Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Authoress Edits--I've Got Room For You!

First of all -- loving the critiques, as always!  Please keep them coming.  If you didn't have time to offer your feedback yesterday, jump right in today.

I sometimes forget that I am constantly picking up new readers who may not know the details about my editing services.  So here it is, in a proverbial nutshell:

REGULAR 30-PAGE CRITIQUE:

This is my normal offering.  For $95 (payable in 2 installments), I will critique the first 30 pages of your completed manuscript, offering a detailed line edit and an editorial letter.  Turnaround is 1 to 2 months, depending on the queue and my writing workload.

PREMIERE CRITIQUE:

I offer these when I have time.  For $260 (payable in 2 installments), I will critique the first 75 pages of your completed manuscript, offering a detailed line edit and an editorial letter.  The Premiere Critique has a GUARANTEED 1-week turnaround.

FIRST 3 PAGES:

Occasionally, I will announce that I'm accepting submissions for 3-page critiques for $18.  This is a good way to see if your opening pages are working.

ALL THAT to say:  I am currently available to accept ONE Premiere Critique.  This will be the last Premiere Critique I will offer until July (because June is vacation month).  If you are interested, please email me at authoress.edits(at)gmail.com.  As always, this is first come, first served.

SOME EXTRA LITTLE NOTES:
  • Please don't hire me in lieu of finding a good critique partner.  Swapping your work with colleagues should always come before hiring someone.
  • Please don't hire me to critique your first draft.  Not ever.  I've editing some work in the past that I'm convinced were first drafts, and trust me--it's exhausting to edit.  Nobody should ever (ever) pay for a professional edit of a first draft.  Save the hiring for when you've got a clean manuscript that needs an outsider's eye on the bigger picture.  Then you will truly benefit!
Questions?  Email me, or ask below.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Are You Hooked? Critique Guidelines

General guidelines for critique on MSFV:
  • Please leave your critique for each entry in the comment box for that entry.
  • Please choose a screen name to sign your comments. The screen name DOES NOT have to be your real name; however, it needs to be an identifiable name.  ("Anonymous" is not a name.)
  • Critiques should be honest but kind, helpful but sensitive.
  • Critiques that attack the writer or are couched in unkind words will be deleted.*
  • Cheerleading IS NOT THE SAME as critiquing.  Please don't cheerlead.
  • Having said that, it is perfectly acceptable to say positive things about an entry that you feel is strong.  To make these positive comments more helpful, say why it's a strong entry.
  • ENTRANTS: As your way of "giving back", please critique a minimum of 4 other entries.

*I can't possibly read every comment.  If you ever see a comment that is truly snarky, please email me.  I count on your help.

Are You Hooked? Adult Genre Fiction #35

TITLE: Switcher
GENRE: Adult - Urban Fantasy

After professional body switcher Cade stops a murder on his latest job, he must take back his own body from a killer he suspects is his supposedly dead uncle without breaking the heart of the sister who loves them both.

I had been back in my body for twenty-four hours when my next client called, and there was a mosquito bite between my shoulder blades. If people were going to take my body camping while I did team-building exercises at a corporate retreat in theirs, I needed to add a bug-spray requirement to my standard contract.

When the phone rang, I was balanced on one of the bus’s oversized tires, using the handle of a squeegee to scratch my back. The Caller ID said "Private Name Private Number." I got that a lot.

“Cade Hightower,” I said.

Harlan Ambrose’s voice on the line was deep and quick. “Cade, buddy, what’re you doing?”

I pulled the squeegee out of my shirt. “Washing the windows on the bus.”

“Hey, do me a favor and go inside.”

I looked around. “Sir, I’m in a high school parking lot on a Sunday. I might as well be on the moon.”

“No, I mean it. Inside. Got a job for you.”

I held the phone away from my mouth so he wouldn’t hear me grumbling, pushed the door open, and climbed the three steps into the school bus I had converted into my home. When I was settled in the swivel recliner anchored to the floor, I put the phone back to my ear.

“I’m inside, sir. What’s this job?” My foot rattled against the floor. Mr. Ambrose was a good client, but talking to him on the phone gave me hives.

Are You Hooked? Adult Genre Fiction #34

TITLE: A VALLEY OF BLOOD AND BONES
GENRE: Adult - Gothic Science Fiction

Vampires are going extinct. The cure to their impending doom is hidden within the veins of one woman who shifts from vampire to human like an undead Hulk. If this cure falls into the wrong hands, it might give life to a vampire race, but mean the end of a human race.

PRELUDE

I chose to avoid the mirrors throughout the house. I feared what I had become, and the possibility of a confirmation should the mirrors stare back, void of reflection. I might embrace the change, but not with the help of mirrors. It would be in his eyes. He was irresistible, alluring, and everything I didn’t want. For that fear, I avoided his eyes as well—or, at least, I tried.

ONE

The air was sweet. Sweet, for a July evening. Sweet, and as close to perfection as the Michigan climate would allow. The temperature peaked around seventy-five degrees and only a hint of humidity accompanied a welcomed breeze, billowing my chiffon dress around my body. The bits of beading sewn in lace around my neckline jingled against one another with each gust, like the wake left by fairies, fluttering to and fro.

