Thursday, October 31, 2013

Fall Query Extravaganza 5

I'll be doing a limited number of query critiques this fall.

Right now I'm full up with queries but contact me in November on twitter if you want your query showcased. Participants must comment on as many queries as they can to pay it forward. All query critiques are subjective. And rabbits don't come out of my hat, but I'll do my best. Objects in mirror may be closer than they appear. Buy one and I'll throw in a set of free steak knives, just pay separate shipping and handling fees.

As sent to me:

Twelve-year old Deech Rosselli and his family are placed into Witness Protection in a town run by a U.S. Marshall, seven hundred and thirty two miles away from Brooklyn. Deech gets a new name, new friends, and a whole new set of problems as the middle school is filled with mini mobsters, all imitating what they've seen their parents do over the years

Deech makes friends quickly and finds himself thriving among forgers, bookmakers, hackers, enforcers, munitions experts, and even the random arsonist as the kids form families of their own during recess.

When the disenchanted principal, himself a former marshall, snitches on the whereabouts of the Rossellis and all the wrong people come to town, Deech and his new friends put together a plan that will trap the principal and capture the mob boss and the men that came looking for them.

A combination of the Sopranos meets Home Alone; MIDDLE SCHOOL MAFIA is 38,000 words of family comedy where the term family has a whole new meaning.

With my brilliant (maybe) comments: 

Twelve-year old Deech Rosselli and his family are placed into Witness Protection in a town run by a U.S. Marshall, seven hundred and thirty two miles away from Brooklyn. We all know this got a ton of requests in Nightmare on Query Street so I'm not sure what I can add. Maybe that the first sentence is a tad lengthy for MG? Deech gets a new name, new friends, and a whole new set of problems as the middle school is filled with mini mobsters, all imitating what they've seen their parents do over the years. Made me curious to know where they are. You've told us where they are not (Brookyn), but what town is full of mobsters. Sounds like Vegas. 

Deech makes friends quickly and finds himself thriving among forgers, bookmakers, hackers, enforcers, munitions experts, and even the random arsonist as the kids form families of their own during recess. This is full of great information and nice setup, but what does Deech want? So far it's lacking his motivation or what he feels about being in the witness protection program. 

When the disenchanted principal, himself a former marshall, snitches on the whereabouts of the Rossellis and all the wrong people come to town, I'd probably put a stop right here and make this into two sentences by changing 'When' to 'Then.' It's rather a mouthful. Deech and his new friends put together a plan that will trap the principal and capture the mob boss and the men that came looking for them. Makes it sound like the mob boss and the men that came looking for them are two separate groups. Are they together or are two sets of villains out to get Deech's family? Also what will happen if they fail? Is it lights out for his family? 

A combination of the Sopranos meets Home Alone; MIDDLE SCHOOL MAFIA is 38,000 words of family comedy where the term family has a whole new meaning. I don't see a genre listed.

This is a really great query and feels to me that the only thing missing is a better sense of Deech's goals and personality. I think there is room to squeeze in a short sentence or two about Deech. Right now the query focuses solely on the plot (which is fantastic) but leaves me wondering what Deech is like.  

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Getting the Call: Jeffrey Nicholas

This is a fun post because I get to help welcome an new writer into my agent family! Jeffrey signed with my agent, Sarah Negovetich otherwise known as Lady Awesome. Enjoy this dose of inspiration!

Of Piranha Plants and Tabasco Sauce...

...or, How I Got My Agent.

I read more than a few how-I-got-my-agent posts while I was querying, and they were usually helpful, always interesting. Here's mine...

I’d seen a new agent listing on and sent off a query and sample chapters to Ms. New Agent. A few weeks later, Ms. New Agent sent a nice reply and requested the full manuscript. I laughed manically then sent it off. I waited. And (cue the foreshadowing) I started another story. I waited some more. I nudged. I waited. One morning, I had emails from two agents. The first was the agent who’d made the full request. She complimented the manuscript but said she didn’t quite love it enough to represent it. Instead, she’d forwarded it a colleague, Sarah Nego; that’s who the second email was from. Sarah’s email stated she really enjoyed the story, but that it needed a little work and she’d be happy to look at it if I made the revisions. Short of an offer, this was about the best possible response I could have gotten. Naturally, I revised. I resent to Sarah and put in my obligatory wait time. When she got back to me with a very kind rejection, I was disappointed. “But I made all your changes!” I wanted to say. “Now you have to make me an offer. That’s how it works.” Well, that’s how it works sometimes. Other times, like this instance, the agent says, “I enjoyed it, but it’s not quite for me. If you write anything else, I’d love to take a look.”

