Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday Fricassee

Wow!

It's a bit heady, all this excitement and enthusiasm. Buoying, too, because I'm admittedly a bit nervous about the actual onslaught of submissions.

I think I'm going to have a new level of empathy for agentkind.

So here's a quick peek at our upcoming schedule:

Next week: Logline Critique Session #3
Week of November 8: Secret Agent Contest
Week of November 15: Submissions for the Baker's Dozen Agent Auction
Week of November 22: Authoress collapses beneath the Thanksgiving table
Saturday, December 4: 40 winning entries posted to the auction
Tuesday, December 7: The bidding begins! The auction will remain open for 24 hours.

Definitely the most exciting line-up we've had in a while.

Somewhere in the middle of all that I will have completed the revision that's been grasping my life by the heels for weeks now. And there will be much rejoicing.

It's funny. I've never considered myself a "Type A" personality. I don't have the sort of heart-attack-inducing drive that these folks typically display. Yet Mr. A claims I AM a "Type A." Driven. And anyone reading today's post might say, "Um, Authoress is in denial if she thinks she's not a 'Type A'."

I'm not sure "driven" is the right word, though. Tenacious, yes. Determined, definitely. Committed to this writing thing to the end of time, for sure.

And slightly bonkers. Absolutely.

But "driven" sounds too pejorative. I'd rather not describe myself that way.

What a fun ride, though! Thanks for being a part of all this. See you on Monday!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Submission Dates: BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION

Mark your calendars! Set your alerts! Elbow the nearest guy out of your way as you dive for the mouse!

These are the Official Submission Windows for the Baker's Dozen Agent Auction. Please read carefully!

1. ADULT FICTION: TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 16
  • Women's fiction
  • Historical fiction
  • Thriller (including historical)
  • Mystery
  • Romance (including historical and paranormal)
  • Fantasy (including urban and all subgenres)
  • Science Fiction (including all subgenres)
  • Suspense
  • Literary
I will accept 40 (up from 25) submissions. 15 will be chosen for the auction.

SUBMISSION WINDOW #1: 12:00 pm EST for the first 20. No alternates.
SUBMISSION WINDOW #2: 6:00 pm EST for the next 20. No alternates.


All 40 entrants will be notified within 1 week as to whether their submission has been accepted for the auction.

2. MIDDLE GRADE AND YOUNG ADULT FICTION: THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 18

I will accept 80 (up from 40) submissions. 25 will be chosen for the auction.

SUBMISSION WINDOW #1: 12:00 pm EST for the first 40. No alternates.
SUBMISSION WINDOW #2: 6:00 pm EST for the next 40. No alternates.

All 80 entrants will be notified within 1 week as to whether their submission has been accepted for the auction.

All submissions must be emailed to authoress.submissions(at)gmail.com and formatted in the usual way:

SCREEN NAME: (type it here)
TITLE: (type it here)
GENRE: (type it here)

(Type your logline here. DO NOT TYPE THE WORD "LOGLINE". Just, yanno, type your logline.)

(Type your 250-word excerpt here.)

There will be a 100-word addition to the word count to allow for the loglines. If your logline is longer than 100 words, you'll have to shorten your excerpt.

Entries will be read just like any other slush pile. The 40 that float to the top will be included in the auction. I may have something special for the others later. It depends on whether or not I'm in a blog-induced coma by then.

The 40 winning entries will be posted to the blog on Saturday, December 4, to give the bidding agents several days to read them prior to the opening of the auction on the 7th.

I think that's everything! Post your questions below.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Logline Critique Session Two: #25

TITLE: Lost in a Heartbeat
GENRE: YA romantic suspense

After a stalker assaulted seventeen-year-old Calleigh, she's forced to keep silent about what happened--screwing up her chance to heal--or else the psycho will kill her BFF. But as she falls for her new friend, Aaron, she discovers they're linked in a way she could never have imagined--a connection that could be deadly for Calleigh.

Logline Critique Session Two: #24

TITLE: I'm Here to Save Your Day- The Adventures of Bo Wolf
GENRE: MG Adventure/Fantasy

When you're the greatest eleven-year-old fencer of all time, you naturally bring the smackdown on a playground bully who's taken over the jungle gym, but when Bo Wolf discovers the bully's mom- the lunch lady- is plotting to poison the school with her irresistible ginger snaps, he must save his friends from an imminent cafeteria-induced death.

Logline Critique Session Two: #23

TITLE: ADVENTURES OF A TEENAGE DEMIGODDESS
GENRE: MG FANTASY

Ninth-grader Morgaina England learns she's a demigoddess and must fly through time and space on a magical horse to the sky palace of Odin, "The Terrible One," Father of the Gods, to save his most precious possession; if she fails, she loses all her new-found powers and her father will be tortured for a thousand years.

Logline Critique Session Two: #22

TITLE: Shorty
GENRE: Middle Grade

When seventh-grader Tom Sullivan's growth plan (think green drinks and medieval torture racks) is plastered all over the school by class tough guy Pete Willowby, Tom snaps and embarks on a scheme to take the bully down. The consequences of Tom's transformation from nice to nasty force him to choose who he really wants to be by executing his "Do or Die" plan--or what he suspects might really be "Do and Die".

Logline Critique Session Two: #21

TITLE: Imagine That
GENRE: YA Contemporary

Sixteen is not so sweet for Mallory Strong. Her father's affair and the subsequent unraveling of her parents' marriage have tested her faith in love. When she lets herself fall for her childhood friend, Gus, and he betrays her, she struggles to overcome her anger and find forgiveness – before her heart closes to love forever.

Logline Critique Session Two: #20

TITLE: Death by High Heels
GENRE: Mystery

Not even being the Police Chief's daughter will keep Kimberly out of handcuffs and not the fuzzy kind, if she interferes in the hot homicide detective's murder case again.

Logline Critique Session Two: #19

TITLE: Johnny Steam
GENRE: YA Steampunk

When Johnny takes his steam bike for a midnight ride, his only goal is to escape the workhouse and his apprenticeship to the Dark Horse Mines. When he fires his coilgun to rescue Araminta from slavers, he thinks he's lost his escape, because her wounds require that she return to the workhouse. He doesn't know he's about to make a vow to rescue her little sister from the slavers. He doesn't know there's a war coming. And he certainly doesn't know that soon he'll have to choose between saving that girl, and his new life in the Clockwork Resistance.

Logline Critique Session Two: #18

TITLE: Hidden in Shadows
GENRE: urban fantasy with romance elements

As assassin Lorna hunts for her father's murderer, she struggles to master her newfound shadow power. But enacting her revenge would destroy any chance Lorna has of living a happy life when she falls for a target, leaving Lorna torn between murder and love.

Logline Critique Session Two: #17

TITLE: Squeaky Clean
GENRE: Young Adult

Sixteen-year-old Katerina Chernov knew it was going to be hard to escape her family of petty criminals, but she didn't expect her brother Dima to bribe his way into her new boarding school. Kat is determined to remake herself into the quintessential law-abiding citizen by becoming student council vice president, but with devious Dima running against her, the price of victory may be a return to her criminal ways.

Logline Critique Session Two: #16

TITLE: Voices in the Dark
GENRE: YA Historical

In a last ditch effort to gain his racist father's respect, Hawthorne reluctantly takes part in a murder, only to learn he has killed the wrong person. When the murdered boy's brother comes after him seeking revenge, Hawthorne is faced with either saving himself and the other murderers by killing the brother, too, or turning everyone in to save future lives and his own soul. And then a third alternative presents itself.

Logline Critique Session Two: #15

TITLE: Mystery Meat
GENRE: Mystery

After botulism kills five of his company's customers, disgraced ex-FBI Agent Gil Becker pokes around a small California town to find a killer, and maybe save his job driving a promotional vehicle shaped like a canned ham on wheels.

Logline Critique Session Two: #14

TITLE: The Shoebox
GENRE: Women's fiction

When Hungarian immigrant, Anna Toth, receives a shoebox containing mementos from her bittersweet childhood, she's compelled to revisit the mysterious disappearance of her high school friend in the hope of finding her. While uncovering the truth, she slowly drifts away from the life built with her husband and daughters, so by the time she finally comes to terms with the past, it may be too late to mend the damage in the present.

Logline Critique Session Two: #13

TITLE: Unvisible
GENRE: YA paranormal

Owen, an invisible high school senior in hiding from the organization that made him that way, risks his safety for a chance at the one thing he never thought he could have--a friend.

Logline Critique Session Two: #12

TITLE: Darkfall
GENRE: YA Fantasy Dystopia

When a technological plague destroys all electronics and civilization crumbles back to the steam age, seventeen-year-old selective mute Kate Hayden agrees to use her telepathic powers to help stop Darkfall - Hell on Earth. After she leaves the safety of a pacifist colony to assist a team of psychic sleuths tracking an angelic killer claiming to be a god-reborn, Kate learns that her partner, a repentant fallen angel, may have been involved in the death of Kate's family.

Logline Critique Session Two: #11

TITLE: Across Two Universes
GENRE: Science Fiction

When aspiring actor Paul discovers after his mother's murder he's the clone of a TwenCen rock star, he fears his mother was killed to force him into music. To trick the murderer into confessing, Paul must travel to an alternate universe to learn how to impersonate the rock star, even if he risks not only his own identity, but his life.

Logline Critique Session Two: #10

TITLE: Mercy
GENRE: YA magical realism

When her twin sister commits suicide, eighteen-year-old Camilla rewinds time to stop her, but in doing so she must confront her own brokenness and how her actions contributed to her sister's death.

Logline Critique Session Two: #9

TITLE: Styx and Stones
GENRE: YA Paranormal Romance

Found half dead on her doorstep, Blake wakes up with a gig she never applied for-- the Charon. Teaming up with Aiden, her brother's best friend, is her only option after a slew of unusual deaths at their high school. They've only got her ominous visions and six days to stop all Hades from breaking loose.

Logline Critique Session Two: #8

TITLE: Bird Brain
GENRE: Middle-grade contemporary

Simon, a great birder and not-so-good baseball player, makes a deal to play catcher in the big tournament in exchange for his teammates joining his bird-a-thon team, but loses his birding zen as he becomes obsessed with winning the bird-a-thon.

Logline Critique Session Two: #7

TITLE: the magic withheld
GENRE: urban fantasy

Justus is an expert at hiding in plain sight. He is a Wilder, an unrestrained mage, and the Imperium, a secret guild of wizards wants all of them leashed. Hiring a troubled adept linked to the guild is his first mistake. Falling in love with her is the second.

