Wednesday, 24 July 2013

#XmasinJuly round up

And so Christmas in July is over (probably) for this year. A big thank you to all the agents that took part - invited and lurking - and thank you to everyone who entered this year.

For those of you who like stats, here is maths done by me! I don't think I've made a pie chart since 1986, but I was told it was important then (unbeliever that I was) and whadya know, it might just be.

So here's a pie shaped representation of the type of entries we received this year. And ok, I didn't really do maths as such, I just googled 'free pie chart maker' and typed some numbers in. 

Here is last year's round up post so you can compare.

If you didn't see my tweets about the success of the competition then, well, you aren't on twitter, but for anyone who doesn't know, Christmas in July ended with 81 agent requests for our winners (! um, !!!). We're thrilled with that and we hope to be sharing success stories with you soon!

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Xmas in July 2 officially begins!

It’s happening!

Below are fifteen of the thirty winning entries for the second annual Xmas in July Pitch Contest! (The other fifteen winners can be found over at Michelle Krys' blog ).

Agents will be dropping by to make requests over the next two days (July 18th and 19th). We respectfully ask that no one else comment on the entries during this time.

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. Really, we won’t mind. Requests can be made directly in the comment box for that entry.

We’ll be tweeting about the contest using the hashtag #XmasinJuly if you want to follow our progress or join in on the fun.

As a reminder, the participating agents are:

Adriann Ranta of Wolf Literary Services

Tracey and Josh Adams of Adams Literary

Becky Vinter of Fine Print Literary Management

Diana Fox of Fox Literary

Molly Jaffa of Folio Literary Management

Lucy Carson of Friedrich Literary Agency

Lara Perkins of Andrea Brown Literary Agency, Inc.

Logan Garrison of The Gernert Company

Sarah LaPolla of Bradford Literary Agency

Tamar Rydzinski of Laura Dail Literary Agency

Monika Verma of Levine Greenberg Literary Agency, Inc.

Brianne Johnson of Writers House

Carly Watters of P.S. Literary Agency

Stefanie Lieberman of Janklow & Nesbit

Jessica Sinsheimer of Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency

Katie Shea of Donald Maass Literary Agency

And so it begins!


Twelve-year-old Ellie Jane Wilkins thinks she’ll spend the summer of 1955 swimming down at the creek and running away from her makeup-loving mama. Nothing ever changes in Plainsworth. However, things get a whole lot more interesting when the local beauty queen goes missing. Then there’s that suspicious fire on up at Shanty Town. The law wants to sweep it under the rug, and everybody’s acting stranger than usual. Even Ellie Jane’s best friend, T.J., is keeping secrets from her. You can bet your biscuits that makes her spitting mad.

So Ellie Jane decides to do a little investigating of her own. Trouble is, Plainsworth ain’t just any small town, and somebody wants to keep her from revealing one of its darkest secrets. Now Ellie Jane isn’t just fighting to figure out what happened to Miss Muncie, she’s fighting to save her own life.

ONE MISSED SUMMER is a 46,000-word middle grade mystery combining a Southern Nancy Drew with the darkness of Agatha Christie, and it will appeal to fans of Sheila Turnage.

Chapter One

Mama stands with the rest of the women jawin’ about Miss Muncie and how she’s run off again. But I guess it’s a bigger deal now since they all thought she was staying this time.

Their gloved hands flap around their heads like white doves. If Mama jumps around anymore, she’s liable to tip into the old gazebo built way on back in 1910. That thing’s so rickety it’ll fall flat in a second. Then the town square will be one big blank piece of dirt and grass.

I bet they’re madder about the missing tiara for the Plainsworth Princess Pageant than Miss Muncie’s being gone. I giggle. I saw the Mayor’s hound, Old Gus, take off with the tiara a while ago. By now, I bet it’s completely covered in dog drool. Good. I couldn’t care less about some dumb old pageant. Give me fishing down by the creek or a game of war any old day.

