Monday, January 31, 2011


Hi folks,

I just finished reading Beth Revis' debut, Across the Universe, and I really enjoyed it.  I'd pre-ordered it months ago and then I picked up an ARC at Arisia, so I now have a two copies.

That's just wasteful.

So, if you'd like my to send you one of them, please post a comment below.  I'll give you an extra chance if you're a current follower, two extra chances if you're a new follower, and +1 for every place (twitter, facebook, blog, etc.) you link back here (include your links, please!).

The rules: I'll ship to a U.S. mailing address.  Your comment must be up by midnight (EST) on Sunday, February 6th to count.  I'll post the winner on Monday, February 7th.

Don't forget to check out the enhanced Minder PDF giveaway, as well. It's open through February 3rd.

Friday, January 28, 2011

New Version of MINDER... with Pictures!

Hi folks,

We've been playing around with InDesign here at Spencer Hill, and as a result, we have an enhanced PDF version of Minder. Basically, we just took Minder and stuck in the art from the book trailer. If you've seen the book trailer and read the book, it's nothing new.  However, I still think it's kinda cool.

So... who wants one?  Post a comment below by midnight, February 3rd.  I'll let pick the winner and email the PDF to you anywhere in the world.

Happy weekend!

Save me, Internet!

Okay, enough with the snow already.  I can't get anything useful done with three small kids running around. I can, however, sneak random peaks are weird stuff online.. and then pass the weirdness on to you!

Check this out:

Jennifer has a non-weird book giveaway over at Ramblings and What Not. Check it out!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Know What I Mean?

I was putting away the haul from a trip to BJ's last night and saw the claim on a package of Scope that read, "99 uses!"

Wow. I've only been using it as mouthwash. What else could Scope do? Could it dry into a rather intense potpourri? Serve as a preservative for laboratory specimens? Be used as a dessert topping *and* a floor wax?

Turns out, they meant that the multi-pack held 99 "servings," or whatever the equivalent is for something you're supposed to spit out.

The moral is: what seems clear to the writer may not be clear to the reader. Always have other people check your work to make sure they're not inferring something other than you're implying.

Legacy launch party tonight! C'mon over to Gibson's in Concord NH at 7pm! 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Party! Party! Party!

Hi Folks,

The launch of Legacy is this week, and I'm wicked excited.  We're having a launch party at Gibson's in Concord on Thursday. It's one of my favorite bookstores, and I hope if you're local you'll come on down and say hi.  Not to oversell it or anything, but there may be cookies.

Oh, and we're going to play with Zener cards and have a giveaway.

There's a PDF flyer you can download here.  I'm so thrilled with the great reception that Legacy has been getting so far; we've had a bunch of great reviews, including:

"5/5: Legacy keeps the break-neck pacing that Adversary had, and I am constantly surprised by what happens. Her writing is superb, eliciting the whole range of emotions. These are the characters that I love, I am invested in them. When they laugh, so do I. I hate who they hate, am in suspense with them. The world at Ganzfield is well thought out, believable, and complex... This is an amazing series of books that I highly recommend, and Legacy did not disappoint in the slightest. – Blkosiner's Book Blog

"5/5: The Ganzfield series is pure perfection. There is nothing that could make this series better. In short, Kate Kaynak is awesome. If you haven't picked up this series, you must be insane! It's the kind of story that latches onto your brain and won't let go. It leaves you wondering and wanting more. Definitely pick up this book when it comes out January 28th, 2011. This series just gets better and better. Read it, read it, read it!"  – Looksie Lovitz: Books and Wits

"The Trevor/Maddie love story is probably one of the reasons I am so infatuated with this series. I just find it so believable and beautiful... I am now and forever will be a Kate Kaynak fan. I love her writing style and I love her story ideas. The Ganzfield Series is one that I am enjoying so much, and I can't wait to read # 4 - Accused." – Good Choice Reading

"5/5: Legacy was just amazing; I have absolutely nothing negative to say about it... There are twists and turns, as well as the romance, danger and adventure that the others have. If you are wanting a series that will capture your full imagination, spend hours reading without stopping and will keep to thinking even after you have finished the books, then these are the books for you." – Love Fantasy Sci-Fi Novels

"Legacy was just absolutely fantastic.  Kate Kaynak has such a way with words that keeps you hooked on the story... I guarantee that you will absolutely love the Ganfield series." – Everything to Do With Books  