Whispers of lavender and vanilla, of earthy bark and fresh-cut grass, brushed against my face, carried by the warm current. I basked in the moment, if only for a second, before continuing ahead to the French doors of the banquet hall.

Once inside, a corridor illuminated by twinkling lights led me toward the sea of chattering voices. Before stepping toward the wedding reception, the smell of chlorine wrapped its comforting arms around me. I filled my lungs with the scent as I passed an indoor swimming pool. It reminded me of when I’d steal away to my aunt’s pool as a child.

Are You Hooked? Adult Genre Fiction #33

TITLE: The Skyline Club
GENRE: Adult - Category romance

Braydon Ferraru hates the tsunami of social obligations that comes with being part of Texas’ leading family, so when managing the task falls to him, he decides his wife can do it. Now, he just needs one. But the girl he picks for the job turns out to be trouble.

“I think the world of you, Braydon, but this has to be the dumbest idea you’ve ever had.”

Braydon Ferraru stretched an arm over the back of the exquisitely upholstered booth he’d commandeered in the recesses of Skyline Country Club’s executive lounge and smiled at his assistant. Because he could afford it, he preferred to have the best, brightest and most beautiful people around him at all times. Ellie was all three.

“Not dumb,” he corrected, speaking louder to be heard over a sudden burst of enthusiasm from the pianist. “Unorthodox. The kind of thinking that’s made me a fortune over the years.”

She set a hand on her six-months-and-ticking baby belly and scanned the dimly lit lounge. “So which one is she?”

“Haven’t seen her yet. Did you bring that file?”

Ellie scrounged in her oversized leather bag and pulled out a tattered brown folder. It made an ominous thunk when she set it in front of him. “You wouldn’t need unorthodox methods if you’d just say no to that insane request from your mother.”

“You tell her no. I’m not suicidal.” He flipped the folder open and stared. “Yet.”

“Read it and weep. Red column shows events you’re committed to attending. Blue column lists available women. It’s sorted by your last date, so follow instructions for once and call from the top. We don’t want another Cherie incident.”

Cherie, who he’d accidentally invited to three events in a row, and who’d gotten ideas.

Are You Hooked? Adult Genre Fiction #32

TITLE: Stolen Child
GENRE: Adult - Fantasy

Searching for answers to his troubled past, a washed up Irish professor must confront the ancient evil beneath an old fairy oak and stop him from eliminating their bloodline.
Roars of laughter surfed the usual crowd at McGinty’s.  General conversation lingered between the tides of mirth with shrill gasps dappling their merriment.  Gnarled antlers dominated the central hearth from which emanated a warm ember glow.  Perching upon the mantle were many stuffed cocks puffed proudly beside their trophies.

Autumn winds mingled inward as a boisterous drunk left, declaring his hatred for a rival football team.  Newcomers entered and settled themselves across the room from where sat Connor Quinlan.
To say he was well kept would be only half-right.  His shirt was buttoned but not tucked.  His nails were clean but his hands a bit smudged.  Not a single strand of his nut-brown hair stood out of place but he needed a shave.  Overall he looked the sort who might frequent this sort of scene though it would not be thoroughly true to say that is who he was.  A natural environment for this wayward fellow had yet to be found.  There was no wife to speak of and his family lived in County Sligo whilst he was in Galway.

The truth of the matter was, Connor did visit McGinty’s on a regular basis, but one could not call him a regular.  It was the yearly jeopardy of his job teaching Irish Folklore and Mythology at The National University of Ireland, Galway,  that brought him tonight.  The argument was quite familiar; he spent far too much  time on the folklore of the fairies and little people and not enough on the nation-building mythology.

Are You Hooked? Adult Genre Fiction #31

TITLE: Life in the Gray
GENRE: Adult - Women's Fiction

Charged with the death of her daughter, Alex tests the limits of love and forgiveness to save her marriage, and her life.

I couldn’t let her live the rest of her life in a cold, white ceramic pot.

It sat on the fireplace hearth. Seeing it always made my breath pause and my heart spasm.

Connotations of death; a reminder I should have been sitting beside her. It was hard to believe the contents once made up a giggling, spunky four-year-old girl. If I listened hard enough, I could still hear her feet pattering over the hardwood as she ran from room to room. I could hear her dad, too, laughing as he gave her pony rides down the hall in the evenings. The way he’d appraise her renderings of rainbows, even when they ended up on the walls. Some marriages crumble under the strain of raising children, but it made Braxton and I stronger, like we weren’t complete as two, we needed to be three. That was never clearer than in the months after she was gone.

Tell death do we part. We always assumed that death would be ours. Not hers.

Gathering a breath, I reached for the urn. It was heavier than I expected. Heavier than I remembered her being in my arms.

Was I forgetting? Already?

I clutched it to my chest as a wave of grief and guilt washed over me, threatening to knock it from my shaking hands.

No more regret. For her, I had to go through with this.

I opened the bag hanging over my shoulders and wedged the urn between the rolled sweaters on the bottom, careful not to let it tip over. Then I turned and left the house.

