Tuesday, April 29, 2014


Welcome to the Executives from Literary Records!

Here you'll find the final picks of Team Sweeter! 

Writers, please know that limiting our team to twelve picks was a difficult task. There were so many talented entries in the Vegas round. If yours is not here, check out the choices of the other talented managers: Team Stray Tats, Team Spyder, Team Magenta, and Team Electric

Whatever happens, don't let one contest influence your spirits. Keep writing and keep auditioning! 

Now the Execs will be rockin' their way here soon. The Battle Round is Tuesday and Wednesday. No comments please on the entry posts except for the Execs and those will be hidden until 4:00 pm Eastern Wednesday. You can however leave a comment on this post, if you want to say thanks or congratulate someone or have a question. If there is a problem with your entry be sure and let us know.

The Execs will make requests based on the music recording sales thresholds:
  • Demo Tape – Query and first 5 pages
  • Silver Record – Query and first 10 pages
  • Gold Record – Query and first 50 page
  • Platinum Record – Query and first 100 pages
  • Diamond Record- Query and full

As mentioned before, those requests will be hidden until 4:00 pm Eastern Wednesday. Then any ties will be settled with Battle Blitzes over on twitter under the tag #BattleBlitz.

Team Sweeter expects to go Platinum and Diamond all the way!  There is so much talent here, we can't stop dancing! The Rockingest records for sure! 

PitchSlam #1: The Problem with Ray, Adult Mystery

Genre:  Adult Mystery
Title:  The Problem with Ray
Word Count:  73,000

Song: Everywhere I go – Lissie

Pitch: A man goes missing and nobody cares. When his body appears in a tote filled with bloody fish, single mom Jules vows to uncover the truth, hopefully without ending up in a fish tote herself. 

First 250 words: Jules cleaned up the trail of blood leading to the freezer. Pink-tinged water splashed on the floor as she plunged the mop into the pail.   She glanced at the clock.  Almost midnight and still no Ray.

A metallic tang of blood hung in the air as water lapped gently against the pier.  The night was calm and clear but it felt as if something dark lurked beneath the stillness. 

Jules turned as she heard a rumbling sound.  She saw two bright headlights heading down the wooden dock towards her.  She backed up.  The truck continued slowly forward, the muffled thump of music coming from inside the cab. It stopped a couple of feet in front of her. 

She heard the whirr of a power window then saw a glimmer of light reflecting off the shiny metal object thrust through the open window.

“About time,” she said, taking the Lucky Lager. 

“Why, you’re very welcome.  Cleaning up the scene of the crime I see.”

“Yeah, well, mass murder does leave the nastiest stains.  Thank God for Blind Eye Bleach.  Not even the lab boys will know what I’ve been up to.”

“Handy, since you work in a dungeon of death.”

“Most people call it a fish plant J.C. And I’m lucky to have the work. Of course, my idea of a good job is anything that doesn’t involve a drive-in window.  But seriously, I think something might be wrong.  Ray never showed up.”  

"You say that like it's a bad thing."

PitchSlam #2: Aere, NA Paranormal Romance

Genre: New Adult Paranormal Romance
Title: Aere
Word Count: 64,000

Song: Imagine Dragons, Demons. Because nothing says God of Destruction like a bunch of dragons singing about their inner demons, dontcha think?

Pitch: When the God of Destruction falls for Mia, all Helheim breaks loose. His enemies want revenge, and Mia’s terrified -- of the mythological monsters hunting her, and of losing her heart to an immortal assassin.

First 250: “Cheese and crackers!”

A sharp explosion rocked the back of the Audi. The sound reverberated along the quiet country road, bouncing off the cathedral of oaks that lined the five-mile drive leading to my parents’ house. I clung to the steering wheel with stiff fingers, slowly navigating the wobbly vehicle to the narrow shoulder. The Audi limped feebly until I pulled completely off the road. Then I killed the ignition and jumped out to examine the damage.

“Language, baby sister.” Jason maintained his impeccable posture as he climbed out of the passenger seat. He walked to the back of the car and squatted next to me. “It’s only a flat tire.”

Only a flat tire, sure. I’d chosen today to break in my brand new mid-calf riding bootsthe ones with the shiny silver buckles and the baby-soft leather exterior. The ones I’d failed to weatherproof before landing my car smack in the middle of a mud puddle. 