"5 Stars: Legacy is a perfect combination of supernatural teen romance, friendship, and exhilarating thrills. Kate Kaynak unleashes yet again her superpower 'charm' ability to grab hold of your mind and take you on a hair-raising, mind-scrambling, emotional ride. She'll have you holding your breath in fear one minute, then exhaling it with and out-loud laugh at one of her characters' zingers!" – Reading, Writing, Raisin' Boys

"I love this series and I am very interested in seeing where Kate will take Maddie and her friends." – Larissa's Bookish Life

"5 out of 5: The world that Kate Kaynak has created is incredible. I can honestly say that Maddie & Trevor have wrapped themselves around my heart & head. I feel they will forever live there too. They feel so real to me... So my favorite author has kept it up...  I promise you that if you enjoy sci fi, you'll enjoy the Ganzfield series... Once I started reading it, I could not put it down... This book was fantastic!... Kate's ability to blend humor, danger and grief all into one amazing book is truly admirable. I've never been able to put her books down once I've started it. I can't tell you how much I enjoy this series. If you haven't yet picked it up, I would highly recommend it.I love, love, love this series!" – Books Complete Me

"4.5 out of 5: Legacy definitely lived up to the standards that I have now set for the Ganzfield series. It was just as wonderful and emotionally draining (not in a bad way) as Minder and Adversary. As soon as I sat down with this one, it had me and didn't let go until the end." Missy's Reads and Reviews

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Check this out; it's a great guest post and the book looks like a fun read!

Putting Things in Perspective

I love this clip; it just makes me appreciate how good we've got it. Thanks to Stef for sharing!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Call for Submissions

Do you write short stories? We just green-lighted a new project over at Spencer Hill:

Call for Submissions for the anthology UnCONventional

We're looking for stories that take place at fantasy/sci-fi conventions or other gatherings in which the convention/conference itself is just the cover for something supernatural or fantastic. Imagine time travelers using a steampunk con to cover their attempt to open a portal to return to their own times, werewolves holding a beauty pageant at a dog show, or vampires holding a treaty summit at Dragon*Con.

Suggested Length: 3,000-7,000 words. Up to 10,000 words is possible, but it will be a HARD sell.

Due Date: July 1st, 2011

Editors: Kate Kaynak and Trisha Wooldridge

Submission Guidelines: Please email your submissions to us at: editor at SpencerHillPress dot com.
Put your story into the BODY of the email (no attachments, please!) and put "UnCONventional" in your subject line along with the title of your story. Legalese: We can only accept previously unpublished stories. Please do not used licensed characters or any trademarked or copyright-protected material without written permission in advance of submission (This is NOT the place for fanfic). Contributor compensation will include a $10 advance paid upon publication, a contributor copy of the paper version, a royalty percentage split between all contributors, and, of course, bragging rights. Stories should be appropriate for adult and teen readers (age 14 and up); please, no explicit sex or graphic violence!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Novel Pitch #7(revised): DEMON VOW

Title:  Demon Vow
Author: Rachel Hert
Genre: YA Fantasy
Word count: 71,000
You’d think taking a blood oath would help you gain something.  All it gave sixteen-year-old Zade was an uncontrollable demon sealed inside his body and a village of people who want him dead.  In return he is bound to protect them and the demon gate hidden nearby from a renegade demon and his army.
Living in the mountains alone doesn’t bother Zade.  The fewer people who come around the safer they are, from him as well as the demonic creatures that search for the gate.  At least it didn’t bother him until Tiani showed up. Irresistibly drawn to her, he watches as she’s attacked by the creatures. He can save her, but to do so means revealing himself to the villagers.  Something he has gone to great lengths to avoid.  As the creatures close in, he saves her, adding a complication to his life he’s always craved for and feared:  People.
As if life wasn’t complicated enough the demon sealed inside begins to break free, and the attacks by the demonic creatures increase.  Unable to hold them off alone Zade must convince the people to trust him before the demon behind all the attacks shows up. He’s getting closer, and if he finds the gate he won’t just destroy the human world, but the demon one as well.
This has a much stronger sense of narrative voice, but you're right; it's not quite there yet.  Watch how you change tenses; try to stay in third-person present, if possible, and avoid using the second-person "you." Rewrite the fragments in the second paragraph and switch up the wording so you don't repeat "save her." I think you need to put some proper names into the third paragraph to clarify which "he" is doing what. 
BOTTOM LINE: this is a HUGE improvement over the first version. If you can smooth out the stylistic issues in the pitch and the manuscript, I'd be interested in seeing a query over at Spencer Hill. 
Thanks for posting your pitches, everyone!  The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest opens tomorrow, so get your submissions in! 
Speaking of submissions, keep an eye out for an announcement and call for submissions that will go up here at the Disgruntled Bear later this week. 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Novel Pitch #17: BORN TO DIE

Title: Born To Die.
Genre: Science-fiction.
Word Count: 66,000 words.
Author: Stephanie S.

