Nathan Bransford, Author

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Guest Blogger: Rakesh Satyal on Finding Time to Write

Rakesh Satyal is an Editor at HarperCollins, and his debut novel, BLUE BOY, just went on sale. Chuck Palahniuk said BLUE BOY "shows us a world too funny and sad and sweet to be based on anything but the truth." Rakesh also happens to be a sensational singer and a hilarious speaker, as the guests at my wedding can attest.

As I am an editor and a writer concurrently, I am often asked one oh-so-popular question: “Do you ever sleep?” The answer is a resounding “Yes,” and on many weekends, the answer is “Yes – several times in a day, and usually with Lime Tostito crumbs from incessant snacking still on my lips and many hours’ worth of (re)watching an America's Next Top Model marathon in my head.”

But just as I know how to make time for leisure and rest, I make sure I know when my time for work will be, too. The concept of my spending a great deal of time working, period – let alone this much time thinking of literary matters as I work – can cause quite a bit of confusion and incredulity in others, but I assure you that carving out a writing schedule that fits your otherwise busy life is not so daunting as it might seem at first. What you must always remember is the larger purpose of your work, the meaningfulness of your voice, and the characters who convey that voice.

Most writing instructors, and many established authors, extol the benefits of a morning regimen-cum-biological clock approach: you get up, go straight to your computer (or other writing instruments), write a thousand words, and call it a day, with perhaps some revision of those thousand words later in the evening. Unfortunately, not only the mutant pace of my workdays but the ensuing rollercoaster reaction of my body can preclude this sort of schedule from taking root.

Sure, there are weeks when I set the goal of following this biological schedule and pull it off, but the next week, a slew of work events may come up and render me fumbling for keyboard and words alike. What I have come to realize about myself as a writer is that I respond much better to thinking of the scope of a particular scene that I am writing and then envisioning the corresponding manpower that I will need to bring it to life. And then I look for loopholes in my schedule that I can refashion as writing time.

I wrote Blue Boy mainly on the weekends; I would go to a coffee shop that had deep-seated armchairs and reliable outlets, and I would plug in my laptop and set up shop for the afternoon. When I sat down, I had a clear picture of which scene I wanted to write (or resume), and I knew that I wanted to complete a particular emotional arc before I stopped. The rhythm of the main character’s mental pattern was very important to me, and I felt, as I often feel as a reader, that I could not stop living in that scene until it had come to a particularly satisfying emotional point, be it a resolution or a splendidly complicated moment of confusion. I could appreciate the emotional payoff of this stopping point all the more because, beforehand, I had taken into account the time I had to address the work at hand.

Writing is a difficult process, to be sure, and it demands from us determination, a dedication to a larger artistic goal, and, perhaps most of all, the a priori arrangement that our lives, on the whole, will make room for it. To that last end, especially, I am always thinking in the back of my mind, at any given point, when my next available moment for a time to sit down and write may be. I mean “available” not just physically but mentally.

For example, as I expect to expend a great deal of energy promoting Blue Boy during the next month, I have put aside my writing until the first week of June; I know that the headspace I have for writing will be taken up necessarily with concerns pertaining to the book. But I have a firm resolution to pick up where I left off. Once I resume writing, I will go back to plotting my weeks carefully: I will look at my calendar at the beginning of each week and figure out when I might shoehorn in a chance to write.

This process may not adhere to the strictures of a biological clock, but it is my responsibility to make the most creatively of the time that I have left after I do my editorial work professionally. Each of us as writers has a different set of circumstances that defines our emotional and physical wherewithal as artists, but we owe it to our stories and their characters to plot our own time as much as we do theirs.

And believe me – the sense of accomplishment once we’ve done so is astounding, not least because we can subsequently, and deservedly, hoist our salsa-laden chip mouthward and click Tyra’s model antics back on with the press of a button….

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What Have You Given Up for Your Writing Dream?

"The Wrestler" got me thinking about the sacrifices writers make. While it's certainly possible (and advisable) to live a balanced life as a writer that does not involve Randy "The Ram"-esque self-destruction, everyone I know who has succeeded as a writer had to give up something to get there, whether it was time doing something more immediately fun, spending time with friends and family, or the ability to read bad writing without cringing.

What have you given up for your writing dream?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

"The Wrestler" and Writing

I watched the Mickey Rourke movie The Wrestler the other night, and I thought it was great. In case you haven't seen it, Rourke plays an aging pro wrestler struggling with his health, his estranged daughter, and a solitary, poor life.

One of the reasons this movie really resonated with me was because I thought it was a moving illustration of the lengths artists and athletes to go to live a life that's more than ordinary. There are some people who just want more out of life, and in order to achieve it they're willing to forego time with friends and family spending hours huddled in front of a laptop, or, in the case of The Wrestler, wrestling in a bloody match featuring barbed wire and staple guns.

At the same time, "The Wrestler" wasn't exactly a glorification of Randy "The Ram's" life. He's broken, depressed, estranged from his daughter, and basically alone in life. He's devoted his life to an unsustainable dream - his body is failing him and he has nothing else to live for.

Ultimately I think the power of the movie comes from the sympathy his quest generates. Most people want something more out of life, and when that fails even despite almost insane efforts and doing every single thing possible, it's one of life's great tragedies. People still strive even when it becomes harmful.

Anyone else seen the movie? What do you think about it, and the sometimes simultaneously aspirational and destructive writing life?

Monday, April 27, 2009

How to Maximize Pitch Sessions

Thank you so much to all of the wonderful people at the Pike's Peak Writer's Conference -- it was a great weekend full of friendly people, useful publishing information, and repeated pleas that everyone drink enough water. (To avoid altitude sickness. Colorado Springers are militant about the importance of hydration.)

The conference included pitch sessions. I honestly have somewhat mixed feelings about these, mainly due to the fact that I'm fairly terrible at listening to a pitch and having any idea whether or not it's something I'd be interested in. It's all about the writing.

I can tell someone whether their project sounds viable to me or not and give them suggestions for how best to characterize it in the query letter (e.g. "Don't call it a Western, call it a historical thriller!"), but beyond that, my experience of pitch sessions is often a matter of listening politely, asking them to send it to me if it sounds reasonably up my alley, and then wait for the query to arrive in my Inbox (which people are free to send anyway).

I think what most people who participate in pitches don't realize is that they're not going to get an agent from the pitch. They may make a personal connection with the agent and the pitch may well be impressive, but the agent doesn't really know much until they actually see the material. Ultimately: how well you do in a pitch session has extremely little to no bearing on whether or not you'll get published.

Here are some suggestions on how authors could maximize their pitch sessions:

1. Spend as little time as possible talking about your project. Honestly, beyond a bare bones description, I don't need to hear much about the project. I'm going to need to see the writing to have any idea about whether the project is up my alley.

2. Go in with questions. A pitch session is the author's time. You have an agent's undivided attention. Pick their brain, get targeted feedback, show them your query. Whatever you think would be helpful.

3. Focus on making a personal connection. This is an opportunity for you to put a face and a personality with a project. I definitely remember the people I meet with at pitch sessions, and if you seem professional and cool, I'll remember that when I see your query.

4. Listen to feedback. I really tried to help some people with their projects, but quite a few authors bristle at the faintest suggestion that they change their work or approach. You don't have to take my suggestions, and, in fact, you shouldn't if you disagree with them. But the last thing I want to see in a prospective client is someone who is not open to any suggestions whatsoever.

5. It's okay to be nervous. Heck, I'd be nervous too. I'm not holding it against you.

Just remember: a pitch session is your time. There is no rule that says you have to spend the time talking about your project. Think outside of the pitch session box and make that time work for you.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

This Week in Publishing 4/23/09

Yes, this week in publishing on a Thursday. This afternoon I'm headed to the Pike's Peak Writers Conference, and I'm looking forward to meeting some of you there!

Also, a plea for my e-mail subscribers: I really want to hear from you (I do) but please please please don't e-mail me your responses to blog topics. That's what the blog is for. Those e-mails go to my work e-mail account, and I really need to keep my Inbox clear for work. If you'd like to weigh in and join the conversation, please click the title of the post in the e-mail, which will take you directly to my blog.

If you scroll down to the very bottom of the page that opens up when you click the blog title, you'll see a link that says "Post a Comment." Click that.

Then enter your comment in the window and sign in to your Google (or other) account or click the Anonymous bubble to leave a comment as anonymous. Don't forget to enter the word verification (in this case "beerpas" -- which is kind of awesome), and then click Publish Your Comment:

If you have trouble: please consult the nearest teenager. Everyone who has already e-mailed comments officially gets amnesty, but from here on out I might have to unsubscribe repeat offenders.

Is is okay to e-mail me questions about publishing or your project provided that you first check the FAQs to see if your answer is there. I regret that I'm not able to answer every question.

Cool? Cool.

Now then! Onto the week in publishing.

