Monday, April 30, 2012

Sequelitis = Querying

So. This summer is packed with upcoming sequels. Some of them have been on my TBR pile for a year. To be honest, the wait has been a-g-o-n-i-z-i-n-g. But alas, summer is upon us! No more waiting! 

*break dances*

Since sequelitis is in full bloom in my lil ol' head, I figured I'd share some of the books I'm desperate to get my hands on. So. Here are 4 of my most anticipated sequels of the summer:

There are lots more where those came from, but this is just to give you an idea of what I'm looking forward to. Yes, I will read debut novels and subsequent novels from already published authors, but there's something about sequels, you know? The anticipation prior to getting your hands on one is both awesome and excruciating... and it's a lot like querying

Before you get an agent's/editor's response, everything is fair game. You envision a buttload of requests with glowing praise for your manuscript. Or you could envision tons of rejections and cry yourself into a corner just thinking about it. Either way, you're already familiar with other authors' experiences, their success/failures, and their querying tactics. Before you get that response, you hope your experience meets your expectations. Same goes for waiting for a sequel--you have sooooooo many expectations and fears that it's insane. Will the MC do what I want them to do? Or will they TOTALLY go a different route and leave me in the dust? In both cases, you don't want to be left in the dust. But simply waiting for the moment when you know whether it happens or not can be more excruciating than knowing for certain

At least it is for me. 

Hopefully, I'm evolving into a much more patient, considerate creature. 



Now tell me: are there any sequels you're dying to get your hands on this summer?? And if you're querying, or plan on querying this summer, BEST OF LUCK! *hugs a bazillion times*

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Writer Movies

Whisper of the Heart, 1995
Friday movie night with my daughters is always fun, but the entertainment isn't always great (avoid Chipwrecked and Air Buddies if you possibly can) but this past week we picked a winner: Whisper of the Heart (Mimi wo sumaseba), a 1995 Studio Ghibli film written by the great Hideo Miyazaki.

In the movie, 14-year-old Shizuku lives to read fairy tales and write new lyrics to her favorite songs. When she finds all of her favorite books have been checked out of the library by the same boy, she imagines a romantic ideal of her "Prince of Books." When she meets the real Seiji, she finds him infuriating and but more complicated than she imagined. Seiji longs to become an apprentice violin maker, and when he leaves for Italy, Shizuku vows to write a story of her own to become an artist with the same dedication by the time he returns.

The movie was a funny, touching portrayal of awkward adolescent love, but also a realistic portrait of Shizuku as an aspiring writer. Shizuku works tirelessly to finish her first novel, and when she does, she's afraid to show it to Seiji's grandfather. She's crushed when he tells her it needs work, but mostly frustrated because her words fall short of her imagination. But she decides to study and revise until the story until it matches her vision.

I loved this portrayal of the life of a young writer. I don't usually enjoy books about aspiring writers, but the translation to another medium made the theme less solipsistic. So I've been thinking about some iconic film portrayals of writers -- Adaptation, Barton Fink, The Shining, Misery, Romancing the Stone, and more recently, Young Adult. I decided that of all them, Shizuku's experience is most like my own, and for that, I'm grateful. Only Kathleen Turner seems to be having fun in any of those other movies.

What movies do you think best portray your life as a writer or reader? Which are most or least realistic?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Cover and Trailer Reveal!! Lisa Amowitz's BREAKING GLASS

I am very pleased to take part in the cover and book trailer reveal for my dear friend Lisa Amowitz's upcoming debut novel, BREAKING GLASS. I had the pleasure of reading this book this weekend and it was AWESOME.

Without further ado, here is the incredible cover and trailer :) (and p.s. Lisa is not only an amazing author but a very talented artist as well. In fact, she creates covers for several publishers and was able to do her own cover. I've got to say - this is one of the best covers I've seen. Love it!)

Le Blurb:

On the night seventeen-year-old Jeremy Glass winds up in the hospital with a broken leg and a blood alcohol level well above the legal limit, his secret crush, Susannah, disappears. When he begins receiving messages from her from beyond the grave, he's not sure whether they're real or if he's losing his grip on reality. Clue by clue, he gets closer to unraveling the mystery, and soon realizes he must discover the truth or become the next victim himself.

BREAKING GLASS is coming from Spencer Hill Press next spring! Congrats Lisa!!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Problem of Redundancy, Rereading, and Revising


Confession: I almost never reread a work of fiction. 

Maybe it's the ADD in me, but the suspense is just gone. It doesn't even matter if it's the greatest book ever written. I've tried to reread Harry Potter but can't make myself commit. I can reread excerpts (and sometimes get swept up in the writing of a particular scene all over again), but there's just no way I'm going to read through the entire book the way I did the first time... ever again.