Genetically engineered gladiator Axia was programmed with one motto: kick ass and don’t ask questions. Created to fight in the decadent System’s blood-drenched arenas, she lives one fight at a time. When she wins a freedom she never expected, she discovers her genes were manipulated beyond The System’s rules, making her an illegal specimen. 

Threatened to be eliminated by The System, she flees through the Uncharted Territories. Her choices are limited: remaining a fugitive or facing the past engraved in her genes, even if it means being killed or killing once again.

BORN TO DIE is a 66,000 word science-fiction novel that recently won the 5th GLA Dear Lucky Agent contest. It could well be described as GIRL IN THE ARENA by Lise Haines meets BLADE DANCER by S.L. Viehl. It will appeal to readers who enjoy action-packed adventures featuring a strong female protagonist.

The Good: Great opening hook.  I like the premise, the character, and the action. You had me from "genetically engineered gladiator." 

Suggestions: This is a solid pitch right up to the phrase "It could well be described..." It's fine to include comps in a query, particularly when you pick realistic ones within the proper genre.  My nit-picking is with the phrasing, which is the only passive part of this pitch. The only other aspect that give me pause is the length; 66,000 is short for a sci-fi novel.

BOTTOM LINE: If you haven't found a publishing home for this after ABNA, check out Broad Universe (  Several members are editors at small sci-fi publishers, and they'll want to take a look at this.  

Novel Pitch #16: THE NIGHT

Title: The Night
Author: Amanda Kurka
Genre: YA Epic Fantasy
Word Count: 115,000

Fifteen-year-old Aerael lives an ordinary life, for a world ruled by magic and false gods.

But when the man forcing her into marriage threatens her life, a voice whispers into her mind, saying it can help her, if she'll let it in. With no choice but to allow it control, she opens her mind to it, and the voice chants in the language of magic, seizing upon a power deep within her to eliminate the danger. She runs, knowing that when her would-be suitor awakes, he'll have her executed for illegal magic, if his magicians, the dreaded Varloi, can catch her.

While leaving the city she's known all her life, Aerael runs into a strange being named Siri, who informs her that the power she possesses is something called maijic of the night. A pure, good power, and a gift, it is the opposite of magic, which requires the payment of a soul. Aerael tells Siri that she can take the powers and the controlling voice, as she'd rather have her old life back--but the maijic cannot be returned, and Siri says there should be no voice. Aerael is told to go to Siri's people, where she can learn to use her maijic, if she can get there.

The Varloi learn the peculiar nature of her powers, and are ordered to bring her to the capital for questioning. Assigned to the task is the prince, who terrifies most with his volatile power over fire and harbors a grave secret. So Aerael sets off, accompanied by friends and pursued by the law, and comes to know more about her maijic…and the catastrophic consequences attached. She will either overthrow the corrupt rule of the false gods, or tighten their hold forever.

The Good: I like the premise, and the opening scene that starts the action is compelling.  In fact, I'd fold the first sentence in and start with the action to hook your readers: 
When the man forcing fifteen-year-old Aerael into marriage threatens her life, a voice whispers into her mind. When she opens her mind to it...

Suggestions: I'd like more of a sense of Siri beyond "strange being." Avoid using sentence fragments like "A pure, good power..." and tighten or split up some of the longer sentences. 

I'm a bit confused about the role of the would-be suitor. Is he the king? You say that the Varloi are "his" magicians, and you later mention a prince whom I'm assuming is someone different, but it would be nice to get a bit more of a sense of who's who.  I'd also like to get more of a sense of the Aerael's emotions and motivations, as well as a bit of the narrative voice. She just wants to go home, but she keeps going.  Why? Fear? Anger? Determination? Strong-will? To help others? 

BOTTOM LINE: This has great potential, but I think the pitch needs tightening.  

