Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday Fricassee

Okay, today belongs to you.

When did you first know you were a writer?

I mean, really knew?

I started writing when I was six, but lost my way with theatre and, ultimately, music, in which I majored at college. I always wrote, but I didn't write. Sometimes people would say, "Are you a writer?" And of course I'd say no.

Why is it that others can sometimes see our gifts when we are blind to them?

Anyway, I want to hear your story. When did you BECOME?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Random Thoughts on Agents and Queries

No, this isn't a how-to or a list-of-top-agents. It's just my brain in query mode. (Remember that old commercial with the frying pan? The "this is your brain on drugs"? Yeah, that. "This is your brain on querying.")

It's an altered state, for sure.

Here's the thing. If you're able to reduce querying to what it truly is -- MAKING BUSINESS CONTACTS -- you may sleep a little easier while you're in process. Sure, your email "ding" will make you jump a little. And absolutely, there's a particular piece of your heart attached to this sort of thing that isn't involved in a non-arts business.

Nevertheless. Business letters. Several at a time, carefully chosen. That's it, really.

And you move on with whatever else needs to be done. Pulling out an older manuscript for a fresh edit. Working on revisions birthed from good crit-partner advice. Or madly plotting your next masterpiece.

One of the most interesting Twitter phenomena I've witnessed is the true "personality peek" it gives you. 140 characters isn't a lot, but it's amazing what a series of 140-word tweets, over time, can reveal about a person. Self-absorption shows. Altruism shows. Emotional dysfunction shows.

It all shows. Whether you mean for it to or not.

And this goes for all the tweeting agents. Yes, you can get an amazing glimpse into their daily lives-as-agents. But you can also get a feel for who they are. As people.

They are people. You knew that.

And honestly? Some of the decisions I've made concerning whom to query were directly related to what agent tweets revealed to me.

Mind you, not all the agents on my query list are on Twitter. I do all the normal research required of any aspiring author on the query threshold. (Yes, research. If you haven't begun to query yet, bear that in mind. Lots and lots of research before you start.) But Twitter has been a valuable winnowing tool.

Interesting, yes?

There you have it. Back to ignoring the "ding" and working on revisions.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Wow--My First Interview!

Jaime Blair of Old People Writing For Teens graced me with the request, and I happily accepted.

You can read it here: Who Was Miss Snark's First Victim?

*Edited to add: This is actually my SECOND interview. LADY GLAMIS was kind enough to remind me that she holds the honor of "first interview." Well, maybe "honor" isn't the right word.

Still. Wanted to clear that up.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday Fricassee

Happy almost-the-last-Friday-of-January!

Not that I hate winter or anything. (Really, I should try to be more transparent.)

So let me ask you something--particularly those of you who have participated in this blog for some time, whether as reader, critter, contest entrant, or a delightful combination of all three: Have you found that your CONFIDENCE has been positively affected by happenings on, or in direct relationship to, this blog?

We've got critiques leading to (hopefully) improved writing. We've got Secret Agents offering generous prizes. We've got TWO CLIENT SIGNINGS through Secret Agent contests.

And something you may not know: We've got agents snooping around the blog. Not only are they snooping, they're finding things they like. And they're emailing me, asking for author contact information.

It's happened a few times already, and I expect it'll happen more often as the blog continues to grow in popularity and QUALITY OF WRITING.

So. All that to say: Has your confidence been boosted? Are you encouraged? Stoked to press on? Feeling the forward motion and determined to experience it in your personal journey?

Because this is exciting stuff. And I'm certain I'm not the only one feeling the love.

Talk to me! I'm glad we're sharing this journey.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Fabulous Offer From Ammi-Joan Paquette

As if her helpful comments and generous prizes weren't enough, Ammi-Joan Paquette has extended the following offer TO ALL MISS SNARK'S FIRST VICTIM BLOG READERS ONLY:

Just for you, Ms. Paquette has OPENED SUBMISSIONS for the remainder of January.


The Guidelines:
  • Please submit your query and the first three pages of your manuscript to Ms. Paquette at [redacted]. (Paste the pages directly into your email at the end of the query.)
  • Reference the Authoress blog referral.
  • Ms. Paquette only represents MG and YA novels. For more information, please read her entry on or
  • This offer is only good through January 31, 2010.
  • PLEASE DO NOT spread this offer around the Internet. Ms. Paquette has extended this offer to readers of this blog, so that those who did not get a chance to participate in the contest (or those who, perhaps, didn't win) have a chance to query their work.
If you have any questions, please post them below before submitting. Or if your question is sensitive/private, please don't hesitate to email me.

At any rate, this is an AWESOME opportunity to get your work in front of an agent at an excellent agency that isn't normally open to unsolicited submissions. And it speaks highly of the quality of work displayed here.

Our Premium Slush Pile is rocking! Well done.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Have We Ever Got Winners!

Well, folks, you certainly made a good impression this round! Without further hoo-hah, here are Ms. Paquette's winners:

Runners Up:

#17 Colors like Memories

#30 Secret of Legacy

#33 Wish You Weren’t

#44 Violet Ray

The Prize:

Ms. Paquette requests that you please send a query and first three chapters; she will send a brief critique and consider requesting more if she is hooked. (Please email me at facelesswords(at) for specific submission instructions.)


#14 Skylar’s Story

#12 Twelfth of Never

The Prize:

Ms. Paquette requests that you please send a query and full manuscript. She will critique the first 25 pages (and possibly the whole thing if she is hooked enough!). (Please email me at facelesswords(at) for specific submission instructions.)

Wait! There's more!

Other Notable Mentions:
(These caught our Secret Agent's eye and made her want to read more)

#3, #5, #7, #10, #13, #16, #18, #29, #35, #38, #39, #50

The Prize:

Ms. Paquette would like to see your query and first three chapters. (Email me at facelesswords(at) for specific submission instructions.)


Secret Agent Unveiled: AMMI-JOAN PAQUETTE

A round of applause for the gracious, super-speedy Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency!

Joan's bio:

Ammi-Joan Paquette joined the Erin Murphy Literary Agency as an associate agent in early 2009. Recent sales include Elliot and the Goblin War, by Jennifer Nielsen (Sourcebooks, 2010); Ophelia Live, by Michelle Ray (Little, Brown, 2011) and Maple T. Rittle and the Quest for a Miracle, by Erin E. Moulton (Philomel, 2011). Joan represents all forms of children’s and young adult literature. She looks at projects in most any genre, but is particularly drawn to tight plotting, a strong lyrical voice, and complex characters.

Joan's current special interests: middle-grade action/adventure; mysteries; humor. Food stories are always welcome. Cultural diversity and exotic settings are a plus.

Next up: Joan's winners! Stay tuned.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday Fricassee

Whew! Love the energy generated by our Secret Agent contests. Don't you? Hooray for everyone who entered and everyone who critted.

I've already got the winner list. Do you hate me?


Well, I'm in Plot Hell. I've mentioned before that, for me, writing is the easy part. And editing? Absolute bliss. Editing is the MAGIC that breathes real life into a story. But this plotting thing makes my brain ache. Or at least my eyes. I tend to stare a lot when I'm plotting. And my contacts hate that.

I broke down yesterday and wore glasses. You know I'm desperate when I do that.

Glasses definitely don't go with my red hat.

Anyway, since my YA is in queryland, I'm busy plotting the next book. Because I'm determined to not write myself into corners like I did with my get-it-done-before-vacation first draft. Sure, I wrote myself back out again. But I'd like to avoid the mess altogether this time.

So. Here's where you come in! HOW DO YOU PLOT? What's your tried-and-true method for getting that basic plotline down, even if it changes later? How much time do you spend JUST THINKING? (Or perhaps staring.) And where do you think best? The shower? The car? In bed? On horseback? In a dark cellar?

Share! This cross-eyed, plot challenged author wants to know.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

50 Secret Agent

TITLE: Mystic Misfit
GENRE: Young adult

He just didn’t get it.

The cute new guy in the desk next to mine kept waving at me. Normally that wouldn’t be a problem, but during one of Mr. Bhatia’s math tests it was a total don’t.

I risked a glance to the front of the classroom. Our teacher focused on the back row—probably eyeballing one of the delinquents who forgot it was a test day and showed up. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the dark-haired boy wave at me again. If he was looking to copy off my paper, he was out of luck. The answers I came up with so far that semester were barely making the grade. My stomach churned as I turned my attention back to the calculus problem I was trying to figure out.

“You have to help me,” the guy whispered.

The tip of my pencil snapped against my test paper. Was he nuts? Kelly, my best friend sitting on my right side, eyed me. I shrugged and then nodded at Mr. Help Me—

Who now stood next to my desk.

This was not happening. Didn’t he understand that if I got thrown out for cheating, I’d fail this class? I shook my head and pointed at his desk, hoping he’d return to it before our teacher noticed anything.

“Megan Delaney, I know you can hear me.” His voice was louder than before.

My jaw dropped and I quickly scanned the room. Why wasn’t anyone else noticing him?

49 Secret Agent

I can't find this entry! If you are the author, PLEASE EMAIL ME ASAP!

*so embarrassed*

48 Secret Agent

GENRE: MG Historical Fiction

“Contemptible. C-o-n-t-e-m-p-t-i-b-u-l. Contemptible.” That word sucked all the breath out of me.

“Incorrect,” Miss Taylor announced.


Matthew Colton flashed me a grin of victory. We were the last two standing in the Friday spelling bee. I seldom made it that far. I could spell any old word on paper but when my tongue went to say letters out loud, it jumped way ahead of my brain and tripped into some careless mistake.
Suddenly the schoolhouse door banged open, and Uncle John’s tall frame filled the doorway. His grim look pushed my mind from spelling over to worry. He spoke quietly to my teacher.

Miss Taylor frowned. “Hannah, gather your things and go with your uncle.”

I hurried to the cloakroom…pulled on my coat and scarf…snatched my dinner pail and rushed to the doorway. Something was bad wrong.

