Friday, 30 November 2012

I WON! I WON! Wait, what did I win? Stuff I learned from NaNoWriMo

So I took it down to the wire and finished today. 50k. 30 days. And here's my stats page where you can see my very steady progress. 

Stuff I learned from my first NaNo:

1. I can up my expectation of myself and meet it. It won't kill me.

I'm always setting myself targets - usually 1k a day when it comes to word count. NaNo calls for more, and just the knowledge that it did had me saying things like 'I've only written 1500 words today'. That would have been a good writing day before this month. Now I know that I don't always have to push myself this hard, but I also know that I can.

2. I can write all sorts of scenes that might not need to go in the book but still serve a purpose. 

I tend to write short YA contemporary novels. So when I got to 42k for NaNo, I'd finished the planned story. But since I wanted to win (because I just did), I wrote all sorts of scenes linked with the story - an alternate ending I'd been considering, a collection of flashbacks, a stack of scenes that I couldn't decide whether or not to include. And I'm so glad I did! I already know that a lot of them will go into the book and it will be better for it. Even the ones I'm not so sure about helped me think more about my mc and the other characters. I wouldn't have bothered writing any of these scenes without NaNo.

3. If I plan a novel in great detail beforehand, I never get stuck. 

This is another first for me. I pantsed the novel my agent signed me on (and then edited extensively). But I knew I wouldn't be able to write 50k in 30 days without a plan, so this time I made one. And what's more, I really enjoyed doing it. It was invaluable and it was fun. Bonus. I don't know yet if it will mean less revision afterwards, but I'm thinking that it will.

I've never had a problem writing through to the end without editing, but I know for those of you who do, NaNo is a big deal in that way. So how about you? Did you 'win'? Did you get something more useful out of it than the win? Did you figure something out about writing you hadn't figured out before? Do you now get to reward yourself with the second season of Vampire Diaries??

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

I just signed up for NaNoWriMo!

It's official! I just signed up! I'm excited!

It's my first time! I won't use this many exclamation marks in the manuscript!

I've got a blurb for the book I want to write and I've been a-planning and a-plotting. The rest of October is going to be frowning-and-being-serious-about-scenes time. So I won't be pantsing, just writing what I've planned. I'm Ruth Lauren (original, I know) on there if you want to find me.

So, who's done it before? Who's doing it this year? Do I need writing buddies? Do I need valium? Give me your tips, hints, seasoned advice for a newbie NaNo-er. Should I pace myself, or run at it like a demonic maniac? All advice welcome!

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Nice things going on in the publishing world : )

So my friend, the fabulous agent Gemma Cooper has accepted a position at the fabulous Bent Agency! Good news for all concerned and good news for you too, since you can now query her there!

Here's the post making the announcement where Gemma gives a full list of what she's looking to acquire. Exciting! Look how many exclamation marks I used!

Other inneresting stuff: I'm trying to finish the first draft of this YA contemp I'm writing by the end of this month. I'm considering a pepperoni and cheese sandwich for lunch. Harper are accepting unagented submissions for a short time next month.

Here's where you can find Harper Voyager guidelines for digital submission

And here are some of the details I took straight from their site.

Keen to become a Harper Voyager author? Here’s your chance to join the imprint that publishes some of the biggest names in fantastic fiction—George R. R. Martin, Kim Harrison, Raymond E. Feist, Robin Hobb, Richard Kadrey, Sara Douglass, Peter V. Brett and Kylie Chan—to name but a few.

For the first time in over a decade, Harper Voyager are opening the doors to unsolicited submissions in order to seek new authors with fresh voices, strong storytelling abilities, original ideas and compelling storylines. So, if you believe your manuscript has these qualities, then we want to read it!

We’re seeking all kinds of adult and young adult speculative fiction for digital publication, but particularly epic fantasy, science fiction, urban fantasy, horror, dystopia and supernatural. For more idea of the type of books we love to read and publish, check out our authors and their titles at

Submissions for digital originals will be open for a limited two-week period from 1st to the 14th of October, 2012.

Worth a look!

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Where's Ruth?

I am still here! Just a little busy this month. There's been some of this:

also some of this:

There is evil plotting going on (characters must suffer and be forced into awful situations), and the less evil kind where there will be writing competitions with nice agenty prizes!

Now if you'll excuse me, I have fictional teenagers to torture.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Books you need! By people I know!

Yes, this post is a shamless plug of books written by my friends. But if their blog posts, emails and general awesomeness are anything to go by, and I think they are, then you're going to want to purchase them when they come out. In fact you're probably going to want to purchase extra copies to give to everyone you know. Unless you don't love your friends. And I refuse to believe that about you. So here are the Goodreads listings and blurbs so you can prevent me from thinking you don't really love your mom/best friend/nephew/kids that much after all.

