Monday, April 26, 2021

Sputtering to a Start

Maybe you're wondering why nothing else has come down the pike over here. I DON'T BLAME YOU.

Basically, when I ran our in-house critique last month, the bot crashed. I was able to receive entries by hand, which was fine--but, moving forward, I've got to get things straightened out. Michael, my illustrious and indispensable creator and maintainer of the bot, is as busy as can be, so I don't like to hound him.

HAVING SAID THAT:

I am going to try to continue to offer some smaller-scale things that I can upload by hand. In a way, this fits the feel of the blog a little better right now. Eventually, I'm hoping we can get things running the way they once were.

Obviously, I can't run another Secret Agent Contest until the bot has been fixed. What I want to do next is to run another CRITIQUE PARTNER DATING SERVICE. I need to make sure the system I come up with is workable on both ends before I launch this.

To help me gauge interest, will you please do me a favor? Leave me a comment below, letting me know if either you'd be interested in finding new critique partners or you have writer friends you know are looking for critique partners that you'd be happy to send our way. We've had great success with this in the past, and I definitely want to resurrect it!

In other news, we're closing on our new home THIS FRIDAY, so my life is sort of looking like this right now:

We have LOVED living in our apartment for the past 6 months--who knew??  We're actually staying here an extra couple of weeks so that we have time to do some painting in the new house and to move in s-l-o-w-l-y instead of having one big, exhausting moving day.

So, yes, I'm in the midst of All The Moving, but I didn't want to leave this blog by the wayside. PLEASE DO LEAVE A COMMENT concerning the Critique Partner Dating Service--I will be hanging on your every word!

AND ONE MORE THING:

I am currently accepting a LIMITED NUMBER of Premiere Critiques. Please email me at authoress.edits@gmail.com to secure your spot. A Premiere Critique looks like this:

*a line-edit of your first 75 pages

*a detailed editorial letter

*guaranteed 1-week turnaround

*cost: $289 payable in 2 installments via Venmo or Paypal

I will accept any genre except Erotica or Erotic Romance, in all categories (adult, YA, MG). Feel free to email me if you have any questions.






Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Winner of the Preorder Giveaway!



Congratulations to CARLA KESSLER, who has won the 30-minute FaceTime or Zoom meeting. Carla, I've sent an email!

Huge thanks to everyone who preordered--and continue to order--THE STOLEN KINGDOM. I just received my complimentary audiobook yesterday, and oh my goodness, it sounds great! I so admire voice actors who can bring stories to life. 

I'm committed to keeping things going here on the blog, but my calendar is going to remain busy for a bit longer. (Also I've got to get the submission form problem resolved.) Rest assured that it's on my radar.

Thanks again, and hugs to all!

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Please Join Me!

 


I'm thrilled beyond measure to be sharing my release-day author event with Mary E. Pearson, who is one of my favorite authors!

Mary and I will be chatting about The Stolen Kingdom, but also about books and writing in general--wherever the conversation may wander! I'd be delighted if you could join us.

The (free) event will take place THIS EVENING at 6 pm MT (8 pm ET).

CLICK HERE FOR EVENT INFORMATION ON OLD FIREHOUSE BOOKS' WEB SITE.

CLICK HERE FOR THE FACEBOOK EVENT PAGE.

Many of you know how long my journey to publication was--some of you have followed along almost from the beginning. It's an immeasurable blessing to watch my sophomore novel fly into the world, and to share an event with Mary E. Pearson on top of that? I have no words.

If you haven't read Mary's Remnant Chronicles, GRAB THEM NOW! It's one of my favorite trilogies. The Dance of Thieves duology is also magnificent.

I hope you'll be there tonight! Thanks, everyone, for being part of my online tribe. 

Monday, March 1, 2021

Are You Hooked -- Critique Guidelines

Dearest hearts! I definitely messed up the submissions for this one, and I'm sorry! Thank you to all entrants who were willing to flex and email your entries directly.

(This felt like old times, before I had an automated system. I have twitch-worthy memories of having to create 50 posts by hand for the Secret Agent contests. My, how easily we get spoiled!)

At any rate, here are 12 diverse entries for your critiquing pleasure!

PLEASE REMEMBER HOW IMPORTANT IT IS TO SHARE YOUR FEEDBACK ON AS MANY OF THESE YOU HAVE TIME FOR. We strengthen our critiquing chops every time we give it a try. Giving and receiving honest, helpful critique is an important part of our journey as authors. This is a safe environment for you to dive in and do it!

GUIDELINES:

1. ENTRANTS: Please critique a minimum of 3 other entries as your way of giving back.

2. It's helpful to start by commenting on something you like.

3. Be kind. Corrective criticism is never harsh.

4. ENTRANTS: Don't try to justify yourself by "explaining things" to critiquers in the comment box. Most of their questions are meant for you to answer yourself, as you revise. If you feel the need to explain your writing, then your writing isn't clear. Take the critique notes with you when you begin your revisions.

5. I can't police all these comments. If you see something inappropriate, please email me.

Thank you all for your participation! This is the heart and soul of the Miss Snark's First Victim community, and I'm thankful to have jumped back in.

Are You Hooked? #12

TITLE: Wish I Was Here
GENRE: YA Contemporary

I sometimes wished I was invisible, just to make life easier. That was the ironic part.

 

Wednesday--Day 0

When the bell announced the end of fourth period, jolting me back to the present, my thoughts scattered along with the notebook and pen on my desk. Someone behind me snickered, but I was used to that. I took a moment to reorient myself to clase de español. As usual I’d been daydreaming about this one guy I know. Or used to know. Sort of. Whatever.

I sighed, collected my stuff into my bag, and filed out of the classroom with my fellow sheep. In the hallway, students gathered in clusters around their lockers, but I kept moving. Someone spotted me and said, “Hey, Ana. Where were you last period? The moon?”

Another kid slapped the first’s arm and said, “No, Uranus,” then laughed at his own joke.

When are they going to grow up?

At a hallway intersection, Isaac fell into step beside me, his sandy blond hair flopping over his green eyes. He pushed it aside, only to have it fall back again, as always. "How many?" he asked.

“Just two a minute ago. For a while I thought today would be a shut-out for you. How’d you do?”

“I think Brad was feeling nostalgic. He tried to trip me, but I hopped over his foot.”

“Nice.” I held up a hand. He slapped me a half-hearted five.

“Then Jim called me Beaker Brain.”

“I’ve always liked that one.”