Are You Hooked? Adult Genre Fiction #30

TITLE: Dusk Dealers and the White Water Sacraments
GENRE: NA - Urban Fantasy

Arilyn, an angel banished from heaven and damned to darkness, awakens from a century’s long slumber to find herself linked to mysterious warriors and a prophesy they must destroy. Plagued by lost memories and why God locked her away, Arilyn must uncover her unknown past or become a martyr for evil.

            Kensington Pier looked like a dead land.

            Mere hours before, city folk filtered in and out of the carnival strip. Now closed and deserted, the grounds were swept spic and span. Even the forest behind the carnival looked especially dim under its green layout. Nothing but blessed darkness resided. Just the way she liked it.

            Arilyn grinned as she dropped down from the merry-go-round. Her charcoal boots barely made a sound as she dashed toward the Ferris wheel. She sprang over the gates and slithered through the intricate web of beams like a wiry feline. The curved scimitars marking an X on her back clanked in her haste. She chuckled lowly. Arilyn’s grandfather had always deemed her a tigress. If he could see her now, he’d likely have a conniption and demand she climb down.

            In one final weave, she heaved her body upward and landed onto a now swinging cart. The squeaking noise pierced the night air. That’s when she heard it. The rumbling in the wind — like a quake beneath the trees. The screeching whistle — more like a painful whine. Nature had nothing to do with those sounds and they hadn’t come from Arilyn’s mouth. In fact, slyness tugged at her crimson stained lips as a familiar melody escaped her throat.

             Nursery rhymes were such good tunes … especially before a killing.

            “Don’t be shy.” Arilyn whispered. Her voice harbored a deathly chill. Graceful, yet riddled with blades that could slice through stone. “I’ve waited so long to kill again.”

Are You Hooked? Adult Genre Fiction #29

TITLE: Baneborn
GENRE: Adult - Science Fiction

Centuries after a biotech apocalypse bred Abomination and drove the survivors back to the Age of Steam, Pure folk and mutants must reach a truce to fight their common enemy. If they don’t, what’s left of humanity won’t last the summer.

It took Malcolm and the rangers a full day to hunt down the tuskers in the North Wild.

The tuskers had killed folk of the Territory--that couldn’t be left unanswered without looking weak and ripe for predation. And now they had them, caught dead to rights over breakfast with no idea Hell was about to rain down.

Malcolm squatted behind the birches above the tuskers’ camp while Sanjay and his rangers moved in to close the trap. Tuskers got their name from their piggish features. If they had a different one for themselves, Malcolm didn’t know it and didn’t care to ask. Pure folk and tuskers weren’t inclined to converse much before the killing started.

He plucked a juniper berry and crushed it under his nose. The evergreen smell was a damned sight better than the stench of burnt methane and saltpeter from the flamer crew behind him. He couldn’t abide that smell, not anymore, not after what he’d lost.

It made Malcolm feel a speck of sympathy for the tuskers. But that wasn’t something a Baneborn could afford--he had a duty, an obligation, to every soul in the Territory. People looked up to him, depended him. Hell, they even revered him like some prophet of old. Maybe that was why he preferred the Wild to more civilized places.

Sanjay and the rangers were in position. The five of them could slip through the forest like ghosts lost to a fog. But a Baneborn’s ears could hear them.

Are You Hooked? Adult Genre Fiction #28

TITLE: Painting Kuwait Violet
GENRE: Adult - Women's Fiction (suspense)

Violet, travels to Kuwait to work as a maid and finds she must escape her employer, as the maids are being hunted one by one.

March 1996

In the sweltering heat of the Kuwaiti desert, she ran, slipping in the shifting sand. Despite the late evening hour, it would take hours before the hot dunes would cool, and boy could she feel it. Her cracked soles were burning, but she couldn’t stop. In her haste to get away from him, she left her slippers behind. He had come out of nowhere and after the last time, she just had to escape. The man was a bastard. The chalet seemed like a distant mirage now, its shadows receding and she knew it was not due to the gaping wound in her scalp, oozing across her forehead. Panting, she pushed herself, trying to keep her voice and wits to herself.

She lumbered on, trying to find a dirt road, a path, a vehicle, a savior. Someone. Anyone. Willing herself onward, she tried to pick up the pace. A dull ache settled in her belly, what of her baby? Yet she hurried in the sand, fumbling towards the next light, the other chalet, sitting in the middle of the desert like an oasis. Thank heavens, at last.

Would they help her? She had to take that chance. One last time she thought to check if she was being followed, when a clean swing knocked her out. He checked her pulse, rock steady, strong. So he swung again. Again. Again. And again, till it disappeared. He stood up straight and looked back at the chalet, then glanced at the one in front, the one she could have escaped to. So close to being caught, he thought. So very close.

Are You Hooked? Adult Genre Fiction #27

TITLE: Bears Tears
GENRE: Adult - Paranormal suspense

Living a fairy-tale can drive you nuts.

The legion of trees, standing guard against the mountains in the leached Northern light, would have looked forbidding had I not been so happy.