It wasn't the response I’d wanted, but it was still a positive one. And it just so happened that I had another story about ready to go. I gave it one last tidy up and sent it off to Sarah. I queried a few other agents. I got another request for a full. I waited. I watched a lot of Twin Peaks.

One nondescript Monday morning my day was brightened by a short email from Sarah: “I really enjoyed this. Do you have time to talk?”

We set up some time to chat that evening and I spent the rest of the day convincing myself that there must be some other reason, aside from offering representation, that she wanted to talk.*

So that night, I fueled up on coffee and episodes of How I Met Your Mother with my wife while trying not to think about my impending doom—I mean, phone call. When Sarah did call, she jumped right in to some great feedback about my story. I’ve always thought it a bit surreal to hear someone talk about your characters as real people; it’s even more so when that person is a literary agent—and she’s actually saying nice things about them. Sarah made interesting comments, like, “Put some Tabasco sauce on your characters,” and, “Include more video game references.”**

I dutifully took notes as Sarah talked and I waited for the other shoe to fall (“Um, Jeff, do you realize that the entire middle third of your manuscript is written in Wing Dings? Rejected.” Click).

The shoe never fell. Sarah offered representation. I stumbled through a list of The Call questions that I got early that day from my good friend, the internet.

The whole thing seemed too easy, like it shouldn’t be happening. Of course, ask me my feelings during any point of the process leading up to that call and I’d say otherwise. Maybe it’s just the fact that when you do get that offer, it makes everything else that came before it seem worth it (and all that effort and stress and waiting suddenly seems insignificant).

So the next morning at work, I sent “Offer of Representation” email notifications to every agent I’d queried and hadn’t heard from within the past three months. I also sent a nudge to the other agent who had my full, who assured me he’d read and get back to me quickly. By the end of the day, I had two other full requests. By the next morning, I had another.

I now had Sarah’s offer on the table and fulls out (with promises of quick turnarounds) to four other agents. After years drudging through the query trenches, everything was suddenly moving so fast.***

After the dust of that crazy week settled, I decided to go with Sarah for a whole bunch of reasons, not the least of which was the great references some of her existing clients like Michelle gave her. I'm now happy to be able to count myself among them. And while Sarah develops a pitch and editors list, I'll be busy splashing that Tabasco sauce over my characters.

*Sarah and I had a good laugh about this later. She’d basically be the worst agent—no, human—ever if she scheduled personal rejection phone calls.

**There was even talk of a fire-shooting piranha plant. More than anything, I think this is what sold me on Sarah.

***If anyone is thinking of using the “Offer of representation” email to speed the process and perhaps drum up some extra demand for an outstanding manuscript, please, resist the urge. Let alone the ethical side of things, you may be forcing an agent into giving you a No. More than one agent I nudged responded by saying they didn’t have time to review it that week and bowed wishing me the best of luck.

You can find Jeffrey at his blog or on twitter with the handle @jnwrites

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Query Questions with Caryn Wiseman

Much as I love contests it's time to get back to the usual routine. We'll start off with a bang and a new round of Query Questions!

Writers have copious amounts of imagination. It's what makes their stories so fantastic. But there's a darker side to so much out of the box thinking. When a writer is in the query trenches, their worries go into overdrive. They start pulling out their hair and imagine every possible disaster.


Here to relieve some of that endless worrying is a new series of posts called Query Questions. I'll ask the questions which prey on every writer's mind, and hopefully take some of the pain out of querying. These are questions that I've seen tossed around on twitter and writing sites like Agent Query Connect. They are the type of questions that you need answers for the real expert--agents!

If you have your own specific query question, please leave it in the comments and it might show up in future editions of Query Questions as I plan to rotate the questions.

It's exciting to welcome Caryn Wiseman of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. (In fact, we are having two agents in a row from Andrea Brown. Talk about coincidence.) This agency specializes in representing writers of children's books for all age levels.