I think this makes me strange. I know other people who reread books over and over again (<-- redundant on purpose). But redundancy bothers me. It even bothers me sometimes when I'm reading a sequel and the author repeats information gleaned in the first book just in case somebody is new to the series. I know it shouldn't bother me. That's exactly what you're SUPPOSED to do as a writer of a series. But I'm just an impatient reader.

I'm also an impatient writer. 

This is why I've written six books that are yet unpublishable. My impatience with looking back makes revision awfully hard. Don't get me wrong; I do revise. But it's painful and slow and I put it off sometimes for years.

As the therapy cliche says, the first step is admitting you have a problem. But man, the idea of overcoming my impatience is daunting.

I keep hoping that if I just keep writing, eventually I'll turn out something that doesn't need a second look. *ROFL*

Yeah, right.

I don't think the writing exists that doesn't need revision. Most of us write stuff that needs major TLC after the initial draft. I know this. So why is it so hard for me to look back? Why is rereading and revision something I dread?

I need your wisdom, Writerly Blogosphere. Tell me, how do you face the prospect of revising an entire novel, especially after receiving significant criticism? 

Is there a magic bean I can swallow?


Wednesday, April 25, 2012


I won't lie, I like the odd bit of procrastination. 

Some weeks I'm all: 

Other weeks I'm kind of:


And stuff attacks me until I submit: 

But once it's done:

Until next time... 

So tell me, do you procrastinate? 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Gratefulness for Rejection

I am no stranger to rejection. In middle school, I was bullied. I often felt like the left out loser. And even now, in adulthood, I sometimes feel that way, too. But my bullying experiences as a youth has made me more sensitive and sympathetic to people now. 

My writing journey has reflected a similar journey. When I finished my first book, I wanted to be the person that sent out 5 query letters, had all 5 agents fighting over me, and publishers pushing each other out of the way to gain my attention. My journey is NOTHING like that. It took me at least 70 queries (and 69 rejections) to get my agent. And, even after that, my book did not sell. It had great prospects. I even had an editor ask for revisions. But in the end, it was rejected and my book failed. It was at that point in my writing life that my writing stalled. For several years, I couldn't focus on my words. I puttered around with a few projects, but that rejection, so close to publication, really injured me. 

To rub salt in my wound, I had hung out with a group of writers on the Query Tracker forums. We were the original members of Query Tracker, and we had a private area where we commiserated and cheered each other on. None of us were published. We all climbed the ladder to that goal. And one by one, they succeeded. And though I was happy for them, I was jealous as well. You may recognize some of their names.

And recently, two more of those QT buds had their books sell.

and our very own

I am one of the last ones in this original group NOT to be published. 

Last year I entered Angry Robot's Open Door submission. Out of 944 submissions, approximately 24 made it to the level of editorial. Out of those, 3 were chosen to be published. An additional 3 were asked to rewrite and revise. I was one of those 3. 

The three of us waited, and waited, and chatted together. We angsted about our submissions. My two new friends were offered contracts, and I still waited on.

So out of nearly 1,000 submissions, I was the LAST to hear. It reminded me a bit of those early days in my life, when I stood by myself as kids picked teams for kick ball on the playground. Recently, I finally heard my answer. And yup, you guessed it.

After 13 months of waiting, it was rejected by an editor again

Of course I was ticked, especially when you get a near form rejection after a complete rewrite. But after a day of stewing, I realized I would be just fine.

My writing was good enough to gain specific attention of editors TWICE now. I was good enough to get an agent. Good enough to be the top six of nearly 1,000 submissions. And though it may not have sold (yet), and I still may be the writer looking at the big boys (or girls), the writer watching my friends succeed, I've gained a lot of confidence from this submission--even if it ended in rejection.

A new writing friend sold a book recently. She had the dream path with the multiple agents and the easy sale. She stressed over everything, waiting on the agents, waiting on the editors.

And her experience and actions made me realize, I am grateful I did not have an easy path, after all. 

I know when my time comes (and it WILL, dang it!) I will be stronger than those waltzing in and gaining success right away. I will be better able to handle the bad reviews (there are ALWAYS bad reviews) and I will be more sympathetic to the underdogs, the ones that struggled, even the authors that decide to self publish and do it their own way. It's helped me learn. It's helped me grow. It's thickened my skin. It's made me a fighter. It's taught me to trudge through the snowstorm of adversity. Failure has helped me be a better writer and a better person.

And when success DOES come, it will be oh so sweet.

Monday, April 23, 2012

We Need More Girls... Right?

So. There's this movie opening in a few weeks. You may or may not have heard about it.

Confession: I am beyond excited to see The Avengers. I am. Really. Joss Whedon directing? A handful of Marvel's best superheroes? I'm so in. 