I loved my brother. But Jason knew diddly-squat about shoes.

“And what would you have said?” I asked.

Jason let loose with a stream of expletives that would have made our southern mother blush.

“Classy.” I rolled my eyes. “They teach you those words at the fancy Ivy League school?”

“In an extracurricular capacity.” Jason shrugged. “Why do you think I joined Kappa O?”

“Oh, I don’t know. The networking opportunities? Practical experience? It is a business fraternity, isn’t it?” 
“Not everything has to be so serious, Mia. Some things are just supposed to be fun.”

PitchSlam #3: The Forbidden Hula, YA Magical Realism

Genre: YA Magical Realism
Title: The Forbidden Hula
Word Count: 88,000

Song: Sweet Leilani (Chris Isaak version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LRd8fxWVRw8&feature=kp)

Pitch: Pele reaches out to Lani through her grandmother's dance. Find me. Free me. Tell the truth. Lani will betray hula, her kumu, her heritage, if she dances this heretic hula. But Pele demands sacrifice.

250: In the old days, when the islands of Hawaii were young, the magic of creation still lay thick upon them. And it was wild.  It hung in the rocky crevices and treetops like a fog, with the fog. It rushed with the lava. It needed to be controlled. Already the mountains twisted themselves into volcanoes, ready to destroy. Already the people of the islands retreated farther in and higher up and looked with fear upon nature as it gave birth to itself, over, and over, and over. They pleaded for help. They looked to their chiefs.

Kanehoalani was not the greatest chief, but he saw the magic that lingered in the world, and he felt his responsibility. He would tame the island. He would absorb the magic into his own soul. No, the Creator said.  He could not hold back the volcano. Only his daughter Pele, who stirred the poi pot, who spoke to the sharks, who learned the movements of the palms could become The Lady of Fire. She would save her people.

Kane wept.

"Watch those shoulders!" Lani called over the ukelele music.

Lani's job was to get this roomful of little girls to swing their hips and keep their shoulders still -- basic beginning hula. But they weren't having much luck. They looked more like defective dashboard dolls than the spirit of aloha. Lani stopped the music on her ipod.

"Ok, girls, watch me. What do I do first?"

Lani put her hands on her hips.

PitchSlam #4: Shura Rinshu and the Mysterious Attacks, MG Fantasy

Genre: MG Fantasy
Title: Shura Rinshu and the Mysterious Attacks
Word Count: 35,000

Pitch: When twelve-year-old Shura Rinshu bonds with a magical creature reserved for the royals, she must deal with the prejudices of the noble class and prove that she is more than a simple peasant.

250 words: Shura Rinshu would bond with a creature; she was sure of it. It could be a brownie, a sphinx, or a two-headed wolf. Anything except a three-tailed fox, a griffen, or a dragonthose were for nobles. But she knew what she wanted. Shura ran her fingers along the painted, yellow fin of the sea serpent on her bedroom wall. She dashed from her room and slid down the banister. The force launched her across the open entryway. She landed and flung open the door letting in the sound of the ocean waves.

“Shura!” her mother shouted from the balcony above, “what do I always say? Button your top button.”

She spun, red hair whipping around her face in messy tangles. Her delicate fingers grasped the plain hilt of a dagger at her waist. She cut the button off, letting it clatter to the ground. It rolled under the plain cedar cabinet in the entryway.

“Top button’s buttoned,” she said.

“Shura!” her mom said, exasperated. “Where are you going?”

“I told Thett I’d meet him at the wall to say goodbye.”

“Hurry, then. If you're late for the bonding ceremony, all the slots for seafarers will be full.”

“I’m going to bond with a sea serpent, Mom, so it doesn’t matter if I’m late. Plus, I’ll be back soon.” She rushed out the door before her mother could respond.

PitchSlam #5: Illusion of a Majesty, YA Fantasy

Genre: YA Fantasy
Title: Illusion of a Majesty
Word Count: 75,000

Song: Love Story by Taylor Swift

Pitch: Jenna can steal another's powers. It's her only form of protection from her psycho dad. But the more she takes, the more like him she becomes, until she must choose: her life, or her sanity.

250: The box, placed so deliberately on our welcome mat, made my skin prickle the second I opened the front door.

