Saturday, January 30, 2016

Book Review of Arena

A fast-paced and gripping near-future science fiction debut about the gritty world of competitive gaming...
Every week, Kali Ling fights to the death on national TV. 
She’s died hundreds of times. And it never gets easier...
The RAGE tournaments—the Virtual Gaming League’s elite competition where the best gamers in the world compete in a no-holds-barred fight to the digital death. Every bloody kill is broadcast to millions. Every player is a modern gladiator—leading a life of ultimate fame, responsible only for entertaining the masses.
And though their weapons and armor are digital, the pain is real.
Chosen to be the first female captain in RAGE tournament history, Kali Ling is at the top of the world—until one of her teammates overdoses. Now, she must confront the truth about the tournament. Because it is much more than a game—and even in the real world, not everything is as it seems.
The VGL hides dark secrets. And the only way to change the rules is to fight from the inside...

Expected publication: April 5th 2016 by Ace

My Review:

I was so excited to get an Advanced Reader Copy of this book from Net Galley. You might remember this book from the second year of Query Kombat. It's nickname was Tag, You're Dead! After Query Kombat, Holly went on to get an agent and a book deal and we are so happy for her!

I couldn't wait to dig into this story about virtual gaming. I want to say upfront that it wasn't what I expected. I keep waiting for the scenario where Kali has to diffuse a bomb in the virtual world that will carry over to the read world. Or stop some kind of creep inside the game. That's totally not what this book is about. It's about the players and how the game effects their lives. The pressures involved, like adjusting to the social stardom, the drugs, the sponsors, and the whole atmosphere of big name sports. That's actually a way cooler plot.

I found it so refreshing that Kali's problems handling her teammate's death don't just magically get better after a few kind words. Real life isn't like that. Problems can't be solved quickly. You can't snap your fingers and stop feeling guilt or using drugs as a substitute. Kali had real struggles and she didn't resolve those with one therapy session.

This would actually be a great role model book for younger women. That's not to say that it is preachy or sermonizes, because it doesn't. But it takes familiar problems and puts them in an intriguing setting and shows glitz and glamour aren't the answers. That you have to put in the hard work to find a balance in your life.

Oh, and there are great virtual game scenes too. I love how Kali pulled her estranged teammates together and made a true team out of them.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Sun versus Snow Chat with the Mentors

Are you excited for Sun versus Snow to start?

Here's how you can get a jump on the fun. As mentioned in our mentor post we are having a chat time on twitter Friday, January 29th. You can ask about your writing genre. Tips about editing. Word count rules. About how they got their agents. What to expect from submission. What it feels like to be published. Just about anything writing oriented you want to know about.

Oh, and the hosts will be there too to keep things rolling!

So join us at 3:00 PM and 9:00 PM EST at the hashtag #SvSChat. Each session will last an hour. And bring some questions!

Find the rules to submit here. Submission day is February 1st. Find the list of Snow mentors here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Dan Koboldt on Writing and Selling Standalone SFF

I grew up reading doorstopper fantasy novels. It started with J.R.R. Tolkien, and continued with the likes of Robert Jordan, Tad Williams, and Raymond Feist, and Robin Hobb.  If a series didn't have at least three books in it already, I wasn't interested. Naturally, when I started writing my own novels, I wanted to have a long-running series of my own.

I know I'm not alone in this, because many of the query letters I've seen (through Pitch Wars and similar contests) from aspiring SF/F authors promise books that are "the start of a trilogy" or "part of a planned 6-book series." It worked for Robert Jordan, didn't it? In my opinion, you should not say these things in a query letter, for three specific reasons:

It can be daunting to the agent. Attracting the attention of a literary agent is kind of like trying to lure a wild turkey into a clearing. You don't want to make any sudden movements to scare them off. That's what you're doing when you say you've written three books and have planned four more.

      The first book needs to stand on its own. When you're trying to break into a crowded, selective industry, you have to deliver your very best writing in a single book. If you try to hold things back or leave too many open questions for subsequent books, your first book may not be satisfying enough.

      It's assumed. Look, unless you've done absolutely zero research, you can assume that the agent you're querying has read a lot of sci-fi and fantasy. They know how it works. They will expect you to leave room for a book.  

My debut novel, The Rogue Retrieval, is about the mission to retrieve a scientist from a pristine medieval world. The gateway to that world was discovered and kept secret by a powerful corporation. When the head of their research team goes rogue, they obviously want to get him back before he can reveal the secret of the gateway's existence.

When that mission ended, however, I had an entire secondary world that I'd just begun to explore. There were compelling characters that undoubtedly had more adventures in front of them. I was thinking, this should at least be a trilogy. Before we went on submission, my agent asked me to write a brief synopsis of the subsequent books in the series.

The model for this was straightforward: I thought of the original Star Wars trilogy. Every book would be a self-contained story, but they'd all feature most of the same characters. Book 1 is the adventure story where the scrappy upstarts score a victory. Book 2 is the great revelation, where the characters explore to develop newfound skills while under duress from the antagonist's counterstrike. Book 3 is when everyone must choose a side in the epic battle, with the fate of the world (or universe) in the balance. 