But I've been thinking about something one of the film's actors said in an interview. You see, there's this guy named Chris Hemsworth. He looks like this:

*fans self*

While promoting The Avengers, my future husband Chris Hemsworth was asked about Kristen Stewart. They both star in this summer's upcoming Snow White and The Huntsman.

Huntsman: "Wait... is that guy... sparkling?"

Snow White: "I have no idea what you're talking about. I am too busy freaking out over your gorgeousness." 

The interviewer asked Chris whether Kristen could hang out with The Avengers on a save-the-world mission, to which he replied with high praise for Kristen. He was then asked whether she could "hold her own" alongside the superhero team:

"I think so," smiled Hemsworth. "Why not? We need some more girls."

Chris's answer immediately made me think of the lone woman in The Avengers team.

Scarlett Johansson as The Black Widow 

Yes, she's tough. Yes, she can fight. She even carries a gun (???). But while her inclusion is a step in a good direction for female characters in films, I can't help myself in taking Chris's answer to the next level. Thor, Captain America, Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk have their own origin stories on film. The Black Widow doesn't. Her origin story is glossed over in Iron Man 2, where she first appears onscreen. Which leads me to wonder: is representation enough? 

To me, it isn't. I want to know more about The Black Widow. I don't want her to be in a movie surrounded by a bunch of guys who can protect themselves just fine without her. I want to see her serve a purpose. These are my expectations for the movie. Maybe they'll be met. Maybe they won't. 

Either way, Chris Hemsworth is on to something. 

We need more richly developed, purposeful female characters in all genres of fiction. Don't write a story about a girl if she isn't someone worth exploring further. Don't settle for less than what she deserves. Same goes for male characters, of course, but that's for another post :)

Now tell me: what do you think of the need for more girls in fiction/film/TV? Which are some of your fave female characters? 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Writing You Don't See

Guild House, Spring Garden Street, Philadelphia, April 18, 2012
Last week I found myself sitting in a parked car on a drab section of Spring Garden Street in Philadelphia. I was there for awhile before I recognized the very ordinary brick apartment building across the street.

It wasn't an ordinary building at all. It was the Guild House, designed by architect Robert Venturi as one of his first major buildings and built in 1964. If I hadn't read about its restoration, I never would have guessed its importance. The Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia writes:
In the world of architecture, Guild House is one of the most famous buildings of the 20th century. As John Farnham, Ph.D., of the Historical Commission noted in his outstanding nomination essay, Guild House is not just an important example of a style of architecture, it defined the architectural style of the late 20th century known as Post Modernism.
Really? That plain brick building is one of the most famous buildings of the 20th century? Once I recognized the building, I studied it. And studying it made me think of writing, as almost everything does.

The Guild House looked ordinary because it was so successful. Venturi was one of the founders of Post Modernism, which takes lessons from historic architecture and puts them into the context of modern life. He used brick because that's what Philadelphia has been built from for more than 300 years, combining the city's vernacular building material with classical architectural forms. It fits right in with its next-door-neighbor, the Edgar Allan Poe House, the Federal-style home where Poe lived while writing “The Tell-Tale Heart,”“The Fall of the House of Usher,” and “Murders in the Rue Morgue.”

One thing I found remarkable is the chain link fence. Venturi had a limited budget in 1964, and so he chose chain link for the perimeter, the diagonal lattice echoing the brickwork of the Guild House's balconies. To most modern eyes, chain link is utilitarian and even ugly, used for security, often rusted and choked with weeds. If the Guild House had not been historically preserved, most property owners would have replaced the fence with high-end wrought iron or aluminum. Instead the original chain link was restored. Instead of choosing something ornamental, the restorers stuck to authenticity. The fence does its job, and it's true to the architect's vision.

Good writing isn't always visible. It's not always fancy. It builds on classical structures. It uses the same words and emotions other writers have used before because they're comprehensible. But when done well, it can be new and surprising, causing readers to look at something in a different way, the way I looked at the Guild House's chain link fence. If done really well, good writing will be copied so that the innovations are hard to recognize -- true for Venturi and for Poe, a progenitor of horror genre.

So as I revise, I try to remind myself not to show off. Novelty isn't my goal -- it's clarity, authenticity, and originality within the context of the writers who have come before me.

What books or authors do you admire for writing that's invisible, where you notice the story and not the words? What innovative writers in your genre have been so copied that it's hard for new readers to recognize what's special about their work? 

TWILIGHT might be an example. Another is Tamora Pierce's ALANNA: THE FIRST ADVENTURE, whose main character was a revelation for young girls at the time but now seems like a Mary Sue. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Why Do You Write?

Sometimes life gets in the way of writing. But life is the reason we write.

It can be hard to find a good balance. In my life it seems to be all or nothing. I'm either immersed in the literary world with reading, writing, critiquing, and editing, or I'm on hiatus and focusing completely on my other job: motherhood. Transitioning from literary mode to mom mode was difficult because I missed writing and felt guilty for not critiquing and reading more. Transitioning back into literary mode has been difficult because I'm so out of practice.