Is there a better or worse time of year to query?  Not really, although things do slow down in August and December.

Does one typo or misplaced comma shoot down the entire query?  No, but it does give me pause.  It's always about the writing itself, but if you're making grammatical errors or typos, it shows a lack of professionalism.

Do you look at sample pages without fail or only if the query is strong?  Pretty much, unless I can just tell that it's something not for me.  That doesn't mean that I finish the sample pages, so I need to be hooked pretty quickly!

Do you have an assistant or intern go through your queries first or do you check all of them?  I get so many queries these days that I sometimes do have to have my assistant go through them first, or I'd never get to them all.   I work closely with her and she really knows what I'm looking for.  She's also very good about erring on the side of showing it to me if she thinks that there is a remote chance that I'd be interested.

If the manuscript has a prologue, do you want it included with the sample pages?  Yes, but I'm not fond of prologues in general.  There really needs to be a raison d'etre.

Some agencies mention querying only one agent at a time and some say query only one agent period. How often do you pass a query along to a fellow agent who might be more interested? We feel strongly (and our guidelines say) that you can only query one agent at our agency.  However, we are a very collegial agency, and all of us, including me, constantly pass along queries that might be of interest to agency colleagues.

Do you prefer a little personalized chit-chat in a query letter, or would you rather hear about the manuscript?  I'd rather hear about the manuscript.

Most agents have said they don’t care whether the word count/genre sentence comes first or last. But is it a red flag if one component is not included?  Yes.  It shows that you haven't done your homework.

I’ve heard sometimes query letters confuse age category for the genres, just saying YA for instance. Can you explain the difference between category and genres for readers?  Category defines your audience -  the age group of the target reader, and the parameters around each, i.e. picture book, chapter book, middle grade and YA;  genre is the specific type of book - science fiction, thriller, horror, fantasy, contemporary, etc.

How many queries do you receive in a week? How many requests might you make out of those?  50-150 queries.  I might request between 0 and 5.

Many agents say they don't care if writers are active online. Could a twitter account or blog presence by a writer tip the scales in getting a request or offer? And do you require writers you sign to start one?  It's not required by any stretch of the imagination, but a writer with "the whole package" (great manuscript plus strong promotional skills) has an advantage.  I don't want to see a writer tweeting or blogging about nothing because she thinks that she's "supposed to" but if a writer does have an established presence, that's a plus.  A writer these days should be willing to establish an online presence once their manuscript has been acquired.

Some writers have asked about including links to their blogs or manuscript-related artwork. I’m sure it’s not appropriate to add those links in a query, but are links in an email signature offensive?  No

 What bio should an author with no publishing credits include?  None, unless he or she has done something very relevant to his or her writing

What does ‘just not right mean for me’ mean to you?  It means that I didn't fall head over heels, absolutely, positively, I must have this, I can't stop reading this, in love with the book (which is what I must do in order to offer representation).

What themes are you sick of seeing?  The usual - dystopian, vampires, fantasy where child goes to live with elderly aunt/grandmother/stranger and finds a locket/ring/letter that transports her to another world, paranormal in which protagonist has the same dream all her life and finally finds out what it means.

What’s the strangest/funniest thing you’ve seen in a query?  Someone once sent me a FedEx box that said "Live Lobsters" because his book was set on Cape Cod.  Nobody was there to sign for it that day, so the box was sent back to the sender (because there were "live lobsters" in the box).  Turned out that there weren't REALLY lobsters in the box; it was just an expensive lesson in not using attention-getting devices for the author.

What three things are at the top of your submission wish list?  An amazing YA contemporary that makes me laugh and cry (preferably on the same page) with hard-to-shake characters, beautiful writing and a story that I can't put down, like FANGIRL or ELEANOR & PARK.  Also, a laugh out loud middle-grade that has serious underpinnings.  (I know, that's only two)