Are You Hooked? #11

TITLE: Untitled
GENRE: Romance

The phone call was disconnected and Coldplay resumed playing 

 

All those signs, I knew what they meant, 

Some things you can invent 

And some get made, and some get sent.  

 

Kyah stared at the Blue Heron in the swamp as she finished listening to the song. She 

wondered if he’d capture whatever he was watching. They were the most patient of birds. She 

had seen them flying away. She had seen them walking in the water. She even watched one 

swallow a fish once. But she had never seen one catch a fish. She wasn’t as patient as the Blue 

Heron. 

Her fingers hit the pause button on her headphones as she absorbed into the world of 

signs. Her unintended words. The truth of them. His words back. 

 

Some things you can invent 

 

Kyah knew those truths. Things were easily invented in a paranoid mind. Or even a 

protective mind. A mind that wanted to protect a heart from hurt. A mind that was afraid of 

losing that heart. Kyah closed her eyes as the wave of emotions washed over her. There were 

days, she was in control of the emotions. Other days, she wanted to curl up in the corner and 

sob. Seth was a trigger. The trigger of what she’d lost. A bit of her innocence, a bit of her sanity, and now, more of her heart. 

She wasn’t sure where they stood anymore. It was all muddled in her mind, by her mind. 


Are You Hooked? #10

TITLE: Zodiac Misfits
GENRE: MG Epic Fantasy


Without warning, the stars shifted to seal Abree’s fate. Her rotten day was about to get worse . . .

  

Chapter One

Abree sat before the fire in the orphanage’s common room. Her arms stretched out to the hearth. In her fingers was the tingling promise the flames would obey—but first, she needed to persuade the Fyre spirit she was its master.

Her lips move fiercely, repeating the ancient charm with all the will she could summon. 

“Ausculto.”

Luminous wisps danced away from the blazing logs into the midst of the room, advancing and retreating, twisting into spirals and rosettes they approached her. Fire tickled her feet, only to withdraw before she could shape them. “Moon’s sake!” Abree cursed.

“Concentrate, child,” Nana hissed, her tongue flicked over her thin lips. “The flames are too agitated to shape. Calm them.”

Sweat formed and fell across Abree’s forehead, stinging her eyes. Her midnight-black hair was damp with it. She fluttered her fingers again in command and watched for signs of obedience.

“Ausculto. Ausculto.”

The blaze flickered in response. 

“Focus,” Nana encouraged. “Use the flame as a paintbrush. Create your form above us.”

Abree tapped her finger to the air and willed the embers to transform from orange to her favorite deep-red. She drew her heart-shaped face, a puckish nose, then added wide-set eyes. Above the ear, Abree added her left horn to the silhouette, curving forward and circling into a ridged spiral that swooped up at the tip. She didn’t dare stop.

Are You Hooked? #9

TITLE: Broken Bird
GENRE: YA Suspense

Cole Zabek looked like he was destined to die young and become a 
vengeful spirit. Or maybe he looked like a romantic hero who should have been 
brooding on a windswept moor instead of standing in the doorway of a high 
school cafeteria. Either way, I couldn’t stop staring.

Beside me, Cole’s sister Julia pressed her hands flat against the table. She 
spoke to me, but her eyes were riveted on her older brother. 
“Remember, Callie, do not ask him anything about….”

“Anything. I promise.” Even without Julia’s warnings, I wouldn’t have asked 
questions. I couldn’t think of any that weren’t fatally awkward.

Julia caught Cole’s attention, and, at the tiniest gesture of her fingers, he 
moved across the room toward us. 

“He’s only been home for a week, and he’s still…fragile.”
“I know, Jules. I know.”

In the six months I’d known Julia, she’d talked constantly about her 
brother. He was smart. He was sensitive. He had a poet’s soul. When I asked why 
he didn’t go to our school, she squeezed her jaw tight, and her chin shook.

I had apologized for prying, but she took a shaky breath. “Don’t
apologize, Callie. I’m telling you, it’s just….”

Embarrassing?

Scary?

“Private,” she finished. 

“You don’t have to….”

“I said I want to. I want you to know who I am, and Cole—he’s like a part 
of me.” She set down the napkin and pressed her palms together like she was 
praying. “He’s been in the hospital."

Are You Hooked? #8

TITLE: Beneath The Arctic Moon
GENRE: Romantic Suspense

"Never seen one like this, eh, Trevor?” the old Trooper muttered, nudging his wide-brimmed hat, tearing his eyes away from the mangled body to his partner. “She’s a young one, this one.”

Trevor shook his head, chewing the end of his pen. “No, Artie,” he agreed grimly, “and I thought I’d seen it all." Replacing the cover over the young woman’s battered face, he jotted down a few more notes before waving to the waiting ME. “She’s all yours.”

“I’m gonna call it like I see it, Trevor,” Artie leaned closer to Trevor, his voice lowered. “Same brunette hair,” he tugged nervously at the cross around his thick neck before adding, “and same voodoo painted on the walls.”

Trevor frowned, staring at the blazing red symbols, their paint still dripping grotesquely down the stark white wall. His stomach clenched. “Serial?”

Artie nodded his bushy white head. “Serial.”

“Maybe,” Trevor sighed, looking down at his notes. “But, it’s not religious.”

“Meaning?”

“Meaning,” Trevor pointed to the paint, “If it is as we suspect, the same person, that red paint is just that, paint, and nothing more,” he snapped a photo of the symbols with his phone. “And these symbols have little to do with the victim.” 

Artie frowned his confusion. “How do you know what the symbols mean?”

Trevor shrugged. “They’re not voodun, if that’s what you’re worried about, Artie.”

Artie shot him an offended look before tucking his cross beneath his shirt. “Who says I’m worried?"

Are You Hooked? #7

TITLE: Montysaurus
GENRE: MG Magical Realism

Everyone knows dinosaurs are extinct. They lived over a hundred and fifty million years ago, and all that’s left of them are a bunch of fossils and bones. That’s what I thought too, until I met Monty.

It all started on the day of our class trip to the Royal Ontario Museum, or the ROM. We were going to see a new dinosaur exhibit, called “T-Rex, The Ultimate Killing Machine.” At the time, I would have rather met up with a T-Rex in a dark alley than tour the ROM with my class.

“You’ve been grumbling all morning. What’s wrong?” my Mum asked. She had this keen Spidey sense and could always tell when something was bugging me.

“I’m not feeling well,” I said, which was kind of true. My stomach was tying itself into knots.