The other day I was looking at clouds with my family as we drove home at twilight. Some of them had such a sweeping appearance that I commented it looked like they'd been painted there by a brush. My five-year-old asked me if the painter used a ladder to reach the sky. :)

Immediately, my story wheels began to turn. Story is in me. It's in all of us. While my writing muscles may have atrophied from a long absence, the reason why I write has not gone away.

What drives you to write?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Cover Love?

So, I get to throw in my 2 cents for what I'd like to see on the cover for my historical romance TREASURED LIES. And one of the ways I do this is by showing my publisher (the awesome Entangled) three of my favorite covers from my genre. These are three I'm thinking of showing them:

But I'm curious. What type of cover do you like for a historical romance/romantic suspense? What draws you in and makes you think "oooo I must get this book!" :) Do you like gorgeous eye candy on the cover, a little skin showing, or something more mysterious, or just anybody in a to-die-for poofy ball gown? :D

I am having a very hard time narrowing this down because I love so many different styles of covers and can envision several different looks for my book :) Specific suggestions are welcome! :)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Writing & Chocolate

To create chocolate you need a delicate balance of ingredients. The chocolate artisan blends them together, forming them in a silky bar for consumption.

I love writing, and chocolate, so when I saw this advert I couldn't resist sharing it. So, in its yummy glory, I present 'The Chocolate Charmer.'

So why am I showing you a clip about some guy playing with his food?

Because the same can be said about writing.

As writers we are word charmers.

You take your ingredients (plots, scenes, language and characters) and blend them together. You heat them to temperature within your word program, moulding them into shape before the hungry reader devours.

We may not get as messy as Mr. Chocolate while we're creating (unless you discount the word count sweats, hair pulling revisions, and occasional screams when the computer freezes). But we get to enjoy the fruits of our labours when we've finished.

And, if we have any, a bar of chocolate.

There we go, two loves combined. Now where did I put my chocolate?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Submission for Fantasy Writers

In case you haven't heard, yesterday marked the first day of the open door submission for both Angry Robot and its YA imprint, Strange Chemistry. 

Strange Chemistry is looking for all flavors of fantasy, science fiction, or horror, as long as it is YA. Find out more about the specific guidelines here.

Angry Robot is looking for adult Classic/Epic fantasy, only. Their guidelines are here.

The open door period only lasts until April 30th. So polish up those submissions and best of luck to you all!

If you are entering, drop a note in the comments.

Monday, April 16, 2012

A Writer-Who-Isn't-Going-To-BEA's Guide To Not Cry About It

BEA, or Book Expo America, is awesome.

Well, that's what people tell me. Because I've never been to BEA. And I won't be going this year, either. 


Today's post is for all you writers/bloggers/readers out there who, like me, are super jealous of everyone going to BEA. We will NOT be defeated by jealousy, people! We will throw parties and eat chocolate and dance and not cry. At least that's what I'm aiming for.

Here's a list of things I'm going to do while everyone else is at BEA:

1) Reading some of my most anticipated SEQUELS. Like these ones: 

2) Watching EPISODES of a few TV shows I'm currently obsessed with. Like these ones:

3) Google pictures of BABY PUPPIES, mainly Coton de Tulears. Which look like this:


4) Stare endlessly at memes that make me laugh. Like this one:

5) And when I'm not doing all of that, I will write. A lot. *fist pump*

So. If you're not going to BEA like me, I'm curious: what do you plan on doing to deal with ze sadness??  

And if you are going to BEA, I hate you. Deeply.*

*I'm kidding.

**Or AM I?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Set in Stone

I'm currently working on a revision of DEADWOOD for my editor, and it's nerve-wracking. It's not nerve-wracking because I can't do it, or because I disagree with her suggestions. It's nerve-wracking because it's getting close to final.

I have already worked through the editorial letter, and I'm still tweaking, refining, and hopefully improving. But no book is ever perfect, and I am not a perfect writer. But at some point, I will just have to just stop. I've already decided when it was ready to show to beta readers, then when it was ready to query.

But ready for copy editing? Ready for layout? Ready for readers and reviewers? This is the scariest leap of all -- being really done, setting those words into stone.

How do you know when you're ready for a book to take the next step? How do you decide when it's time to hit send? When you get sick of it? When you can't tell how to improve? When a lucky date or an unmissable opportunity shows up?

Fortunately or unfortunately, this time I have a deadline. I'll be finished when that day comes.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Hunter Chronicles by EJ Patten: Epic Middle-Grade

On goodreads

So I just found out this awesome book...