What are some of your favorite movies or books to give us an idea of your tastes?  These are all kind of random, first thing that comes to mind.
Favorite movies:  The Way We Were, Crash, The Perks of Being A Wallflower, The Sound of Music (I know, I know), Rear Window, really anything that I sob through (and it doesn't take much)
Favorite kids' books:  All of my authors' books, FEED by MT Anderson, HOW I LIVE NOW by Meg Rossoff, FANGIRL and ELEANOR & PARK by Rainbow Rowell, WHEN YOU REACH ME by Rebecca Stead
Favorite adult books:  LET THE GREAT WORLD SPIN by Colum McCann, FREEDOM by Jonathan Franzen, THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, STATE OF WONDER by Ann Patchett, 11-22-63 by Stephen King


Caryn Wiseman

Caryn has been an agent with the Andrea Brown Literary Agency for ten years, and she has sold more than 200 books. She handles children's books only: young adult and middle-grade fiction and non-fiction, chapter books, and picture books (fiction and non-fiction). She represents NYT bestselling authors, award-winning authors, debut authors, and authors at every stage in between. No matter the genre, Caryn is looking for books with emotional depth and a strong voice; excellent writing in a tightly-plotted, commercial story; and characters that stick with her long after she has closed the book. In YA, she gravitates toward books that make her think and toward books that make her cry; in middle-grade and chapter books, laughter tends to be the common thread. She loves books that are intellectually challenging and take risks, but in a very logical way. 

Caryn is drawn to speculative middle grade or YA fiction—usually contemporary with a very smart science fiction or light fantasy element, but she also appreciates being carried away by great world-building in a unique story that isn't grounded in reality. Zombies, horror, and high fantasy will, most likely, not appeal. She would love to see a YA thriller with the pacing and twists of HOMELAND, and a YA Pitch Perfect or Big Bang Theory. She would be thrilled to see more contemporary multicultural middle grade or YA—books that deeply explore another culture, as well as books in which the ethnicity of the character is not the issue. She adores a swoon-worthy romance with an intelligent heroine who isn't simply swept off her feet by a hunky hero. A sweet, funny or poignant middle-grade novel, with a great hook that makes it stand out from the crowd, would hold great appeal, and she's partial to lyrical, non-institutional picture book biographies. She is always open to terrific children's work that doesn't fit these categories as long as it makes her laugh, makes her cry, and keeps her awake at night, either reading the manuscript or thinking about it. She does not represent adult projects.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Nightmare on Query Street Sum Up

There can't be any doubt that Nightmare on Query Street was a huge, gigantic success. This was thanks to the agents and the writers who sent in their entries!

I had the best time and hope everyone else did too! I can't wait until next year!

So now some statistics because (like in sports) you have to endlessly rehash the numbers.

Overall, between the three blogs and 30 entries, there were 75 84 requests! That is one amazing number!

Team Minion had 28 32 requests. And what is even better, every single Minion got at least one! 

Minions had:
1 Scream
18 22 Shrieks
9 Shivers

As for the rest of the numbers:

Monsters had:
1 2 Scream
12 13 Shrieks
10 Shivers

Spooks had:
14 17 Shrieks
10 Shivers

Any ninja agents are very, very welcome to make further request now that the contest is over. I'm sure the Minions, Monsters, and Spooks won't mind in the least.

Thanks to everyone and see you next year! 

Friday, October 25, 2013



Are you guys excited? BECAUSE WE ARE!!

Below this post, you'll find the ten Minions I picked for my team! 

You can head over to see SC's and Mike's team as well (But don't worry, Minions will take no prisoners!). All in all, we have picked thirty submissions from our pile of one hundred to be on our teams!

Remember that selection was very subjective. Just because you might not be on the list, doesn't mean your story isn't exactly what an agent is looking for. So if you aren't here, don't quit querying.


Commenting for the Entrants/Audience:

Sorry guys, but no commenting, cheerleading, etc. We hosts discussed this issue, and we agreed that it'd lead to too much unfairness and unconscious biases. Only agents will be able to comment.



CHEER OVER ON TWITTER! We're going to be under the hashtag #NightmareQuery and we will be having FUN. So vent, be nervous, cheer each other on, and hold hands over Twitter. One of the best parts of contests is seeing how the writer's community gathers and supports each other.

I'll be looking for all my Minions there. Don't disappoint me. 

Commenting for the Agents:

Agents will have fun ways to request in the contest.

You can SCREAM for a full request.
You can SHRIEK for a 50 page request.
You can SHIVER for a 10 page request.

And agents can make as many requests as they want! So go wild! We have some awesome talent for you to peruse.