First up: who wants a free printer? I see a lot of hands. My good friend Holly Burns is currently giving away a free HP Photosmart printer on her blog. You just have to leave a comment about why you want it. It's that easy. (US residents only. Sorry furranners!)

Allison Brennan was extremely kind to include her query in the Be An Agent for a Day challenge, and this week she blogged about the experience and the odd (and not so odd) reasons why some agents for a day rejected her query.

Dan Brown's new novel is dropping in September with a ridonkulously huge 5 million copy first printing.

Lynn Viehl was awesome enough to post her most recent royalty statement online, meaning you too can attempt to make sense of a document so confusing it may as well be written in Sanskrit. Luckily, agent translators are standing by. (I kid, Penguin. Your statements aren't too bad. Your contracts, on the other hand, should be sent with a free magnifying glass).

Innovating editor Jon Karp of Twelve recently wrote a PW article with twelve (of course) recommendations for the publishing industry, including ending Kabuki publishing and putting out much fewer books. Dan Menaker posted a hilarious response with his own suggestions (sample: 2. No more landscape- or seascape-only cover images.) , and G.B.H. Hornswoggler (aka Andrew Wheeler) weighed in a bit more seriously. He's less sanguine than Jon about the public's supposed disdain for books like other books, and worries about the effects of massive downsizing on reader selection. (via Other Lisa's Twitter feed, via lots of other @people)

Speaking of innovation, bestselling author David Hewson posted a seriously awesome article about the hypothetical possibility of an author self-publishing collective loosely based on the old actor-led movie studio United Artists. David knows there are some details still to be worked out, but folks, this is likely what at least part of the future will look like. (And yes, he notes that agents will still be important, although in a slightly different role). Via MJ Rose.

Ever wondered about the difference between galleys (bound and early designed) and ARCs? Ms. Sally Spitfire is here to help.


And finally, friend of the blog Conduit/Stuart Neville just released an awesome trailer for his novel THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST/THE TWELVE:

Have a good weekend! Colorado, here I come!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Where Do You Write?

I asked a variation of this question in the early days on the blog, back in 2007 when it was written on a typewriter and sent around via telegraph. And, well, the immense variation in writing habits fascinates me, plus we have lots of new faces. So I thought I'd go back to this one:

Where do you write?

Not necessarily the city and state/country, although that would be nice too, but where specifically is your favorite writing spot?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

On Concepts

One of the reasons that the agents for a day missed some of the actually published works is that the queries did not demonstrate wholly original concepts. They possibly sounded like they had been done before.

But here's the thing about book concepts: originality is (somewhat) overrated.

There have been millions of books written in the course of human history. Before there were books there were plays, and before the were plays there were stories told around the campfire, and before there were stories around the campfire there were aliens who implanted DNA in our cave men ancestors that made us tell the same stories again and again. (It's true, I read it on Wikipedia).

About once a generation a Mary Shelley or H.G. Wells or Tolkien or S.E. Hinton comes along to invent a new genre basically from scratch. Odds are you're not that person (although if you are, I want to meet you).

All the rest of the mortals on the planet, even our best writers, are working within fairly established genres and tropes.

There were detective novels before George Pelecanos, there were dragon and boy stories before Christopher Paolini, there were wizard school books before J.K. Rowling, there were mistaken guilt stories before Ian Mcwan's ATONEMENT. What sets these writers apart is a unique take on an established trope. And ultimately that comes down to execution.

What is a unique take on an established trope? It varies from book to book. Sometimes it's been done before, but never with such beautiful writing. Or maybe it's been done before, but never for kids. Or maybe it's been done before, but never funny. Or maybe it's been done before, but never in combination with something else.

The shorthand for a unique take is that it's like this, but also like this. It's X meets X. It's different, but not too different.

This isn't because the publishing industry just wants what's already popular. (Ok, fine, partly it's because the publishing industry wants what's already popular -- you can "blame" that on readers who finish a book, love it, and want to read something else like it.)

But it's also because it's very nearly impossible to be wholly original. Even when new genres are invented they tend to use classic story arcs that have been around for millennia -- the coming of age story, the great man with a fatal flaw, the hubris tragedy, the celebrity memoir. When new genres are invented they just place these stories in a new world.

Unless it is truly out there, pretty much everything is a fresh take on an existing trope. It really does need to feel fresh, but that's not the same as being completely original. The originality is all about how it's done, not what it's about.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Be An Agent for a Day: The Results!!

Thank you once again to everyone who participated in the Be An Agent for a Day contest. 50 queries, 300+ participants, 15,000+ comments later..... I know you're curious to see how you did.

When I started this contest I really had no idea how it would go. I didn't even spell out a prize because I wasn't sure if we'd have five winners or fifty winners. I didn't know if it would be fantastically easy for people to spot the three actually-published authors among the fifty queries or whether it would be fantastically hard.

Well, now we have our answer. And I think you'll be surprised.

First off, none of the actually published books were among the top five most requested queries.

And out of the 300+ people who participated, only two people guessed all three published authors with their five choices (that's less than 1%, compared to the 16% who predicted they got all three). A huge, massive round of applause to Moth and Chenelley!!! They win partial manuscript critiques. They also might have a future career as agents.

Now then. At long last, here are the ones who were actually (or soon to be) published:

Query #39 was for THE PREY by Allison Brennan. The query (and manuscript) landed her an agent, a pre-empt offer from Ballantine, and reached #33 on the NY Times bestseller list. Spotting this query would have been a career-maker. Only 15% of the agents for a day requested it (and many of the ones who passed were quite rude).

Query #9 was by Hannah Moskowitz, and her novel BREAK will be published this summer by Simon Pulse. In real life 60% of the agents she queried requested to see more. But only 31% of the agents for a day requested it.

Query #21 was by Inara Scott, who subsequently received a two book deal with Hyperion Books for Young Readers. Only 16% of the agents for a day requested it.

By contrast, the most-requested query overall was #10, a work-in-progress by Dawn Johnson, which generated a 52% request rate.

What should we make of all this?

To be fair, many of the people who personalized their rejection to Allison Brennan's query mentioned that they were passing because it sounded too familiar. Well..... yeah. It was a big book. Quite a few people probably either remembered it or even read it. So I'll let some of you slide on that one.

But more importantly, I think this contest goes to show how people may have overemphasized the query itself when they were playing agents. The queries that generated the highest response rate were the most technically precise. They were tidy, they were well-organized, they followed the rules. They were good queries (and some of them may go on to have success stories of their own). But this wasn't a contest to spot the best queries.

When an agent is reading a query we're trying to look past the query to get a sense of the underlying book. We're evaluating the concept and the writing, not ticking off a box of requirements. I don't reject people solely because they start with rhetorical questions or their word count isn't quite right or they break one of the query "rules". I can't afford to do that. Nor do I request pages for a book that has a perfect query but whose underlying concept is flawed.

A good concept and strong writing are more important than good query form.

Now, a strong query helps your odds and your request rate, which is why we blogging agents spend so much time talking about the "rules". It really does help your odds to write a good one. When people are writing good queries it helps us spot the good projects. But remember: the most important thing is not writing a good query, but rather writing a good book. A strong concept is so important.

The other main element I'd take from this challenge is how subjective this business really is. What resonates with you might not resonate with someone else. That's why it's so important to query widely. I was one of the 40% who passed on Hannah's query because it just wasn't quite right for me at the time.

And of course, I hope everyone will remember this contest the next time a poor agent or editor is mocked for passing on [insert bestseller here]. Because getting it right is incredibly hard.

What do YOU think of the results?

Friday, April 17, 2009

This Week in Publishing 4/17/09

First off, thank you once again to everyone who is participating in Be An Agent for a Day, which has been so much fun. The comments on the queries will close Saturday night, and results and stats on Monday!

Now that we have 10,000+ comments I have realized that compiling these stats will not be remotely possible on my own. I am humbly requesting ten volunteers to help me with stat compiling this Sunday. (I'm also happy to barter a query critique for your trouble -- first 10 volunteers in the comments section UPDATE: the 10 spots are filled, thanks so much, volunteers)

Now then. Some fantastic news from a familiar name. Terry DeHart (aka terryd), finalist in the Surprisingly Essential First Page Challenge, let me know that he has just received a two-book deal from Orbit for the book he used in the contest!! Congratulations to Terry!

[schadenfreude](Oh. And remember the people who were mad about my choices for the finals of that contest? I sure do!) [/schadenfreude]

Speaking of friends of the blog, Anne & May are giving away copies of their just-released book BREAKING UP IS HARD TO DO. Free books = always awesome.

In publishing news, NPR recently did a story on the state of the publishing industry and Pub Lunch (subscription) linked to an accompanying article. Per Pub Lunch, Random House Publishing Group spokesperson Carol Schneider explained the current marketplace thusly: "We're acquiring fewer books... There are no specific numbers or formula involved here--we're simply being more selective in all categories--literary, commercial, blockbuster." And...... there you have it.