Logline Critique Session Two: #6

TITLE: GHOST RIVER
GENRE: WOMEN'S FICTION

Suddenly unemployed, Veronica jumps at the chance to save money and grab some R & R by house-sitting a home on a peaceful country river, but she soon finds out nature isn't as quiet as it seems when ghosts start to appear in her bedroom, the wrong man sets her hormones on fire, and a body floats in with the tide. Convinced her friend is being framed for the murder, Veronica uses clues from the ghosts and help from the hot guy to search for the real killer, completely unaware he wants to find her first.

Logline Critique Session Two: #5

TITLE: The Persephone Paradox
GENRE: YA Contemporary Mythology

When 17-year-old Zoe attempts suicide to escape her stepfather's abuse, The Fates send a demi-angel to lead her to her true destiny. But if she can't discover her own worth and learn to wield the powers she inherited as a daughter of the goddess Persephone, then the evil Greek god who has targeted her soul will use Zoe to conquer humankind.

Logline Critique Session Two: #4

TITLE: From The Other Side
GENRE: YA Horror

When misfit Verity is brutally murdered by the boy she loves, she awakens to find herself filled with uncontrollable rages and an unquenchable desire for vengeance. And if she doesn't find a way to harness her hatred and her deadly new powers---soon---she won't be able to stop killing, not even the one person who may save her.

Logline Critique Session Two: #3

TITLE: Gombay Dust
GENRE: Fantasy-Allegorical tale

When a principal Wind-God is given a crucial order, which will save his rapidly deteriorating Community, he struggles with whether to obey at once, or follow his conscience and manipulate the command to help his three young daughters gain immortality. If he chooses the latter, he will have to, among other things, sabotage his only son, and accept deadly consequences.

Logline Critique Session Two: #2

TITLE: Crossing Dark Water
GENRE: YA paranormal thriller

When a Jeep loving girl who's hooked on off-roading sets out to free her sister from a mountaintop mental hospital, she collides with a secret cartel that deals in magic--and must risk her own sanity to save her sister's.

Logline Critique Session Two: #1

TITLE: All's Fair
GENRE: YA Fantasy

All seventeen-year-old Princess Fawn of Savara wants is to avenge her betrothed, but refusing to marry the son of the king responsible for his death could lead to a war that devastates both their countries.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fear Not! Fear Not!

We're doing a third round next week. :)

Um, Wow...

Contest is closed. Like I said, sometimes I can't be here... o_O

Submissions Are Now Open

Let the influx of loglines begin!

On Time Zones and Such

I often perceive this Wonderful Community as a static entity, forgetting that there is a constant (and apparently increasing) influx of new readers. *waves to new readers*

As such, it's time for a submitting-to-authoress-crits-n-contests chat!

I strive for fairness and clarity at all times. Here's a compilation of paraphrased questions posed to me by (mostly) new readers, with my answers:

1. I'm still at work/still asleep/still in the middle of my daily gargling when your submissions open. Could you make them a little earlier/later?

No. I regularly switch times from morning to evening and my Secret Agent contests now have two windows to accommodate opposite ends of the globe. But what I beg you to remember is that I have to be a) awake and b) available during the submission process. Many submissions are loaded with formatting errors that I must fix by hand before they post. Many submitters email me, sometimes in a panic, asking why their submission was rejected. If I'm not there to answer the question quickly, they'll miss the opportunity to try again.

And sometimes I miss the emails, anyway. Because sometimes--gasp--my Real Life requires something of me right in the middle of a submission process. I try not to let that happen, but life is life.

All that to say, if the window that works for you equals 2 in the morning where I live, it ain't gonna happen. This train needs an engineer.

2. Your submission windows ALWAYS happen when I'm at work/asleep/gargling. I'm left out!

Do you have at least one friend you can trust? Ask him to send on your behalf. People do it all the time. Just be sure your friend forwards you the confirmation email so you know what number you've been assigned. Also be sure you don't hold it against your friend for all eternity if your submission is rejected for a formatting or word count reason. PLAIN TEXT, PLAIN TEXT, PLAIN TEXT.

3. What time zone are you in?? I can't figure out when to submit.

It makes absolutely no difference what time zone I'm in. For all you know, I live on a space shuttle outside of conventional time. I always--ALWAYS--post the times in Eastern. Why? IT'S NEW YORK CITY'S TIME ZONE. You can either a) do the math or b) check a reliable time zone website to see how your local time zone lines up with New York's.

4. And by the way, WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY SCREEN NAME?

I can't tell you how often I receive this question, both in comment boxes and via email. If any of you have suggestions for something DIFFERENT I can call it, please let me know! At any rate, your screen name is simply whatever name you choose to use when you're leaving comments on this blog. It's for identification purposes only and it will NEVER be included with your submission when it's posted.

I have my blogger account set up to accept ALL comments (hence the occasional anonymous trolls). That means that YOU DO NOT NEED A BLOGGER ACCOUNT or ANY OTHER ACCOUNT ONLINE in order to leave your comments. I've chosen this option to make it as easy as possible for people to leave comments.

I hate the word verification, but it does help cut down on spam. If spam weren't a problem, I'd remove this feature. It annoys me. (But not as much as spam.)

So when you email me to say you "can't sign in" or "signed in but it wouldn't take your comment" or whatever, please remember that MY BLOG DOES NOT REQUIRE YOU TO SIGN IN AT ALL. Just choose the third option (NAME/URL) in the comment box and type in your screen name.

I really do want things to be as easy as possible for everyone! I mean, heck. Writing stories is hard enough. Who needs a convoluted blogging experience?

Anyway, those are the biggies. If you have any other questions pertaining to crits and contests and comment-leaving, please comment below. I will try to answer them all in a timely manner.

(So long as I'm awake.)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Our Next Logline Critique Tomorrow

It's THRILLING to see how much positive came out of last week's logline crit.

I'm opening submissions on TUESDAY at 7:00 pm Eastern Daylight Time for the next 25 log lines.

Format as follows:

SCREEN NAME: (type it here)
TITLE: (type it here)
GENRE: (type it here)

(Type your logline here. Please note: Don't type any personal messages to Authoress here. While I certainly appreciate the humanness of such messages, my bot can't tell the difference.)

As always, submissions go to authoress.submissions(at)gmail.com.

Submissions will remain open until we've got 25 entries. PLEASE DO NOT ENTER IF YOU WERE IN LAST WEEK'S CRIT ROUND. This is going to have to be the honor system. Let's give our fellow writers a chance to have their work critiqued.

Please figure out your own time zone difference. I have no idea. I use Eastern because that's NYC's time zone. Do the math accordingly. (I am a math moron. Do not rely on me.)

The crits will post first thing Wednesday morning.

Questions below!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday Fricassee

Yay! Wasn't that fun? We'll be doing another round on Tuesday, so stay tuned. (Obviously this Other Round is for folks who didn't make it in this time. Hinty-hint.)

Of small note: I had to delete a few comments yesterday because of a high level of snark. Downright nastiness, actually. This almost never happens, but when it does I want you to know that I'm on it. And that I'm thankful every time one of you points out snark that I've missed. It's impossible to run a real life and read Every Single Comment in my bulging inbox.

So, thank you.

And here's a REAL TREAT for you! The indomitable Holly Bodger has written THIS BLOG POST as a recap of the 5 elements in her "Logline Formula" and how she feels yesterday's entries met the mark. Go read it!

I'd like to add one thing to Holly's post. While she emphasizes that our loglines should make readers CARE about our stories (pretty important, yes?), I would also point out that our loglines are a litmus test, of sorts, for the strength of our plot. A plot that can be distilled into a strong 1- or 2-sentence logline that CAPTURES the reader is indicative of a strong story.

Also? Writing a strong logline BEFORE we've completed the novel (or even before we've started it) can help us to hone in on WHAT OUR STORY IS ABOUT, which I've mentioned before.

So it's not just a marketing tool. It's much more.

Anyway, keep working! Some of yesterday's entries have put my own, pathetic logline to shame. It's not quite *there* yet. Well, it's not even halfway there. But I'm working on it. Just ask Holly.

Happy Weekend!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Logline Critique Session One: #25

TITLE: CIRCLING
GENRE: Techno Thriller (science fiction elements)

A brilliant but sheltered young woman learns she was found in a crop circle as a baby, and when genetic testing reveals an anomaly in her DNA, she must evade capture by a power-hungry military captain while solving the circle's hidden clues to discover her true identity.

Logline Critique Session One: #24

TITLE: Music Theory
GENRE: YA Contemp

Carissa thought she found the love of her life. That is until she learned Eric was being paid by her parents to "keep an eye" on her. Now she's not sure she can trust him, or that she loves him.

Logline Critique Session One: #23

TITLE: Emma's Heaven
GENRE: Women's Fiction

All Megan wants is for her three-year old daughter to be found after disappearing from the front yard two years ago. She sees Emma everywhere and her family questions her sanity, but when she snaps a photo of a little girl at the town fair, Megan doesn't understand why people won't believe that she's finally found her daughter.

Logline Critique Session One: #22

TITLE: Love and Death
GENRE: Adult commercial

When Jane impulsively kisses a handsome stranger, she falls in love. Unfortunately, so does he. Can this mismatched couple create a lifetime together in the six weeks Jane has left to live?

Logline Critique Session One: #21

TITLE: Colors Like Memories
GENRE: YA

Julia has a secret: she killed the guy she loved. It was an accident--sort of. In order to save her best friend's life she's going to have to face her past, but her ghosts won't make it easy, especially his.

Logline Critique Session One: #20

TITLE: Fall for Grace
GENRE: contemporary YA

Sixteen-year-old Kendall's squeaky clean teen star image is irreparably tarnished so she goes into hiding to escape the paparazzi. What she doesn't count on is the murderer on the prowl in her safe haven, a killer she unwittingly led to her refuge.

Logline Critique Session One: #19

TITLE: Finders Keepers
GENRE: YA Urban Fantasy

Sixteen-year-old Ellie Brown inadvertently stirs up the interest of a secret society of goblins living underneath her small, mining town when she rescues not a wild crow, like she thinks, but the future goblin king.

Logline Critique Session One: #18

TITLE: Uriel's Fall
GENRE: Urban Fantasy

Uriel has been raised since she was a cherub to be successor to the great and might Lucifer: an advocate for humanity and a counter-balance to the archangel Gabriel. As she begins to spend time
amongst humanity she realizes what she thought her job was and what she was actually created to do are two very different things. Torn between the loyalty instilled in all of Jehovah's angels and ancient gods with good advice and bad intentions she'll need to decide which is right, or if she should be giving credence to the voice in her head.