Even though I had an agent and was about to go on submission, I didn't write the subsequent books. As Michelle remarked in her guest post about writing and selling a fantasy series, you generally shouldn't write book 2 until you sell book 1.

And fast forward past a long period of submissions agony, and we had the unprecedented: an offer from Harper Voyager for The Rogue Retrieval. It was a thrilling moment! After talking with my agent, however, we decided not to push for a multi-book deal. There were a few strategic reasons for that:

1. The option clause
Most traditional publishing contracts have something called an option clause, which requires that you grant the publisher an exclusive first look at your next work of fiction. The logic behind these is that the publisher is investing in building you up as an author, so they should have an advantage over their competitors when your next book is ready.

The scope of the option clause varies by the deal, the house, and the agent. Houses obviously want it as all-encompassing as possible. Agents fight to narrow the scope to the next work in the same world, or featuring the same categories, or in the same genre. Sometimes they succeed. Other times, they don't. There's still a huge power differential between major publishers and most agented authors.
Bottom line, no matter how many books are included in your contract, you'll still have an option clause. In other words, if you write a sequel or prequel in the world of your book, your publisher's going to have first dibs on it.

2. Unknowns at the publisher
As this was my first book deal, I hadn't yet worked with David Pomerico (or anyone at HarperCollins). Artistic differences are always possible. If it turned out that I didn't like working with him in particular or them in general, I'd be stuck for however many books we'd committed to.
Alternatively, I might love working with David, only to see him leave for another publishing house. Editors move around from time to time, but an author's contract remains with the publishing house if the editor leaves.  When you sell a trilogy, that's usually at least a two-year commitment.

3. Long-term publicity
This last strategic reason might seem Machiavellian, and it's not nearly as critical (in my opinion) as the first two. When you announce the sale of a single book, I think it generates slightly less fanfare than the sale of a trilogy or quadrology. That's a disadvantage, but a slight one. But there's a long-term perk: it allows for a second burst of publicity if and when you announce the contract for future books.

Those Publisher's Marketplace announcements of book deals are widely read in the industry. They generate buzz, and all things being equal, I'd rather have two or three chances to do that to keep my name in people's minds.

Deadlines: A Double-edged Sword
Another important difference between selling a standalone and a series has to do with deadlines. When you commit to a series, the timetable and deadlines for subsequent books are often written right into the contract. This is useful, because it helps everyone involved in a book – the author, the publishing team, the readers – know when to expect the next one. Yet it also establishes firm deadlines that the writer is expected to meet. Sometimes life gets in the way of writing, and we can't finish a book as quickly as we'd like to. Turning a draft in late tends to wreak havoc on its publishing schedule.  

Then again, some writers work better with deadlines. When you sell a standalone novel, there's no deadline for the next book. No expected publication date, no slot in the publisher's promotion schedule. The fate of future books rests, as it so often does, only with the author.


About the Author

Dan Koboldt is a genetics researcher and fantasy/science fiction author. He has co-authored more than 60 publications in Nature, Genome Research, The New England Journal of Medicine, and other scientific journals. Dan is also an avid hunter and outdoorsman. He lives with his wife and children in St. Louis, where the deer take their revenge by eating the flowers in his backyard.

Author of The Rogue Retrieval (Harper Voyager, January 19th, 2016)
Twitter: @DanKoboldt

Monday, January 25, 2016

Getting the Call with Greg Andree

This is a super example of how to personalize your query letter. Please take note! Enjoy your inspiration for this week and thanks to Greg for sharing.

No Expectations (Or: How I Found My Perfect Agent)

“We’ll see what happens.”

That’s what I told myself when I started writing my Inconceivable Wisdom manuscript in July 2014. Before this manuscript I’d written four others, and queried two (with dozens of rejections between them). They weren’t good, but through writing them, and reading hundreds more YA books since, I got to a place where I was ready to try one last time.

“We’ll see what happens.”

In January 2015 more than half the MS was finished, and I dusted off my Twitter account. I didn’t care about followers, or building an author platform, or any of that. I followed my favorite YA authors and their agents. Then I went through which agents that each agent followed, checked agency pages, and followed the ones that represented books like mine. I watched what agents complained about. I read #WriteTips, #MSWL, #AskAgent, and all the other hashtags that applied. I made time for every “Ask Agent” type event I could. I kept notes on each agent whenever they said something about a book, movie, or tv show they liked that had a sensibility in line with my manuscript. I made private lists of agents that fit my MS best, and obsessively checked that list for their tweets every day.

“We’ll see what happens.”

I followed recently agented, and soon to be published authors, reading all their interviews about how they made this first step into the business side of book world. When their books debuted I read them, asked questions about their writing, and experiences leading to publication. Writers were incredibly generous with their time (especially considering how socially awkward I was, even by Twitter standards). I was beyond lucky, and made so many friends.

