Thursday, July 31, 2014

Woman in Fantasy with Anna Kashina

Today Anna Kashina joins us to talk about women in fantasy. The second book of her Majat series, The Guild of Assassins, releases August 5th. I really enjoy her first book of this series, Blades of the Old Empire.

Kara has achieved something that no Majat has ever managed – freedom from the Guild!

But the Black Diamond assassin Mai has been called back to face his punishment for sparing her life. Determined to join his fight or share his punishment, Kara finds herself falling for Mai.

But is their relationship – and the force that makes their union all-powerful – a tool to defeat the overpowering forces of the Kaddim armies, or a distraction sure to cause the downfall of the Majat?

Women characters in fantasy

I am a fan of epic fantasy. My fascination with this genre started early on when, as a child, I developed my interest in folklore and fairy tales from different cultures into a minor form of scientific research. Later on, when I got my hands on a copy of “The Lord of the Rings” my love for the genre was sealed. I devoured anything I could read in this genre and tended to lose myself in these imaginary worlds.

Thinking back to that time, it seems mind-boggling that *none of these early stories had a major female protagonist* and *I did not even notice*! In a way, I think we were all conditioned, influenced by early fantasy and folklore which implied that such important things as war and magic--major elements in many epic fantasies--are best left to men. There were exceptions, like Lady Galadriel, but all such women were definitely in the background compared to the men. Along with many readers at the time, I used to take it for granted, and now, even as I am writing this post, I am finding it hard to believe.

My first introduction to the idea of fantasy told from the women’s point of view were the works by Marion Zimmer Bradley. A friend recommended “Mists of Avalon” as “the story of King Arthur told from the women’s point of view”. I found the idea intriguing, and I absolutely loved the book. I read other novels by Marion Zimmer Bradley, who became my hero for the way she could truly center her stories on women, revealing an additional dimension of my favorite genre. I think, after reading her books, I never actually went back to the old classics.

From the perspective of today’s fantasy, where female protagonists are not only common but probably more abundant than male (at least it appears this way in the books I tend to be drawn to), I am realizing one thing. Female point of view can bring an entirely different perspective into the story. It is not better or worse, but both are necessary to show the world as it is, and leaving one out inevitably creates a bias--which can be good in some cases, but never complete. In a way, I tend to compare it to perspective in painting, which enables the use of two-dimensional drawings to portray three-dimensional world, adding a level of depth that was previously only imagined but never realized. Despite the fact that literature and storytelling are nearly as ancient as visual arts, it is amazing that this shift took centuries longer with books, especially when it came to fantasy and other types of speculative fiction.

While I love some of the books centered solely on female characters--and I have a number of male-centered ones among my favorites--in my own books I like mixing male and female perspectives. With this style come additional challenges: the switching, making both points of view believable and gender-appropriate. In “Blades of the Old Empire”, book 1 of the Majat Code released earlier this year, there are two nearly equal points of view: Kythar, the crown prince and heir to a disputed throne, and Ellah, a common village girl with a rare gift of truthsense. Both of their perspectives drive the story, and it has been so much fun to work on achieving this mix.

In my current release, “The Guild of Assassins”, book 2 in the series, Kythar’s point of view is contrasted by another female character, the Majat warrior Kara, who was previously central to the story but never had a point of view in the previous book. I am pleased with the way it turned out, and I in fact found her character intriguing enough to give her an even bigger role in my work in progress, as-yet-unnamed book 3 of the Majat Code.


Anna Kashina grew up in Russia and moved to the United States in 1994 after receiving her Ph.D. in cell biology from the Russian Academy of Sciences. She works as a biomedical researcher and combines career in science with her passion for writing. 

Anna's interests in ballroom dancing, world mythologies and folklore feed her high-level interest in martial arts of the Majat warriors. She lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 

Awards: 2013 Silver Medalist, ForeWord Book of the Year. 2014 Silver Medalist, Independent Publishers Book Award (IPPY).

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


So the other day I used the hashtag #amimagining. I have no idea if this is actually a thing, but it should be! There are tags for #amwriting and #amediting, even #amquerying. Why not a tag for the most important aspect of the whole writing process.

Without that time spent letting our minds roam, none of our creations would come to life. We need time to dream, time to plan. Letting our imagination run wild is the best way to fill our invented worlds with real details and make our characters larger than life. 

I don't know about you, but I often hold whole conversations in my head between multiple characters as though I were schizophrenic. Create flowery descriptions of places I've never seen. Or plot misery and suffering for my main character. Then I'll frantically text information not to be forgotten to myself or jot it down on scraps of paper pushed into drawers in my bedroom.

