Friday, February 28, 2014

Finding Your Genre

Here is a list of Sci-fi/Fantasy subgenres thanks to Joyce Alton who introduced me to Chuck Sambuchino's the 2009 Guide to Literary Agents

Alternate History: speculative fiction that changes the accepted account of actual historical events, often featuring a profound "what if?" premise. 

Arthurian Fantasy: reworkings of the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the round Table. 

Bangsian Fantasy: stories speculating on the afterlives of famous people. 

Biopunk: a blend of film noir, Japanese anime and post-modern elements used to describe an underground, nihilistic biotech society. 

Children's Fantasy: a kinder, gentler style of fantasy aimed at very young readers. 

Comic: fantasy or science fiction that spoofs the conventions of the genre, or the conventions of society. 

Cyberpunk: stories featuring tough outsiders in a high-tech near future where computers have produced major changes in society. It typically has countercultural antiheroes who find themselves trapped in a dehumanized future. 

Dark Fantasy: tales that focus on the nightmarish underbelly of magic, venturing into the violence of horror novels. 

Dystopian: stories that portray a bleak future world. Stories where the apocalypse occurs, whether in the form of a nuclear bomb, asteroids, disease, or even a political regime, fit this genre. 

Erotic: SF or fantasy tales that focus on sexuality. 

Game-Related Fantasy: tales with plots and characters similar to high fantasy, but based on a specific role-playing game like Dungeons and Dragons. 

Hard Science Fiction: tales in which real present-day science is logically extrapolated to the future. 

Heroic Fantasy: stories of war and its heroes, the fantasy equivalent of military science fiction. 

High/Epic Fantasy: tales with an emphasis on the fate of an entire race or nation, often featuring a young "nobody" hero battling an ultimate evil. 

Historical: speculative fiction taking place in a recognizable historical period. 

Mundane SF: a movement that spurns fanciful conceits like warp drives, wormholes and faster-than-light travel for stories based on scientific knowledge as it actually exists. 

Military SF: war stories that extrapolate existing military technology and tactics into the future. 

Mystery SF: a cross-genre blend that can be either an SF tale with a central mystery or a classic whodunit with SF elements. 

Mythic Fiction: stories inspired, or modeled on, classic myths, legends and fairy tales. 

New Age: a category of speculative fiction that deals with occult subjects such as astrology, psychic phenomena, spiritual healing, UFOs and mysticism. 

Post-Apocalyptic: stories of life on Earth after an apocalypse, focusing on the struggle to survive. 

Romance: speculative fiction in which romance plays a key part. 

Religious: centering on theological ideas, and heroes who are ruled by their religious beliefs. 

Science Fantasy: a blend in which fantasy is supported by scientifc or pseudo-scientific explanations. 

Social SF: tales that focus on how characters react to their environments--including social satire. 

Soft SF: tales based on the more subjective, "softer" science; psychology, sociology, anthropology, etc. 

Space Opera: a traditional good guys/bad guys faceoff with lots of action and larger-than-life characters. 

Spy-Fi: tales of espionage with SF elements, especially the use of high-tech gadgetry. 

Steampunk: a specific type of alternate history in which characters in Victorian England have access to 20th century technology. 

Superheroes: stories featuring characters endowed with superhuman strengths or abilities. 

Sword and Sorcery: a classic genre often set in the medieval period, and more concerned with immediate physical threats than high or heroic fantasy. 

Thriller SF: an SF story that takes on the classic world-at-risk, cliffhanger elements of a thriller. 

Time-Travel: stories based ont he concept of moving forward or backward in time, often delving into the existence of parallel worlds. 

Urban Fantasy: a fantasy tale in which magical powers and characters appear in an otherwise normal modern context, similar to Latin American magical realism. 

Vampire: variations on the classic vampire legend, recently taking on many sexual and romantic variations. 

Wuxia: fantasy tales set within the martial arts traditions and philosophies of China. 

Young Adult: speculative fiction aimed at a teenage audience, often featuring a hero the same age or slightly older than the reader. 

And because some people crossover into the Horror/Paranormal genre: 
Horror Subgenres: 

Child in Peril: involving the abduction and/or persecution of a child. 

Comic Horror: horror stories that either spoof horror conventions or mix the gore with dark humor. 

Creepy Kids: horror tale in which children--often under the influence of dark forces--begin to turn against the adults. 

Dark Fantasy: a horror story with supernatural and fantasy elements. 

Dark Mystery/Noir: inspired by hardboiled detective tales, set in an urban underworld of crime and moral ambiguity. 

Erotic Vampire: a horror tale making the newly trendy link between sexuality and vampires, but with more emphasis on graphic description and violence. 

Fabulist: derived from "fable," an ancient tradition in which objects, animals or forces of nature are anthropomorphized in order to deliver a moral lesson. 