“We’ll see what happens.”

I sent my first query on October 18th and every day for the next week I sent off two more. Each query was personalized with a line or two about why I chose that agent: Specifics on their #MSWL, their clients I read, things I chatted with them about, something they tweeted about a book or movie or whatever. Sometimes I’d spend an hour trying to craft that perfect personalized line.

“We’ll see what happens.”

On October 20th I got requests from two agents to read my full manuscript, and in the next two weeks got requests from five others. Then I waited, and waited. One of my favorite agents rejected me, but referred me to another agent, and they requested my full.

“We’ll see what happens.”

While I was refreshing my inbox, and watching the premiere of Supergirl I noticed an agent tweeting about it. Caitie Flum was nerdy, and funny, so I started following her, and eventually queried her:

“I’m querying you because when tweeting about Supergirl, John Oliver, and other topics I can see your sense of story, politics, and humor are very similar to mine. I think you’ll particularly like Izzy Kim, one of my main characters. She’s smart, funny, and always calls people on their nonsense.”

The next day she requested my full manuscript. Ten days after that she emailed:

“I took a look and I love the voice and the concept, but I don't think it is quite there yet. Would you be able to do a call tomorrow?”

After work I barricaded a room against my children. Caitie was kind, and incisive. She clearly understood what I was trying to do in my book, but said it wasn’t ready. She asked for an R&R on the first 30 pages.

I knew it was a test: How would I take a critique? How would I incorporate her ideas? How would I work with another person? Could I take an idea from someone, and build on it?

I took a day to think. Another day to reread, and make notes. Then I revised. Ten days later on December 14th I emailed:

“Hi Caitie, I know you're probably very busy, but attached is the R&R you asked for. Reading it through (a million times) over the past few days I see how much better these pages are. I shifted the scenes around so they're more chronological, and made it easier to understand the amount of time that passes between (especially) the first few scenes. It also gets Scott and Izzy together in the book right away, instead of waiting for 17 pages, and it really sets the tone for the book, and their relationship right from the start.”

Two days later she offered representation.

I contacted authors represented by Liza Dawson Associates, and heard great things about how the agency worked. I talked with friends who had gone through this. We discussed signing with a new agent versus a more established agent, differences between agencies, and they all asked what my gut instinct was when I talked with Caitie. My wife and I talked, and talked. When it came down to it Caitie loved my book, and based on the initial notes she gave me I trusted her vision, and plan for it. That’s why I signed with her.

“We’ll see what happens” wasn’t, and isn’t, about me having low expectations. It’s about no expectations. I set out to write a good book, and see where it would lead. I wrote Inconceivable Wisdom chapter by chapter to find out where the story would lead. It’s also how I approached the business possibilities, as I move forward with Caitie it’s what I’m still thinking.

I am a YA Writer, and a reasonably competent parent and husband. I have a BA in Literature, an MA in writing, and teach 8th graders about all that fun stuff. Working with teenagers is a constant reminder of how awkward, horrible, fun, and overwhelming their lives can be, which keeps my writing reality-based, and mostly nostalgia free.

Greg Andree
Twitter: @GregAndree71

Friday, January 22, 2016

Query Questions with Sam Morgan

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 series 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.

I've been trying for some time to get an agent from this fabulous agency. Many of my favorite authors are represented there. I'm so happy to have a chat with Sam Morgan of JABberwocky Literary Agency

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

Not really. It always helps to make sure the agent is actually accepting queries at the time though, so a little research beforehand is good.
-Does one typo or misplaced comma shoot down the entire query?

True story: my first form rejection had a typo in it. I must’ve sent it to hundreds of authors before someone pointed it out. So I’m quite aware that typos happen. But it’s still something that shouldn’t happen, so you’re better off combing through your query one last time, checking each word (start backwards so you’re seeing it from a different light) before sending it off. After all, if you don’t have any typos you don’t have to worry about that being the thing that gets you rejected.
-Do you look at sample pages without fail or only if the query is strong?

Oh yes. Some writers are natural marketers and can make a pile of trash seem like the next great American novel. But then they actually write like trash. Meanwhile, your next great novelist might not be able to sell water in a desert. I don’t want to miss out because the writer isn’t able to sell a book, after all, that’s my job. 
-Do you have an assistant or intern go through your queries first or do you check all of them?

Assistant? What’s that?
-Do you keep a maybe pile of queries and go back to them for a second look?

Absolutely. I’ve been doing this long enough to know whether I need to give something a little more attention or not. The problem is that ‘maybe’ pile keeps growing!
-If the manuscript has a prologue, do you want it included with the sample pages?

I ask for the first five pages, so if the book begins with a prologue then yes, that should be in the first five pages. That’s where the editor will start. More importantly, that’s where the reader will start. If you want to introduce me to the “good stuff” that happens after the prologue, why even have a prologue? 
-How important are comp titles? Is it something you want to see in a query?