Background music is a necessity for me, though any sort of talking brings my #amimagining to a screeching halt. I can't work with the tv going or when my teens are chattering. For me, #amimagining requires solitude or at least silence from the other person.

The absolutely best time for me to plan a murder, kiss, or sword fight is while I'm getting ready in the morning. Then when I come downstairs, I can rush straight to writing--if I'm lucky. If I can stay awake, the time before sleep is also great for #amimagining. Taking the dogs for a long walk is the perfect place to work out plot problems. And vacuuming is not only relaxing and useful, but fantastically creative!

So let's have a conversation about the wonders of #amimagining. What are your requirements? Where do you get your best thinking done? Shout out about it on twitter and in the comments. Let's see if we can't get this hashtag trending!    

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Giveaway for Kindar's One Year Book Birthday

This month is the one year anniversary of my fantasy, Kindar's Cure! 

Princess Kindar of Anost dreams of playing the hero and succeeding to her mother’s throne. But dreams are for fools. Reality involves two healthy sisters and a wasting disease of suffocating cough that’s killing her by inches. When her elder sister is murdered, the blame falls on Kindar, putting her head on the chopping block.
No one who survives eighteen years of choke lung lacks determination.  A novice wizard, Maladonis Bin, approaches with a vision—a cure in a barren land of volcanic fumes. As choices go, a charming bootlicker that trips over his own feet isn’t the best option, but beggars can’t be choosers. Kindar escapes with Mal and several longtime attendants only to have her eyes opened that her country faces dark times.

Her mother’s decision to close the prosperous mines spurs poverty and joblessness, inciting rebellion and opening Anost to foreign invasion. As Mal urges her toward a cure that will prove his visions, suddenly, an ally turns traitor, delivering Kindar to a rebel army, who have their own plans for a sickly princess.

With the killer poised to strike again, the rebels bearing down, and the country falling apart, she must weigh her personal hunt for a cure against saving her people.

I'd like to celebrate by offering a free query critique (including two revisions) and an autographed paperback copy to one winner. To make it easy to enter, you get one entry just for leaving a comment telling about your favorite strong woman in fiction. Please leave you twitter handle in the comment or email address so I can find the winner.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, July 28, 2014

Getting the Call with Laura H

So happy to share another contest success story. Laura was one of my picks from Query Kombat and didn't even need contest help to sail into a call with her very own agent! She was actually my very first yes pick! See her agent round entry here!

You hear that finding an agent takes forever. And you hear those awesome stories about people getting offers overnight. For me, it was both very quick and very slow (and completely awesome).

I’ve always loved writing. I have random first pages of unfinished novels saved all over my computer. But I never really got the push I needed to finish a novel - life always got in the way. Then, in 2013, when I was on my honeymoon, an idea gripped me that wouldn’t let go. I raced to put it on the page when I got home. Soon, the words just poured out of me.

The first draft took about six weeks. Then I walked away, researching publishing for a few weeks before editing. I sent it to a friend for fact-checking while I revised. Then I edited it again. But my next step was what many new writers do: I queried too soon. Those two revisions weren’t enough. It took weeks of rejection to figure out what was wrong with the manuscript. Finally, I stumbled across the idea of getting a creative partner (how did I not know about this earlier?). After a couple of false starts, I found an awesome CP, and we went through the manuscript, chapter by chapter. Finally, after two more full rewrites, it was ready to go out again—about four months after I finished the first draft.

Starting in March, I sent groups of query letters. I entered contests, and as my manuscript slowly improved, so did my contest luck: I was runner up in Sun vs. Snow (between rewrites), featured in NestPitch (with no requests), and made it to the agent round in Query Kombat (with two requests). Each time, feedback helped me make my query and opening pages stronger.

I knew not to expect The Call within a couple of days after querying: everyone knows those stories are the exception. Still, every time I sent a query, part of me hoped, this time, Id be the overnight success story. I even walked around Target for an hour once, constantly refreshing an agents Twitter feed because she said she liked a MS shed just gotten. (The fact that cell phones barely work in my local Target did nothing to diminish my excitement.) It wasnt mine. But I kept querying, incorporating feedback as necessary, and I started to get a lot of full requests.

