Thursday, October 29, 2020

Flash Fiction Friday Contest 52 #flashfiction

 It's Flash Fiction Friday! And it's almost November, which means it's almost time for NaNoWriMo! I don't know about you, but that makes me feel frantic.

Prompt: Frantic
Length: 1000 words
Deadline: Sunday, November 1, 2020, 2am Central Standard Time

Leave your entry in the comments, please. As always, the winner will get a badge and bragging rights!

Dear O'Abby: How do I get over myself?

 Dear O'Abby,

I've signed up to do NaNo this year after mulling over my new book for several months.  I'm at the point where I fall asleep dreaming about the book and about the characters and how I would use them.  But now that the day to start is looming, and I know I need to write this stuff down before I forget it, I'm paralyzed and completely unable to get anything down on paper.

I know I'm my own worst enemy, but how do I get over myself?



Dear Frozen,

I know that feeling all too well.  The ideas are all there, and in your head they make so much sense, are so compelling and so beautiful.  Yet getting it onto the page is nigh on impossible.

To be honest, I don't have a whole lot of advice about how to get past this other than to just write.  Give yourself a time limit - 20 minutes maybe - and just sit down and spill as much onto the page as you can do in the time.  You may only get a couple of words out or you may unleash a torrent.  Whatever you get, embrace it. Use it.

Then do it again.

And again.

My other suggestion - and it probably isn't the best one I've ever given, but it works for me sometimes - is to go into NaNo without anything written down.  Sit down on Sunday and start writing and see where the story and the characters take you.  It sounds like you have a really great handle on the story you want to tell, and how the characters engage with it.  Maybe you're overthinking things and putting pressure on yourself unnecessarily.

Whatever you decide, enjoy it.  And please don't punish yourself if things don't go as smoothly as you hope.  Writing isn't always easy, and NaNo isn't for everyone. No one is going to die if you don't hit that magic 50K, so there's no need to kill yourself to get there.  Or risk your mental health.

Hope this helps...

X O'Abby


Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Wendy Vooranger #prospectsofawoman #sheiscalifornia #goldrush #womensrights #californiahistory #historicalfiction

Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author posted by @JLenniDorner of @OpAwesome6

Prospects of a Woman: A Novel by Wendy Vooranger

1- How do you suppose someone might have spent October 31, 1850 in California?

All Hallows Eve did not have any significance to the Californios nor the indigenous Indians of California. The American immigrants in California were no doubt digging for gold until dark, then going to sleep early.

2- Would you please, in 160 characters or less, give a #WriteTip ?

Protect your brain. Now more than ever we need to filter what goes into our brain and our hearts. Needless doom scrolling through sensational news headlines and inflammatory social media posts drain our emotional and intellectual energy.

3- Bananagrams - what is this and why do you enjoy it on a Friday night?

Use all 7 tiles to make words. Then, take one. Add in another word. Continue until you own all your opponents by making as many words as you can. Shots of whiskey add an interesting layer of challenge to the competition.

4- What is the best piece of writing advice you've received?

I never forget: “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass,” by Anton Chekhov.

5- Would you share a picture with us of your book with some gold?

Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Wendy Vooranger #prospectsofawoman #sheiscalifornia  #goldrush #womensrights #californiahistory #historicalfiction
A gold in quartz necklace, with a stone from the renowned Sixteen to One Mine in Sierra County, California known for its brilliant white quartz veins yielding over $100M in gold from 1850 to the present.

6- Do you think women have more/ better rights in America and California in 2020 or in 1850, and in what ways?

Although women in 1850 California had more rights than women in any other state in America (owing property, signing contracts, divorcing, and keeping custody of their children), they could not vote until 1911. Today, California women still have more rights than women in any other state in America, many enshrined in the California Constitution (such as equal pay, reproductive health, and medical privacy).

7- What is your favorite book to movie adaptation?

Cold Mountain slayed me.

8- Do you have a favorite #bookstagram image or account/ profile?

@foldedpagesdistillery is super sexy. Then there’s @hotdudesreading . Um, yes please.

9- What most motivates you to read a new book?

Tell me I’m going to learn something about a time, a place, a people, a social dynamic, and I’ll open the book.

10- It's our tenth anniversary! How far has your writing come in the past ten years and where do you see your writing career ten years from now?

Happy anniversary! Ten years ago I was writing about technology trends in the Silicon Valley. Ten years from now I hope to have completed 2 more novels featuring interesting women and rich plots set in early California.

11- What is your favorite book by someone else, what's the author's Twitter handle, and what do you love most about that book? #FridayReads book recommendation time!

Author name: Kristin Hannah @belovung_birds
Title: The Great Alone: A Novel
Love because: It shows the indomitable spirit of women in the West.

12- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader?

A stirring ache in women for power, happiness, and love.

13- What kind of impact do you hope your book will have?

A deep understanding that women are strong and resilient, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.

14- What is the best writing tool, program, or reference book you've ever bought?

Tool: Scrivener. Program: Lit Camp Writer’s Workshop. Reference: On Writing by Stephen King

15- In what ways are the main characters in your book diverse? #WeNeedDiverseBooks

Prospects of a Woman features women and men in early California not often included in historical novels about the West based on real people who inspired me with their strength and courage. Prospects of a Woman includes such diverse characters as Californios, a black woman, a gay woman, a Spanish woman, and a gay man.

16- Who is your favorite book review blogger?

Jane Ciabattri’s Lit Hub Q & A with writers reviewing books is a must for in-depth insights on literature. Also, Tracy at the Compulsive Readers Blog. I love her historical fiction reviews and her section Behind the Bloggers.
North Fork of the American River

17- What was the deciding factor in your publication route?

It was a no brainer for me. Going with a small press (She Writes Press) offered me more transparency during the publishing process, more attention from the publisher, and a greater percentage of sales.

18- Which author, past or present, do you feel most resembles your work?

Perhaps I have similar writing sensibilities in creating strong female characters as Diana Gabaldon (The Outlander), with a bit of the lyrical writing tone of Willa Cather (My Ántonia) sprinkled in my language.

19- Would you please ask our audience a question to answer in the comments?

What do you look for when choosing a historical novel to read?

20- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?

Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Wendy Vooranger #prospectsofawoman #sheiscalifornia  #goldrush #womensrights #californiahistory #historicalfiction
Prospects of a Woman is full of provocative material that explores the choices and opportunities of women in the early West. It isn’t for the faint of heart; consider this a trigger warning.

Blurb—A gripping and illuminating window into life in the Old West, Prospects of a Woman is the story of one woman’s passionate quest to carve out a place for herself in the liberal and bewildering society that emerged during the California gold rush frenzy.