Logline Critique Session One: #17

TITLE: Singular
GENRE: YA Sci-Fi

In 2173, a gifted ballerina struggles to unravel the deceits of her picture-perfect community before she turns sixteen, when she may lose not only her passion for dance, but her whole identity.

Logline Critique Session One: #16

TITLE: Embrol
GENRE: YA Science Fiction

To stop the renegade alien sent to Earth to control her, eighteen-year-old Olivia Ryan must join forces with the boy responsible for her mother's death.

Logline Critique Session One: #15

TITLE: Love? Please! (A Tale of the Holy Water Warriors)
GENRE: Paranormal Romance

All Fomorian Hells are about to bust loose on earth, making human souls the daily special, if the Tuatha de Danaan cannot protect the mortals. Teagan, a demi-goddess hiding in a Colorado town from her destiny, wants nothing to do with her mother's forgotten realm. She has a life, one that doesn't include the sexy warrior sent for her. Merric has other plans for Teagan. She holds the key to salvation for both him and the world, whether she wants to or not, and he'll do whatever it takes to convince her-- no matter what his heart might desire.

Logline Critique Session One: #14

TITLE: Savage Jungle
GENRE: Middle-grade science fiction

When twelve-year-old Keith and his uncle become stranded in an alien jungle full of seven of the most lethal creatures in the universe, they must find an abandoned research facility and alert the authorities to their predicament, unaware of an unknown animal lurking nearby that happens to be the most dangerous of all.

Logline Critique Session One: #13

TITLE: IN AN INSTANT
GENRE: contemporary romance

An aspiring concert pianist is tricked by a friend into delivering a 'Dear John' letter to a man she's always worshiped from afar.

Logline Critique Session One: #12

TITLE: Theft of the Star Tracker
GENRE: MG Adventure

When their highly technical science project is stolen, brothers Alex and Drew Richfield must learn to work together to foil school bully, Brett Larson. At stake are the brothers' reputations, relationship and the grand prize!

Logline Critique Session One: #11

TITLE: Blood Dreams
GENRE: Paranormal Romance

In Blood Dreams, a free-spirited vampire and guilt-ridden incubus combine forces to stop the dream-walker that threatens to destroy 80 years of peace between humans and non-humans. But can they preserve the peace and still hide the secrets that threaten to destroy them?

Logline Critique Session One: #10

TITLE: A Comedy of Terrors
GENRE: Comic Fantasy

The dragon was easy. He knew how to handle the demon. But a Queen? Women were an open book to Segorian. The problem was, he'd never learned to read.

Logline Critique Session One: #9

TITLE: Sakura Girl
GENRE: YA Contemporary Fantasy

Almost-Senior Holly is banished to Japan to spend her last summer of freedom with her grandmother instead of her friends, but when she discovers that she's the key to releasing a captive Time Dragon and rewriting history things start getting interesting - especially when the dragon looks like a hot seventeen-year-old boy with a mysterious scar.

Logline Critique Session One: #8

TITLE: Second Chances
GENRE: YA paranormal

Noelle has no memory of the accident that ruined her life and seeks to find the one person that can fill in the blanks--her dead boyfriend.

Logline Critique Session One: #7

TITLE: The Totally True Tales of Tansy Berry, Tooth Ferry
GENRE: MG Fantasy

Out of work tooth ferry Tansy Berry must enlist the help of Dr. Chip, a crazy elf dentist with an obsession with the mythical Sweet Tooth, to help her battle her ex-boyfriend, the cool but fickle Jack Frost, and Chief Extraction Officer Ruth Canal in order to save not only her job, but the teeth of all the children in the world.

Logline Critique Session One: #6

TITLE: Small Universe
GENRE: Upper middle grade

Jeremy is delighted to discover the passenger plane he is flying is in fact a cleverly disguised spaceship, until alien pirates nab a group of the passengers, including Jeremy's parents. Jeremy must now fly across the universe to rescue the passengers from scientists, zoos, and haute cuisine.

Logline Critique Session One: #5

TITLE: The Healer
GENRE: YA Fantasy

When invaders attack Actae's outposts, leaving hundreds injured, Thera Airaldi must decide whether to use the healing powers she has kept secret since childhood. She could save many lives but will lose the respect of those she loves most, and possibly her life, in the process.

Logline Critique Session One: #4

TITLE: Fossegrim
GENRE: YA Urban Fantasy

When seventeen year old foster kid Sage Reynolds wakes up on the bottom of the ocean with a freaking fish tail, he figures he's covered all his bases in 'the screwed department', that is...until he realizes what he must sacrifice in order to reclaim his humanity.

Logline Critique Session One: #3

TITLE: Regina Brinkwell & the Truth Brigade
GENRE: Middle Grade

Tired of adults telling fibs, a twelve-year-old plans a community service project to rid her town of big fat liars and gets in an honest-to-goodness mess when her Truth Brigade uncovers a blackmailer, a cheat, and a heartbreaking secret among prominent townspeople.

Logline Critique Session One: #2

TITLE: Blackbird
GENRE: YA Urban Fantasy

When Taylor Keaton, spy chick in training, joined S.P.R.I.T.E., she never expected a dying elf to beg her to research an off-the-books black op with only the codename “Excalibur” as guidance. Now Taylor must stop a band of sorcerers before they steal an item that could unbalance the magical world for good… or she gets herself killed for trying.

Logline Critique Session One: #1

TITLE: BACK TO ME
GENRE: Women's Fiction

A woman who has finally begun to disentangle from her longtime on-again-off-again boyfriend discovers he has advanced-stage cancer. Now she's not sure which is more frightening: facing that he isn't The One, or that he is.

Logline Submissions Are Closed

We've got our 25! If you didn't get in, fear not; we're doing another round next week!

Submit Your Logline For Session One

Now that you know why I've been pushing the logline thing, let's jump right in and start getting some feedback on our loglines-in-progress.

Submissions are open RIGHT NOW for the first 25 log lines. Send to authoress.submissions(at)gmail.com, as always.

Format:

SCREEN NAME: (type it here)
TITLE: (type it here)
GENRE: (type it here)

(Type your logline here)

Word count is set at 100. SCREEN NAME, TITLE, and GENRE are NOT included in the word count, so if you get a rejection that claims you're over word count, it's because your word processor has added invisible junk to your document. Make sure you've typed it in PLAIN TEXT and sent it in a PLAIN TEXT email to avoid this problem.

Best way to avoid the trouble? Type your logline directly into a plain text email. No copy-pasting at all.

The loglines will begin posting at 1:00 pm Eastern. Readers, please leave your feedback! Namely, DOES THE LOGLINE MAKE ME WANT TO READ THE BOOK?

A few helpful tidbits:

From Blake Snyder's Save the Cat:

"A logline is the one- or two-sentence description of your [novel] that tells us what it is. It must contain a type of hero (that means a type of person plus an adjective that describes him), the antagonist (ditto), and the hero's primal goal. It must have irony, and it must bloom in our brains with potential."

From author Holly Bodger, the logline queen:

"When [MAIN CHARACTER] [INCITING INCIDENT], he [CONFLICT]. And if he doesn't [GOAL] he will [CONSEQUENCES]."

Please remember that there is no perfect formula for a logline. There are components that a strong logline needs, and this will flesh out in whatever way best portrays your story and its inherent conflict.

Okay, have at it! You may submit at any time. Submissions will close as soon as we've got 25 entries.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

December Fun: THE BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION

Finally, the BIG ANNOUNCEMENT! On Tuesday, December 7, the gavel will fall on our first-ever BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION. And you won't want to miss it!

BAKER'S DOZEN WHAT??

Auction! As in, agents placing bids. Here's how the whole thing will work:
  • 40 entries will be posted on the auction block. Of these 40, 15 will be for the adult market and 25 for MG/YA.
  • Each entry will consist of a log line followed by the first 250 words of the manuscript.
  • Thirteen participating agents (our baker's dozen) will place bids on the entries they like. The minimum bid requirement is a request to read the first 5 pages.
  • The auction will remain open for 24 hours. At the close, each entry will go to the highest bidder, at whatever "price" they bid (up to a request for a full).
It's that simple!

Some other things you need to know:
  • All contest entries will be open to critique by everyone.
  • Each contest entry will receive a critique from at least one of three agented authors who have agreed to participate.
  • Each contest entry will receive a critique from a Special Guest Editor.
Because let's face it. It's not a given that everyone will receive an agent bid. We all know that's not how things work in the Publishing Universe. So this way, EVERY PARTICIPANT will receive something valuable.

IMPORTANT: Not every entry will be accepted. Here's the breakdown:

MIDDLE GRADE AND YOUNG ADULT, including all subgenres and literary:

I will accept 50 submissions, from which 25 will be selected for the contest.

ADULT FICTION (genres listed below):

I will accept 25 submissions, from which 15 will be selected for the contest.

ADULT GENRES INCLUDED IN THE AGENT AUCTION:
  • Women's fiction
  • Historical fiction
  • Thriller (including historical)
  • Mystery
  • Romance (including historical and paranormal)
  • Fantasy (including urban and all subgenres)
  • Science Fiction (including all subgenres)
  • Suspense
  • Literary
Author Jodi Meadows will assist me with the slush pile. Her experience as an agent's assistant has honed her critical eye, so I'm counting on her expertise to help me cull through the entries (I don't relish this part, I assure you).

SUBMISSION SCHEDULE:

Submissions for the contest will be held on two separate dates in November, one for adult and the other for MG/YA. Winners will be notified after we've gone through the contest slush. Winning entries will be posted on Saturday, December 4, to give the agents time to look over them before the bidding starts on Tuesday.

ALSO VERY IMPORTANT:
  • This contest is for COMPLETED, POLISHED, QUERY-READY MANUSCRIPTS only. If you're not ready to embark on the querying process, please do not enter.
  • This contest is open to ALL PAST PARTICIPANTS AND WINNERS OF SECRET AGENT CONTESTS and ANY OTHER CONTEST OR CRITIQUE SESSION with THE FOLLOWING EXCEPTION: If you enter the November SA contest and then enter the same work in the Agent Auction, that work has to show a considerable amount of editing as per the feedback you received during the contest. Reason: Despite the excitement of the auction, the main thrust of this contest is CRITIQUE. And it will be a waste of time to the critters (and to you) if you haven't made substantial changes. Acceptance of these entries will be at the discretion of Jodi Meadows and me.
  • This contest is open to NON-AGENTED AUTHORS ONLY.

WHO ARE THE THIRTEEN AGENTS??

Heh. Not telling! But I'll announce their names prior to the onset of the auction. Unlike our Secret Agent contests, these agents will use their real names during the bidding.

And now you can see why I've been so excited about this! I'm worried I've forgotten something important, so please post your questions below.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Winners!!