My classmates watched in silence.

Outside, Uncle John untied Zeke and climbed into the saddle. Without a word, he pulled me up behind him so quick I thought my arm would snap off.

“What’s wrong, Uncle?” My cheek pressed against the scratchy wool of his coat.

No answer. Zeke broke into a full gallop, and we tore through the cold, gray morning. The mountains edging our valley blurred into snow-topped walls.

Sure that some new sorrow waited at home, I shouted into the wind, “What’s wrong?” I’d about had enough of misery.

His sharp words cut through the freezing air. “Your ma’s got birthin’ pains.”

47 Secret Agent


Eden watched the child in her scope, her finger poised on the trigger. The young ones were the hardest but she couldn’t be squeamish. Besides, this thing wasn’t a child anymore and, judging from the dried blood on its hands and face, it had killed since it turned. As she watched, the creature that used to be a little girl turned toward her team, its mouth gaping.

She let her breath out slowly, steadying her body as she lined up a perfect head shot through a gap in the trees. The slightest brushing of the trigger and the infected child was gone. There were still five creatures lurching about but none of them were children. She took out a male, its clothing torn and bloodied, before it got within reach of Jordan. Eden’s sister didn’t so much as pause; Jordan’s blackened sword cleaved the heads from two of the infecteds’ shoulders. Next to her, Oz shot a zombie running full-out and Taro flowed over the last one, killing it in the blink of an eye. By the time Eden tore her gaze away to scan the clearing, paying careful attention to anything moving in the thick foliage, it was over.

Bodies littered the ground in a rough circle around her sister, Oz, and Taro. Eden took a deep breath as she let go of her gun and sat up. “It’s done.”

Kaede looked up from where she stood lower down the hill. “That was quick.”

46 Secret Agent

TITLE: Branca
GENRE: Young adult

Mid 18th century

The queen allowed the servant girl to remove her heavy overcoat. A draft blew its way through the fortress wall, and she shivered. Shrugging her shoulders, she gave the girl a slight shove. “Bring me some tea.”

“Yes, your majesty.” Keeping her eyes averted, the girl disappeared down a long hall.

The queen paused outside the throne room, listening to the king in audience with a few peasants. Someone complaining about a goat crashing through his fence. She rolled her eyes, not understanding how the king could have patience with such nonsense. The man was too soft for her taste. Were she on the throne, this province would be stronger.

Someone rapped on the exterior door, the sound echoing off the stones to her right. Probably another unhappy citizen. A curl of chestnut brown hair slid down her neck. She pushed it back into place, admiring the sparkle of the large ruby ring on her right hand. Warmth radiated from the stone, tingling as it made its way down her arm. A magical ring, one that magnified her Power, allowing her to hear the thoughts of anyone she touched.

The man servant opened the door. She couldn’t make out the words, but the discussion grew heated. The queen made her way to the front entry, nearly bumping into the man servant.

“Your majesty.” His lips quivered in agitation, and he readjusted the ruffles of his blouse. “A man at the door insists on seeing you.”

45 Secret Agent

TITLE: Keeper of the Key
GENRE: Young adult

Peter crouched in the foliage. It hid his body from view, but didn’t block his sight. Through the cracks in the leaves and branches, he saw a field littered with dead. A great battle was over. Nothing moved. No victor remained.

Beads of sweat formed on his forehead. His eyes flicked back and forth as he surveyed the seen until one body drew all his attention. He recognizing the lifeless form and jerked his head back. For a moment he forgot to breathe. Father?

His head pounded as he stared at the body. Fresh blood leaked like heavy tears from lacerations covering the tanned muscular shoulders and torso. His shirt was torn in pieces and lay over the center of his massive chest. A knife buried to the hilt in his father’s chest sparkled in the dimming light. The sun straddled the mountains; night approached.

Peter heard the thumping of feet and rustling in the nearby trees. Shifting his eyes, he saw three men running, dodging the tangle of bodies that lay on the ground in a scattered mess. As if premeditated, they ran straight to the area where his father lay and stopped, searching the scene and the bodies at their feet. They were looking for something.

One of the men stopped his search when he came to Peter’s father. He called to the others. Breathing heavily the men stared at the blood-stained corpse. Their clothes were drenched in sweat. They had run far.

44 Secret Agent

GENRE: Middle Grade fiction, science mystery

Rain pelted the huge glass dome like beating fists. Violet Ray shifted nervously in her fuzzy orange chair, leaning in to peer cautiously through the enormous eyehole of her massive telescope. Her fingers flew over the keyboard, punching in coordinates with blurry speed until her hands stopped in mid-hover, her fingers trembling. She pulled back from the telescope, biting her lip to concentrate, for she knew what was coming next.

All at once, a bright flash exploded, streaked across the sky and splintered into a web of lightning. Great bolts of light refracted against the dome interior, casting giant spider shadows along the lab walls. Eerie green light appeared as if spilling from space and rolled over like ocean waves before skipping along the sky like a stone. The bright green faded, turning into a deep red cloud. Ruby red sheets spread across the horizon until vanishing into tiny red sparkles that settled back into the stars.

Violet Ray sat rigid, with her mouth open and her eyes wide with fear.

“One hippopotamus, two hippop-ppotamus,” her voice cracked as she counted the distance, hoping it wouldn’t be closer this time.

“…Three hippopotamus—“

Crrrrrrrack BOOM!

The air rumbled in deafening tones, like a dozen trains passing at once then the sea threw an enormous wave crashing against the far side of the dome, spraying seawater all over the telescope lens.

Violet Ray screamed, jumping out of her chair as her whole lab suddenly fell pitch black.

43 Secret Agent

TITLE: The Many Adventures of Courtesy and Patience
GENRE: Middle Grade

The drying earth and pig refuse chafed Patty’s backside, up into her petticoat. She itched at the spot and several boys snickered behind her. She would have to remind them of their mistake later, once she was cleaner and more confident. Out of a curtain of mud-caked hair she glowered at them. Two of the boys shifted warily.

“Patience Tabitha Cowdery, come here at once,” called Mrs. Hibberd, steel in her voice.

The boys snickered again and Patty gritted her teeth. Now she would have to pay them double, this time for laughing at her name. Nobody but The Hibberd had the courage to call her Patience. She wondered how long it would take to make the boys cry when she and her best friend, Court, pinned them down and pounded their flabby bellies. Manky wouldn’t last long. For all the help his height gave him, he wasn’t the toughest of sorts.

“You boys too,” The Hibberd commanded.

That shut them up quick enough. They followed Patty around the side of the two-story ramshackle house. Keeping her back to them, Patty trudged from the backyard to the front, stepping clear of the boards that supported the home for displaced orphans like a crutch. Knocking over that crutch would make their crooked house a flattened house instead. Where would she go then?

Patty halted below the front porch steps and picked at the old blue paint on the banister, avoiding the look of dismay on The Hibberd’s face above her.

42 Secret Agent

TITLE: Counting Change

Two hundred and eighty-eight days after my father left I found my journal. In it all I had written down were numbers. Sixty days since Mama quit smoking. Three days till Thanksgiving. Twenty-five days till Christmas break. Thirteen years till my little sister Katie was old enough to move out. But I couldn’t write about the hole in my heart. Instead I scribbled a large black blob the size of my hand on the center of the first page.


Mama lays a paint chip beside the kitchen cupboard. “Stoney, I want that bedroom of yours clean before school starts on Wednesday. Let’s start fresh and new.”

Mama’s idea of “fresh and new” is to paint everything in sight like she could obliterate the last year with a fresh coat of Sands of Time White. Lately she’s been re-doing the kitchen from Normal Blue to Manic Red.

The paint chip in her hand, Pink Boa, clashes with the red, and makes my eyes ache.
I’ve carried the journal around for two days thinking about what I might write in it. But I’m afraid that whatever I write will make it true. So I draw.

Mama scrapes burnt toast with hard butter and sets it down in front of my sister. Katie waves her hand over the plate trying to make the smell go away, but it spreads like the weeds in my father’s flowerbed, reaching every corner of the kitchen.

41 Secret Agent

Genre: YA Dystopian

The taste of my own blood combined with the barbaric site in front of me doesn’t help my already churned-up stomach. But biting my cheek is all I can do to keep from screaming and being the next one they choose.

It’s the third public showing that I’ve witnessed – well, as far back as I can remember that is. None of us Drudges have ever dared to go against Overseers.

Not until today when my mentor and best friend decided she had enough.

We Drudges know her as Skye, but her true name is Ninety-eight, as given to her by the Overseers. We are numbered for efficiency and uniformity. The less unique we are, the better. It means we won’t rally against them and can do what we were created to do: labor, sweat, and bleed for whatever task we’re given. It doesn’t matter how tiny or grand the task is, we are expected to execute it to completion without complaint and without question.

Today, though, Skye’s clear blue eyes are dark like one of the storms that frequent our home and world, Castora. We all know that our life as a Drudge is much shorter than that of an Overseer. Skye especially knows that our time here is short – she’s very close to being fully-grown. If we don’t die from exhaustion, from falling into one of the heavy pieces of machinery, or from a public showing for disobeying the Overseers, then we’re snatched away during one of the few times we’re actually allowed to shower and cleanse ourselves.

40 Secret Agent

GENRE: MG Science Fiction

A loud knock on the front door jolted Danny Singer from his math homework. He scratched his head and put his pencil down, wondering who had come to the house. After all, his mom didn’t get off work until six o’clock and his trumpet teacher wouldn’t arrive until tomorrow afternoon.

Thump. Thump. Thump.

Three more knocks thundered on the door, echoing throughout the walls. Danny stood from his desk and padded down the stairs. He figured the mailman needed to drop off a package for his mom—she loved to buy old vases off the Internet.

Grasping onto the doorknob, Danny turned the handle and swung the door open. “Hey, do I have to sign something…?” His voice trailed off.

He blinked his eyes. Then he blinked them again.

It wasn’t the mailman.

It wasn’t the UPS delivery guy.