Elisabeth Parker comes to California from Massachusetts in 1849 with her new husband, Nate, to reunite with her father, who’s struck gold on the American River. But she soon realizes her husband is not the man she thought―and neither is her father, who abandons them shortly after they arrive. As Nate struggles with his sexuality, Elisabeth is forced to confront her preconceived notions of family, love, and opportunity. She finds comfort in corresponding with her childhood friend back home, writer Louisa May Alcott, and spending time in the company of a mysterious Californio. Armed with Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Self-Reliance, she sets out to determine her role in building the West, even as she comes to terms with the sacrifices she must make to achieve independence and happiness.


Operation Awesome #20Questions in #2020 of #NewBook Debut Author Wendy Vooranger #prospectsofawoman #sheiscalifornia  #goldrush #womensrights #californiahistory #historicalfiction
Born and raised on the American River in Sacramento, Wendy Voorsanger has long held an intense interest in the historical women of California. She started her career in the Silicon Valley, writing about technology trends and innovations for newspapers, magazines, and Fortune 100 companies. She currently manages, a blog dedicated to chronicling the accomplishments of California women through history. She earned a BA in journalism from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo and an MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts, and has attended Hedgebrook, the Squaw Valley Writers Workshop, and Lit Camp. She is a member of the Castro Writers' Cooperative, the Lit Camp Advisory Board, and the San Mateo Public Library Literary Society. She has also worked as a lifeguard, ski instructor, and radio disc jockey. Wendy lives in Northern California with her husband and two boys. Learn more at

Facebook: wendyvoorsanger
Instagram: authorwendyvoorsanger

Prospects of a Woman: A Novel by Wendy Vooranger

NaNo Prep! #NaNo #NaNoPrep

Well, October continues, which means November and NaNo (National Novel Writing Month) is fast approaching! I am still reading Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder and kicking myself for not reading it earlier in my writing career. I had also intended by this point to have filled out my Story Grid by Shawn Coyne. Or even just made a final decision on a log line or one sentence summary of the novel I want to write this year.

While I was hoping to be more ahead in plotting (there is time blocked on Saturday, and four days before the first starting now), I was instantly sad to not find my copy of The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler. Perhaps it is time to rearrange my bookshelves and give the search another go. While I suspect this novel may not be my usual journey story, I wanted to look at the archetypes like mentor and trickster to include as I flesh out my secondary characters.

But the good news is that even though my plotting is not ready and there is some time to take advantage of prep before I begin chapter one, I do have a clean house with meals prepped and planned. 

So that's a win, and I'll take it.

Monday, October 26, 2020

A cautionary tale
On September 20, 2020, OA's senior member J Lenni Dorner embarked on a journey into a promotion for a self-published book that has resulted in this blog post.

OA: How were you approached by Kindle Books Promo / Kindle Market LLC? Or did you approach them?
J: They followed me on Twitter. Because they followed me, I clicked on their profile to decide if I would follow back. I saw the pinned tweet with the promo special. At first, I ignored it. But then I thought it could make an interesting blog post either way, so I contacted them in a DM to learn more.
OA: Do you know which name is the correct name of the entity?
J: I did a Google search on Kindle Market LLC. I don't know if they're actually a limited liability company. I assume this is the name they're currently using on Twitter. The search did not provide any information to make me feel like this was a legit company. If not for doing an article, I would have blocked them on Twitter and walked away at that point.

OA: Do you know why they selected you to follow on Twitter?
J: I don't know why they followed me. But I interact with a lot of writers. I'm not difficult to run into for anyone who follows the popular writer hashtags on Twitter.

OA: What was the offer they made to you?
J: As per the screenshot, I pay them $25 (via Amazon gift card) and they would promote my book and guarantee 200+ sales during the one-week promo, or my money back.

OA: Did you do any research on this entity before deciding whether to take them up on their offer?  Please describe.
J: The research was the Google search I just mentioned. 

OA: What made you decide to give it a try?
J: I was willing to gamble $25 for an interesting OA article. I would not have risked $50.  They even agreed to answer some OA questions.

OA: What book did you submit for the offer?
J: On September 27, I submitted Fractions of Existence.

On September 29, OA member Dena Pawling sent an email to Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware which included the following request:
I did a search on Writer Beware to see if you had ever written on this entity, but I didn't find anything. Do you have any insight on this entity that you can share?

Her response, which she gave OA permission to include in this blog post:
I am _really_ skeptical. What actually is the promo, anyway? They don't have a website and their Twitter feed is all ads for their service; I see no promotional tweets at all. If that's all the information they provide, it makes no sense to pay for a service when you don't even know what the service will be. I would frankly be amazed if anyone gets 200 sales out of this, and I'm guessing it will be very tough to get them to honor the money-back guarantee. They won't answer the questions, either.

On October 5, Dena emailed the following to @KindlemarketLLC's email address:

Thank you for allowing J Lenni Dorner and Operation Awesome to ask you some questions regarding your services. As per your instructions, below are our questions. We'd like to include your responses in our planned blog post later this month. May we please have your responses by October 16? Thanks

Do you have a website or other social media besides Twitter? If so, please provide links.
How long have you been doing Kindle book promotions?
How many authors have you helped?
What's the average number of sales your authors report after taking advantage of this deal?
Exactly what are you doing to drive up the author's sales?
How do you encourage interested people to buy the books?
How do you encourage interested people to write a review?
Can readers sign up to be on your email list (or whatever you're using)?
Do readers get a book discount?
Are the readers (book buyers) from all over the world, or mostly one country?
Do books need to be enrolled in Kindle Unlimited?
Do you offer a similar service for books sold on Smashwords, B&N, etc? If not, are there plans to do so in the future?
How do you find authors on Twitter to follow?
Are most of the authors who use your services indie-published?
Do any of the "big 5" houses use your service for their clients? If so, which ones?
Who is the most notable or famous author that has used your service?
How would someone get their money back if fewer than 200 books are sold within a week after the 3 day processing period?
Have you had to give many refunds, or are most people genuinely satisfied?
Are there any satisfied customer reviews we could reference?
Is there any other information about your company or your services that you'd like us to share with our blog readers?

OA: Do you know what they did to promote your book?
J: I don't know. I asked if they followed Amazon's TOS, they said yes. They confirmed my order. I don't believe they actually did anything at all.

OA: Did you see any promo for your book in any online forum? 
J: I have a Google Alert set up for Fractions of Existence. Nothing has come up.

OA: During the promo period, how many books did you sell? Do you know how many of those sales are attributable to the promotion?
J: I sold one paperback copy of this book during the promo period. It was bought by my local NaNoWriMo ML, who ordered copies of several books published by local wrimos as some kind of prize pack thing she got for someone. I know because she told me she did this.

OA: Since you didn't have 200 sales, did you ask for your money back?  What was the response?
J: I have asked for my refund. I have not heard back yet this weekend [as of October 11].

OA: On a scale of 1-10 [1 being low], please rate your experience with  Kindle Books Promo / Kindle Market LLC.  Why did you give that rating?
J: I'll give a 2, because they did get back to me initially and were polite. However, they did not do what they guaranteed. This rating might go up or down a point, depending on if I get a refund.