Gothic: a traditional form depicting the encroachment of the Middle Ages upon the 18th century Enlightenment, filled with images of decay and ruin, and episodes of imprisonment and persecution. 

Hauntings: a classic form centering on possession by ghosts, demons or poltergeists, particularly of some sort of structure. 

Historical: horror tales set in a specific and recognizable period of history. 

Magical Realism: a genre inspired by Latin-American authors, in which extraordinary forces or creatures pop into otherwise normal, real-life settings. 

Psychological: a story based on the disturbed human psyche, often exploring insane, altered realities and featuring a human monster with horrific, but not supernatural, aspects. 

Quiet Horror: subtly written horror that uses atmosphere and mood, rather than graphic description, to create fear and suspense. 

Religious: horror that makes use of religious icons and mythology, especially the angels and demons derived from Dante's Inferno and Milton's Paradise Lost. 

Science-Fiction Horror: SF with a darker, more violent twist, often revolving around alien invasions, mad scientists, or experiments gone wrong. 

Splatter/Splatterpunk: an extreme style of horror that cuts right to the gore. This subgenre, which first appeared in the '80s, lives up to its name--explicit, gruesome violence. 

Technology: stories featuring technology that has run amok, venturing increasingly into the expanding domain of computers, cyberspace, and genetic engineering. 

Weird Tales: inspired by the magazine of the same name, a more traditional form featuring strange and uncanny events (Twilight Zone). 

Young Adult: horror aimes at a teen market, often with heroes the same age, or slightly older than, the reader. 

Zombie: tales featuring dead people who return to commit mayhem on the living. 



As you can see, the choices are staggering. What that list can show you better than I can put into words is how hard it can be to nail down your subgenre. There are just so many possibilities. And this list only covers the fantasy/science fiction side of things.

Obviously it's much easier to just say fantasy or science fiction in your query letter and leave it at that. But so many stories are a little bit of this and a little bit of that when it comes to genre. A little romance, a little scariness, a little action thrills. A little contemporary mixed with a little of the weird. And suddenly your head is spinning. What genre do I pick?

So a couple of points: First off, other writers can give you pointers. I've learned this writing community is a wonderful place. Trust in friends and friends will help you out every time. Describe your stories to other writers and they can at least get you a consensus.

Next, YA, Adult, MG, and PB are not genres. They are age categories. When someone wants to know your genre for a contest or a query letter, saying YA doesn't answer the question. It's YA paired with Thriller or Horror or Historical Fiction, or whatever your genre may be. MG Adventure, Adult Science Fiction, YA Mystery are examples of the full and complete answers you need to give.

And last, it's not the end of the world if you get the genre wrong. Do the best you can to define the genre of your story, but the agent is the expert. When you sign with them, they can guide you on where your story fits.


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Here's a more complete list of subgenres from Writer's Digest. And another list to muddy the waters from Cuebon.  

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Review for THE GOBLIN EMPEROR




The youngest, half-goblin son of the Emperor has lived his entire life in exile, distant from the Imperial Court and the deadly intrigue that suffuses it. But when his father and three sons in line for the throne are killed in an "accident," he has no choice but to take his place as the only surviving rightful heir.

Entirely unschooled in the art of court politics, he has no friends, no advisors, and the sure knowledge that whoever assassinated his father and brothers could make an attempt on his life at any moment.

Surrounded by sycophants eager to curry favor with the na├»ve new emperor, and overwhelmed by the burdens of his new life, he can trust nobody. Amid the swirl of plots to depose him, offers of arranged marriages, and the specter of the unknown conspirators who lurk in the shadows, he must quickly adjust to life as the Goblin Emperor. All the while, he is alone, and trying to find even a single friend . . . and hoping for the possibility of romance, yet also vigilant against the unseen enemies that threaten him, lest he lose his throne–or his life.




I am all about new fantasy books and was ready to gobble up this book from Tor which will release in April.

An incredible display of variety in world building. Maia is the youngest and exiled son of the Emperor. When the Emperor and his other sons are killed in an airship accident, Maia is thrust into the spotlight. Lonely and totally unprepared, Maia will win your heart.

This book blew me away. For a story that takes place 90 percent of the time in the same setting, it changed and moved and never felt dull. Most of the story is told from the royal court which seemed to be a mix of Czarist Russia and ancient China. I was astonished by the scope of detail in the world, so many characters with such complex and similar names, yet I was never confused. A master hand created and deftly weaved this mix; it is Tolkien with an Eastern flavor.

For a story with few big action scenes, it captured and held my attention with effortless ease. Much of the plot was of course based on political maneuvering, but the innocence and humility of Maia put me on the edge of my seat to see if he would sway the harsh court to his side. It's been a long time since I felt such affection for a main character!