July 7 was a crazy day. Around 9:30 a.m., I got a rejection from a partial I’d sent months earlier. At 9:45 a.m, I sent a query letter to an agent I’d heard good things about. At 10:30 a.m., she sent me a full request. (Yes, that’s right. 45 minutes later.) This was the fastest request I’d ever gotten. Still, I’d gotten requests in a couple of hours that didn’t pan out, so I knew not to get too excited. About 10 minutes later, I received a rejection from another agent, helping me keep my feet nailed firmly to the floor. If usual querying is a roller coaster, that hour was like being inside a martini shaker. I wondered if I was going to make it.

Tuesday, I happened to pull up my email while at the gym. (I swear it was an accident—usually, I go to the gym to unplug and de-stress, not think about queries.) The agent I’d queried on Monday wanted to know if I had time to chat about my manuscript.

Of course I did! I raced out of the gym to charge my dying phone (didn’t even finish my workout). We scheduled a call later that night. I asked a friend if they ever called to personally reject you. Then, I calmed down enough to speak coherently, the phone rang, and less than 36 hours after I sent that query, I had an offer from an excellent agent. It really can happen that fast.

I danced. Cheered. Screamed. I remembered that I had other full manuscripts out (plus some regular queries). So, the next step was to sit down and let the other agents know that I had an offer. To agents that had the manuscript more than a month or so, I offered a slightly revised version. Some replied right away to let me know they’d read it next. Some bowed out politely. Some didn’t reply at all. One emailed back to request the most updated version.

The next morning, I found a message from one of my friends. “Did you leave [often misused word] in your manuscript? I think this agent is reading it now.” The same agent I’d once tracked walking around Target. My heart plummeted. I’d forgotten to cut that problem word before sending. I clicked on the agent’s Twitter feed nervously. But she liked it! She tweeted about how much she loved the manuscript she was reading. My hopes soared. It had to be mine, right? It was. I opened my email and found a message asking if I was free to talk about the manuscript.

We arranged for a time the following afternoon. Then we talked, and I absolutely agreed with everything she had to say about the manuscript—including removing things I’d added because I thought the reader would like them. (Note: Don’t try to write for other people.) Before we even got off the phone, I knew I’d found my agent. The first agent I spoke with was great, but the second really got me and my work. I still had some full manuscripts out there, and I waited for responses before signing, but there was never really a question in my mind who I would pick after that conversation.

The day I’d promised to give my decision, I woke at 5:00 a.m. My phone was in hand before I decided that my new agent probably wouldn’t appreciate hearing from me in the middle of the night (especially since she’s not on the East Coast). I couldn’t contain my excitement, though, so I scanned the contracts and sent her an email at around 5:30 a.m. Then I sent another email to the first agent, who was very gracious and sincere in responding with her congratulations. I know that I would’ve been in good hands with either of them, but my gut told me to pick Jen Karsbaek, and I couldn’t be more excited about it.

Laura writes women’s fiction, represented by Jen Karsbaek at Foreword Literary. She wrote her first "short story" when she was five years old, detailing a family's Saturday morning on their Commodore 64 (it may have somewhat auto-biographical). She’s been writing ever since. In her spare time, she loves playing board games, baking, and binge watching anything by Joss Whedon. She also really likes parenthetical phrases (but not in fiction) and the Oxford comma.

Follow her on Twitter: @LH_Writes 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Query Questions with Saritza Hernandez

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.

Something a little different this week. Saritza Hernandez of the Corvisiero Literary Agency is a digital first agent. That's something we could all learn about. 

What does it mean to be a digital first agent? I'm sure everyone wants to know if this means your clients never get print books or can that happen also?

I’m not really just a digital-first agent. There’s really no such thing as we’re all literary agents and our job is the same regardless of whether the book is in print, audio, digital, foreign language. Most of my clients’ books are available in print, digital and audio. The difference for many of my clients though is the print option is a trade paperback versus a mass market paperback.

Submissions to publishers take months sometimes to get a response. Then longer for offers. Does the submission process go faster when apply to digital first publishers?

I work with both digital and traditional publishers and right now, the schedule for both seems to be pretty full. While a response to a submission may not take months to arrive, the offer can and that has more to do with whether the editor can sell the book to both their acquisition board and to their readers. Sometimes, the offer takes a while because the editor needs to research the market and make an educated decision on the marketability of the book. This is true (and should be true) of all publishers.

What genres work best for digital first publication? Do certain genres seem to be better fits as ebooks with readers?

Erotica, romance and erotic romance were the first to “break into” the digital marketplace and these are still the bestselling ebooks overall. For Young Adult, Middle Grade and Picture Books, the print version continues to be the bestselling option.