They’re definitely helpful. But be careful. I honestly had a query once that compared the book to “Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Twilight, and the Lord of the Rings.” Literally the five biggest genre titles of the past twenty years. Don’t do that. Find smaller, more specific comparisons. If you do emulate something from a bigger property, get specific about the aspect of you’re comparing your work to, like it has the multi-generation spanning history like Game of Thrones but with the magic system of Harry Potter, or something like that.
-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?

Not that often but only because our tastes don’t really overlap. But when someone does send me something that I think another agent might like I do not hesitate to show it to them.
-Do you prefer a little personalized chit-chat in a query letter, or would you rather hear about the manuscript?

Absolutely! It’s my theory that an agent/author relationship is just that - a relationship. We have to be compatible to work together. But like a first date, don’t overdo it. Be cool, be confident, but don’t be cocky. Remember we’re mostly here about your book, but a little personality doesn’t hurt. 
-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?

Definitely a red flag. Genre and word count are two vital pieces of information an agent needs to know. 
-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?

This is actually something I’ve never thought about, but since you’ve asked it, it does make sense. You want to make your pitch as clear as possible and the more named characters you have the more muddled it does become. There’s a great XKCD cartoon about how the more made up words for fantasy items you have in your story, the less interesting it is. If only there were a way for me to send you the link to that cartoon! Oh wait, this is the internet. Here it is!
-Should writers sweat the title of their book (and character names) or is that something that is often changed by publishers?

For starters, if you do get a publishing contract, the title of the book should be agreed to by mutual consent by the publisher and the author (that’s your free tip of the day). A good title helps, but it’s not necessary. One of my clients grabbed my attention because he had the greatest title of all time, in fact, the title came before the story, and now he’s in the middle of writing his third book for a Big Five publisher. But if you don’t have a SUPER DUPER AMAZING title, don’t sweat it. 
-How many queries do you receive in a week? How many requests might you make out of those?

How many stars shine but we don’t see? I’d probably say about 100 a week, but it varies. As does the requests, but the average is probably 5 partial requests a week. And of those partials, probably 1 becomes a full request. 
-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?

The only way it would tip the scales for me is if you are “known” for your blog or twitter. If it’s just your own personal thing or you’ve gathered up a couple thousand followers or page views, probably won’t make a difference. I don’t require you to do anything you don’t want to do. It definitely helps, but you do you. 
-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?

Offensive like clutch my pearls offensive? Absolutely not. I’ll check them out on occasion too, just to get a sense of who you are. But it’s one of those things, if you include the link and it leads to something you might not want me to see, why would you send me the link?
-If a writer makes changes to their manuscript due to feedback should they resend the query or only if material was requested?

I’d say only if the material was requested. Another true story: I had one author query me three time with the same manuscript. Same query each time, but the word count grew and grew each time. Always make sure your draft is finished when you query, please.
-What bio should an author with no publishing credits include?

Treat it like a boxing announcer. “IN THIS CORNER - THE BARD WITH A YAAAAARD!” Kidding, of course. Just tell me something about yourself. I want to know who you are!
-What does ‘just not right mean for me’ mean to you?

I distinctly remember the first time I read each of my client’s manuscripts. There was this feeling in my gut, something changed inside of me, imprinted on my memory. It’s a feeling you have when you recognize that you’re in the middle of something special. And when I read something that does everything correctly, I see all the parts working together smoothly, creating a good solid story, hitting all the correct plot points with a wonderful voice, when I know I could sell it but my heart wouldn’t be behind it, when I know this book deserves love but I’m not in love with it, when it’s a good book... but it just doesn’t give me that same feeling in my gut, then it’s just not right for me. 
-What themes are you sick of seeing?

I’ve been getting a lot of fantasy police procedurals that talk more about the mystery than the detective. It’s never about the mystery. It’s always about the character. 
Oh, there’s also been a glut of books about virtual reality for some reason?
-Do you consider yourself a hands-on, editorial type of agent?

That’s why I do my job! I love getting my hands dirty. 
-What’s the strangest/funniest thing you’ve seen in a query?

I always appreciate the ones addressed to different people. 
-What three things are at the top of your submission wish list?

1) Skins meets Harry Potter: take the grounded stories of Skins, but add it into a world with magic like Harry Potter. No characters learning about magic. No ‘chosen one’ prophecies or anything like that. Real people, real problems, but with magic. If you don’t want to write about kids, I understand, so do FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS instead of Skins. 
2) I love high concept TV like Pushing Daisies. More of that, but in book form, please.
3) Ready Player One but with newspaper comics instead of 80’s video games. 
4) I’ll do four because I’m insatiable: being stuck in a space ship on a multi-lightyear journey would devolve into some high school drama antics. Show me that.
-What are some of your favorite movies or books to give us an idea of your tastes?

I actually give a big ole list of just what you’re looking for on my agency’s page about me! You can check that out here and also find out a bit more specifically about what I’m looking for in new clients. 