My crazy dad had found us again. We'd made it almost a year this time. But that little box always brought trouble and it meant in a few hours, before morning, we'd be gone. Moved on to the next place, the next school, like we'd never been here at all.

Damn it, I really liked Botany. 

I stepped out onto the dark porch and reached down to pick it up. It was exactly the same shape, weight, and color as every other one before it. Inside would be exactly the same, too. A doll's bodyminus the head. He'd already sent us that.

And I'd hidden it.

I threw a quick glance down the hall to where Mom was watching TV. If I hid this, too, she'd never know. We could stay in this laid-back beach town. I'd never have to leave my friends or the cheap, old, station wagon she'd brought me to learn to drive in. 

Despite that thought, there was a name in this box. Either me, my mom, or my sister, Vivien, were about to have some serious bad luck. I had to find out whose name my dad had sent us. Usually the head would be enough to figure out if it was me, because while we all had brown hair, our eyes were different. Theirs were brown, mine were blue.

PitchSlam #6: Defensive Gun, YA Contemporary

Genre: YA Contemporary/Realistic
Title: Defensive Gun
Word Count: 57,000

Song: "Possibility" by Lykke Li and "Brave" by Sara Bareilles

Pitch: During the course of a TV interview, Amanda relives the painful memories of her kidnapping and escape; if she doesn't tell her story now, her captor will do it for her.

First 250: Walking into the television studio was painfully similar to walking into the police station. The TV crew got really quiet and tried not to stare. They probably thought I wouldn't notice but how could I not? Those deputies and lawyers and handcuffed criminals had done the same thing. 

My shoulders sagged under the weight of their curiosity. I hated it but I understood. I was the girl who’d been kidnapped, here to tell the world everything that happened. Well, almost everything. I wasn't sure I was ready to talk about the day I was found.

You’re okay. You can do this. Just keep walking.

My steps faltered and I grabbed my brother, Travis’s arm. “I wish I had my tennis shoes.” 

Mom turned when she heard that. She knew which shoes I wanted—the ones I’d been wearing the night they got me back. But they were locked away in police evidence, covered in dirt and blood. She softened when I started rubbing my hand. “Talking about it will help.”

Her reminder was my doctor’s echo, a five-word platitude I couldn't escape.

I rubbed harder. 

“Well, at the very least it’ll take some of the public’s interest in you away,” dad, the practical one, said.

I nodded and pretended like I agreed with them, like those were the reasons I was doing this interview so soon. But they weren't. 

I had to talk now, before she got the chance. No one else had the right to tell my story.

PitchSlam #7: Stumped, YA Contemporary

Genre: YA Contemporary
Word Count: 81 000

Song: It’s an album actually, Various Failures by World of Skin (AKA Swans)

PITCH: To prove he can still be a man in a wheelchair, sixteen-year-old Ozzy struggles to dump his virginity, but discovers the difference between sex and intimacy has a price higher than a sex worker’s fee.

FIRST 250: I splash on too much of my brother’s aftershave and it’s like stepping into a rental car. Shit.  I reek of whatever this stuff is supposed to smell like. Pine trees, maybe?  I never smelled a pine tree that stank like this.  No wonder Finn left it behind when he went to college.  It does mask the scent of chlorine that clings to me after a four-hour practice this afternoon. I rub my palm across my face and sniff it…nope.   I can’t go meet Lainey smelling like this.  She won’t be able to get anywhere near me.  Not without choking.  can’t stay near me.  God, this stuff’s awful.  I glance down at my watch.  It’s after six, but I guess I have time for another shower.  I have to have time.

I shuck the towel from around my waist and turn the shower back on.  The bathroom’s filled with steam from the one I took ten minutes ago.  At least the water’s still hot.  I climb in and let the liquid sluice over me.  I don’t know if that’s enough to get rid of the awful aftershave, so I grab the soap and scrub my face and neck until they feel raw.  That’ll have to do. For good measure, I soap the rest of me again too.  Look at me, Mr. Clean.  I lean back against the wall and think about Lainey.  Those shorts she was wearing this morning should be illegal.  At least on her.

PitchSlam #8: My Favorite Mistake, NA Cont Romance

Genre: NA Contemporary Romance
Word Count: 94,000

Song: My Favorite Mistake by Sheryl Crow

Pitch:  Katie won’t lose herself in someone again. However, her head and heart disagree about Will. As graduation nears, she must decide: take a risk on a reformed player or play it safe and leave him.