At long last, my teaching contract had been completed, China lay over twenty hours of travel behind me, and I was finally in my adopted country driving home with my husband in his boxy old Volvo.
I'd given up trying to get him to even look at a Pathfinder or a Jeep--he was too attached to his first car, which at this rate, would also be his last. To be fair, the Volvo was more than dependable and crested even the highest hills with deceptive ease. Yes, they were well matched my husband and the Volvo--in temperament and oddly enough, in looks. Dark brown hair to dark brown car. Tall, almost rugged build to a long, never sleek car. Both utterly dependable and stubborn.

We overtook our neighbour, Vasilli, on the little country road, little Ivan waving excitedly back at me. I smiled at Nik. He smiled back with understanding, wanting a child of our own too. We'd already tentatively decided we'd start trying now that I'd retired from teaching.

Up another hill around a slight bend and the last stretch home wound ahead flanked by the ever present forest. Another ten minutes and the kettle would be on for a much anticipated cup of tea. So, I was surprised when Nik brought the Volvo to an abrupt stop not three kilometres from home.

Are You Hooked? Adult Genre Fiction #26

TITLE: To Charm a Bluestocking
GENRE: Adult - Romance

(resubmit pending)

Are You Hooked? Adult Genre Fiction #25

TITLE: His Soul Purpose
GENRE: Adult - Paranormal Romance

Bryon's vampiric life is changed the night he almost attacks a twentysomething wearing a cross necklace. Grace, a karate-practicing librarian, believes his conscience means he isn't damned after all. The quest for Byron's soul leads them to uncover an ancient conspiracy to keep vampires damned forever—and brings them far closer than either intended.

Byron curled back his upper lip. "You've displeased me for the last time."

"I'm… I'm sorry. Please." The man backed up, hands raised defensively. As if he could defend himself from Byron. "Please, give me another chance."

He circled around the pathetic man. Shadows from candles flickered against the white walls of his office. Byron never did care for artificial lighting. "Against my better judgment, I already did. Twice. A third chance to wrong me just wouldn't be prudent."

"But… my family…"

Byron held up the faux gemstone. "You think I wouldn't realize it was a fraud?"

"N-no… I never meant… My contact assured me—"

"Your whining grates me." The gemstone ground to red dust in his hand. He opened his fist, allowing the specks to filter to the hardwood floor.

"Please, I can find you—"

"You will do nothing for me."

Byron snatched the man's neck, lifting him a foot above the ground. His hold tightened, the man's eyes bulging, his attempts at fighting growing more pathetic with every passing second until he slumped over.

"You will do nothing for anyone."

He dropped the man onto the floor, on top of the ground stone. Clapping the remnants of red from his hand, Byron stepped over the body and left the office behind. He could have, and perhaps should have fed on the man. Even now, his thirst grew, a pulsating need that could not be denied much longer. Recovering the Ruby Heart could wait.

Are You Hooked? Adult Genre Fiction #24

TITLE: Day 10K
GENRE: Adult - Science Fiction

A colonized world has worked its way back up to twentieth-century technology after the devastation of war. But a computer glitch might ruin it all again. 

Shushan stepped onto the ladder attached to the little cinderblock building in the parking lot, acting like she belonged here. But her backpack shifted as she climbed, making her grip the metal rungs harder and disappointing her—it was the new, lighter kind of pack made of synthetic materials from Earth, and something so cool shouldn’t have been a problem.

Reaching the top, she slung it down with a satisfying thump. “Hah!” She gazed across the asphalt, but no one in the windows of the bank where she worked was waving at her to get down. If any of them had, she would have waved back, knowing that if she stayed bold none of them would take the time from their frantic, last-minute meetings to come out and confront her. This was her final day at work, and she was determined to goof off before all the banks collapsed.

She walked across the tar paper roof of this funny little building that housed the gigantic emergency generator, then kicked the stovepipe for the exhaust. She chuckled at the gritty sound of soot sliding down, then her throat constricted as she remembered the noxious cloud of gas it had belched during the tests.

Of course it burned fuel. This smelly throwback was a perfect symbol of how everything in her life—in this whole grubby world—was about to go flying backwards.

Are You Hooked? Adult Genre Fiction #23

TITLE: Down into Darkness
GENRE: Adult - Science Fiction

When linguist Brian Marconi visits the subterranean Sulcan aliens on Ganymede and finds his predecessor dead, he must keep himself alive in the hostile alien underground long enough to convince Earth not to sacrifice him in an all-out attack on the Sulcans.

“Your move, Jade,” Brian’s voice echoed in the empty cabin of the Empathy. He reclined his seat in the cramped space, slowly settling back under the micro-gravity of the ship’s thrust. Above the table in front of him, a holo-splay shimmered the dimensions of a go gameboard studded with black and white pieces.

Another black appeared on the grid. “Capture,” a woman’s voice filled Brian’s ears, softened by a subtle Japanese accent. His surrounded white piece dissolved and reappeared with a “clink” inside a black cage housing a crowd of other whites.

“Imprisoned by my own ambition.” Brian glanced around at the bare walls of the ship that enclosed him. “Rather fitting.”