Sam is the Right Hand of Darkness at JABberwocky. He is a native of Shelby, North Carolina and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a B.A. in Communications – Media Studies and Production. Before joining Jabberwocky in late 2012, Sam worked throughout New York City as a television critic, pizza guy, and several other glamorous positions. He’s an active nerd across all media from British television (Doctor Who and Black Mirror), to videogames (Injustice and Nintendo), to SF and fantasy novels (Prattchett, Adams, Gaiman), to college basketball (Go Heels, Go America). Sam is also active in the New York comedy scene at the Upright Citizens Brigade theater and making his own little rinky-dink videos in his spare time. He is ridiculously handsome, gut-busting witty, and prone to hyperbole.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Beards of Grudging

Beards are very important world building and cultural tool in Grudging. You've heard of the beard making the man? In Grudging, that is literally true.

A boy isn't considered a man until he "earns" his beard.

In the city of Colina Hermosa, earning a beard is different for every profession and even changes over time. For main character Ramiro in the military during wartime, that means living through a single, hand-to-hand combat experience. Until he's done that, he can't speak up in council or court a wife. And his military brothers will continue to tease him and call him bisoño and peach-face.

I had a fun time going through pictures online and looking for beards that fit my characters. Also looking for pictures of how I imagined my female characters--and no, they don't have beards. I created a pinterest board about it

I really want to find more awesome beard pictures to add to my collection. And I'd like to make a contest out of it!

Such as this great Ricky Martin beard.

You can't post pictures in blog comments, so it will have to be on twitter. Hmm. How to make this easy?

Tweet me your favorite beard picture (@Michelle4Laughs). Or if you read Grudging, a picture that reminds you of a character. (Keep in mind that Grudging is set in a Spanish-inspired land.)  Then so I can keep track, paste the link to that tweet in the comments of this post.

I'll pick three comments to win. One winner will be my favorite picture. Two winners will be random picks by number generator.



I'll let the winner pick a prize from these three options:

-a query critique (one round)
-an ebook of Grudging
-bookmarks of Grudging and a razor

These can be funny or sexy pictures. Please nothing naughty or that you couldn't show your grandmother. I will let this run through Monday, January 25th. You can check out my pinterest board link above for ideas.

So let's give this a try and see what happens! Did anyone else notice there is a nice beard picture in the post below this?

Getting the Call with Scott Reintgen

We begin with failure. Or, at least, it felt like failure to me. I'd written and queried two different books. Despite interest from a couple of great agents, nothing ever connected. So I began work on my fourth manuscript. I started submitting in June and felt really good about it. I knew this book was a much higher quality than previous submissions, because I'd practiced on three different books prior to writing it.

The timing of my queries synced up nicely with my arrival in Switzerland. My wife's job took us abroad, and I was at the outset of nine months of full time writing. Unfortunately, my first day in Switzerland coincided with a devastating rejection. An agent I'd spent a great deal of time getting to know (interviewing clients, blogging about titles, researching, etc.) told me it wasn't the right book for her to represent.

I was bummed. If I couldn't impress the person I'd done the most leg-work with, who could I impress? And I'd just started nine months of full time writing? Was I even cut out for the literary world?

But in the month that followed, I started getting manuscript requests. A lot of manuscript requests. Toward the beginning of August, I received some of my first offers for representation. As exciting as this was, I ended up entering a territory I'd never expected after my first two query experiences: choices.

I had eight offers of representation by mid-August. In some ways, it was a glorious validation of what I'd done in the book. In other ways, it was the most terrifying, nerve-wracking experience I'd ever been through. I began the process of, effectively, interviewing agents. We'd have phone calls, I'd ask questions, they'd ask questions.
Several times I asked my wife to make sure we hadn't entered an alternate reality (I'm still not sure if that's what happened).

The pursuit of the right agent for me kicked off in a big way when I received an email from Kristin Nelson. I knew of Kristin, and had used my temporary membership on Publisher's Marketplace to look at her deal history. I was definitely impressed. I was even more impressed when she said she couldn't stop reading my book on her flight home from LA. What? My book was being read on an airplane? By an agent?

Our conversation went really well, and it was clear to me that Kristin and I were on the same page about a lot of things with the book. From there, I began the painful process of sending out emails to the other interested parties, and regrettably telling them that I had other plans with the novel. This was heartbreaking, because almost every agent I spoke with was seriously wonderful.

My dream had come true, but I still had a lot of work ahead of me. Kristin took me through some painful edits. Then had to hold my hand through the submission process, and everything that came after it.

If I could give any advice, I'd just tell people to not give up. If I counted them up (and I haven't), I'd imagine I had over seventy rejections between my first two books. And about two days ago (months after getting a publishing deal), I received a rejection from an agency for THE BLACK HOLE OF BROKEN THINGS.

Rejections will happen. You will be rejected by agents. You will be rejected by publishers. You will be rejected by fans. Strength comes from learning to take those rejections in perspective, learning to set them neatly on a shelf, and then learning to move past them and keep working hard to accomplish your dreams.