First 250: 
The problem with losing yourself in someone else is forgetting who you are and making dumb decisions to please them. Dumb decisions like agreeing to marry them. Or switching schools for your last year of college. Or swapping your friends and family for cows and farmland.

It’s dumb decisions like those that leave me fighting back tears and pretending everything is okay two days before classes start.

“Shit! Sorry!” Calloused hands prevent me from crashing to the floor and help me to my feet.

“No worries, sweetheart,” the owner of those hands says, flashing stained teeth. “That step cost me my keys many a time before. Granted, I’m usually half a fifth to the good when I do.” He chuckles, and it brings a twinkle to his eyes.

“Keys?” His explanation makes no sense. I glance at the step in the question, gritting my teeth against the tears. How embarrassing; just a single step up to the hallway where the restrooms are located. There’s no reason to miss it on my way back to the booth. No reason except the trio of co-eds now hovering around the pool table in the adjoining room.

“Built-in sobriety test.” The old man laughs again, hooking a thumb to a framed sign on the wall that reads: Miss the step, miss your keys. “Best hope Barb didn’t see you.” With another short chuckle, he drops his hand from my elbow, takes an exaggerated step up the lone stair, and weaves down the hall, whistling.

PitchSlam #9: The Ledge, MG Adventure

Genre: MG Adventure
Word Count: 37,000

Song: “Hall of Fame” by The Script

Pitch: 16yo discontent Jack drags his13yo survivalist-brother, Bryce, on a backpacking trip where Bryce has a tragic climbing accident and near-death experience (NDE). Alone and scared, Jack must risk his life to save them both.

250: Thirteen-year-old Bryce Harrison slid out of the Jeep, swung his backpack over his shoulder, and squinted at the trail-head sign in front of him. The faded words read, “Caution: Bears,” and below it, “Lily Lake: 16 miles.”

Walking to the edge of the swollen mountain river, Bryce picked up a smooth rock. Aiming, he chucked it sideways, trying to skip it on the swift water that instantly swallowed it up.

Second thoughts—doubtful ones, fearful ones—about this adventure crept like fingers up the back of his neck and into his mind, clambering for his attention. Bryce knew it—he shouldn't have let his big brother, Jack, talk him into going on this backpacking trip. “Death by bear attack” would be the writing on Bryce's tombstone. Even though he wanted to practice his survival skills out here, he didn't want to be mauled by a bear.

Tromping over to Bryce, Jack shouted, “Think fast.” He tossed a water-bottle too hard at Bryce. It hit him in the chest and bounced off, landing on a rock. Water started seeping out of a hairline crack. Jack rolled his eyes and shook his head at Bryce.

“It's not my fault!” complained Bryce. It wasn't, but it didn't matter. Bryce knew that Jack didn't care.

New fingers of doubt replaced the old ones. Glancing sideways at Jack, Bryce feared what might happen if Jack wouldn't get along with him, or stranded him, or worse. Maybe Bryce's tombstone would read instead, “Death by stupid, mean big brother.”

PitchSlam #10: One Of Those Times, MG Magical Realism

Genre: MG Magical Realism
Word Count: 27,000

Song: Life’s for the Living by Passenger

Pitch: When ultra-timid twelve-year-old, Sam, follows the clues of a clairvoyant datebook, messy things happen, like his best friend ending up in a hospital bed. Now he must find out why, and whether he’ll be next.

250: Sometimes people do stupid things for no reason. This wasn’t one of those times. I had a perfectly good reason—it was written in the datebook.

Apr 14 – Soar

And it hadn’t let me down, so far.

So that’s how I found myself squeezing the brake on my bike, staring down the ridiculously steep hill behind my house. A tiny speck at the bottom marked the makeshift ramp that my best friend and I had just thrown together with some two-by-fours and a piece of plywood. My only form of protection—a half-circle of hard foam strapped to my head.

“Are you sure you wanna do this?” Rye asked.

“Of course,” I said, with little real conviction.

“What if you die?” he asked.

“I won’t. You have the lens cap off, right?”


I let off the brake and started down the hill, turning the pedals furiously on my BMX to pick up speed. I’d need it if I wanted to clear the creek bed. My body shook as I hit tree roots and sped over the uneven ground. I hit the ramp and flew. I mean I really flew. Only my bike wasn’t with me. Maybe I was going to die.