And here are this month's winning entries, followed by the prizes offered by Ms. Wolfson:


#32 (untitled): Ms. Wolfson asks that you submit 50 pages and a 1-2 page synopsis.

#27 The Devil You Know: Ms. Wolfson asks that you submit 50 pages and a 1-2 page synopsis.

#16 What Would Satan Do?: Ms. Wolfson asks that you submit 50 pages and a 1-2 page synopsis.

#11 Fall For Grace: Ms. Wolfson asks that you submit 20 pages and a 1-2 page synopsis.

#6 Nothing Left To Lose But Me: Ms. Wolfson asks that you submit 30 pages and a 1-2 page synopsis.

#1 Bitter Bar Girl: Ms. Wolfson asks that you submit 20 pages and a 1-2 page synopsis.

Winners, please email me at facelesswords(at)gmail.com for specific submission instructions.

Once again, congratulations all!

Secret Agent Unveiled: MICHELLE WOLFSON

A HUGE round of applause to the lovely and dedicated Michelle Wolfson of Wolfson Literary, who critiqued all the entries while SICK!

Michelle's bio:

Michelle Wolfson formed Wolfson Literary Agency in 2007 and is actively seeking authors of commercial fiction in the following categories: mainstream, mysteries, thrillers, suspense, chick-lit, romance, women’s fiction, and young adult. She is drawn to well written material with strong interesting characters. She is also interested in practical and narrative non-fiction projects, particularly those of interest to women.

Michelle holds a BA from Dartmouth College and an MBA from New York University. Prior to forming her own agency, Michelle spent two years with Artists & Artisans, Inc. and two years with Ralph Vicinanza, Ltd. Before that, she spent several years working outside of publishing, in non-profit and then finance, and she brings the skills she learned there plus a lifetime love of reading to the table as an agent.

What Michelle's looking for:

I’m looking for standout writing that will keep me up late at night.

(There you have it!)

Hooray! And I'd like to add that, despite the fact that she wasn't feeling well, our Secret Agent was a TREAT to work with this week. Thanks for that, Michelle!

Winners forthcoming!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday Fricassee

Bear with me. I'm waxing mushy this morning.

You're an amazing community of writers. Sometimes I sit here and think about it, and it strikes me how profound the connection is. Many of you nameless, most of you faceless (to me, that is), and yet you are a vibrant entity offering so much, both collectively and, at times, individually.

I get so much back from this blog. Thank you.

Sometimes a long-time lurker will come out from behind the draperies and submit to a Secret Agent contest for the first time. Sometimes a brand new reader will step forward and tell me that my words were exactly what she needed to hear that morning. Sometimes I get an exuberant email about an author's having nabbed an agent as a direct or indirect result of participation with this blog.

I love it all!

Within the large circle of kindred spirits, I've acquired a small circle of writerfriends (yes, it's a word, because I like it) who are my "inner sanctum" -- critters, personal cheerleaders, friends. You know who you are, and I love you.

My writing life is SO MUCH DIFFERENT since this blog was birthed. And a changed writing LIFE leads to changed WRITING.

And that's happened, too.

Anyway, I guess it's been a while since I've gone all schmoopy on you. Yes, this blog takes time and effort and blah blah blah. But the ROI is quadruple what I put into it. Truly.

So thanks. Again! And have an awesome weekend.

(Long-time or short-time lurkers, feel free to leave your very first comment below. *wink*)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

October Secret Agent #37

TITLE: Swap
GENRE: Romantic Comedy

Parking his Prius in the municipal lot, Raphael Chariote dallied, safe and free for the moment. Not only did the sky threaten a deluge when he stepped out; he was about to switch places with his jailed brother. Swapping used to be fun from grade school right into college, because it usually involved girls or stupid exams, not possible murder.

He stuck a printed to-do list on the dashboard for Troy:

1. Don't play with my art supplies.

2. Keep the studio neat and as you found it.

3. Go to AA meeting tonight.

4. Be me, but don't touch Stella.

He peeled off the note, rolled it into a ball, and spotted a trash can. His womanizing, slob brother had always done what he liked anyway. Raphael considered dropping to his knees to pray, except he'd get dirty and spoil a perfect record with the creator who was busy creating anyway.

Screw it.

Locking his car, he stretched, breathed in blossom scented spring air, and, as always, fell in love with nuance. Heavy black-streaked clouds raced by the sun, blue jays and robins gossiped, and two squirrels chased each other around the trunk of one of the thick oaks surrounding the one-story red-brick jail.

Walking, he straightened a fake mustache again, tightened his Phillies cap over thick curly black hair. The more the police noticed how different the infamous identical twins seemed the better. An illusion equaled confusion.

At the entrance: This swap is our last, brother.

Lightning struck.

October Secret Agent #36

TITLE: Axel McDaniel and the End of the World
GENRE: YA dystopian

Cassie says I'm a bad seed. That my head is full of bad ideas and worse dreams. Of course, she usually says that when we're about to get in trouble together, and it's almost always her fault. But somehow, it's always me that gets the punishment, probably because she's the chief's beloved daughter and I'm just a good-for-nothing orphan, an unwanted mouth to feed when food is hard enough to come by. I once heard her dad say that I'd be worth more to the tribe rotting in the compost vats.

Ouch.

She has a lot to say about my shortcomings, but apparently my brain is my Main Problem, whatever that's supposed to mean. I think her main problem is that she's a know-it-all would-be holovid star. She scowls at me from the bow of the canoe, silly straw hat askew atop a bright red pony tail and golden spy glass tucked tightly under her arm. So dramatic. Like that old trinket is our only hope of finding land. Like we'd be lost at sea without it. We're only five miles off the coast, and our destination is pretty hard to miss, if you're not blind. I want to laugh out loud. We're on an important mission, but that doesn't mean we have to be so self-important.

"You're listing starboard," she says. "Try to row more evenly."

"Maybe you could try rowing yourself instead?" I say.

She waves her hand at me like I'm just a pesky mosquito and goes back to eyeing the sea

October Secret Agent #35

TITLE: A Shadow of Divine Perfection
GENRE: Adult Commercial Fiction

Emma Meyer glanced uneasily around the gift shop, prepared to duck out of sight if necessary.

Her watch showed 4:45. Technically, she and Molly were still at work, even though they'd already donned winter coats and boots. But, in their defense, at least they were still physically in the National Gallery building. Molly Edwards, tour guide extraordinaire--and somewhat sloppy roommate, if truth be told--could give an abbreviated tour, should someone know she worked there and request a tour, and Emma could make a staff member a photocopy, if they had a tracking device and located her one floor below her office, so far away from her desk.

“I'm gonna get you a bunch of these for Christmas, Moll.” Emma giggled as she pointed to a pyramid of ceramic cups showing Botticelli's famous lovers, Venus and Mars, lounging after yet another exhausting romp.

“Molly?” Emma spun around and found her friend near the gift shop entrance, squinting in the window at a ghostly reflection, applying a fresh coat of red to her lips.

Oh, Molly. Emma's chin dropped to her chest.

Molly had suggested ditching work early and heading downstairs. Emma had been against it. As she'd explained to Molly, although she didn't exactly love making photocopies and getting coffees for the staff, those duties went along with her internship and the position meant too much to her to risk screwing it up.

October Secret Agent #34

TITLE: How Ugly Macey Greenwald got Sexy and Got a Man
GENRE: Contemporary Woman's Fiction

Macey usually got home precisely at five-forty-five, feet aching from a set of red velvet heels that were a birthday gift from her sister and head aching from her boss who is a jerk, but none of that happened today. Well her boss is still a jerk, but she had worn the blue heels today, instead of the red ones and as it turned out that made all the difference. For one thing they hurt a lot less than the red ones, but more importantly Mat had noticed the change.

He said, "Hey are those new shoes?"

Macey blushed and said, "Why yes they are."

Unfortunately that's as far as the conversation went with Mat however Peter had asked her out on a date and that's why Macey came home especially early today. She parked the Toyota her dad gave her last year for Christmas in the driveway and trotted into her apartment with a big smile on her face. Kicking her heels off at the door, she strode into the kitchen and made a sandwich before jumping into the shower. Her pits were very hairy because she hadn't had the opportunity to get laid for at least a year and Macey firmly believed in not shaving unless she had a man, which was remarkably hard since she kind of looked like a man. She fingered the razor while hot water splashed over her chest.

"Is he worth it?" She said. "Well I might as well shave my mustache too."

October Secret Agent #33

TITLE: The Elder
GENRE: Paranormal Romance

She'd passed the last two hours light as air, a little on the giddy side, with a rush of excitement thrumming in her ears. Who knew outmaneuvering her grandfather would feel this good? Emma's cheeks ached from smiling too much. If there was such a thing.

"Geez, Em. We're not going to the candy shop. People die where we're going." Vi's face lit with amusement despite her words.

"Oh, psha. Let me taste victory. At least for a minute before you ruin its flavor. I've waited too long and worked too hard for this not to enjoy it." Plus, who knew when she'd get another chance to accompany the Reapers on a hunt?

"I know you have, baby girl, but we're not heading for a picnic. Last thing I want is for you to get hurt." Even as she warned her, Vi helped Emma don the tight-fitting but strangely comfortable Reaper battledress in preparation for the night.

"I know. Trust me. I hear it enough, but unlike you, I live in a cage. A gilded one, but still a cage."

"So, late bloomer, you're just now getting to your teenage rebellion at the ripe old age of twenty-two? Daniel means well, you know."

Yes, she knew. Her grandfather had the weight of the world on his shoulders, and that wasn't an exaggeration. It's why she hadn't pushed the matter of her career too hard with him.

"You're lucky no medics were available to staff the air transport tonight."

October Secret Agent #32

TITLE: Untitled
GENRE: YA

Mom was as passionate about the upkeep of her daughters' hair as she was about her backyard. Whenever she ran out of weeds to whack, out came the shears. She would cut our hair pixie-style like Twiggy's. Never mind that it was 1975, and Twiggy had gone the way of the psychedelic '60s. Long, straight hair, parted in the middle like Susan Dey's in The Partridge Family, was now the popular look in the Philippines.

"You better sit still if you don't want the tips of your ears clipped off," Mom warned. She had just finished trimming my bangs and was about to continue with the rest of my hair, which by now had sneaked two inches below my ears.

"Mom, please don't cut anymore," I pleaded. "All my friends have long hair. I'm the only one who still looks like a boy."

How can I attract a boy when I look like one? I wanted to add.

"Just this morning, the rice cake vendor mistook me for a boy again."