It wasn’t even Mrs. Delano from down the street who frequently complained about the Singer’s flowerbeds.

“Uh…,” Danny said with his mouth wide open.

His eyes widened as he stared at the thing in front of him. Standing over seven-feet-tall, the creature was covered in royal blue skin from its oval head down to its hoofed feet. It had two beefy arms that looked surprisingly human and two shaggy legs that looked like a horse’s hind quarters. A gray robe hung on the creature’s body and—strangest of all—a cheerful smile rested on its purple lips.

“Greetings!” said the creature in a strange accent. “You are Daniel Singer, I presume? Ah, you are smaller than I’d expected.”

39 Secret Agent

TITLE: Molly Gumnut Saves a Bandicoot
GENRE: MG - Contemporary fiction

Molly Mavis Gumnut clambered up a knobbly old gum tree and pulled herself onto a crooked branch. As she wriggled her bum to get comfy, the bough shook, dropping leaves in the river below. “Yipes!” She hugged the trunk and held on tight. Sometimes she jumped in for a swim, but not from this height.

“Come down,” yelled her best friend, Lara. “You’ll fall.”

“No, I won’t!” Molly inhaled the fishy odour and giggled as a mullet shot out of the salty water, then belly flopped with a splash. This was her most favourite spot in the whole world.

A red speedboat whizzed by and a girl waved. As Molly waved back, a movement on the riverbank caught her eye. “Look, Lara!” She pointed. “A water dragon.”

“Awesome.” Lara tiptoed towards it and clicked her camera, but the lizard plopped into the river and disappeared.

“Poop,” said Molly. “You missed it. That coulda been the front page for the school calendar.”

Lara shrugged. “No biggie. We’ve got heaps of time.”

Molly smiled at Lara’s freckled face. “Two days? That’s not long, silly. Miss Button said to hand it in by Monday.”

Lara swung her camera over her shoulder and strolled further along the bush track. “I’ll keep looking then.”

“Wait for me!” yelled Molly. Her long messy ponytail gathered cobwebs and bark as she scrambled back down. Shaking her head and neighing like a donkey, she galloped through the woods to catch up with Lara.

“Quiet,” whispered Lara, holding her finger to her mouth.

38 Secret Agent

TITLE: Demonic Attractions
GENRE: YA Urban Fantasy

The car was totaled and it wasn’t my fault.

But who’s going to believe a teenager? And “the demon did it” excuse, while more creative than “the dog ate my homework,” was still as unbelievable...and much more likely to get me sent to the psych ward. So when the fang-filled flying hellion barely missed me and dropped like a wrecking ball on the SUV, exploding shattered bits of glass and various vehicle parts in my direction, I ditched the scene pronto. Unfortunately, I was followed.

My ragged breaths echoed like a chainsaw. I skidded behind an oak and slammed my back against bark that bit through my t-shirt soaked with sweat and fear.

A laugh churned through the air with malicious glee. Talons clicked a slow rhythm on pavement. The pounding of my already frantic pulse skyrocketed.

“Hide and seek. My favorite. How thoughtful of you to commence a game.” The smooth voice, tinged with a touch of crazy, twisted a lazy finger of fear around my heart. “Ironic, is it not,” he purred, “that the great Divinicus Nex cowers in fear from that which should be her fated prey. A decidedly diametric circumstance.”

What? Irritating when the monster hunting you has a better vocabulary than your own. Maybe he could do my eulogy? I didn't understand the hostility either. I’d seen demons before. Small, weak suckers who ignored me or ran the other way, but this guy...well, he was a different breed. A psycho on steroids and he wanted me dead. His chances looked good.

37 Secret Agent

TITLE: Beyond the Garden's Gate
GENRE: Middle Grade: Adventure/ Magical Realism

The meadow’s long bluegrass swayed in the breeze and lapped against the six-foot stone wall that defended it. Outside the field, white branches of an aspen forest scratched at the fortifying barrier.

Atop the wall, Heath stood by his father. “Well done, Heath. The wall won’t stop them, but they won’t be able to sneak in unnoticed this time—by exposing them, we’ll have an advantage.”

“Thanks. I hid a lookout just over there.” Heath pointed along the wall to the secret watchtower.

“They won’t know we’re watching; at least, not at first.”

“Good. You know you’ll need help protecting the field.”

“I know, I thought I would use the mountain lions.”

“Hmmph.” Heath’s father nodded. “They’re fast, loyal, and deadly, if necessary.” He sighed, “They’re an excellent choice. You put a lot of thought into this, and I can see you’ve grown. I’m proud of you.”

Heath smiled, but his father’s approval didn’t calm his fluttering nerves. What if it still isn’t enough?

“I think the only thing left to do is cut the grass.”

“Seriously?” Heath grumbled.

“If it’s shorter, they can’t hide once they’re inside the field.”

Heath winced at the new task. “Can it wait? I can barely move my arms.”

Heath’s father scanned the sky. Dark clouds gathered while daylight slipped behind the surrounding mountain peaks. “Just don’t procrastinate. Once the rainy season starts, it’ll be too dangerous.”

“I understand.” Heath peered into the forest. “Do you think they’re out there right now?”

36 Secret Agent


April 10, 1941

Dear Mama,

I hope you are doing well. PLEASE COME GET ME AND OTIS!

I’m tired of working in the field picking cotton and corn and tobacco and whatever else Grandpa Lum grows for the “BOSS MAN.” I thought slavery was over! I want to come live with you, Mama. NOW! And Mama, you’re not going to believe this, but yesterday, when me, Hattie, and Otis were out in the cotton field pulling weeds, Grandma Jenny hit me over the head with a hoe! She said I was too slow. Mama, I was just tired. Tired from walking the mile home from school. Tired from the heat. Tired from¾


Oh no. Someone’s coming up the ladder! Grandpa Lum will skin me alive if he finds me up here writing to my mama.

Shoving aside the worn notebook she was writing on, Cleo Holmes swung her brown, mosquito-bitten legs over the side of the bed, narrowly missing the jagged metal springs poking through the thin mattress.

With the finished letter still in her hand, she hurried across the room and quickly pushed aside the dark sheet of the makeshift closet. Pulling down an old, tattered shoe box from the back of the top shelf, she placed the letter in the box alongside her blue ribbon ink pen (won in a most-books-read-over-the-summer contest). She scooted to the middle of the room just as Hattie, her twelve-year-old aunt, appeared at the top of the ladder, sweat streaming down the sides of her pecan-tanned face.

35 Secret Agent

TITLE: To Gnome Me Is To Love Me
GENRE: Middle grade

It was one of those days. Know what I mean? You step outside and your body beads with sweat from the top of your head to your shinbones in two point five nanoseconds. And if it was really toasty, a sweat droplet would slide down your spine to puddle right at your underwear, soaking through your shorts.

Mom insisted that only horses sweat, men perspire, and ladies dew. I got a news flash for her, I just might be a horse ‘cause I sweat. There was no dewing involved.

It was in the middle of the afternoon. In July. In Oklahoma. ‘Nuff said.

So, of course, Mom sent me outside for some ‘fresh air and sunshine’.

What she really was doing was sending me outside for a case of heatstroke.

Mom always got cranky when she was on deadline. It wasn’t like I was running around like an idiot or watching endless cartoons, which normally I would be but Mom banned the TV while she was working. I was simply minding my own business—reading on my bed.

Guess my breathing got a little too loud for her.

“Rhiannon Webber! You need to get your nose out of that book. Go outside and get some fresh air and sunshine. I don’t want to hear from you for at least an hour.”

Okay. Fine. With as much attitude I could get away with and not get punished, I threw my book down and stomped outside.

34 Secret Agent

TITLE: Song for Aino
GENRE: YA Fantasy

Sixteen-year-old Aino turned toward the fur merchant’s table, wanting to cover her head with a silver fox pelt and disappear. Sure, the old wizard who’d just stepped into the town marketplace was the most lauded in the land—said to be the most powerful magical singer ever born—but did Aino’s mother have to be so embarrassingly girlish at seeing him? Would to the gods the wizard would go away—or that her mother would suddenly go blind or mute. Either option seemed a reasonable solution.

“Look, daughter, oh, do look!” Her mother, Leena, patted Aino’s sleeve incessantly. “It’s Väinö. Väinö, I say!” Other women acted just as foolishly, falling over themselves to catch a glimpse of the legendary wizard. Their behavior seemed disgusting and coarse to Aino.

“Yes, Mother, I see him.” She obediently peeked from the fox pelt, face hot with humiliation. Forty paces away stood an old man with a gray beard as big as a bush and likely as scratchy as one. He stood beside a booth piled high with fruit. The old man took a handful of blueberries and popped them into his mouth. No one, including the merchant, said a word about payment.

Adoring villagers surrounded him, all begging for one just one of his magical songs. Leena grabbed Aino’s arm, rather rudely working their way through the jostling congestion.

“Make my sister howl like a wolf,” a young man called, gesturing toward a girl about Aino’s age. The girl’s eyes went wide.

33 Secret Agent


It’s midnight and I’m laying flat on my back on a patch of grass in front of our hotel room, hoping that no one looks outside and wonders what these weirdos from California are doing.
Tonight is the peak of the Perseids meteor shower so my mom dragged me and my brother out of bed to see a shooting star. When I was younger I thought it was cool to get up at midnight and watch the stars. Tonight I’d rather be in bed. It’s past midnight here in Texas and I swear it’s still over a hundred. And don’t get me started with the mosquitoes.

“Did you see that one, Marten?”

Mom points up at the sky but all I see are a few regular stars winking back at me. That’s the thing with a shooting star. By the time someone asks if you saw it, it’s already gone.
I shake my head, even though I know she's not looking at me.

“I did! I saw it!” screams Al.

Mom chuckles. “Okay, let’s not wake anybody up. I’m glad you saw it, little man. Close your eyes and make a wish.”

“I wish we were going to Disneyland!”