Scott Reintgen grew up in North Carolina, and took full advantage of the fact that he lived on the same street as fourteen of his cousins. It could be a little crowded, but he threw a few elbows and carved out a space for himself as the family storyteller. He enjoyed the role so much that he decided to spend most of college and graduate school investing in the world of literature. This led to a career teaching English and Creative Writing in the great state of North Carolina, where he currently lives with his wife and family. To his great delight, the demand for stories and storytellers is alive and well. Scott's first book, THE BLACK HOLE OF BROKEN THINGS, is expected to be published in 2017. Until then, you can find him in local coffee shops laboring over stories that he hopes his family, and fans, will love.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016





The year is 1992 and Victoria Hastings Harrison Greene—reviled matriarch of a sprawling family—is dying.

After surviving the Oklahoma Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, Victoria refuses to leave this earth before revealing the secrets she’s carried for decades.

Once the child of a loving family during peaceful times, a shocking death shattered her life. Victoria came face to face with the harshness of the world. As the warm days of childhood receded to distant memory, Victoria learns to survive.

No matter what it takes.

To keep her family alive in an Oklahoma blighted by dust storms and poverty, Victoria makes choices—harsh ones, desperate ones. Ones that eventually made her into the woman her grandchildren fear and whisper about. Ones that kept them all alive. Hers is a tale of tragedy, love, murder, and above all, the conviction to never stop fighting.




C.H. Armstrong is an Oklahoma native transplanted in Minnesota. A 1992 graduate of the University of Oklahoma, "Cathie"is a life-long lover of books, and staunchly outspoken on subject of banned and challenged books. The Edge of Nowhere is her first novel and was inspired by her own family's experiences during the 1930s Oklahoma Dust Bowl and The Great Depression.



Monday, January 18, 2016

Slush Readers for Sun versus Snow 2016

When it comes time to read the 200 entries for Sun versus Snow, I need some help. These ladies will be going through the entries for Team Snow and giving me a heads up on what stands out. I plan to read everything, but having second opinions will certainly make it easier and faster.

I honor them for giving up their time to help other writers and now you can, too! Give them a follow on twitter and watch for their tweets about entries in February.


As an army brat, books were Carla Rehse's only constant as she moved around the world. Finally settling down in Texas, she not only picked up a southern drawl but also the writing bug. Generally, she write YA speculative fiction, but will read anything with strong characters and interesting world building. You can find Carla on twitter at @CRehse

Favorite writer snack:
Dry cereal, especially Quaker Oatmeal Squares. Occasionally, peanut M&M's manage to sneak into the bowl. 

Cold weather memory:
I live in Central Texas and our winters are a series of hot, then cold days. It's normal to have highs in the 70's one day and highs in the 30's the next. But April isn't a winter month for us. 

In April 2007, my roses were blooming and my spring flowers were planted. My brother and his family decided to visit for Easter weekend. With three young kiddos in the house, things were chaotic and exciting and I didn't pay attention to the weather reports. After all, it's Central Texas in April. Barbeque and shorts weather. That Saturday, it started to snow. And refused to stop. We received a record breaking four inches of snow. Maybe that's not much by Northern standards, but it sure wrecked my carefully developed holiday plans. Now how were gonna hunt Easter eggs in the backyard or take pictures by my neighbor's wisteria? After a few moments of dumbfounded head scratching, we turned lemons into lemonade slushies. Bundled up in my sweatshirts and mismatched gloves, my nieces and nephew had a blast making snow bunnies and staging an epic snowball fight against their dad. And for the record, hunting plastic eggs in the snow is just as much fun as in the grass. 


Susie Fisher grew up in a family where books trumped television, and at a young age had read almost every book in the children’s section at her local library. She is an office manager by day and a YA contemporary writer at night.

When not writing, she’s usually wrapped in a blanket reading everything young adult.

Susie is obsessed with the ocean, an addictive ice tea drinker, One Tree Hill fanatic, and never declines chocolate cake. She lives in Michigan with her University of Michigan, superfan husband and four spoiled rescue cats.

My favorite cold weather memory happened at the age of ten. After waking to four feet of fresh snow, all the kids on my block spent the entire day building barricades in their front yard. My sisters and I used bread pans to make bricks, creating a wall around the entire yard and an igloo for three. Moments before the sun set, a block-wide snowball fight began. That was the best snow day ever.



Saturday, January 16, 2016

Review of Bands of Mourning

With The Alloy of Law and Shadows of Self, Brandon Sanderson surprised readers with a New York Times bestselling spinoff of his Mistborn books, set after the action of the trilogy, in a period corresponding to late 19th-century America.

Now, with The Bands of Mourning, Sanderson continues the story. The Bands of Mourning are the mythical metalminds owned by the Lord Ruler, said to grant anyone who wears them the powers that the Lord Ruler had at his command. Hardly anyone thinks they really exist. A kandra researcher has returned to Elendel with images that seem to depict the Bands, as well as writings in a language that no one can read. Waxillium Ladrian is recruited to travel south to the city of New Seran to investigate. Along the way he discovers hints that point to the true goals of his uncle Edwarn and the shadowy organization known as The Set.