Mum felt my forehead. “You don’t have a fever.” She put her hands on my shoulders and looked me square in the eye. “You love dinosaurs. Why don’t you want to go?”

I shrugged. I didn’t want to tell her the truth, which was that we would be eating our lunches together at tables in the museum cafeteria and the odds were good that no one would want to sit with me.

“I don’t know anyone at my new school,” is what I said instead.

"You've only been there a few weeks, honey. Don't worry. You'll make friends," Mum reassured me. "Sometimes you have to make the first move. Ask if you can join in."

Are You Hooked? #6

TITLE: Fix You
GENRE: YA Contemporary

 

Mrs. Sherill Carter-Barrett is wearing heels, a navy suit, and a frown that suggests I’m wasting valuable minutes of her life. I figure I have about 90 seconds to win her over.

“Thanks for being our new sponsor, Mrs. Carter-Barrett. I’m sure you’ll do a great job,” I say.

“Thank you.” She’s shifting notes around on the podium in front of the stage, and she doesn’t look up from her papers.

I glance at the other students filing into the auditorium. “Will we be voting on new officers today? Because I’m very interested.”

Mrs. Carter-Barrett stops shuffling pages and looks at me. Her eyes are a surprising light gray next to her brown skin. “What’s your name?”

I stand taller. “Hally Nunn. I’ll be a senior next year.”

She looks me over. “Well, Hally, thank you for your interest. I will announce plans for electing officers, as well as a new focus for the NHS, during the meeting.”

Gabe shifts next to me. He’s standing exactly according to our plan, with his skinny but well-dressed body strategically placed to block anyone who might try to interrupt my conversation. I look up at his calm face, and he gives me a tiny nod of encouragement. I try again. “But could you-”

She holds up a hand. “Hally, I’d prefer to explain everything once, to everyone who is interested. Please have a seat.” She points to the rows behind me.

Gabe tilts his head toward some open chairs. “Come on, it’s chill.”

Are You Hooked? #5

TITLE: No Other Fish
GENRE: Science Fiction

On October 28th, 2021, Perry Greensborough — former Eagle Scout and National Spelling Bee semifinalist of 1982 — was sitting down with a bowl of microwaved sirloin burger soup to watch the nightly broadcast ofJeopardy! when a bat crashed into his satellite dish and turned the signal to static.

This was, Perry reflected as he clambered off the couch and into a pair of crocs by the trailer door, the one time he missed Lorna. For all her snoring, her bitching, her moaning, her trips to the store to buy another pair of glittery shoes she would never wear but which would fill the closet to bursting, she could stand in the trailer and call through the door when the picture was back.

Now that she’d run off to Tucson with that stock car driver, Perry would have to brave the cold desert night, climb up to the dish, fuss with it, then climb back down to the trailer and check the screen himself, over and over again, until Jeopardy! was over, and probably the next ice age had begun.

The dish planted on a pole behind his trailer was a relic from the eighties, nine feet across and rusted at the joints, but it caught the old broadcasts like a champ. Reruns of Seinfeld and The Andy Griffith ShowCelebrity Squares and Jeopardy!. True, every time there was a Mojave gale or a meteor shower he had to climb the ladder and poke it back into alignment and was it a pain in the ass? You bet your morning coffee it was.

Are You Hooked? #4

TITLE: Rook and Orion
GENRE: MG Contemporary

A hurricane roared outside, but the storm brewing inside was the one
Rook longed to fly away from.

"Are you listening to me, young lady?" Mom asked.

Not if she could help it. But Mom's words kept pecking at her.

Rook tied back her long, dark hair, shaking it free of the binoculars
strap, and slammed her arms down on top of the couch. The rough fabric
made her skin itch. Plywood covered the living room window, so she
pointed the binoculars through a knothole and focused them on the bent
trees outside, dark against the steel-grey clouds.

"I said I talked to Miss Elizabeth." Mom, reflected in the window,
hunched over the kitchen table. "She bought the house by the woods."

"The ugly one?" Not that Rook cared.

She tapped the leather patch on her shoulder. Orion spread his brown
wings and flapped over from his perch in the corner. He gripped the
patch, made by Dad to stop Orion's talons from wrecking all Rook's
clothes, and bent his head to preen his wing. He was used to the squalls
between her and Mom. Most were about him.

"She runs a bird rescue." Mom touched a soldering iron to the inside of
the weather radio and a thin wisp of smoke curled in the air. "I've been
talking to her about Orion."

Of course she had.

A raindrop streaked through the hole in the plywood and splatted in
front of Rook.

This argument was like the seasons—perennial.

Are You Hooked? #3

TITLE: The Secret of Bushland Bees 
GENRE: Contemporary Fantasy

Something feels different today, the way the last day of school feels different from the others. It’s weird because trips to the farm aren’t special, not in the least.

“Lara, can you come to the kitchen, please,” Dad calls. Hearing his voice surprises me. He usually heads straight to the paddocks when we arrive, to check on the cows.

I leave my mostly-unpacked bag on my bed and take the short hallway to the kitchen. Hopefully, I'll be able to solve the double mystery as quickly as possible. I hate mysteries.

Dad’s sitting at the table with Mum and my younger sister, Nellie. They’re all grinning, a loaf cake and glasses of juice between them.

“Here she is,” Dad says.

“We’re having another cake?” I take a seat, trying to act casual. Cake is a rare treat and we only finished off my birthday cake—a tall one with aqua icing and a number twelve in rainbow sprinkles—yesterday. I’m not complaining, who doesn’t love cake? I just want to know why I’m getting another.

“We’re celebrating!” Mum says with a wink. “I did some sneaky baking yesterday afternoon, while you were at the drama club meeting at school.”

“Lara, today is another special day for you.” Dad raises his orange juice in the air, eyes glistening.

Mum lifts her glass to touch Dad’s, so does Nellie. The three of them look at me expectantly and I do the same, as an idea dawns. Did my Kingsley results come early?

Are You Hooked? #2

TITLE: Trial and Error
GENRE: YA Contemporary

My mother’s maiden name is Jordan, though that never used to matter. Her life before us felt like a page in a history book – longer than a footnote but shorter than a chapter. The four of us, the Wexlers… that was my family. The Jordan family was a fiction, a hazy glimpse of my mother’s past that never breached state lines to creep into our lives in New York.

But here, now, in tiny Mayfair, Texas, the fact that my mother is a Jordan, and by association, so are her kids, is a really big deal. “She’s a Jordan,” the checkout girl whispered to the grocery bagger. “That’s Jessica’s girl,” my grandparents’ neighbor told the mail carrier, pointing straight at me. “The one that…” I waited for the rest, but it ended with a shrug and a disappointed, “Well. You know.”