On October 12, I tweeted this:
Supervisor at @KindleMarketLLC , I require you to answer my direct message. It is suspicious that you have stopped responding. I require you to hold up the MONEY BACK GUARANTEE, as we discussed. The order was placed on Sept 27 and verified. It is now Oct 12. There were no sales.

They blocked my Twitter account

(They also blocked OA member Amren Ortega's Twitter account, probably because Amren retweeted the above tweet.)

On October 13, I tweeted this:
How odd.
@KindleMarketLLC gave me a money-back guarantee. When they did not come through, and I asked for my refund, they blocked me instead of replying. That's rude and unprofessional. (And about what I expected.)

On October 13, I sent this email:
I have waited for the promised number of days.
My order was processed.
The $25 Amazon gift card was given.
For some reason, your account has blocked me on Twitter.
I am owed a refund.
I require the reply of a supervisor.
I have screenshots of the entire conversation if you'd like to see them.

On October 17, Dena began writing this blog post.  OA had not yet received emailed responses to our questions, so Dena sent a follow up email:
We haven't heard from you by our October 16 requested response date. Would you like to respond to our questions so we can include your responses in our blog post? If so, please respond by Wednesday, October 21 at the very latest. Thank you.

Dena went to @KindlemarketLLC to determine if she was also blocked.  She discovered that @KindlemarketLLC no longer exists on Twitter.

Further research uncovered that this entity simply renamed its Twitter account.  Everything else about the account, including previous tweets, is the same.

Here's how to find Twitter previous user names: 

Here's what other writers are saying: 

OA reached out on Twitter and two writers responded with their experiences:

Writer #1: They took my money then blocked me. As you know they keep changing names - who knows what they have come back as now.  [Another writer I know] has had an email telling him to f*ck off.

Writer #2: My experience was that I messaged and asked what they offered, they explained to me that they promote their book in closed groups of readers. They explained this all and, despite having a few reservations, I thought I would go ahead with it. They promised a refund if nothing happened so I assume, why not give it a try. They continued to reply to any and all queries I had even after having sent them the payment. I asked them again, during their 'promotion' and they told me that yes, if I hadn't had any sales, they would give me a refund. It came to the end and I messaged them asking for the refund. They were unusually slow to reply but told me to email the email address provided, asking for the refund. I did this and never heard back. I messaged three separate times over a ten day period, asking if I needed to do anything else. They never replied. So then I sent one telling them I knew they were a scam and that I had reported them to twitter and they blocked me. Luckily for them, I still had their email address so I sent them a few emails asking for the refund and got an extremely colourful response.

As of October 22, OA has not received emailed responses to our questions.

On October 24, Dena finished this blog post and checked Twitter one more time for this entity.  Not surprisingly, @SuperBookPromos no longer exists 

As of October 24, it's apparently @KindleClubPromo

OA: Is your rating still a 2?
J: As they haven't replied to anything and have now full-on ghosted....  about a zero or negative number.

OA: Do you have any advice for other writers who are looking to promote their books?
J: My advice is that there isn't an easy promotion gift out there, so be at least a bit skeptical when someone offers to sell you magic beans. I didn't go into this with high hopes that it would actually sell 200 books (or even 20 books). I went into this knowing that Operation Awesome would get a good blog post from the experience no matter how it turned out. If I also sold books, cool, then we could help authors with a new promotion. If it didn't, which I had a strong feeling it wouldn't, then we could help authors avoid the mistake of trusting this wolf in sheep's clothing.

By the time this post publishes, this entity will probably have a different name entirely.  Writer Beware!

Click here for an update!

Friday, October 23, 2020

October 2020 Pass or Pages Entry #5

It's time for the Pass or Pages feedback reveal!  We're so thankful for our awesome agents Dr. Uwe Stender, Kelly Peterson, Shannon Snow, Jennifer Herrington, and Torie Doherty Munro for taking the time to critique these entries.  And a shout out to the brave authors whose work will be on the blog this week.  You are awesome!


Query letter

Dear Agent,

With[TDM1] braces on her legs and a smile always at the ready, eighteen-year-old Selene Evander is the perfect prop for her father’s mayoral campaign[JH1]. Although she’s tired of pretending, tired of the gilded prison of her penthouse, it’s only thanks to her family’s wealth and prestige that no one knows the truth: Selene is an AI, an altered individual, with the power to see into the future.[SS1][JH2][KP1]

She isn’t the only one. Thousands of AIs call the city of Polaris home, living apart from the rest of the city’s population in slums cloaked by the haze of nuclear fallout. Selene never goes there. She never goes anywhere, trapped by the secret that would jeopardize even her progressive father’s campaign[SS2]. But when her father is assassinated and her mother is kidnapped, Selene is thrust into the brutal world she’s been shielded from her entire life.[JH3][TDM2][KP2]

All she knows is that a gangster named Adrian ordered the hit[KP3], and her visions draw her to the Neon Tiger, a bar owned and operated by an AI gang called the Pack. With the Pack’s help—and the tutelage of their aloof but beguiling leader[TDM3]—Selene can take Adrian down and avenge her father’s murder. But as she descends deeper into Polaris’s criminal underworld, she discovers Adrian isn’t her only enemy—or the deadliest. Faced with mounting hostility toward the city’s AIs and growing evidence of a political conspiracy[KP4], Selene must harden her heart and spurn her sheltered past to uncover the truth—or else risk losing her newfound family to another fascist’s gun.[SS3][JH4][KP5]

Uwe's comments:

Kelly's comments:
[KP1] Does she not see her parents getting killed?
[KP2] How so? Do they find out she’s an AI and throw her into that world? Or is she still hiding who she is? Can you explain?
[KP3] My question is that if she doesn’t seem to care about her father and mother because they don’t care about her…why should she care who killed them? The opening of this pitch acknowledges that she knows she’s being used. What are her feelings towards this? What’s her motivation and emotional tension?
[KP4] Why does she hate her own “people” so to speak, if she’s an AI?
[KP5] Who is her newfound family? I like the stakes, though!
Shannon's comments:
[SS1] My first thought when I read the last sentence or paragraph two was why didn’t she see her father’s assassination coming?
[SS2] There may be some missed opportunities to condense and tighten here. This sentence references she never goes anywhere and why, but it’s also mentioned in the first paragraph. So, there is redundancy here that could potentially be condensed. Additionally, I wonder if the sentence introducing her as an AI could possibly be connected and condensed with the first sentence about AIs in the second paragraph.
[SS3] It’s always helpful if you put in some comparative titles, or a sentence such as, “fans of… will enjoy this…”

Jennifer's comments:
[JH1] Great opening line!
[JH2] Interesting twist here.
[JH3] Great paragraph here. It gives agent lots of needed details.
[JH4] This was an interesting query, but we don’t have any other details such as the genre, word count, or comparative title. There is no pitch sentence and it’s missing the pleasantries to close the query letter.