I highly recommend The Goblin Emperor.

I received an advanced copy of this book from Net Galley in exchange for a review.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

After the Call: Leatrice McKinney

You'll notice I changed the title of this post from the usual "Getting the Call." Leatrice's story has the joy of finding her agent and ... well I'll let you read the rest. Let's just say we all need to have a giant hugfest afterward! 

I feel and I'm sure Leatrice feels also that writers need to remember the journey goes on after the agent call.





People are sometimes surprised when I say I WAS agented. They blink and stare, and I can see them trying to muscle up the courage to ask me what happened. One question I get is "oh my gosh, what did she do?". Folks tend to assume the worse, don't they? That there was a falling out, or something wasn't done right, or someone somewhere screwed the pooch, and it all lead to a bad divorce or whatever. That's SO not what happened in my case. This was honestly a case of life happens, no horror stories here, which is why I've decided to share it. Not all agent partings end sourly.

My agent was the result of a contest. I know I tell people on Twitter and Facebook that contests results (while sometimes awesome and sometimes depressing) are not the end all beat all, and I'm referring to my own experience when I say so. It's not fluff to make people feel good, it's the truth. I entered the inaugural launch of The Writer's Voice contest now held every year, and was fortunate enough to land on Team Brenda!

Brief sidebar, Brenda Drake is an amazing person who gives back to the community in ways that continue to grow in leaps and bounds both in size and in spirit.

Okay, so, I landed on Team Brenda and she helped me turn my pitch and first into gold. Now, I didn't get any requests during the agent round, but after the contest was over that shiny new query landed in front of my previous agent. The story of how that happened is pretty awesome itself, but a whole other blog post, so I'll tell that another time. In short, she loved my story, told me the direction she wanted to with the edits, and made an offer.

Thanks to suggestions from my agent, my story went through a few more rounds of edits. Oh no, the revisions aren't over when you get an agent, in some cases the fun is just starting (and by fun I mean hard work). I pulled some characters out completely and beefed up the presence of others. We worked on various chunks of the story then went back through to make sure the changes melded seamlessly with the rest of the piece. Then we went on submission!

Now, my agent was also a writer, and a good one because her work just exploded in the best possible way. She was, and still is, everywhere and it's kinda cool being able to elbow-nudge someone and go "hey, I know that gal". But as awesome as she is, she's also human and thus constrained to the same 24/7 as the rest of us. It honestly came down to having to choose between two careers she loved, and I wouldn't wish that on anyone.

So we had an hour-long phone conversation about the entire thing, and I told her I support her no matter what she did, that I was proud of her, and in the end everyone has to make the choice that's best for them and their work. As writers, we all understand that last one, yeah?

She made the announcement she was leaving the business. I'll admit it was bittersweet. What happened was huge and great in so many ways, but at the same time I lost someone who took on my work and believed in it and helped me get that much closer to the dream, y'know? She helped me push myself, and I'll always be thankful for that.

At first, things were sort of surreal, but as time moved on I realized a very scary fact: if I wanted to get back into the game, I was going to have to start querying.

Again.

For those who think something like this might be easier the second time around or less stressful, you couldn't be more wrong. This was, in essence, starting over. Back to square one, do not pass go. Queue meltdown, but I gave myself a time limit for freaking out. I said to myself "Self! You're allowed one nervous breakdown but that's it, I'm cutting you off, you have work to do."

With the encouragement of my VERY supportive friends in the community I finished another book, polished it up, and sent it out. Took me an hour to work up the courage to hit SEND for the first time. Yeah, that happened again.

And here I am now, backed by my friends and colleagues, cheered on by loved ones, and believing in myself that if I was blessed to be able did it before, God willing I can certainly do it again.

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Leatrice McKinney, AKA El, is a published poet, an active member of Novel Clique–an established group of professional writers–and a member of the online groups TwitWits and YA Lit Chat. Living the single life in Kansas City, she is curerntly seeking representation for her work. She is also an Affiliate Member of Oklahoma Writer’s Federation, Inc. via Midwest Pen & Ink.


Saturday, February 22, 2014

Critique Workshop Round 3

Here we go for the final round! 

Critiquing queries not only helps the owner of the query, it also builds valuable skills in what makes a query work and what doesn't. The more you help others with their queries, the more you can learn about how to make your own query successful.

If your query is listed please leave comments for all the other entrants. And make those comments as helpful as possible. You can take a week if needed to get them all done, but please don't skip anyone.

This is the last workshop, but you can contact me on twitter or by blog comment if you are interested in my editing services. I'm running a special on queries and will include the first 250 with the query as part of the sale price. 