Mom laughs. “Then you’re going to have to wish on another star, Aldrin. And next time, don’t tell anyone what you wished for.”

“Like that makes a difference,” I grumble. “Wishes don’t come true, Al.”

“Marten! Why would you say that?” I feel Mom’s eyes on me even though I can’t see her face.

32 Secret Agent

TITLE: The Plains of Purgatory
GENRE: YA Paranormal

“Alexandra…” My name rippled out of the darkness, making my heart stutter within my chest. The eerie voice was laced with a cruel edge of taunting as he called for me over and over, like we were playing some sort of twisted game of hide and seek. I wanted to run, but the sound reverberated from every direction, leaving me with no way to know which way to go. I was trapped; the darkness and shadows standing between me and the one that was out there stalking. But I knew that even that one grace would not protect me for very long. So I could only wait, bracing myself for what was coming.

“There you are,” he hissed in pleasure. The voice became a whisper at my ear, and the fear of having it so close froze me inside. I could feel his hot breath on my neck, but there was no one there to run away from. “The game is over,” he crowed. “You’re mine.”

“What do you want?” My voice quivered as I forced the words out one by one.

“You don’t want to know, young one.” I could hear the smile in his voice. He was enjoying this more than even the most twisted person should, which made me cringe with disgust.

“Leave me alone,” I demanded finally, scraping together the one ounce of courage I had left. But screams shattered out of the darkness; the sudden outcry hit me hard like a punch to the stomach. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t cry. I couldn’t throw up. So I was left just to listen.

31 Secret Agent

TITLE: The Hiddeen
GENRE: YA Fantasy

Fourteen year-old Dagny Olson and her mom were footsteps away from entering the grocery store when a shrill voice called out from behind them, “Hildy Olson, how dare you tell my daughter you saw her lying in a bed of glass.”

An all-too-familiar wave of despair came over Dagny. She turned and spotted a thin woman storming toward them across the parking lot, her face pinched with anger. Another lady with chubby legs shuffled behind her. Dagny recognized both of them. Iris Armistin, and her friend Dora Jonson were known as two of the town’s biggest gossips.

Dagny’s mom let out a heavy sigh before lifting her hands in a defensive gesture. “Look, I’m sorry, Iris. Truly I am. But your husband simply wouldn’t take no for an answer. He insisted on knowing and he wouldn’t stop pushing me…”

Dagny inched away, removing herself before the situation escalated any further. Here we go again. Some kids struggle with homework. Others worry about their looks. But not me. No, I have to deal with this every day. Dagny’s mom was a seer. Worse yet, Hildy Olson was the kind of seer who saw nothing but misery. Not once had she seen love or money in someone’s future, only accidents or mishaps. Sometimes even death. And no matter how many visions she had, one thing was certain — they always came true.

Iris moved closer. “You leave my husband out of this Hildy!” she said. “My daughter is terrified right now.”

30 Secret Agent

TITLE: The Secret of the Legacy
GENRE: Middle grade fantasy

The dirty double-crossing humans showed up in the middle of a thunderstorm. I heard their car crunching over the gravel driveway and ducked under the porch to commence surveillance. It didn’t concern me too much, sometimes cars turned in by mistake.

But this one pulled right up to the front door and parked.

A clap of thunder rattled my whiskers, the wind gusted, and the rain came down even harder. The car door opened and I heard a woman’s voice say, “Grab your stuff and we’ll make a run for the porch.”


You might be wondering why this is a problem. But then, you’re not the new head of Security Detail on The General’s Feline Lifestyle Defense Team, are you?

My name is Flash, Feline Extraordinaire. You can call me Flash for short. And if you haven’t already guessed, you should know I’m a cat. Basically my job is to baby-sit the empty old house The General used to share with an inventor named Mortimer Finklebuster and report any suspicious activity around the property.

There’s a secret hidden inside, something my boss calls the Legacy—a secret so important to maintaining the feline way of life he had to create the team to keep it from being discovered and exploited by greedy humans.

You’d think The General would want his security force to know what they were guarding, but you’d think wrong. When I asked him about it, he said, “That information is on a need to know basis and you don’t need to know.”

29 Secret Agent

TITLE: Unveiled
GENRE: YA Paranormal

The human next to me didn’t notice my pause at the door as I hesitated, preparing myself. Walking through the hallway these days was like heading into battle. And it was all Mindy Monahan’s fault. The bane of my existence in this realm.

“Reagan? You okay?”

I smiled down at my best friend, Bronte Adair. “Yeah, just distracted.”

Then I heard it. That piercing hyena laugh. I nudged Bronte and jerked my head in the direction of the head hyena and her pack.

Bronte stood on tiptoes, trying to spot the terror of our school years. She gave up, muttering, “Sucks to be short. Want to go the other way?” she offered.

“Generous offer but no. I refuse to be intimidated by an airhead who doesn’t know her a** from her elbow.”

I glanced across the hall at Mindy, holding court by the water fountain. Flipping her hair, she said something that made the three Mindy-clones titter. She was the girl who’d gone out of her way to make my life miserable since I’d moved here.

“Reagan, you know she was just trying to get a rise out of you by calling you a witch, right?” Bronte glanced at me.

I rolled my eyes. A witch? Pfft. Witches were human and didn’t usually have much power. I was Fae. We were in tune with nature and the elements, able to heal at amazing rates, and powerful in ways witches could only dream of. I’d totally kick a witch’s butt.

28 Secret Agent

TITLE: In Due Time
GENRE: YA Fantasy

She had never been good at telling time. Now, as an invisible layer of moisture began to settle on the cool stone that surrounded her, she knew that the twilight of morning was upon her. The stone wall she leaned against was cold and she had long ago lost sensation in her fingertips and feet, but she lacked the strength to sit up on without its support.

Her name was Anabelle, and she was to be hanged at sunrise for theft from the House of Lord Abbott, along with other common criminals with whom she had shared a dismal existence for nearly twelve full days. For most of it, she had been exactly where she was now—hidden in her corner, trying to blend in with the stone until her execution. Her cocoa-colored hair faded into the dark, but her dress of light earth tones and creams stood out along with a pale arm, which was wrapped tightly around her knees in an effort to keep warm. Her other arm was tucked against her chest, clutching something against her breast, just above her heart.

The holding room was currently occupied by six prisoners, but soon there would be none. Anabelle didn't feel that she belonged in a class with any of them—she was innocent. The man who had been stealing on the streets all his life had finally gotten what had only been put off with warnings because of his family. Now he would hang and they would starve.

27 Secret Agent

TITLE: The Third Tower
GENRE: Mid-grade fantasy

“You don’t know what it’s like. Not knowing if you’re like your mom or dad.” Jasmine knew she shouldn’t have said it the moment it came out of her mouth. She shouldn’t have called her birthparents that—her Mom and Dad. They weren’t. Not really. She didn’t even know them. But even though she was eleven now, she still couldn’t stop thinking about them and wondering who they were.

Her mother, standing in their kitchen cutting fruit, held the knife in the air for a second. It clunked against the wooden cutting board as she sliced a strawberry.

“I just wish I knew who’s tall like me. Or who likes swimming. Stuff like that,” Jasmine said, hoping she was explaining what she meant better.

“I do too, honey. But at least you have the baby pictures of yourself at the orphanage in China.”

The sweet scent of roses from a nearby vase mingled with the fruity aroma of strawberries. The sun, streaming into the window overlooking their backyard, cast a rainbow on the counter. Jasmine stared at the rainbow as she gripped the small photo album her mom had made for her. It contained the only information she had about the first year of her life.

“I know,” Jasmine said. It’s just—”

“We’re so lucky to have even that. If I hadn’t thought to send the orphanage a camera.” Her mom moved to hug her.

Jasmine stepped back.


“No. You don’t know how it feels!”

26 Secret Agent

TITLE: The Morretain Prince
GENRE: YA Fantasy

Kieren heard the Call just as her husband unrolled the parchment map of the kingdom’s newest trade route. Noises tore through her head and a barrage of images hit her, each too wild to grasp. A voice, loud and full of fear like the roar of a winter wind, broke through the sound.

Elerosse is hurt.

She ran. Elemmire and the other nobles in the chamber room called after her, but she did not turn around. Her son was hurt, and nothing in the kingdom could keep her from him.

Her heart pounded as she pushed through the crowded stone hallways. Elemmire’s heavy footfalls fell behind hers, but she could not stop; would not waste breath answering the questions he threw at her.

Her son’s edere, his elvish Light, was cast in shadow. She felt the darkness.

Kieren rounded a corner, then raced down a stairwell towards the Great Hall. Rosse and his cousins were supposed to spend the day in the garden when afternoon lessons were over. She sent a silent plea to the Gods that the elflings were still there. Morraugh, please do not take him from me. Not another one.

Last steps cleared, she turned left towards the inner gate. Only a few more feet and…

She froze. Couldn’t move; couldn’t think.

Her eldest brother stood in the archway, his twin elflings at his side. The children were pale faced, eyes fixed on the silent, unmoving bundle their father held.

Bile rose in her throat.


25 Secret Agent

TITLE: The Jack Pack
GENRE: MG Mystery

Jolly Vaughn Walker ran through the misty meadow past the twisted gravel road to the town’s main attraction. He squeezed his spindly body between the chained doors of Durmont Game Farm’s rear entrance. The last zebra was being hauled away that morning and he wanted to say goodbye. The owners sold the animal because of too many hard years and few ticket sales.

The fog thickened. It curled around his knees with every step like the white tail of a curious cat. Distant thunder rumbled. If Jolly stopped to listen, he’d know the storm didn’t come from the sky. He’d stop then run the other way.

In the upper field next to the zebra pen sat a strange covered wagon. Strange because of the colored, silk scarves stitched like patchwork to the arching canvas. Looping, purple letters painted on the side planks read ‘Jasmine the Gypsy Princess’.

That’s odd, too. Jolly had never seen royalty before or even one claiming to be so.