Do you see this as the direction more publishers are heading or is it more for smaller and medium sized presses?

Digital? All of the publishers have digital options now for their titles and most want to retain digital with the print option when negotiating rights. It’s not a direction they’re heading. They’re already there.

Is there a better or worse time of year to query?

Not for me, no. There are times where I close to queries because I’m swamped and will take me a while to get through the work, but I don’t think there’s a “season” to query that’s better than any other.

Does one typo or misplaced comma shoot down the entire query?

Not at all! We’re not looking to reject work. Quite the opposite; we look at the overall query as well as the work before we make a determination.

Do you look at sample pages without fail or only if the query is strong?

If the query is something I’m actively acquiring, then yes. Otherwise, no.

Do you have an assistant or intern go through your queries first or do you check all of them?

We have a team of interns who are amazing! They have a great eye for quality work and they go through our slush piles. However, anything we request directly (through conferences, etc.) come directly to us bypassing the slush pile.

If the manuscript has a prologue, do you want it included with the sample pages?

I’m not a fan of prologues. Nine times out of ten you can fold the prologue into the story and make the work stronger. If it’s necessary to establish setting or history then yes, I want to see it but it counts as part of my sample pages request of five pages.

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?

I’ve passed a few queries on to other agents but only when the writing quality is high.

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

I’m here for the manuscript. Give me the manuscript first and keep the chit-chat to a minimum.

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?

There is no perfect query (though I’ve seen some that are close) just like there is no perfect book. I want to know these four things in a query: Title, genre, word count, plot summary. They don’t have to be in that order but they need to be in every query.

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’m all for keeping everything simple so the query should include the names of the hero/heroine, love interest (if a romance) and the four things I mentioned above.

Should writers sweat the title of their book (and character names) or is that something that is often changed by publishers?

It’s not often changed but it can be so don’t get too attached to the title in case it has to change. Same for character names but that’s a question better suited to a publishing house.

How many queries do you receive in a week? How many requests might you make out of those?

Not sure how many I receive since I’m not going through the slush pile. But I generally request 5% of what I receive from our interns and offer on 1% of that.

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 2014 and social media is a necessary marketing tool. I expect to see some social media presence and yes, I check before offering representation. I’m looking for active interaction with potential readers. I don’t care which social media my clients use, but I expect them to have at least one and be active on that platform.

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?

I have links to my social media in my signature line but they’re small and out of the way. If someone wants to get to know me, they’ll click on those links. If you keep it out of the way and in your signature line (preferable in a smaller font) then it’s fine. It shouldn’t be in your query though.

If a writer makes changes to their manuscript due to feedback should they resend the query or only if material was requested?

Only if it was requested.

What bio should an author with no publishing credits include?

You don’t need pub credits in your bio to get a request from an agent or editor. We’re interested in the work that’s attached. Is it the best it can be? Has it been properly edited? Then that’s what we’re going to base our decision on, not whether you had something published recently.

What does ‘just not right mean for me’ mean to you?

Exactly that. It didn’t fit with what I’m looking for or is something that’s too close to something else I’ve recently acquired or something that I don’t feel I’m the right person to represent (inspirational romance, memoirs, etc.)

What themes are you sick of seeing?

I’m not really sick of anything yet. Zombies, vampires and werewolves are plentiful though so unless your paranormal romance involves these types in a different way, I’m likely going to pass on it. For example, zombies in space. That I would likely read!

Do you consider yourself a hands-on, editorial type of agent?

Very much so, yes! Which is why I’m picky about who I represent too. I’m a red-pen whore.

What’s the strangest/funniest thing you’ve seen in a query?

A query for a geriatric erotic massage book. Um… no.

What three things are at the top of your submission wish list?

1.    GLBT Young Adult where the sexuality of the main character is as second-nature to the plot as their skin color or where they’re from.
2.    Male/Male Space Opera with high erotic content.
3.    New Adult anything but specifically male/male and would love it if it’s a thriller or romantic suspense.

What are some of your favorite movies or books to give us an idea of your tastes? 

Favorite movies: Love Actually, When Harry Met Sally, Underworld, Harry Potter (all 8 movies), 50 First Dates, What to Expect When You’re Expecting.

Favorite books: My client books are really favorites of mine so look at my blog for those but I also loved, Feed by Mira Grant, every day by David Levithan, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty by Anne Rice and The Siren by Tiffany Reisz.