“You’ve made that mistake 73 times,” Jade’s voice issued from his ear implants.

“Thanks for that.” A running account of his performance statistics was one of the side benefits of an AI companion.

“You’re welcome,” Jade said, missing his sarcasm.

Brian ran a hand through his hair, knowing his opponent saw the board from his side of the table, perceiving the room through every flick and glance of his eyes. That gave her an unfair advantage, but TASSEC hadn’t spent a hundred million marks developing Jade so that Brian could play games.
Brian focused on one part of the board while he thought about strategy in another quadrant. Maybe he could turn Jade’s advantage into a liability. “Place my piece at ten, G, please,” he said, and another white appeared.

“Once again you are too eager. You rush into new territory and end up isolated and outnumbered.”

Are You Hooked? Adult Genre Fiction #22

TITLE: Deep, Dark, Truthful Mirror
GENRE: Adult - Urban Fantasy

Declan would rather die than kill again. But, to prevent a massacre, he must embrace his power as the newly awakened god of death and choose sides in a divine cold war that pits his conscience against the fallen god who may be his soulmate.

Declan had to get to the brothel on time and stick to the plan or he'd lose his nerve. Chill seeped through his crappy t-shirt. He pulled his leather jacket shut, quickening his step. Cardboard shielding the holes in his boot pinched his foot. At least the boots didn't have to survive another rainy season or even another day.

Just a few more hours, and he'd be done.

Almost ten o'clock. Shit. He couldn't risk missing Thad. He'd have run up Hollywood if everything didn't hurt so damned much. Skag usually deadened anything resembling a feeling, but he wanted no chance of a performance issue, so peace of mind was worth cold-turkey aches. Dope had stopped muting the reaper's demands weeks ago anyway.

He sped past Rubber Room's bouncer, pushed aside the velvet curtain, and gagged on death. Sticky-sweet funk, like rotting fruit drenched in blood, clogged the air. Christ, he hated crowds. Dumps like this were beacons for the doomed. He ought to know.

The club's house lights blurred through a smoke fog, and speakers blared Joey Ramone singing about Sheena the punk rocker. Hustlers worked the usual Friday crowd of syndicate players, gangbangers, and leering civilians. Edgy drunks packed the floor with an aura of violence ready to blow. Some of them wouldn't see the sunny side of tomorrow. The reaper crawled under Dec's skin, testing for gaps in his self-control.

Where the hell was Thad? If he didn't get his hookup soon, somebody was going to die.

Are You Hooked? Adult Genre Fiction #21

TITLE: Royally Screwed
GENRE: Adult - Contemporary Romance

Grey’s Anatomy meets The Royal We: When Gemma catches her royal fiancé shagging her sister, the British surgeon is torn between double-crossed duty or star-crossed love. She can forgive Prince Cheating and embrace castle life or chuck crown and surgical gown to go au naturel with her lumbersexy, not-so-steady ex.

The photogs flanked Gemma’s wedding-cake-white townhouse as she stepped from her glossy-green Range Rover, stretching her legs to reach the ground. For once, the firing squad of cameras aimed their lenses at her face rather than her Burberry-coated backside. The paparazzi loved chasing Gemma Roundbottom’s tail—her world-famous, perfectly-curved, set-a-glass-on-it bum.

Roundbottom. Junior Doctor Gemma Rowen-Batten iced a smile. She was even less likely to shake off that beastly moniker than she was to shed her press tails. Gemma held her breath as if that would freeze them in place, but they pelted her with a barrage of bright flashes. Good thing they couldn’t X-ray through her dark shades or the floppy hat she’d popped on her jethead hair, the wind weaving her long sable strands into a makeshift veil.

She’d caught a flight home early to surprise Danny—although it wasn’t easy to pull one over on a prince. Nor could the sharpest surgeon in the operating theatre resuscitate the dead mobile shrouded in her trenchcoat pocket. Gemma’s sigh made London fog of the cold December air. She could do with some recharging, too. After a three-month medical mission to Africa, she was knackered. All she wanted to see was her fiancé and the inside of her eyelids.

Little sparks surged up her spine at the thought of Danny’s regal charms. Gemma was rather keen on the whole royal treatment, if not the worldwide stage. She’d rather leave that to her sister. But the flashbulbs came with the fishbowl.

Are You Hooked? Adult Genre Fiction #20

TITLE: Bite the Bullet
GENRE: Adult - Cozy

When failed brakes cause the death of Miramba’s popular Mayor, fingers point to feisty local mechanic, Erin Dwyer. Erin knows the car was in tiptop shape when it left her workshop so she sets out to find the real culprit and save her reputation.

“LYNNE’S on a mission today.”

Erin Cooper peered out through the arched glass window of the Royal Hotel tracking the town’s busybody as she scurried from one shop to the next, her tell-tale clipboard in hand. “What’s this, her third petition in as many months?”

Frances and Sara tore their attention from breakfast to follow their best friend’s gaze.

After a moment Frances turned back and looked at her watch. “Not even nine. She’ll miss people.” She shrugged, grabbed a packet of sugar and ripped off the end. She stirred the white grains into her steaming latte, sloshing coffee onto the pine tabletop. “Must be urgent.”