First up:

The Witch Hunter's BibleThe Witch Hunter's Bible by Michelle Krys
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I get to star this one because I already read it. In fact, I read it twice, and some parts of it more than that. AND IT KEEPS GETTING BETTER.

Here's the blurb: A snarky sixteen-year-old cheerleader is forced into a centuries-old war between witches and sorcerers only to uncover the first of many dark truths about her life.

Add it to Goodreads now! Write it in permanent marker on your head so you don't forget to buy it when it comes out!

Next up:

The SiloThe Silo by Amy Christine Parker

I haven't had the pleasure of reading this yet, but I WANT IT.

Here's the blurb: Follows a teenage girl named Lyla who has been living in a religious cult after the disappearance of her sister. While her parents are hopelessly under the sway of the group’s leader, Pioneer, Lyla is drawn into a dangerous situation when she begins to question Pioneer’s prophecy about the impending apocalypse.

Probably best if you tattoo the title onto someone you see on a regular basis lest you forget to get this book. 

  Reboot (Reboot, #1)Reboot by Amy Tintera

I haven't got my hands on this one yet either, but have you seen this blurb? *excited clapping*

Two teens who have "rebooted" after dying must work together to rescue their kind from enslavement and end up falling in love in the process.

Film rights were simultaneously optioned to Fox 2000 with Chernin Entertainment and Lane Shefter Bishop at Vast Entertainment producing, by Lucy Stille at Paradigm on behalf of Lane Shefter Bishop and Emmanuelle Morgen.

Next time you redecorate a room in your house, paint the title on one of the walls until this comes out and you buy it. 

Last but by no means least:

Beware the WildBeware the Wild by Natalie C. Parker

This one is by another Greenhouser : )

Natalie C Parker's BEWARE THE WILD, pitched as Twin Peaks meets The Village, in which a claustrophobic Louisiana town is dominated by its sinister, encroaching swamp, which swallows up a boy who is instantly forgotten by everyone except his sister, and replaced by a mysterious girl from the past who is intent on taking over his family and his life.

You are now bewitched by all the allure, but before you succumb completely, hire a PA for the sole purpose of taking you to the bookstore on the appropriate release date. 

*reserves the right to more fangirling when the covers come out*
*reserves the right to post enthusiastic reviews on publication of the above books*

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Which came first - the query or the book?

Cute. This is before the little fella tried to figure out which way round was best.
 I've done it both ways - book then pitch, and pitch then book (although I'm yet to complete that second way - at the moment I have two pitches written that are bookless).

Here's what I found: When I wrote my first pitch there was anguish and rending of garments and so on. I'd written the book (it was a bit rubbish) and there was no way I could make the story fit into the Query Shark formula (side note: some people can break the rules and get results with queries. I'm not one of those people, so I follow the formula). My book just didn't want to be constrained that way because it was just too...

It was just too rubbish is what it was. It took a long time to write a decent query for that book because the book itself didn't have great stakes.

Book 2's query took a similarly long time, but for different reasons. Namely these: I'd spent so long writing my book, it had so many great things in it that NEEDED to be in that query and there was no way 250 words was enough. (It can be hard to see the core of the story - especially if you've pantsed it in the first place.)

In short, despite the fact that my query for Book 2 worked, it was DIFFICULT to write.

Here's the good bit: More recently, Ive been writing the pitch first. And it's been a complete revelation.

Mind. Blown.

One advantage of doing it this way round is that you don't get bogged down with uneccessary detail or tempted to make mention of that incredible sub plot you have going on. The idea comes out pure. And although it might need a little flavour injecting into it later on when you've nailed down the characters and the setting, you'll have the core plot ready made.

I'm also hoping it will keep me on track when I come to actually write the book. I know what the main thrust of the plot is, so I can (theoretically) make sure I'm always writing towards it (and bypassing that scene at the sewage plant that seemed like a good idea at the time in favour of something that matters and isn't gross).

Plus I know that the plot is big enough, that the stakes are high, and that the choices these charatcers are going to have to make are WHOA (this is a technical writerly term I'm sure you're all familiar with). 

Not convinced? How about this: Do it this way round and you won't waste any time writing a book that isn't going to fly. You won't feel pressure to do your wonderful book justice and gnash your teeth over the pitch, because you haven't written said wonderful book yet. Stress-free query writing!

Yes, I googled 'book coming out of an egg'. Not sure what I was expecting.

So what do you think? Have you tried this? Did it work for you?

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

The one where there's even more news from Christmas in July and it is also awesome

Remember this fantastic entry to Christmas in July? Of course you do, because SING TO THE WIND by Jaye Robin Brown is great and you know it is : D

She got three well deserved full requests from Christmas in July plus much agent interest from querying. You can check out Jaye's story on her blog wherein there is much encouragement and also stats.