GOOD LUCK EVERYONE!! Hope you all get a ton of frighteningly amazing requests!

And remember: Minions Rule!

NOQS Minion 1: TWICE BETRAYED, MG Historical Mystery

Word Count: 62,300

My Main Character's Greatest Fear:  

On that fateful night, I snuck Abby to the river under the guise of a fairy-tale and my heart shattered when she wasn’t in the makeshift castle at the docks. I couldn’t breath. I couldn’t think. And no matter where I searched, I couldn’t find her. Abby’s ribbon floating on the Delaware’s dark waters branded my brain with guilt and terror. Once I found her, I vowed never to let her out of my sight. But if the Philadelphia selectmen find me guilty of treason, my little sister will be lost to me forever—and I can’t let that happen.


Dear Agent:

I’ve entered the Nightmare on Query Street contest in the hopes that you will consider my MG Historical Mystery, Twice Betrayed, complete at 62,300 words. A twenty-four page bibliography is available for this manuscript, including verifications from the curator of The Betsy Ross museum in Philadelphia.

With the spark of independence crackling in Colonial Philadelphia, three girls dress as boys and head to the river to put a perilous plan into action, but only two return. When the third, a young milliner’s apprentice is found drowned, with gold coins sewn into her hems, coded spy letters on her person and a journal implicating another sewing apprentice, all eyes turn toward 13-year-old Perdy Rogers.

The constable builds a case of treason against the upholsterer’s apprentice with circumstantial evidence, but she cannot prove her innocence because her two friends—her alibis—are forbidden to speak to her and one of them has betrayed their friendship.

Charged with treason, Perdy must unravel the traitorous web woven around her that protects the real spy. With a grandmother so distraught she is helpless and her best friend called to testify against her, assistance comes from the most unlikely sources—her 4-year-old sister, a Scottish cabin boy she barely knows and a general destined to lead the new country.

Prominent historical figures, as well as a possible origin of the first American flag, are woven into Twice Betrayed. As a Master teacher, I believe this novel will find a place on the middle school’s social studies curriculum list as well as middle grade readers’ personal bookshelves.

A member of SCBWI and The Cliff House Writer’s Group, I’m a published children’s author. Rock Star Santa – Scholastic – 2008 (over 154,400 copies sold to date) Pugalicious Press- 2012 -YA Historical Romance Anthology, Timeless. And Ratgirl: Song of the Viper, a retelling of the Pied Piper was a 2013 Horn Book/Boston Globe nominee and is a 2014 International Reading Association nominee. I also have several other MG and YA novels completed and my current WIP is a YA thriller.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Warm regards,

First 250 words:

A shout rings out in the crowded street. “Help! My child! Help!

I glance up from my work, drop the ascot I’m hemming and rush out the shop door, the doorbells overhead tinkling wildly.

A toddler, dressed in a pale-colored coat and bonnet waddles across the slippery cobblestones. The pouring rain makes it difficult to see her and a wagon bears down on the spot where she stops.

Her mother, on the far side of Arch Street, desperately clutches a baby to her breast, screaming for someone to save her child from certain harm.

Heedless of the rain, I quickly judge the distance the wagon must cover and dash out to the child, swooping her up in my arms. As I twirl away, the wagon passes so close my skirt ruffles in its breeze.

The child wails, not from the danger she was in, but from suddenly finding herself in a stranger’s arms. I cradle her head against my shoulder and rock her like I used to do with Abby when she was upset.

Her mother darts through the traffic to reach her. “Thank you. Thank you,” she cries, her tears mixing with raindrops trickling down her cheeks. Her baby stares wide-eyed at her big sister, also crying in my arms. “She just let go of my hand,” sobs the mother, “and when I turned around she was lost in the crowd.”

Shielding my eyes from the rain with my hand, I gaze at the traffic, heavier than usual. “Where is everyone going?”

NOQS Minion 2: I FOUND YOU, YA Contemporary Thriller

Genre: YA Contemporary Thriller
Word Count: 57,000

My Main Characters Greatest Fear

If something is hanging over my feet, like the bed when I make it up, my toes scrunch. Why? Because I'm terrified of my feet being covered in dark, creepy places. It's true. Really.