I did know, though I pretended I didn’t. I’m the prodigal daughter of the Mayfair royal family, the accidental interloper into this sea of blonde hair and long legs. My dark curls, loud laugh, and curvy five-foot-two frame stand out. And, according to everyone in this town, not in a good way. “Real shame she didn’t get her momma’s looks,” I overheard the mayor lament to my grandmother at the Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast. I kept the polite smile plastered on my face while I secretly plotted his demise and pushed my leaden pancakes around my plate, drowning them in a puddle of syrup.

Are You Hooked? #1

TITLE: Undaunted
GENRE: Women's Fiction

Parked at the curb, I stay seated behind the wheel, my fingers tapping, heart thumping. This is the last chance I’ll have to see the family I’m responsible for before leaving them for good.

I’m sure my replacement will do a good job, just not as good as me. She doesn’t know Daisy’s favorite nursery rhymes, and that she can’t fall asleep without Mister Snuffles, and that bubblegum bubbles make her laugh so hard she gets the hiccups. My replacement won’t know that every time Violet falls off the wagon Daisy falls with her.

I swing open the car door, creating a breeze that lifts a cluster of dry leaves and scatters them like confetti. My boots crunch through trash tossed across the cracked asphalt and I pull my scarf tighter around my neck to ward off the autumn chill. I wonder if it’s this cold in Scotland, where I’ll soon be living with my cousin. My bags are packed, I’ve told my friends and co-workers goodbye, but I can’t leave without checking in on my most capricious case. I won’t miss my job at DCFS, but I will miss the little family I’ve come to love like my own. Violet has come far in her sobriety, and I hope my absence won’t give her reason to backslide. Change is hard on addicts who need consistency in their lives.

    It’s eerily quiet on the street in front of the building where Violet and Daisy live.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Submissions Are Now Open

 


UPDATE: There is something wrong with the submission form! Please send your entries directly to me at jillian.boehme@gmail.com. I'm sorry!!

ANOTHER UPDATE: The guidelines page wouldn't load because I HAD THE WRONG URL. It's just a day over here, folks! I've fixed the update page link.

Submissions for our Are You Hooked? critique round are now open!

Submit your entry HERE.

Read the submission guidelines HERE.








Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Call For Submissions: ARE YOU HOOKED?

 This is the original critique format for Miss Snark's First Victim, and the format used for the Secret Agent Contests and legendary Baker's Dozen Contests (now retired).  We haven't done this for quite some time, so I'm keeping it small--a maximum of 10 entries this time.

Here are the submission instructions:

  • Submission window: Friday, February 26, from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm CST.
  • Submit your entry HERE.
  • Genres: All genres except erotica/erotic fiction are eligible, in all categories (age groups).
  • No picture books or non-fiction. Narrative non-fiction is acceptable.
  • Please submit: The first 250 words of your manuscript.
  • This is a lottery. 10 entries will be chosen by the bot after submissions have closed.
  • Please do not end your excerpt in the middle of a

The winning entries will post to the blog on Monday, March 1, and will be immediately available for public critique. If your excerpt is chosen for the contest, I request that you critique at least 3 other entries (pay it forward, always!). 

Please post your questions below!

Monday, February 22, 2021

You Have Spoken!


I've gotta say--I was so encouraged by the response to Friday's poll. Thank you so much! 

Admittedly, I didn't take my time choosing a widget for the poll. (Blogger used to have one, but apparently they've gotten rid of it.) The one I chose, as I'm sure you noticed after voting, does not show the results. Kind of silly, yes?

There's more. The data they share is pretty convoluted, and I ended up having to use old fashioned tally marks on a sheet of paper! Basically, instead of simply telling me how many votes each of the six choices received, they shared all possible combinations of votes and how many of each of those were received. So, for instance, it told me how many people voted for "Secret Agent" and "Critique Partner Speed Dating". And then it told me how many people voted for "Secret Agent" and "Are You Hooked" and "Critique Partner Speed Dating". It wasn't particularly helpful.

BUT I'VE GOT THE NUMBERS, ANYWAY! And here they are:

SECRET AGENT: 51 votes

ARE YOU HOOKED: 36 votes

FIRST 3 WORDS: 25 votes

CRITIQUE PARTNER SPEED DATING: 21 votes

DROP THE NEEDLE: 21 votes

TALKING HEADS: 12 votes


Obviously, the SECRET AGENT CONTEST is a big winner! Not that I'm surprised. Unfortunately, I can't just pull one of those out of my hat; they are always scheduled several months in advance.

MY PLEDGE TO YOU: I will get on this right away after my release hoopla has died down!

So the plan is this: We will have an ARE YOU HOOKED critique very soon--STAY TUNED!

For anyone who is new here:

ARE YOU HOOKED is an in-house critique in which writers submit the opening 250 words of their manuscript for public critique. 

IN OTHER NEWS:

A reminder that I'm currently running a special The Stolen Kingdom preorder giveaway just for writers! The prize is a 30-minute FaceTime or Zoom meeting with me, to discuss your WIP or writing in general. (And if you send me your first chapter prior to the call, I will critique it.)



GO HERE FOR INFORMATION AND TO ENTER!


And, finally, please be sure you're following me on Instagram. That's where I spend most of my time these days, and it's where you'll be able to connect with me most quickly.

Get your first pages in order! I'll be back soon with instructions. 

Friday, February 19, 2021

Want Some Stuff Here? Take This Poll!

 


My dear fellow writers!

I miss our interaction. I miss this blog. Every time I sit down and look at it and say to myself, "I really need to do something here," I feel overwhelmed and shut it back down. And then someone says something like this: "oh it's so good to see your blogs again! please tell us you're coming back soon to host more hijinks!" And I go all gooey inside.

SO HERE'S WHAT I WANT YOU TO DO: Please take a minute to answer this poll. It will give me starting place for something in-house, for starters. 





Also! If there's something you'd like to see that isn't included in the poll, please leave your suggestion/request in the comments below.

Spread the word! I can't promise the level of activity that we used to enjoy here, but there's no reason why I can't commit to some regular critiques and the occasional Secret Agent contest.

There. I've said it. Now hold me to it!

Thursday, February 11, 2021

SPECIAL PREORDER OFFER FOR MY WRITING TRIBE

 


Hello, friends!