And for those of you following the progress of #midlifecrisis, mainly manifested on the top of my head, here's the latest colour:

Yes, it's orange. No, it wasn't meant to be. Adding #bleachfail to #midlifecrisis.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

The one where there's news from Christmas in July and it's awesome

This is a post for the people out there in the query trenches, whether you're revelling in it or hating it out there. I always kinda liked it myself. It made me someone who was doing something positive about grabbing hold of the whole writing life thing. But I know that some of you think it's about as much fun as a room full of rakes. So here's some cool news. You know, because this could be right around the corner for you too.

It's been about four weeks since the Christmas in July contest, and in that time, four of the fifteen people whose work went up on my blog have signed with agents.

This is cool. Very cool. It's cool for them, but it's also cool for you because this is how it happens. One day you don't have an agent and the next,

And here's the post on Linda McLaren's blog where she tells you that she's now signed with Judith Engracia! I couldn't be happier for them both. Linda's THE SOUND CATCHERS caught plenty of agent eye, and I can't wait to read the whole story.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Books I loved that you should probably read

Christmas in July took up ALL THE POSTS and so I haven't had chance to foist my opinions about good books on you for a while. Here are my favourites since last I made noise about what you should be reading.

Under the Never Sky (Under the Never Sky, #1)Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Great, hard-won relationship between the two mc's, fantastic world-building, excellent story. I find myself reluctant to buy into books that aren't standalones, but I loved this one and it had a satisfying ending. Bring on the sequel. (And thanks to Michelle for making me read this!)

GlowGlow by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Sci-fi! My agent recommended this one to me. It's a great example of using every opportunity to block your mc from achieving their goal to make a tense story. Another one where I will definitely be looking for the sequel.

Just ListenJust Listen by Sarah Dessen

The first Dessen book I've read. I went out and bought The Truth about Forever when I finished this. I liked the intricacies of the relationships between all the characters here. This is why contemp rocks.

Torn Torn by Cat Clarke

This is one of those thought-provoking books that made me squirm. You know what's coming, but not how it happens and you CAN'T LOOK AWAY. If you haven't read this or Clarke's first book, Entangled, you need to.

A Monster CallsA Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Heart. Broken.

This is a must read.

Any recommendations for me?

Thursday, 26 July 2012

#XmasinJuly resulted in 39 requests for 16 manuscripts!

First of all, a big thank you to all the wonderful agents that took part!

It's been an interesting and exciting few weeks for Michelle and me. I've read some standout queries and pages, and it was fascinating to get a tiny insight into the slushpile aspect of agenting. So thank you all for being brave enough to send your work to us. It takes balls.

If you follow me on Twitter, you'll have seen my stats tweets. I'd love to be able to say I used my mad maths/ICT skills to make the following charts, but that would be a big lie because I don't have any. Instead I need to thank Heather Hawke, Deanna Romito and Elaine Vickers who all worked hard so that I didn't have to. Excellent.

Also, shamefaced apologies to Elaine since I gave her the wrong total number of entries (hey, I never said I could count). Also, I have no idea how to make the pdf she sent me appear on my blog despite mashing the keyboard with my paws for quite some time.

The total number number of entries was, in fact, 351.

Adult (96)
YA (201)
MG (38)
PB (16)

Heather made this.
Deanna made this.
So there you have it. The official findings of the slush are that lots of people write YA and I'm a bit of an idiot.

Other stats include 20 requests for 8 manuscripts out of my 15 entrants, and 19 requests for 8 manuscripts out of Michelle's 15 for a total of 39 requests for 16 manuscripts (someone check that).

I hope they ALL turn into massive success stories!

Both Michelle and I had blogger glitches that meant one of our entries wasn't visible for some of the time. Rest assured we were both aware of this and made sure the agents were too. 

Last, but by no means least, you might have noticed that I had to redact two of the entries on my blog : D

This is because L.L. McKinney's COVETED has been snapped up by an agent, and Linda McLaren's THE SOUND CATCHERS is in the process!!

I couldn't be happier that we'll all get to read those incredible stories. It makes me want to break out the...

Both of these talented ladies have agreed to do a guest post about signing with their agents, so look out for those in the coming weeks!

All in all, Christmas in July has been awsesome, and we will DEFINITELY be doing something similar in the future.

One last request before I declare the entries open for comments: this isn't a critique round, it's simply an opportunity for you to let these authors know how much you like their work. In this situation, it's like my mom says - if you haven't got anything nice to say, then don't say anything at all :)

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Let the requests come in!

Below are fifteen of the thirty winning entries for Christmas in July! (The other fifteen winners can be found over at Michelle Krys's blog).

Agents will be dropping by to make requests all week, beginning today. We respectfully ask that no one else comment on the entries until after July 25th. Beginning July 26th, or sooner if all the agents have made their requests, feel free comment away (bearing in mind the sandwich rule of criticism), and to congratulate the (hopefully) lucky authors.

