Monday, December 9, 2013

Best Intentions...

I meant to get the posts up weeks ago, but I've been a combo of overscheduled and sick. Fear not--I will still post the top entries for a vote-off, but it will take a little while. The winner WILL get consideration for publication at Spencer Hill Press, even though open submissions period closes tomorrow (December 10th), as well as the other prize stuff listed below. And bragging rights.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Great Query Contest of 2013

Dear Ms. Agent,

Have you ever wondered why query letters should NOT start with rhetorical questions? 


Dear Mr. Spencer Hill, 

I has wrote a book. 


Dear Editor, 

If you ever want to see your guinea pig alive again, leave a publishing contract in a briefcase at...

 Spencer Hill Press has "open subs" coming up, so it's time to get those queries in shape with...


How to participate:

Paste your query into the comments section on the Ganzfield website contact form.

Please submit your query by Friday, November 8th. All genres are acceptable, however, I reserve the right not to post queries that contain material that people might find offensive (e.g., graphic language and/or explicit sex). Depending on the volume received, I'll probably have to pick and choose for query critiques, so not everyone will get a critique (I didn't cap it the last time, and I was critiquing for WEEKS).

I'll go through the entries and do several critiques throughout the next two weeks, which I'll post here at Disgruntled Bear. People who get critiques can then revise and resubmit their queries (revisions must be received by November 15th). I'll select the queries that I feel are the best-of-the-best from all received (including resubmitted ones) and then give the blogosphere a chance to vote during the week of November 18th. All queries received will be considered for the finals, even if they do not receive the online query critique.

The winner will get a $25 gift card to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, 
Book Depository, or the indie bookstore of her/his choice. 

Please spread the word!


Back in the days before I was an editor, I wrote a post about writing compelling query letters that still holds up--feel free to check it out:

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Great Query Contest of 2013?

Hi folks! 

Back in 2010, we had a query contest on this site that included this entry: 

Dear Mr. Agentoftheyear,

Dying sucks--and high school senior Ember McWilliams knows firsthand. After a fatal car accident, her gifted little sister brought her back from the dead. Now anything Ember touches dies, and that, well, really blows.

Ember operates on a no-touch policy with all living things--including boys. When Daemon Cromwell breaks into her house, claiming her curse is a gift, she thinks he’s crazy. But when he tells her he can help her control it, she’s more than interested. There’s just one catch: Ember has to trust Daemon’s adopted father, a man she is sure has skeevy reasons for collecting gifted children like action figures.

Learning to control her fingers-of-death holds a powerful allure. Ember is willing to do anything to be able to hold her sister's hand again. And heck, she'd also like to be able to kiss Daemon. But when Ember learns the accident that made her a freak wasn’t an accident, she’s not sure who to trust.

Someone wanted Ember dead, and they still do. The closer Ember gets to the truth, the closer she gets to losing not only her heart, but her life. For real this time.

Ember is a YA Paranormal Romance complete at 82,000. I thank you for your time and consideration.


Jennifer ABC

Yeah, "Jennifer ABC" is that Jennifer, and finding this little gem in the blog archives made me giggle, because this is the query for the book that became Cursed...

... and look at what the guy's name was!

Sooo, I bring this up to see if there is any interest in a query contest again this year. If you're interested, please leave a comment below, and feel free to spread the word--the more interest there is, the more likely we are to make it happen.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Change in Policy at Goodreads

Hi folks,

I was thrilled to hear about the change in policy over at Goodreads, which includes taking down offensive shelving names and removing posts that abuse authors and try to bully them into no longer participating in the site. As the first line in the Goodreads author guidelines reads:

"Goodreads is a place for all kinds of booklovers, and that includes authors." 