My Spoiler Free Review:

I might have hugged this book and did a happy dance around the kitchen when this came in the mail. If it came down to books or chocolate, books would win.

It was wonderful being with these characters again. I was able to lose myself and get into the world completely with this book. (I'm afraid for the first couple of books I was missing the original characters from the first Mistborn books.) But now I absolutely love Wayne and have strong affection for the rest. I especially enjoyed learning more of Steris and getting to know her. You've got to root for the girl who doesn't have any powers!

I want to be very careful to avoid spoilers, so I'll be very vague. I felt like the setup/foreshadowing of the big twist was handled a little clumsily here. The little clues were inserted sort of jarringly, enough so that I picked them out and wondered why that statement was needed. Which of course proved to be the twist near the end.

Sanderson handles action/fight scenes so well. The last third of the book shot along at a sprint pace. The parts leading up the finale could be a little slow, but never boring. Not with these characters. There are so many good parts about Sanderson books--the involved magic systems and their rules, the intense action, the sense of actual danger and peril--but the best is his characters and how real they feel.

As always it left me dying to read the next! Five stars!

I got an advanced copy from the publisher.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Agents of Sun versus Snow 2016

It's been a while between contests and I'm ready for some fun!

We have 16 agents for Sun versus Snow in 2016. Poetic numbers! Opps. We had sixteen agents, but another has stepped forward! Seventeen! Each and every one is fantastic. And they represent a variety of genres.

Submission is on February 1st at 4:00 pm EST. Go here to see the rules and how to format.

Part of the list of agent is on my blog. But listing all of them would be a huge post. So go to my co-host Amy's blog to see the rest

Mallory Brown

Literary Agent Assistant Mallory C. Brown of TriadaUS is seeking young adult, new adult, women’s fiction, and non-fiction. She is especially drawn to pieces with strong character-driven plots and witty humor. She loves contemporary fiction, low fantasy (think realistic world with a fantastical twist), and romance. Mallory also appreciates a well-placed comma and hopes you do, too.

Some of Mallory’s favorites at the moment are: ​Fangirl, Gone GirlOutlander, and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

Andrea Somberg

A literary agent for close to fifteen years, Andrea Somberg of Harvey Klinger, Inc. represents a wide range of fiction and nonfiction, including projects for adult, young adult and middle grade audiences. Previously an agent at the Donald Maass Agency and Vigliano Associates, she joined Harvey Klinger Inc. in the spring of 2005. Her clients' books have been NYTimes and USA Bestsellers, as well as nominated for The Governor General's Award, the Lambda Award, and the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award. Andrea also teaches courses for MediaBistro and Writers Digest on topics such as nonfiction, memoir, mystery and thrillers, fantasy and sf. Her client list is quite full, however she is always actively looking to take on new authors who write in the following categories: Fiction: literary, commercial, book club fiction, romance, thrillers, mystery, paranormal, fantasy, science fiction, young adult, new adult, middle grade. Nonfiction: memoir, narrative, popular science, pop-culture, humor, how-to, parenting, self-help, lifestyle, travel, interior design,crafts, cookbooks, business, sports, diet, health & fitness.

Penelope Burns

Penelope Burns is the newest member of Gelfman Schneider/ICM Partners. She came to the agency as an intern after graduating from Colgate University in 2012. Currently, as an agency assistant, Penelope is looking to a build a list of her own. She is interested in Literary and Commercial fiction and non-fiction, as well as a variety of Young Adult and Middle Grade. 

I'm actively looking for YA/MG novels with a unique voice or an unreliable narrator, or an interesting and unique premise. I'd also love to see a YA contemporary romance, or a clever MG with a lot of humor. I am not seeking adult thrillers. 

Mark Gottlieb

Mark Gottlieb’s focus on publishing began at Emerson College, where he was a founding member of the Publishing Club, later its President, overseeing its first publication and establishing the Wilde Press. 

After graduating with a degree in writing, literature and publishing, Mark began his career with the Vice President of Berkley Books (Penguin), working with leading editors. 

His first position at the Trident Media Group literary agency was in foreign rights, selling the books of clients around the world. Mark later worked as Executive Assistant to Robert Gottlieb, Chairman of Trident, with responsibility for organizing/managing diverse authors and their complex business transactions. He next assumed the position of audio rights agent. Since Mark has managed the audio rights business, the annual sales volume has more than doubled. Mark showed great initiative and insight in identifying talented writers. 

In passing the Audio Department's torch, Mark is building his own client list of writers. He is excited to work directly with authors, helping to manage and grow their careers with all of the unique resources that are available to Trident.