Meanwhile, there are rumors afoot that Barnes & Noble may enter the e-reader market with a device that could challenge the Sony Reader, Kindle, and (insert device of the future here). Any bets on what B&N will call it? I hope they go with Barnes. As in, "I read your book on my Barnes, chap!" And yes, it would probably force me to call people "chap".

You may have heard a great deal about a "glitch" dubbed amazonfail, in which erotica and GLBT books, including some classics, were mysteriously delisted from sales rankings. In case you're curious about it all, The Millions has a very helpful breakdown of what happened and how the news spread. And I can't wait until we have failfail. "Fail" needs. to. go.

Via Neil Vogler, the Guardian reports that the guy behind PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES just got a monster (get it? get it?) book deal from Grand Central.

Also in the Guardian... our contest!

Grove editor Jofie Ferrari-Adler has added another excellent entry in his series of agent interviews for Poets and Writers. A must read.

Cynthia Leitich Smith announced that Katherine Paterson, author of BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA, Curtis Brown client, and truly wonderful person (seriously she's so nice), has established a prize for YA and children's writing at Hunger Mountain, the arts journal of the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Click on over for that.

In writing advice news, thanks to John Ochwat for pointing me to Pat Holt's blog post on ten mistakes writers often make but don't often notice. It's not on the list, but you might not have noticed that the first letter of every paragraph spells a bad word. Just thought you should know.

And finally, someone is going to have to explain this Susan Boyle thing to me. What exactly are we supposed to take from it? That it's surprising that people from a humble background can be wildly talented? That you have to look like Britney Spears in order sing... better than Britney Spears? 20 million YouTube views later and I'm struggling to understand.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Recap #3: If You Were An Agent, How Would You Handle Submissions?

Now that you have walked 50 queries in an agent's shoes and likely pictured yourself answering 50 queries a day stretching on into infinity, how would you handle your slush pile if you were an agent?

Would you personalize? Would you form reject? Reply-if-interested? Crawl under your desk and hope no one finds you?

I'm really curious to hear everyone's submission policy. Knowing what you know now.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Recap #2: How Confident Are You In Your Choices?

I think one of the biggest current misconceptions about "Be An Agent for a Day" involves ignoring this little number in the rules and regulations:

6. For the purposes of this contest you are looking for queries that demonstrate publishable potential, not necessarily your genres of interest.

I was kind of surprised to see that people outright discounted certain genres that they weren't interested in, on the grounds that agents do this as well.

Yes. We are allowed to specialize. To a certain extent. No agent I know limits themselves solely to genres they like to read for pleasure. You just can't make a living that way. Every agent focuses on projects they are passionate about, but agents are passionate about selling. We take on things we strongly believe we can sell. Even if it's not what we would read if we were civilians.

All that said, how do you think you did? If you had to bet, how many of the actually published books do you think you chose? Are you confident in your choices?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Recap #1: Was This Easier or Harder Than You Expected?

If you haven't yet finished your queries, please continue to leave your requests and rejections!

But also, please note a programming change: I'm changing the deadline to Saturday night Pacific time, at which time I'm going to close the query threads so I can start compiling some stats. Monday morning I'll reveal which queries were for books that went on to be published and reveal the Superstar Agents.

Now then. When I announced the contest I really had no idea how this would go. I thought there was a chance people would only make it through five queries and think "This is hard," or people would breeze through all 50 and think, "Is that all?"

So. For those who have already ventured into the land of agentdom, how was it? Was reading through 50 queries easier or harder than you thought it was going to be?

(And allow me to brag that I made it through 76 real ones yesterday.)

Monday, April 13, 2009

That's It!

Whew! All 50 queries have been posted. You'll have until Sunday Saturday evening to complete the project in case you were tied up today.

Also, with this many comments it's almost impossible for me to keep up -- I need your help to combat the trolls. Please e-mail me any comments that you find inappropriate.

Most importantly: thanks for playing! What did you think of the contest? Please post your initial thoughts. We'll be back throughout the week to discuss more.

Be An Agent for a Day: Query #50

This query is part of the Be an Agent for a Day contest. Rules and Regulations here

Please post your rejection or manuscript request in the comment section!

Dear Agent for a Day,

I have followed your blog for several months and appreciate that your posts are educational, with many dashes of humor and candid honesty. I have noted that you enjoy young adult fiction, and I hope to interest you in representing my novel.

Eighteen-year-old Kellen is a Crowmaker, lifted from a bleak existence and turned via magical experimentation into a hero--a law keeper for the expanding Tenvan colonies. When the Crowmakers' greatest weapons begin to fail and Kellen's best friend and fellow Crowmaker is killed as a result, Kellen sets out to bring to justice the man she holds responsible, the engineer whose flawed plans and rushed experiments caused the failure. What Kellen finds instead is a dead man, a town under siege from a sentient force of nature with links to her personal plight, and the need to save the life of her enemy's daughter in order to save her own.

CROWMAKER is a 76,000 word young adult fantasy novel which follows Kellen's journey through despair and the desire for revenge and along the path to becoming something greater than a made hero--her own person. It is a completed work and available upon your request.

I am also the author of several short stories which have appeared in THE LEADING EDGE (April 2003) and CRICKET MAGAZINE (Dec. 2005), as well as other publications.

Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.


STATS: 13% request rate

Be An Agent for a Day: Query #49

This query is part of the Be an Agent for a Day contest. Rules and Regulations here

Please post your rejection or manuscript request in the comment section!

Dear Agent for a Day,

In a story that will challenge your perception of right and wrong, Nicky Fusco sets out to avenge his wife’s death, and to punish people for an oath that should never have been broken.

My name is Nicky Fusco. I’m a hit man. That's not always bad, though; sometimes there are reasons for what a person does. I had five best friends growing up, and now three of them are dead. One got shot in a gang fight; one died in a car wreck; and the other one—my best friend—betrayed an oath, so I shot him. It was an oath we had all taken as kids, and after twenty-five years I had kept true to my end of it even though it cost me ten years in prison.

You might think this is cruel, but why don’t you listen to my story and let me tell you about friendship and honor—and what happened in my neighborhood when someone broke an oath.

Friendship and Honor is set in Wilmington, Delaware, and Brooklyn, New York, and is the first in a mystery/suspense series featuring hit man, Nicky Fusco, and Detective Mario D’Angelo. It is complete at 121,000 words. I have been writing for a number of years and am active in the Mystery Writer's Critique Group as well as The Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror.

Thank you for your time and consideration. A complete manuscript is available upon request.


STATS: 7% request rate

Be An Agent for a Day: Query #48

This query is part of the Be an Agent for a Day contest. Rules and Regulations here

Please post your rejection or manuscript request in the comment section!

Agent for a Day,

I would like to present P.O.V., a 97,000 word thriller.

Audra doesn't see the world like other people; she prefers to view it through the one by two inch square of her camera's view-finder. At an estate sale, Audra finds a rare old camera and a box full of photos of the man who owned it. There's one photo for every year of his life arranged like a travel journal, only the wheelchair bound invalid never left his home. Fixated on the mystery behind the journal, she has the camera repaired, and following the previous owner's instructions, she takes a picture of herself and sends it off to Nepal - a place she always wanted to see. A week later, her dreams are full of Mt. Everest and brightly colored prayer chains strung above a rustic village.

No matter where she sends herself, she sees through the eyes on film. Places she's never been. People she doesn't know. Rooms she's never occupied. When she starts a webpage to chronicle her virtual travels, Audra discovers that she can see through open windows on computer screens and off printed pages. It's funny when she catches the professor she always hated in a compromising situation, but terrifying when her dreams fill with images of a murder she's forced to watch and can't stop. Audra can't even seek help from the Police without sounding insane.

When her tormentor realizes what's happening, he makes Audra his ultimate victim. Once he finds her, it's easy to find her friends. Now he's got a captive audience that must observe powerless and mute while he carries out his twisted machinations.

I can send sample chapters or a full manuscript upon request. Thank you for your time, I look forward to hearing from you.


STATS: 27% request rate

Be An Agent for a Day: Query #47

This query is part of the Be an Agent for a Day contest. Rules and Regulations here

Please post your rejection or manuscript request in the comment section!

Dear Agent for a Day:

I am writing because I am interested in obtaining a literary agent to help me get my book published. I've read some of the books written by some of your clients and I think you could really help me. I am a junior in The Providence Academy of International Studies and this is the first novel I have written. The main focus is for young adult readers. The title I have chosen for my novel is Black Rose. The reason is because the color black represents pain, suffering and death while a rose represents love and delicacy. I believe this contrast represents well both the main character and the book itself.