With a shake of her head Sara reached over, picked up a serviette and dabbed at the spill. “I wonder what it’s for this time?”

Erin squinted, as if that would help her see the pages on Lynne’s clipboard. “Shops to remove advertising from their windows? Residents to scrub their letter boxes?” She sat up straighter. “Oh, I know. A petition to paint all the light poles of Miramba a matching shade of green?”

Sara’s dimples creased into a grin. “That last one’s a winner.”

Still curious, Erin looked outside again in time to catch Lynne shoving her clipboard under the nose of the local florist. The woman backed away and folded her arms across her heavily pregnant stomach. Undeterred, Lynne advanced.

Are You Hooked? Adult Genre Fiction #19

TITLE: The Exquisiteness of Seeing
GENRE: Adult - Magical realism, WF

When an ocean arrives in a box a woman running from her abusive childhood is gifted with meeting herself and ages 8 and 103 and the chance to confront her childhood secrets.

                                                                                                                                                  
The ocean arrives in a box.

            A white card the size of postcard is stuck on top. Waves that look a bit like storm clouds where they froth are drawn in swirls on one side; the blues and greens like bruises. On the other side in loopy handwriting it reads;

One Ocean: Plant in the backyard.
 Dig too deep and the roots suffocate.
Too shallow and the roots won't anchor.

            There's no address, no stamps, no name on it at all. The cardboard is soggy and the string falls off without much help. A bit of help. Okay, I pulled. Dead leaves cling to the side, like sisters. One sister. My sister. All mine.

            What kind of ocean arrives in a box?

            You should be able to collect oceans. That's what I told Nannie. Then you could pour one into a jar and take it home.  All the sand between your toes and the way Mummy is laughing and pushing your sister on the swing, you could catch that moment and keep it. But oceans being delivered? That’s some kind of magic job.

            My breath curls in the cold and makes shapes. Only me and Cold-air Friend huddled together in my backyard. And now a box with an ocean that wants to be planted.

            I open the lid. One cardboard flap at a time. It doesn't seem like a thing you should rush, although there's this rushing feeling in the air. Inside me.

Are You Hooked? Adult Genre Fiction #18

TITLE: Death of a Spider
GENRE: Adult - Legal Thriller

A young lawyer appointed executor of a deceased fixer’s estate must find his hidden blackmail book and turn the tables on a Grand Rapids crime syndicate and a Detroit gangster that are willing to kill to get it.

I found out about the death of Harry Miles by text.

My ex-wife and I were squared off across a table at a diner on the east side of Grand Rapids off the Beltline. It wasn’t one of those hidden gem greasy spoons, but it was convenient, and we had never frequented it during our time together.  Neutral ground.  I was, in my humble estimation, winning our regular weekly argument about money when I received the text.  It threw me off my game.

“What is it?” she asked with a dose of actual concern when I didn’t respond to one of her barbs about my not being able to take care of the stuff I had promised to take care of.  She was right, of course, about the money being a problem, but that wasn’t really what she wanted to argue about.  She just couldn’t bring herself to argue about the other thing, and I didn’t want that, either.  So, money became the main point of contention.

I stared at the text.  It was from a blocked number.  I had only picked up the phone out of habit when it had buzzed.  That, and I knew that it would drive Michelle crazy.  The message from the unknown texter simply said, Harry Miles died today.  And then, as I watched it, trying to figure out what was going on, it buzzed again, and a new message popped up.  Just thought you should know…

Are You Hooked? Adult Genre Fiction #17

TITLE: Images
GENRE: Adult - Fantasy

Jill had: a husband, a home, and a government job; now she can't remember anything past her junior year in high school -- can she regain her memory to keep the man she loves and to stop a terrorist group from wrecking her town?

            As Jill stood near the window to her room, the sunshine warm on her face, a cold chill ran down her spine. She blinked and stared outside.

            A man  in a maintenance uniform ambled outside, more like a sight-seer than a worker. In addition to his uniform, he wore a Keffiyeh , or turban-like head covering. But, not the traditional, solid white; his sported a green and black pattern.

            She backed up as shivers continued to run down her spine. A memory tried to surface, but like so many of the others, it faded before becoming clear. 'Damn it. It's not fair. I'm really trying.'

            The maintenance man didn't carry a rake or other outdoor tool, but sauntered along near the edge of the woods. The wooded area covered more than half of the property. But he didn't look into the woods, instead  he scrutinized the building.  He slowed to check out the windows of each room.
As he approached her window,  a  black aura formed, surrounding him.  His features grew fuzzy and undefined.

            Blinking didn't cause the aura to disappear. She'd seen few dark auras and this one looked black. And the man's facial features remained fuzzy and indistinct, even though a pen protruding from his pocket had a clear definition.

            She felt in her bones, he searched for someone, searched for her. She stepped back, away from the windows, standing next to the wall behind the drapes, as he came opposite her room.