No horse or leather riggings attached to the wagon’s front forks. Jolly looked for an animal grazing in the field, but it was still too dark to see most of the rolling meadow.

He Fanned the fog curious to see what held the two wooden posts up. He felt nothing, could see nothing.

He thought it could be locked at the base of the wagon. Even locked, how could it just sit there balanced on one axle with two wheels?

24 Secret Agent


Airlines should outlaw perfumed passengers, at least the woman bathed in the oppressive scent before she plopped down beside me. Her name was something ridiculous like Candy, or that was the color of her nail polish. She even had the audacity to get the window seat. Then again, sitting on the aisle provided advantages. The largest advantage allowed a fast break to the exit before the plane took off.

“I’m sorry, miss, but you’re going to have to return to your seat.”

I jumped when the flight attendant touched my arm. I spun around and clamored. “I’ve changed my mind. I don’t want to be on this flight.”

“When the light is on,” she pointed to red and white lighted letters, “all passengers must remain in their seats.”

My eyes darted from the sign above the curtained doorway. “Just tell the pilot to cancel.”

Her smile was pinched. “I can’t do that.”

“Or hold the plane until I get off.” I avoided looking at my vacant seat. “I don’t even care about my luggage.”

The flight attendant put her hands on her hips and frowned.

I pivoted and fiddled with the door handle. My hands shook. The handle wouldn’t budge. A short puff of air blew at the back of my neck before she grabbed at me again. Within seconds I faced her. Her eyes narrowed on me. She lacked any concern over how I felt in the matter.

23 Secret Agent

GENRE: Middle Grade

“Psst, Jack,” whispered Andy.

My best friend leaned over the side of his desk and grinned at me. I ignored him. It was the first day of school. Whispering in class wasn’t exactly the best way to make a good impression on our new social-studies teacher.

“Ahoy, matey,” he whispered a little louder.

I ignored him until a sticky, slimy spitball smacked against the side of my neck. A second one quickly followed. Hitting me with spitballs was a bit much, even for Andy. I figured I’d better answer before he attacked again.

“What?” I asked out of the side of my mouth.

“Avast,” he whispered. “Meet me in ye library after school.”

I had no idea why Andy was talking like that, but I had a feeling it meant trouble. One time he used a weird voice to pretend a dead squirrel could talk. Then he thought it would be fun to hang it across a dark street and wait for a car to come by. That didn’t exactly end well for anyone.

“Ye library?” I asked.

“The…public…library,” Andy said real slowly, like I was too stupid to understand him.

“What’s at the library?” I asked.

“Arrgh. Pirate treasure,” he said with that same big grin on his face.

I admit it; I was curious. The public library isn’t one of our usual hangouts. Andy doesn’t even like to read. He was up to something. Every year it seems Andy has some crazy new idea.

22 Secret Agent

GENRE: Middle grade/tween

It was a Thursday. I remember the day because Mom baked scones every Wednesday to take to the Plinkton Rotary meeting the next morning and I couldn’t study for my test on the Magna Carta because the kitchen table was covered with a mountain of blueberry scones that would have avalanched if I’d tried to move a single one.

Luckily my Magna Carta test angels were watching out for me, because Mr. Samuel ended up being absent and instead of giving us the test the substitute showed us an I’m-not-prepared-to-teach-you-anything DVD.

Documentaries are usually as boring as dust balls and I expected to be yawning and doodling pictures of Hugo Arkley (the cuter of the Arkley Brother’s band brothers) in the margins of WORLD HISTORY TODAY, but from the opening scene I was hooked.

This woman filmmaker rode on horseback up and down scrubby hills and over plains following a herd of wild mustangs across Nevada. There was a white horse in particular she’d kept track of practically since he was born.

It was surprisingly dramatic how those horses got along or didn’t, depending on their personalities. For instance you could tell right off that the young white horse would be a leader, the way he tossed his head and swished his tail, like, “I am amazingly great! I am the king of horses!”
Sure enough, when he got older he ended up bossing a lot of other horses around. But the documentary also showed tender moments between the boss horse and his wife and child horse (called a “mare” and a “foal,” in case you didn’t know).

21 Secret Agent

TITLE: Carrion
GENRE: YA Fiction

James Guan was not quite like other birds. There was his name, of course, James. His mother, a red-faced Guan like himself, had always admired American names. His father had preferred to go with something a little more traditional, but, as is the case in bird tradition, the mother chooses the name of the baby.

Then there were his siblings, or lack thereof. As it was, James was an only child. Birds generally have more than one child, and James always felt a little lonely without brothers or sisters to play with. There was another bird that swam hazily at the edge of James’ memory, but he did not know if it was a sibling or not. He suspected it was, as once, when James’ father had had a little too much to drink at a neighborhood party, he had said something about wishing both of his sons had survived. That was all, though. He couldn’t get his father to say anything else.

And that left the feathers. The young Guan was known to have one of the most beautiful coats of feathers in the school. Unlike his peers, who had coats that ranged from mottled brown to black and white, James’ feathers were an unusual golden color. The beauty of those feathers! Strangers would stop and stare at him as he flew passed, their mouths or beaks agape. James learned to be quick at a young age, as squirrels, ever the hoarders, would make a sport out of trying to pluck the feathers from his back.

20 Secret Agent

TITLE: Apple of Discord
GENRE: Middle Grade

Victoria felt like she had been holding her breath for weeks. There was a major pain in her gut thanks to that stupid funeral. It held a stranglehold on her, and it wasn’t going to go away until she saw her friends.

Finally Christmas break was over—she had not seen any of her friends for the two whole weeks of vacation. Kira had traveled to New York to see relatives, while Rose and Maggie both had homes full of family for the holidays.

Is there really such a thing as friends forever? How could Mom live in the same town with her so called best friend from school, and then not see her for twenty-three years until her funeral? Her funeral!

Panic threatened to overcome her every second of the drive to school. She couldn’t wait to see her friends, just to make sure they were real.

“What’s the matter, dear?” Mom said as she pulled into the carpool drop off lane. “You look fine.”

“Nothing Mom.” Why did she have to say something like that when I’m already freaking out? She adjusted her new purple scarf and looked down at the worn knees on her black jeans. It’s not like I’m going to a fashion show.

“Well, try to have a good day.”

Victoria slammed the door shut without glancing back at her mom. Her whole body felt unhinged and tingly, and the deep breath she was gasping for wasn’t coming. Forcing her feet to climb one concrete step at a time, she finally made it to the front door.

19 Secret Agent

GENRE: Contemporary YA

When I was little I thought my grandfather had an important sounding name. I call him Pop, but his name is Mr. George Mastrick. It always sounded like a banker or business guy's name. I'm sixteen now, and I know the only important things about my Pop are his fists. They're big and they hurt. But I'd never tell him that.

I even used to think my name, William Mastrick, sounded like I was somebody who mattered. My Pop decided to rename me Bull when I was five, said he didn't want me getting any crazy ideas that I was someone special, that my name was something special. He said I wrecked everyone's life when I came along, like a bull in a china shop. The name stuck.

I know I look like him. Not from any pictures or anything. We're not the kind of family with photo albums or sentimental trash. There isn't one photo of me till I hit kindergarten, and it's the school photo anyway.

When my mom's drunk she loves smacking me in the side of the head and telling me how much I look like him. "Look, you two have the same color green eyes," she says. It comes out like this though, "Luh, yeww tewww hah the say culah gree eye."

Pop has always hated me, no doubt. We stay out of each other's way unless he wants to beat the crap out of me.

Then we spend some real quality time together.

18 Secret Agent

TITLE: Like Molasses in Kapuskasing
GENRE: Young Adult

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a teenage girl in possession of a summer off must be in want of a camp, at which she can learn to sucketh at a new skill.

Yeah right, I thought as I tossed Pride and Prejudice on the backseat. I switched on my iPod and closed my eyes. This year would be no different. New camp, new people, new way for me to disappoint my parents; I knew the drill.

We drove for twenty-one songs before Mom’s car came to a slow, crunching stop. And by crunching, I mean on gravel, not into a parked car. She hasn’t done that in weeks. Well, as far as I know.

I peeled my face off the passenger window then pressed my palms together in front of my face. I squeezed my eyes tight. I was about to see my home for the next three weeks and needed all the help I could get.

Bram, (That’s what I call G.O.D. on account of the fact that I don’t believe in the actual G.O.D. but do believe in the greatness of Mr. Bram Stoker, the best writer who ever lived.) Please let this be a cool summer camp, completely lacking in lameness as well as—if you don’t mind me asking—cheerleaders. Mom will kill me if I get another restraining order.

I lowered my hands to my lap then slowly raised the lid of my right eye. My lashes had barely parted when a high-pitched shrill forced my eyes wide open.

17 Secret Agent

TITLE: Colors Like Memories
GENRE: YA Paranormal

I greeted his tombstone the way I always did—with a swift kick. The release of frustration was more than worth the sharp pain in my toes. The polished marble tilted to the left because of all my visits; a crooked tooth in the rows of pearly white graves.

I sat on the damp grass, folding my legs under me. “I keep hoping one of these days you’ll be here waiting for me.” The words were tradition. I couldn’t keep myself from hoping I’d come over the hill to find him leaning over his grave, wearing a sly smile while he waited for me. He died so very long ago, but I cannot stop wishing.

I leaned my head against my knees, wishing I could sleep. If I slept, though, I would dream of him, and that made things so much harder. I tried to explain this to the man I visited, but tonight it was only empty starlight.

It wasn’t so much a sound that made me jerk upright and glance over my shoulder. Something made me certain I wasn’t alone; a tension in the air, or the rush of someone’s breath, I wasn’t sure which. Scanning the darkness, I couldn’t see anyone lurking in the expanse of headstones. Could a random groundskeeper be working late? Another visitor to someone’s grave? Anyone who saw me would lead to problems I didn’t want to deal with.