Black Rose is a story of a young girl that has been emotionally and sometimes physically abused by her parents since birth. Helen Wright is finishing high school in one year and she can not wait until the day she leaves. Her father is an alcoholic who has physically abused her mother, Rachel Wright, for as long as Helen as lived. To ease her pain Rachel is a drug addict and when she’s drugged (all the time) she abuses Helen,who has her own way of dealing with her problems. She cuts herself and when the school finds out they start questioning her family but her father is too smart and wealthy to get caught. To not see her mother suffer anymore Helen lies and says she does it because of stress from school.

Her group of friends whose she known her whole life do not know that she cuts herself but do know the life she’s had. Together they form a band they call Black Rose. Her best friend Lauren is the lead singer, her boyfriend Joey is lead guitar, her friend Jeff is on base, his bother Nick is on drums and Helen is rhythm guitar. Her friends are the only thing she has and when they all leave her; there is nothing more she has to live for.

I believe you should consider my book because Black Rose shows the struggle that some teenagers face. It will show the consequences that treating others differently just because of their clothes or style can bring. I feel that many young people will find this story interesting and would love to read it. It is just one of those books that even though it is really tragic you feel like you know the person and you want to know what happens to her. It will also bring comfort to those who are going through the same situation to know that they are not alone. That there are others who have the same problems and pain inside. Also it will show that if they are going through domestic violence or any other situation, they shouldn't try to deal with it by themselves. That their actions do affect those who love them and that wahtever they decide will hurt others as well. I feel that you would find Black Rose intruging.

Thank you for taking the time to read and consider my query. I hope to hear from you soon.


STATS: <1% request rate

Be An Agent for a Day: Query #46

This query is part of the Be an Agent for a Day contest. Rules and Regulations here

Please post your rejection or manuscript request in the comment section!

Dear Agent for a Day:

When begging and bribery fail to free Em Hopkins from theater class, she discovers that her shape-shifting might not remain a secret forever. Em's tasty neighbor is more of a temptation than she needs at this point, but the real struggle will be keeping her gossip-loving best friend in the dark about Em's unique ability.

SHIFTER is a complete, 50,000-word young adult novel about what it's like to feel alone in the world.

One of my speculative fiction stories ("Karma," in Sam's Dot Publishing's 2007 COVER OF DARKNESS anthology) and several of my poems have been published. SHIFTER is my first novel. I have included the first five pages below, for your consideration.

Thank you for taking the time to consider representing my work.




Part One: January

I stood in front of the water-spotted bathroom mirror and shifted myself into a supermodel, a tall one with sexy lips and a juicily curving figure.
If there were other shape-shifters in the world, they would probably despise me for being so shallow. But I live in the land of cow patty bingo and weekly Two-Step Night, so I have to find entertainment where I can.
I checked out the supermodel in the mirror. She was hot.
I could’ve gone to school that way. I could’ve pretended to be someone else, and everyone would’ve been so fascinated by the gorgeous new girl that no one would notice the absence of Em Hopkins, who had gone to school in Llano her whole life and, just like the rest of them, had never done anything interesting.
I added an extra inch of height and thick black eyelashes.
My sister, Lauren, yelled from the kitchen, “You’re going to be late for school if you don’t get your ass out the door, Em.”
I mocked her in the mirror, the supermodel figure shifting into Lauren’s short, thin body, the hair shifting dark blonde and shineless. One face faded into the other as smoothly as changing expressions.
I tried a smile in the face. It hardly looked like Lauren. I tried to remember if Lauren used to smile and when she had stopped doing it.
The shift from Lauren to me won’t be a huge one. Shorten and darken the hair. Make small changes to the nose and pale green eyes. Lauren is only two years older than me, so there won’t be any wrinkles to stretch or teeth stains to whiten.
But it’s different, always different, when I come back to my own face.
The usually fluid, instantaneous shift paused and shuddered, and for four seconds, I waited, and horror twisted around my lungs like a thorny vine while I waited for my own face and shape to return.
I don’t know why it terrifies me. I don’t know why my terror never prevents me from shifting, even when I have no real need to shift. Maybe the fear that I might lose my face, my barely adequate face, gets lost in the desire to do the one thing that keeps me from being dull.
But there I was, after my four panicked seconds, staring back at myself, my stomach in knots and my heart beating at hummingbird speed. I looked like me again: combed, mascaraed, and ready to blend in, my face feeling stretched and unstretched like a balloon. I smeared another layer of foundation over the fading bruise on my right cheek, a souvenir from my mother’s last visit.
“I liked the supermodel more,” I whispered to my reflection. She glared back at me.
I took a purple striped bangle bracelet from my collection and slid it over my hand, resting it over the scars on my wrist. Then I left the bathroom, grabbed the week’s lunch money and my backpack, and headed for school.
I stepped off the porch as an old motorcycle snarled past me and on down the gravel road, the driver’s thick black hair whipping back in his own personal wind.
Unfortunately, he didn’t know that I dreamed about licking his face. He would know someday. I’d tell him eventually, and even though he was three years older and several billion times sexier than me, he would sleep with me. Then I could move on to someone who noticed when I entered the room.
My sneakers crackled against the gravel. Because I was listening to it and only half daydreaming, I heard the footsteps running up behind me.
I stepped out of the way just in time to prevent Manu, brother to the awe-inspiring Ipo, from bowling me over. He grinned and fell into step beside me.
“Not walking to school with me anymore, Em?” Manu asked.
“I figured you’d catch up.”
Manu’s grin showed his one crooked tooth. I had watched him hone that smile in the mirror since we were six. Three girls fell in love with him every week because of that smile or because of his dark Hawaiian skin. Half of the sophomore girls were already zombies under his sadistic control.
Manu shrugged off his jacket as we walked and jammed it into his backpack. “I think I might die of heat stroke before spring,” he said.
It was January. Even for Texas, this weather was ridiculous. The brown grass and shrub skeletons and persistent Christmas lights insisted that it was still winter, but I was skeptical.
“Is Lauren getting a ride to school?” Manu asked. He glanced back at my little white house, right next to his little white house. I wondered if he expected to see Lauren walking behind us, staring at her shoes and pretending not to know us as usual.
“She’ll probably vanish into smoke and drift to school. You can do that when you’re pure evil,” I said.
“So why can’t you do it?” Manu said.
I gave him a mock laugh and kept walking, past the mailbox shaped like Rudolph’s head, past the one part of our route where we could see the river from the road.
“So, did you miss me while I was gone?” he asked.
“You were gone?”
“You don’t have to answer,” he said. “I know you don’t like to lie. I’ll just accept your look of overwhelming joy as a ‘yes.’”
I smoothed my sweater and wiped the sweat from my nose. “I missed your mom’s cooking while you were all sun-bathing and surfing and roasting pigs. I missed your basement. I missed having someone around who was so obsessively self-centered that he spends an hour smoothing his hair but can’t manage to zip his fly.”
Manu glanced down, stopped, turned away, zipped, and turned back grinning.
I thought about saying the words, “I didn’t miss you,” but it was probably a lie. And Manu was right. I hated to lie.
Instead, I said, “Did they perform some primitive growth hormone rite of passage while you were there? Or do people with your freakish genes usually grow three inches taller over Christmas?”
He glanced at me—or glanced down at me. He was a freaking giant. And he had that sort of bent shuffle that said he wasn’t comfortable with being a freaking giant yet.
It’s weird, but that made me kind of sad. Manu usually came out of the gate with flair, cape flowing. Never mind the raging Spanish bull.
But three ungainly inches and he’s Quasimodo.
“Four inches,” he said, and I couldn’t tell if it was shame or pride or some mixture in his voice.
We turned off the gravel onto the paved road that led to school. One car passed us, then the road was silent. Llano, Texas: Home of People Who Stay Home to Watch The Price Is Right.
“You could play basketball, now,” I said, trying to sound encouraging.
“Yippee,” he said. “What about you? What’s new at the Hopkinses’?”
“I’m officially living in the living room now. My clothes are in the ottoman, and I keep all the other essentials in the cabinet under the bathroom sink. Lauren and I had been sharing a room for too many years. I’m surprised it lasted as long as it did.”
“You should just throw all of your mother’s crap out onto the lawn and move into her room,” Manu said.
Something between my heart and my stomach went heavy. I twisted my face into a half-smile. “She still lives there,” I said.
“When’s the last time you saw her?” he asked.
“Last week,” I said, touching my cheek.
“And before that?”
I couldn’t remember. Sometimes she came home when I was out, and I knew she’d been there because there was a dirty glass in the sink or because some of my CDs were gone or because the house smelled faintly of liquor and Vanilla Fields.
Manu didn’t understand. His mother was every perfect TV mother and the quirkiest Friends episode combined.
He pulled my hair. Maybe it was his version of a hug.
Llano High School, tall and skinny, stood wedged between the old prison (now the library) and the shops that lined Peach Street like train cars.
We trudged toward it.
As soon as I walked into my first period class, I was sent to talk to the office gremlins about my schedule.
I passed Whitney and Brandi in the hall and waved hello. They were nice and relatively interesting, and because they didn’t mind when Cola gossiped about them to the entire sophomore class, Cola and I usually ate lunch with them and considered them more or less friends.
Whitney waved back, Brandi commented on my cute sweater, and I continued past them through the glass doors of fate.
Three office ladies sat behind the tall counter, staring at their computers with a vague sort of misery. Their faces would inch closer and closer to the monitors as the semester passed. By the end, they would be swigging from the fun flask when the vice-principal, Mr. Baldie, was out.
Mrs. Brewer, a woman with twice the mass of an average human being, asked for my name. She typed, then handed me the page that the printer spit out.
I took it.
“I can’t be in theater,” I said, handing the schedule back to her. She wouldn’t take it. “I have a medical condition. Call my doctor. He’ll tell you.”
Mrs. Brewer ignored me. She stared at her computer and jabbed the tab key with her index finger. According to Cola, Mrs. Brewer sold one of her kidneys on the black market to finance her husband’s gourmet beer business.
“I signed up for taxidermy,” I said.
“Taxidermy’s full. Theater is not, Miss Hopkins.” Jab, jab, jab.
Cola also said Mrs. Hernandez, the theater teacher, was a member of the Neo-Nazi party. That one might be true.
“But my whole schedule has been rearranged,” I said, searching Mrs. Brewer’s face for signs of empathy. “What about band? Athletics?”
“Full,” Mrs. Brewer said.
“German II?”
“You haven’t taken German I,” Mrs. Brewer said immediately.
I had a vision of Mrs. Brewer lying in her single bed, memorizing student transcripts as her husband snored from his bed across the room.
I said, “German I, then.”
“German I isn’t offered this semester.”
The second bell rang, blasting from the speaker on the wall behind Mrs. Brewer’s desk. I flinched. She didn’t.
“Medical condition,” I repeated.
I pulled my sweater away from my skin. Never mind that it was a summery winter outside. We had to have the heater on until the calendar announced the first day of spring. Down with Mr. Baldie’s despotic regime.
“Please call my doctor,” I said again. “He’ll tell you.”
“I’m sure he would. Here is your schedule. Theater meets in B1. That stands for ‘basement one.’ Can you find it?”
Mrs. Brewer slapped the schedule and slid it back across the counter to me.
I tapped my fingers next to the schedule, then reached over and picked up the receiver of Mrs. Brewer’s phone.
She stared at me as though she couldn’t believe I would invade her inner sanctum.
I smiled at her and dialed.
“I’m in class,” Manu whispered, but he didn’t hang up.
“Hi,” I said. “This is Emily Hopkins. Is Dr. Shyamalan available?”
“Damn it. Hold on a minute,” Manu said.
“Of course. I’ll hold.” I heard him ask to be excused.
After a few muffled seconds, Manu said, “Okay. Let’s get it over with.”
I passed the phone to Mrs. Brewer, whose glare had deepened into an expression of loathing.
But she took the phone and gruffed, “Is there any medical reason why Emily Hopkins can’t participate in theater class?”
I heard the distant babble of Manu’s voice, and I twirled my bangle bracelet for luck.
Of course, there was a medical reason why I couldn’t take theater. I’d shape-shifted while reading, drawing, watching TV, salsa dancing, daydreaming, and staring at blank walls.
Acting, actively pretending to be someone else, did not seem like a bright idea. If I accidentally shifted in front of my class, or worse, on stage in front of a room of parents and teachers, everyone would know what I was.
And I was pretty sure that that would ruin my magically defective life.