(break for the blurb)
Eleven years ago, a shattered band of ancient monster hunters captured an unimaginable evil and Phineas T. Pimiscule rescued his nephew, Sky, from the wreckage of that great battle. For eleven years, Sky Weathers has studied traps, puzzles, science, and the secret lore of the Hunters of Legend believing it all a game. For eleven years, Sky and his family have hidden from dark enemies while, unbeknownst to Sky, his uncle Phineas sacrificed everything to protect them.
For eleven years, Sky Weathers has known nothing of that day. 
But on the eve of Sky's twelfth birthday and his family's long-awaited return to the town of Exile, everything changes. Phineas has disappeared, and Sky finds himself forced to confront the mysterious secrets he's denied for so long: why did his family leave Exile on that day so long ago? What, exactly, has Phineas been preparing him for? And, the biggest mystery of all, who is Sky really and why does everyone want to kill him?! has a sequel

On goodreads
and it's due out this winter, December 4, 2012! You can read a rough draft of the summary at EJ's blog.

Agented by Steven Malk of Writers House, E.J. Patten is amazing. Check out his How I Got Published and the awesome blog From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors interview with him last week

Have you already heard of this new sparkly middle-grade gem? Read it? What do you think?

As a mom of two little boys (with yet another boy due in June), I'm always on the look-out for middle-grade that looks boyish and spectacular. Recommendations welcome!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

You Tell Me....

Are you a night owl, or early bird? When is that perfect creative time for you?

For me, I'm a definite night owl. I do, however, love being awake early in the mornings when everyone else is asleep and the day is just beginning. Unfortunately, the two don't combine well. And I end up a little like this:


Also, my prime creative time has shifted over the years. I used to love late night writing. Now I find myself more productive during daylight hours. Late morning/early afternoon specifically. This might have something to do with the fact that my kids are both in school full time now LOL

But I'm curious - how many other late night vampires are out there? :) Or do you like to rise with the sun?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Writers Block

Writing time begins with the best intentions.

Our tea/coffee/beverage of choice is beside us. The chocolate goodness is ready as a reward (writing a sentence counts as a reward, right?). The computer is fired up. The word document is waiting. Your hands hover over the keys...until we find the little word gremlins have stolen our prose.

Yup, we have writers' block.

For those days when the words just won't flow, I prescribe the following video to rid you of the wordage blues. Enjoy.

Monday, April 9, 2012

On Reading While Drafting

Last week, YA author/book reviewer extraordinaire Phoebe North shared her thoughts on reading other novels while drafting. I agree 100% with the idea of embracing stories while working on your own, mainly because it fuels me to write deeper, richer books. I've seen my creativity dip when I'm not reading other books, or watching TV shows/movies. In fact, I'm going to show you three examples that have recently fed my creativity and have lit a fire on my current WIP. 

Le examples:

A MONSTER CALLS by Patrick Ness

Awesome Character Development + Awesome Voice + It Made Me Sob = EPIC WIN

GAME OF THRONES on HBO (based on the series by G.R.R. Martin)

Awesome Characters + Awesome Worldbuilding + Political Intrigue + WTF Moments Galore = SUPER EPIC WIN


Political Intrigue + Awesome Performances + Seamless Plotting + RYAN GOSLING = *dies*

So there you go--some of my never ending sources of inspiration. Each and every one of them makes me want to write better. And I can't thank them enough :)

Now tell me: do you read/watch TV or movies while drafting?? If so, share your three examples in the comments!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Max Gladstone's THREE PARTS DEAD Cover Love and Release Date

We introduced you to Max Gladstone back when he wowed his agent with this one-line pitch in our Mystery Agent contest:

"A god has died, and it’s up to Tara, first year associate in the international necromantic firm of Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao, to bring Him back to life before His city falls apart.

Three Parts Dead, Fantasy w/ Steam, 102,000 words"

And now we have the unprecedented pleasure of introducing you to the fancy cover for this very cool book, due out from TOR books on October 2, 2012!

Add it on Goodreads
The goodreads blurb: 
A God has died, and it’s up to Tara, first-year associate in the international necromantic firm of Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao, to bring Him back to life before His city falls apart. 
Her client is Kos, recently deceased fire god of the city of Alt Coulumb. Without Him, the metropolis’s steam generators will shut down, its trains will cease running, and its four million citizens will riot. Tara’s job: resurrect Kos before chaos sets in. Her only help is Abelard, a chain-smoking priest of the dead God, who’s having an understandable crisis of faith. 
But when the duo discover that Kos was murdered, they have to make a case in Alt Coulumb’s courts—and their quest for truth endangers their partnership, their lives, and the city’s slim hope of survival. 
Recognize that first line? If you come up with a wicked awesome pitch, it just might be the first line of your goodreads blurb someday. :)

To get to know Max better, you can check out his witty blog or this very unique interview about THREE PARTS DEAD and Max's influences.