After the fallout earlier this summer, I heard from and about so many people who had been attacked for breaking the bullies' self-created "authors behaving badly" code, which included such "offenses" as:
  • Asking questions about the review policies (in a forum, not even in a review)
  • Correcting huge factual errors in negative reviews of books by other authors (e.g., "Is it really fair to call this 'blatant plagiarism' if this book was written *before* the other book?")
  • Posting a review if the reviewer knows the author of the book

To clarify, a scathing review of the BOOK is appropriate, e.g.:

"This was a poorly written, amateurish piece of drivel, filled with flat characters and fake-sounding dialogue. By the end of the story, I was seriously rooting for everyone to die." 

(By the way, this is how I feel about Godzilla. Remember that movie? Gods, that sucked. Matthew Broderick, if you are somehow reading this, know that I loved you in Ferris Bueller).

As an author, reading a review like that is hard. But that's the kind of review authors need that oft-mentioned "thick skin" to handle, and it's NOT appropriate for an author to even flag that kind of review. Suck it up and move on. I know it hurts, but seriously, let it go.

However, an attack on the AUTHOR of the book is different, and Goodreads has updated their review policy to list these types of attacks as violations of their terms of use ( A large number of these attacks have been documented by the people over at Stop the Goodreads Bullies ( I've found their posts to be factually accurate and well-documented (there have been some complaints about their tactics, but I wasn't able to find any evidence of them posting the personal information of any bullies), and Nathan Bransford mentioned them when he posted about this topic earlier this month (

He was then attacked by the bullies. *sigh*

However, I suspect that having such a well-respected and high-profile person stand up for civility is one of the main reasons that Goodreads (and Amazon) finally took action to save the tone of their site. I'm relieved that this abusive behavior is no longer being tolerated, because up until the bullying thing this summer I had unconditional LOVE for Goodreads! And now I'm looking forward to going back and enjoying it again.

For a different opinion, please take a look at Jennifer L. Armentrout's post about the Goodreads policy change (

See? See how two people can have completely different takes on something and still be able to interact without insulting each other? Intelligent, informed people can reach different opinions on things--and I'm still going to read every d@%# thing she ever writes. :)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Frightening Side of Book Reviews

Earlier today, I saw a negative review of a Spencer Hill Press book on Goodreads (not one of mine). No big whoop--we all get some negative reviews, and this one, while I disagreed with many of her points, was clear and logically-written, although I strongly disagreed with her statement that one of the characters was depicted in a racially insensitive way because she doesn't speak English at the start of the book. 

However, when I read the comment thread, one responder, R***, said, "I get that you didn't like the book and that's great. Not everyone will. But, damn, you trashed it." 

And then, the attacks on her began:

"Anyone tell you to go f*** yourself recently? Well I'm here to preach the good word!

"F***. OFF. Don't come on here and criticize a well-written, fully articulated and intelligent negative review just because you don't agree with the reviewer. It makes you look like a tw**."

"Thanks to R***, I am NEVER touching any work from this author again." 

People posted memes asking, "Are you retarded?" and calling her an a**hole. Others blacklisted the author for the comments of R***, saying it must be the author using a fake name (side note: it wasn't the author). To me, these seemed completely inappropriate for a book review.

But then I did something really, really stupid. I engaged.

For the record, NEVER respond to negative reviews of your own work. I don't. No author should. But this *wasn't* my book, and I just wanted to mention that the character who doesn't speak English at first learns fast, and the fact that she didn't speak it from the start made sense. I also asked people not to post profane personal attacks. And I mentioned my connection to SHP, since that's the disclosure policy when any SHP editor, publicist, etc. posts on a review site.

*face palm*

Yeah, I know. 

As you might expect, everyone then turned on me. They decided to mark all or her books--as well as all of my books--"not-for-me."

They called me several unflattering things. One even tweeted a link to the let's-call-Kate-several-unflattering-things thread to Twitter.

Another of the responders took a screenshot of my comment and then used it in a new thread to expand at length on my shortcomings. One person on *that* thread asked:

"And what is there to defend her from? She's not even on the thread and the review is about the book. Getting a negative review is nothing anyone needs defending from. This is ridiculous, that so many authors need to be coddled to not feel "attacked". It's a book!"