We were out on the terrace, where I wriggled on a bar stool with a towel draped across my shoulders. From our usual spot facing the backyard, I could see the coconut trees, interspersed with other fruit and flowering trees surrounding the freshly-whacked lawn. The coconut trees taunted me with their long, swaying fronds. As if in unity, the maya birds chirped, "Clip! Clip! Clip!" as they flitted about the champaca trees.

Mom wielded her shears just above my ear.

October Secret Agent #31

TITLE: The Hunt
GENRE: YA Adventure

Sunaya spied the bad men and everything changed.

Immediately blood pumped from her heart to the ends of her tingling fingers. Her eyes narrowed and focused, taking in every detail of the bouncing green truck. There was excitement, for sure. This was why she was here. But there was also fear. A gnawing at the base of her stomach. This wasn't a game.

From her lookout high on the hill, she could see that this crew was smarter than most. The truck followed the fence line but stayed 100 yards outside the Kruger National Park border where it would be hard to spot through the long, brown grass. It stopped behind the cover of trees, exactly where the goat boy said it would.

As the men unloaded their equipment, an anger pulsed through Sunaya. These people made a living out of animals but what did they see? The martial eagle floating high above - on the lookout for a mongoose or baby monkey? The ancient black rhino on the other side of the fence, its horn bigger than its brain?

No. They saw green. Not the various shades that layered their way down the South African hills like a patchwork quilt. The greedy kind that made this silly, crazy world turn upside down.

Sunaya stood and shook the deadness from her legs. It was time to move. It was time to make the bad men pay.

October Secret Agent #30

TITLE: Taming the Crazies
GENRE: Young Adult

Blake sprints down the empty Freshman hallway, banging his backpack on every locker door he passes while singing 'Bringing Sexy Back' in some off-pitch falsetto voice. I cover my ears and thank God no one is around to witness his one man side-show. "Seriously, Blake. Can you be any more manic?" I say a bit louder than planned.

I'm not sure I can stand another embarrassing episode after the last big mess I cleaned up for him. It wasn't easy getting all the mud off Mom's Mini Cooper following Blake's genius idea that the tiny car would perform as well as a four-wheeler on back roads. I love the guy and all, but after almost seventeen years of life, fourteen of which were spent as his personal disaster janitor, I'm kind of burnt out.

He stops and whips his head back toward me. "Not funny."

I catch up to him and look around to make sure no random freshmen have appeared out of thin air. "Not intended to be funny," I say through clenched teeth. "If you don't want the whole freaking school knowing you're bipolar, then maybe you should put a little more effort into hiding it. It's a miracle you've kept it quiet for the last four years."

He pinches my cheek and smiles while batting his unnaturally long eyelashes. "This episode of 'Hide Blake's Illness' has been made possible by his lovely little sister, Annabelle Jones."

I shake my head and pull him toward the exit. "Idiot."

October Secret Agent #29

TITLE: MARTYR
GENRE: Paranormal Thriller

I was never going to get there in time. The voice in my head had been quiet for almost an entire minute. My legs pumped towards the double doors of the co-ed dorms. If I could just get close enough...

No! Let go! Her voice was thinning, much quieter than it had been only moments ago. I'd seen her in my office just an hour ago. Now she was fighting a masked man in her college dorm room. The time frame for saving her was running out. Finally inside, I ran towards the staircase, pausing at the first two floors to listen for her. At the third door, a weak plea broke through.

Stop...
stop...
oh God, no. Please, no.

It wasn't until I reached the middle of a hallway that the man's voice chimed in. In his mind, Chloe was lying on the floor, her red hair slung over her face. Closing my eyes with all brevity, the barriers on my mind snapped shut, forcing his incoherent thoughts out.

Their struggle had been silent. She'd been scared enough at the appearance of a masked man in her room for it to resonate all the way across campus. With the rag smothering her pleas, she'd only been able to protest internally, a brief mental struggle which I alone had witnessed.

My fists pounded on the door. As he approached, my hands clutched the side of my head as if I could keep his rage from boiling into my brain.

October Secret Agent #28

TITLE: Hatshepsut- Female Pharaoh
GENRE: Commercial Fiction- Historical

Her sister was dead.

Hatshepsut reached out to touch a clump of papyrus reeds as the skiff bobbed its way across the Nile. Soon she would become the next Great Royal Wife. The title should have gone to Neferubity; would have, had her sister not passed to the Field of Reeds. Now Hatshepsut's greatest responsibility in this life was to marry her brother and bear Egypt's future heir. The thought made her wish she could trade places with her sister.

The morning was still cool enough; Re's scorching heat had not yet wrung the sweat from her pores. The rowers gave a hippo wide berth, but the lazy river cow only yawned before submerging itself below the silty waters. Hatshepsut's eyes burned with the tears she had shed at Neferubity's tomb, but donkeys brayed and children laughed as the boat neared the East Bank. Life continued here in Egypt's capitol, despite Neferubity's absence from this world. The rowers--young men scarcely clad in loincloths--grunted as they tied up the royal barque. One almost tripped in his haste to help her onto the dock.

"Hatshepsut!"

Even though she hadn't heard it in almost two years, she knew that voice.

Her brother. And future husband.

Thutmosis had been in Canaan on a military campaign with their father for the past two years and wasn't expected back for several months. Hatshepsut was shocked as her brother hobbled toward her, leaning on an ivory walking cane. His lips pursed every time he put weight on his right foot.

October Secret Agent #27

TITLE: THE DEVIL YOU KNOW
GENRE: YOUNG ADULT

I can't have been asleep for more than an hour, maybe two, when my bedroom door swings open with a long, shivering groan. I ignore it-- the door never latches right in winter, and our apartment is draftier than a frilly skirt on a windy day.

But then there's a touch on my foot, the barest hint of pressure on the duvet, and I am instantly, fully, awake.

"We've got company, cupcake,” a voice says from the chair beside my bed.

“Thank you, Captain Obvious. Why did you let it in?”

“Last I checked, I wasn't a doorman,” he says.

Still soundless, the thing continues its path around my bed, moving ever closer to where my head is resting on the pillow. I tuck my chin to my chest, shifting so the blankets cover most of my face, just in case. Ghosts won't try to get physical, usually, not if my oh-so- helpful partner Zeke is around. But it never hurts to be cautious.

“Gross,” Zeke says, and even though I know better I open my eyes.

Inches from me, crouched down to be level with my face, is a scorched, peeling thing--nothing but black skin and grimacing mouth, lidless eyes wide and bright in the darkness. The ghost opens its mouth and the skin around it bursts and peels away from the charred lips. “You
can see me,” it gurgles.

October Secret Agent #26

TITLE: Dilate
GENRE: Young Adult

When I was sixteen, I was presented the opportunity to turn nothing into a million dollars. And it all started with my lousy summer job at the Baytown Yacht Club.

When I heard the thunder crack, I knew I could kiss my chance of leaving work early goodbye.

The inside snack bar had been dead all day. Not surprising since on perfect sunny afternoons, the wealthy patrons preferred to buy their ice cream sandwiches and frappuccinos by the pool.

But as the rain poured down, the jerks poured in.

"Great," I mumbled under my breath as I saw him approach the counter.

He planted his hands on the counter, leaning forward. His green eyesscanned the menu and then lingered on my face.

I rolled back on my heels and shoved my hands into the pockets of my work apron. "Can I help you?"

His lips curled into a grin and he titled his head to the side. "My name's Dylan. What's yours?"

Anger sizzled in my stomach. I tightened my fist, but silently reminded myself that I needed this job.

"Well, my name tag says Maritza and since your father owns this place, it's safe to say you can trust that the nametags are legit."

He raised his eyebrow. "Long day?"

Just as I was about to say something super b****y, I saw Officer Thomas in the corner.

It's a fact of life that whenever you're on the verge of trouble, your parole officer appears.

October Secret Agent #25

TITLE: A Proper War
GENRE: Historical Fiction

The morning the Germans disappeared, Emil wasn't asleep.

Since they took him prisoner, he'd ceased sleeping. Too many nightmares hid beneath the skin of slumber. Instead he lay all night in a half-doze, thinking of his wife's hair. The way she shook it loose at bedtime. The way it always smelled like sunshine, even in the dark of night.

The shout for roll call usually yanked him reluctantly from those thoughts. That morning, though, it was the eerie silence which pushed him upright in his bunk. He hadn't heard the shout, yet the hut was empty.

Heart pounding, he leapt out of bed, kicking the tangle of blanket aside. He wasn't asleep--he didn't let himself fall asleep, did he?--but had somehow missed the shout from the courtyard. He ran through the hut without stopping to pull on his shoes. He'd only been late for roll call once; the backs of his legs still carried the marks of that mistake.

His bare feet slapped on the planks and he slowed himself down on the doorframe.

And stopped.

The prisoners weren't lining up. Instead they clustered in knots just outside of each hut, madly whispering.

Over the heads of the others, Emil saw nothing. No sleepy-eyed soldiers shuffling through the mud. No one bellowing for roll call. No guards at the gate. Nothing apart from the whispers of the prisoners. The Germans had vanished.

October Secret Agent #24

TITLE: THE BABA YAGA
GENRE: Mystery/thriller

I could not see the malevolence in his face.

My "seeing eye woman" flung her body against my side, knocking both of us to the cold airport terminal floor. I instinctively struggled to rise. Kayko recovered faster, fell off me, sat up and, straight armed, used all the weight she could leverage to push me back down. "Just stay there!" she whispered. An explosive discharge echoed off the sides of the airport walls. I heard robotic outbursts I could not interpret.

The man with the gun in front of us turned and ran, pushed hard against a non-automatic door, exited into daylight and kept running. Men in blue shirts running as hard banged the door against its casings as they rushed to follow the gunman.

I looked behind me to see if anyone was hurt. I saw only blank faces, but no one was on the ground. Security guards from the nearby gates surrounded us, lifted us to our feet, and pushed us towards an office about 50 feet away. "Stay here until you are debriefed," one guard said and closed the door.

I looked at Kayko's blank face. All faces are blank to me. I have a form of autism that prevents me from seeing human expression. My disability extends to voices. I cannot hear the emotion in voices.

"Explain." My own voice sounds robotic to me as well.

October Secret Agent #23

TITLE: Deadly Betrayals
GENRE: Fiction

I squeezed the trigger, the noise of the gun deafening in the confined space of the elevator. My legs trembled as I made my way over to where he lay, sprawled on the parking garage floor. Blood seeped from the four gaping holes in his chest, while his eyes stared unseeing up at me. The gun slipped from my grasp, clattered to the concrete, and landed next to the body. I reached into his coat pocket and grabbed the cell phone that he had taken from me, only moments earlier. My hands shook as I punched in the number.