Life has taken me far away from this blog, even though I keep telling myself I'm going to come back. For the record, I am no longer on Facebook and I seldom check in on Twitter. I'm most active on Instagram, though, so I hope you'll follow me there!

I'm writing today, though, to let you in on a PREORDER SPECIAL JUST FOR WRITERS that I've offered to subscribers of my newsletter and am now offering to you. If you preorder THE STOLEN KINGDOM before March 2, you can enter to win the following:

A free, 30-minute FaceTime or Zoom chat with me, to discuss your WIP and answer any writerly questions you'd like to ask. BONUS: If you send me your first chapter prior to the call, I will have notes for you!




Depending on how many entries I get, I may offer a second 30-minute chat so that I can give away two of them. Stay tuned!

Thank you, as always, for your support. Also? If you have a minute, please say hello in the comments. I MISS THIS COMMUNITY!!


Monday, October 19, 2020

Now Offering: Premiere Critiques

 Hello, all!

It's been a while since I've worn my editor's cap, but I've decided, at least for a little while, to offer limited services to any writers who might need them. In short, I'm bringing back my Premiere Critique on a first come, first served basis.

WHAT IS A PREMIERE CRITIQUE?

A Premiere Critique is an editorial letter and a detailed line edit of the first 75 pages of your completed, polished manuscript.  I will complete your critique within 1 week of your having hired me. 

Things to think about:

  • If nobody has ever read your work before (as in, ever), then don't hire me.  Find a critique partner.
  • If this is your Very First Novel, then I am not the editor for you.  My time--and your money--is better served if you have a novel or two under your belt, and if your current manuscript is clean.  (Clean doesn't mean "perfect": it just means...clean.  Polished and proofread.)
  • I will edit most genres, but if you're not sure, please check with me in your introductory email.  I will absolutely not accept erotica or erotic romance, and I also do not accept memoirs.  My strengths are YA and MG, though I've done a sizable number of adult critiques in the past.  My true loves are fantasy and science fiction, but again, I'm open to all the things, other than my exceptions noted above.
The cost:
  • A Premiere Critique costs $260.  I will require a $130 dollar down payment, and the remaining $130 will be due after you've received my critique.
  • Payments are accepted via Paypal or Venmo. 
If you have questions or would like to go ahead and reserve a spot, please email me at authoressedits@gmail.com. 

Friday, October 2, 2020

A Little Preorder Giveaway!

 



Hello, friends!

STORMRISE will be out in paperback one month from today, and I'm offering a little preorder giveaway to celebrate.

What to do:

1. Preorder STORMRISE from any bookstore before November 2.

2. Email a screen shot or scan of your receipt to me at jillian@jillianboehme.com.

3. IMPORTANT: Please include your mailing address in the body of the email!

4. You will receive a signed bookmark within a few weeks.

That's it! All I ask is a little grace--today is moving day, and it'll admittedly take me a while to get settled in our apartment. I promise I'll make every effort to organize myself as quickly as possible so you won't have to wait too long. :)

Cheers! And as always, thank you. 



Monday, August 31, 2020

Our Winners

 CONGRATULATIONS to the following entries:

#1 THE BENEFICIARY 
#21 DESTROYING ENEMIES WITH LOVE 
#25 THE GOOD FIGHT

THE PRIZE: Ms. Wessbecher would like to see the first 50 pages of your manuscript.

Winners--please email me at facelesswords@gmail.com for specific submission instructions.

To everyone who entered: THANK YOU and WELL DONE! I hope you have found the feedback helpful and the experience positive.

Yay to all!

Secret Agent Unveiled!




Huge thanks to Katherine Wessbecher of Bradford Literary Agency for her excellent secret-agenting!

Katherine's bio:

Katherine Wessbecher joined the Bradford Literary Agency in 2020. Katherine began her publishing career at Penguin, where she edited children’s and YA books at Putnam Books for Young Readers. She then served as the science and technology editor of an academic book review journal before joining the agency world. Katherine holds a B.A. in English from the College of William & Mary and lives with her husband in San Diego.

What Katherine is currently looking for:

Katherine is currently looking for children's, MG, YA, and upmarket adult fiction. She's drawn to grounded stories that transport her somewhere new (the past, an imagined world, or a different perspective on her own). A few things she'd love to see more of in her submissions inbox include stories the history books left out, unexpected narrative techniques (bring on the epistolary novels!), and more bone-dry humor.

Winners forthcoming!

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Secret Agent Critique Guidelines

For those of you who are new to the blog (hi!!), you are warmly welcomed to offer your critique on as many of the entries as you would like.

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

Guidelines for Critique on MSFV:
  • Please leave your critique for each entry in the comment box for that entry.
  • Please choose a screen name to sign your comments. The screen name DOES NOT have to be your real name; however, it needs to be an identifiable name.  ("Anonymous" is not a name.)
  • Critiques should be honest but kind, helpful but sensitive.
  • Critiques that attack the writer or are couched in unkind words will be deleted.*
  • Cheerleading IS NOT THE SAME as critiquing.  Please don't cheerlead.
  • Having said that, it is perfectly acceptable to say positive things about an entry that you feel is strong.  To make these positive comments more helpful, say why it's a strong entry.
  • ENTRANTS: As your way of "giving back", please critique a minimum of 5 other entries.

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

Secret Agent #27

Title: The Blue Jay
Genre: MG Fantasy

The bus rolled across the pavement like a living thing, its bright yellow sides warning of danger. I stood on the sidewalk, watching the beastly vehicle inch closer, ready to swallow me whole. There was no avoiding my fate. I was doomed.

Images whirled through my mind, escaping through the cracks of my willpower as I tried to get a grip on them, predicting a disastrous chain of events. The bus crashing into a truck, rolling down a hill, landing on its back, underbelly exposed, until an explosion engulfs it in flames. The sensible part of my brain knew the chances of that happening were almost zero, but the part that insisted on imagining the worst wouldn’t see reason.

In the real world, a squeal of brakes signaled the bus’s arrival. The doors hissed open. The long line of kids in front of me began filing up the steps, laughing and joking as if our very lives weren’t hanging in the balance.

My heart rate accelerated from race car to jet plane.

Mom would say I was being dramatic.

Kyle would call me a wimp.

Anna would offer to let me borrow her stuffed lion to give me courage. Like I was a baby.

There were only two kids in front of me now. One.

I stopped just shy of the door, staring at the black rubber stripes lining the steps. My mind went through its usual routine of trying to find a way out.