Critique Workshop #18: BEHIND THE TANGLE TREES

Behind the Tangle Trees
Middle Grade Science-Fiction/Fantasy
Word Count: 52,000 (WIP)


Query:


Ten-year-old Kenton has a secret: he’s a refugee from The Company. Sworn to secrecy, he carries the lie of where he is really from around like a weight. A month after moving to Clib, he gets a new secret when he meets an Ulu in the dark, twisted tangle tree forest. The nocturnal creatures are alike, yet very different from the colony legend. Alongside his best friend Spryte, he works to communicate with the natives that live behind the tangle trees.


Sleep deprived, Kenton falls behind in school and falls asleep at dinner. His parents grow concerned, threatening to end his nightly trips to the Ulu village. When Clib’s leaders discover they don’t have enough tanglestone to make the colony’s winter payment, a representative from The Company visits Clib with interest in buying out the colony. Kenton suspects The Company is not only interested in acquiring the sole rights to tanglestone, but in reacquiring his family too.


Kenton is forced to decide between turning to the Ulus for help or keeping them secret from The Company who would exploit the gentle creatures. When he and Spryte overhear his parents talking about tanglestone stolen from the harvest, they hatches a plan to save the colony and keep the Ulus hidden, but they only has two days and everyone’s a suspect.


First 250:


Chapter 1 – A Smooth Landing


Kenton jogged to the back of the old shuttle. His baggy brown ship suit billowed out behind him like a parachute. He couldn’t wait to climb a tree and eat fruit grown in actual soil. More than anything, Kenton wanted to run with the wind in his face. He wanted to let his feet pound the ground until he couldn’t breathe, not until the timer beeped on a treadmill during recess. He hadn’t done any of these things in over a year.

“Dad, it’s time,” Kenton called. His father’s the towering figure bent over to zip the duffle bag shut.

“Ready,” Dad said and straightened. He looked Kenton over with a critical eye. “Hmmm, your brother’s clothes are way too big on you. Here.” Dad reached into his bag, pulling out a webbed utility belt. “Put this on.” Kenton flushed and wished he hadn’t outgrown his own clothes.

“Jerry! Kenton!” Mom called from the front of the ship. “Are you coming?”

Dad glanced at Kenton, his brow wrinkled, then toward Mom’s voice with a longing sigh. He didn’t like to keep her waiting.

“Go ahead, Dad. I’ll be right behind you.”

“Coming.” Dad hurried away.

Kenton fumbled with the belt, getting it hung up in the loop on the back of his ship suit. No matter how he pulled, it was stuck. The voices outside grew louder as he fought with his clothes. Twisting and wriggling, he pulled the ship suit around until he saw the snag. Dad’s hearty laugh carried to the back of the ship. Kenton had just freed the belt when he thought he heard someone call his name. With a groan, he stared at the offending belt and considered chucking it.

Critique Workshop #19: THE FOURTH GENERATION

Title: The Fourth Generation
Genre: YA Dystopian
Wordcount: 72,000

Query:

Gorin is only two months from his seventeenth birthday, certain death thanks to the birth-transmitted disease that devastated the world a hundred years ago. His job is to find artifacts—books, computers, etc.—in Middleton, Pennsylvania and deliver them to his faction leader, who transports them to the mansion. At the manor the rulers study the artifacts to try to invent a cure and rediscover electricity, an almighty force from the Old World that made life way easier.

Naturally curious, Gorin wishes he could spend his last days studying those artifacts, and just once lay his eyes on the whopping supply of extraordinary objects at the rulers’ mysterious mansion before he dies…But no—both are strictly prohibited and punishable by death.

So when Gorin fails to win his last chance to go on a tour of the manor, he and his friend Marf sneak a peek at the incredible mansion at night. A steady, unnaturally bright light exudes from it. The rulers have electricity! Further inspection reveals they have a cure to the plague, too, and they’ve been selfishly keeping both to themselves for generations. Worse yet, Gorin and Marf are discovered during their spy act. Now with massive bounties on their heads, they try to break into the heavily guarded mansion to gather evidence of the rulers’ deceit and save everybody in town from their tragically short lives.


First 250 

I raced up the eight floors of the dingy downtown apartment with record-breaking speed for the third time that day. Not bad for a guy who’d had the god-awful plague eat away at him all sixteen years of his life. My empty backpack bounced airily on my shoulders, my feet landing just in front of the steps’ worn, chipped edges.

The rest of the Valuable Objects had better still be there. Worth a ton of prestige points, they could be just enough to finally push my faction into the top spot of The Tournament of Prestige this year. But if somebody else found them while I was gone…

At last I made it to the eighth floor. My chest heaved as I sucked in breath.

Scat—the second door on the right stood wide open! Not good. My heart rate doubled as I crept up to the door so quietly a bug a millimeter from my feet wouldn’t have felt the vibration.

I peeked inside the room.