Torie's comments:
[TDM1] Lead with title/genre/word count!
[TDM2] There is a lot of buildup to get to the inciting incident here, and some of it feels repetitive – Selene has to live a lie, and feels trapped by it. I’d be tempted to try to get to the assassination/kidpnapping sooner, and reveal more details about the world and the way AIs fit into it as evidence of the brutal word Selene finds herself thrust into.
[TDM3] This is a pretty minor quibble, but it’s not clear here what Selene needs to learn from the leader of the Pack.

First 250 Words

Mother and I sit at the back of the stage, drowned in father’s shadow. He is not[KP6] a very burly man, but for what he lacks in stature, he makes up for in charisma. When Dr. Grigori Evander speaks, people listen.

Three thousand of them, in fact. That’s the official estimate for today’s gathering in Tenebra Square. Millions more are streaming the broadcast from the comfort of their homes, the footage provided free of charge by the Arctura Public Access Network. News drones from around the world fly overhead, eager to capture footage for their own highlight reels. Albia, Caledonia, Espalona, Nihon, Goryeo, Zhonguo, Kievek, Lagossa, and more[SS4]. They are all present at today’s rally.

As a former superpower of the world, whatever happens in Arctura is front-page news. Everyone wants to see what we will do next, our once-glorious nation reduced to a single city-state. Whosoever[SS5] controls Polaris controls the country, with the mayor having nearly as much power as the president—our federal government in shambles even so many years after the war.[US1][SS6]

This is why my father must win. If he doesn’t, I shudder to think what our future might hold.

Father grips the sides of his podium. He leans into the microphone so the soft timbre of his voice can be heard clearly. “Arctura was once a country that offered safe haven to anyone and everyone. No matter your race, your creed, your gender, Arctura would welcome you with open arms.”[JH5][TDM4][KP7]

Uwe's comments:
[US1] This is all TELL, and  not SHOW. I lost interest here.

Kelly's comments:
[KP6] Is there a reasoning for the propriety here? It doesn’t read quite as fluently because you’re not using contractions, so I was wondering if there’s a reason for her propriety! =)
[KP7] I have to ask why the whole beginning is more about her father than her. We don’t know her emotions or how she feels about anything that’s happening. I want to be pulled into the main character with her emotions and connection to her father and her country. This reads a bit more like an info-dump. Can we cut back a bit on the information that’s given here and sprinkle it within the first chapter or two instead? This will allow you to focus on your main character’s drive and motivation instead of the world, effectively pulling your readers into your character. In order to become fully involved, your readers will want to attach themselves to your character in order to root for them and their journey. If you try to attach them to the world, there won’t be quite as much attachment or stakes and you will end up losing your readers. Focus on both external and internal (emotional) stakes and motivations here! With this said, I’m going to have to regretfully pass!
Shannon's comments:
[SS4] Too many names. Name 3 or 4 and then use the “and more.”
[SS5] I don’t know if this was intentional, but this seems like an antiquated word choice. It stopped the flow of the reading.
[SS6] The first part of this sentence and the second part after the em dash.  The second part doesn’t seem to support the first part in any way and seems unrelated.  Should it have said that the federal government “IS” in shambles?

Jennifer's comments:
[JH5] This was an interesting opening and it gave a good glimpse into the political worldbuilding. I didn’t feel connected to Selene in the opening paragraphs.

Torie's comments:
[TDM4] This opening is doing a lot of heavy-lifting in terms of world-building, and the narrator gets a bit lost in the shuffle. I know a lot about the political situation of her world and even a little about her father, but I don’t have a clear sense of who she is.


Uwe Stender: Pass
Kelly Peterson: Pass
Shannon Snow: Pass
Jennifer Herrington: Pass
Torie Doherty Munro: Pass

Thursday, October 22, 2020

October 2020 Pass or Pages Entry #4

It's time for the Pass or Pages feedback reveal!  We're so thankful for our awesome agents Dr. Uwe Stender, Kelly Peterson, Shannon Snow, Jennifer Herrington, and Torie Doherty Munro for taking the time to critique these entries.  And a shout out to the brave authors whose work will be on the blog this week.  You are awesome!


Query letter

Lenore's[TDM1] hand shakes as she sells her mom's last pair of Louboutin heels to pay the mortgage. Papa[US1] probably gambled away his paycheck. She gnaws on a bent paperclip, regretting she can't wear the shoes to her quinceañera. Her stomach knots as she debates telling her mom of this sacrifice[SS1] during her next inmate visitation. The girl mom killed will never celebrate a fifteenth birthday. Check the doors and windows are locked, the stove is off, and no one is hiding in the tub. Force a smile or the family will fall apart and more friends will abandon her. Papa's former fame as a Hispanic NFL player means their downward spiral is national news. Lenore rubs her[SS2] serenity prayer bracelet when she's accepted to a summer school program for gifted young writers, a chance to repair her life.[JH1][TDM2][KP1]

Lenore longs for her stories to help others with incarcerated family members. If other students discover her writing goals they might mock her, calling her Jailbird Junior. Writing is how she wants to make a positive name for herself and earn a bright future, instead of suffocating in her parents’ dark shadows. If she can win the program’s prize money, maybe she can keep their home[KP2]. If not, her papa is moving them, and Lenore would attend the school of the girl her mom killed[JH2][KP3]. Only white boys have won in the past, thanks to the summer program’s racist associate dean[TDM3]. Lenore must find the courage to know which circumstances she can change and which she needs to accept[SS3][KP4] in CRIME AND PREJUDICE, a 65k-word YA[JH3]. Fans of STANDING AGAINST THE WIND[KP5] will find a similarly mature and anxious teen character who must take control of her life for an educational opportunity.

Uwe's comments:
[US1] Sorry, I don’t like this at all. This is not even a “rel” query, and the present tense summary feel is off putting, IMO.

Kelly's comments:
[KP1] Interesting so far, but this is being told as if it’s written in the book and in a single moment. Does all of this happen in a single moment? We want to know her stakes a bit more, as well as her motivation, and not from the POV of her brain as she thinks. Pull yourself out just a bit while keeping her voice, and then work towards rewriting this pitch! =)
[KP2] There’s some good stakes! This paragraph is much clearer.
[KP3] Why would her father papa move them there? Financial reasons? Wouldn’t he try to keep her out of harms way by avoiding that school? Does he see the danger? Does he care? Does he not care? How can we use this as an opportunity to showcase her relationship with her father?
[KP4] Awesome, but there’s a lot more stakes in this than simply know what she can change. What if she doesn’t make the money and loses? What if she ends up at the school where her mom murdered that girl? What if she never writes again? Etc.
[KP5] Italicize, rather than capitalize! Capitalization is for unpublished works. Who is Standing Against the Wind written by?
Shannon's comments:
[SS1] While I appreciate the attempt to allow the reader to see the writing style in the query by writing it in a narrative-type manner, it actually caused the point to get lost for her.  There are details in here that are irrelevant to the story, and others that needed to stand out.  By couching in story language, I can’t get a good enough idea of the conflict. For example, while the information about selling her mom’s last pair of expensive shoes, and her father’s gambling help paint the picture of money loss and consequence, the sentence about the paperclip doesn’t add to objective of relaying the story.
[SS2] Unnecessary detail that’s taking up valuable space where you could be telling the reader about your story and getting to the point of the conflict.
[SS3] I would have stopped reading prior to getting to this part.  This is an important piece of the story and it is buried and lost inside the query.  Condensing this piece, picking out the pertinent details and highlighting this part of the story will make the story pop better when read.  