Secret Agent #26

Title: BLACKBEARD’S ACADEMY OF PIRACY AND CULINARY ARTS
Genre: MG Fantasy

Monsters under the bed never scared Jake, but the ones doctors claimed lurked inside his head did. He scratched a phantom itch on his artificial foot, waiting for Miss Hardgrade’s verdict.

“Jake,” Hardgrade said, “you’ve been excused from the ‘How I spent my summer vacation’ assignment.”

“I need to tell what happened.”

She twirled a pencil between her fingers. “All you have is a title page.”

“It’s an oral presentation.”

“But this never really—”

“I know . . . doctors think my brain created an imaginary world to deal with the trauma of almost drowning. But I know I spent my summer with pirates.”

She glanced at his paper again. “Blackbeard’s Academy of Piracy and Culinary Arts.”

“What do they teach—food fighting?” Tommy Fathead shouted.

The class laughed. Fathead usually sucked at quick one-liners. His talent since grade school had been scraping the feet of chairs to mimic the toot of a butt tuba.

Hardgrade’s pencil snapped. “That’s enough.” The class transformed into statues minus the pigeon icing. “Jake, maybe you should wait until you can present something real?”

He stood and lifted his shirt. “Like this giant tattoo of Blackbeard’s flag on my chest?”

Everyone gasped at the white horned skeleton on a black background covering Jake's entire upper body. The dead devil held an hourglass in one hand while pointing a spear at a red heart dripping blood with the other.

“Doctors know I hate needles,” Jake said, “but they can’t explain how I have a tattoo, which required a million needles, when tourists found me washed up on a north end beach.”

Secret Agent #25

Title: The Good Fight
Genre: YA Historical Fiction

Not a soul surrounding the pallet-made fighter’s ring would ever believe Ofelia was starving. There was enough meat on her to make her dangerously ‘thick’, and strong enough to inflict damage with weary fists. Spectators leaning over the crude ring splashed the concrete floor with the contents of their brown-bagged bottles. They cheered and taunted. Her feet were bare, and she felt every puddle of spilled beer. Everything felt wet. Her skin was drenched in sweat and crimson tendrils streamed down one side of her face. It all added to the seeping damp.

She looked more boy than girl before entering the ring. Short black hair, T-shirt nearly down to her knees and large enough to fit two of her in it. Her baggy, black jeans hung from her waist, and she had cuffed them around her ankles. Ofelia pulled her shirt over her head and flung it into a corner of the ring. The air thundered with a commentary of lewd suggestions and propositions. They called for Eights. She was Eights. They loved and hated her all at once.

“Damn, Eights. Why you hidin’ all that?!”

“You want a banging, nena?! I got one for you.”

“Break my heart, Eights. Dykes can look like that?”

“Kill ‘em, Eights. I got my rent money on you.”

The jeers continued, two fights in. Eights was sure of it. But their words were no longer decipherable, stretching and blending into one pounding mass of sound.

Secret Agent #24

Title: Big Bright Thing
Genre: Women's Fiction

The children were crying again. I shoved the pizza bagels in the toaster and rushed to the living room, afraid of what I’d find-a limb tangled in a chair leg, a head bleeding from an impact with the corner of a table.

But Judith and Pomona were just tugging on either side of a tablet, crying over who got to choose which app to play.

I took the tablet away. The crying intensified.

“When we fight, we lose screen privileges,” I said.

“That’s not fair!” said Pomona. “I was playing with it, and she took it from me!”

As wrong as it was to punish Pomona for something her sister allegedly did, I couldn’t reward her for having a tug-of-war with a two-year-old. “She’s only two,” I said. “She doesn’t know better.”

“She knows better! She’s smiling!”

I turned around to see Judith’s face switch from an amused smile to raging tears. “Judith, I see you’re upset, but you can’t take things from your sister.” Her crying increased in volume, drowned out only by the fire alarm that started blaring in the kitchen.

I pushed past the girls and ran to the kitchen expecting to find a wall combusting from some sort of internal electrical fire, but it was only the toaster oven, emitting black smoke from where the cheese had melted off the bagels and hit the heating coils.

I pulled out the bagels. They had a grey tinge on top.

Secret Agent #23

Title: Shadow of the Stars
Genre: YA Fantasy

Levi exited the wooded path leading toward Oliver’s home and a ribbon of golden light drew a band across his eyes. As he breached the final fallen tree, the carcass of which succumbed to the curse of time, he was forced to cover his face with his sleeve. He paid the price of doing so by stepping through a rotted piece of the trunk. Levi staggered, quickly recovered, and shook free the nasty critters that lived inside the decrepit tree husk whose only crime was growing in a climate that received little to no rainfall.

As he spun around to face the Williams’s house again, the sky blossomed in a vibrant swatch of pinks and oranges as the clouds spread here and there. The last of the dying rays tried to blind Levi a second time, but he found his friend. Just like the sky, Levi’s face went pink. Not so pink where it was noticeable at his distance from Oliver, but pink enough that he could feel the very tingle in his toes that forced him to wiggle the sensation out. But it was so common a feeling, the nerves and aches of being close to Oliver grew wise to Levi’s efforts, and instead they worked up and around his legs, to the small of his back, and ended right at his heart which always began to beat faster.

Levi tugged his ball cap lower to shield his eyes. Oliver came back into view.

Secret Agent #22

Title: Halo and the Boomerang Effect
Genre: MG Fantasy

A small starburst appeared near the top of a decorated Christmas tree and began to spin, picking up speed on each rotation. Then it fizzled, like someone had opened a soda can. The starburst brightened, and a girl the size of a snowflake jumped out of the light, onto a pine needle.

“Great, golly, goodness!” Halo yelled. “It’s good to be back!”

She glanced through the white pine, hoping to see or hear someone. When no one called out, she ignored the fear growing in her chest. This was her twelfth appearance, so Halo knew she might be the first arrival. No need to worry.

But she might be alone. Stranded in a foreign tree.

Her heart beat sped up. That couldn’t be true. Surely, she was back inside the house at 1414 Winslow Drive with the rest of the miniature tree people, the Treeples. She crossed her fingers and raced along the branch, ducking under a tin soldier ornament. At the end of the limb, she stopped to catch her breath beside a ceramic gingerbread boy with blue icing buttons.

Outside the tree, tall windows framed the front wall of a familiar living room. Halo grinned as she studied the brick fireplace. Right smack in the middle of the mantel stood a photo of Charles and Eloise Johnson, the magical humans who created the Treeples. One, or both, had decorated the tree, unknowingly launching the appearances of Halo and the little people.