Agents, there is no limit to the number of requests each manuscript can receive. So if you see that an entry already has a request for a full, please feel free to make a similar request of your own. We won’t mind! Requests can be made directly in the comment box for that entry.

Entrants, please remember to send off any material requested by Judith Engracia and Lucy Carson as soon as possible after they’re made (though, really, this rule should apply to all of the agent’s requests, as we all know authors shouldn’t query until they’re absolutely ready for an agent to view their completed manuscript as they stand, right?)  

As a reminder, the participating agents are:

Julia Churchill of The Greenhouse Literary Agency
Vickie Motter of Andrea Hurst & Associates
Carly Watters of P.S. Literary Agency
Molly Jaffa of Folio Literary Management

And so it begins!  

#1 SPECTACLE (YA contemporary)

Dear Agents,

Doug Stelley plays a Questling level 48 elf, can find calculus derivatives in his sleep, and is infatuated with Deanna Hanemann, the hottest girl at Crestview High. When he misreads her signals, Doug asks Deanna to the prom – and gets shot down. His best friend Cameron thinks he’s crazy, but Doug refuses to believe he isn’t good enough for her. Unexpected help comes when Doug meets swagged-out Kalani James, a famous rapper with a knack for writing hit songs and ignoring texts from underwear models. When Doug gets him to the hospital after a head injury, Kalani tries to thank him with money, but Doug has a different request. He wants Kalani to teach him how to get girls.
Kalani reluctantly agrees, and with a superstar rapper tweaking his every move, Doug launches his steady rise up the high school hierarchy towards Deanna. But leaving the nerd life won’t be easy. Cameron thinks he’s a sellout, and his classmates act more like fans than real friends. On top of that, a cute underclassman catches Doug’s eye, and she happens to play a level 59 wizard.
But when Kalani loses his manager, it looks like game over for both his music career and Doug’s plan. Doug soon figures out a way to help his famous friend, but doing so will send his new reputation back to level one.
SPECTACLE is a contemporary YA novel complete at 61,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Chase Baldwin

 “Remember, the Questling character exhibition is this weekend.” Cameron was talking, but I wasn’t listening. I had one headphone in as I scanned the halls. I knew she’d be coming this way soon; we had first hour calculus together. “We have to be sharp because those shadow dwarf pansies win it every year and it pisses me off.”

The door at the end of the hallway opened and she appeared. Deanna Hanemann – blond, tight clothes, dancer’s legs; she’d make the hottest elven princess ever.
 “Later man.” I had to get to class before her to stake out my spot. When the girl in question was a dime then you had to be strategic. Every guy knew that.
 I plugged in my other headphone. “The Spectacle” by Kalani James blared in my head, the latest rap song about how great it was to have tons of girlfriends – something I’d never know about. But it was catchy and it boosted my confidence, and I needed every bit I could get.
 My self-esteem could easily be represented on a standard graph with an x and y-axis. On any given day, it could be plotted around negative one thousand, give or take a few. Today, however, I felt somewhere in the positive numbers because I was equipped with the perfect thing to say to Deanna.
 I was the first person to make it into the classroom, as usual. Being tardy messed up a perfect attendance record, and I’d come too far to blow it now.
 Deanna was usually the last person to make it in. My guess was there was just a ton of people she had to talk to every morning.
 I heard her before I saw her. Deanna Hanemann appeared in the doorway, smiling at one of her friends down the hall as she finished her conversation. She walked toward her usual desk. The one right in front of mine.
 I quickly averted my eyes. She sat down, her back to me like a slender wall. Her blonde hair spilled down past her shoulders and I caught a whiff of whatever girly shampoo she used.
 I’d liked her since freshman year. Now that we were seniors, my chance to do anything about it was running out.
 Prom was the last big school event.
 Problem was, I’d never even been on a date.
 She half-turned her head toward me. “Oh, hey Doug.” She flashed a polite smile.
 “Have a good weekend?”
 “Um, yeah, it was good, I guess. Pretty normal.”
 I’d hoped to hold out a little longer, but it seemed like now was the time to pull out the big guns.
 “I heard Steven Henbury was being weird at Nathan’s party.”
 She turned to face me entirely, swinging her crossed legs around as far as the desk chair would allow. I had struck gold.

#2 PRINCESS PETUNIA'S PET (children's picture book)

Dear Agents,

 Princess Petunia's Pet is not a story for the faint-hearted. Princess Petunia, a strong-willed young girl, has chosen a new pet. But is an ogre really the best creature to keep at the castle? Inevitably he wreaks havoc, and the princess's poor parents demand that he leaves at once. Petunia, however, thinks she can reform him by finding him something gentle to do. At first gardening doesn't appear to be working - the ogre starts feeding his wildflowers raw dragon meat on the sly. But eventually the air of the garden works its magic on him, and he becomes a changed beast. But is it too late? Those daisies he's grown seem a little, well, peculiar...
Please note that I have indicated spread breaks (as opposed to page breaks) by the spacing in the text. The total word count is 634, of which the first 500 words, approximately, are given below.