Mother of scat. A boy as big and strong as me stood in front of the old wooden cabinets on the left side of the room, his side facing me. He had blotchy, dark gray skin, so was about my age, too.

The cabinet doors were in-laid with glass, so you could see inside them. They were empty. Sure enough, the boy started to turn away from them. I jerked my head back into the hallway, then peeked back in.

Critique Workshop #20: DRAGONFLAME

Title: Dragonflame
Genre: YA Fantasy
Word count: 100,000

Query:

Persecuted as a girl with magic, Naya is rescued by the powerful mage Mariyana. She takes Naya on a mission to rally support against a dragon army invading their homelands.

After Mariyana fails to win over the exiled dragon Endogas, he is swayed upon discovering Naya possesses the rare skill of Ancient Magic. Together they gain the crucial support of the mage community of Numara.

A group of rebellious mages attempts to prevent the Numarans from joining the defence army, and Naya almost loses her magic stopping them.

Just in time do Naya and Endogas reach the front lines. Endogas has secretly taught her dragon magic, but Mariyana orders her to stay out of the battle. It is only when the dragons close in on her friends and allies that Naya steps up and does what the others cannot – kill dragons.

The dragons surrender, but Endogas is mortally wounded. Naya and her friend, the mage Evulon, risk their lives to save him. They are rewarded with a magic bond that will link them together for life.


First 250:

Chapter One

“Who can give me an example of herbs used in Communication Magic?”

Naya glanced around at her fellow students, but none of them seemed to know the answer to Mariyana’s question.

About a dozen boys and girls filled the other seats in the Mage’s schoolroom. They came from all over Dogan as well as from the neighbouring land of Tion to attend Mariyana’s classes in Alyna, the trade capital of Dogan.

“Are there no schools where they live?” Naya had asked Mariyana.

“People want their children to study with me,” the Mage had explained. “And I can teach them all, regardless what Magic they have. That is not the case everywhere. Some Mages only teach Craft, or Healing.”

We are lucky to be here, Naya thought. And I am even luckier. If Mariyana hadn’t found me before I ran into the Ytobiq border guards—

“Ammorana leaves will enhance your reach when you need to Communicate over long 
distances,” Mariyana said, breaking into her thoughts. “Surely you have heard of that before.”

“But Mage Mariyana,” a young girl with two long braids called out, “we don’t all have Communication Magic!”

“As a Healing Mage you will need to know all the properties of the herbs you use, Rasya.”

“Mage Mariyana?” a lanky boy asked. “Why don’t we all have Communication Magic?”

The older girl behind him giggled, earning a stern look from the Mage.

“For the same reason you do not all have Healing Magic, or Craftsmagic,” Mariyana replied gently. “Have you never heard of the Mingling, Lyann?”


Critique Workshop #21: LOVE TO THE 25th POWER

Title: LOVE TO THE 25th POWER
Genre: ?
Word Count: 65,000

Query:

Sixteen-year-old Junie J. Wilshire’s got advice for witches everywhere--when casting love spells on hot, powerful guys, it’s best to make sure they actually fall in love with you.

Junie thinks she’s the second-coming of Miley Cyrus: gangsta-wannabe, non-conforming, finger-to-the-air-girl. What she doesn't know is she’s actually Earth’s reincarnation of a great witch from another realm. A thousand years ago, the witch poisoned 25 sorcerers with a potion that captured every romantic quirk of love in its liquid: history, commitment, intimacy, soul bindings, and last but not least, duration--forever. Like blood vessels connected to one heart, the men’s immortality depends on the survival of their love, the witch.

But there’s a slight complication: men HATE being forced into commitment, especially those who were once legendary sorcerers, and when the curse lifts after a thousand years, they want revenge for the trickery and spell. Before the immortals could shake the curse, the witch is sixteen years reincarnated, and Junie Wilshire is their new (and improved!) soul-mate.

With minions, bangs, booms and wizardry, the immortals come to the hilly cornfields of the Midwest for vengeance, terrorizing her school’s nemesis, vandalizing her apartment, threatening her hippie parents and framing her for murder of America’s finest police officers. Junie’s got to figure out how to break the curse, and fast. She got to drop the mean-girl act and get real, protect her friends and frienemies or bring her immortal soulmates down with her.

Love to the 25th Power is complete at 65,000 words. It should appeal to fans of Karen Moning’s Fever/Iced series.