Novel Pitch #15: DARK VISIONS

Title: Dark Visions
Author: Rachel Hert
Word Count: 99,000

After Aaron failed the Ordeal – the final test to become a magician – he lost everything he ever held dear. 
Abandoned by the people he once thought loved him and clinging to the edge of sanity, twenty-five-year-old Aaron forsakes magic entirely. But when magic begins to fade from the world, his father tracks Aaron down, and forces him to learn to control his gift of foresight. As Aaron’s visions intensify, they reveal a war that will wipe all magic from the planet, including the last living wizard... his grandfather.
Every effort Aaron makes to change the future only leads him closer to the wars that loom on the horizon. Somehow he must find a way to stop them – but that means embracing his birthright, facing a dragon he fears may devour him, and becoming a wizard himself. 

Great. More magic. Just what he didn’t want.

The Good: I remember this one from the query contest, and I like the premise very much. The writing is clear and compelling. 

Suggestions: Bring out more of the narrative voice in this pitch; your last line has a great dash of sarcasm, and I'd like more of that to shine through. Make it clear if this is our world or a separate, high fantasy world (I recall it as a separate world from the query, but it's not clear in this pitch, and you have a great place to put the name "...fade from the world of...").  I'd like a little more of a sense of the downside of Aaron's learning to use his foresight (It's a bad thing because... ?). If there weren't a downside, he wouldn't have to be forced, after all. I'd also bring out the potential consequences of this war; I'm assuming that if the magic is gone, Aaron's family will be, too (not just his grandfather), and hopefully they don't really not love him. I just think that, if he's anti-magic already, there needs to be something worse associated with the coming war.  

Oh, and there's a minor typo: you don't need the comma in "down, and forces."

BOTTOM LINE: I'm intrigued by the premise and the difficulties in dealing with the downside of knowing the future but not being able to change it. I'd like to have more of the narrative voice and the character's motivations come through to really sell this.  

Friday, January 21, 2011

Novel Pitch #14: POINT OF OBLIVION

Author Name: Jordan Mierek
Genre: YA Fantasy
Word Count: 75,000

Seventeen-year-old Lock becomes the Record Keeper’s assistant when Archer, her best friend and secret crush, invites her to the Realm, a parallel universe. The Record Keeper must use the Pen of Truth, a magical stylus that, when pressed to paper, automatically writes the major events happening in the Realm.

Sick of living with a cruel uncle since her parents died, Lock is thrilled by the new life the Realm offers - the joy quickly fades when Lock discovers how the natives suffer beneath the heartless hand of the Usurper King. While Archer tries to help the natives rebuild their overtaxed homes, Lock uses the Pen of Truth, shocked at the dark truths revealed. The King is actually her uncle and her parents are not dead, but trapped by him so they cannot claim the throne. Furious with Lock when she tries to free her parents, the king kidnaps Archer. To save her family and Archer, Lock must follow the Pen’s cryptic plan to find the Realm’s lost heir and stage a rebellion, even though it means assassinating her uncle and sacrificing her love for Archer by joining the prince.

The Good: I like the twists of this plot; it hints at some difficult choices that Lock will have to make. Play up the relationships and the conflicts more, since I think these might be the heart of the story. 

Suggestions: Watch overusing adjectives, especially when they read like clich├ęs (e.g., "cruel uncle" and "overtaxed homes"). I'm still a little cold on how the premise of the parallel world comes in; I'd like a little more of the magic expressed here (Portal? Spellcasting? What's involved in the process?), rather than simply receiving an invitation. I'd also like more of a sense of connection between Lock and Archer. Does he know she's part of that world? Give us a little sense of what the Realm is like--what's the ONE thing that a person from our world would notice as the biggest difference? 

I'm also a bit confused by the whole parent-and-prince scenario in the second paragraph.  I figured that, if her parents had a claim on the throne, then SHE would be the lost heir. 

One more thing--play down the "magic pen" aspect of the story. Writers have been telling versions of this one in many forms, and it's a hard sell unless it has a very unique twist (e.g., Inkheart). 

BOTTOM LINE: I'm intrigued by the story, but this needs tightening and some changes in emphasis. 