 I have written a number of picture book manuscripts; my first is due to be published by Maverick Arts Publishing in September 2013. A social anthropology graduate (from Cambridge and SOAS), I live in London with my husband, four children and two guinea pigs.

Thank you so much for your consideration.


Elli Woollard


‘I want a new pet!’ cried Princess Petunia.
Her choice though was …
…well, just a little…

‘Aaargh’ yelled the Queen, and ‘Gadzooks!’ cried the King.
‘Whatever that is it’s the scariest thing!’
 ‘I’ve named him Sir Cuddles, he’s still very small,
And taming an ogre’s no problem at all’.
But just to confirm all her parents’ worst fears,
The ogre, it seemed, had quite other ideas.

He bit the old butler, he mauled the poor maid.
Even the knights and the guards were afraid.
 He slurped up a solider, and then, in a rage
He peppered and pickled a poor little page.
 ‘Stop!’ cried the Queen, as the King wept with woe.
‘We’ve had quite enough now – that pet has to go!'

‘You horrible brutes! You cold-hearted slugs!
My poor little plumpling – he just wants some hugs!
He probably needed some food in his tummy,
And dear darling dumpling, he misses his mummy.
 My poor precious baby, come here, cootchie-coo.
I must find you something that’s gentle to do’.

The ogre tried sewing
and knitting
and drawing
‘Bleeurrgh!’ he said crossly, ‘these things are too boring’.
 Then Petunia spotted some wildflower seeds.
‘Gardening!’ she shouted, ‘that’s just what he needs’.
 ‘Seeds?’ thought the ogre. ‘Seeds which are wild?
‘I’m going to have fun’, thought the beast as he smiled.

With a scowl and a growl and a horrible howl
The ogre made holes in the soil with a trowel.
He dug and he dug, seven feet deep,
Then he scattered the seeds in a big sort of heap.
 Petunia, prancing around in the sun,
Cried: ‘Sweetie, how marvellous! How brilliant! Well done!’  

Soon all the wildflowers sprouted and grew.
What was the secret? Nobody knew.
Nobody guessed, and nobody saw
That the ogre was feeding them dragon meat – raw,
And frogspawn, and snail slime, and wasps’ wispy wings,
And all sorts of nasty and horrible things.

But the flower-fragranced air of a garden is strange,
And the ogre
                Though slowly
                                                To change.
He stopped munching maids and nibbling knights’ knees.
He even said ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry’ and ‘please’.
He fed his plants milkshakes (much more delicious);
He no longer wanted them savage and vicious.
And Petunia, dancing around in the dew,
Cried: ‘Precious! You’ve done it! I’m so proud of you!’ 

And she looked at his wildflowers, tall in the breeze
(As the ogre blushed pink and went weak at the knees).
‘I’ll just take a sniff of these wildflowers, so…’
But as she bent over the ogre yelled
‘The cornflowers and poppies, they’re all alright,
But don’t touch the daisies they’re liable to…


 The ogre stood trembling, his heart filled with dread.
There was the Princess, but where was her head?
He wished now he’d never been horrid and bad,
And his eyes filled with tears, all salty and sad.
But then, goodness gracious! By heavens! He knew!
The daisies should have something gentle to do.

He ran to the castle, and soon he was ready.
He had it! The answer! A big fluffy teddy!
But was he too late? He trembled and wobbled.
What if the Princess has simply been gobbled? 
What if the daisies had started to chew?
He turned round the corner, and there he saw… 


#3 WITH A SHAKE OF HER HAIR (women's fiction)

Dear Agents,

I am seeking representation for WITH A SHAKE OF HER HAIR, a women’s fiction manuscript complete at 81,000 words.  

Ellie Donahue is drowning in Suburbia.  She’s driving a beige mini-van and wondering where the twenty-year-old version of herself disappeared to- the version that didn’t give a crap about high-fructose corn syrup and thought ramen noodles and beer was a balanced dinner. 

Stuck in a predictable rut of routine Sunday night sex and Thursday night chicken, Ellie’s biggest concerns are running into meddlesome Sancti-mommies at the grocery store, or being forced by her nudist mother-in-law to listen to an AC/DC cover by her band, ‘The Noody Blues’ and trying to ignore the fact that they are indeed naked while singing it.

When confronted by her husband's infidelity with a coworker, Ellie is forced out of her rut and into a reality where she’s torn between the temptation of an affair of her own with her daughter's delicious soccer coach or fighting for her rapidly crumbling marriage. Now with her life upside down, Ellie struggles to determine her next step, and finds herself longing for the predictability of Thursday night chicken.