First 250:

After my sixteenth birthday, I learned three life lessons: 1.) Buckle your seatbelt. 2.) Karma sucks. 3.) I am NOT adopted.
Don’t get me wrong: my parents did an outstanding job raising a stubborn, aggravating, whimsical little girl from teeny to teens. I had a happy life with my family, and by ‘happy’, I mean no one was trying to kill me. Especially not my boyfriends.
“Junie J. Wilshire. Sex: Female. Height; 5’3.” Joe stopped reading my newly acquired driver’s license to give me the once over.
Joe was my best friend since middle-school. He wore glasses, sweaters, and his eyes shone like diamonds in a tunnel. He was African-American and had rich dark brown skin and a heart-shaped nose. When I was away from him, I would get all doe-eyed and sissy. If I were around him though, he’d just annoy me, like he did now. My relationship with Joe comes with rules: 1.) he is not my second father. 2.) I would never admit how cute he is. 3.) Friends don’t like each other.
 He put his hand to the top of his forehead as if saluting, and then waved it over the top of my head. “About right.” Joe was a couple of inches taller than me, emphasis on ‘couple’; he preened like he was as a tall as a professional basketball player. “Birthday today. Weight…” He paused, eyebrows lifting.
             I batted my eyes at him. At the DMV, the clerks had asked me to guesstimate my weight. I guesstimated well, if I say so myself.

Critique Workshop #22: GRAVEL GHOST

Title: GRAVEL GHOST
Genre: YA Thriller
Word Count: 65,000

Query:

GRAVEL GHOST is a YA/Thriller that is complete at 65,000 words.

When you’re a seventeen-year-old assassin about to celebrate your 100th kill, life isn’t so simple.

Along with her four sisters, Payton was adopted and groomed into a lethal assassin like her new parents. An Elite agency—part of a US shadow government—employs her family to gain power by executing their competition. Payton used to enjoy her training, even excelling at her tasks, but now she hungers for an average life. Her parents dictate everything, even her meals, and she hates having to kill people who don’t deserve to die. She strikes out at the only life she’s ever known by sneaking out to see Conner, her secret best friend and only source of sanity. If her family found out, they’d silence him the one way they know how.

In Chile, on her 100th assignment, Payton is stunned when Conner appears as she is poised to take out her latest target—Conner’s father. With help from her own father, she flees the country with the assignment unfinished, making her a liability to the agency.

But the rest of her adoptive family isn’t so forgiving. Her mother takes the mission to eliminate an interfering Conner and his father upon herself. Now Payton must choose between betraying her family, or turning her back on the only person who could help her escape them.

Thank you for your consideration,


First 250:
Chapter One

Sweat drips down my back and trickles off my forehead. It’s freezing in this tunnel, but my jacket remains tied around my waist. My hair is pulled back in a long braid, I’m sure it’s matted with grime. Mud and filth splatters my clothing. My legs are aching and my stomach keeps growling, but I can’t stop. In this small shaft that tunnels through the Rocky Mountains, I take my time working towards the beam of light ahead of me. Can five hours have passed already? I need to move faster. My breaths puff like steam in the frozen air to echo in soft whispers off the mine shaft’s walls. A musty smell fills my nose from the stirred up dust. I tread lightly to hold down the echoes of my steps.

Ahead, a small cove beckons me to sit and be hidden for just a minute. I hurry toward it like it’s my lifeline. Using the wall as a guide, I slide to the rough ground before my legs give out. I take my last bottle of water out and take a small sip, enough to wet my mouth and wash out the taste of dust. Sweet relaxation lures me to linger.

A rock shifts against the dirt maybe thirty yards behind me. I start to my feet, shoving the bottle back in my pack. Too long. Time to run. My legs and feet protest, but adrenaline pushed me forward. The beam of light gets brighter.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Getting the Call: Ava Jae

It seems like I've known Ava forever, so it was especially a happy day when I saw her news. The long road makes the joy that much greater. 



For the full post complete with more details, GIFs and some caps lock excitement, check out the original post on my blog, Writability.

So, I started writing my tenth manuscript, a NA Sci-Fi novel, on May 22, 2013 and I finished the first draft on June 14th. It was the fastest Id ever completed a first draft at the time, and I was floating. The book was totally different from anything Id written in a while—up until then Id only written YA (albeit, my characters tended to border 17/18) and a lot of paranormal. But I learned the hard way YA Paranormal is insanely hard to break into right now, so I tried something new.

After several months of editing and trading with critique partners, I sent out my first batch of shiny queries on September 6th. I’ll be honest—I’d been through the query trenches many times before (five times, to be exact, with four different manuscripts, one of which I queried twice), and this time I’d had my query polished to a ridiculous gleam, so I was hoping for different results than my previous query attempts. I knew what to expect, but you know, I hoped.

Unfortunately, the next couple weeks filled my inbox with rejections. I started thinking maybe trying something different didnt matter and the result would be the same as before.

On October 7th, I submitted to Miss Authoresss Secret Agent Contest. Unlike many other writing contests, the entries are chosen by a random lottery generator, so your odds of making it in are 100% random. Those who are chosen get an e-mail before the entries are posted to let them know theyve made it into the lottery.

Except I didnt get an e-mail. My entry wasnt chosen for the contest.

I was disappointed, but I distracted myself with NaNoWriMo plans and continued to send out queries. On October 14th, the Secret Agent was revealed—except it was a surprise of two secret agents, Emily Keyes and Louise Fury, and thus there would be twice the winners. Im not sure why I clicked to see who won—I dont usually, especially if Im still kinda disappointed, which I was. But I clicked and read the names of the winners.

And I nearly had a heart attack. Because listed under “Runners up” was “#41 Slave and Sira.”

I stared at the winner entry. It couldnt be a coincidence, could it? Had someone else named their novel Slave and Sira? That seemed really unlikely, considering “Sira” is a word in a language I made up for the novel.

I raced over to entry #41 and read, with shaking fingers, my entry. The first 250 words of my novel. The entry that I was sure hadnt made it into the contest was posted, and had comments, and the secret agents said it was a strong opening. What. What?!

I ran back to the winner post and checked again to make sure I wasnt dreaming, but it was there! Louise Fury wanted to see my query and the first three chapters of my manuscript. After receiving instructions from Miss Authoress, I sent off the mini-partial that very same day.

On Halloween I received a request from Team Fury for the first fifty pages. I danced for joy and sent the pages, announcing to myself that Id received the best Halloween treat ever, then days later on November 3rd, I received a request for the full. I ran around the house and jumped up and down and sent out the manuscript and squeed with joy. Then just a couple hours after I sent the full, Louise Fury followed me on Twitter and I may have flipped out in mid-text-conversation with a non-writer non-Twitter friend, but I regret nothing.

On December 6th, just twenty minutes before Id been planning to go to bed, I got the e-mail Id been dreaming of for years: Louise Fury had read my manuscript more than once, spoken with her team members, and they wanted to talk to me. Was I available this weekend?

HELL YES I WAS AVAILABLE.

I was immediately overloaded with excitement and anxiety. We scheduled the call for the next day and I barely slept that night. I collected my list of questions and reviewed my research and when the call came, my hands were cold and shaking.

The call itself is a blur. Team Fury shared my vision for the book, and I agreed with the edit suggestions, and Louise was totally supportive of my wanting to write in multiple categories and genres, and when I hung up the phone, I was having a major David After Dentist episode.

I had seven queries out at the time, so I sent out three notices and five withdrawals, including the withdrawal from Pitch Wars. Out of the three notices, I received two requests for the full and one non-response. Both agents who requested graciously bowed out, and I was actually relieved, because it saved me from the agony of having to choose.

Which is great, because my choice? Shes pretty darn awesome. And I am so incredibly honored to say Im now represented by Louise Fury of The Bent Agency! And I could not be happier to be joining Team Fury. :D

Query Stats (for this manuscript):
Total Queries Sent: 25
Rejections: 21
Partial Requests: 1
Full Requests: 4
Offers of Rep: 1

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Ava Jae is a writer, artist and movie lover. She writes YA and NA novels because she loves writing about self-discovery and the complicated worlds of young people. Then she likes to take their emotionally-ridden lives and make them even more difficult. She also has an addiction to movies, but that’s another matter entirely.


You can find her weekly musings on her blog Writability, follow her on Twitter and tumblr, or like her Facebook page.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Top Five Fantasy Books You've Never Read by Eleri Stone

Thanks to Eleri Stone for alerting us to some overlooked fantasy books. Her book REAPER'S TOUCH was released February 10, 2014. 



Abby is a Ranger, part of an elite group who defend the border against Reapers-humans infected with a parasite that turns them into mindless cannibals. Rangers are immune to Reaper infection, and as one of the only female Rangers, Abby is expected to settle down and breed more Rangers-a fate she's keen to avoid. When she's ambushed on the plains, she's ready to go out with guns blazing-until a mysterious, handsome cowboy rides to her rescue.

Jake has his own motives for helping Abby, beyond aiding a damsel in distress. He's a Reaper, and while he's learned to wrest control of his mind from the parasite, the effects won't last without a permanent cure. And he needs Abby to get it.

Abby and Jake are natural enemies and unlikely partners. But when their search reveals a conspiracy between Reapers and the rich industrialists who own the mountain cities, they must work together to find the cure-or lose the border, and each other, forever.


There are all sorts of reasons that great fantasy books might be overlooked. Whether they’re early works by well known authors, genre mashups that were mis-marketed, or self-published gems that haven’t found traction yet, some books just don’t find their way into the hands of the people who are out there looking for them. So, for the fantasy fan who wants something a little off the beaten path, here’s a list of the top five fantasy books you’ve never read (but really should).