STATS: 23% request rate

Be An Agent for a Day: Query #45

This query is part of the Be an Agent for a Day contest. Rules and Regulations here

Please post your rejection or manuscript request in the comment section!

Dear Agent for a Day,

What if a sweet, romantic suspense writer, living a sheltered life on a peaceful barrier island in Florida, becomes the victim of a brutal hijacking? Her twin brother and friends are murdered, and she did nothing to prevent it, yet she managed to escape the killers herself. Knowing that the characters she creates in her novels are never helpless, and would never be victims, Sarah O’Connell is determined to become more like them. The rose tinted glasses through which she viewed life must be crushed, and then she can help bring the criminals to justice. It’s the path she chooses for redemption and to rid herself of her survivor’s guilt.

A handsome doctor, who lost his brother to the same killers and has military training, agrees to teach her self-defense. David Bjorn falls in love with her during the process. Instinctively, he wants to protect Sarah, but she wants to be able to protect herself. If he doesn’t help the now feisty writer, she’ll go elsewhere to get it. Not an acceptable option for the doc.

David Bjorn was an intellectually gifted child that completed medical school at a young age. Although most of his time was spent on his studies, rather than the pursuit of women, he’s smart enough to know his own heart. After spending time with Sarah, the perfect doctor’s wife, he can’t imagine living without her. However, the last thing Sarah needs is a romance to distract her from her goals.

The discovery that a ship impersonating a U.S. Coast Guard cutter was used in Sarah’s hijacking, and she is a witness, bring in the CIA. Now, because two civilians are involved, a special group of White Knights is formed. Then under the guise of a husband and wife medical team, Sarah and David help them locate the hijackers, and apprehend the thugs hiding in the jungles of Costa Rica. It’s a race between the CIA and a terrorist group who want the pseudo CG ship to form their own version of the Somalian Pirates attacking tankers and U.S. oil supplies in the Gulf of Mexico.

Under cover, as well as under the covers, Sarah and David begin to enjoy their pretend marriage too much for comfort. Sarah is afraid to hope, to trust her ability to separate fantasy from reality because she’s grieving, vulnerable, and made mistakes before. She’s unaware that beneath the doc’s polished veneer of a successful surgeon, he is not immune to the pain of shattered dreams.

Will Sarah be strong enough to protect herself when the hijackers again threaten her life? When David deliberately endangers himself to help the team and to avenge his brother’s murder, will Sarah have the emotional grit to help him? The sex and the time spent together are more than wonderful, but will the memories be enough once the mission is over?

I’d love to tell you more of the story. This is book one in a series about the White Knights (special agents with compassion) where three are complete.


STATS: 2% request rate

Be An Agent for a Day: Query #44

This query is part of the Be an Agent for a Day contest. Rules and Regulations here

Please post your rejection or manuscript request in the comment section!

Dear Agent for a Day

For over ten thousand years it ceased to exist; genetically engineered into extinction. Every record of its existence buried deep and forgotten within Corporate secure databases. Possession of this knowledge is illegal and the consequences extreme. Kutch only recently acquired this knowledge while intruding Corporate databases with the help of his internal AI, Li. The ancient data is so unbelievable that he filed it away as nonsense; at first. But now while on the job as Coroner, Free Radicals Division for Corporate, he is staring at what can only be described within the context of that illicit knowledge; murder! A monster has returned.

Reporting the death as anything other than normal to Corporate Security would only incriminate himself and his AI to their own illegitimate activities. The burden of knowing the truth consumes his every waking thought and invades every dream-state. There is no escaping it; something must be done, but what? DESCENDANTS is a 100,000 word adult science fiction story of murder, suspense, and intrigue spanning the galaxy.

Kutch is not a typical science fiction-fantasy monster slayer relying on training and experience to take on the unknown. There are no Corporate Protocols on how to handle a situation as this. He decides to confide his dilemma to Alex, a recent acquaintance that lives outside of Corporate protocols and scrutiny. She is smart, bold, confident and skilled in the art of deception, particularly when it comes to hiding from Corporate Security. Most important, she doesn't think Kutch has gone insane!

Kutch is convinced there is only one thing left to do and with Alex's help they embark on a search for a monster that should not exist. Eluding Corporate Security becomes the least of their worries when they discover the very thing they are seeking to stop from killing again, will stop at nothing to kill them next!

The completed or partial manuscript will be sent upon request.

Thank you for your time,


STATS: 2% request rate

Be An Agent for a Day: Query #43

This query is part of the Be an Agent for a Day contest. Rules and Regulations here

Please post your rejection or manuscript request in the comment section!

Dear Agent for a Day:

I am seeking representation for my middle-grade historical fantasy THE LION'S MANE, centred around the time of the Roman invasion of Britain.

THE LION'S MANE features 12-year-old Austin and a magical cat named Kedi.

His parents rent a villa in Turkey for the entire summer and Austin gets set for the most boring vacation of his life, away from all his friends in England. But that's before he rescues a talking cat, witnesses a bloody ritual that causes two people to disappear, and suddenly finds himself whisked back in time. In Ephesus, nearly 2000 years in the past, he makes a new friend, falls in love – and finds an enemy. Evil forces are at work, doing their best to prevent Claudius the Emperor's invasion of Britain, and Austin has to act fast to figure out how to influence the Emperor and ensure that the invasion does take place. It's either that, or time and civilization as he knows it will never be the same.