A loud thud filled my ears followed by a dull ringing as I smacked the ground and tumbled into the creek like a rag doll. I lay there with the water slowly spilling around me; pretty sure I’d just broken every bone in my body. 

PitchSlam #11: Diamond on a Lizard's Tail, Adult Mystery

Genre: Adult Mystery
Title: "Diamond on a Lizard's Tail"
Word Count: 81,000

Song: Who Let the Dogs Out by Baha Men
Pitch:  Bulldog posts leaked classified files on his whistle-blower blog like they’re weather reports, but when he posts Carol’s data, the forecast is murder. The reluctant duo must work together to avoid being the next targets.
250:  Richard “Bulldog” Kominski skimmed his inbox for any new emails from Anonymous.   There were none, and that was too bad, because he was itching to write another post on his blog shedding light on the corrupt antics of the bloated governor of the great State of New Jersey.  
The phone rang.  
“Richard, it’s Frank Donati from the Press Office at the New Jersey Department of Health.” The tone was harsh and unfriendly.
“No need to be so formal, Frankie.  I know who you are - recognize your voice.  And, all my friends call me Bulldog.”  He paused, grinning. “But you can too.” 
Bulldog smirked, knowing what had precipitated the call.  “I take it you didn’t like my last post?”  He chuckled into the receiver, leaning so far back in his chair that he almost fell over.  
“We’re just wondering where you got that piece of classified information.”
“Same way I get all my information, Frankie – from reliable and protected sources.”  Bulldog frowned and tilted his head.  “That memo I posted was not classified…”
“It most certainly was classified, which means you just committed a felony.”  
 Bulldog narrowed his eyes. He was not eager to return to prison, but he thought the press officer might be bluffing.  “You’re full of it.”
“Am I?  You might want to consider cooperating with us.  Because as I recall, this self-righteous act of yours didn't go so well last time.  Consider this call a friendly proposition.  There won't be another.”  Click.
A ping sounded from Bulldog’s computer - an email from Anonymous.

PitchSlam #12: Mama's Girl, MG Cont LGBT

Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary LGBT
Title: Mama's Girl
Word Count: 39,000

35 word Pitch: Scarlett's thirteenth birthday wish - meet her dad. Wish granted, only he's not what she's expecting. High heels, painted nails, and - OMG - boobs. Scarlett battles ignorance and bigoted swamp-turds to prove being transgender isn't contagious. 

First 250: I stood by the fence, wishing I had x-ray vision to see through the door looming innocently at the end of the concrete walkway. On my right shoulder my good angel kept telling me to get back in Granny's Lincoln and head home to Alabama. On my left shoulder, my bad angel was doing a freedom dance from my big toe to my shoulder bone.

Running a clammy hand down my face I mentally flicked my good angel into the bushes by the gate. As my chest heaved beneath my green hoodie I could've kicked myself for not bringing a paper bag to hyperventilate into. Big girl panties, Scarlett. Red hair - don't care, remember? I said to myself. 

I flipped my long tresses over my shoulders and shook my hands out at my sides. Glancing up at the sky above San Francisco, I prayed to Jesus for the hundredth time that Mark Rivers, otherwise known as 'child support paycheck', was home. I pushed the gate open as the last of the sun slipped over the rim of the Pacific Ocean in the distance behind me. 

I crept softly on the walkway to the front door, looking left and right, expecting someone to jump out and yell at me. My head swam a little on step four, and a word my mama would've popped my mouth for tumbled out like granddaddy's beer cans from under his Ford bench seat. As my stomach performed a mean back hand-spring, I knocked on the door. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Query Questions with Chelsea Lindman

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 fantastic to interview an agent with this prestigious agency. Thank  you Chelsea Lindman from Sanford J Greenburger & Associates