Advance Praise for THREE PARTS DEAD: 
“This has so many of my favorite things: an intriguing world, fun characters, a puzzle of a story that manages to be both funky fantasy and legal thriller. Three Parts Dead is simultaneously fast paced and thoughtful, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.”Carrie Vaughn, author of the Kitty Norville series
“With this first book, Max Gladstone gives promise of being a true star of twenty-first-century fantasy. Indeed, in all the ways that count—wit, invention, strangeness, cool—he already is.”John Crowley, author of Little, Big and The Deep 
“Max Gladstone has created a fascinating universe and equally fascinating characters. It’s a world in which magic is craft, and religion has some very practical rules, and he shows it through the stories of some very interesting characters.”Jerry Pournelle, coauthor of The Mote in God’s Eye and of Lucifer’s Hammer 
“Gladstone has created an amazing world. … Combining murder mystery, corporate intrigue, and thaumaturgical fireworks, Three Parts Dead gives us not just an excellent urban fantasy, but [also] a brilliant new world to explore. I can’t wait to see what he does next.”Margaret Ronald, author of Spiral Hunt

I'm beyond stoked to read this!  And best of all, you can already pre-order THREE PARTS DEAD in all the major places:

Be sure to stop by Max's blog or twitter and his agent Weronika Janczuk's website or twitter to congratulate them on this very exciting finished product!

Happy Easter Pictures, Images and Photos

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

April Mystery Agent and Winners Revealed!

Emily Keyes of L. Perkins Agency!

Not only did Emily choose a winner, she chose TWO! One Adult and one YA. Here are her choices:

 Genre: Adult fiction (women's fiction)

Beneath the ash trees on Johnson Street, just east of campus, Hourglass Vintage stood in a weathered brick building, wedged between a fair trade coffee shop and a bike repair business. Behind the boutique's windows, Violet Turner was buttoning a mannequin into a smocked sundress.

She sighed as undergraduates with bright scarves and red faces rushed by without glancing at her or the garments on display. Gray spring days like this one were all about hurrying and practicality, and Violet had never liked either concept. People in practical moods didn't wander into the shop to buy turn-of-the-century kid gloves or 1930s Bakelite jewelry.

Violet bent down to put espadrille sandals on the mannequin. When she stood up, a pair of blue eyes stared back at her. A girl, no older than twenty, stood inches from the window, clutching a 1950s wedding dress against her fleece jacket.

Violet remembered that the girl had come in just a few weeks earlier, trying on half a dozen gowns before selecting the full-skirted one she held now, which flapped in the wind like a surrender flag.

The girl came in and spread the dress on the register counter. “I need to return this."

As far as action goes, it wasn't the most exciting of the bunch. Nor was the first line the most interesting. But then when you read further down, there was something really haunting about the girl returning a wedding dress. How sad. I very much like idea of the main character disapproving of the concept of hurrying and practicality. I feel like I know who she is a little bit. 

GENRE: YA fantasy
TITLE: In The Between

I could always tell what kind of mood Momma was in by the type of cleaning she was doing. Cleaning out closets and drawers? Sad. Reorganizing every shelf in the house? Frustrated. Wiping down the walls and baseboards? Angry. Polishing the silver? Stressed. So the day I opened the front door to find a pile of clothes lying in front of the coat closet, a bucket filled with vinegar solution standing next to the wall, and the smell of ammonia hanging in the air, I pulled my phone from my purse and texted my brother immediately. “Get home quick. She’s Granny-cleaning.”

I was still standing in the doorway when Sam got there. I’d heard the loud thumping of the car stereo long before I heard the crunch of gravel beneath the jeep’s tires, but I decided to ignore it today. I hated sharing a car with him. He was going to blow our speakers, I just knew it. 

He stood behind me and peeked over my head. That’s another annoying thing about Sam- for a twin brother, he’s entirely too tall. “She ironed the sheets,” he said, nodding toward the ironing board in the hallway.

I'm not really sure what is going on between the main character and her brother about the car, but I like the line about him being entirely too tall. How dare he. And of course sending a text like "She's Granny-cleaning" (EMERGENCY) sounds very much like families and how they each have their own language. 

I'd like to see a partial manuscript of both of those.

Congratulations to Megan and Susan

Send an email to emily (at) with the subject heading OA Mystery Agent Winner, and she will give you more details of what she exactly 
wants (number of pages, etc).

Thanks to all who entered!


Here are some others that she liked. (Honorable Mention)

Genre: MG Contemporary
Title: Pele and Yo-Yo

My best friend, Julio, always said if he had a dog he'd name him Pele because Pele is the king of soccer and Julio loved soccer more than he loved his very own birthday.