THE LION'S MANE focuses on the themes of friendship and loyalty, as well as exploring the ideas of time travel and the day-to-day decisions we make, for good or bad, that can have far-reaching consequences. This story will appeal most to those readers who enjoy delving into worlds where young heroes fight for the triumph of good over bad.

Please let me know if you would be interested in seeing THE LION'S MANE. Thank you for your time.


STATS: 16% request rate

Be An Agent for a Day: Query #42

This query is part of the Be an Agent for a Day contest. Rules and Regulations here

Please post your rejection or manuscript request in the comment section!

Dear Agent for a Day;

Not only do I follow your blog, but I also recommend it to all of the writers I meet as a necessary checkpoint before beginning the querying process. It would be an honor for you to consider my work.

Young Macs finds a magical book tucked away in his grandfather’s library entitled The Keeper. When Macs opens the book, it trembles in his hand as watercolor fairies and elves pop up and walk around on top of the pages using the book as a stage. Macs, able to interact with them, is deemed the prophesied “Keeper,” and he spends the majority of the living book’s story trying unsuccessfully to save the village’s inhabitants from danger. In the end, he watches helplessly as the characters settle in for an eternal sleep. When Macs attempts to “re-read” the book, it opens only to the closing scene, and Macs soon discovers what the title The Keeper really means.

The End is a 15,000 word mid-grade novel about a boy who, unlike Peter Pan, wants to grow up, yet he finds himself caught up in a magical world having to decide between being the hero of his own proverbial Neverland or ignoring the story in order to maintain his “cool” status.

I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in Literary Writing, and I have spent seven years both in America and abroad teaching middle and high school English. I have also published articles in a regional magazine, and I am a freelance editor for two publishing houses. I am a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the Oklahoma Writers’ Federation, Inc.

A complete manuscript is available upon request. Thank you for taking time to consider my project. I look forward to hearing from you.


STATS: 6.6% request rate

Be An Agent for a Day: Query #41

This query is part of the Be an Agent for a Day contest. Rules and Regulations here

Please post your rejection or manuscript request in the comment section!

Dear Agent for a Day,

Charles Smith is the first African-American criminal court judge in Nashville history, but the system that brought him from poverty to the police force to law school and the bench is also his eventual, tragic downfall.


STATS: 1.9% request rate

Be An Agent for a Day: Query #40

This query is part of the Be an Agent for a Day contest. Rules and Regulations here

Please post your rejection or manuscript request in the comment section!

Dear Agent for a Day:

When Grandpa Irv dies—only a few months after Gram’s unexpected death—and Aunt Ninian tries to keep Mom from attending the funeral, thirteen-year-old Emily Novak is far from prepared for the aftermath. Emotionally abandoned by her mother and thus reliant on the stability of her father, Emily spends her adolescence hiding behind a camera, unable to stand her ground and take the risks that will enable her to mature. Meanwhile her younger brother Zack, always a curious and independent kid, starts down a reckless path that turns him into a stranger in his family’s eyes.

Struggling before, during, and after college to find the courage to make her own choices rather than those of her parents, Emily observes that her brother’s adventures are bring him a confidence that she envies. Yet Emily is also continually aware of the rising cost of Zack’s decisions... as well as her own. My novel BECOMING EMILY NOVAK is the story of how we sift through our inheritance to disentangle our own truth from what our parents have told us is true, and what that sifting means for the shape of our adulthood.

I think of this novel as an example of the accessible literary fiction you so aptly named on your blog “book club fiction.” It has a sensibility similar to Curtis Sittenfeld’s Prep or Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake, and I would expect a similar audience as well, with some extra niche marketing avenues in the Jewish and queer communities.

I received my MFA in Creative Writing from XXX and have been teaching adult education courses in novel development and memoir at YYY for the past four years. The short story that spawned BECOMING EMILY NOVAK won second place in ZZZ national short story contest, and I have been published in AAA, BBB, and CCC, among others. A complete list of my publications can be found on my website at

You have often repeated, “when in doubt, query me,” and so I have, and I hope you’ll be interested in representing me and this novel. Thank you for your time. Please feel free to contact me by phone, mail, or email. I look forward to hearing from you at your convenience.


STATS: 7% request rate

Be An Agent for a Day: Query #39

This query is part of the Be an Agent for a Day contest. Rules and Regulations here

Please post your rejection or manuscript request in the comment section!

Dear Agent for a Day:

I have been seriously writing for nearly two years and am a finalist in fourteen RWA contests with twelve different books, including second place in the Daphne du Maurier Single Title category. THE COPYCAT KILLER ranked second in the Golden Opportunity contest. I'm a member of the Sacramento Valley, Kiss of Death and FF&P Chapters of RWA, and earned my PRO pin.

Why do some children grow up evil? That is the timeless question addressed in THE COPYCAT KILLER.

Ex-FBI agent turned fiction crime writer Rowan Smith wakes up one morning to discover someone is using her books as blueprints for murder.

Her former FBI boss fears one of her past arrests is out to terrorize her and insists she hire a bodyguard, or he'll assign two FBI agents to watch her. Rowan, who relishes her privacy and solitary life, doesn't want a bodyguard, but reluctantly hires ex-cop Michael Flynn.

The killer systematically goes through each book and chooses a victim, sending mementoes of the crime to Rowan. Michael's brother, freelance DEA agent John Flynn, accuses Rowan of hiding something and calls in favors to learn enough to confront her. She confesses that her father and brother killed her family. Her father is in a mental institution and her brother was killed trying to escape. They fall into bed needing a physical connection. The murderer kills Michael that night.

John and Rowan deal with their guilt over Michael's murder as they work with the FBI to find the murderer. They discover that Rowan's boss lied to her about her brother's death--he's in a Texas penitentiary. But when they go there to confront him, they discover that someone took his place.

THE COPYCAT KILLER is a 100,000 word suspense novel with romantic elements, in the vein of Iris Johansen, Lisa Gardner and Tami Hoag.

In addition to THE COPYCAT KILLER, I have two additional single-title romantic suspense novels, a futuristic suspense currently under consideration at Dorchester, and a women's fiction novel with a ghost as a main character.

A full is available upon request. Thank you for taking the time to consider my story.


STATS: 15% request rate

Be An Agent for a Day: Query #38

This query is part of the Be an Agent for a Day contest. Rules and Regulations here

Please post your rejection or manuscript request in the comment section!

Dear Agent for a Day,

16-year old Noella, mechanic in the city of Beziers, daydreams of the ancient past when animals were more than legends, before the shields separated the cities from the radiation-tainted Wild. But when it’s discovered that Noella is the secret heir to a wealthy city called Alcanzar, she must escape a plot to force her into marriage with Etienne, the Prince of Beziers. She flees beyond the shields, to the mythical Wild, which hasn’t been destroyed as the city-dwellers are taught by Council-sponsored textbooks.

In the Wild, a camaraderie has evolved between humans known as the Timber and the animals that share their lands. One Timber, Lynx, teaches her to survive outside the shields where a new way of life for her and the people of Alcanzar beckons. But when soldiers from Beziers find her and bring her back to Etienne, Lynx breaks into the city to save her. Only problem is, Etienne isn't the monster she feared. When he promises her a chance to help govern her own people, Noella isn’t so sure she wants to be rescued.
Noella must decide if she has the strength to become the true ruler of Alcanzar, and upset a system that has been teaching a lie for centuries.

Birthright is a 70,500 word YA novel. I am a publicist for a small publishing company, and managed the children's section of an independent bookstore for eight years. I have two stories published in "Stories for Children Magazine."

Thank you for considering my work for representation.


STATS: 24% request rate

Be An Agent for a Day: Query #37

This query is part of the Be an Agent for a Day contest. Rules and Regulations here

Please post your rejection or manuscript request in the comment section!

My name is Author, and I am writing to introduce you to my novel Secluded Alleys – a darkly humorous, neo-noir thriller. It is Carl Hiaasen meets Pulp Fiction in the caffeinated, smoke-choked marijuana culture of the Pacific Northwest:

The photographs allegedly show a dead woman covered with mousetraps, a dead baby holding a handgun, a dead girl provocatively posed with fruits and vegetables.

Dylan Massey, Seattle's favorite pot-addled reporter, is approached by a bizarre young man who calls himself Lou C. Fur and claims to pose cadavers with objects as an artistic expression. But when Lou is arrested as a serial killer, Seattle is awash in the controversy and Dylan's reputation is swept away in the tide of public disgust. While the cops are convinced the deaths are the work of one sick young man, Dylan sets his sights on a voyeuristic apartment manager, a bad cop with a vendetta, and a billionaire software tycoon with a dirty secret. Dylan must delve deep and face his demons in order to discover some light of truth through all of the haze.