“Where do you think she’s gone?” T.J. asks me, his mouth full of peach cobbler. A few crumbs spray across the table.

His coonskin cap slips to one side, and he rights it. I wish I could wear one of those caps, but Mama says it ain’t proper. Anyway, The T is for Thomas and the J is for Joseph. He’s been my best friend since we moved here.

The race riots drove my family clear out of Alabama and into Georgia back when I was little. Old podunk Plainsworth. Where a body can die of boredom. No lie. I heard some boy named Alex Brass died in the 1800s because there was nothing for him to do here. Just keeled over in front of a butter churn.

“Why you asking Ellie Jane? She’s not into them pageants,” Lou Reed sniffs, wiping his nose on the cuff of his checkered shirt. Know-it-all. I shoot him a scowl, and he has the good sense to shut his trap. Just wait ‘till I get him to the creek, I’ll hold him down so long…It don’t matter if I’m wearing a skirt—I can still lick him good.

T.J. scratches his head. “I reckoned she might know. She is a girl.”

I wish I had the answer. Miss Muncie is kind of my hero. She lied and told Mama there weren't any more applications for the pageant because she knew I’d sooner cut off my arm than wear one of them lacy dresses. And seeing as how she’s the reigning beauty queen for the whole of Saskataw County, Mama believed her. But now Miss Muncie won’t be around to help me fight off Mama and her Ravishing Rose cheek paint. No one will. Mama’ll have me powdered and primped before the sun sets if she has her way.

A shiver of dread races down my back at the thought.

#2 STILL THEY COME TO HAUNT ME (YA psychological thriller)

At 11:15AM, sixteen-year-old Julia is carving her initials into her music stand. At 11:16, her twin brother bursts though the bandroom door. At 11:17, he pulls out a gun. Twenty-two minutes later, Julia is the only one who walks out alive. She remembers nothing that happened inside.

At least, that's what she tells the police.

One year later, Julia has a new house halfway across the country, an assumed name to shield her from the press, and a guest room where her brother's room should be. She's just starting to feel like the scab might someday peel away when she sees the impossible: her brother, staring at her across a crowded restaurant.

The cops don't believe her, and when she sees him again, her parents are ready to have her committed. Even she thinks she's finally cracked. That is, until men in black suits show up at her front door and threaten her to keep quiet.

But Julia won't give up, even if that means fighting her way to the center of what might be a government conspiracy. Not if there's a possibility her brother might be alive. Not if there's a possibility he could tell the world why he did it. And especially not if there's a possibility his return from the dead could expose the dark secrets she thought died with him on the bandroom floor.

STILL THEY COME TO HAUNT ME, a YA psychological thriller complete at 67,000 words, is Gillian Flynn meets Tana French for teens.

First 500 words:

Only one picture of my brother escaped the purges. I keep it tucked inside a split seam of my winter jacket, which the lovely California has assured me I'll never need again. I used to keep the picture, plus the others I'd managed to save from the first purge, in the back of my underwear drawer, confident my dad would stay away lest even the thought of his daughter's lace and satin unmentionables would make him shrivel into dust and ash. I was wrong. This photo only survived because it slipped behind the baseboard, and the only one who is dust and ash is my brother.

It's a good picture. The taker, long forgotten, had managed to catch us both mid-laugh, our dark, curly hair flying about our faces, our arms wrapped around each other. I can still feel the warmth of his cheek pressed against mine, the rough beginnings of stubble scraping my face.

This picture is the very last thing I have of his. My parents' first purge, right after his cremation, left me with more: his swimming varsity jacket, still damp with chlorine and sweat and Axe; some of his books, big fat fantasies with boobalicious warrior women on the covers and page corners so creased and worn they fluttered to the ground like frenzied moths when I flipped through; his deodorant, which I took to wearing until there was only the thinnest sliver of it left, after which I took to smelling it every night before I went to sleep. It made me dream of him, and since I wasn't allowed to talk about him, that was the best I could do.