16 Secret Agent


Dirt kicked up behind dad’s truck. I stared straight ahead as we
passed a pasture. The truck bounced over the rivets in the gravel
drive, sending me flying up against the ceiling. Dad had been meaning
to get the seatbelts fixed. It was one of the things on his “To Do”
list. There were a lot of things on dad’s list.

A man in denim overalls and a red plaid shirt waited next to a fence.
He saw dad’s truck approach and waved a hand. Dad put the truck in
gear and turned off the engine.

“Dan Sarver?”


“I’m Rick Conner, I’m glad you could come out today. We’re running out of meat.”

I got out of the passenger door and met dad on his side. Rick looked
at me, his brow wrinkled and he looked back at dad. I stared at the

“This is my daughter, Bryn Sarver. She’s my assistant.”

Rick laughed. “Assistant?”

“Yup, she helps me out on the field. A man can’t do this by himself.”
Dad unhitched the back of the truck. The lift lowered to the ground
and the doors swung open leading to the cooler. Metal hooks hung from
the ceiling. The refrigeration sent a chill into the already cold air.
A cow mooed in the background and I tried not to look. I hated
looking. Dad returned with a rifle. He tossed me a pair of blood
stained gloves. “Ready Bryn?”

I followed him out to the field.

15 Secret Agent

GENRE: YA Paranormal

It started on Friday, the second week of school. I’d just gotten my copy of Dracula for English, and was contemplating throwing it in the trash can next to my locker. No way in hell am I reading that. What a waste of time!

Shrugging, I chucked it into the depths of my locker and slammed the door. If I’d had any qualms about my new homework plan, that assignment wiped them away. The new plan was definitely on.

I breathed a sigh of relief as I walked into seventh period geometry, the only class I could actually stand. I slid into my seat and pulled out my notebook, smiling as I remembered how fast I had completed the homework last night. Ten minutes was a personal record.

I settled in to look over my homework – even though I was sure it was perfect – when a fresh wave of girly-babble hit me as Melissa and Kelly walked in. I cringed as they swept past my seat. They were talking super-loud, as usual. Like the whole world wants to hear their pathetic conversations. Not to mention the perfume overload as Melissa flipped her dark curls over her shoulder. Sheesh. Melissa caught my expression and gave me one of her patented sneers.

“Do you have a problem, Mitch, or did you just get some sawdust up your nose?” she asked me, her shadow covering my notebook.

14 Secret Agent

TITLE: Skylar's Story
GENRE: Contemporary YA

My birthday unravels in Madison’s backyard.

The sun burns my eyes and grass tickles my back.

Madison twirls, showing off her gymnastic skills. She raises her arms and moves her hands outward, stretching her fingers, ripping apart the sky with her blue-taloned fingernails.

When she cartwheels, I catch sight of her lacy pink lingerie. I choke back a laugh. Madison doesn’t laugh at my obsession with top hats. Not laughing at her choice of underwear’s kinda obligatory.

Vertical again, she says, "Did you hear? Bollywood man tried to kill himself yesterday."

The words float in one ear and fly out the other, disappearing into the hazy summer air. I stand and move over to Madison’s trampoline. Beneath my feet the stretchy black material shifts like a stormy sea. I jump, the fabric bouncing me back up again. Bollywood man tried to commit suicide.

The news hits me. My feet lose their grip on the slippery black sea of the trampoline. I wind up bouncing on my butt. "Ravi did what?"

Madison narrows her eyes. "That was a slow reaction."

It was, but Bollywood man – Ravi, with his Indian movie-star looks – tried to commit suicide? The same guy who sat next to me in art class last year and never failed to bring me a paint brush?

"Are you in shock or something?"

"No," I say, but I swing my feet over the edge of the trampoline and kick them through the humid summer air. Way less turbulent than the trampoline. "What happened?"

13 Secret Agent

GENRE: Middle Grade Science Fiction

Kate scowled at the beady purple eyes and wondered how this fresh catastrophe had happened. Why can’t things ever be simple? The murinda peeked at her from behind an empty beaker on the glassware shelf, his pointy nose sniffing the air. She glanced around her lab. Where there was one fur-ball on the loose, there were bound to be more. Duncan is so going to pay for this. The murinda's tag showed his number, but she recognized his green shaggy fur and the little black spot encircling his eye. She lifted her hand up to him, palm open.

“Come on, one fifty seven,” she whispered.

He sniffed her fingertips, whiskers quivering, before stepping down to her. She stroked his silky fur to calm him and tried not to panic herself. She had only been gone an hour or so, collecting samples in the forest, but somehow he had escaped. She scanned the shelves of chemicals, the counters cluttered with DNA sequencers, sonicators, and tablet screens, and the floors crowded with boxes of equipment. There were a million places for the tiny murinda to hide.

The familiar musty smell of animals filled the crowded room, and streaky sunlight filtered in through the blinds. Her notebook screen lay on the benchtop. Everything seemed exactly as she left it. Then a flash of purple ran under the bench, hurtled across the floor, and hid under a cabinet. Another wriggling yellow fluff, with a matching yellow tail, tried to squeeze under the sequencer.

12 Secret Agent

TITLE: The Twelfth of Never
GENRE: Contemporary upper MG

If this were a movie, you’d be hearing Elvis music right now. The soundtrack to my life. Mom says she gave birth to me serenaded by the soothing tones of his love song, “The Twelfth of Never,” and I entered the world crying in perfect pitch with it.

My name is Presley. If I had been a boy, I’d most certainly be Elvis. Thank God for my chromosomes.

Not that I don’t love The King. I do. It passed into my DNA, straight from my grandparents through Mom, his biggest fan. She’s president of Michigan’s Elvis (Lives) Forever Fan Club, able to tell his life story, with exact dates of milestones, concerts, album releases. She never mentions his death, although she claims not to believe the Elvis sightings reported in supermarket tabloids, so I can try to pretend she’s normal. Except for the potato chip she bought on eBay for its likeness to Elvis’s facial profile. If you squint your eyes, the one burnt edge resembles his hair and those thick sideburns from the 1970s, when he was heavy and wore the sparkly one-piece outfits.

She had the potato chip shellacked, and she keeps it on a tiny foam pad in a little plastic display box on her desk at work. Which also happens to be at my school. She’s the secretary at Greenhaven Middle. And I’m about to tell her the music has to stop.

11 Secret Agent

TITLE: Resin
GENRE: Young Adult Epic Fantasy

Roulle knew the day he left his lifelong refuge was fast approaching,
but he didn't think it would be as soon as in a couple days. The harrowing
topic was on his mind as he poured water from a golden goblet into another
glass. He heard a slight gush as the golden goblet refilled itself with
water, then he poured the new water from the goblet into a second glass
beside the one he just filled. There was another gush as the goblet
refilled. This time Roulle left the water in the goblet untouched. He
pushed one of the two glasses he had just filled across the table to his
mother, Nna.

"Thank you, honey," she said, gripping the glass and taking a sip.

"Sure, Mother." Roulle picked up the golden goblet and rose from the
table. It was always chillingly cool, the water inside perfect temperature
for drinking no matter where the goblet was stored, and it always refilled
automatically when emptied. Roulle knew it had to be an incredibly valuable
magifact, or object enchanted by magic. Perhaps the very type of magifact
that the thieves of Wharvul were just itching to get their hands on. The
kind they dreamed this large house contained. And it looked like they were

After placing the goblet in the cupboard, Roulle opened the cupboard¹s
lower drawers, revealing several strips of fresh chicken. The cupboard was
probably just as valuable a magifact as the golden goblet, as every time it
was opened, poultry cut in strips the same size and amount as the last time
it was opened was found lying inside.

10 Secret Agent

TITLE: Garlic
GENRE: Middle Grade Fantasy

I winced at the bathroom mirror. Everything above my shirt collar was pocked with ugly red zits with yellowish-white centers. They blended with the wall behind me, like tiny yellow mountains on the tacky red velvet wallpaper. I reached up and touched Mt. Vesuvius on the tip of my nose. That hurt! It was past time for this volcano to erupt. Placing a finger on each side of it, I closed my eyes and squished. My eyes squeezed tight, forcing out a few tears. The pressure mounted, then released. Ahhhhh. My eyes popped open in time to see a chunk with white liquid ooze down the mirror. The sweet smell of garlic tickled my nose.


The yell made me jump. “Coming, Mother,” I shouted. Facing her was the last thing I wanted to do. Especially right now. Maybe she wouldn’t notice. I glanced back at the mirror. No time to squish the rest of my garlic zits, and my nose had a bright red hole now. But it didn’t matter. This was a total disaster. And it was all my fault.

I grabbed a wad of toilet paper and wiped the mirror, leaving behind white streaks. My foot hit the trash can pedal, but then I realized there were chunks of white on the sink. After mopping up those, too, I threw the soggy paper in the can. The lid slammed shut with a clang.

“Tommy! I’m waiting!”

Impatient. As always.

9 Secret Agent

TITLE: Seven Gates
GENRE: YA Fantasy

Sechra paused halfway up the last steep slope. She didn’t know what waited in the world on the other side but she knew she’d be foolish to meet it with her heartbeat uneven with climbing and her mind mazed with wishing and fearing. She breathed deeply. The warm sharp smell of late blackberries rose from the bramble thickets. Soon the frost would come, whether or not she was here to know it. She didn’t know how long it took to find the hidden spring or whether, having found it, you could come back.

Well, and she didn’t know if she’d want to come back to her aunt Rena’s house, to the Dunlin villagers who looked with wary curiosity at the outlander’s orphan, to the days of spinning and milking and gardening and small gossip. She had liked it little when she thought she had no other choice. Since she met the old woman yesterday she had been aware of something wild and sweet in the world around her, something she might miss.

Yesterday morning she had climbed into the hill-country blindly, hurrying away from the eyes of her neighbors. When she couldn’t walk any further she curled up in a sun-warmed hollow, closed her eyes and summoned up the dream-world, her native land, where the colors were richer and the shadows deeper, where she was brave and beautiful and beloved. No one was there to call her back into the world where they thought she should be at home.