As a former reporter and gallery director, I bring readers into the worlds of art and journalism with an eye for detail. As a screenwriter, my films have shown internationally, most recently at The Smithsonian Institute Museum of American History. My writing has received numerous accolades:

"Compared, with good reason, to stories of Raymond Carver." - The Seattle Times

"Well written." C. Michael Curtis, Fiction Editor of The Atlantic Monthly

"Startlingly unique." The Seattle Post-Intelligencer

"An evocative short story." - Matt Groening, Creator of The Simpsons

I have included a synopsis and the first three chapters of my 79,000 word novel in the body of this email. Also, please know that I am sending this query letter to three other agents who may be a good fit for my work. I look forward to hearing from you and thank you for your consideration.


STATS: 14% request rate

Be An Agent for a Day: Query #36

This query is part of the Be an Agent for a Day contest. Rules and Regulations here

Please post your rejection or manuscript request in the comment section!

Dear Agent for a Day,

I understand from Nathan Bransford's blog that you are seeking queries for review as part of the 'Be an Agent for a Day' event. I have a 90,000 word complete MS entitled ROSIE'S CHILD available for your consideration.

Motherhood, they say, is a biological fact, while fatherhood is a social construction. While you may wonder who your father is, there's never any question who your mother is.

At least, that's what most people think.

When Rosie Martin, a good-time girl living and drinking in West Cork, Ireland, in the 1940s, falls pregnant outside of wedlock, her first thought is for her childless best friend, Elizabeth McCarthy, unable to conceive after six years of marriage. Together, they hatch a plan to organise an adoption in a society wholly dependent on secrets and lies, where there are no adoption laws and where unmarried mothers can expect to be incarcerated and enslaved.

And when Jack McCarthy dies suddenly in 2007, his daughter Hannah is bequeathed a house she didn't know he owned. Desperate to find out the secrets her father took to his grave, Hannah embarks on a quest to find out how he came to own a house belonging to his mother's reclusive neighbour, and uncovers a strange love story she could never have imagined in an era she struggles to understand.

The novel is best classified as literary fiction and is set in Ireland, alternating between the 1940s and the present day. I am previously unpublished and ROSIE'S CHILD is my first novel.

Thank you for your time,

STATS: 29% request rate

Be An Agent for a Day: Query #35

This query is part of the Be an Agent for a Day contest. Rules and Regulations here

Please post your rejection or manuscript request in the comment section!

Dear Agent for a Day,

Today, a bully broke a kid’s nose against a urinal; a rebel wrote her high school hit list; a sci-fi dweeb got caught with porn in class; and a social pariah got humiliated in the girls’ locker room.

Tomorrow, they’ll all be in deep trouble with no one to turn to but each other.

LOSERS is a 50,000 word young adult novel about isolation, friendship and discovering who we are through the people we connect with. Trapper, Andi, Boston and Tuna are four teens with nothing in common, until they witness a police officer committing a crime. Scared for their lives and caught up in the excitement, they hit the road until they can figure out who they can turn to for help. The novel takes place over a 24 hour period, and by the end, they learn exactly who they can count on – each other.

I wrote this novel because, while I never experienced death or drugs or other untold horrors in YA novels these days, I DID experience the daily abuse that can define a teenager at the most vulnerable time in their lives. I wanted to tell a story that every young adult can relate to.

As a journalist, I write facts all day, every day. This is my first work of fiction.

I would love to send a partial or full manuscript of Losers for your consideration.

Thanks in advance for your time.

STATS: 35% request rate

Be An Agent for a Day: Query #34

This query is part of the Be an Agent for a Day contest. Rules and Regulations here

Please post your rejection or manuscript request in the comment section!

Dear Agent for a Day,

Fifteen-year-old Bento is a seventh son and, according to Argentine legend, doomed to transform into an el lobison - a werewolf, on his sixteenth birthday. When local villagers attempt to kill him, he flees his homeland to find refuge with an eccentric family in New Jersey where he learns that werewolves were once an actual race that intermixed with humans. This interspecies breeding resulted in humans carrying recessive genes that express werewolf-like tendencies on nights brightened by a full moon. Bento is assured that shape shifting (like in the movies) doesn’t happen anymore.

Just when Bento gets comfortable with his surrogate family and meets the girl of his dreams, his world is torn apart when he shapes shifts into a flesh eating beast on his sixteenth birthday. Is he an uncontrollable monster that will never have the love of his girl? How can he keep his girlfriend and family safe from his beast within? And who is the mysterious stranger stalking them?

My 43,380 word YA paranormal novel, Seventh Son, explores not only Bento’s monster but also the monsters we all keep hidden away.

I have attended many SCBWI sponsored conferences, as well as Writer's Boot Camp, and online classes. I’ve written monthly articles for X Magazine. I participated as a nominated mentee in the Rutgers One on One Mentoring Workshop and was fortunate to work with author, Joyce McDonald as my mentor. In the past, I was represented by agent X of X Literary Agency.



STATS: 5% request rate

Be An Agent for a Day: Query #33

This query is part of the Be an Agent for a Day contest. Rules and Regulations here

Please post your rejection or manuscript request in the comment section!

Dear Agent for a Day,

I’m writing today to introduce my literary novel, BENEATH THE HEART OF BEAUTY, the story of a man who is emotionally lost and finds that he must understand his forgotten past to forge a meaningful path to his future. It has 70,000 words.

Charlie Waters is just staggering through life when he begins to have recurring erotic dreams about a beautiful woman he doesn't recognize. His best guess is that she might be from his mysterious past. Two years earlier, while reeling from the discovery of his wife's affair, Charlie went to Los Angeles on business and disappeared. Six weeks later, he emerged from a coma in a Miami hospital with a gunshot wound to the head and no memory of the previous several months.

Besides the dreams of the woman, Charlie begins to experience flashbacks and bits of memory from the time he disappeared. These clues of sex, passion, greed, suicide, and murder come unbidden and out of chronological order, often jarring him both mentally and physically, and they threaten to drive him mad. His wife, a psychiatrist, tries to reach out to him and help, but Charlie can't figure out which is worse--knowing or not knowing. As Charlie struggles to reconnect with his wife and form some sense of a life again, he knows he can't move forward until he comes to grips with his past.

I've had several short stories published in the past, and I have written book reviews for [redacted] for the last seven years.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


STATS: 10% request rate

Be An Agent for a Day: Query #32

This query is part of the Be an Agent for a Day contest. Rules and Regulations here

Please post your rejection or manuscript request in the comment section!

FOR THE ATTENTION OF : Agent for a Day

‘Near Waredge’ by Author

Written for the TEEN (YA) FICTION MARKET- age 12 to 18

I am hoping to secure representation of my novel of 120,000 words that combines a paranormal romance and danger in a very realistic contemporary setting of an English secondary school

Jess Trainer is not exactly new to Woodford Academy she has just never been there before – her old school got a serious make-over while she’d had to live abroad; Caleb Ridgeway is an identical triplet and as if that isn’t problem enough he is not exactly human - insular and withdrawn is the way it has to be when you’re born Were. On her first day back Jess explains exactly how different The Brothers ‘Grim’ appear to her – if she can do that on day one what will she be able to see when she really studies them?

With the help of her friends (Ben, Alison, Anna and Ife) Jess begins to settle back into school but she finds herself drawn to Caleb - the oldest of a set of triplets that only she can tell apart. Caleb and his identical brothers (Alex and Raphael) think they don’t need anyone else and why should they when they came with the new Headteacher and he is the Alpha male. Jess senses that all is not what it seems with the brothers but never stops to question why she is drawn like a moth to the flame. She knows that Caleb has secrets and she can’t resist a challenge. She doesn’t know that Caleb is not the only one who has been keeping secrets.

Even after her friendship with Caleb makes her the victim of an attack by the dangerously insane ‘turned’ Were (the origin popular fiction's 'Werewolf ') she decides to enter more fully into Caleb's, and his pack's, very dangerous world that exists on the fringes of Woodford, in the Weald near Waredge.

The theme of ‘Near Waredge’ is that there is no obstacle to love that is too great that it cannot be overcome – tunnelled under, climbed over, whittled away or negotiated to a more manageable proportion!

I am proud to say that I am a new writer with no proven track record at all. College educated I went from classroom to classroom although my education qualification combines an English minor elective. I am a teacher with a passion for reading and writing. I have channelled the desire to write through inspiring children to impress in written format. I have always written short stories with my classes and more importantly been an avid teller of stories. My ambition is to write full-time and reach a wider audience. I have enrolled in the Open University’s Writing Fiction Course starting this summer.

To support my application I have included the first five pages of my novel.

Thank you for the time you are expending in taking me one step closer to achieving my ultimate goal. The manuscript, character descriptions and a brief synopsis of the chapters are ready to send out for your consideration. I have two on-line submissions in the US and I have sent out two paper submissions here in the UK. I am delighted to have found such an experienced and professional agent with an on-line application route.