Saritza is the Sr. Literary Agent at the Corvisiero Literary Agency and is known as the first literary agent to represent authors in the digital publishing landscape. While continuing to seek traditional publishers for her authors, Saritza is the leading literary agent in digital publishing deals. An avid coffee-drinker with a Kindle book obsession, she enjoys a steaming cup of strong Cuban coffee every morning while reading an erotic contemporary romance or action-packed science fiction adventure. A strong advocate of the GLBT community, she enjoys fresh voices in GLBT Young Adult and New Adult genre fiction. Her client titles include: Special Delivery by Heidi Cullinan, Hot Head by Damon Suede, Fire and Ashes by Daisy Harris, Purely Professional by Elia Winters, Caught in the Crossfire by Juliann Rich

Social Media:

Thursday, July 24, 2014

List of Maybes from In With The New

My four yes picks were:

Skateboard Kate
The Book of Adam
Rowdy Days of Dom Sanders
Lily Washington Presidential P.I.

Here are the entries I labelled as maybe. Some entries got passed over simply because it wasn't what our agents were looking for. Others, because they'd been in contests before. I also had to keep in mind taking a balance of entries and passed over some age categories in favor of others.

Asleep Ever After
Girl Number 8
Dreams the Insanity
The Hopping Dead
The Conspirator’s Club
The Troll Diaries
The Download
Blood of Esta
Attie and the Monster Book
The Wildness in Mellie Feye
Endless Midnight
The Iguana King
The Black Dragon’s Mate
Storm Chaser
Snow Globe

There were so many more entries that I could have labeled but passed over because my number of entries was growing so large.

As they say in Galaxy Quest: Never Give Up. Never Surrender! 

Monday, July 21, 2014



I know many of you thought this day would never arrive! It's here!

We are rolling out the red carpet and shining the spotlight on the best entries for our agents over the next three days.

(Ninja agents are welcome too. Merely leave a request, along with information on how many pages and where to email you.)

There are thirty entries on this blog. Most of them wouldn't fit on the front page so please use the Blog Archive in the sidebar to ensure no entries get missed. Entries are grouped by age category. (Or will be if my scheduling worked.) They are also numbered for ease of keeping track. (Agents may prefer to look at entries and return later for more.)

If you see a problem with your entry like missing spacing, let me know on twitter or the contest email address. 

For those writers who didn't make it, please keep trying. The Pyrotechnics and I were limited to four choices each. (Which is why we added group picks.) It was agony to narrow down the choices and leave great entries behind. Contests, like querying, are very subjective. What isn't one person's cup of tea, may be just what someone else wants. 

Please the comments are only for agents, but cheer for your favorites and friends, and thank the agents on twitter under #NewAgent.

I'll be there shouting out when an agent appears!

Congrats to all for entering! Let's hope for tons of requests!

IWTN Entry 1: Skateboard Kate, PB Contemporary

Title: Skateboard Kate
Word Count: 650
Genre: PB Contemporary


Almost seven, Kate has wanted a skateboard for as long as she can remember. Never mind she's only six or that she's a girl. Never mind that she wears prosthetic legs. It's her dream, and her mom and dad have always told her to dream big. Kate wishes on her favorite star and prays for a skateboard every night.

The big day arrives when Kate turns seven. After a Birthday party with friends, cake and presents, but no skateboard, and a family dinner with more presents, but no skateboard, Kate almost gives up hope of ever getting her wish. But just before bed, her parents surprise her with a new helmet, elbow pads, wrist guards (she doesn't even need knee pads) and a brand new pink camo skateboard.

Kate bumps, jumps and rolls her way to her dream. But it's not always easy.

Inspired by the determination of a young double-amputee who doesn't let anything get in his way...including skateboarding.

IWTN Entry 2: Ninja Baby Charmed, PB Humor

Word Count:   440
Genre:   PB Humor


Big brother and Ninja Baby have come to an understanding. Ninja Baby knows he was not the first ninja in the family. He knows he must pay careful attention to everything his big brother is teaching him. He must not let himself be distracted. True ninjas have focus! Big brother is guiding him down an enlightened path of backwards, triple-thrust jump-kicks and sneaky-salamander squiqqles…until that cute girl baby shows up at the door with her cookies and beeping toys! Good thing Ninja Baby and big brother have their own cookies this time. But when girl baby babbles three words that should never be uttered, big brother must pull out all the stops to keep Ninja Baby safe. Because after all, that’s what NinjaBrothers are for.