Jennifer's comments:
[JH1] This doesn’t really give me the details of the plot. It feels more like the opening paragraph versus a query letter. I think the important details (mom in jail for murder?, Hispanic NFL player father with a gambling problem could be the focus, accepted to a summer school program for gifted young writers. Could also mention Lenore’s age.
[JH2] Here are the stakes buried in the paragraph.
[JH3] Consider adding in the genre of YA, like contemporary so the agent knows 100% the genre.

Torie's comments:
[TDM1] Start with title/genre/word count!
[TDM2] This paragraph is confusing. It keeps piling on details to the point that I’m not quite sure what I should be focusing on – Lenore’s financial situation, the reveal about her mother being in jail for murder, the detail about people hiding in the tub, the fact that her father used to be an NFL player…I would ask yourself what the most important things we need to know about Lenore are to start off with, and restructure from there.
[TDM3] This paragraph is similarly jumbled. What’s at stake – winning the prize money despite the program being headed by a racist, and that if she loses Lenore will have to go to the school her mother’s victim attended – is buried beneath the details about Lenore’s writing and her worries about being made fun of. I would dig deeper into the stakes here, and tell us more about the program itself.

First 250 Words

Fan-freaking-tastic. Once again, I’m assigned to the group with three students who mistakenly think a C is a good grade. I suck on a bent paperclip as David reads the instructions out loud.

“We start by electing a group leader to divide the work up evenly. Wait, how does that divide up the work?”

“The leader assigns tasks. It doesn’t matter,” I tell David. His attention has already drifted away.

If not for last year’s incident, I wouldn’t be stuck in this class with him. As I spin my serenity bracelet, I whisper a plan to the group. “I’ll do the work. You placate the teacher.”

“But that’s…”

I point my bent paperclip at him. “I refuse to let you three bring down my grade point average again. Our score's going to be in the high 90’s this time. Just sit there looking like you're being useful.”



“Yes, Mrs. Schwartz?” The eighth-grade[KP6] English Composition teacher[TDM4] curls her finger, summoning me to follow her to her desk.

“The purpose of group work is so that you’ll learn to function in a company someday. We all have to be able to work with peers we don’t like sometimes. What would you do if this was your job and those three students were your only coworkers?”

I grind my teeth.

“Answer me, Lenore.”

“Superior products thrive. I’d quit this company because three-fourths of the employees don’t care enough to produce a decent product, much less a superior one.[SS4][JH4][TDM5][KP7]

Uwe's comments:

Kelly's comments:
[KP6] Eighth grade is actually 13-14 years old, which puts this manuscript at Upper MG-Lower YA, but 14 is usually not considered YA and is actually considered a bit of a “no-man’s land.” I’d suggest upping your MC age to 15!
[KP7] WOW. BURN. Hahah, I love your voice in this, though. Your pitch definitely needs work and I think it would be really helpful to raise the age just a bit in order to fit this squarely into YA range as a debut author, but your pages are still nice and voice-y, pulling your readers in. If you can modify your pitch and raise the age, I’d love to see this one day!
Shannon's comments:
[SS4] I like how the author uses a mixture of narrative and dialogue to show setting, convey the issue at hand, and convey some characterization.

Jennifer's comments:
[JH4] Interesting opening. I was able to get a good sense of Lenore. Is Lenore is eighth grade? Her dialogue feels a little older than an eighth grader.

Torie's comments:
[TDM4] 8th grade is a little young for a YA protagonist – that’s usually more in the middle grade space.  
[TDM5] I don’t have a ton of feedback on this opening – I think it in general gives a pretty strong sense of who Lenore is as a narrator. What I’m reading here doesn’t really match up with what I was expecting based on the query, though, which leaves me confused.


Uwe Stender: Pass
Kelly Peterson: Pass for now
Shannon Snow: Pass
Jennifer Herrington: Pass
Torie Doherty Munro: Pass

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

October 2020 Pass or Pages Entry #3

It's time for the Pass or Pages feedback reveal!  We're so thankful for our awesome agents Dr. Uwe Stender, Kelly Peterson, Shannon Snow, Jennifer Herrington, and Torie Doherty Munro for taking the time to critique these entries.  And a shout out to the brave authors whose work will be on the blog this week.  You are awesome!



Query letter

WISH I WAS HERE[SS1] is a 67,000-word YA contemporary with a speculative element.

Ana feels invisible in high school—that is, until she literally turns invisible[JH1]. When masked men come for her best friend, Isaac, she swallows the invisibility pill he made to avoid being kidnapped[US1] alongside him[TDM1]. Now Ana must rescue Isaac before he’s forced to create another pill[TDM2] for the highest bidder[KP1]. If she doesn’t find him and get an antidote within a week, she’ll remain invisible forever[JH2]. That could mean insanity or death[US2][SS2][TDM3][KP2].

Desperately searching for clues to locate Isaac, Ana finds hidden messages from him, including a love letter she never saw coming. Her feelings are further muddled when rookie cop Ben, her former crush, comes looking for her, believing she’s responsible for Isaac’s disappearance. With her time running short, Ana must decide whether or not to trust Ben with her secret[KP3], knowing he could either help her, or arrest her[TDM4]. Little does she know, Ben has a secret of his own[JH3][TDM5][KP4].

WISH I WAS HERE could be a stand-alone, though I envision a trilogy[KP5]. This novel should appeal to fans of the TROUBLE IS A FRIEND OF MINE[KP6] series by Stephanie Tromly and OVERTURNED[KP7] by Lamar Giles[JH4]. WISH I WAS HERE features a main character of mixed race who learns she was donor-conceived[TDM6].

Uwe's comments:
[US1] Why didn’t he take one, too?
[US2] The entire concept feels familiar, so it is not for me, but it could certainly be a good fit for someone else.

Kelly's comments:
[KP1] I’m confused. She stole the pill he made for himself and ate it, and Isaac is still visible because she betrayed him? Can you explain a bit more?
[KP2] Not needed, as you already have stakes in the sentence before. If these stakes need to be included, they should be merged into the sentence before that includes your other stakes.
[KP3] But if she’s invisible, how is she supposed to tell him? And how is she able to get arrested if she’s invisible? I’m confused!
[KP4] Great, but what does this have to do with Ana’s stakes? Where are her stakes? What’s her drive? Why does any of this matter to her? Why should we as readers care and connect with her?
[KP5] It’s a “stand-alone with series potential” =)
[KP6] Italicized, not capitalized! Capitalization is for manuscripts and unpublished books.
[KP7] Italicized, not capitalized!
Shannon's comments:
[SS1] I would move this sentence down to the last paragraph.
[SS2] Great. Conflict and main point stated immediately.
Jennifer's comments:
[JH1] Great opening line!
[JH2] Great stakes!
[JH3] Intriguing paragraph that gives me the necessary details to understand what the book will be about.
[JH4] Good comparative titles.