Dear Amazing Agent,

Nikki Evers assumed the crimes were random coincidences. Fires on campus. Convenient store robberies. Gang killings. Great stories for the school paper. But when her best friend Brycin disappears, presumed dead, and she gets a text that reads:

Nikki, I’m alive. Talk to Clay. He knows what’s going on. Please find me before its too late...

Nikki’s not sure what to do. Clay French is off limits. Not because he rides a motorcycle or has an amazing tattoo. His girlfriend is her best friend. 

Nikki's been in love with him since the sixth grade when they played spin the bottle. His kiss stayed with her even now, but it was the words he whispered in her ear that still pulled on her heart. 

Teaming up with Clay is the only way Nikki can find Brycin. When Nikki’s almost killed and Clay saves her life, she uncovers a dark secret that threatens to destroy everyone, including herself.

Her secret crush on Clay keeps her at a distance with him, but Nikki is about to discover he's searching for more than her missing best friend. He's after her heart, too. 
I am a stay at home, homeschooling mother with six children. I have been writing since I was sixteen and been involved in the publishing industry for the past five years.

I am a literary agent intern for Redacted at Redacted and also for Redacted of Redacted. I have worked as an editorial intern for an indie publisher and been an editor for children’s books published on the Android phone. I’ve recently been accepted as an intern for Adventures in Children’s Publishing.

 First 250:

The motorcycle caught my attention first, but it was the rider who totally captivated me. Mama always warned me to stay away from those tattoo smeared, wicked handsome, leather wearing bad boys, especially if they rode a motorcycle. But I wanted her to be wrong about Clay. If she ever met him, she’d change her mind.
I hid behind a tree, but poked my head around the side for a better view. His voice floated over to me, smooth and sweet as milk chocolate and my pulse danced and fingers shook, but not because of the Harley.
Another motorcycle slid into the parking lot and woke me from my daydream. I shouldn’t have spied on Clay for so long. I pulled my phone from my pocket. Thirty minutes late? Brycin would be furious I missed the whole assignment. She was going to kill me. I hurried down the deserted path toward our meeting place.
Somewhere behind me, a twig snapped. I stopped and looked over my shoulder, but the path was empty.
“Who’s there?” I asked. No answer. “Is someone there?” I yelled a little louder. Heavy, fast breathing answered me. “Are you hurt?” I turned around for a better view.
A knife glinted from behind a row of bushes and dropped to the ground. Through the leaves, a shadow bent over and picked it up with a gloved hand. My chest tightened and every breath came faster. I took a couple of steps backward before I flipped around and took off in a full sprint.

NOQS Minion 3: FAIRY CAKES, MG Magical Realism

Genre: MG Magical Realism
Word Count: 45,000
What is your main character most afraid of?
There are two main characters in FAIRY CAKES, twins Charlie and Bobbie Hart. They’re most afraid of being confused for one another or being mistaken for boys. Ew cooties. (Just kidding guys;) 
Also pickle flavored cupcakes are the stuff of nightmares. 

Dear Super-Sweet-and-hopefully-not-so-Scary-Agent,

I kindly submit, FAIRY CAKES, a 45,000-word MG magical realism with series potential and possible cupcake recipe accompanying each chapter. 

When eleven-year-old twins Bobbie and Charlie’s parents announce they've bought Fairy Cakes, a cupcake bakery, the good news is the sisters get to taste test all the flavors. The bad news, they have to move to faraway Snuggler’s Harbor.

The rundown and stinky town is about as disappointing as a stale cupcake until they discover a rebel fairy trapped in a pickle jar hidden in a dusty corner of the basement. It turns out the mayor misused her fairy magic and put everyone in the town under a spell, hence the stench and the briny-brains of the people.

With a bit of help from Elvis the crooning cat, and a little hindrance from a pleated-skirt wearing set of pranksters, the girls get sticky as they seek out a sprinkle of Twinkle to lift the spell. But the rebel fairy’s magic isn’t enough unless she reunites with her family. As Charlie and Bobbie work together to bake their way out of this dilemma—with a cupcake filled entry into the Pickle Parade—they need a magical miracle to save the town and along the way they realize that being a twin is pretty sweet.
First 250 words:
Her stomach rumbling, eleven-year-old Bobbie crashed through the mudroom door, kicked off her sneakers, and tossed her backpack on the floor. Just a step behind her twin sister, Charlie entered the house, slipped off her ballet flats, and brought her lunch bag and homework into the kitchen looking for the note her mom left telling them when she’d be home.