“Yes!” Halo punched the air.

Secret Agent #21

Title: Destroying Enemies with Love
Genre: YA Fantasy

The heroes had left a dreadful mess. Blood, scorch marks, and goo stained the black stone walls. Villain King Loady’s head rested on his throne of bones while the rest of him spread in bits all the way to the door. In death like in life, Snot’s master had left her with a huge mess to clean up. And she didn’t mean his bloodstains seeping into the carpet.

Snot poked her head out of a crate. Her finned ears rang from all the explosions. The sight of Loady roused nothing but contempt. On the bright side, she wouldn’t have to explain to a corpse why she’d hidden while the heroes had slaughtered his skeletons, disemboweled him, and run off. On the other claw, she now had until sunset to live.

A blue wyvern as long as her forearm fluttered over to Snot. He resembled a miniature dragon save for having two legs instead of four. Giant, tearful eyes, one horn broken off, and flaky scales further reminded her this was no member of the proud and noble draconic race. “We’re all going to die!” he wailed.

“We’ll find a new master, Annoyance,” Snot said, glaring at the wyvern named for his piercing, high-pitched voice. Villain King Loady, may he rest in pieces, had cursed his experimental creations such that if he died, they died with him. It had enforced her loyalty and been typical of the spiteful old bastard.

Annoyance waved at the window. “The sun is setting right now.”

Secret Agent #20

Title: Space Shapes
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy

Lucy hesitated, her heart thumping. She took a deep breath and continued into the classroom, her eyes glued to the floor. All these people she didn’t know. That blond-haired boy in front of her was nudging his friend, the two of them laughing in her direction. Lucy cringed. If only she could disappear. Unbidden, a flash of darkness filled her mind; for a split second, only nothingness existed. What was that? She shook her head to get rid of it.

The rows of individual desks in the classroom were almost full. Chatter crescendoed in the room; some students were catching up with friends, others silently organised their papers and books. Where could she sit? Near the back would be best, where she wouldn't stick out.

The chair screeched as Lucy pulled it out. She squeezed her legs under the desk, her knees thumping against it as she positioned herself. The pixie-like girl next to her stared. Grrr, Lucy, enough! Focus on something else.

At the front, “Advanced Level Biology” was scrawled on the whiteboard; at least she’d found the right place.

The room was kind of cosy. No windows, but that made it homely. A tattered old poster of the human anatomy on the left suggested a history of debates, hinting at years of students passing through these walls.

“Good morning, everyone!” Mr Thompson’s voice from the raised wooden platform at the front cut through the noise. Everybody hushed.

Secret Agent #19

Title: Shadows of The City
Genre: NA Paranormal Suspense “Lexi’s gone.”

“Hello to you too,” I greet my younger sister, Stormie, without looking up from my client’s notes I am almost finished editing. “How was school?”

“I said,” Stormie’s voice edges in annoyance. “Lexi is gone.”

Puzzled, I look up to meet my sister’s turbulent hazel eyes. “Lexi?”

“My friend, Lexi. Gone.”

“Can you give me a few more details? At least some context?” I sigh, closing my laptop with a snap. “Where’d she go? Why? Should I be worried?”

Stormie shrugs her slender shoulders noncommittally. “I haven’t deciphered her last message.”

“Because?” I ask, rapidly losing my patience. Breathe through the nose. Inhaling slowly.

“I just got home!” Stormie yells impatiently, throwing down her backpack. “Did you expect me to decode in front of everybody on God’s green earth - in school?” she rolls angry eyes to the ceiling. “You must think I’m stupid! Geez!”

“I thought you might decipher it in the bathroom stall,” I suggest, ignoring the desperate desire to smack my thirteen-year-old sister upside the head. “How long will it take?”

“Will what take?”

“To decipher-”

“That depends on the length of the message!”

“Could you tell me why you interrupted me?” I demand, swallowing the anger boiling up my stomach. “I was working.”

Stormie rolls her eyes at the word working. “I thought you might want to know that there’s a real-life mystery at Lakeview High School.”

I slip my computer to the floor, my attention fully on my sister. “No way!”

Way!” Johnny says...

Secret Agent #18

Title: Treachery on the High Seas
Genre: MG Narrative Nonfiction

On December 10, 1844, the U.S. Navy sloop Yorktown encountered heavy squalls. Thunder roared. Waves crashed against the warship cruising east towards West Africa. For brief moments, lightning flashed through the sky illuminating the Atlantic Ocean.

Captain Charles Heyer Bell gazed across the horizon—no land in sight. During his command a few years before, the sick list included half his crew suffering from a mysterious illness now known as malaria. The disease killed more Navy sailors than storms or pirates.

At 10:30 p.m., Captain Bell spotted a large vessel astern. Too far away to see a flag flying from her mast, he took no chances. “Beat to quarters and cast loose the guns!”

In response, William Kidwell grabbed two wooden sticks and beat the drum. John Smith played the fife loud enough to wake the crew and call them to action.

Startled awake, men jumped from canvas hammocks and pulled on their uniforms of blue cloth trousers and jackets. One hundred sailors and sixteen marines, including several musicians, had crossed the Atlantic Ocean from New York only a few weeks before. Many were inexperienced “Boys” as young as thirteen.

Throughout each deck and cabin of the USS Yorktown, officers and sailors fumbled in the dark for weapons and ammunition.

Captain Bell had warned them about the ruthless captains and sailors who flagrantly broke international laws and treaties.

Pirates, they were.

But these pirates were involved in the transatlantic slave trade from Africa to Brazil, Cuba, and the Americas.

Secret Agent #17

Title: Soul of the Sea
Genre: YA Fantasy

A wingtip brushed my hair as the gull soared past my head and swooped down over the cove. My eyes tracked his movements, every tilt of his head, each flap of his black-tipped wings as he searched the shallow waters. The bird flexed his feathers, caught the wind and turned sharply. My body twitched in response, eager to fly with him. To leave the island behind, if only for a moment.

I set to work.

My soul lay tucked deep inside my ribs beside my heart, a ball of gauzy, shimmering white in my mind’s eyes. I gathered a piece of it in my grasp then pushed that piece out, casting it into the gull on an invisible line, hooking us together.

The gull continued his search, unaware of my sudden presence in his consciousness, but now I saw what he saw, felt what he felt. With a piece of my soul inside him, I, too, was flying.