I lost all the things I'd saved to the second purge, right before my parents sold the house and I became Lucy Black. I'd gone out for a run, still Julia Flynn, and returned to find my things all in boxes, my clothes crammed into garbage bags that smelled like tar. I sank to my knees in my doorway, suddenly dizzy, wondering if I'd pulled a Rip Van Winkle and fallen into a trance, running for what felt like forty-five minutes but was actually forty-five days.

"Mom?" I said hesitantly. She stood from behind a stack of boxes. "What's going on?"

Sweat dripped down her forehead and turned into tears halfway down her cheeks. "There was a photographer in the bushes when I went to take out the trash," she said. "Everybody stares when I leave the house. I can't do it anymore. I just can't."

So that's how we disappeared from Massachusetts, leaving behind bags of trash, our old names crumpled on the floor like dirty tissues, and the eleven skull-sized bloodstains on the floor of my high school bandroom—my brother's goodbye.

#3 TREE ROPER (MG contemporary)

Born with one-eye, twelve-year-old Jimmy Parker would rather climb trees with his rope and harness than hang around with people – after all, trees don’t tease. Jimmy’s prosthetic eye looks good, but it’s smaller than his real eye and sits lower on his cheekbone, making for a lopsided face. Jimmy is determined to afford the surgery that he’s sure will fix his face – and change his life. But money is scarce and cosmetic surgery expensive, so Jimmy convinces his arborist father to let him help out in the tree business this summer – a job full of risk, but worth the cash.
Because of money problems, Jimmy’s family has to move across town, where he meets cute and candid Samantha Fulton while rescuing her grandma’s cat from a tree. Sam admires Jimmy’s climbing skills and welcomes him to the new neighborhood, even tagging along on local tree jobs. When he meets Sam’s uncle Aaron, a wounded army veteran with multiple prosthetics, Jimmy begins to think about his own life and motivations. Then one afternoon, as Jimmy helps his father on a routine limb removal, a climbing line breaks, sending his father crashing onto a roof below. While his father recovers in the hospital, Jimmy conceives a bold plan to save his father’s tree business. But for his plan to succeed, he will need help from Sam and Aaron, and the strength to change a belief he’s held for as long as he can remember.

First 500-
It was the third day of summer vacation, and I was hanging in a tree. My first client of the summer stopped pacing as I glanced down at her tired face and messy nest of white hair.
“Please don’t walk right under me, Mrs. Murphy. It’s not safe.”
“Oh, of course. Are you sure you’re okay up there? Maybe you should come back down and I’ll try again with the food.”
“I’m good. I’ve done this lots of times. Besides, I don’t think your cat’s that hungry yet.”
“Well, I just don’t want you to get hurt.”
“I won’t.”
I needed to show her I could do this. I still burned from the way she stared at my face three days ago when mom introduced us. Mrs. Murphy couldn’t have known then that my right eye was a fake, though. Mom probably told her later.
As I hung from the rope above her yard, my arms throbbed from the workout. I relaxed into Dad’s old canvas and leather climbing saddle and let my right hand slide down to the friction hitch which held my position on the rope. Bad move. My body shot down two feet of rope before I could let go and allow the hitch to do its job again. I glanced down to see if Mrs. Murphy noticed. But her head was down and she was folding and unfolding her hands. Maybe she was praying. I know I just said a quick one.
She rubbed her neck and called up to me, “Twenty dollars, remember? And don’t you fall!”
“Yes, ma’am.” The gut-wash sensation of falling settled a little and I focused on the money.
Twenty more for my surgery stash. I smiled down as she turned away. What if my prosthetic eye “accidentally” fell out and landed in her hair? It could be funny. But even though I was still mad at her for staring, I couldn’t do it. Besides, my eye might get lost in the grass if she freaked out, and I couldn’t risk losing another one. Dad’s head might pop.
I tightened the knot a little bit. A friction hitch has to be just right. Not too loose or you slide down fast and not so tight that you can’t push it up as you climb. Nothing about rope and saddle climbing is easy. But it’s easier than facing a bunch of kids at a new school in August. I shivered even though it was three hundred degrees out. Everything will work out fine…if Dad will let me get the surgery.
Mrs. Murphy began to shuffle toward the house. She had come outside about fifty times already to try and coax her cat down, wearing a path from porch to tree. I’d watched her from my new bedroom window as I unpacked my stuff. I’d seen the cat too—hiding in a large cavity where he could sprawl out unseen from directly below.