And then I would say if I had a dog I'd name him Yo-Yo, because Yo-Yo Ma is the king of cello, and I loved playing the cello more than I loved playing soccer.

Whenever we saw an awesome dog at the park, we'd argue about which name fit best, until I'd say to Julio, "Ay, loco, your mom's alergic," and he'd say to me, "Tonto, Ramon! You know your landlord says no animales." Then I'd punch his arm and he'd punch me back, like thirteen-year-old boys are supposed to, until the dog was out of sight.

On the day I found my dog Yo-Yo, Julio missed watching the Barca vs. Real Madrid game.

He never let me forget, but he didn't stay mad at me very long. He couldn't because it wasn't like I'd kidnapped him and made him go dog shopping or something.

I've read too many MG books about dogs and I'm still kind of interested in this one. The author just has the voice down. It makes me wonder what happens? Why does Julio miss the Barca vs Real Madrid game? (It's not a life or death kind of tension but I know it's important because it's important to the characters.) 

Genre: MG adventure
Title: Mind Over Anti-Matter

Nobody tells you in middle school how useful a personal surveillance system could be. A whisper that something embarrassing is stuck to your pants, a beep hinting you’ve dropped an important piece of homework—or an alarm screaming that someone has just robbed you.

I search through the jumble at the bottom of my backpack again, but my entry for the Nicolas Araya Young Inventors Contest—the one due the minute lunch is over—just isn’t there.

“Lost something, Cole?” Down the cafeteria table, Josh Thesman holds up the bottle of liquid that’s supposed to be a spray to keep your socks fresh for two weeks straight.

I push away my open backpack and stand up. “Give it here, Josh.”

Josh’s laugh sounds like boulders tumbling together. “Finders, keepers.”

I glance at the teacher on duty and my hope deflates. Spidwads are flying, a couple is—urk—kissing in the corner, and guys are playing Frisbee with paper dessert plates, but Miss Harris shrinks against the wall, pretending her conversation with the lady who takes the lunch numbers is more important. She’ll never crack down on Josh.

Not that anyone does. Josh only ever picks on kids who don’t complain.

This one just seems fun. It made me realize that a personal surveillance system was exactly what I needed that time I got my period on field day. It would've alerted me and embarrassment could've been avoided! 

Genre: YA fantasy
Title: A Single Feather

Kila stepped into the breaking surf, letting the saltwater of the Pacific dampen the hem of her kapa skirt. A wind from the south pinned the bark cloth to her legs and sent her long black hair into a frenzy about her face. She closed her eyes and raised her arms, willing the wind to carry her away from the island.

“Kila, where are you?” her father, Wana’ao, shouted from the taro fields in the distance.

She smiled and ran to the grassy bank beyond the sand, pausing at the open-air hut where the family’s wa’a sat on stilts off the ground. As always, the wooden engravings along the side of the canoe transported her imagination to another time. The carvings weaved together the story of the ancient chief Akua. She traced the weathered shapes of his many forms: a shark, a sea turtle and a goose stirred beneath her fingertips. Kila longed for such a transformation. Akua’s tale spoke of adventure and freedom. She withdrew her hand and brushed it against her hip, wiping away the temptation with a sigh.

“Kila, hele mai!” Her father’s shout was closer now.

And this one just makes me kind of want to be there. Pretty. 

I also have two I liked but that weren't quite there YET. This one: 

Genre: YA Fantasy
Title: The Halo

Plants I get; they have guidelines. Sun or shade. Wet soil or dry. Prune them often or leave them alone. People are harder.

I’m standing on the edge of the Phinns’s yard, while around me throngs of people sing, eat and laugh. Kara Phinn and I have some classes together, but we don’t exactly hang with the same crowd. Well, I don’t really have a crowd at all.

She’s on the far side of the pool and I swear she must’ve taken those shorts out of her little sister’s closet. She gives her hair extensions a flip while flirting with the quarterback. They glance my way and start laughing, then Kara’s friend Danielle walks past me.

“Hey, Becca, who picked out that skirt? Your grandma?” She snorts and saunters past.

I tighten my jaw, but shake off her comment.

The Phinn’s annual Fourth of July cookout features live music, a catered B-B-Q dinner, and the opportunity to mingle with the Who’s Who in Sugarland, which is why my parents wanted to come. But I’m not exactly a mingler, so I squat down to deadhead some begonias, checking my watch to see how much longer I’ll have to endure the crowd.

I like the repetition of the plant theme (in the beginning and then with dead heading) but the first paragraph doesn't quite flow into the next few. The thoughts are a bit disjointed. 

Genre: YA horror
The carpet in the school library was rough against Erwin’s cheek, but the uncomfortable floor had nothing to do with why he couldn’t sleep. No one was sleeping. Everyone was lying there in silence, the fear and tension in the air so thick it reminded Erwin of movie scenes where the ceiling is slowly coming down to crush everyone. The only difference was that in the movies they always escape just in time.