Are You Hooked? Adult Genre Fiction #16

TITLE: An Ambush of Tigers
GENRE: Adult - Mystery

When Hamilton’s long-lost cousin asks him to help find her missing exotic cat, he thinks it’ll be a fun diversion in his lonely, humdrum life in small-town Texas. But when cat-napping escalates into murder, Hamilton must figure out how to solve a real mystery, one with life or death consequences.

            My legs hang over the side of the couch and my arms droop like noodles in the warm living room.  I am trying to convince myself it’s not in my financial best interest to turn the air conditioner down another few degrees when my phone rings.  That’s right, rings.  Not texting or emailing or carrier pigeon-ing.  Telephoning.  Like it’s 1952.

            The screen shows a local area code but I don’t recognize the number.  “Hamilton Clark,” I say.  It’s been so long since I’ve answered a phone call that I’m not sure that’s right.

            “Hamilton, hi, sorry to bother you.  There’s this girl here, says she’s your cousin.  Don’t know if that’s true or what, but she says she needs to see you right away.  I didn’t want to give her your number without asking.  You mind coming down here and seeing what this is all about?” It’s a woman’s voice, with more than a hint of Texas twang.   

            “Sorry, who’s this?” I ask.

            “Oh jeez, guess I didn’t say that part, huh?  It’s Sharleen.  From the diner?”

            Now it’s starting to makes sense.  Of course Sharleen would call before passing along my number.  She likes me, and not just because I’m a twenty-five percent tipper.  She also flirts with me, even though she’s at least thirty years older and apparently has no gaydar.  I don’t mind.  Flirting is flirting, and it’s all good preparation for when the barrage of hot, young, gay men descend on August, Texas.  Any minute now.

Are You Hooked? Adult Genre Fiction #15

TITLE: Never Retreat
GENRE: Adult - Romance

In wild Colorado mountains, a feisty single mom and a macho corporate star battle mental and physical challenges at a corporate retreat, trying to win a desperately coveted bonus. But when fickle weather  creates massive flash floods, they learn the meaning of true partnership to save themselves and their associates.

“I won!” Raye’s handful of lottery scratch tickets, fanned out on the staff room table in front of her, glowed in a multitude of bright colors. She plucked the one nearest to her. “Forty dollars!”

           Julia failed to respond. “He’s gorgeous. Just gorgeous.” Her unfocused eyes and neglect of the bear claw pastry in one limp hand showed just how absorbed she was in telling Raye Soto about the new man striding around corporate headquarters in Denver.

            “Didn’t you hear me? My winning ticket must be a sign I’ll get a big prize.”

            “Not necessarily. You’ll have better odds at happiness if you notice a male hunk in front of your face.”

            “A good looking guy’s the most dangerous type. Anyway, you’ve never won awards for your taste in men,” Raye teased back. “Wasn’t your last crush the barista over at Java Hut? The one who drew your initial with cream on the top of your cappuccino, then pocketed the change you were due? And the one before rode a motorcycle and crashed at least once a month?”

            “You’re one to talk!” Julia returned to consciousness. “Your ex-, who hardly qualifies as an ex since he was only around for a few months, partied so hard and so often, he forgot to come home at night.”

            “Let’s not get into odious comparisons.” Raye pushed back her chrome-wire chair, stood, and began wrapping the remains of her meal. “How old do you figure he is?”

Are You Hooked? Adult Genre Fiction #14

TITLE: SCATTERED
GENRE: Adult - Contemporary Romance

PS I Love You meets The Edge of Never when Jocelyn must take a roadtrip with Heath, the man who broke her heart, to scatter her brother Steve's ashes. But the discovery of Steve's journal and letter may lead to more devastation or rekindled love. 

One thing was certain: Jocelyn didn’t want to go on the road trip—not with Steve in a jar.

Okay, maybe jokes weren’t appropriate, but it was the Courtellier way of dealing with difficult situations. And her brother’s death was the worst she’d ever faced.

A text alert chimed, shooting shivers across her back. Steve? No, it couldn’t be him. He had been cremated a few days ago. But brief forgetfulness made her race to the phone.

Despite Steve being in a jar (it was an urn, but urns were frigging creepy), Jocelyn semi-expected his early Saturday morning check-in. Her hands shook as she unlocked the screen.

Her face fell at the thought of him never waking her again, but she blinked back the tears and focused on the message.

Be outside in fifteen—Heath.

Jocelyn sighed heavily as she squinted at the phone. Did that mean she needed to be waiting outside or he would be? Knowing Heath, it was a command.

She scowled. Screw that. Jocelyn Courtellier waited for no man. Least of all Heath Whitely.
Her long, violet-streaked ebony hair swung over her shoulder as she unzipped her overnight bag. A tank, fleece, and yoga pants speckled her duvet. She was staying home—final answer. Heath could handle this without her. He hated her tagging along, anyhow.

She dumped the rest of her clothes out onto the bed and sat with her arms and legs crossed.

Jocelyn didn’t need to go to Acadia.

Are You Hooked? Adult Genre Fiction #13

TITLE: Between a Rock and a Hard Place
GENRE: Adult - Mystery

Trying to cope with the stress of mothering twins and her mystery author husband’s writer’s block, Alicia McKinney agrees to take a second honeymoon in New York City during the holidays unaware that one of the Cobble Cove residents is planning to kidnap her children while she’s away.