Novel Pitch #13: WICKED GAME

Title: Wicked Game
Author: Chris Fielden
Genre: Thriller
Word Count: 70,000

Thirteen years ago, Jack Fox tried to exit the criminal organisation he worked for. Leaving proved impossible. He was framed for murder and imprisoned.
On the day he is released from prison, Jack is drawn back to Moonlight Alley to face his past. Men in balaclavas are waiting in the shadows. They attack, knocking Jack senseless.
Waking in a derelict warehouse, Jack finds he is a hostage at the mercy of terrorists. He isn’t alone. Six other people share his predicament. The terrorists swear to kill one hostage each day until the government meet their demands.
Every night a hostage is escorted from the warehouse. The lights are turned off before the silence is broken by the loud crack of a single gunshot. Jack finds the stress of the situation makes his temper increasingly hard to control.
One of the other hostages behaves in a lecherous manner towards the female captives. Jack develops a hatred for this man. In a rage, Jack kills the other hostage, breaks out of the warehouse and finds himself in a television studio. He has unknowingly been a contestant in a reality TV game show. None of the contestants are dead, apart from the man Jack killed.
Jack is taken back into police custody. As he is escorted from the TV studio a gunfight erupts. Jack is abducted by the criminal organisation he used to work for. They are planning to detonate a nuclear device in London and intend to frame Jack. 
Fighting to control his aggression, Jack escapes and helps police capture the criminal organisation’s leader. The terrorist plot is thwarted. Rather than going to jail, Jack is offered a job working undercover for the police. He accepts, hoping to change his life for the better.

The Good: I didn't see the reality show twist coming. 

Suggestions: This reads more like a synopsis... or a book report. Instead of giving a blow-by-blow of the plot, start with a single hook that will pull in the reader. 

When Jack Fox wakes up with guns pointed at his head, he fights back and kills. Too bad he was just on a reality show.  

A good pitch or query reads like jacket copy. Look at the back of other books in your genre for inspiration. When you revise this, give a quick sense of the setting and the character, as well as the twist or conflict.  You've got the third one here--the reality show twist--but it doesn't come out until the second half of the pitch.  

BOTTOM LINE: This isn't a compelling pitch, since it contains too much of a and-then-this-happens sense. I suggest that you revise to bring out the essential aspects--character, premise, conflict, etc.--that will grab the reader. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Novel Pitch #12: OUT OF THE WATER

Title: Out of the Water
Author: Deniz Bevan
Genre: Historical romance, set in 1492
Word Count: 100,000

Exiled from her Spanish homeland by the Inquisition and separated from her family as they flee their home, 18 year old Rosa must place her life in the hands of a stranger from the Ottoman Empire. Baha, estranged from his own father and returning to his homeland after ten years, is her one hope of reaching Constantinople and reuniting with her family. The fact that he's attractive and tender is an unexpected pleasure.

As they travel together, her burning drive to be reunited with her loved ones is matched by a deepening desire for the man at her side -- but all too soon they may run out of time to be together. Rosa's family will likely not accept her marriage to a man of different faith, let alone one who has been renounced by his family. Yet before she can even introduce them, their reunion is cut short by the arrest of her father and brother at the hands of the Sultan's Grand Vizier. Rosa and Baha are the only ones that can rescue them, and together prove that their love can withstand their differences.

The Good: I'm drawn in by the historical setting and the sense of danger in this. The opening is strong, and I want to read more. 

Suggestions: Spell out her age, rather than using the digits, and use "who" instead of "that" when referring to people ("...who can rescue them"). I get the sense that this is a relatively clean romance; if it has steamy scenes, give a sense of that with a line of "what his touch on her skin does to her" or something, just so the reader can place the book in the right sub-genre. That's about it. Seriously, I'm reading through it again, looking for something else to mention as a flaw. 

Nope--I got nothing. This is a HUGE improvement from the first version you posted. 

BOTTOM LINE: Very, VERY marketable! Well done, Deniz! 

Novel Pitch #11: CAGES

Title: Cages
Genre: Adult Fiction
Word Count: 88,000

“Childhood, like history, is immortal. And memories, even unconscious ones, follow us like shadows.” 

-Character of Diego Rivera, in Cages

Eighteen-year-old SABINE likes her life just the way it is—bohemian, simple, and relaxed—until the night she decides to steal someone else’s mail. This first reckless act turns Sabine’s life on its head and leads her to a bricked-off chamber where secrets are buried.

An uncovered manuscript opens in 1937 Spain on the eve of Hitler’s bombing of Guernica. In a schoolyard at recess two children are being bullied into an early marriage. Then the bombs drop.

Decades later four-year-old Sabine is left without her mother in a Paris artist salon amidst a dizzying array of eccentrics. Those who surround her all live in the same neighborhood where famous artists like Picasso and Rivera once lived. Although the modern characters are all hiding something, or from something, and each is searching, they come together in hopes that by helping Sabine find her mother they might recover some of their own personal losses.