Charlie and Bobbie squealed with surprised delight when they spotted a plate of perfectly frosted mini-cupcakes waiting for them in the center of the kitchen table. Bobbie broke into a run, elbowing Charlie to be the one to get there first.
Charlie savored a bite as Bobbie went in for seconds, but before she could snag another cupcake, their mom and dad, Anna and Jolly Hart, burst into the kitchen looking excited. 
 “We have big news,” Anna announced, her ponytail bobbing up and down.

“Maybe a bit more vanilla, just a smidge,” Jolly said.
“That doesn’t sound like big news,” Bobbie said eager for another cupcake.

“It actually does have to do with what we want to share with you,” Anna answered.

“What is it?” Bobbie asked licking some chocolate off her finger.

“We bought a bakery,” Anna declared, her voice squeaking. Jolly’s bearded grin reached up to his twinkling eyes.

“That’s cool,” Bobbie said as she thought of all the yummy treats she’d get to eat.

“There’s more,” Jolly said.

“It’s in Maine,” they said together. The old wooden clock on the kitchen wall counted ten seconds in the silence that followed.

NOQS Minion 4: PATIENT ZERO, Adult Speculative Suspense

Genre: Adult Speculative Suspense
Word Count: 75,000

My Main Character's Greatest Fear:

I have an irrational fear of guns. Not that guns can’t hurt you, but even the gun in Luke’s safe, official holster makes me squirm.

“What’s wrong?”

“The gun,” I say, between big, swooping breaths.

He pulls the gun out. The idiot. 

“Please,” I beg. “Put it away.” I focus on the pink shades of the hospital room window. Anything but the gun.

“Okay.” He puts the gun back and pulls a pillow on his lap to cover it up. “Better?”

I nod.

He stares at me. He thinks I will tell him why I don’t like guns.

I won’t.


Wonderful Agent,

Even as a senior in college, Quinn is not so good at understanding the difference between bacteria and viruses or explaining to smitten men that she’d really just prefer a dash of random hookups. 

Quinn is good at other things. Like drinking wine in the town’s Civil War graveyard and crafting plucky modern dance routines. But these skills aren’t exactly useful when she wakes up one morning with purple eyes. 

They don’t hurt. In fact, the condition seems to spur speedy healing. After a religious group attacks her—the eyes are evil, obviously—her bloody coughs and broken arms become mere memories within hours. However, as more students’ eyes shift to purple, the violence increases. It becomes painfully clear that the healing disease can’t save you from a five-story fall. Or decapitation. 

Thing is, the religious group isn't responsible for the rash of killings. A small town plus an unknown serial killer is bad, but it gets worse when a quarantine is added to the equation. Once there is no escape, Quinn realizes she can’t rely on “smarter people” to save her and her friends. 

Fortunately, she has a theory. She just needs proof, which demands that she study scientific terminology and hone her deductive reasoning skills. And she will also have to try to work with the local cops. Even if the young lead detective just so happens to be one of those aforementioned smitten men. 

PATIENT ZERO is a 75,000-word speculative suspense. 
I earned a master’s degree in writing from Johns Hopkins University and my story “A New Life at 30” was shortlisted in the 2012 Writers & Artists Short Story Competition. My writing has appeared (or is forthcoming) in multiple publications including The Alarmist, The Binnacle, The Idiom, Jersey Devil Press, Northern Virginia Magazine, and On Tap.

Thanks for your time,

First 250 words:

Of course I’d be the one at a frat party talking to a gay guy about how I don’t want to discuss my abstract art with his Sunday school class. If I was normal, I’d be slipping around on the beer-soaked floor while unfamiliar guys tried to curve their fingers around my hips. That’s what Mandy is doing. 

But no, I am explaining to Conrad why my latest art project, which hangs in the campus gallery, is not an homage to Christ. “It’s razors with red paint splattered across them. I know it looks like a circle and then a cross, but—” 

“Yes,” Conrad says. “The circle of life. Rejuvenation. Redemption. Reincarnation. Christ and the blood he gave for us. It was very moving. Art with religious undertones is really meaningful.”