Here's the thing: a book isn't just a book to authors--it's a piece of their soul. If that causes non-writers to eyeroll, I can't do anything about that. But books are like children to those of us who write. If someone says your baby is ugly, it hits you hard. And being accused of creating a racially insensitive character is an accusation of being a racist. Authors *do* read their reviews. They see the nasty things people post about their books. And those reviews stick in their souls and fester. Sure, we need to have a "thick skin", and I can take bad reviews of my books, but I get strongly protective of our authors. 

Yeah, I made a mistake. I should not have posted on that thread--it didn't do anyone any good. I publicly apologize to anyone I may have offended. I did not set out to offend--I merely wanted to set the record straight on behalf of the author, who knows better than to respond to her own negative reviews.

 *   *   *

I've specifically avoided giving identifying info in this account, since I don't want to make things worse. But I feel sick inside. Why do people have to be so nasty to one another? 

(Asterisks added for anonymity and to take out the worst of the bad language)

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Kelpie

"The castle glittered as if it were made of crystal and shimmered solid parts as if they were made of moonstone or cat's eye.  It shouldn't have fit on the outcrop, but the outcrop seemed to have grown with it.  Behind the castle, the clouds that had darkened our trails had parted and stars glowed brightly."

The Faerie Castle is the most appropriate piece to put on Kate's blog, as Spencer Hill Press really is her castle of magic and wonders. Truly, being part of the SHP family is a magical experience that has changed my life for the better since Kate invited me to work on UnCONventional with her. :)  To be part of this professional family—and I repeat "family" on purpose—means that I have had this amazing privilege to nurture people's dreams, dreams they trust us with, and then be able to hand them that dream, actualized, as a real, physical thing. That's how SHP was created.
Thank you, Kate, for helping all of us get a chance to hug our dreams in person!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

FINN FINNEGAN Review by an 11-year-old

Finn Finnegan Review
By Walnut Storm*

     Even though I’ve never been to Colorado, author Darby Karchut picks me up and puts me in High Springs, where I meet a young teen boy named Finn, NOT Finnegan, MacCullen. Finn is a halfer: half mortal, half Tuatha De Danaan, an ancient race of warriors from Ireland. Finn has just hitch-hiked over 60 miles (from Denver to High Springs, Colorado) to meet the man he will be apprenticed to.

     Gideon Lir, Finn’s new master, is thoroughly Irish, and thoroughly Tuatha De Danaan, with a quick temper and thick accent. Like all the De Danaan, Gideon believes that the pure-bloods of the race are superior to anyone else, so he is annoyed to find out that Finn is a halfer. This ancient Irish warrior has to teach the computer obsessed Finn in the ways of the Tuatha De Danaan. No sooner have they started, but the Amandan attack! The Amandan, a race of goblin-like creatures, have been battling the De Danaan for centuries over control of Ireland. The war has spread over the world as the two races have emigrated to other countries. The De Danaan believe their existence relies on keeping themselves and the Amandan secret from the mortals. The Amandan have no problem using mortals as pawns in their war.

     Darby Karchut uses an extraordinary mix of myth and imagination to create this exquisite book. I love how she uses detailed descriptions of the battles between Finn and the Amandan; I felt like I was right there watching. I also enjoyed the journal entries of Finn and Gideon, because it made me get a better sense for what the characters were really feeling about life and each other. The one thing I didn’t like was that there weren’t strong enough female characters. Her male characters are so well written, but I would have liked some more females. Darby Karchut writes strong descriptions like this one, “The woman smiled.  Her grin stretched wider and wider across her face, as if the corners of her mouth were trying to meet each other around the back of her head.” She uses these great descriptions to create visual imagery. 
     Time is running out as the Amandan gather their forces and the De Danaan search frantically for the one thing that will kill their enemies, The Spear of the Tuatha De Danaan. Will the De Danaan find the spear? Will someone die? If so who? WHAT WILL HAPPEN? To find out read Finn Finnegan by Darby Karchut.

     I loved this book, and can't wait to read the rest!

*Walnut Storm is the pen name of an 11-year-old avid reader. Her image and words are used with parental permission.