Sabine wonders if the key to her mother’s disappearance could still be lying in the ruins of a bombed schoolyard in Guernica?

Cages is a mystery, a trio of interwoven tales that blend history with fiction, but, above all, it is an affirmation of the power of compassion to heal the wounds of war, bullying and other forms of stolen innocence. If childhood events have ever haunted you, this novel will challenge you to take another look at those wounds—and cages—and to start opening doors.

The Good: The opening line (after the quote) has a nice hook and sets up the premise well. I like the revised version much better; it reads more smoothly. 

Suggestions: I'm not a big fan of opening with a quote, so my first thought would be to cut it. If you keep it, though, I'd remove the citation. I'd also keep standard punctuation for your MC's name; with the all caps, I was wondering if it was an acronym for something. I recommend putting the name CAGES in all caps, though, since the italic formatting doesn't always transfer across email providers. 

I'm glad you revised, since some parts of the first version confused me.  This is much clearer and provides more of a sense of the narrative voice and what the three intertwining stories are. I suggest avoiding passive voice whenever possible, and I recommend that you stay in third person (i.e., lose all uses of "you" and "us"). In addition, I have a few problems with specific words, such as "two children" (I'd say "two teenagers" or "two sixteen-year-olds" or something to give a sense of exactly how inappropriate the pressure is). Watch the overuse of cliches (life on its head, etc.), and make sure you do more showing than telling (the phrase "reckless act" bothered me, for example). You caught many of the issues I had with the first version, including that manuscripts can be "dropped" or "closed" but they don't really "slam," and you cut the profanity from the query, which was another good move. 

The standalone sentence about "Sabine wonders..." gave me two issues: first, it should have a period, not a question mark, and having characters "wonder" or "feel" or "think" slows the writing and distances the reader from the action.  Consider: 

The key to Sabine's mother's disappearance might lie in the ruins of a bombed schoolyard in Guernica. 

BOTTOM LINE: VERY compelling premise, and the revised version lets that shine through, although it still needs some polishing. The complex plot, the intertwining stories, the emotional punch of loss and pain--as I'm reading through it, I have the thought, "If she's really done this well--if she's nailed it--this could be a masterpiece." 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Novel Pitch #10: ANGELINA'S SECRET

Title: Angelina's Secret
Author Name: Lisa Rogers
Genre: YA
Word Count: 60,000

As a child, Angelina spent years in counseling learning that Josie, her imaginary friend, wasn’t real. Now at age seventeen she discovers her childhood friend wasn’t imaginary after all. 

As if trying to lead her cheerleading squad to a state championship, breaking up with a boyfriend, and watching her brother move away to college, isn’t enough to deal with, now Angelina has to accept she’s either (A) crazy or (B) able to see ghosts. Wanting to believe in her sanity, she chooses (B) and welcomes Josie back into her life. With Josie’s return, Angelina learns to understand her ability, but even Josie can't help her deal with Shelly, the spirit of a confused teenager. 

Unknown to Angelina, Shelly, intent on having her day in the spotlight, influences her as she tries to choreograph a cheer routine for the state finals. When Angelina can’t explain how she came to know the unrevealed routine of a dead cheerleader, things go very wrong and she finds herself admitted into a psychiatric hospital for evaluation.

Discovering her gift isn’t as unusual as she once thought, Angelina knows she can spend the rest of her life pretending to be someone she isn’t or she can embrace who she is and take a chance that she may never get to go home. 

ANGELINA'S SECRET, a novel for young adults, addresses the pressures of surviving high school while learning to accept who you are.

First off, please accept my apologies for the delay in posting, Lisa!  The computer issues I had are now pretty much resolved, and I'm back home again after a crazy-full weekend in Boston at Arisia. 

The Good: GREAT opening hook! My editor-spidey sense started to tingle with this one. This lays out the characters, the setting, and the conflict clearly and compellingly. 

Suggestions: there's a misplaced comma in the second paragraph (college, isn't), but the rest of this reads like jacket copy. The only thing I'd suggest as a change is to refine your genre identification to "YA paranormal." 

BOTTOM LINE:  If you'd sent this to Spencer Hill (, I'd have asked for the full manuscript (hint, hint). 'Nuff said. 