It was hard to believe only a few hours ago he had been working out in the school gym. He remembered thinking this day couldn’t possibly get any worse. He laughed at the thought now. Outside he heard another bang as whatever those things were tried to claw and crash their way into the locked school.


Erwin was on his way to lunch when he saw them. Justin had Natalie pushed up against her faded orange locker, his tongue down her beautiful throat. Erwin’s own throat tightened and his stomach churned. So much for lunch.

I like zombies even if most editors think they are "over." The opening is possibly interesting--why is he sleeping in the school library?--but then the tension diffuses by cutting away and I lose some of my interest. I see a lot of cutting immediately away in openings. I think sometimes authors are hung up on the idea that the first sentence is super important that they start the story at the wrong place. There's a balance that needs to be established.


Thanks so much, Emily, for visiting us at OA! While she stopped by, we asked her a few questions so you all could find out more about her.

1. In your specifications for this contest, you stated that you wanted “story-driven" as opposed to "lesson-driven” MG fiction. Name some examples of great story driven fiction in the market today.

I think almost any middle grade breakout star, from your Harry Potters to your Newbery Award winners, would almost fall into the "story driven" category.  I said that because I see a lot of MG queries about teaching kids history or math or somesuch. While those books do exist in the marketplace (almost every book exists now!), it is my impression that they are developed in-house by the publishers. If a publishing house is going to go out and buy a novel they aren't going to buy something that doesn't have a good story behind it. 

So I only want a middle grade novel that tells a good story. ... In truth I really only want ADULT novels that tell a good story also, but I don't usually have to specify. I don't know if I am making sense (and it's only my first question!) but I found when I came out and said, "I'm really into young adult and middle grade!" then I got this influx of queries that were... just not what I wanted. So I try to be more specific now when I request middle grade in particular. I'll keep trying until I find the right phrasing. 

Maybe it is because YA and Middle Grade haven't really been "trendy" that long (I remember when I walked into the B. Dalton's of yore, there was one shelf of "young readers" books way in the back of the store and that was IT. If you didn't want Baby-sitter's Club, then you were out of luck. Whereas now they each have their own section and nomenclature...) 

That said, the last middle grade book that I really loved was "The Apothecary" by Maile Meloy, which I read when I was on vacation. 

2. If you could have three dream clients, living or dead, who would they be?

Only three? That's actually really hard. I'm tempted to name classic authors to sound literary and smart, but Shakespeare didn't need an agent, did he? Plus he left playwriting and retired after he made enough money, and I'd ideally like someone who is going to be in the business for a long time. I'm going to say Naomi Novik (who I've met and was quite lovely), someone like Deb Caletti or Sarah Dessen who writes YA that I routinely buy without even looking at the description because I know I'll want it and E. L. Konigsburg because I readMixed Up Files over and over and over again. And she's still publishing! 

3. What are you seeing too much of in your query box lately? What do you wish you’d see more of?

Interest in dystopian YA is starting to fade. I think that's something that will always be out there but bandwagon jumpers will be disappointed. I'm personally kind of sick of urban fantasy with cranky female heroines (I know people are going for "edgy" and "cool" but it's hard to read about over and over again. If you hate the world, why do I want to spend any time with you?) I'm also sick of lesson-drive middle grade! See above! Ha! 

It's hard to say what I want to see more of. Going through the queries can get repetitive after awhile, sometimes you feel like you're reading about the same five or six books over and over again. I'd like to stop and think to myself, "Wait did I read that right...? That's new!" more often. But obviously in a good way. 

4. Favorite TV show? Favorite movie?

Of all time I'd have to say "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." That show just meant so much to me and my sister. Shows that I watch these days include "Game of Thrones," "How I Met Your Mother," "Castle," "Community,"  and "The Walking Dead." 

My favorite movie ever is hard to pick. Maybe "Clue" because I can watch that over and over and over again ("Long story short--!" "Too late!") The last movie I saw in the theater was "The Hunger Games." 

Notice the fancy segue into question five!

5. Team Peeta or team Gale?

I'm Team Peeta. He's the bread boy and she needs bread to survive. 

Although I think one of the things I like about "The Hunger Games" series was that if Katniss chose to go off and live in the woods by herself, I almost would've been okay with that. That character stood really well without a guy. 

6. Coffee or Cocoa?

I'd have to pick cocoa because I'm kind-of-sort-of allergic to coffee (gasp!). Not deathly. It just makes me sneeze. People are always really sad for me, for some reason, when I say that. Fear not, I get my caffeine through soda and tea. 

7. Share with us your exciting agency/client news! Any upcoming releases or sales?

Not at the moment but--fingers crossed--shortly! 

Where you can find Ms. Keyes: