Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Getting the Submission Call with Piper Huguley

Timing is everything. I'm happy to have time between Query Kombat rounds for this wonderful post from Piper Huguley on how she got her publishing contract. And it's just in time for the release of her upcoming book A VIRTUOUS RUBY. What a stunning cover! I have to do a preorder right now! 

I never thought that when I got the call, I would have to chose between two offers.  I always assumed that I would have no choice—I would just have to go with whomever offered a contract to me. I mean, I write in a genre that really doesn’t exist—inspirational African American historical romance.

It didn’t happen that way.

Social media is responsible for my getting contracts.  I didn’t think it would happen that way either.

If it weren’t for Twitter and Facebook, no contract.

And both offers came about as the result of a call for submissions.  A small e-pub made a call for submissions and I submitted to them. 

Latoya Smith, who was at Grand Central, made a call on Facebook for African American submissions.  She asked for a number of genres, but not historical.  I inboxed her (good thing she didn’t think I was a stalker person) and asked her if a historical would be okay to submit.  She said yes. 

In early February 2014, I submitted A Virtuous Ruby to both places.  And waited.

While I waited, I readied myself to self-publish.  The Golden Heart nominations were announced and then the quarter finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest.  I did have a lot of time to spend thinking about where the submissions were.

Early in June though, Latoya sent me the most positive rejection from Grand Central saying that the board thought the numbers would be too small to acquire it, but if I had something contemporary she would like to see it.

Well, I had nothing contemporary.  Didn’t hurt my feelings though.  I’ve heard the whole “small audience” argument before about my stories. 

About a month later, I heard from the small press that they were going to take Ruby to the publication board. It would take about five weeks for them to let me know.

Interesting.  I wondered why it would take that amount of time, but okay.  Shortly after, I received an inbox message from Latoya saying that she was leaving Grand Central for another publisher and she wanted me to submit once she settled into her new job.  She didn’t say where she was headed but the announcement would be at the upcoming RWA conference.

While I was at RWA, I was in a room listening to a historical presentation when a cheer came up in the next room where Samhain was conducting a spotlight.   I found out later that the cheers were for the announcement that Latoya Smith was joining Samhain as an Executive Editor.

Knowing that Latoya was coming to Atlanta for a conference, I inboxed her to ask her if she wanted to meet.  I guess I wanted to reassure her that I wasn’t crazy, but looking back on it, maybe my actions were saying something else…..:)  She responded kind offer to take me to breakfast. Over breakfast on August 5 (of course I remember the date), we had a lovely conversation.  She would settle into her job soon and I would be able to submit A Virtuous Ruby shortly thereafter.

About three weeks later, I heard from the small publisher.  They wanted to acquire the entire “Migrations of the Heart” series.  I hadn’t heard from Latoya and so I contacted her and asked if this was the time to submit.  She said it was and so I did.

About two weeks later, Samhain offered three contractions for the first three stories in the “Migrations of the Heart” series.

I never thought I would have to decide between two contract offers.  But I did.  When I reviewed the contracts, I knew that Samhain was the best place for my stories.

That is my call story. And it may not be the story that you thought I would tell when the time came.  But there is this thing about God’s timing. And I believe in it.

You see, I first met Latoya at a Moonlight and Magnolias conference in 2012.  She offered to talk to a group of writers in a room during a down moment in the conference.  I backed out.  I did not go.  

Why didn’t I go? Because I wasn’t ready.

Now I am. I’m looking forward to the journey and in seeing the stories of Ruby and her sister emerge in July, September and November of 2015.  One more thing about God’s timing-- 2015 was my target date all along—it is the one hundred year anniversary of the start of the Great Migration--the historical event that is the backdrop of the “Migrations of the Heart” series. 


Piper Huguley, named 2015 Debut Author of the Year by Romance Slam Jam and Breakout Author of the Year by AAMBC, is a two-time Golden Heart ®finalist and is the author of the “Home to Milford College” series. The series follows the building of a college from its founding in 1866. On release, the prequel novella to the “Home to Milford College” series, The Lawyer’s Luck, reached #1 Amazon Bestseller status on the African American Christian Fiction charts. Book #1 in the series, The Preacher’s Promise was named a top ten Historical Romance in Publisher’s Weekly by the esteemed historical romance author, Beverly Jenkins.

Huguley is also the author of “Migrations of the Heart,” a five-book series of inspirational historical romances 
set in the early 20th century featuring African American characters. Book one in the series, A Virtuous Ruby won the Golden Rose contest in Historical Romance in 2013 and was a Golden Heart® finalist in 2014. Book four, A Champion’s Heart, was a Golden Heart® finalist in 2013. A Virtuous Ruby will be published in July 2015 by Samhain Publishing.

She blogs about the history behind her novels at http://piperhuguley.com. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and son.

A Virtuous Ruby links 

Monday, June 29, 2015

New Agent Contest Announcement

Last summer, I did a New Agent Contest in July. I decided to send out a few agent invites this morning and maybe start to think about doing another one this year.

I'm rather overwhelmed to announce that there are already 8 agents signed up to take part! So I think it's safe to say that New Agent will take place. In fact, it's moving beyond a mini-contest!

New Agent is just as it sounds: a contest for newer agents. A chance to roll out the red carpet and welcome another batch of new agents to the writer community. So a big welcome and thanks to them for finding time.

As I just started planning this morning, I don't have much set yet. The agent round will be July 27th-29th. The contest will feature query letters and first 250 words. There will be four or five experts as slush readers to form teams. As of now, I have a romance, WF, contemporary expert. A MG expert. A mystery and thriller expert. And a fantasy and science fiction expert. One more will be invited and all will be named in an upcoming post. 

There will be 30 entries chosen by the teams to go to the agent round. Some of those will be group picks (entries that more than one team wanted.) Each entry will get a very short window to "tweak" their entry. No big revisions or huge changes. Just touchups with advice from their team leader. 

The submission date will be July 15th.  

You may look at my blog posts from last July for more info on what may happen. Or ask questions in the comments. Finished and polished manuscripts only. One entry per person. We ask that those already in an agent round not participate. (If you were picked for QK but didn't make the agent round, send your entry!)

Because this contest is so last notice, I'll need your help to spread the word to your writer friends. Use the hashtag #NewAgent. There will be a twitter party during submission.

I've decided not to charge for the contest. It's just not the way I want to go, and something has come up which leaves me too busy to look into it. So New Agent will be a free contest. 

So that's it. I'll try and update with a firm submission date. And look for more news after Query Kombat. 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Query Kombat 2015 Round 5

THE FINAL FOUR have been crowned. Three from Michelle's team, one from Mike's. These are the top FOUR out of over 250 entries--an amazing accomplishment by these authors. 

Team Platypus for the win. Go Podunk!!!
All the action is over on Mike's blog for the next two days! 

Good Luck Kombatants!

(And by that I mean Team Platypus:o)

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Query Kombat Round 4 Winners and a Game

Congrats to the winners of Round 4 who have become our Final Four! The next round takes place on Sunday and goes for two days before the final round starts on July 1st. A big cheer for the last four standing from sixty-four entries! Among them is our Grand Champion and YA Champion!

Librarians, Curses and Mysteries
Life Sucks, I'm Stuck in Podunk
Best(iary) Western
Elephants Never Forget 

And coming after Query Kombat is another chance to win prizes! One that anyone may enter. We'll play guess the judges!

Each participating judge will proved a few clues to their nickname. The person who correctly guesses the right nickname will win the prize offered by that judge! Prizes range from a query critique to a 1st chapter critique or whatever the judge prefers.

If more than one person guesses correctly a random draw will be done to determine one winner. (Unless the judge offers to giveaway more than one prize.)

This game will begin on/or around July 6th. Stay tuned for more Query Kombat fun!


Friday, June 26, 2015

Getting the Call with Kaye Callard

I haven't done one of these stories in a while, and it's great to get back to them! Especially when it's someone I know in the writersphere. You just never know how long it's going to take. Here's your Friday dose of inspiration. 

When I started querying my first novel, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. It was bad. Really bad. But I didn’t know it. Even worse, I had no idea what a query letter was, so my first queries pretty much said “here’s my book, I hope you like it.”

Yeah. I told you it was bad.

But I learned. I went on Google and looked up query letters. I cut 15,000 words from the ms (not nearly enough, but I didn’t know that). I wrote a completely new first chapter that didn’t start with the MC waking up.

It still got rejected.

I kept querying, and reading, and learning. Eventually I realized my story was beyond repair. It was time to trunk it.

It had taken me over two years to write that first ms, and I’d spent another year querying and learning. I had the spark of a new idea floating around my head, but the thought of spending another two years squeezing out the story scared me.

That’s when I heard of National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo – seriously, you’d think a bunch of writers would come up with an easier to pronounce acronym). I knew there was no way I could manage to write 50,000 words in a month, but I figured even if I only scratched out 10,000 words, I’d be 10,000 words farther along than I was at the start of the month.

So in November 2012 I let housework slide, and squeezed writing into every available minute. And at the end of the month, I had a 50,000-word MG Fantasy.

Even better, I found a critique group through the forum.

I started revising with the help of my crit group, and in May 2013 I took the shiny first chapter of my half-revised novel to a conference. I came home with requests for fulls from an agent and an editor, plus the event organizer sent it to her agent.

I was overwhelmed, excited, and a bit frantic. The editor asked me to finish revising and submit ASAP, so I did. And then I waited. And waited.

No response ever came. I politely nudged, but still…nada.

So I revised some more, and queried more. Any time an agent was nice enough to give feedback, I took it, tore apart the ms and worked to make it better.

I was getting a fair number of requests, and lots of personalized, encouraging rejections. I was determined not to give up. But by May 2014, I was running out of agents to submit to (I also write Picture Books, and was looking for an agent to rep those too, thus limiting my numbers). I sent out to what I’d decided would be my last batch of agents.

A month later I got a request for 50 pages. I also got a concussion (you can read that boring, embarrassing story here), which meant I couldn’t use the computer. I sent out the partial with my husband’s help, and then went back to hide in my dark, quiet room for the next eight months.

In February 2015, I was finally feeling well enough to go on the computer again, and the first thing I did was send a nudge to the agent with my partial. She replied that she’d missed my original email, but remembered the story and would read it right away.

Two days later, she requested the full.

Three agonizing weeks after that, she asked for an R&R, with a one month exclusive on the re-submission. Her notes were amazing – every one resonated with me. She even got on the phone and talked though all her revision notes with me. By the end of the phone call I was psyched to jump into the revision.

I spent the next two months revising, and finally sent her the shiny new version.

After a week of gnawing my way through more chocolate than I’d have thought possible, she emailed back to say the ms still needed some work, but she wanted to sign me. Squee!

A phone call the next evening confirmed it, and on May 6, 2015 – 363 days from querying her, 2 years from my first query for that story – I signed with the awesome Brianne Johnson of Writer’s House. *Insert Muppet arm flail here*

The stats for those who like ‘em:

Queries: 33
Requests: 11 (4 Partial, 7 Full – not counting the editor)
Offers: 1


K Callard lives in Ottawa, Canada with her husband, three kids, and a life-sized stuffed polar bear. Somewhere in that chaos she manages to write Middle Grade and Picture Books. When not writing or taking care of her family, she decorates cakes, reads, and tries not to embarrass herself (or others) with her geekiness. She blogs about her writing journey at kcallard.wordpress.com and tweets about just about anything at @k_callard. She is represented by Brianne Johnson of Writer’s House.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Query Kombat '15 Round 4

Round 4 is taking place over on SC's blog. Hurry over there and see how the Elite 8 are doing. They'll be up for the next two days! 

Subrights Explained by Jess Dallow

I think a lot of behind the scenes stuff in publishing is only half known and seldom thought about. I asked Jess Dallow of New Leaf to give us an overview of subrights and how they work. Thanks, Jess! Jess will answer questions in the comments if anyone wants to know more. 

When I first got into publishing, I'll admit that so much of it was a mystery. Of course I knew that I loved reading people's work, that I wanted to work with writers and help them create the best possible piece of writing they could, but I never knew the intricacies that went into the job, the behind the scenes stuff that is mentioned, yet not really talked about. When I was hired at New Leaf Literary & Media after a three month internship, it was in the subrights department. Over the past year and a half I've learned so many interesting things and gained knowledge on the subject that I wanted to share!

There are many forms of subrights (short for subsidiary rights) out there. Audio, first and second serial rights, merchandising, film and television, and what I specialize in at New Leaf: foreign. 

The way foreign rights work is whenever we, as an agency, keep translation rights on a book, we send out an email to our agents overseas and our scouts (people who work in finding material for publishers abroad) filled with all the relevant information about the title, in the hopes that they will want to acquire it in their respective territories. There are, of course, certain kinds of books that don't work in other territories (anything too Americanized, things that have a huge historical element, etc.), but we work hard to gain interest, regardless. 

Garnering interest and pitching our books is also why we attend international book fairs. This year I did Bologna Book Fair, BEA, and will be heading to Frankfurt in October for another fair! It's days upon days of meetings, but it's incredible to meet with publishers and discuss our books in person. There's more passion when pitching it in person, and when publishers can see how excited we are about a title, it can help us sell them a book they might not have previously thought to be interested in. Plus, it's always so interesting to hear about other markets, what works in specific places and what doesn't, and more importantly, why. 

The other important subright that New Leaf deals with primarily is film and TV. While I no longer work with that department, the correlation between film and foreign is important. Once movie rights are sold, and announced, that tends to make books sell, too, and a successful book can potentially make an incredibly successful film. Other territories love knowing there's a film coming because they then know there's a good chance it'll do well for them and it makes it easier for them to buy it. 

While having these rights are incredible, there are times when we don't always get translation rights. Sometimes the publisher gets world (all territories) rights; sometimes they get World English (UK, ANZ, Canada). This is all negotiated when making the original book deal with a publisher. So when New Leaf doesn’t control certain rights, the publisher will make the deals and send the details to us to review, just because we work with the writer and having those open lines of communication is great. 

It's been such a wonderful experience and I'm still learning new things daily! 


Before moving back to her home state of New York, Jess Dallow spent eight years working at a talent agency in Hollywood. Deciding books and cold New York winters were more her speed, she became an intern at New Leaf before being hired as a subrights assistant. In her spare time, Jess can be found at either Sprinkles or Chipotle, stuffing her face with cupcakes or guacamole (thankfully, not together).

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Query Kombat Round 4 Matchups

Here we are-- THE ELITE EIGHT! The PB, MG, NA and Adult Champions have all been determined. We're heading for the final countdown. The BEST OF THE BEST!

All entries that were knocked out should have all their requests unlocked. If you've been knocked out and your requests aren't unlocked, please contact the blog host. Those requests will send 50 pages!

Below you will find Round 4 match-ups. I'm feeling very sorry for the judges. They are going to be pulling their hair out. 

Round four will be hosted at SC's blog. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please leave a comment or tweet me @Michelle4Laughs.

The Round starts on Thursday and only lasts two days. There will be 10 judges assigned this round and next but all judges are welcome to vote. Then we will jump quickly to round 5 on Sunday and the Finals on Wednesday.

Round 4 Match-ups

Eavesdropping Monkey vs Librarians, Curses, and Mysteries
Give a Girl a Redo vs Life Sucks, I'm Stuck in Podunk
Best(iary) Western vs A Girl and Her Serial Killer
Queen of Drones vs Elephants Never Forget

Good Luck Kombatants!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Query Kombat 2015 Round 3!

Round 3. Fight!

Welcome to round 3! This round lasts from June 21st to June 23rd at 8 pm.

On Tuesday, Michelle will call out for extra judges to come and break ties, or in case of extra close votes to try and get a more decisive margin. 

The entry with the most votes for Victory moves forward to the fourth round on June 25st! Kombatants will not have a chance to revise after this round.

As always, please read this post to remind yourselves of the rules and guidelines of commenting and judging if you have forgotten. Below I've reposted the main ideas:

Reminders for the Entrants:

No commenting on your own entries!!!!!! Not until the last day of the round, so Wednesday. If there is a problem with your entry, shout out to us on twitter as soon as you can. (@RavenousRushing) If you don't have a Twitter, you may comment on your entry telling me the mistake.

Also, we tried our hardest to make the match-ups as fair as possible and against as similar stories as possible. But, obviously, this is impossible to do perfectly and some match-ups may seen very random. We apologize for this but it's an evil of the system.

Kombatants should comment on 3 other match-ups to help share the love around!

Reminders for the Judges:

Wait until after one of us hosts comments on each entry first and reply to that comment to cast your votes. Try making your votes objective instead of subjective (but if you really love an entry subjectively, don't even feel bad about saying it was a subjective vote - subjectivity rules!).

Make sure to post under your nicknames!

Reminders for Everyone:

Try not to comment until after one of us hosts have made the first comment!


Entry Nickname: Middle Grade Leverage
Title: Team L.O.S.E.R.
Word count: 45,000
Genre: Upper Middle Grade Contemporary


When the world fails you, Team L.O.S.E.R. has your back.

Eighth grade class president, Corbin Webster hasn’t met a challenge that hard work and determination couldn’t beat. When he’s forced to accept the position as mentor to a team of outcast sixth grade delinquents, reality smacks him upside the head. He thought teaching his team right from wrong would be easy until he discovers they’re a car thief, a pick-pocket, a hacker, and a girl who cosplays a different character each day and who refuses to answer to her real name.

To foster kindness and team spirit, Corbin has them find a student who needs their help. When they choose a boy whose lunch is stolen daily, Corbin stages an intervention to stop the thief. They soon learn the lunch bully has his own bully at home, and that his father controls his family by starving them. In order to get proof of the real abuser’s criminal activities, and to put him away for good, Corbin must use the illegal skills that landed his group on Team Loser in the first place.

Sometimes the bad guys are the only good guys you get. 

First 250 Words:

The early morning light hit the small, old houses in my neighborhood until they glowed like pastel jewels. Gramp’s scrambled eggs were a perfect bright yellow so I scooped them from the pan, and onto his plate. “Come and eat before I throw it away,” I yelled.

“Corbin Webster, do I look like a track star to you?” His cane made crabby thunks on the worn linoleum but he had to duck his head to hide a smile. He might fool the salesmen at the front door, but I knew better. Gramps put the great in great-grandpa. If it wasn’t for him, I’d be in some random person’s foster home.

“I don’t need any eggs,” he said. “Coffee is fine.”

“You’ll eat them and like it.” I tried to sound stern instead of worried. “Besides, there’s plenty.” If I didn’t watch him, he’d starve himself to make sure I didn’t go hungry. “Mrs. Sanchez brought over a dozen this morning when she dropped off the suit. She said her chickens lay too many for her to eat.”

“That’s different.” He picked up his fork and shoveled some into his mouth. “It would be a crying shame for food to go to waste.” I finished my coffee and carried my plate to the sink. Two birds perched in the mimosa tree outside the kitchen window and sang like they were in the opening credits of a Disney movie.

 Gramps whistled low. “Dang boy, you look sharp. Turn around.”


Entry Nickname: Eavesdropping Monkey
Word count: 650
Genre: Children’s Picture Book - Funny

When the monkeys overhear the elephants planning a family reunion they decide to throw a bash for their long lost relations, too. But they’re not the only ones. Family reunions are too good to miss out on and party planning spreads through the jungle like a Savanna grass fire.
Soon the watering hold is filled to capacity with animals of different species. Tempers flare as each fight to reunite with their own kind. Talk about a bungle in the jungle. Finally, a wise frog speaks up with a better idea that blows the family reunion right out of the watering hole.
FAMILY REUNION is an amusing tale of diversity and acceptance. At 650 words, this fun-filled, rollicking rhyme will appeal to children of the 4-8 age range.

First 250 words: On a hot, steamy day in the Jungle of Ghee,
                             A sly, nosey monkey swung from a tree.
                             He was eavesdropping on a large elephant herd,
                             And he hung there and listened to every last word.

                            “We’ll invite all our cousins from near and afar,”
                            Said the matriarch queen named Ali Dalmar.


Entry Nickname: Paper Girl in The Land of Yesterday
Word count: 63K
Genre: MG Fantasy


Not long ago, eleven-year-old Cecelia Dahl had a little brother who was alive, a mother and father who didn't blame her for his death, and a pleasant house in Hungrig, Norway. She had a soul that lived inside her body, not a miserable blue one that ran out through a door in her chest. Before Tuesdays turned evil, Cecelia was made of skin and bones and happiness, not the crackling paper and sorrow now ripping her life to shreds.

Cecelia’s mother has left for The Land of Yesterday to find her ghost brother. Her house, a dark and crooked thing called Widdendream, absorbs her father into its walls as punishment for making her mother leave. Just before it eats her as well, two mischievous gnomes whisk her away in their hot-air balloon. The gnomes, soul-catchers by trade, claim they know the way to Yesterday, and also how to capture her runaway soul. They say its absence is why she’s turning into a paper girl, but that finding it won’t be easy. Now Cecelia must survive the harrowing voyage in order to find Yesterday and bring her mother and ghost-brother home. If she doesn’t, Widdendream will never give her father back, and Cecelia’s transformation to a full paper Dahl will be irreversibly complete.

First 250 words:

On Monday of last week, Cecelia Dahl understood the world. She resided in Hungrig, Norway, in a crooked house called Widdendream. Daisies that bloomed in both grass and snow circled the shimmering lake outside her window. Sharp mountains loomed over her town. Dogs barked. Cats meowed. Cecelia’s midnight blue hair grew long and fast and cantankerous. Her skin was dark and bronze and oddly freckled, just like her mother’s. Widdendream loved its residents, as all good houses should, and Cecelia’s family loved her unconditionally. Indeed, on Monday of last week, these were all hardboiled facts.

Then on Tuesday of last week, Cecelia did the bad thing, and the world narrowed down to this: Tuesday hated Cecelia and Cecelia hated it back. 

Now that Tuesday had arrived once more, Cecelia couldn’t help but look over both shoulders as she sank into her desk. It felt like something terrible had its eyes focused on her.

“Cecilia?” Miss Podsnappery pushed up her horn-rimmed glasses. “Whatever do you call that instrument in your hand?” 

Every eye in class turned on Cecelia. Expressionless gazes traced her charcoal sweater and the black-and-gray-striped dress beneath it, judging her frayed tights and scuffed boots too, no doubt. Her teacher, bewildered as always, cast looming shadows. Cecelia forced a smile. She must keep her answer as succinct as possible, forgoing any miscommunications. Teachers were simple creatures, after all, and easily confused.

“Miss Podsnappery,” Cecilia answered, speaking extra slowly so as not to burst into tears, which were all too common these days.


Entry Nickname: Librarians, Curses, and Mysteries – Oh My!
Title: The Curious Curse of the Lonely Library
Word Count: 56k
Genre: Upper Middle Grade Low Fantasy


The Pickettsville library has moldered in silence for two hundred years, but Theodore Plumford can sense that it’s special. Not just any library was founded by a madman.  

Left with relatives one summer, twelve-year-old Theodore coaxes his reluctant siblings to explore the unusually grand town library with him. Though the rest of Pickettsville refuses to darken its doors, the majestic building and its lively librarians soon enthrall the children. But when they discover that characters from the books are haunting the halls, an investigation into the founder’s mysterious life reveals a curse causing the library’s present predicament.

As the Plumfords and librarians unravel the past, the library’s future seems brighter. But Theodore’s impetuous brother Hugo would rather have an adventure than help the others, even if it throws the library into chaos. With the town clamoring to demolish the building and the characters fighting for their freedom, Theodore’s mettle will be tested when their lives and the library are endangered because of Hugo’s foolish choices. The bookworm who has always lived through others’ stories must learn how to be his own hero if he’s going to save the day.

First 250:

Theodore’s neck prickled when they drove past the building on their way into town. The rest of Main Street was a collection of shabby stores, but this place stood apart like a wild beast among tabby cats. 

Six white columns guarded a wide double door, and cold, silent windows rose between the pillars. On top of the building, rosy light streamed through the panes of a glass dome. It looked like a ball of fire upon a mammoth block of ice.

“Mom, what’s that?” 

Mrs. Plumford twisted in her seat to follow Theodore’s pointing finger. She squinted into the sun. “I’m not sure. You’ll have to ask your aunt.”

Theodore’s younger sister Lucy squirmed around to look at the building before it disappeared from view. “It looks scary,” she whispered.

“It looks boring,” said Hugo Plumford, elbowing Lucy in the center seat to make more room for himself. “Are we there yet?”

“Almost,” said Mr. Plumford. He turned the car into a neighborhood of prim houses in tidy rows, each so alike they might have been pressed from the same mold.

Hugo squashed his nose against the glass and groaned. “Can’t I go with you? I don’t wanna stay here.”

“No,” said Mr. Plumford. “I’d prefer you weren’t eaten by a crocodile.”

“But I wouldn’t!”

“Hugo, you’d be trying to measure its teeth the minute I turned my back.”

Theodore stifled a sigh and hunkered over his book, determined to ignore the hundredth round of this debate.


Entry Nickname: Best(iary) Western
Title: Fugitive Motel
Word count: 90K
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal Fantasy


By day, fifteen-year-old Iris Vox sleepwalks through high school. By night, she plays a grown-up behind the reception desk of her father’s Kansas hotel, checking supernatural Others in and out. Quick with a dart gun or a convenient lie, Iris provides her guests with live food, fresh blood, or a quiet place to spin a web.

It’s the only life Iris has ever known, but it was safer when her dad didn’t spend so much time as a human smoothie. Born with a hereditary curse, he liquefies then pupates back to his normal shape. Dad’s metamorphosis used to happen on a schedule. Now it comes without warning, leaving Iris to hold everything together.

Just as sleep is a luxury to Iris, so is the truth. Her father won’t admit that something’s changed in his curse, or where her mother went. Enraged by her father’s silence, Iris turns to her guests for human contact. Consoling a vampire’s fading blood moll, soothing the self-hate of werewolves, and helping a handsome insect learn to fly, Iris finds her role as listener and solace. While Iris navigates her anger, the curses that fuel the Other world get stronger and stranger. Deeply buried magic is rising to the surface, bringing with it ancient beings who lack the “humanity” that makes Others worth protecting.

Faced with how these new beings will corrupt and endanger the world of Others, Iris finally learns her father’s secret, and its cost to her family. Now she has to decide whether she wants to become the next Innkeeper, or leave the Other world behind.

The 250:

5:45 a.m.

A man staggers in through our automatic doors. Glad for some action, I slide last month’s National Geographic under the counter to focus on my customer. Nothing special about him; anyone else would see a regional salesman coming in after driving all night. An older man with skin like a re-used paper bag.

But the stagger…it’s not quite right. Drunks weave. This guy lurches forward like he’s got an absolute goal. Our desk. Me.

Yep. Pale, sullen, haggard with a side of desperate determination? Definitely looks like one of ours, but I have to be sure.

“Can I help you, Sir?”

“Have you got a room, Miss?”

The man grips the rim of the counter to steady himself. His well-groomed fingernails point toward me. With a great effort he lifts his left hand and slaps it on the counter twice. That’s good. It’s half the sign. Still, he’s not finished performing.

“What are you looking for exactly, Sir?” I prompt.

There’s a long anxious pause as he tries to remember. He grips so hard that his nail beds turn whitish gray. My right hand creeps under the counter so that my index finger can rest on the pebbled steel of the trigger. I feel it and my heart rate drops.

“Rest and feed,” the man answers finally, fishing the words from some hard-to-access place in his brain, laying them out heavily on the counter.


The words before the knocks would have better though. Doing it backwards means he’s starving.


Entry Nickname: Guinness
Title: Blacktop Oracle
Word count: 65,000
Genre:  YA Supernatural Fantasy


Seventeen-year-old Cooper “Coop” Lambert excels at mischief. After he takes a joy ride in the school’s athletic van, he’s given a chance to expunge his record: community service through Seniors Serving Seniors. He’s assigned to Mac, a 92-year-old crotchety piece of work, but he has a way with cars. They’ve nearly finished restoring Mac’s badass 1969 GTO when Coop arrives at the garage to find Mac dead. Days after burying his elderly friend things only grow more treacherous when Coop discovers Mac left the GTO to him.

Mac failed to mention that Sybil goes all funhouse mirror while doing 80 on the interstate. The windows wash out and instead of the landscape he sees visions of people in trouble. If that isn’t enough to get him committed, the prophecies start coming true, and the cops eyeball Coop for knowing more than he should. He doesn’t haveto tell anyone, he can keep it to himself. But when he witnesses a murder, he has a choice to make. If he keeps his mouth shut, someone he knows dies. If he talks, it’s a one-way ticket up crap creek, where his parents have a rubber room on reserve.

First 250:

Dust swirled around Coop’s head, clinging to his hair, skin, and eyelashes. Grit lined his nose and tickled his throat, but Mac kept reminding him that restoration was art, a way of bonding with the GTO. Coop cut off the sander and ran his gloved hand across the fender.

Mac grunted, sitting with his cast up on a case of WD-40 while tapping his glass with one nail.

Coop pulled the dust mask down and inhaled deep. What’d I do this time? Not bow on one knee before touching her? “What?”

“Don’t get many dates, do you?”

The old man was famous for causing whiplash with topic changes, but Coop had learned to go with it.  “Huh?”

 Mac shifted in his fifties La-Z-boy, easing the pressure on his leg. His garage was a haven for old shit, stuffed everywhere, even in the rafters. “A car’s like a woman.”

Coop mopped sweat off his forehead with one arm. What the hell did that have to do with anything? Mac’s wrinkled gaze homed in, and he realized the old guy wanted a response. “Yeah, how so?”

“A woman must be handled gently.” Mac ran his calloused hand lightly, almost lovingly, across the fender. “Stroked in a way that soothes rather than offends. A car is the same way.” Mac was full of…little bits of wisdom.

Coop eyed the fender, struggling to follow the old fart's logic.

“Take that blasted glove off.” Mac’s gravelly voice landed on Coop’s last nerve, but he ripped it off.


Entry Nickname: Elephants Never Forget
Word Count: 72K
Genre: YA Contemporary Fantasy


Only two are yet remaining,
Precious magic ever waning . . .

That’s just part of the mysterious message 16-yr-old Chessie receives when she’s forced to visit her great-grandmother for the summer. Bad enough Gram lives in middle-of-nowhere, Kenya. But when Chessie’s contacted by the spirit of Jhelani, an eons-dead elephant, things take a total left turn toward weird. Communicating with cryptic songs and strange symbols, Jhelani’s message slowly emerges: if someone cannot save the last of her once-immortal tribe, the Earth may pay an unknown price. Freaked out and overwhelmed, Chessie shuts down, breaks communication, and refuses to help.

Meanwhile, Kenyan teen Daniel can’t feed his family when his crops fail. Desperate for work, he’s coerced into a gang of poachers with their sights set on a huge payday: the remaining elephants of Jhelani’s tribe. Just this one job, he swears. Then he’ll find honest work. Hold his head up again.

Chessie finally comes to a decision. She wants to be the kind of person who, as Gram would say, “grabs life by the tusks.” But by the time she finds the missing elephants, the poachers are closing in. With elephants charging and bullets flying, Chessie’s taken prisoner and her world and Daniel’s collide. To survive, Chessie must conquer her fears and seize a dangerous opportunity to escape. And Daniel must decide where he’ll draw the line: thief, poacher, or accessory to murder.

First 250

When your family falls apart, I suppose you shouldn’t expect anything to be the same again. Not even your mother’s smile.

Mom’s goofy I-love-my-life smile hadn’t been seen in months, and I’d become all too familiar with the distant impostor that had replaced it. But the smile she wore right now? Pretty sure I’d never seen that one before. Like something you’d grab at the mall without stopping to try it on, it was too tight and way too bright.

And she was cooking, for the first time in months. “Mom? What’s going on?” I dropped into a kitchen chair and watched her pull something from the oven.

“Roast chicken? Dibs on the drumstick,” Bent shouted, slamming his scrawny ten-year-old frame into the chair nearest the chicken. He leaned across the table, freckled nose practically up the bird’s butt, and took a deep sniff. “Look, Chessie, mac-n-cheese, too.”

Mom set a tray of steaming cornbread on the table and sat down, still beaming. “Your great-gram has invited us to visit her. In Africa.”

I paused, forkful of mac-n-cheese halfway to my mouth. My stomach felt hollow. I had the feeling no amount of mac-n-cheese was going to fill it, not even one with four gourmet cheeses and a crispy crumb topping. “Can you get enough time off for a trip like that?”

Her smile flickered like the lights during a thunderstorm, right before the power went out for good. “I . . . I can’t go. But you two will go without me.”


Entry Nickname: Fake Heirs Do It Better
Title: The First Law of Loyalty
Word Count: 97k
Genre: YA Fantasy


Every night, seventeen-year-old Arun climbs above the muddy streets into the grand hotels of the foreign district to steal the foreigners’ treasures. Her gang is her family, and serving one’s family is more important than any laws.

When her cousin, Jaruk, is kidnapped by a lord, her loyalties are torn. Although gang rules forbid her from meddling with politics, she can’t abandon him to the lord’s schemes. Jaruk and a few other boys his age are being tortured to learn how to recreate the dead royal family’s magic. The lord plans to put a fake prince he can control on the empty throne and needs this magic to prove the boy's legitimacy.

Arun breaks Jaruk out from behind the walls of the lord's home, but there will be nowhere to hide when the lord’s new “prince” controls the country. To protect Jaruk, Arun must outwit the lord and discredit his prince by creating her own more convincing fake heir. If she fails, not just Jaruk, but the entire country will suffer at the hands of the lord's fake prince. But to succeed in pulling off such a high-profile con, she must break all of the gang’s rules, turn her back on the life she thought she wanted, and betray those she considered family.

First 250 Words:

Through the smoky haze clouding the dockside inn, I stole glances at the two foreign sailors who’d made the poor decision to stand next to me. My first marks of the night. They watched my accomplice, Petch, move three cards in circles on our table. Their thick, hairy arms folded across their chests gave them an intimidating edge, but their wide blue eyes and vapid expressions said they were suitably ignorant.

Petch stopped shuffling the cards. "Which one is the phoenix?" he shouted. The din of the off-key piano and men bellowing along to the foreign tune nearly swallowed his words. I placed a silver coin on the middle card. He flipped it, showing me the multi-colored bird, the symbol of our queen, her virtuousness and her power, gone perhaps forever from our land. Black smudged the curling, peacock-like tail. I sent a silent apology for Petch shoving her into the grime like that.

I turned to the sailors. "You look intrigued." I spoke their language for them and tried to make my voice feathery and cute—not so easy with all the noise. The stench of booze and sweat strangled me, the pressing heat like chains.

One grunted. The other ignored me. What I wouldn’t have given to be with my brothers, slinking through the darkness, instead.

Petch pushed me two silver coins. Now came the part where I persuaded these sailors to throw their money at the game, thus convincing Boss Suttirat I wasn't a completely incompetent con artist.