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Autor: DMcWild
Genre: YA Fantasy
Word Count: 85,000

With her Grandma card counting in Vegas, sixteen-year-old Teagan returns from visiting her twin sister Ryanne in the hospital with a key she hopes will unlock a mystery surrounding Grandma’s study. Inside the forbidden room, moth eaten ventriloquist puppets with only half their faces still painted on teleport Teagan to the Island of Candleflora--where the not so dumb dummies come alive. Chased by puppet Trolls dressed in cheap fur coats, but expensive Donald Trump wigs, her rescue’s aided by Thomas, protector of the Candle Light Realm who recognizes Teagan as his sovereign princess. Teagan’s shocked because his Queen happens to be Grandma and she’s not playing blackjack, she’s on a torturer’s rack, courtesy of the Candle Dark Empire and their Princess--Ryanne, who nine years earlier Teagan found in Grandma’s study--comatose with a puppet on her hand.

The sibling’s armies go to war, wearing magical puppets called hand guides which allow them to transform into different animals, warriors and fantasy creatures. Ryanne steals Grandma’s secret hand guide depository of WMDs (Wickedly Massive Dragons), shifting the balance of power. The situation turns desperate when Teagan discovers their common enemy, the cannibalistic Bone Cutters, are planning to attack. Now to save Grandma from biting into an apple and being presented on good bone china, Teagan needs to unite Candleflora. She must either surrender her throne to Ryanne--or visit the sleeping beauty at her bedside for a lights out winner take all pillow fight.

The Good: This has a quality that reminds me of Terry Prachett's or Robert Lynn Asprin's books. There's a steady niche market for YA fantasy, and many of the publishers accept unagented submissions. I remember this pitch from the query contest, and this version gives a very different sense of the story--the narrative voice comes through much better in this one. 

Suggestions: The pitch has a few rough spots: for example, the last sentence needs a bit more punctuation.  I also don't like when someone TELLS me the character's reaction, like where this says "Teagan's shocked." SHOW me how she feels with a physical reaction (jaw-dropping, etc.), or leave it out entirely. I think the aspect of Ryanne being in the hospital (long-term care facility?) AND on the island confused me a bit, since Teagan "teleports." Is she there in spirit while her body is in our world? That's the assumption I made, given the situation with Ryanne and the pillow-smothering allusion, but it needs a touch of clarification. 

Saturday, January 15, 2011


Title: Letters To My Mother
Author: Rebecca Heath
Genre: Romance
Word Count: 99,800

“You know, I never eat young ladies on Fridays. Only on Tuesdays.”
I couldn’t help laughing. “Do I look that apprehensive?”
“Yes, rather.” He opened the door for me. “But I have just the cure for you. It’s David Rosenau’s patented shyness remedy, strawberry shortcake garnished with whipped cream, to be taken at least once weekly in charming company. Doctor’s orders.”

Kate is a college junior, a gifted student who skipped two grades in school, a naval officer's daughter who's lived in more places than she can remember. Shy and bookish, she's never had a boyfriend, let alone been kissed or gone on a date. Kate thinks falling in love is something that only happens to other girls.

David is a college professor, a sailor, a renowned biochemist who’s trapped in a failed marriage; aloof and reclusive, he buries himself in teaching and research. David's convinced he'll go through life with an empty heart.

When Kate gets a campus job as David's typist, they discover they're both mistaken. 

Set in 1950s Seattle, Letters To My Mother is a May-December romance novel.

The Good: Romance never goes out of style, and the May-December aspect and the time setting add unique twists that make this stand out.  

Suggestions: Starting with a quote from the dialogue is risky; some people may love it, but others may not. Personally, I think that it's a good taste of your style, but it's not a strong enough hook for your opening. Also, the romance genre has a wide range, from chaste/Christian stories to things that cross the border into erotica. Give your reader more of a sense of where this falls. I've got to admit, I read the opening line as a racy double-entendre that didn't get backed up by the rest of the pitch.  

BOTTOM LINE: I don't see this as a good fit for ABNA, but I think it sounds VERY publishable. I suspect you'll be able to land an agent or a contract with a romance imprint with this if the MS has the same level of quality. 

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Okay, so I put the kids to bed last night, and then opened my laptop to a blank screen and a terrible, terrible "hmmmm-pop" that accompanied every attempt to restart.  Long story short, my logic board was fried. I've spent the past 24 hours freaking out about losing the two AWESOME scenes from book five that I wrote AFTER I did my time machine backup in the morning, imagining the kids playing submarine with my backup drive in the bathtub, and wondering where in the family budget the cost of the new computer I just drove two hours to buy at the Nashua Apple store will fit.