I have been writing for fifteen years, and for the last eight years have been featured in the local paper, "Our Home Town", as the head writer for the Reviews and Opinions column.  While my training is in Psychology and Creative Writing, I have a strong background in Theater and Stand-Up Comedy, a combination of experiences that I have found very helpful when writing.  I am a stay at home mother of two and in the process of writing my next novel. 

I thank you very much for your time and look forward to hearing from you soon.


Summer Heacock
Twitter: @Fizzygrrl 

Chapter 1

 I am still picking crumbs out of my hair.

 I cannot believe that just happened.

 I had completely forgotten I was supposed to go into Abigail’s class this morning to pick up our “Summer Activities” packets.  I mean, how many summer activities can a Kindergartener have that we need actual packets? Of course, as I had spaced this requirement, when Crystal Brubaker flagged me down as I was pulling away from the drop off, the image of a reminder printed on frighteningly bright green paper flashed into my brain. 

Looking down and seeing the stained sweatpants I had thrown on in a rush to get both kids to school on time, my first instinct was to pretend I hadn’t seen her and run like the coward I am.  Just as I was about to lay some serious rubber, I heard the memory of Abby’s enthusiastic little voice squealing about soccer camp starting soon after the school year ended. 

 Naturally, if I didn’t schlep myself in to get said packet, I wouldn’t know where to sign her up for this magical soccer camp, my daughter would be heartbroken.  Then, she’d take up drinking, run off with an upper middle class douchecanoe who thinks he’s gangsta and pierce her nipples.  All because Mommy didn’t want anyone to see her yucky sweatpants. 

 I resigned myself to my fate, waved back to Crystal, and parked my reliable beige mini-van.  Reliable and visually soul-sucking.  The next Mommy-mobile I get is going to be a cool color.  Like black.  Or covered in glitter.  I walk down the hallway toward Abby’s classroom pretending to be fascinated by the plaques and artwork that are plastered all over the walls so as to avoid eye contact with anyone. 

 I don’t pull off the polished mom look in the mornings.  My sweatpants are about as chic as I get for school drop-offs.  In fact, these people are lucky I am wearing pants at all.  That had been an unfortunate morning…

 Catching up to Crystal, I give her a nod and a smile as we walk into the classroom, already full of peppy parents and downright raucous children.  I have seen it many times when the mom and the teacher are both present.  The mom wants to respect the teacher’s authority and not have to correct their child, but the teacher hates to undermine a parent and stays silent as well.  Children sense this the way dogs can smell evil and test those limits with a deep rooted dedication.

God, I need coffee.  And a shower.  And I think I forgot to brush my teeth, dammit. 

I smile at Abby who is chattering away with her little inner circle of five year olds.  My daughter barely acknowledges me as she returns to their conversation and I can sense the teen years are going to be a blast with her.  Showing this level of parental embarrassment at the age of five is not boding well for our future.

#4 SON OF A (HIRED) GUN (YA contemporary)

Dear Agents,

In my 95,000 word YA Contemp novel, Son Of A (Hired) Gun, 16-year-old Bixby Darwin’s life is thrown into a state of flux when he’s catapulted into the Witness Protection program.

Yesterday, Bix was Simon Rook.
Today he learned that that henceforth he’ll be Bixby Darwin.

Yesterday, Bix was avoiding the get-to-know-my-son lunch his mother insisted on having with her current boyfriend, Omar.
Today, Omar was blown up along with his shop.

Yesterday, Bix suspected Omar was a terrorist.
Today, Bix learned his absentee father is an assassin.

 He’s a little concerned about what tomorrow will bring.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

I look forward to hearing from you,
Margie Senechal 


Chapter 1

 I have imaginary conversations with my dad.

 Some people call it blogging. But seeing as he abandoned us when I was still incubating, it’s the one way I have to tell him about my day, my thoughts, my life. I imagine that he stumbles across my blog, Simon Says, and realizes that this Simon—this short but witty sixteen-year-old—is the son he left without a trace.

 I like to think he regrets this loss. I like to think —

 “Simon,” Mom calls down the hall to me. “If you make us any later I’ll—.”

 “I’m ready.” Heading her off, I save my latest blog.

 You’d think we were having lunch with someone more important than her latest boyfriend. Now that she’s reached the critical get-to-know-my-son juncture in this relationship, she’s a little on edge. Or ready to jump off one.

 I take out my phone and tweet. @Simonsays: Lunch at Melting Pot with Omar. Rather stay home than break bread (and dip it) with Mom’s florist/terrorist boyfriend.

 Jury’s still out on whether Omar is actually a terrorist but it does make good blogging and tweeting. It’s not like anyone takes me seriously anyway. That’s kind of the problem when you’re sixteen and look like you’re twelve. Which is why my cyber life is so important—I’m judged by my words not by looks.

 “Simon?” Mom’s yell borders on hysteria. “You’ve got to stop calling him a terrorist.”