"Homicide, Detective Quinn speaking."

"Ryan, it's me."

"Hello me, are you calling to apologize?"

"No, I'm calling to report a shooting."

"S***. Are you alright? Where are you?"

"I'm okay. I'm in the parking garage in the new medical building on Route 48."

"Alright, I'll send an ambulance. I can be there in ten minutes."

"Don't forget to send for the medical examiner while you're at it."

"Damn. Alright, a patrol car is on its way and I'll be there soon. Don't say anything until I get there."

"I know. Thanks, Ryan." I hung up the phone and waited for help to arrive.

October Secret Agent #22 (redacted)

(redacted)

October Secret Agent #21

TITLE: Of Sharks and Men
GENRE: Contemporary Romance

The dawn of a new day had come to the south-eastern hemisphere, a brilliant morning promising new chances, new hope, new life. Birds chirped their lullabies happily. Bees buzzed on by with busy intent. And the glorious sun, sustainer of all life, brightly ignited the sky above.
As one man was acutely aware, life and time ticked on.

And in his experience, life and time ticked on promising nothing but cruel and unusual heartache.

The exhausted man, operating on pure adrenaline, trudged and tromped through the silvery sands of Blouberg Beach. Despite the sultry summers of South Africa, he sported long denim pants and leather sneakers, which only served to hinder his trek through the thick white grit. Already he started to perspire and wiped the mustache of sweat beading upon his upper lip. As he moved with purposeful strides, he reached behind him to feel the comforting heft of the gun tucked at the small of his back.

The beach was desolate. Peaceful. No swimmers, no surfers. No tourists or vacationers. But morning had only just broken. The man had rushed straight to the scene of the carnage after spending an unbearable night holed up in a Cape Town hospital.

Consoling his wife.

"He's alive. We have that much to be thankful for," he'd told her.

Consoling his son.

"You'll come out of this stronger. It'll be okay," he'd whispered at Julian's bedside while the young man lie unconscious at Tygerberg Hospital,

October Secret Agent #20

TITLE: Emma's Heaven
GENRE: Adult Up

Two years ago, Megan forgot to breathe. Ever since, her life had been on pause. If there were a rewind option, she'd wish this day away.

She closed her eyes, clenched her jaw and counted to five. Her white knuckles gripped the doorknob as she struggled to turn it. With a steeled determination, Megan took a step through the open doorway. A bright light blinded her as she entered the room. It wasn't a day for the sun to shine, not in this room.

The carpet under her feet tickled her bare toes. Megan glanced down at the floor.

An envelope lay at her feet. Where did this come from?

She picked it up and turned it over. Her eyes stung as she stared at the writing on the card. Bold, cursive writing stood out against the white paper.

Happy 5th Birthday Emma. Love, Daddy.

Tears fell onto the envelope, white smudges soaked through the paper.

She'd forgotten to get a card.

A car door slammed outside. She walked to the window and saw Peter's car in the driveway. He's home early. She leaned her head against the window. The grass needed to be cut, and her gardens were a mess. If it weren't for the tulips, the garden beds would be empty.

The heavy tread on the stairway announced her husband's presence. She waited, silent, unable to call out to him. He stood in the open doorway. She didn't turn her head.

She didn't want him to see her swollen eyes.

October Secret Agent #19

TITLE: BACK TO ME
GENRE: Women's Fiction

Kate Dalton's heart raced as she replayed the voicemail, listening for clues hidden somewhere in the deep, Southern tones of Jake Bailey's voice. She missed most of what he said the first time. She was too busy celebrating that Jake had finally come to his senses and realized he couldn't live without her.

"Hey Kate, it's Jake. There's something I really need to tell you before you hear it from someone else. Give me a call…please." He was almost pleading at the end.

Her heart sank. Jake was getting married, she was sure of it.

How could he be getting married? A year ago, when they rekindled the relationship they'd had in college, she thought they were finally getting their happily ever after. It had only been six months since they'd broken up. How could he have met someone so fast? He was supposed to come back to her, just like he always had.

She quickly ran through the possibilities, but couldn't think of any other reason Jake would need to tell her something before she heard it from someone else. What would their mutual friends from college know that she didn't?

Surely Abby would have mentioned if she knew he was dating someone. Whenever they broke up, which had been more frequent than she would have liked over the years, they joked that they shared custody of Abby. They both knew Abby's true loyalty lie with Kate, however.

October Secret Agent #18

TITLE: Quintessence
GENRE: Young Adult

"Suscito lamia." Tabby muttered as she stirred the cookie mixture.

"Suscito lamia," she repeated, hoping the pronunciation was correct.

"Suscito lamia." She chanted the incantation one last time before dropping spoonfuls of dough onto the greased cookie sheet. She set the timer, closed her eyes tight, and crossed her fingers.

A sweet aroma emanated from the kitchen and wafted up the stairs where it would catch the attention of her three sisters, getting ready for school. She fanned the sugary smell with an empty cookie sheet in the direction of her oldest sister down the hall, who was primping for work. She knew they wouldn't be able to resist moist, fresh-from-the-oven cookies. Her plan depended on it.

She took the last batch out, slid the gooey treats onto a plate and strategically placed them in the middle of the island bar. Reaching her arms high above her head, she made another attempt to stretch the sleep away, but it would take a lot more than stretching to wake her up. Ever since her discovery of that ancient book in the attic, she hadn't been getting much rest. Because of her drowsiness, she almost put chili powder into the cookie mix instead of dragon's blood powder. Chili powder would definitely be more detectable.

A spark of electricity shocked Tabby's hand when she turned the knob to shut off the oven. It felt similar to the spark she experienced when she first held the book in her hands.

October Secret Agent #17

TITLE: FLOAT
GENRE: YA

I was surrounded, standing in nothing but my bra and panties in the girls' locker room. I tried shielding torso with my thin arms--as if there was anything to cover.

I glanced into Gina Tavelli's steely eyes and saw amusement. Not like I should be surprised--I wasn't new to this situation. But we were seniors now, two weeks away from graduating. What was the point?

"Move it, scarecrow," she said. "We don't have all day."

Instinctively, I backed up against the cold tiles of the shower, the smooth surface sticking to my sweaty skin. Where was the coach when you needed her?

Savannah Bosworth closed in on me from the left. A single auburn curl fell over one of her dancing eyes.

I looked from her to Gina. Their harassment had never been about physical harm. They always aimed to humiliate me, and I usually put up with it, but this was going too far. I spread my hands together over the front of my white cotton panties.

"Move your hands," Madison Meeks bellowed from the right. She was closing in on me too, her olive skin radiant in the dim light.

"Come on, this is ridiculous. We're eighteen, not twelve," I said. I wanted them to see I wasn't scared of them.

October Secret Agent #16

TITLE: What Would Satan Do
GENRE: Humor/Satire

There are days when it is appropriate to stomp the hell out of a frog, and days when it is just better not to. The trick is to know which is which.

Satan shot an evil look at the creature on the sidewalk. F*** frogs, he thought, using the new vernacular he hadn't quite got the hang of yet. F*** them to f***ing h*ll.

He had on his favorite Italian shoes - made out of baby cats or something really nice he couldn't remember - and they were no good for stomping much of anything, let alone juicy amphibians. But the little bastards were everywhere, just begging to be obliterated and, in the case of a few particularly cheeky ones, having their innards ground into the pavement.

The frog croaked and Satan snapped - Italian shoes be damned, this frog was going to die. He raised his leg high, preparing to stomp down. But then the clock tower tolled, and he realized he was late for class. When he looked back, the frog had hopped away, thereby narrowly escaping stompy, cat-shoe death.

He heaved a weary sigh. His shoulders slumped. After a few strange looks from passersby, he also put his foot down and stalked off to class.

The day had started so well. He wasn't sure why - yesterday's therapy session had, after all, been a complete waste of time. The woman hadn't told him anything helpful. She'd been too busy screaming after he had set her on fire.

October Secret Agent #15

TITLE: THE SOUL SHEPHERD
GENRE: YOUNG ADULT

He caught Bepper Brown jamming stolen strawberries into her mouth.

"Cheese and rice, dude, shine those dang lights somewhere else," Bepper said, squinting at him.

The lights on his head were made for exploring caves. The boy cut them off.

"Two nights you been over there," Bepper said. "How come you didn't bust me before now?"

"You mean you saw me?"

"Heard you! Figured you for a real weirdo or something."

The boy pointed at a house. "Me? You've practically stolen Ms. Gentry's entire strawberry crop."

"How much did the old woman pay you to bust me?"

"A dollar. What was that you said about cheese and rice?"

"Huh?"

He was a quick talker, with one word climbing over the next. "You're sitting in a strawberry patch, stealing strawberries. What's cheese and rice got to do with that?"

Bepper Brown rolled her eyes. "Oh. Me and my pop got a deal on account of my cussing, which is, I don't do it and he don't swat me. Saying 'cheese and rice' is a lot easier on my big, fat, white butt than saying 'Jesus Christ'. Get it?" Bepper's messy, shoulder-length hair matched the dirt streaked across her face. "You sure you gotta rat me out?"

"I took Ms. Gentry's money."

"Old lady Gentry gonna kick your arse?"

"Isn't arse a--?"

"Cussing in another language is allowed..."

October Secret Agent #14

TITLE: Word on my Forehead
GENRE: Young Adult

"Do Mormons drink hot cider?" I asked, as I dabbed my underarms with a t-shirt plucked from my laundry basket. I couldn't believe I was already sweating. "They don't drink hot drinks, right, but does hot cider count? I could put the stuff from the farmer's market in the crock-pot. Would that be lame?"

"Totally lame," Mimi answered. "We can heat up some tequila if they get too cold, though." She laughed and I rolled my eyes.

I leaned in to apply my mascara and Mimi slammed the vanity drawer she'd been rifling through and started buzzing around the room, touching everything and sharing the latest gossip.

"Jill said that Austin told everyone in gym he's going to bring a beer-bong tonight and Tyler was like 'Dude, you just wanna get Sarah Danners drunk but everyone knows Sarah's a freeze'." Mimi held a gray skirt up to her waist, considered for a moment, then threw it back onto the rejected pile on my bed. "Did you know Austin liked Sarah, Val? Anyway Hannah was watching and she seemed really bummed because I think she likes Austin, or maybe she likes Tyler."

I let Mimi talk. She didn't pause for breath anyway. My stomach felt jittery and sick with nerves. I'd be so embarrassed if Adam were the only one who showed up tonight. I wondered what he would be like outside of Trig. Would he actually ask me out? If we got married, would I have to become a Mormon?