IWTN Entry 3: Ratman's Revenge, MG Paranormal

Word count: 76,000
Genre: MG paranormal


When eleven-year-old Cody gets fed up with his too-busy-to-care divorced parents, he storms off into the woods. There he discovers a tunnel leading to a hidden, underground city with crystal caves, slugs-and-bugs soup, and new friends with awesome abilities like reading minds and seeing visions.

Best. Home. Ever!

But Cody’s adventures take a dangerous turn when the people who protect the city, the Detectors, start disappearing. Without their warnings, the city could get blind-sided by earthquakes, floods, or invasion by deadly beasts. And it that wasn’t pants-wetting enough, the city leaders’ psychic abilities reveal someone is controlling the minds of the Detectors, and the leaders have no idea who or why.

Cody wants to help his new home, but every time he searches for clues, a mutant man-sized rat attacks him. It uses psychic powers to roast Cody with a hot crystal, push him down the Devil’s Mouth hole, and try to drown him in the river.

But Cody can’t stop. He’s the only one who sees a giant rat scurrying around, so no one else believes the freaky fur-face even exists. And Cody’s clues point to Ratman as the one controlling the Detectors.

Now it’s up to Cody to figure out who or what this whiskered weirdo really is and why he has kidnapped the Detectors. Cody just hopes he can do all that before Ratman’s next attack actually kills him.

IWTN Entry 4: Lilly Washington Presidential P.I., MG Contemporary

Title: Lilly Washington Presidential P.I.
Word Count: 44,000
Genre: MG Contemporary


Not many twelve-year-old girls have posters of the founding fathers hanging on their bedroom walls. But Lilly Petunia Washington is an Abe Lincoln fangirl whose biggest dream in life is to uncover the next great secret in history. So when she stumbles upon a dusty diary hidden below a loose floor board, her dream of stardom just might come true.

Once the dairy is unearthed, Lilly delves in, only to find it was written over one hundred fifty years ago by twelve-year-old Lizzy Johnson. Lizzy is not only the daughter of a Civil War hero, she was born on the same day Abe Lincoln was assassinated. Commence fangirl freak-out. 

As Lilly digs deeper into the diary, and the mysteries inside, she finds clues to an undiscovered time capsule on the campus of her middle school. There’s only one problem. She can’t prove it without a shadow of a doubt. And without concrete evidence, the meanest principal ever refuses her requests to try and find it. As a result, Lilly is forced to pull out her own pick axe and get digging. Finding the capsule may help solve an age old mystery surrounding missing Civil War artifacts. And maybe even link her family to Lizzie and a U.S. President. That is, if she isn’t expelled first.

IWTN Entry 5: Rowdy Days of Dom Sanders, Upper MG Contemporary

Word Count: 39,000
Genre: Upper MG Contemporary


12-year-old Dom’s summer’s getting better.  He’s beaten up his rival, Taylor, and kissed the new girl in town, finally got his horse, and built an awesome fort in an abandoned forest service compound with his big bro. But while squirrel hunting, Dom sees the local outcast kill a deputy, and he’s pretty darn sure it’s related to the marijuana that seems to be all over town.

Unsure of whether the killer saw him run away, Dom pretends he didn’t see anything. That is until Taylor’s pocketknife and Dom’s boot prints, identical to Taylor’s, are found at the crime scene, and Taylor’s arrested.

Dom must decide whether to swallow his guilt and let an annoying, if innocent, jerk go to juvie, or take the stand and risk his own life and freedom by revealing what he knows. And worst of all, if he does the right thing this time, will he have to keep on doing them?

IWTN Entry 6: The Secret Power of the Bee, MG Contemporary

Title: The Secret Powers of the Bee
Word Count: 47,000
Genre: MG Contemporary Fiction


Under the guise of a superhero, Pete and his friends become efficient at punishing the bullies in their middle school. Too efficient.

After Bryant the Giant gives the new kid the ultimate wedgie, Pete creates a superhero to teach him a lesson. He recruits his friends, who use their years of honed RPGing skills and THE ART OF WAR to form the perfect plan. One dresses up in a bright yellow costume to distract Bryant and the crowd while the others create the illusion victory didn’t come from a bunch of kids but one superhero named “The Bee.”

When another student figures out how the Bee works and who’s behind it, she pleads with Pete and his friends to take down her cyber bully. They reluctantly agree and dress her up as the Bee to confront her nemesis. Despite Pete’s growing discomfort with the Bee, his friends each use the suit to deal justice without consulting the rest of the group.

Soon, every student fears the Bee could come for them next, and Pete decides it’s gone too far. But his friends’ vigilantism is only beginning, and defying them means becoming the biggest outcast the school has ever known.