 I walk to the bathroom doorway and duck under a lingering mist cloud of hairspray. I hold my breath as I pass. Don’t want to die of cancer before I get my first kiss. “I can’t help it if I think he’s a terrorist.” Although last week, after I heard him talking Russian, I was pretty sure he was KGB. Turns out he’s a Croatian-Arab hybrid who speaks four languages fluently. Mom calls him worldly, I call him suspicious.

 “What if he reads it? What’s he going to think?” Mom watches me in the mirror as she applies her eye gook.

 “Mom,” I meet her gaze in the mirror. “That’s assuming he reads more English than plutonium rich.”

 Mom bites back a laugh, her mouth forming a heart. “He is not a terrorist.”

 Notice she didn’t say he could read.

 The doorbell rings ending our witty exchange.

 “Get that.” Mom flicks me away with a recently manicured hand.

 I check to make sure her ring finger is still unadorned.

 “What are you looking at?”

 I shrug, heading for the front door. “Making sure you’re not the gangster’s diamond-studded moll.”

 “I thought he was a terrorist,” Mom calls after me.

 “Potato, potahto.” Even though it’s been drilled into me, I don’t check the peephole.

 Two men in dark suits with dark glasses and even darker expressions stare down at me.

 Standing like twin sentries, they block any view behind them.

#5 MUSIC BOXES (MG fantasy)

Dear Agents,

Eleven-year-old Lindsey McKay’s biggest wish is to become a famous dancer.  But when her mother enrolls her in a ballet class with a teacher who’s as burly as a bear in tights, she knows her dreams will never come true. Luckily, she meets Madame Sinistra, the mysterious teacher of a top dance school only a few blocks away.

The eccentric teacher offers to give Lindsey lessons for free so long as she promises to perform in the school’s secret midnight shows.  Lindsey can’t say no, not when she finally has the chance to dance on a real stage. She sneaks out of her parent’s apartment and is soon the star of the show. Although she’s thrilled to be dancing her heart out, something about the school isn’t quite right - one by one, the other students disappear. And each time they do, a music box with a figure just like the missing child joins Madame Sinistra’s growing personal collection.  

As the class shrinks, Lindsey fears she’ll be next. If she doesn’t find the truth about the missing kids and stop Madame Sinistra, she might just end up as a tiny figurine herself.

MUSIC BOXES is a 41,000 word middle grade fantasy, which takes a typical girl’s ballet dreams on a dark fairy tale ride.

I thank you for your time and effort, and look forward to hearing from you.


Tonja Drecker

 A pretty melody filled the darkness. It was a magical melody. Whenever Lindsey heard it, she pictured herself standing in the middle of a stage. The spotlight beamed down on her and hundreds of people waited for the show to start.
Then, she would dance.

 Lindsey flicked on the flashlight and watched the ballerina rotate on its pedestal in the music box. Its tiny, yellow skirt flared out around its waist like rays of sunshine. Everything else on the figure was painted. The face looked so real, as if it might speak.

 “Yes, you’re right,” Lindsey whispered, pretending that it could hear her. “I wish we hadn’t moved to New York, either.”

 The ballerina didn’t say anything. Lindsey knew that it wouldn’t. She wasn’t stupid, but talking to a music box probably did qualify her as being crazy. After all, eleven-and-a-half-year-olds don’t talk to their toys. But crazy or not, it made her feel better.

 Something hit against the wooden floorboards with a loud Bang! Lindsey jumped, accidentally snapping the box closed.

 “Music…pretty, pretty music.” Her little sister, Bridget, mumbled in her sleep, tossing and turning in the sleeping bag on the floor several feet away.

 Lindsey lay still until Bridget’s snore filled the room again. Then she opened the box. The pretty ballerina performed a perfect pirouette. Its arms stretched into the air, its tiny fingers almost touching each other, but not quite. Amazing that someone could carve wood so small and make it look real. Maybe that’s why the creator, a toy-maker named Jeannot Broussard, had been so famous.

 Lindsey thought Jeannot was a funny name. Her mother claimed it was French. The only reason Lindsey could remember it was because her parents always told her that she should be careful with the box. Especially when she snapped it closed.

 “Lindsey, do you have to shut it so hard?” her mother would say. “Jeannot Broussard will turn over in his grave, if he hears that!”

 “If he has a grave,” Lindsey answered once. Momma had thrown a wet dishtowel at her head and told her not to talk back. But it was true. No one even knew if he had a grave, so how could he turn over in it?  Poor Jeannot Broussard had disappeared years ago. Not even the police knew what had happened to him.

 “As if the ground broke open and swallowed him up,” Papa sometimes said.
 Lindsey wondered if that was possible. If it was, she hoped it never happened to her.

 “No! Don’t stuff me into the violin!” Bridget tossed back and forth, banging her legs against the floor. Lindsey ignored it. It was just another nightmare. Her sister had them every night the last week. 