Is there a better or worse time of year to query?
Spring and Fall tend to be busy for me, which only means that it will probably take me a bit longer to get back to you than at other times of the year.  
Does one typo or misplaced comma shoot down the entire query?
Not at all!  The query letter and submission need to be well written and professional, but I'm not going to reject an entire manuscript because of a small mistake.  
Do you look at sample pages without fail or only if the query is strong?
It certainly helps if the query is strong!  Personally, I look for three things in a query letter: an interesting concept or story, a strong author platform, a comparison to another book I love.  If any of these appear in the query, you've piqued my interest in your work and I'm guaranteed to take a look at the sample pages.
Do you have an assistant or intern go through your queries first or do you check all of them?
I like to read all queries myself.  Taste is such a personal thing!
If the manuscript has a prologue, do you want it included with the sample pages?
Yes.  In my submission guidelines, I request the first 50 pages of a writer's work.  If an author thinks that her book begins with the prologue, then I would like to read from the start. 
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?
All the time.  If a project isn't right for me, but I do think that there's something special in the writing, I'll share it with a colleague who might be a better fit for the author and project.  
Do you prefer a little personalized chit-chat in a query letter, or would you rather hear about the manuscript?
I do respond well to queries that are personalized, so long as they are still professional and it relates to your work.  For example, if you're querying me because you're a fan of an author that I represent, or you saw me speak on a panel, or read this very interview, and thought I might be a good fit for your work because of any of the above, please mention that in your query letter!  It gives me a reference point while considering your work--and, to go back to your earlier question about when I look at sample pages, I'm definitely going to read your sample-- and it shows you did your homework. :) 
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?
 I like to know word count and genre. 

Writers hear a lot about limiting the number of named characters in a query. Do you feel keeping named characters to a certain number makes for a clearer query?
 I would recommend that writers do all that they can to clarify their query--whether that's limiting the number of named characters, or elaborate plot lines.  I respond well to queries that quickly and concisely pique my interest, and get me to read the actual submission.  If I fall in love with the work, I'll learn who all of the characters are there!

Should writers sweat the title of their book (and character names) or is that something that is often changed by publishers?
A good title at the time of querying certainly helps, but it won't make or break a submission.  If the writing is there, we'll find the right title for it.
How many queries do you receive in a week? How many requests might you make out of those?
I receive about 30-50 queries per week, depending on the time of year.  I'll request three to five full manuscripts.
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?
Certainly.  Writers who have a dynamic social media presence will stand out, so long as it pertains to their work.  An author who demonstrates that she is serious about her writing, involved in her writing community, and willing to promote her work will get more attention from me--again, so long as I also respond well to her writing. 
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 way!  If I like your work, I'm probably going to do a Google search, so the way I see it, you're helping me out by including that information in your query letter.  
If a writer makes changes to their manuscript due to feedback should they resend the query or only if material was requested?
If you've queried me and not heard back, I'm either still considering the work submitted or have declined the opportunity to represent you (depending on the time frame, as listed in my submission guidelines on our agency's website).   With that in mind, I would urge writers to only submit the very best version of their work.  
 What bio should an author with no publishing credits include?
Let me know a little bit about you!  If we will potentially be business partners, let me know who I'll be working with.  Also, writers are often too modest when it comes to publishing credits.  If you've studied under another author, or have gone to a writers retreat, are part of a writers group in your home town, let me know that! 
What does 'just not right mean for me' mean to you?
Good question! This is a hard one for agents, and I'm sure it's hard for writers to hear as well.  For me, it means that I don't think that I'm going to be the best agent to champion your work, day-in, day-out.  
What themes are you sick of seeing?
None!  I think that anything can be done well, and made brand new, with the right voice.  Voice is a game changer! 
Do you consider yourself a hands-on, editorial type of agent?
I do work with my clients on an editorial level. 
What's the strangest/funniest thing you've seen in a query?
I'll say that the most inventive query I've received was a YouTube music video.  Unfortunately, it was for a genre that I don't represent.  Oh, and one time I got a cool key chain along with a manuscript query, but that was back in the day when we looked at hard copy submissions. 
What three things are at the top of your submission wish list?
I would love to see a novel told from the point of view of a strange and lovable young girl or teenager, something like Swamplandia! or Tell the Wolves I'm Home.
I would love to work with more mystery and suspense writers, especially if they're work is dark or twisted like Gillian Flynn's or Daniel Woodrell's.  
I would love to read a manuscript that makes beautiful use of the novel's place, similar to Seating Arrangements or Rules of Civility.
Bonus answer! Anything related to sports. 
What are some of your favorite movies or books to give us an idea of your tastes? 