Torie's comments:
[TDM1] There is a LOT of information in just this one sentence – it’s a little overwhelming, between the masked men and the invisibility pill and Ana’s near-kidnapping. I might lead by introducing Isaac and the invisibility pill, let the reader absorb that information, and then move onto the masked men and the kidnapping.
[TDM2] This is a little vague – is it another invisibility pill, or a whole other type of pill?
[TDM3] This seems to be the heart of what’s at stake – that Ana has just one week to find Isaac so he can give her the antidote, or her invisibility will be permanent. I think the line about Isaac having to create another pill for the highest bidder distracts from that.
[TDM4] This is a little vague. Is Ana’s secret that she’s invisible? And why would telling that to Ben lead to her arrest?
[TDM5] By the end of this paragraph, it feels like the focus of this query has shifted from finding Isaac/becoming visible again to something more focused on Ben and his secrets. It’s hard to know what to make of the story when it feels like it’s being pulled in two opposite directions.
[TDM6] I’m not sure this is necessary to include in your query. It doesn’t really feel relevant to the rest of the details you’ve included.

First 250 Words

I had sometimes wished I was invisible[KP8], just to make life easier. That was the ironic part[TDM7].

Thursday--Day 0

When the bell announced the end of fourth period, jolting me back to the present[KP9], my thoughts scattered along with the notebook and pen on my desk. Someone behind me snickered, but I was used to that. I took a moment to reorient myself to clase de español. As usual I’d been daydreaming about this one guy I know. Or used to know. Sort of. Whatever[TDM8].

I sighed, collected my stuff into my bag, and filed out of the classroom with my fellow sheep. In the hallway, students were gathered in clusters around their lockers, but I kept moving[KP10]. Someone spotted me and said, “Hey, Ana. Where were you last period? The moon?”

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

When are they going to grow up?

At an intersection[TDM9], Isaac fell into step beside me[KP11], his sandy blond hair flopping over his green eyes. He pushed it aside, only to have it fall back again. "How many?" he asked.

“Two just now. For a while I thought today would be a shut-out for you. How’d you do?”[TDM10]

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

“Nice.” I held up a hand. He slapped me a half-hearted five.[TDM11]

“Then Jim called me Beaker Brain.”

“I’ve always liked that one. The alliteration alone.”[SS4][JH5][KP12]

Uwe's comments:

Kelly's comments:
[KP8] A bit wordy, passive, and proper here. Can we cut this down and incorporate a YA voice?
[KP9] I didn’t know she wasn’t in the present, as the beginning of this sentence implied otherwise!
[KP10] This is usually implied, so I’m not sure it’s needed. What would Ana notice?
[KP11] This makes it sound like Isaac is one of the boys who was making fun of her because he’s introduced immediately after those boys are? Is that true?
[KP12] I can see the potential in this one, but your query needs to be a bit more specific around Ana’s motivations! You voice gets stronger as we work our way through this first page, but I would love to see a bit more authenticity to her voice! For now, this is going to be a Pass.
Shannon's comments:
[SS4] Like this submission.  The pages are clear.  I get a sense of character up front, with a little hint a the fact that these are people who may be bullied a bit. Intriguing in a short period of time.

Jennifer's comments:
[JH5] I liked the opening line, but I wasn’t immediately connected with Ana. I liked the idea of the brief slice of life with her being bullied to pull the reader in, but I didn’t get a good sense of who she is to start the book.

Torie's comments:
[TDM7] I like this opening!
[TDM8] This feels like filler – it’s not adding anything to our understanding of Ana or her relationship with this unnamed guy.
[TDM9] This makes me think they’ve left school, but I’m not sure. I’m having a hard time getting situated in Ana’s world.
[TDM10] This is confusing – I don’t know what they’re talking about.
[TDM11] This makes me think they’re counting how many times they got bullied today, but it’s still not totally clear. It’s good that you’re establishing a rapport between these two characters, but I feel like I’m playing catch up.


Uwe Stender: Pass
Kelly Peterson: Pass
Shannon Snow: Pages!
Jennifer Herrington: Pass
Torie Doherty Munro: Pass

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

October 2020 Pass or Pages Entry #2

It's time for the Pass or Pages feedback reveal!  We're so thankful for our awesome agents Dr. Uwe Stender, Kelly Peterson, Shannon Snow, Jennifer Herrington, and Torie Doherty Munro for taking the time to critique these entries.  And a shout out to the brave authors whose work will be on the blog this week.  You are awesome!


Query letter

Dear Agent,

Jeza[TDM1]––just Jeza[SS1][JH1]––has no idea sage magic exists, let alone that she’s the reincarnation of the creator of the four elements[SS2]. When the king’s men arrest Jeza after an underground fight, she’s given two options: imprisonment for her violent crime or training to fulfill her birthright of becoming a sage[JH2][TDM2]. Despite her reluctance[SS3], she chooses training and quickly finds a new home amongst a group of supportive sage students[US1].

In her hopeless struggles to wield one element—earth, water, fire, or air—like a normal sage, her true power awakens. And it’s not what she expects[TDM3]. Jeza is, in fact[JH3], an absorber of all elements[TDM4], making her a danger to herself and everyone around her. With each bit of magic she takes in, Jeza becomes increasingly less herself[TDM5], and hides her ability out of fear. Before Jeza can learn to control her new power, a sage murders her friend––a fellow student[JH4][KP1].

With more attempted murders and the castle on lockdown, Jeza fears for her life and that of her friends. Only Jeza’s secret power can identify the killer and prevent more death[KP2], but trying to master it could kill those around her and cause her to go insane[SS4][JH5][KP3].

Complete at 83,000 words, SILHOUETTE is a stand-alone young adult fantasy that contains found family, a secular garden of Eden, and girls who fight with words, swords, and magic[TDM6]. SILHOUETTE mixes the family dynamics of Scott Westerfeld’s Imposters[KP4] with the magic system of P.C. and Kristin Cast’s House of Night[KP5] series[KP6] and will appeal to fans of both[JH6].

Thank you for your time and consideration[KP7].

Uwe's comments:
[US1] I am confused. What world is that? Who is the king? Why does it start with “-just Jeza” This is not for me. I stopped reading at the end of the paragraph.