Yours sincerely,



It was true I felt exhausted – but mostly I was relieved, happy and glad to be home. Dad held out his hand and I took it. He tugged me up from my case and then he heaved it up from the floor. Mum and I followed him until he paused to rest my case at the top of the stairs.
“You could get the door,” he suggested tetchily and I hurried up the last three steps and reached for the brass doorknob on the light oak door. I’d dreamed of this moment; turning the handle, walking in and really being home - now it finally happened. I closed my eyes and stood to the side to allow my father to enter - with case in hand - and my Mum behind him.
“Jess?” he said. “Welcome home!”
They both looked indulgently at me noting the closed eyes and knowing it wasn’t from tiredness. I knew they thought I was over doing it a bit but it was just such a relief. They walked to my side and, with a quick kiss on the top of my head they left me to it – they knew they were no longer needed.
“See you in the morning,” Dad said.
“Bed!” my Mum advised. “Soon!” she added with a smile as she pulled the door closed behind her.
I glanced from left to right to take in every detail: the rose pink walls, the light oak skirting, the leaded windows where the cream blinds were only half closed, the desk infront of the window and its seat. I turned to the right slightly to take in the door to the built in wardrobe and then on towards my bed. The troubled Little Miss on my old cover still grinned at me with just about as much mischievous trouble chasing over her face as I had on mine.
“Oh yes...!” I cried as I ran and leapt and, twisting in mid-flight, turned to splat my back down onto the bed, spread-eagled over as much surface area as I could manage to reach. I duvet-angelled myself on the cover then I twisted back to look at my case and thought about cracking it open and getting to work. I knew that the case was full of light weight fabrics and flip-flops so really those clothes could wait a while. Fair enough it was September and it could be pretty warm but this was England and the chances of a heat wave were not great. But then I knew that my alarm was in there and my wash things and … oh what the heck! I’d have to do it sometime anyway so I’d just make a start … no pressure to finish … I rolled over, thrust my feet down to carpet and made myself stand vertically again.
The case took very little persuading to fall flat onto the floor but the thing took a lot more effort to unzip fully. I tugged to get it going; I had to sit on the corners to persuade the zips to move around from the middle of the ends. Not wishing to say it was full or anything but I was pushed up when the pressure was released – so maybe there was slightly more in there than an odd sarong and some sandals inside.
I moved to sit beside the case and to sift under the surface for the essentials for tonight - long tee-shirt and shorts, bag of toiletries and my docking station and having successfully found those I tugged the mini player from my back pocket.
I scrambled to the other side of my bed, plugged it in and made sure that the time and alarm were set. I spent longer flicking through my tunes to see what I wanted to wake up to on my first day back and with school to look forward to for the first time in two years – I was going back to ‘my’ school.
I settled for one of my old favourite songs which began with more sound effects than music - after all even I couldn’t sleep through whistles, shrieks and the occasional firework explosion! Then I went for speed changing and throwing my clothes at the wicker basket by my cupboard as I headed for the bathroom.
I washed and brushed but as I finished that task - I stopped to look into the mirror at the face of the person I’d become. I know that people go on about ‘beauty is only skin deep’ and ‘people have to like you for who you are and not what you look like’ and all that stuff, but I hadn’t exactly found that to be true. Basically the problem was that I had changed. Not in a bad way – but in a major way.
I’d left for Guyana with a few challenges to social acceptance. Firstly as people, rarely kindly, put it - there was the ‘puppy fat’; this, I thought, I had hidden effectively with the huge black tee-shirt look. Then there were the endless numbers of red lumps and yellow spots that colourfully decorated my face. I topped this look off with the long black hair, in curtains, complete with an out of control grease tap located somewhere useful. To complete my look, aged thirteen, I had that ‘I’m not going and you can’t make me’ attitude. All designed to win friends and influence people. Somehow there was no-one in my international school for lovely girls who was remotely like me.
Better still when I arrived in Guyana I found that I couldn’t cope with the heat as the dry air made me cough all the time and when it was humid it made me wheeze. My new ‘friends’, at my ‘new’ school, thought my look was a re-make of a classic cartoon movie. How did it go? Oh yes: frumpy, lumpy, spotty, greasy, grumpy, sniffy and wheezy – I was my own version of the seven dwarves – and my parents wondered why I found it hard to fit in!
I discovered indoor fitness training. Hours into my ‘I hate them all anyway’ exercise programme I’d noticed I was getting lean and pretty fit – and I liked it – at school this helped them pretend that they liked me better. I was stuck there so I let them pretend; and I pretended too. I’d done hours of work with personal trainers supplied by my Dad’s firm – the same firm that also provided the huge air conditioned swimming pool and the fully stocked gym – Go firm! Getting fit was great though – I’d done karate for years before but I’d never been really good at it – ask Sensei. I think he suggested I should take up ballet – what a super suggestion that was - then I could have been a pink fairy-elephant!

Now I was home and I was different. But I knew four people who wouldn't be. I looked at the clock and worked out how many hours, minutes and seconds were going to have to pass until I was going to hunt them down and shock them. They didn’t know I was getting back early - how had it slipped my mind to let them know?! No-one else was even going to recognise me so I was going to have some fun with that at school too.
But only if I woke up in time to get there. I rinsed out, hurried up and rushed to fall into bed and sleep.

I didn’t so much sleep like a log as become one at some point during the night because my wake up call had done the firework, whistling, drums banging and the whole thing and I was too far gone to care. It took a cup of tea and some non-subtle messages that went: ‘if you’re not moving in five minutes I’ll be leaving you and you can start tomorrow’ type conversations to get me shifting. I stumbled to the bathroom and turned on the shower while I rested my head against the cubical door and drifted off - not entirely awake. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t pay enough attention to details because I nearly burned my foot off when I put it into the spray. Then I managed to freeze the rest of me when I overdid turning it down. That and the shampoo I rubbed into my eyes helped me to wake up properly! I grumbled into my towel and back to my room still combing my hair gel into my curls.
I did a speedy snatch and grab raid for food before I got dressed. I opted for the unhealthy cereal bar and large glass of juice option to balance it out. I collected my lunch while I was there as it had already been thrown together by Mum who looked possibly less awake than me. I hugged her but neither of us managed much in the way of joined-up speaking and then headed back upstairs.
Next, I had to decide what to wear for school and the old school uniform that I found hanging in the back of my wardrobe was no longer my size in any of its directions so I yelled from the top of the stairs, “Mum? Sixth Form is non-uniform isn’t it?”
“Yes, but office smart, and no bright colours,” replied my Dad, who was still leaning in an immaculate suit with brief case at his feet and what I could tell was the school prospectus in his hands.
“Thanks Mum!” I grinned and headed back to my room. I had a blue-grey pair of trousers and the matching cardigan that should have travelled well and if I dug further somewhere near the bottom of the case I’d packed the ‘wouldn’t want to be seen in too often’ blue blouse that I used for impressing at Dad’s office - on the rare occasions I’d had to call in. My clothes choices were limited and shopping would be needed soon.
There were impatient noises coming from downstairs so I hurried to the dresser to swipe on some mascara so I could make the most of my blue eyes and I decided I would have to do. I had brushed my hair earlier so I ruffled it to make the curls lie in less neat soft patterns. I shook my head and laughed again at the difference a hair cut could make.
I had considered growing my hair back to a longer length to see if it would straighten the curls back down. The hairdresser said she was sure it would. But I had decided that I didn’t really want to grow it out because the silky curls had quite grown on me! It was much easier for swimming and running any way.
“Jess! I am going out this door right now!” My father’s voice had that ‘had-enough-now tone’.
So, I grabbed up my shoulder bag containing my pencil case and hastily grabbed lunch and hurried; I leapt the last four steps down to Dad’s side to show him how prepared to hurry I really was.
Mum arrived to wish me luck with a paint brush already in her hand and she waved distractedly as I went to the car. I knew she was absorbed even before the door had closed.
“Is Mum working already?”
“Finishing the sunlight and sea stuff she’d already started,” Dad murmured while negotiating the right turn from the drive along Common Avenue. “You know this isn’t really your old school were going to?”
“What?” I was too stunned to be polite.
“Yes, the old school’s been re-vamped, re-organised and re-named - uniform, badge, college status – it’s all change at the school.”
“Oh - that kind of not my school,” I said in relief. For one horrible moment I thought he was going to make me start somewhere totally different.
We had paused at the lights ready for the turn right into the High Road so I could turn to him and he’d be able to look back too.
“Will I get a place there?” I asked, suddenly concerned.
His face was reassuring, “I phoned last week to make sure they would honour the promise the old Headteacher made when we went away. The Head Master’s secretary said everything should be in order but he would want to interview you today. So it is a good job we made it back in time.”
“Interview?” I asked and felt the first wave of panic start to grow - my last term at the old school would not make perfect reading if the Head had my old school records.

STATS: 1% request rate

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