October Secret Agent #13

TITLE: The Long Way Home
GENRE: Commercial Fiction


"How does one save a life though the mail?" Walter muttered to himself, "UPS, FedEx or just standard parcel post?" But he knew he couldn't trust the contents to any delivery service. There was only one person on this earth he'd trust with what was here.

He put the last of the leather-bound volumes in the box and placed the lid on top. He should have made something special. He had plenty of wood in his shop. He could have made a box of oak. Something strong to protect this story after he couldn't do it anymore.

But it was too late. There wasn't time. For him or for his daughter. If he weren't such a coward, he'd give her the box himself, while he could explain what she didn't understand. But he never considered himself an overly brave man. She would have her history, but she'd have to wait until he was a part of it as well. It wouldn't be long.

He took a deep breath and picked up the box. He limped out the wooden screen door to the cab of his pickup truck. After placing the non-descript file box on the passenger's seat, he made his way around the truck. He leaned against the door for a moment and tried to catch his breath. His heart raced in his chest.

When his strength returned enough to continue, he opened the door to the truck and cranked the ignition. He put the old truck in gear, but didn't take his foot from the break. He looked first at the box, then the house, then at the old willow tree by the pond. He closed his eyes and he could almost feel her sitting next to him, her tiny frame hardly larger than the box that shared the cab with him now.

He opened his eyes and put the car in gear. "I don't know what you were thinking when you picked me," he muttered toward the heavens.

October Secret Agent #12

TITLE: ESCAPING THE FIRE
GENRE: YA HISTORICAL ADVENTURE

Seville, Spain

April, 1669


With a crack of his whip, the stone-faced driver urged on the straining horses. Hooves thundering, their carriage crashed through the town square, heading right toward Isobel de Toledo.

Isobel gasped and jumped back. Breathless, she watched the cart speed past and careen to a halt in front of the Casa de Ayumtamiento, the most imposing building on the square.

Frowning at the driver and shaking his fist, Xavier stepped beside her and regained his hold of Isobel"s arm. “Stay close to me or you'll be hurt. See what almost happened?” His voice was commanding, frosty.

The spicy smells of hot sausage, unwashed bodies, horse dung, and oranges faded from her mind. No matter what her intended said, she must find out more.

A heavy woman with droopy eyes peeked from behind her lacy fan. “It can't happen here.”

The woman's companion pawed at his mustache. “You're so na├»ve.”

Isobel tugged at the arm of Xavier's waistcoat. “What can't happen here? Can't we get closer? I want to hear everything.”

Xavier turned his stern voice and disapproving eyes toward her. “Isobel, we must leave now before something really bad takes place.”

Isobel tugged harder on his sleeve. “What bad thing could possibly happen here?”

Xavier turned to his sister, a thin woman whose head poked forward. Raefella reminded Isobel of a rabbit, with a nose that always seemed to be sniffing the air.

October Secret Agent #11

TITLE: FALL FOR GRACE
GENRE: YA Contemporary

I get to the front of the economy line -- I was afraid a teenager would attract too much attention in business class but I just hope I won't feel squished in a miniscule economy seat. I hand over the California driver's license, hoping the tall, skinny gate agent won't really look at it. She doesn't (thankfully!) and just sticks my boarding pass into the machine. The machine spits it back out and she hands it to me.

And doesn't let go of it.

She's staring at me. Uh oh. She looks at the boarding pass and then the driver's license.

She shakes her head and says, "Have a nice flight, Ms. Richards."

I smile and head down the walkway to the United Airlines plane, yanking the glasses off the bridge of my nose and sticking them in my pocket. I whisk the sunglasses out of my other pocket and pop them on my face. I wasn't planning on wearing the sunglasses on the plane but that thing with the gate agent has sort of freaked me out a little.

I settle into the window seat in row 27 and go to toss my hair over my shoulder out of habit. I smack my hand through thin air. My signature uber-long dark chocolate locks -- no, I don't think of my hair that way but that's how the media describes it -- got chopped off three days ago. I'm still having a hard time remembering my hair is now shoulder-length.

October Secret Agent #10

TITLE: The Jackpot
GENRE: Adult Commercial Fiction

When he stopped by his cousin Leroy's in time for the late news, Julius Wheeler was worth one hundred and ninety-eight dollars. His assets included eight compact discs, a plastic picnic table, a broken iPod, and a mattress of questionable repute. He paid two hundred dollars a month for a one-bedroom apartment in Carrolton Oaks, a crumbling housing project just inside the eastern border of Richmond, Virginia. Twenty hours a week, he cleaned the twenty-ninth floor of a downtown law firm as a member of a CleanSweep work crew. He made eight dollars an hour.

"Hey, Julius, you buy a lotto?" Leroy asked.

"Yeah," Julius said, cracking open a beer and taking a seat in the center of the threadbare couch in Leroy's apartment. It sagged in the middle and was peppered with cigarette burns.

"How many?"

"One."

"Ain't gonna win s*** buying one," Leroy said, fanning out his tickets for Julius to see. "I got eight. Gonna make me rich. What numbers you play?"

"Just had the machine pick 'em. Like it make a difference. Nobody ever win these things."

"Bulls***," Leroy said. "You think like that, you be stuck in that s***** apartment the rest of your life, and I be living on the beach. You come visit anytime."

"We shouldn't even be playing," Julius said, thinking about his s***** apartment and how much he preferred it to his eight-by-eight cinderblock cell at Red Onion State Prison, where he spent three long years.

October Secret Agent #9

TITLE: Voices in the Dark
GENRE: YA Historical

Hawthorne sat beside his father as Reverend Logan droned on about peace and brotherhood. The Church of the Risen Christ was packed, despite the heat. Men and boys in dark suits and crew cuts, and girls and women in pastel dresses, pill-box hats, and dainty white gloves all sat waving hymnals past their pink and sweating faces. A large ceiling fan spun lazily, wafting occasional gusts of scented hair spray, aftershave, and perfume throughout the church.

"If you will all turn to page eighty-three in your hymnals," Reverend Logan said.

The fanning stopped and pages fluttered. The congregation rose to their feet. Mrs. Parson's fingers tapped on the organ keys and voices rose, out of tune and uninspired, as though their thoughts were elsewhere, perhaps on returning home to their cooling fans, their TVs and Barco-loungers, to a cold glass of lemonade or a chilled can of beer.

Hawthorne swiped at a trickle of sweat dripping down the side of his face as a fat, lazy fly buzzed by his nose. He waved a hand at it, shooing it away, and it foundered between Mr. and Mrs. Gates in the pew in front of him. The fly settled on the back of Mr. Gates' neck and rubbed its hairy legs together as if praying. Mr. Gates twitched once, twice, then reached back and smacked the fly dead.

Hawthorne jumped, and an image of a broken, battered body flashed in his mind.

I didn't kill him. I didn't.

October Secret Agent #8

TITLE: The Legend of Itasca
GENRE: Young Adult Magical Realism

Jeni studied the set of keys dangling in front of her face, debating on whether or not she should accept her cousin's offer to go for a drive. She didn't see how she could turn him down and still save face.

For the millionth time she wished her grandpa hadn't died. Then I wouldn't be stuck in this cottage with Tyler for a week. The thought brought an immediate pang of guilt. There were better reasons to wish her grandpa was still alive.

Tyler jiggled the keys. "C'mon, your mom said you've got your driver's permit. I'm sure you need the practice."

"With you?"

"Why not? I'm a pro."

Jeni narrowed her eyes and scanned Tyler's face for signs of deceit. Years ago he'd recognized her inability to back down from a challenge and never missed a chance to take advantage of her weakness. She wondered what the hidden twist would be this time.

"Fine," she sighed.

On her way through the kitchen, Jeni let her mom know where she was going and retrieved a hoodie and her purse from the hooks near the door. Ignoring the ball of nerves forming in her gut, she stepped outside where Tyler waited. His right eyebrow arched up and a smile played at the corners of his mouth as he tossed her the keys.

Despite the slight tremor of her hand, she snatched the keys out of the air. What was he up to? And why should she be nervous? She knew how to drive!

October Secret Agent #7

TITLE: WISTFUL
GENRE: YA Regency Romance

"I now pronounce you husband and wife."

At the sudden roar of applause that thundered behind us, I clasped my hands tightly together to hide the trembling.

My new husband, the Viscount Vaugh of Jerrell, didn't notice. He was too busy wheezing as he turned around. He leaned heavily on his cane before reaching out his other hand for my own. I tried not to grimace when I felt his crinkled, paper-like skin on mine.

As we walked down the aisle, I glanced up at our reflection in the looming cathedral windows. What a pair we were. A young girl of fifteen and an elderly man. If it weren't for my lavish white ballgown and his matching waistcoat, we would have looked like a grandfather going to church with his grandchild.

Once we reached the end of the aisles, he let go of my hand and smiled at the crush of people coming toward us. I didn't know any of them. They were all guests my mother and Lord Vaugh had invited down from London to attend our wedding.

My mother's face suddenly slid into view. "Darling, the wedding was absolutely beautiful," she exclaimed with a beaming smile. Her blond hair was so tightly pinned back it didn't move when she pulled me into her embrace.

The hug snapped me out of my stupor. "Mother." I let out a shaky breath. "I don't know if I can do this," I whispered.

October Secret Agent #6

TITLE: Nothing Left to Lose But Me
GENRE: YA Paranormal Romance

It was time to get crazy. Let loose. Go wild.

Like the time I kissed Matt "Cold Sore" Cooper on a dare in sixth grade. Or when I guzzled three glasses of table wine at my cousin Tracy's wedding and kept heckling the band to play the Chicken Dance song.

Okay, no. Maybe not like that.

More like Girls Gone Wild. Except I'd never be stupid enough to flash my boobage. I do have some self respect (not to mention barely a B cup). Either way, I was due for a bender of parties and guys to make up for everything I missed. My inner bad girl was thirsty for red plastic cups filled from the keg of immaturity.

This was the plan. I should have known the Powers That Be weren't going to make it easy for me. We never did agree on what was best for me. I had no idea that being a free spirit was going to be so stressful.

Maybe you have to be wired to be a girl-gone-wild. Was I wired that way? I didn't know. My wires were tangled up worse than the Christmas lights in our garage. A wad of knots inside a good girl who spent the last year caring for her dying father. How would I know I wasn't wired for players and parties? Although the fact that I love the Disney channel and wouldn't wear a thong if Robert Pattinson begged me to might have been a billboard clue.

October Secret Agent #5

TITLE: INSIGHT
GENRE: SUSPENSE

Devlynn bolted from her bed. Sprinting the down hall, she burst into her parents' room. She grabbed her sleeping father's shoulder. "Damon's hurt!" she said. Her mother turned on the bedside lamp and swung her feet to the floor. "Damon's hurt? What happened? Did someone call?"