Sunshine by Robin McKinley

Robin McKinley is very well known for her fairy-tale retellings and young adult books so Sunshine, her vampire urban fantasy, often gets missed by adult fantasy fans. It doesn’t really help that it’s a vampire story that was published during a time when a bazillion other vampire stories were coming out. Sunshine isn’t really a vampire romance though, nor is it a young adult novel. It leans more toward the horror side of fantasy and takes place in a contemporary urban setting some time after a magic apocalypse called the Voodoo Wars brought the Others (vampires, werewolves...) out of hiding.

What is it about?

Rae Seddon, Sunshine, is a talented baker(the Cinnamon Roll Queen!) who finds herself chained in an abandoned house to an old vampire named Constantine. Their captors want Constantine to break his long human fast and join their cause. Rae and Constantine manage to escape and then form a strange partnership to fight against their common enemy.

Why should you read it?

Good writing, evil vampires, an engaging heroine, and an interesting world that feels very complex even though you only get to see the surface of it in this standalone book. Unfortunately, no sequel.


Master of Crows by Grace Draven

This book was originally published by a small press and then later self-published by the author.

What is it about?

Silhara is a rogue mage who has been chosen as the intended vessel for the next reincarnation of the dark god, Corruption. Silhara is understandably anxious to find a way to escape that fate and he requests help from the Conclave of mage-priests (who dislike Silhara immensely). They send him Martise, a bondswoman with training in archaic languages. She arrives at Silhara’s gothically crumbling estate to help him search through a bunch of ancient texts for a way to kill the god…and also to provide the Conclave with proof of Silhara’s treachery in exchange for her freedom.

Why should you read it?

This is a rare find—a good historical fantasy combined with a strong character-driven romance. In most fantasy romance, either the romance or the fantasy takes over the story but this one has a really nice balance.


Dreadful Skin by Cherie Priest

Cherie Priest is such a brilliant writer. This book is an earlier work, a little unusual, and often gets missed.

What is it about?

Dreadful Skin is a horror fantasy about a hard-as-nails nun who chases a werewolf through the old west. It's told from multiple perspectives in the first person which sounds annoying but really suits the story.

Why should you read it?

Actually scary werewolves, complicated and flawed characters, excellent writing.
This quote is from the back of the book and it’s better than any pitch I could possibly come up with:

“I ducked into a niche between a cabin and the pilot house and hiked my skirt up enough to reach down into my garter holster. I’ve heard it said that God made all men, but Samuel Colt made all men equal. We’d see what Mr. Colt could do for a woman.”


Fever series by Karen Marie Moning

The Fever series is widely read in romance circles but virtually ignored by the fantasy crowd. That is truly a shame because it’s very solidly urban fantasy, not romance.

What is it about?

The first book begins with an innocent young woman (think Alicia Silverstone in Clueless) whose sister is murdered in Dublin under mysterious circumstances. Mac, the heroine, travels to Ireland to find out what happened to her sister and stumbles into a nightmare. Dark Fae are preparing to invade the human world and Mac's ability to find a powerful book is the only thing that might be able to prevent the apocalypse.

Why should you read it?

Gutsy storytelling—there are no pulled punches in this series and every time you think the story cannot possibly go in a darker direction, it does. Combine that with morally ambiguous characters, loads of sexual tension, and a huge—but believable—character arc for the heroine. If you hate the heroine in the very beginning—and you probably will—just hang in there for a bit.


Carousel Tides by Sharon Lee

Sharon Lee is especially well known for the Liaden Universe science fiction books that she co-writes with her husband, Steve Miller. In a departure from that, Carousel Tides is a wonderful gem of a contemporary fantasy.

What is it about?

Kate Archer returns to her childhood home, an amusement park in coastal Maine. Her grandmother has disappeared, leaving Kate an inheritance that involves more responsibility—magical and mundane—than it does wealth. Kate has to keep the carousel running and discover what happened to her grandmother while making peace with her past.

Why should you read it?


There’s nothing really flashy about this one. It’s a quiet kind of fantasy that sort of sneaks up on you. What’s remarkable about Carousel Tides is how seamlessly the real and magical elements of the world are integrated and how well-drawn the secondary characters are. It makes for a rich, deep world that you’ll want to revisit. Fortunately, you’ll be able to do that because they decided to make it into a series. 

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Eleri Stone was born and raised in New Jersey. She graduated from the University of Iowa, married her college sweetheart, and settled in the Midwest where she still lives with her husband and their three children. A lifelong fan of fantasy, she started reading romance as an adult and was instantly captivated by the strong female protagonists, character-driven storylines and guarantee of a happy-ever-after. Writing fantasy and paranormal romance, she is the author of REAPER’S TOUCH, a cowboy and zombie romance mashup as well as paranormal and fantasy romance series THE LOST CITY SHIFTERS and TWILIGHT OF THE GODS.

Online here: http://eleristone.com
Twitter: @EleriStone