However, about five minutes ago, the transfer completed and all my files--including the latest version of book five--survived.

Now I'm going to lie down.

I'll try to get the next pitch critique up within 24 hours, and I'll catch back up over the weekend.  BTW, if you're in Boston this weekend, come find me at Arisia. I'm on a bunch of panels, including the Schools of The Future, the Broad Universe reading, the Speed-Writing Competition, and Sci-Fi Beyond Physics.


Okay, so I put the kids to bed last night, and then opened my laptop to a blank screen and a terrible, terrible "hmmmm-pop" that accompanied every attempt to restart.  Long story short, my logic board was fried. I've spent the past 24 hours freaking out about losing the two AWESOME scenes from book five that I wrote AFTER I did my time machine backup in the morning, imagining the kids playing submarine with my backup drive in the bathtub, and wondering where in the family budget the cost of the new computer I just drove two hours to buy at the Nashua Apple store will fit.

However, about five minutes ago, the transfer completed and all my files--including the latest version of book five--survived.

Now I'm going to lie down.

I'll try to get the next pitch critique up within 24 hours, and I'll catch back up over the weekend.  BTW, if you're in Boston this weekend, come find me at Arisia. I'm on a bunch of panels, including the Schools of The Future, the Broad Universe reading, the Speed-Writing Competition, and Sci-Fi Beyond Physics.

Novel Pitch #7: THE DEMON VOW

Title: The Demon Vow
Author: Rachel Hert
Genre: YA Fantasy
Word Count: 71,000

The demon within sixteen-year-old Zade was meant to merge with his human half and become one. But when his training goes terribly wrong and he accidentally kills his master it leaves him utterly alone, and his two halves fighting for control.
Riddled with guilt, Zade takes up his masters duties: Protecting the Hindori and the demon gate from Vrieg, the worst demonic criminal in history.
As the battles with Vrieg’s armies intensify Zade finds his hold on the demon within slipping. Terrified it will break free and kill everyone, Zade trains his two best friends to harness their energy and use it. At least if the demon gets loose the Hindori will have a chance. That is if they can keep Vrieg away from the demon gate, because if he gets to that not a soul on either side will survive.

The Good: I like the idea of a human-demon hybrid fighting for control of a shared body, and you've got a good premise for the action in this book. The hook comes in the second line, and I'm intrigued by it. 

Suggestions: The writing is a bit rough. You have some misplaced punctuation throughout, including a misplaced comma in the opening paragraph and a missing apostrophe in "master's duties."  Style problems will kill a pitch's chances with a contest, agent, or publisher no matter how good the story is. There are a bunch of great style guides out there, but the one that's actually a pleasure to read is Eats, Shoots, and Leaves. 

I'm also unsatisfied with the label "criminal" for Vrieg--if he has armies, he's more than just a criminal. I'm a bit confused about Zade's friend's "energy," as well. Is there some way to make this more concrete? Do they have demons, or psychic powers, or something else? Is there a way to bring this information out that either gives a sense of the narrative voice, the characters, or the relationships? 

BOTTOM LINE: I like the story's premise, but polish this up before submitting it. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Novel Pitch #6: FRACTURED

When seventeen-year-old Meredith’s father dies, it feels like a part of her is buried with him. Forever. Then she meets Kaden. They spend hours together, talking, laughing, even enjoying the silence that can accompany holding hands or a gentle kiss. He makes sure she eats, gets enough sleep and smiles at least once a day. Meredith begins to share memories of her dad with him.

Sometimes, though, he is not the same Kaden. He snaps because she’s late. He's pushed and shaken her. He's even struck her. She wants to hold onto him, and doesn’t want to fall back into the darkness that gripped her after her Dad died. She tries to tell herself that the abuse is worth the hope he brings, fearing that if she leaves Kaden everything will fall apart again. 

FRACTURED is a 58,000-word contemporary YA novel. It will appeal to readers of Cupala’s Tell me a Secret and Dessen’s Dreamland.

The Good: I've got this MS queued up in my TBR file, and I'm looking forward to digging into it. I think the premise has a compelling realism, and this version of the pitch highlights a different side of the story.  

Suggestions: The opening needs more of a hook, and the MS is a bit on the short side at 58,000 words, although that's not far short of the 60,000 minimum standard for YA. but other than that, I think it sounds like a book Oprah would champion.