She reached for her robe. "No, I was asleep and I heard him saying my name. He's hurt somewhere there is water and rocks. He's upside down. He doesn't know where he is, but he's hurt." Devlynn pulled violently on her father's arm.

"Okay, Devie, I'm awake. Just slow down," her father said.

Her mother sat back on the bed, visibly relieved. "Oh, Devie, it was just a bad dream."

"No, no...it wasn't a dream. He was calling for me. He's hurt and he knows I will hear him. He's upside down. His head hurts. He can see water and rocks." She paced the room.

"You had a really bad dream. I am sure Damon is fine. We'll call him, okay?" her father said.

She shook her head as he lifted his cell phone. He dialed and waited. "Straight to voicemail..." He frowned. "Damon, it's your dad. Your sister is very worried about you. Call us as soon as you get this."

Devie sunk to the floor. She needed to focus. She fought to breathe through the hysteria. What had she seen in the dream before his voice woke her? What else was there?

October Secret Agent #4

TITLE: The Book of Two
GENRE: Women's Commercial Fiction

Kate let go of my hand and stopped walking with a stubborn insistence. The memory of her long steady stride haunted the grey sidewalks and I felt the lush green of summer fall from each tree. When she didn't follow, I continued moving forward, sweat dripping from my forehead, despite having left the air conditioned truck only a few moments before. I turned back with a sigh loud enough to hear. "Come on. Let's do this."

She stood with the slightest smile. Her eyes were bright; completely present and in this very moment, but her silence taunted me. I tried to summon the patience that our time together rarely afforded, then walked back towards her, reaching my hand out as gently as I could. "Mom says you need a dress." I pulled at her fingers with a soft nudge and she moved reluctantly with me, dragging her feet near the curb.

As we walked into the boutique, the saleswoman, tall and thin in her tailored slacks and heels, gave me a dull once-over before quickly turning away. I sensed the softness of the colorful fabrics around me and I walked away from Kate. I hoped that she would gravitate towards something I could buy for her. I couldn't imagine holding clothes up to her body and shouting loudly, "Well wouldn't that look lovely", as I'd seen my mother to do on more than one occasion. Then she would proceed to purchase the same ribbed turtleneck in five different colors.

October Secret Agent #3

TITLE: THE EYES OF THE BONE PRESSER
GENRE: YA Historical

Taawa peaks over the eastern horizon, wedging splinters of light between Earth Mother and a cloudless Sky Father. Orange light bleeds into the cerulean dawn, casting a purple hue across the parched desert.

I steady the clay olla on my head and hurry toward the brilliant display. Will this be the day, I wonder, as my heart skips a beat.

Behind me, thunder reverberates in the distance. Sky Father, dark and angry, races to vanquish Taawa with threatening black clouds--the People caught in the crossfire.

"Hurry," I command over my shoulder to the other maidens.

A group of turkeys rests in my path. I kick a rock at them, and they squawk and scatter out of my way. The dogs see the turkeys flee and pursue them, creating a squabble in the waking morning village.

"What's your hurry? Dream your golden-eyed boy would be at the reservoir today?"

The maidens erupt into giggles, sounding much like the turkeys.

"As it happens, Little Sister, I have enough sense not to leave myself at Sky Father's mercy, should he bless us with rain."

"Yes, wouldn't want to mess up your beautiful hair!"

"That, Cousin, I would not." I turn and, walking backward, offer my cousin a smile. "For then it might look like yours."

I glide back around and quicken my pace as I round the trash middens and leave the maidens dawdling behind, whispering jokes, probably about me. But their jealous remarks don't bother me. I'm used to them.

October Secret Agent #2

TITLE: Sorry Too Late
GENRE: Adult Commercial Fiction - Women's Fiction

A best friend. Do you have one? That one person who; when you think of him or her, you get a Cheshire cat smile across your face. It is the one person who knows. Knows what? What it is that only the two of you share. You have friends that you talk to everyday, maybe share a meal every month or at least send a holiday card to; with a long letter recapping your year. Those are not the people I am talking about. The person I am referring to could be someone you spent two weeks with at camp or have known since birth. It is a special bond that keeps your secrets. Someone who will never share that one thing; that thing you will never share either. Why? Because if you let go of the secret; you will lose the bond. You lose the thread of connection; that thing when everything else in life abandons you, keeps you linked to the world. It is what you believe keeps you part of the human community. A key that ties your past to the present and allows you to believe in a future.

What you and your best friend share could be one of a billion things. They are all something that the two of you did. Was it some way you were able to pull the wool over someone else's eyes? Was it done with spite, a malicious intent, or just in good fun?

October Secret Agent #1

TITLE: Bitter Bar Girl
GENRE: Adult Commercial Fiction

In the beginning when I started this job, I was bubbly and filled with promise, like a spanking new glass of champagne. After all, I was just a naive New Jersey girl with no real street cred.

But flash forward two years to present day and the effervescence has faded. People who bang on the bar, whistle, and snap fingers but don't have their orders ready while a crowd three deep forms en masse to stampede--the complainers, the whiny babies, the ones who grab at me or want the cheapest thing and then tip in change--have turned me sour and every night, as I scrub a layer of sticky booze off my skin, I wonder if I made the right choice when I came to LA.

Look up hole-in-the-wall in the dictionary and you'll find a picture of our bar. Sloppy black paint job on the walls and a faint aroma of B.O. The table tops are always sticky no matter how many times I wipe them but people seem to love the place in spite of its armpit atmosphere.

To distance myself I've developed an alter ego with a thick skin and a string of snappy one-liners. I call her Bitter Bar Girl. She is my first line of protection when alone behind the bar.

In her defense, I must point out that the guy she's about to slam completely deserves it for being a beer snob when the taps clearly demonstrate we only serve swill.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Special December Something

Nope, still not an official announcement (that will come next week!). But there are a few basics it's important for you to know now. Here they are:

  • The December Event will take place the week of December 6. Submissions, however, will be accepted earlier (TBA).
  • The event is open to authors of COMPLETED, CLEANED, and QUERY-READY manuscripts.
  • Genres for the event will be announced ahead of time.
  • Submissions for this event must include a well-written LOG LINE (hook) in order to qualify.
  • Submitting to this event does not guarantee your acceptance. A set number of entries will be accepted based on strength of log line and opening sentences. (More on that later.)
  • ALL participants of past Secret Agent contests are warmly invited to submit to the December Event. EVEN WINNERS.
  • Concerning the November Secret Agent contest: You may enter both. However, think carefully! The biggest "prize" for most participants is the valuable feedback. It's highly doubtful that your work will change drastically in less than a month. Part of the "slush" process will be determining if recent SA entries are "too same" for further feedback. If it's pretty much the same entry with little to no editing, it'll probably be passed over.
That's it for now! Full disclosure for the Special December Event will happen next week. I promise!

(You're gonna LOVE this. No, really. Ask my husband how I won't stop bubbling at the mouth over this. Poor Mr. A. [not really])

Monday, October 11, 2010

Friday, October 8, 2010

Friday Fricassee

Friday! Tra la!

There have been some questions pertaining to the upcoming Special Thing in December, and I wanted to let you know that I will post more information next week after SA submissions close. I promise!

(Have I mentioned how excited I am about this?)

So here's something to chew on in the comment box today: Somehow the idea of tweeting query bloopers has become controversial. And I wondered how you, as querying writers, feel about it.

For those of you not in the know: Various interns and the occasional agent have been known to tweet their reasons for rejecting certain queries as they go through slush. Sometimes they will (anonymously) quote a small tidbit from the actual query. (Well, it would HAVE to be a small tidbit, since Twitter only allows 140 characters per tweet.) Sometimes they will point out a (ridiculous) spelling error or misused word. Often, it's done humorously.

I've never read one in which the actual title or name of the author was divulged. To my knowledge, this is always done anonymously and with the intent to enlighten and teach.

As in, "Hey, all you aspiring authors: DON'T DO THIS."

Yet there are some who say "invasion of private email!" Or "hurtful!" Or "tacky!"

Personally, I don't have a problem with tweets like this, so long as they're not rife with name-calling or undue snark. And honestly? I haven't seen any like that. But then, I'm sure I don't follow every single intern and agent on Twitter.

What about you? Does this sort of thing bother you? Does it affect the way you feel about sending your queries out there? Or do you see it as another vehicle for learning how to avoid mistakes? What about privacy? Does an anonymous eight or nine words quoted from your query constitute breach of privacy?

Do you really think someone might figure out those eight or nine words came from your query letter? And if that were true, would you absolutely die?

Or not?

I think answers will vary depending upon whether a writer has begun to query or not. I am a "seasoned query-er" (how sad is that?) and the whole thing doesn't bother me. I might feel differently if I were teetering nervously on the edge of the querying abyss.

Chat! Share! I'd love to take your pulse on this one.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Writing Your Log Line

I'm not going to pretend to be an expert on writing them, since I'm still learning myself. But for those of you who may not have given a log line/tagline a second thought, here are some broad pointers:
  • You've got to mention your protagonist and his problem/antagonist/conflict
  • You've got to give a sense of the story, make us want to read it
  • You've got to have a good title to go along with it
Here's something to think about: Has anyone ever asked you, "So, what's your novel about?" And you found yourself saying,

"Um..."

Or else you found yourself saying,

"Well, there's this planet seventeen light-years from Earth where everything exploded six millennia ago, right? And this transport ship that blew up and left debris in the atmosphere that was actually too toxic to breathe but people breathed it anyway...well, it left this gaseous fog that turned the inhabitants into these sort of mutant half-humanoids. So this seventeen-year-old named Ollum finds out that his great-grandfather was born on the transport, and--"

And your friend is snoozing.

A good log line answers the question, "What's it about?" And it only takes one or two sentences to accomplish this.

So here's a potential log line for The Taming of the Shrew, my favorite Shakespeare play:

A determined bachelor attempts to tame the shrewish daughter of a wealthy man by marrying her against her will.

Now, I wrote that off the cuff and it needs some work. I don't necessarily like the word "bachelor" because it's not strong enough. And yes, he's certainly determined, but there might be a better adjective.

It's got the basics bones of a decent log line, though. The conflict is right there--a shrew being married off against her will.

Feel free to edit, discuss, rip it apart in the comment box. Or write a completely new one for the same play. Those of you who are interested in participating in December's Very Special Thing will benefit from some practice, yes?

Myself included. (No, I'm not participating in the Very Special Thing. But I am trying to come up with two strong log lines right now. And not having much luck.)

Jump in!