#4 LILY IN THE SHADOWS (YA historical fantasy)

Between trying to make a living as a flower girl, dodging local gang leaders and hiding the fact that she is almost deaf, sixteen-year old Lily Scott has enough problems as it is, thanks for asking. The last thing she needs is a strange epidemic killing all the flowers in 1862 London. All of a sudden out of a job and threatened with starvation on the streets of Whitechapel, Lily decides she can’t trust some British Museum scientists in top hats to help.

Determined to solve the mystery of the dead flowers, Lily quickly finds herself in over her head as children disappear, books self-combust in libraries and newspapers spread rumours of dark magic. Soon panic sweeps across the city, and Lily’s investigation becomes deadly when bombs go off everywhere she turns. From East London where the fog takes on a life of its own, to the gardens of Buckingham Palace turned into a haunted forest, Lily needs to follow the clues and sort this mess out before society collapses and she loses everything – for good.

LILY IN THE SHADOWS is a 65,000-word YA Historical Fantasy that will appeal to readers of Leanna Renee Hieber’s STRANGELY BEAUTIFUL series or Cassandra Clare’s THE INFERNAL DEVICES series.

First 500 words:

I pretended I didn’t see the gentleman walking through the crowd of St. Paul’s Church Yard, but I knew he was heading for me.

I pursed my lips to prevent a smile and looked down at Elsie. She sat by my feet, on the first step of the Queen Anne statue that towered over us with a moody pout and a vacant gaze, to remind us all how insignificant we were in the grand scheme of things.

Elsie had shredded a newspaper and was trying to lure pigeons to her by using the pieces as fake bread. The pigeons, fat from feeding off the piles of refuse around the square, weren’t budging.

“Run along and try to earn a penny before it’s too late, will you?”

She looked up and coughed, little barks that made her sound like all the street children who ended up in a pauper’s grave on a cold winter morning. I frowned at her pale face, framed by a yellowish bonnet with frayed lace on the edges.

“Can’t I stay ’ere with you?” she asked.

I didn’t mind her tagging along most of the time, but it was already afternoon and she needed to go home with a few coins in her pocket if she didn’t want to get in trouble.

Also I wanted to deal with my gentleman alone.

I raised my eyebrows and Elsie hurried to her feet. She was seven, or eight maybe, who knew, but her head barely reached my elbow.

“Well.” She sighed. “Bye then, Lily.”

She wrapped her shawl tighter around her thin shoulders and walked away. Around us street merchants hawked their wares, passers-by on their way to the church attempted to avoid pickpockets, and everyone shouted to be heard over the din of the horse carriages and ringing bells. Elsie was swallowed by the multitude in an instant. When she was gone I looked up, and found the gentleman standing in front of me.

I smiled.

He was a regular customer, but I had never seen him alone, or so purposeful. He usually brought a very pretty young lady along with him, and he bought her flowers while she looked bored and disgusted at the sight of me. However today she wasn’t there, so I wouldn’t have to fight the urge to spit in her face while he made his purchase. And he didn’t wear his usual suit, but a fancy blue frock coat, a white waistcoat, grey striped trousers and a black top hat. That was new.

“Good afternoon, milord.”

He stared at me for a second, as if he had forgotten his purpose here.

“Nothing like a Sunday at St Paul’s, is there?” I said, still smiling, but hoping he would start speaking soon before this got uncomfortable and awkward.

“Yes, indeed,” he said, focused again.

A nervous smile reached his lips but not his eyes, before he lowered his gaze on my flower basket. All I had left that day were roses.