary

Alice Lin pretended to read her book while thinking of a nice way to say no if he asked her out.

First Line Grabber #8

TITLE: The Fury
GENRE: YA Paranormal

The dreams started the week before she died, followed almost immediately by visions so powerful they shook me.

First Line Grabber #7

TITLE: The One Called Coward
GENRE: Young Adult

As we crowd together waiting for the signal, the smell of sweat, the faint perfume of roses and the stiffness of tension fill the chamber.

First Line Grabber #6

TITLE: The Fourth Generation
GENRE: YA Dystopian

I raced up the eight floors of the decaying downtown apartment with record-breaking speed.

First Line Grabber #5

TITLE: Beyond the River
GENRE: Literary Fiction

Beneath harsh sunlight, the trail snaked through Ponderosa pines until it reached the gorge and hissing river.

First Line Grabber #4

GENRE: Historical suspsense w/strong romantic elements

What did a man wear when he might die before sunrise?

First Line Grabber #3

TITLE: The Cray
GENRE: YA Fiction

In the minutes before the Turney, Union Square had the energy of a hornets’ nest trapped under a bucket.

First Line Grabber #2

TITLE: The Swinging Tree
GENRE: Speculative Fiction

In the shadow of a crumbling crooked building sits the Swinging Tree.

First Line Grabber #1

GENRE: MG Mystery

I focus on that tiny green painted turtle and hope the aching in my chest that feels like I’ve been underwater too long goes away.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Winners for First Line Grabber

Winning numbers have been drawn for First Line Grabber 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:
  • LNG86OMY as ENTRY #1

  • QWEGC8BM as ENTRY #2

  • ZR2SZUP4 as ENTRY #3

  • 3WDIDC75 as ENTRY #4

  • D40QM8HB as ENTRY #5

  • PX2VG4GC as ENTRY #6

  • Q992X5NF as ENTRY #7

  • OOIG0OKO as ENTRY #8

  • OYVNQQ6D as ENTRY #9

  • 3RBVCP2A as ENTRY #10

  • BXFO4UBS as ENTRY #11

  • BTVC7X6X as ENTRY #12

  • H3CM2FIW as ENTRY #13

  • Y6EV2Z9X as ENTRY #14

  • FV0CCBUP as ENTRY #15

  • 2BUQFF8Z as ENTRY #16


  • N8Q2P6T7 as ENTRY #18

  • CJG1Q0OO as ENTRY #19

  • QZPZ9CEQ as ENTRY #20


  • QT166UKC as ENTRY #22

  • 4MGGKGVW as ENTRY #23

  • UZ6KZFPN as ENTRY #24

  • 73AGTR2U as ENTRY #25

  • WS5850BQ as ENTRY #26

  • FBA2368D as ENTRY #27

  • KA23LQX1 as ENTRY #28

  • N4H4JC5M as ENTRY #29

  • 55W709UQ as ENTRY #30
The alternates are:

  • 3EVE6I6C as ENTRY #ALT-1


Monday, April 7, 2014

FIRST LINE GRABBER -- Call for Submissions

In honor of MSFV's SIXTH BIRTHDAY (last Friday--can you believe it??), let's have another FIRST LINE GRABBER!

This round will be slightly different from the ones we've done in the past.  Instead of having a guest author read the Round 2 winners and choose 5 favorites, we're going to have a PANEL OF AGENTS do the voting!  The details:
  1. Use the WEB FORM to submit ONLY THE FIRST SENTENCE of your novel.  The novel may be complete or a WIP, but do make sure your work is carefully proofread before submitting.
  2. All genres except erotica will be accepted.
  3. The submission window will be open from NOON to 3:00 PM EST on Tuesday, April 8 (that's tomorrow!).  This will be a lottery.   When the submission window closes, the bot will choose 30 winners.
  4. These 30 entries will be posted on THURSDAY MORNING.  
  5. As soon as the entries are posted, readers may vote YES (for hooked) or NO (for not hooked) and leave feedback ACCORDING TO THE SPECIFIC RULES BELOW.
  6. The 15 entries that received the most YES comments will be invited to submit their FIRST THREE SENTENCES for round two.  The Round 2 winners will post on Monday, April 14, at which time our PANEL OF AGENTS will vote (privately) for their 5 favorites to go on to the FINAL ROUND on Thursday, April 17.
  • Each comment must begin with YES or NO, followed by a brief explanation of WHY you were either hooked (YES) or not hooked (NO).
  • YES or NO comments without an explanation behind them WILL BE DISCOUNTED.
  • Only ONE comment per reader per entry! Multiple comments by the same person on the same entry will be ignored.
  • NO ANONYMOUS COMMENTS!  Please use your regular screen name or Blogger account (if you have one).
What's the prize for the 5 winning entries, you ask?  The 5 winners will be invited to submit their first 3 pages to the blog for public critique from our PARTICIPATING AGENTS.  (Readers may also offer critique at this time.)

Post your questions below--and spread the word!