Kelly's comments:
[KP1] Holy STAKES! But why is her friend murdered? What’s the purpose here? =)
[KP2] Hmm, how so? And let’s try to stay as far away from “the chosen one” trope as we can here. How else can we describe the necessity of Jeza’s powers?
[KP3] How so? Are her powers dangerous? I didn’t get the sense that her powers were necessarily dangerous, but that they could mean danger FOR HER if someone discovers it. Does that make sense?
[KP4] Imposters should be italicized
[KP5] House of Knight should be italicized
[KP6] OH COOL! I used to love this series when I was younger.
[KP7] So this is a GREAT pitch, but my biggest question is: how is it DIFFERENT than the others? I can see that your magic system might be a bit different, but how is this super different than Throne of Glass, or other magic systems and Cinderella-like stories involving elemental magic? Can you find that difference and bring it to the forefront of this pitch? I want to know how this will stand out in the crowded YA Fantasy genre and be able to say exactly why this is a story you have never heard before and that the marketing teams NEED to take it!
Shannon's comments:
[SS1] I would delete this. It’s a distraction and unnecessary.
[SS2] Very passively worded.  Might tighten by rephrasing to: “… let alone that she’s the reincarnated creator of the four elements.”
[SS3] Why would she be reluctant? Wouldn’t anyone choose training over imprisonment?
[SS4] This might need to be condensed a bit and reworded for clarify and for a better flow. I would probably have stopped reading after the second paragraph of the query because a convoluted wording and because I felt far from getting to the main conflict.

Jennifer's comments:
[JH1] I don’t think the —just Jeza— is needed. It interrupts the flow of the opening line.
[JH2] I liked the second line. It gives me a good glimpse of the story.
[JH3] I don’t think the “in fact” is needed. It interrupts the flow of the sentence.
[JH4] I love this paragraph! It gives me enough information to want to read the writing sample.
[JH5] Great stakes here.
[JH6] Good comparative titles.

Torie's comments:
[TDM1] I’d put title/genre/word count here before diving right into the story.
[TDM2] These two sentences feel disconnected – we go from Jeza not even knowing she’s a sage to her having to train to fulfill her birthright. It feels like I’m half a step behind and playing catch up as to how we got there.
[TDM3] This feels superfluous – if everything went exactly as the heroine expected, it wouldn’t be much of a story!
[TDM4] I feel like we’re getting kind of into the weeds of the magic system here, in a way that’s confusing. You’ve mentioned wielding and absorbing elements, and I’m not sure what the difference is. Is the fact that she’s absorbing the elements more unusual, or the fact that she’s absorbing all the elements?
[TDM5] This is kind of vague – would love if you could be a bit more specific about what effect this magic is actually having on Jeza.
[TDM6] I like the details here, but they’re not really supported by what I’ve read of the query so far, with the exception of the found family element and the magic. I could see this being either intriguing or confusing, depending on the reader.

First 250 Words

I’m the only girl that fights in this part of Cabrayant and I draw quite a crowd. Tonight is no different. I stalk my opponent, the village mason, while he tries to catch his breath. The cheering escalates, filling the crowded tavern.

The mason leers, blood running down his face. He knows as well as I do that he’s about to lose. Liquid splashes on my back and a waft of mead fills my nose. I feign a right hook, drawing the man’s attention in the direction I want.

I step forward and as I swing, my foot slides through a puddle. My body lurches and my fist collides with his neck instead of his face. He gasps, staggers, and falls. The corner of a table catches the mason’s temple on his way down and there’s a sickening crack. The onlookers roar my victory. But the mason stays down. He’s still; too still. The cheers turn to gasps, then motion when the crowd reacts. My hands dangle at my side.

People rush forward and roll the limp man. His eyes stay shut and blood runs from his ears. I take a step forward, chest heaving.

“Jeza, no,” Cale, the old tavern owner, says. He pulls me away. I wince as his fingers dig into a blossoming bruise on my arm.

I stare over my shoulder as Cale drags me; the crowd envelops the dying mason[SS6]. A man scowls when I stumble into his sheathed sword. More faces glower[JH7][TDM7][KP8].

Uwe's comments:

Kelly's comments:
[KP8] WELL DANG! START IN THE ACTION, WHY DON’T YOU?! This is great! I would have liked to see the fight be drawn out a bit longer in order to get to know our MC a bit more before the crap hits the fan, so to speak. I want to know who she is while she’s fighting, and what she believes in. What’s her drive with these fights? Why does she do them? For money? Power? Revenge? What’s up with her? Well done, though! I’m going to say PAGES! Send me the first 50 through my Query Manager! You can message me or email me to get the link if you need it. =)

Shannon's comments:
[SS6] I would reword this. The first part of the sentence doesn’t connect well to the second half. Might break it into two for clarity.  “Cale drags me away. I stare over my shoulder watching the crowd envelop the dying mason…”  Or some other rewording.  Right now, it’s not clear and is awkwardly worded.

Jennifer's comments:
[JH7] This was an intriguing opening. I wanted to know why she was fighting. I was engaged with Jeza, and I wanted to read more.

Torie's comments:
[TDM7] I think this opening is pretty strong overall – it drops us directly into the action, while also giving us a sense of who this character is through both what she tells us and how she behaves. And the stakes are raised immediately by the accident with the mason, even if it’s not clear immediately what consequences the incident will have. This is not the type of fantasy I find myself connecting with often, but I’d be happy to take a look at the first 50 pages.


Uwe Stender: Pass
Kelly Peterson: Pages!
Shannon Snow: Pass
Jennifer Herrington: Pages! Please submit the first 25 pages, pitch, plus query, and synopsis! [click here]
Torie Doherty Munro: Pages!

Monday, October 19, 2020

October 2020 Pass or Pages Entry #1

It's time for the Pass or Pages feedback reveal!  We're so thankful for our awesome agents Dr. Uwe Stender, Kelly Peterson, Shannon Snow, Jennifer Herrington, and Torie Doherty Munro for taking the time to critique these entries.  And a shout out to the brave authors whose work will be on the blog this week.  You are awesome!


Query letter

I[JH1] would like to present for your consideration my young adult adventure[KP1]/contemporary fantasy[TDM1] novel DRAGONS AND PIZZA[JH2], complete at 78,000 words[JH3].

Sixteen-year-old Dionara is a country girl who works part time delivering pizzas… on the back of her dragon Zorax[JH4]. She lives in an alternate version of our world, where dragons are as common and diverse as dog breeds[JH5][TDM2][KP2].

But[SS1] among all types of dragons, the rarest and most prized one is the ice dragon. Dionara's older sister Elissa was the proud owner of a baby one, until both of them were kidnapped and disappeared[JH6][TDM3][KP3].

That was ten years ago[KP4]. Dionara thought she'd never see Elissa again, until she learns of a mysterious new entrant into the world of dragon-fighting tournaments[TDM4]: a young woman who rides a coveted ice dragon. Could it really be Elissa?[KP5]

Dionara leaves her pizza-delivering life behind to seek out the truth and try to get her family back. In the world of dragon fighting though, the stakes are much higher than a missed delivery. For Dionara, a loss could mean losing Elissa again, losing Zorax, or worse[JH7][TDM5][KP6].