All of the books I represent are my favorite!  
Authors I return to time and time again: Joan Didion, James Baldwin, Jennifer Egan, Lorrie Moore, Richard Price, Marilynn Robinson, Jeffery Eugenedes, Meg Wolitzer.
TV shows I'm obsessed with right now: True Detective, Girls, Mad Men.

Chelsea Lindman is a literary agent at Sanford J. Greenburger Associates.  Her primary interests include playful literary fiction, upmarket crime fiction, and forward thinking or boundary-pushing non-fiction.  She is especially fond of writing that takes advantage of setting and location, so that a story’s place can almost be seen as another character.  Chelsea also represents a select list of children’s book authors whose stories have an emphasis on voice-driven narratives.  Most importantly, Chelsea is interested in working with clients that are looking to build a lasting relationship.
Chelsea was previously with the agency as the Director of Foreign Rights for The Nicholas Ellison Agency, a division within Sanford J. Greenburger Associates, where she worked with international publishers to nurture and develop audiences abroad for the agency’s bestselling authors such as Nelson DeMille, Sarah Dunn, Jeff Lindsay, Christopher Moore, and Alan Weisman, as well as several debut authors. Chelsea began her publishing career as an editor at Europa Editions.  She is a graduate of University of California, Santa Barbara, and is a California native.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Query Kombat Judges

We're looking for a few good writers.

Or actually more than a few. This is the moment for all those agented or published writers. We need you to help make Query Kombat a success.

For those new to Query Kombat, it is a head-to-head fight between queries and opening 250. We start with 64 entries and end with one grand champion chosen by our judges. Just like in college basketball's March Madness, brackets determine your opponents. We will try to group like genres together but anything can happen in later rounds.

Mike, SC, and I have decided to hold the agent round sooner. Now 32 entries will be seen by agents! Judges will give feedback and Kombatants will have opportunities to send revised entries. Plus there are other surprises in store.

We're looking for writers who are willing to give feedback on queries and first 250 words. The feedback will be in the form of blog comments. You will also have to leave a vote on the entry that will be moving forward in the pairing. It can be a tough decision, but your help can really make a different for fellow writers in the query trenches.

SC, Mike, and I plan to arrange judges into groups of eight or so and assign them to specific blogs and rounds. That way we will have fresh eyes as the rounds progress.

Query Kombat is a long contest. There are six rounds and it takes the entire month of June. But you won't be asked to judge all the rounds. You might be assigned to one early round and a later round. (Later rounds are much quicker. Less left to say. :-)

If you are interested in being one of our judges, please send an email to our contest address: QueryKombat(at)yahoo(dot)com. In the email please include a little information about yourself. Who is your agent? What have you published? What genre do you write? This can help us sort potential judges for better variety. Later we will need fuller bios and photos.

We need lots of talent and hope to have you join our Query Kombat team!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Spring Query Extravaganza #6

It's here!! I'll be doing a limited number of query critiques in the next few weeks to celebrate spring. Right now I have no spots open. Keep watching and it's likely I'll reopen near the end of the month. 

Participants must comment on other Spring Query entries to pay it forward. If I notice someone not leaving comments, their query will get skipped.

Now to the fine print:

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. Plus, you know, I'm leaving pink comments in celebration of spring so you have to be able to tolerate pink.

As sent to me:

In Nyarteme, a world ruled by Muses and Artists, art is both beautiful and deadly. Words can cut you, songs can control you, and a play can imprison you forever.

But Merrick is no Artist. He is only a carnival man, blessed with nothing but a perfect memory and thieving fingers. His life is simple, safe, and artless - until he is forced to steal one of the mirrored masks of Propa, Muse of Acting. Within days, he is in the city of Syduire, seated at Propa's play, the mask within reach.

Then his childhood love Eanna puts it on. 

Her eyes darken. Her hands extend. And with only a mirror for a face, she begins to strangle him.

He rips the mask away, but it is a temporary reprieve. Every day, the mask returns, and every day, the real Eanna slips farther away. An actress of Propa has taken her place, intent on creating the performance of a lifetime - with someone else's life. She knows every look and every lie that can hurt Merrick the most, and she will stop at nothing to return the mask to her Muse. Not even murder.

And she is not the only one who wants the mask. Merrick soon learns what he really stole - the first weapon in a war between the Muses themselves. Pursued on all sides with Eanna's time running out, Merrick scours the artistic world for a way to save her. His perfect memory may hold the key, but the difference between knowing someone and merely remembering them is greater than he imagines.