Whitley Abell

Whitley Abell joined Inklings Literary Agency in 2013. Before joining Inklings, she completed successful internships with Carol Mann Agency and P.S. Literary Agency. She is based in St. Louis, MO, where she daylights writing proposals of the entirely unromantic variety. She graduated in 2011with a BA in English and Creative Writing, and again in 2012 with a MAT in Secondary English Education, which basically means she can tell you anything there is to know about feminist literary theory and the Common Core Standards.

Whitley is currently building her list and is primarily interested in Young Adult, Middle Grade, and Women’s Fiction. She is open to almost anything within those arenas, be it contemporary or historical, romance or thriller, realistic or supernatural, tragic or quirky. She has a soft spot for the goofy guys, awkward ducks, April Ludgates, and devout fan girls of the world. Manic pixie dream girls will be turned away at the door.

Please, NO picture books, poetry, non-fiction, or genre romance, crime/mystery, or sci-fi/fantasy for the adult market.

Patricia Nelson

Patricia Nelson joined Marsal Lyon Literary Agency in 2014. She represents adult, young adult, and middle grade fiction, and is actively building her list.
In general, Patricia looks for stories that hook her with a unique plot, fantastic writing and complex characters that jump off the page. On the adult side, she is seeking women’s fiction both upmarket and commercial, historical fiction set in the 20th century, and compelling plot-driven literary fiction. She’s also looking for sexy, smart adult contemporary and historical single title romance. For YA and MG, Patricia is open to a wide range of genres, with particular interest in contemporary/realistic, magical realism, mystery, horror, and fantasy. She is interested in seeing diverse stories and characters, including LGBTQ, in all genres that she represents.

Victoria Lowes

Victoria Lowes was born and raised in Queens, New York and graduated from the City University of New York, Queens College. Before joining the Bent Agency, she completed internships at Serendipity Literary and the Carol Mann Agency. She now lives on Long Island and in her spare time she can be found teaching dance classes for young students or watching re-runs of The Office.
I’m looking for both commercial and literary fiction as well as young adult titles. My favorite genres are historical fiction, suspense, mysteries, upmarket women’s fiction, and romance.

Melissa Jeglinski

A graduate of Clarion University of Pennsylvania, where she majored in English with a writing concentration, Melissa Jeglinski began her career as an editor with Harlequin Enterprises. Looking to work with a variety of authors and genres, she joined The Knight Agency in 2008.  With over two decades experience in the publishing industry, Melissa has fostered her clients to National prominence including a recent Newbery Honor. She is a member of RWA and AAR. Melissa is currently seeking projects in the following areas:  Romance (contemporary, category, historical, inspirational) Young Adult, Middle Grade, Women’s Fiction and Mystery.

Lydia Moëd
Lydia Moëd came to Canada from the UK, where she worked as a foreign rights executive for UK publishers including Usborne Publishing and Elwin Street Productions. She has also worked as a freelance literary translator and editor, and as a bookseller at Foyles in London. In addition to handling foreign rights for The Rights Factory's children's and YA list, she is building her own list of clients for representation.
For fiction, she is most interested in acquiring science fiction and fantasy, though she also enjoys magic realism, historical fiction and stories inspired by folklore from around the world. For non-fiction, she is interested in narrative non-fiction on a wide variety of topics, including history, popular science, biography and memoir. She would love to bring more translated literature into English, and particularly welcomes queries by authors from marginalized groups.

Rena Rossner

Rena is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University’s Writing Seminars Program, where she double-majored in poetry and non-fiction writing. She studied at Trinity College, Dublin and holds an MA in History from McGill University in Montreal, Canada. She worked at bookstores in four countries, has written extensively for The Jerusalem Report and The Jerusalem Post, and worked in PR, grant-writing, and website development at The Jerusalem Foundation. She is a writer of both fiction and poetry as well as the author of the cookbook EATING THE BIBLE, which has been translated into five languages.

Rena is interested in representing Science Fiction, Fantasy and Speculative Fiction in all genres, Adult Literary and Contemporary Fiction especially Upmarket Women’s Fiction, Historical Fiction and Thrillers. She is also actively seeking Young Adult, Middle Grade and Picture Books.

Danielle Burby

Danielle graduated from Hamilton College with honors and a double major in Creative Writing and Women’s Studies.  Before finding her home at HSG, she interned at Writers House, Clarion Books, Faye Bender Literary Agency, Dunow Carlson and Lerner, John Wiley and Sons, and SquareOne Publishers (along with stints as a waitress and a farmers’ market vendor).
Her passion lies in YA, Women’s Fiction, and mysteries. She gravitates toward stories with a strong voice and particularly enjoys complex female characters, narratives that explore social issues, and coming-of-age stories. Genres that appeal to her include contemporary YA, medieval fantasy, historical fiction, cozy mysteries, and upmarket Women’s Fiction. She finds it hard to resist gorgeous writing and is a sucker for romantic plotlines that are an element of the narrative, but don’t dominate it.
Danielle was involved in way too many singing groups in college and is always up for karaoke. She also enjoys both tea and coffee, managing to defy the naysayers who claim they’re an either-or thing. She is, however, distinctly a chocolate person.