8 Secret Agent

TITLE: Truth, Lies, And Everything In-Between
GENRE: YA Adventure

“Ma-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a!” my voice could shatter glass but, as usual, she doesn’t hear me - me, wounded and near death; me, her only daughter and truly the only thing that should matter in her boring, middle-aged life.

“MA-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A!” I yell out again as I’m falling through the doorway, stumbling aimlessly in space, books flying, my stupid hair covering my face. My sobs are so loud that even my tears are too afraid to show up. I hate that! Dry-crying is so fake!

Finally, Mother of the Year Madison Somers comes running in from the garden … a.k.a., her second child. She practically lives in the backyard with the flowers and the weeds, talking to them, humming and singing stupid songs from the 70’s. Sometimes she remembers the words and off-keys them until my mind turns “Help Me, Rhonda” into “I’d Like To Kill You, Rhonda.” PopPop, cringing at the thought that she actually carries his DNA, always asks her what she did with the money he gave her for singing lessons but she just ruffles his hair, laughs in her sweet, pleasant, annoying little way, and then goes on singing.

“For goodness sakes, Frost! What is wrong? The neighbors will think I’m murdering you!” She rarely raises her voice ... says it’s undignified but now she is almost yelling as she comes running toward me.

“News flash! They think you’re killing me every time they hear you singing! By now, I’m sure they’re used to hearing weird and disturbing noises coming from this house!”

7 Secret Agent

TITLE: Shimmering Angels
GENRE: YA Paranormal

I’ve seen them before, the men with wings.

As long as I can remember, the men whose white wings sparkled opaquely and glimmered in the sunlight walked about town the same as the rest of the population, blending in eerily well—only because, so far, I seemed to be the only person who could see the abnormalities protruding from their backs.

A plastic cup bounced off the black and white checkered floor and the noisy diner flared to life. Waitresses scrambled to take orders, shouting over some of the louder patrons, exhausted parents wrestled with their children to eat their runny eggs, and a table of college kids sprinted toward the door without stopping to pay for their meal.

Yes, men with white wings were occasional, but the man across the room was different. His were black, with the rainbow-like sheen of an oil slick.

Could he be real? My feet slid under me and I stepped out of the booth, toward the man.

“Sweetie?” A woman called. I didn’t listen, didn’t falter, didn’t take my eyes off the strange angel. “Sweetie.” Her fingers folded across my arm, jetting my attention in her direction. “Are you still interested in the job?”

“Job?” Bewilderment etched behind my eyes and my ponytail slapped the lobes of my ears as I turned toward her.

The woman’s head tilted slightly. “The waitress job you asked about. I sat you and your friend down, gave you hot chocolates, and told you I’d be back in five minutes.”

6 Secret Agent

GENRE: Middle Grade Fiction

Sam Morien pretended to stare at the beach through his binoculars, humming
to himself so he wouldn't have to listen to Alice. She just talked
louder, drowning him out. She had a plan. Again. Which was sure to be
just as hair-brained as all her other plans. Or worse.

“It will work, if you’d just listen.” Alice stared at him, knawing on a
fingernail. Her nails were always raw and bit to the quick. It was a bad
habit that didn’t bother Sam but drove their mother crazy. What did
bother him was the way Alice stared bug-eyed at him without blinking, like
a skinny python sizing him up. And just like a python, Alice couldn’t
wait to suffocate him—with dull explanations, tedious arguments and boring
diagrams scratched in the sand.

“At least I’m trying!” Alice snapped. “You come up with something, then!”

Sam grinned to himself. Upsetting his twin sister almost always made him
feel better. And worse. Because now there was a strange buzzing noise
inside his head, and in a weird way it felt like he was mad at himself.

Sam focused the binoculars and scanned the ocean waves. He watched a
seagull plunge into the surf, then tilted up to view the cliffs. He found
the old stone mansion perched among the rocks—an ugly, gray gargoyle
turning green from the damp sea air. Everyone on Arbmu Island thought it
was an eyesore, except Alice.

5 Secret Agent

TITLE: Beneath the Trees
GENRE: YA Fantasy

Rose kept dropping barley seeds into the neatly plowed rows though her gaze remained fixed on the forest, scanning every one of the twisting, fern-covered lanes between the trunks. No matter how stealthy the creature moved, Rose knew it was coming. A breeze brought the warning, a strange mix of clotted blood, the musk of a male animal and the sweat of a man; but most frightening by far was the utter silence with which it approached.

“Uncle John,” Rose called across the field. “I hear…Mary.” It was true. Rose could hear her aunt getting supper. “She needs you.” That was also true, of course.

John Woodman learned long ago how well his niece could hear, and he caught the very real note of alarm in her voice. Casting his hoe aside, he barreled towards the little farmhouse, expecting Rose to follow.

She’d made one step in order to give him that impression, but when she was sure he was headed to safety, she turned facing the stand of ancient oaks that lined the edge of the field.

The creature must’ve heard her call. It was coming faster now. Rose heard the snap of a twig. She caught a glimpse, a dark, fleeting shape between the trunks. And then, it was upon her.

Tall as she was, it towered above her as it rose onto its hind legs. The beastly face gave a very manlike grin and a grey, clawed hand shot out to grab her.

Rose didn’t scream.

4 Secret Agent

GENRE: YA Contemporary

The whispers began early today, slight puffs of air that tickled my ears.

The Vails are van accident...four years ago...London…her…the wreckage...

I tried to ignore them, but by noon, they built to a scream.


The cafeteria buzzed loudly, snatches of conversation escaping. The students at Winspear Academy haven’t heard such interesting news in days. I felt it spread as I walked by their tables. The words weighed on me, but I kept the look off my face and straightened my back until my shoulders started to hurt. Rumors might light everyone’s eyes as if it was holidays instead of mid-September, but tomorrow we’d be back to ignoring each other. I murmured my father’s favorite words continually. High school is only a stepping stone…high school is only a stepping stone…high school is only a stepping stone…

Right, I thought as a boy looked straight at me, a nasty stone with jagged points.

I walked to a round table where two girls sat on opposite sides. It is the Almost Table. A table not close enough to the windows to lie with its popular copies but also not exiled to the far reaches of the back wall.

When I lowered myself into a wooden chair, the girls stared at me with a combination of sympathy and curiosity.

I didn’t appreciate either today. “What?” I asked, setting my bag on the floor with a careful thump.

Ally fidgeted with her red lunch tray, trying not to smile. “They’re back tomorrow.”

“Who?” Indigo said.

3 Secret Agent

TITLE: Melody's Song
GENRE: Young Adult


“Shhh.” My eyes darted around the crowded cafeteria, hoping no one was eavesdropping. The fine tremor in my hand already had the Jell-o on my spoon doing a wiggle dance, and the way Cassie pronounced my name only made it worse.

“You’re joking, right?”

“Nope. Sort of wish I was.” A glob of green Jell-o slid off Cassie’s fork and plopped back into the plastic bowl. She continued to gawk at me, mouth hung open in disbelief. “Stop staring, Cassie.”

“Sorry. I’m just shocked you aren’t more excited.”

Art twirled around in his seat and faced us from across the aisle, one eyebrow raised in question. "Excited about what?"

I bit down on my lip, holding back a groan of frustration. Great. Art was the class gossip. It’d be less than two minutes flat and everyone in school would know I’d been called to Mrs. Perkins’s office.

“Mel is excused from fourth period Culture to go see Mrs. Perkins.” A hint of triumph danced in Cassie’s voice. It wasn’t often people had news that Art the know-it-all didn’t already know.

“Shut up! Really?” Art’s voice pitched an octave higher.

“It’s no biggie, so let’s drop it.”

“No way, babe. Being called to the Placement Guide can only mean one thing; you’re being put into training!” Cassie shovelled a spoonful of Jell-o into her mouth, speaking between bites. “Not that it’s surprising.”

“Yeah, it’s not like you have to go through Placement or anything. You’re guaranteed to be a Love Muse.”

2 Secret Agent

TITLE: Lost in a Heartbeat
GENRE: YA contemporary

Staring at the lake as if nothing else existed, I spotted one of my old teammates practicing her freestyle. Even from where I sat on the beach, her pale form was a beacon against the choppy blue water.

I looked away, wrapping my arms around my drawn up knees, and fidgeted with the dolphin charm on my bracelet.

“Are you cold?” Alejandra asked from the beach towel next to mine. She had already stripped down to her bikini while I sat there in my jeans and navy hoodie. The hood, as usual, was pulled up, hiding my light blond hair. The way I now preferred it.

“Maybe I’m coming down with something.”

“Or maybe you’re just not eating enough.”

I knew where this was headed. It was a path we had already traipsed down one too many times. “Just ’cause your sister’s struggling with anorexia doesn’t mean I am as well.”

“Yeah well, when we were on the swim team, it was like you were eating all the time. But now nada. Now you’re just skin and bones.”

Knowing I wasn’t going to win this argument, even though she was wrong, I quickly scanned the beach, searching for something so I could change the subject.

“She’s nowhere near as good as you are,” Alejandra said.

I looked at her to see what she was talking about. Her gaze was directed at our old teammate in the water.

“Her timing’s all off,” she said.

1 Secret Agent

TITLE: Chosen
GENRE: YA Urban Fantasy

Gavin's large paws sunk into the soft leaves of the forest under his massive weight. His dark coat allowed him to meld into the shadows of the many trees, providing him with camouflage for hunting white-tailed deer. He could smell them, grazing just beyond the next copse of trees.
He also smelled horses, but those were strictly off-limits as they most likely belonged to humans, and he wasn’t taking any chances.

A squirrel chattered in another part of the forest, causing his ears to twitch unconsciously toward the sound and momentarily distracting him. Muscles rippled under his thick silver and black coat as he resumed his approach toward his quarry.