From the gull’s eyes, I saw myself standing on the beach, barefoot, the summer breeze whipping the tangled waves of my brown hair around my face. I was still aware of the strands tickling my cheeks, the limpet shells woven throughout gently tapping my collarbone, but my mind was far above me now.

The bird caught another updraft. The movement tugged on the link between us—a flare of bright pain in my chest—but I held tight.

Our island always felt too small. Viewing it from the bird’s vantage only emphasized the feeling.

Secret Agent #16

Title: Fix Your Life!
Genre: MG Contemporary Fantasy

April 17

Tonight was the W O R S T. I was sure we were going to win first prize with our Earth Day project but Taylor had a meltdown while Mom was holding her and kicked apart the windmill and Mom yelled at ME for being mad. “She didn’t do it on purpose. Blah, blah, blah.”

It’s so unfair. We worked super hard and now Grace and Zeke probably hate me because there’s no way we’ll win. If we did, our picture would be on the school website and it could go on the refrigerator instead of Matthew’s, which has been there for 1,000,000 years.

Dad didn’t even see what happened because he was busy admiring the competition. How come other people’s kids get more attention than me?

Honestly, they are the W O R S T family ever. I wish they would all disappear.


Chapter 1

,April vacation starts the second the bell rings. The whole sixth grade streams out the door whooping and laughing and high-fiving. Groups of kids peel off in different directions. At my corner, I wave goodbye to my friends and head down my street alone. I stop to tie a flapping shoelace and when I straighten up, there’s a strange little man right in front of my face.

Yikes! I jump back. Where did he come from? I look up. Did he fall out of a tree?

“Greetings!” he says. “I’m Dexter, the host of Fix Your Life!, the reality TV show.”

Secret Agent #15

Title: Edge of Never Been Before
Genre: Women's Fiction The mere possibility that the cougar was in Amelie’s vicinity gave her a shiver of exhilaration; it wasn’t clear who was stalking whom. Everyone is someone’s son or daughter, and the spirit-cat had inherited its otherworldly ways from its mother, just as Amelie was born with the earth medicine secrets of her mother and grandmothers.

Following the trail through the Slender Forest, she breathed deeply, savoring the aroma of pine needles blanketing the ground. The trees formed a canopy that all but blocked the breaking light of day. Only hardy mosses and earthy mushrooms survived in the darkness. But this place of serenity was not her destination.

On the porch the previous evening, she’d had a long-overdue conversation with her mother.

“Why don’t you go for me tomorrow morning?” her mother said, as if she invited her daughter to participate in a secret practice every day. Celia Waters walked the path each morning before the sun crested. On the outcrop in the middle of nowhere, she met her spirit-cat and the unseen energies that guided her.

“What? Why?” asked Amelie, remaining still but wanting to pace. “That’s what you do.”

“I thought you might want to.” Celia shrugged in a way that was not as nonchalant as she tried to seem.

Since Amelie had turned eighteen the previous spring, the invitation had been offered a few times. She always found an excuse to put it off, afraid meeting the spirit-cat would tie her to the life of a healer.

Secret Agent #14

Title: Dragon Scales
Genre: MG Contemporary Fantasy

The first time I saw my violin, she winked at me from the top shelf of Sorić's Violin Shop. Opened her bright yellow eye, flashed a smile full of needle-sharp teeth and squinched shut her eyelid.

Violins don't wink, you say. It's impossible. They're made of wood and varnish. They have four metal strings, stretched over a wood bridge and wound around pegs in a box by the scroll.

The scroll doesn't morph into a dragon's snout when adults aren't looking. Their mouths aren't full of tiny, razor sharp teeth and they don't nip at you when you miss a note playing scales to warm up.

Enormous bat-ears don't pop up and swivel to listen to you play.

They don't have long, thin tails that whip out of the tailpiece button and curl around your neck when they tuck into your chin. And they don't help you keep time in the music by thumping their tails against your back.

You can't count on their back paws gripping your shoulder and pushing to the perfect height on your chest.

They don't speak in Italian musical terms.

They most certainly don't have paper-thin wings that fold into their C-bouts, the C-shaped curves on both sides.

And they never, ever fly.

You're 100-percent right.

That's what I thought a violin was, too.

Until I met Zora.

Secret Agent #13

Title: THE PERFUMER'S APPRENTICE
Genre: YA Fantasy

I should’ve been used to it by now, but as the needle pricked my skin for the millionth time, sharp like a bee sting, it still took me by surprise. Cursing under my breath, I sucked the small spot on my finger where a drop of blood welled to the surface before it could stain the fabric in my lap. Mother and some of the other women in the seamstress shop paused their gossiping and looked over with distaste at my language, which only deepened my scowl.

Sweat trickled down my armpits as irritation clawed at me. The workshop was oppressively stuffy in the late summer heat. The chipping gray paint on the walls and the worn tables and workbenches certainly didn’t help matters. The only color was the sumptuous fabric between my fingers, the dusty pink silk a welcome distraction from my drab surroundings. Until my thoughts had wandered, as usual, and the needle met my finger with an unforgiving jab. A reminder that I hated this work. I had no patience for sewing or the monotony. And a reminder I would not be receiving a letter today. I sighed loudly.

“Is something disturbing you, Saphira?” Mother’s brown eyes narrowed on me as she pursed her lips.

My sister, Brynlee, gave a sympathetic look from the table to my left as she continued to patiently sew thread through the fabric in front of her with luxurious, swift strokes.

Secret Agent #12

Title: Becca's War
Genre: YA Historical

Another train sped into Kensington Station, spewing smoke and soot everywhere. Horses shrieked as the huge iron engine squealed to a stop. Papa said these trains could go as fast as thirty miles an hour. My head spun at the thought of going that fast. A cold wind propelled soot our direction as we moved out onto the platform. Shivering, I brushed soot off my cloak then stuck my hands into the fur muff Mama and Papa had given me for my thirteenth birthday last month. I glanced around at dozens of people dashing to or from the train that had just stopped. They all seemed to be in as much of a hurry as the train. Where were they all going in such a rush? For a moment, I was jealous that I wasn’t going someplace with them. Even if it meant going that fast on one of the trains nearby.

The mass of rushing people jostled me as they hastened past and I realized I wasn’t paying as much attention as I should. I almost lost my balance, but I felt a hand on my elbow to steady me.

“Sorry, Miss.” I looked up at a tall young man, several years older than I was, who grinned and doffed his hat.

I frowned at him, but stopped myself. I nodded and straightened my own hat, which he had knocked askew by his carelessness. At least he’d apologized, I thought as he joined the crowd whirling around the station.