DRAGONS[SS2] AND PIZZA combines the action and family tension of THE RED QUEEN with the fantastic-yet-real world of HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON[JH8].

I look forward to hearing from you, and[SS3] thank you very much for your consideration!

Uwe's comments:

Kelly's comments:
[KP1] Adventure to me reads a lot more like MG. I don’t usually see this genre above that age range, so this isn’t needed. =)
[KP2] Do we need to know this right now? Can we learn this as we read? What’s the purpose of this statement?
[KP3] Lead with this part! This is your action here, how does this affect Dionara’s life? Why is her sister and this dragon so important to her that she drops everything and leaves to find out?
[KP4] Okay, and what has changed about Dionara since? How has missing her sister changed her life? Why does she still care?
[KP5] Is there a better way to present her wanting to find the answer than physically asking the question? I always feel like asking the question decreases the tension building!
[KP6] Good stakes, but what does this mean for her emotionally? How would she be losing Elissa? Why does she care about any of this?
Shannon's comments:
[SS1] I would connect this paragraph to the one above so that all the major backstory is one place and the agent knows immediately the main points: 1. Who Dianara is, 2. That dragons are commonplace in this contemporary world, 3. The rarest breed, 4. That her sister had one of the rarest but both are kidnapped. Then the next paragraph can move you and the agent into the immediate conflict.
[SS2] It’s generally a good idea to insert a small bio about yourself, background, any previous writing credentials, etc.
[SS3] An extra space is between your comma and the next word.  I would just make this into two sentences to make it cleaner.

Jennifer's comments:
[JH1] I always recommend a personalized Dear agent at the top to show the agent that you know who you are querying.
** Important note from OA: The rule is "Please don't "personalize" the query for the agents or include your bio paragraph, but other than that, treat it as you would a normal query letter."**
[JH2] Cute title!
[JH3] This gives the details upfront. Great!
[JH4] I liked this line. It grabbed my interest and gave me a brief insight into the story world.
[JH5] I don’t think we need the mention of the alternate version of our world, and you could rework dragons being common and diverse with the rarest/most prized. It reads a little clunky.
[JH6] This is great information to setup the story.
[JH7] I liked this pitch sentence.
[JH8] Intriguing comparative titles!

Torie's comments:
[TDM1] I would suggest just describing this as a fantasy – it avoids overloading the reader with too much info right off the start, and fantasy novels often incorporate some kind of adventure anyways
[TDM2] I like the specificity of the first sentence, but then the second sentence is way more generalized and dilutes the impact. Is there a way you could communicate that same information – that this world is very much like our own, but with dragons – by including more details about the world itself?
[TDM3] Here you’re waiting just a beat too long to get to the important stuff – as a reader, I don’t care that much that ice dragons are rare, but I DO care about a missing/kidnapped sister.
[TDM4] It’s late to be getting to this, if it’s the inciting incident of the story. I would try revealing this mysterious new entrant sooner, to grab your readers’ attention, and then explain the backstory about Elissa.   
[TDM5] This paragraph is a little vague – it’s hard to understand what steps Dionara is taking to seek out the truth and get her family back, other than quitting her pizza delivery job. Is she entering the dragon tournaments too, and why?

First 250 Words

Chapter 1

Six-year-old[KP7] Dionara Lamton[TDM6] was playing tug-of-war with a two-ton dragon, and she was losing. Armed[KP8] with nothing more than her overalls and blonde ponytail[TDM7], she yanked on the rope tied around the dragon's thick, scaly neck. She had about as much luck pulling him through Lamton Farm's dusty fields as if she were tugging on a skyscraper.

The dragon was a wingless Walker, basically an overgrown lizard with a mud-colored hide. Two thick legs, two tiny arms, and a fatty[KP9] stomach that curved out from his body like a rock-patterned balloon. Even though the Walker wasn't the most impressive dragon in the world, he was still one-hundred times Dionara's size. His dozens of knife-like teeth could chop her in half with a single bite, and his fire-breath could roast her like a chicken on a spit.

Not that any of that was going to stop her from kicking him.

"Get to work, you lazy excuse for a dragon!" Dionara shouted. She let go of the rope and stomped over to the Walker's reptilian leg. Attached to the dragon's back was an iron plow[SS4]. Dionara was trying to guide the dragon to plow the fields, but she'd only managed to get ten feet before the Walker realized that he didn't have to listen to this tiny human[TDM8][KP10].

She smacked her muddy boot against his hardened skin, but the Walker just let out a smoky yawn, blinked his slit eyes, and curled up on the ground to take a nap[US1][JH9][KP11].

Uwe's comments:
[US1] I actually find this whole thing interesting and would like to read the full.

Kelly's comments:
[KP7] Six year old or sixteen? Personally, if she’s six in this beginning, then it reads a lot like a prologue! Do you absolutely need this here?
[KP8] Start here! =)
[KP9] Delete ty and just use "fat"
[KP10] So this portion reminds me a bit of horse abuse and labor, since they plowed the fields. Can you show instead the connection she might have for the dragon? I feel bad for the dragon being forced into doing work here, instead of for your character. Emotion is what really pulls your readers in, so can you utilize her emotions and connection to her dragon in order to attract your readers?
[KP11] Cool concept and I love the stakes, but this is reading a bit younger YA to me, and I’m not the biggest fans of dragons! I’m going to reluctantly pass. Check out my colleagues though, and some friends of mine love dragons! =)
Shannon's comments:
[SS4] I would have stopped reading right here.  There is a lot of passive voice in this piece that I noticed in the above but kept reading anyway.  There are, at times, going to be some passive voice sections/sentences. They’re unavoidable.  However, there were some passive sentences that could have been re-worded into more active options instead. They were fixable and would have created a more active, attention-grabbing read. This sentence, for example, could have been worded like: “An iron plow attached to the dragon’s back” or “An iron plow clung to…”  Too much passive voice, especially in a small space, slows your story and pacing.

Jennifer's comments:
[JH9] Interesting writing voice, but I wanted to start the book with Dionara in the present. I personally struggle with books that start in the past and then move the reader to the present. When I open a book especially of the YA genre, I want to connect with the lead character from the opening sentence/paragraph/page.

Torie's comments:
[TDM6] One question that comes to mind immediately: why is a YA book opening with a 6 year old? I would probably stop reading here.
[TDM7] This reads a little clunky – I like that that you’re trying to give us a sense of how Dionara looks, but she’s not really “armed” with these things, or using them to wrangle the dragon in any sense. (She is armed with a muddy boot, though!)
[TDM8] We’re getting a lot more information in this opening about the dragon than we are about Dionara – the bulk of the description has been about the dragon and how he looks, what he’s decided, and what he’s supposed to be doing. I’m not really feeling connected to Dionara in any way in these first few paragraphs.


Uwe Stender: Pages!
Kelly Peterson: Pass
Shannon Snow: Pass
Jennifer Herrington: Pass
Torie Doherty Munro: Pass