Low branches brushed his thick coat, leaving drops of dew behind, but he didn't mind. He was enjoying his time spent alone in the Wyoming wilderness. This was the first time in his life that he had been without his two older brothers, and he was reveling in his freedom. Spending most of his time in his wolf form was even more freeing. Thinking became unnecessary. The natural instincts of the wolf took over, until it was difficult to tell where the mind of a man began and the wolf let off.

Suddenly, a pungent, yet horribly familiar, scent reached his nose and Gavin whirled around just in time to meet the two assassins head-on.

He howled in pain as the first attacker slammed into him, causing the two of them to fly back into a tree behind them.

Secret Agent, On Your Mark!

As always, the excerpts will post in groups of 10.

Entrants, please critique a minimum of 5 other entries.

Please choose a SCREEN NAME instead of "Anonymous."

And authors, remember to sit on your hands. No commenting on the comments!

Have fun. This is a wonderful collection of MG/YA!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Submissions Are Now Closed

That wasn't so bad after all. =-)

Submissions Are Now Open

And we're off!

Please note: I HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO GO BY THE TIME STAMP IN MY GMAIL BOX. Your best bet is checking, but there are no guarantees. I love y'all, but I'm not omniscient!

GENRES FOR THIS ROUND: Middle Grade and Young Adult


* Submissions will be open for 24 hours or until 50 eligible entries have been received, WHICHEVER COMES FIRST.
* Submissions received before the contest opens will be disqualified.
* Submissions are for COMPLETED MANUSCRIPTS ONLY. If you wouldn't want an agent to read the entire thing, DON'T SEND IT. If an "entire thing" doesn't exist, you shouldn't even be reading these rules.
* Manuscripts THAT HAVE BEEN IN A SECRET AGENT CONTEST DURING THE PAST SIX MONTHS (June-November) will not be accepted.
* You may submit A DIFFERENT MANUSCRIPT if you've participated in any of the 2009 Secret Agent contests.
* Only ONE ENTRY per person per contest. If you send more than one, your subsequent entry(ies) will be deleted.
* If you are PAST WINNER, please DO NOT ENTER THIS CONTEST. (Unless it's a different manuscript.)
* Submissions are for THE FIRST 250 WORDS of your manuscript. Please do not stop in the middle of a

Your submission for this contest should be formatted as follows:


(Followed by the excerpt here.)

* No "chapter one," chapter titles, etc.
* You will receive a confirmation email with your post number. I don't always get through quickly. Don't resend.
* Submissions go to facelesswords(at) They DO NOT GO to my authoressmail address. Those of you who are subscribed to this blog via email will note the latter address as the "from." If you use this address for the contest, I WILL NOT SEE YOUR SUBMISSION.

And now I'll sit here with my finger poised over the "Submissions Are Now Closed" post button...

Friday, January 8, 2010

Friday Fricassee

Today I will attempt to write amidst chaos.

Yesterday, our upstairs toilet overflowed. As in, water flowing through the ceiling downstairs.

Yeah. Imagine how thrilled I was when, just as I sat down for my writing time (I kid you not; it happened JUST THEN), I heard water where water shouldn't have been.

And there it was. Pouring through the ceiling vent in the downstairs bathroom. Dazzling its spectators by ripping open a seam in the guest room ceiling and producing a third spout inside the closet.

A breathtaking display.

The insurance company is now our best friend, and today the repair work begins. First step? Drying everything out. Which means lots of big, industrial fans and a couple of dehumidifiers. Running constantly for the next three days.

Did you catch that? Running. Constantly. On two floors.

Now, picture me trying to write. Picture me trying to think, for that matter. Or chat quietly with Mr. A. Or, um, sleep.

My favorite coffee shop is only six minutes up the road. And it's calling my name. Screaming, actually.

Except. It's too cold to move. I don't even want to go outside to fetch the mail.

So. Noise? Or freezedom?

And no, I don't have earbuds for my Sansa.

Guess I'd better figure out what to do, yes? At any rate, I'm looking forward to Monday's brouhaha (I mean Secret Agent contest). I know there's going to be a mad (mad mad mad) rush, so PLEASE, dearest fellow authors, PLEASE don't enter unless you are confident that your manuscript is in query-able shape.

Have a warm-as-you-can-be weekend! (And if you live in the tropics, don't tell me.)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Quietly Speechless

It isn't often I stare at an empty Blogger screen. Words are usually right there, ready to flow.


I guess "thanks" is enough. I'm blown away by the outpouring of support and affection. You've always been supportive, so it's not as though I'm shocked. It's the just level of support, the passionate outpourings.


I do want to clarify that I don't believe anyone was tweeting out of jealousy or malice. And that I don't have any hard feelings, angst, or any such poo.

It probably sounds ridiculously gooey, but I love this community. Like a mother hen with scads of invisible chicks. Except, I don't have to "mother" you. We're all in this together.

So. Thank you. For all that you've received in participating here, please know that you have also given. I haven't felt this affirmed in a long time.

**group hug**

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

On Being Misunderstood

When something bad happens, it's usually a great opportunity to teach a lesson.

Not that anything truly bad has happened. But in pondering a recent Twitter experience, I realized I had enough to say about it to post something thought-provoking. Or at least mildly interesting.

First of all, if you're not aware of the awesomeness that is #askagent on Twitter, you need to get with the program. Of course, that means you need a Twitter account.

The #askagent hashtag allows you to tweet questions to agents and get quick responses. Gracious souls like Colleen Lindsay, Elana Roth, and Lauren MacLeod often share their time and expertise during these sessions, and even if you don't have a specific question, you will learn a lot by reading the questions and answers that fly by (and they do fly).

That's the backstory. The "being misunderstood" part comes in when Authoress begins to read tweets insinuating that she is somehow trying to "gimmick" her way into being published by hosting an anonymous blog.


Granted, the comments came from folks who obviously don't read my blog. But this is an opportunity to for me to clarify what, exactly, I'm doing here, and why.

So. Here goes.

I started this blog in April, 2008. Honestly? It was a complete, spur-of-the-moment idea. As in, "Hey! Wouldn't it be cool to create a supportive blog for my fellow writers? And I'll stay anonymous and keep this separate from my real blog, real self."

So I did. And the rest is history.

I've never been the kind of gal who wants to spill her personal journey-toward-publication all over the Internet. Even my account on Verla Kay has always been anonymous, and once I started this blog, I stopped posting my stats on agent responses over there.

Because, you know what? People simply don't need to know all the nitty-gritty, behind-the-scene details. It's unprofessional.

So. The confusion arose when I began to talk about my blog as a potential platform. Because, let's face it -- it is. It's a great author platform.

We all need one of those, yes?

So here it is. Mine. Except I'm anonymous. Which doesn't lend itself to selling my novel when it's finally out there.

"Okay, folks, my novel's on the shelves. Just browse the YA section, you'll find it!"

Anyway, the platform exists, though that wasn't my original intention. And the question I posed on #askagent had to do with when/how to unveil myself in order to actually use the platform.

Then came the subtle accusations.

I mean, seriously. How stupid would it be to attempt to woo the publishing community by creating an anonymous persona? That would help me get

You all know me better than that, despite the fact that you don't, ur, know me. But I'm awfully transparent around here, despite keeping my personal details private. If you were to meet me in person, I think you'd say, "Wow! You're you!" Or something else (profound) like that.

And I'm not pouring time into this thing to "gimmick my way" into being published. That's kind of hard to do if, yanno, nobody knows your name.

No. My efforts to publish my work are separate from this. Otherwise I'd be signing my queries, "Sincerely, Authoress."

I'm not doing that.

And I'm not switching the blog from "Authoress" to "Real Name", either. Not yet.

I'd dearly love to hear your thoughts on all this, so comment away! I may not attach my name to it, but this wonderful community of writers (you! all of you!) is an important part of my day, and of my journey.

I'm listening!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Let's Kick Off 2010

I've got to ask:

Are you saying, "Two thousand ten"? Or "Twenty ten?"

I'm opting for "twenty ten." Nobody said, "One thousand, nine hundred ten" back then. Or "Nineteen hundred seventy-two" when Nixon was elected.

Just sayin'.

Though, there IS that silly little rhyme:

Columbus sailed the ocean blue
In fourteen hundred ninety-two.

Surely that was for the sake of meter, though.

Anyway, a blessed and prosperous New Year to all! And we're jumping right in with our first Secret Agent Contest of Twenty-Ten, with submissions opening a week from today.


* Submissions will be open for 24 hours or until 50 eligible entries have been received, WHICHEVER COMES FIRST.
* Submissions received before the contest opens will be disqualified.
* Submissions are for COMPLETED MANUSCRIPTS ONLY. If you wouldn't want an agent to read the entire thing, DON'T SEND IT. If an "entire thing" doesn't exist, you shouldn't even be reading these rules.
* Manuscripts THAT HAVE BEEN IN A SECRET AGENT CONTEST DURING THE PAST SIX MONTHS (June-November) will not be accepted.
* You may submit A DIFFERENT MANUSCRIPT if you've participated in any of the 2009 Secret Agent contests.
* Only ONE ENTRY per person per contest. If you send more than one, your subsequent entry(ies) will be deleted.
* If you are PAST WINNER, please DO NOT ENTER THIS CONTEST. (Unless it's a different manuscript.)
* Submissions are for THE FIRST 250 WORDS of your manuscript. Please do not stop in the middle of a

Your submission for this contest should be formatted as follows:


(Followed by the excerpt here.)

* No "chapter one," chapter titles, etc.
* You will receive a confirmation email with your post number. I don't always get through quickly. Don't resend.
* Submissions go to facelesswords(at) They DO NOT GO to my authoressmail address. Those of you who are subscribed to this blog via email will note the latter address as the "from." If you use this address for the contest, I WILL NOT SEE YOUR SUBMISSION.

This month's contest will include the following genres:

Middle Grade fiction, all genres
Young Adult fiction, all genres

***EDITED TO ADD: Submissions will open on Monday, January 11 at 12:00 PM EST.***

(Yes, yes, I know. There's going to be a mad rush. No one will feel the pain as keenly as I!)

Pop your questions into the comment box.