Artists of the Body is a literary high fantasy combining the style of Name of the Wind with the unique world-building of Brent Weeks' Lightbringer trilogy. It is complete at 125,000 words. Though it is a standalone novel, it is also the first in a series, and subsequent books are underway.

With my crazy comments:

Merrick lives In Nyarteme, a world ruled by Muses and Artists, where art is both beautiful and deadly. Words can cut you, songs can control you, and a play can imprison you forever. (I'm not sure if this is figuratively or literally. Do you mean art can get you in trouble with the government, or some kind of magic is at work?)

But Merrick is no Artist.(And we get to the MC. Ideally you want to lead with the MC and not the worldbuilding. See if you can't weave Merrick into the first paragraph. I made a rough attempt above. Then you can add this first sentence to the 1st paragraph and it can be a small hook.) He is only(I'd cut 'only') a carnival man, blessed with nothing but a perfect memory and thieving fingers.(hardly nothing) His life is simple, safe, and artless - until he is forced to steal one of the mirrored masks of Propa, Muse of Acting.(Why? Why he is forced to steal would be his motivation. We want to see his motivation. It's what moved him to act. Are they treatening to kill his love? Does he need the money?) Within days, he is in the city of Syduire, seated at Propa's play, the mask within reach. (This is a minor detail we don't need to know.)

Then his childhood love Eanna puts it on. 

Her eyes darken. Her hands extend. And with only a mirror for a face, she begins to strangle him. (You've slipped into writing mode instead of query mode. You aren't describing the book anymore. You're reliving it. Try something like: Then his childhood love Eanna beats him too it, puts it on and becomes a killer, attempting to strangle him.)

He rips the mask away, but it is a temporary reprieve. Every day, the mask returns, and every day, the real Eanna slips farther away. An actress of Propa has taken her place, intent on creating the performance of a lifetime - with someone else's life. She knows every look and every lie that can hurt Merrick the most, and she will stop at nothing to return the mask to her Muse. Not even murder. (Your focus is wandering. Decide what is important. Merrick stealing the mask is not the plot. Trying to get it away from his girlfriend seems to be the plot. The query is about 50 words over the average length. Keeping the focus honed in will help with the length. Distill it down.)

And she is not the only one who wants the mask. Merrick soon learns what he really stole - the first weapon in a war between the Muses themselves.(Good. This ups the stakes.) Pursued on all sides with Eanna's time running out, Merrick scours the artistic world for a way to save her. His perfect memory may hold the key(I like this aspect. It's unique. Don't be afraid to play it up and maybe even add how it can save them.), but the difference between knowing someone and merely remembering them is greater than he imagines. ((That last part is very vague. I don't know what it means, which makes it fall flat as a stake.) And same here with the distilling. Agents want to see that you can condense and get to the heart of the plot. Something like this:

Merrick lives in Nyarteme, a world ruled by Muses and Artists, where art is both beautiful and deadly. Thanks to magic, words can cut you, songs can control you, and a play can imprison you forever. But Merrick is no artist.

He's a carnival man who happens to be blessed with perfect memory and thieving fingers. When his grandmother is kidnapped, he’s forced to steal one of the mirrored masks of Propa, Muse of Acting. He succeeds only for his childhood love Eanna to don the mask and become a killer.

Before she can strangle him, Merrick rips the mask away, but every day it returns. Knowing each look and lie to hurt Merrick, Eanna will stop at nothing to return the mask to her Muse (and what?) and put the power to blankblank in the goddess' hands.

Others also seek the mask. It’s the first weapon in a war between the Muses themselves that can grant (blank). Merrick’s perfect memory may hold the key to saving Eanna and humanity or (bad thing that will happen).  

Artists of the Body is a literary high fantasy combining the style of Name of the Wind(One of my favorites) with the unique world-building of Brent Weeks' Lightbringer trilogy. (All very long works. But it's usual for a debut author to get this word count.) It is complete at 125,000 words.(Maybe just a touch high for high/epic fantasy.) Though it is a standalone novel, it is also the first in a series, and subsequent books are underway. (A standalone novel, it also has series potential. or A standalone novel, it is intended as a series.)

Condense. Distill. Trim down to the crucial parts. Tell us what will happen if Merrick fails and what power the mask can grant.