I am in no way shocked. Conrad disappointed his father when he came out. He disappointed his Baptist mother when he joined the Unitarian Universalist church. But he never disappoints God. 

“Finding meaning in art is like finding meaning in life,” he continues. “It’s like finding God.”

"Yes, Conrad, I got it. You. God. Besties. 

I sigh into my horrid Natty Light. “It’s O positive. They can give to all positive blood types, but can’t accept that blood in return. And they can’t help their only outside donor, O negative. The razors symbolize how people bleed to help others, even those who can’t help them.”

Conrad scratches his temple. 

“Um, okay Quinn. Yeah. That’s a really neat idea too.”

NOQS Minion 5: ESSEX HILL, YA Paranormal

Genre: YA paranormal 
Word Count: 68,000
My Main Character's Greatest Fear:
The live lobsters in the tank at the Sea Witch restaurant used to terrify me. Don’t lobsters look like something out of a B-movie about aliens from the planet Crustaceous? But that was before I met Bridget and William, the 300 year old ghosts in my grandmother’s old house. They don’t just move stuff around and yell ‘boo’— I could totally handle that. Nope. They make you re-live their memories of blood, witches, and curses, then nag you about fixing their love lives, until digging in the middle of the forest for dead bodies seems like an awesome idea.
Dear Agent,
Geeky seventeen-year-old Nora Adams knows nothing about being in love or being a witch, but try telling that to Bridget and William, the two scary Colonial-era ghosts in her grandmother’s house. ESSEX HILL, which could best be described as “Gilmore Girls” set in The House of the Seven Gables, is a YA Paranormal novel now complete at 68,000 words.
When Nora and her mom move from New York City to her grandmother’s house in the quaint village of Essex Hill, Massachusetts, Nora expects to find knick-knacks and dust bunnies. Instead, she discovers witchy psychic powers and two murderous 300 year old ghosts with relationship problems who won’t leave her alone.
She hopes reuniting them in the afterlife will fix everything like some sort of magic duct tape, but it doesn’t look good. William was far from an ideal boyfriend — he killed Bridget for being a witch. He’s had eternity to mourn for her, but Nora doesn’t have that kind of time to unearth the dead bodies and buried secrets from the woods behind her house, accept her supernatural inheritance, and figure out her own socially awkward dating life.
We believe Essex Hill will appeal to readers who love the regional gothic setting of Beautiful Creatures, the humor of balancing normal teenage humiliations with a newfound supernatural heritage, like in Hex Hall, and the dark legends of Colonial America popularized in the new Fox TV series, “Sleepy Hollow,” which has already been renewed for another season.
Redacted, a former magazine editor for arts publications, is now Director of Media Relations at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Lower Manhattan. She grew up in the Salem, Massachusetts area on the land of John Proctor, the real-life subject of Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible.
Redacted was Associate Director of Artistic Programming at The New Victory Theater in Times Square, a performing arts venue dedicated to engaging and entertaining young audiences and teens, where she worked on new play development.
Thank you for your consideration.

First 250 words:
Nora remembered the very last thing her father said to her before he died. The third to last thing was that he loved her. The second to last thing was that he wanted her to take care of her mom. The absolute last thing he said, on the floor in a bath of his own sweat, jogging shorts hiked up past his knobby runner’s knees, was to listen to her grandmother. “Her predictions are usually right,” he said, before his face turned the color of a radish and the air could no longer fight its way out of his lungs.
She never told her mom what her dad said about her grandmother, not even after the funeral. Nana and her mom were like oil and water— if you mixed some lighter fluid in, too. Volatile would be a nice way of putting it.
Honestly, she didn’t think much of her dad’s new faith in Nana’s amateur sooth saying. For years he teased her grandmother like the rest of the family. “You’d be better off buying fortune cookies in bulk,” he would chuckle.
But one prediction that Nana said over and over again through the years was that Nora and her mom would someday come to live with her in their family’s rambling old house in Essex Hill, Massachusetts. “Soon it will be Nora’s time and you’ll both come to me,” Nana would say.  Not likely Nora thought. Essex Hill was a small, weird town famous for absolutely nothing, other than a complete lack of public transportation and decent bagels.