 “Bridget’s not used to the new situation yet. It’s hard for her to adjust,” Momma kept saying.

 “Hard for her? And what about me?” Lindsey whispered. She looked at herself in the small mirror glued on the inside of the music box and frowned.

#6 THE SOUND CATCHERS (YA ghostly mystery/thriller) REDACTED!

Redacted :)

#7 DISOBEDIENCE (YA historical)

Dear Agents,

Thank you for participating in the Christmas in July competition. Currently, I seek representation for DISOBEDIENCE, a YA historical fiction set in 1915. It is complete at 64,000 words.

Preacher Docket's Rules of Piety:

#1. No Kissing
#2. No Lying
#3. No Missing Sabbath Worship . . .
#29. No Speaking Evil
#30. No Gun Fighting

In Docketville, the Rules are ironclad, but 17-year-old Dillan Burnes plans on breaking every one of them.

Growing up the son of an outsider in a remote Arizona communal town is stifling for Dillan. He aches for the freedom to make his own decisions, especially about who his future bride will be. Upon discovering that Preacher Docket—the town's fanatical leader—is a murderer, Dillan and his sickly brother are forced from their home by a posse intent on killing them to hide the truth.

The siblings survive both dehydration and starvation during a difficult trek across the wilderness only to be tragically separated once they arrive in Phoenix. On his own in the city, Dillan is hounded by the memory of loved ones left behind. He must find the courage to return to his despised hometown, or let a murderer run free, his father languish in jail, and his 'girl' slip away.
A comparable book in the market would be THE CHOSEN ONE by Carol Lynch Williams.

I have a bachelor's degree in journalism and have worked as a freelance writer for twenty years. During that time, I edited books for New York Times best-selling author Dr. Neil Solomon, and I published a self-help book on stress management with Leatherwood Press in Sandy, Utah. Currently, I’m a member of SCBWI, the League of Utah Writers, and Writers Cubed. I’m also a co-founder of the Teen Author Boot Camp hosted at Utah Valley University in Orem, Utah.


Lois Brown

Ever since Ruth Ivins tackled Clyde Hampton during a game of Red Rover in grammar school, Ive wanted to kiss her. Truth is, Ruth happens to be the prettiest girl in Docketville. Clyde, on the other hand, is as nasty and ugly as an angry rattler. If I saw him getting eaten by a cougar in the hills above town, Id sit down, get comfortable, and watch the show.
 I know that’s not something a good Bible-believing boy would do, but neither is waiting in a stable for a kiss. I can hardly sit stillscared Ruth will come and worried that she wont. My breath comes out short and fast, like it does after chasing cattle all afternoon. A horse fly lands on my neck and takes a bite. I wish she’d hurry.
The door creaks, and I nearly fall off the bale of hay Im sitting on. Could it be? My best friend Frank said Ruth wanted to come, but I didnt believe him. I stand up, my tongue as parched as jerky, certain I won’t be much good at this romance stuff. I’m nearly seventeen but as pure as a spring ewe.
Dillan?Ruth whispers. She doesnt see me in the corner, which is a good thing cause my jaw is hanging wide open. I likely look as stupid as a treed squirrel.
 “Over here.”
She spies me by the pitchforks and shovels. I wish shed smile but her face is all business. Her skirt drags hay from the floor with it as she walks. I lean my shoulder into the weathered wall planks and fold my arms so she cant see them shaking.
Frank said you wanted to see me.
Ruth’s yellow hair is braided in back and her hands are as red as a roosters comb. Shes come from washing dishes at Preacher Dockets Hotel and Diner. Thats been her familys community job for years. Theyre luckymy family has charge of the swine, and nothing unhinges Preacher Docket like a dirty pig pen. Well, nothing except for one of his flock breaking the Rules.
Thats all Frank said?I ask.Nothing else?
The last of the evening sun dips below the stables window, and her face fades slightly into the shadows.
That’s it,” she says.
Confused, I gawk at her like a chicken does before the ax.
Listen, Dillan, whats going on? I got myself a mess of pots to finish up before Preacher Docket gets back from his trip to Riverdale.”
Frank didnt mention . . . anything ’bout . . . .”  My words dry up. Franks been playing me for a fool, claiming Ruth was sweet on me.
She inches close enough to see that her mouth is upturned in a slightly wicked smile.Why Dillan, I think youre blushing. Makes me think you might of lured me here to take advantage of me.” 
Ruth’s hot breath is on my neck. I dont dare swallow, afraid I might choke on the air thats as thick as mush around me. Outside a dog barks something fierce.
Id never do that.” Drops of sweat cover my forehead.
She puts her hand on the front pocket of my denim overalls, the one right over my chest. My hearts likely to jump right out of it.
Oh, I do remember now,she says,Frank may have said something about a kiss.”