Alicia McKinney sat behind the reference desk at the Cobble Cove Library trying to keep her eyes open. It had been another long night up with the twins. John had helped, but he was having his own problems right now trying to overcome a writer’s block. Their publisher was demanding a draft of their next mystery, and neither of them had the energy to string a complete sentence together let alone write a whole new book. Alicia acknowledged parenthood was harder than expected especially when you were in your forties. However, she wouldn’t want it any other way. Her son and daughter arrived a year and a half after the tragedy that perversely brought a school, additional shops, and new people to the small, upstate New York town.

Sheila walked through the glass library doors. She brushed snow off her imitation fur coat and tossed back her red hair to expel a few flakes. Stomping her knee-length high-heel boots on the holiday mat by the entrance, she said, “It’s snowing out, Alicia. What are you doing here? Where’s Jean?”

“Hi, Sheila. Jean called in sick with a stomach virus. I hear it’s going around. She may have caught it from her son. A few of the kids have been absent at school.” Jean Maxwell was a part-time librarian they’d hired while Alicia was out on maternity leave. She was a single mom of eight-year old Jeremy who attended the Fairmont Elementary School next door that opened two years ago.

Are You Hooked? Adult Genre Fiction #12

TITLE: Tides of Magic
GENRE: Adult - Epic Fantasy

When the advent of magic allows former tyrants to lay siege to his kingdom, Prince Darius is forced to choose between submitting to their savage rule or destroying magic itself at the cost of thousands of innocent subjects.

Elena handed the child back his jeweled yoyo as a flash of yellow streaked past the window, a black jet of smoke trailing behind. Acrid fumes seeped in through the door.

Her auburn hair came undone as Elena pressed her face to the window. At twenty-six winters past, she had handled many unpleasant people. But her heart pounded at the sight of the raucous mob gathered in front of the shop.

The flames crackled as smoldering embers of straw floated down. Elena picked up the two-year old and burst out of the shop. Fire shot though the thatched roof as two more torches landed. She clasped her master’s child closer, though he remained engrossed in the glittering blue and red toy.

“You can’t burn down the shop!” Elena shouted to the rambunctious crowd. “Have you people lost your mind?”

“Stay out of it, Elena. Dirma must pay for what he’s done.” Hogarth raised his left hand and waved her to move away.

Elena was not surprised to see the burly farmer among the mob. She looked around for a sympathetic face in the throng but icy eyes fueled with rage stared back at her. “He didn’t do anything. None of us know how all of this is happening, least of all, Dirma,” she pleaded, wrapping her arms around the child tight.

“Tell that to Samuise Lothar.” Hogarth grabbed her free hand and pulled her away from the shop. “You didn’t have to look at the horror of his body turned to ice.”

Are You Hooked? Adult Genre Fiction #11

TITLE: Meowing for Murder
GENRE: Adult - Cozy Mystery

Crawling under her neighbor’s porch, cat rescuer Kayla Maloney discovers a dead body – the human kind. After Mrs. Willoughby is arrested for murder, Kayla finds herself stuck with her neighbor’s cat hating Chihuahua and the newest target of a killer determined to send Kayla on a cat nap, purrmanently.

Despite my extremely rational fear of all things creepy, crawly, and slithery I inched my way forward. The batteries in the flashlight were about to be pronounced DOA. So my search area was limited to half a foot in front of me. I promised to stop buying cheap batteries at the dollar stores if I ever found my way out from under my neighbor’s front porch. Another set of mews had me turn direction and head towards what I sincerely prayed was a kitten in need and not a skunk with a bad attitude. The last time it had taken weeks to get the smell out of my favorite Maroon 5 T-shirt.

“Come on little ones, you can’t stay here. Murphy isn’t exactly cat friendly.”

Murphy was Mrs. Willoughby’s Chihuahua who seemed to take immense pleasure in chasing anything or anyone that had the nerve to step into “his” yard. For some odd reason I appeared to be the exception to his do not enter policy but since I was in his territory and in the presence of felines I wasn’t too eager to push my luck.

I scooted forward and carefully scooped up a shivering little ball of fur. I placed him or her in the pet carrier I’d dragged with me. I picked up the flashlight and moved it around until I spotted two more sets of eyes.

Are You Hooked? Adult Genre Fiction #10

TITLE: THE RELUCTANT PRINCESS
GENRE: Adult - Romance

After a fire destroys her studio, Zara needs two things to fulfill her career-making art gallery contract—a quick hit of cash for supplies and to rekindle her creativity. She reluctantly returns to a lucrative gig as a princess-costumed face painter, where she meets Brendan, a hot, divorced dad who could bring a spark to her life or ruin everything.

On a snowy February morning, Zara Kissette hoofed it to her day job in midtown Baltimore. She was happy. Well, happyish. Which was why she should have known the universe was about to punch her square in the ladyjunk.

That was the kind of relationship she had with the universe.

But for the next minute, happyishness reigned.

She’d paid her bills and had a little cash left over for coffee. She didn’t have any new paintings on the easel, but yesterday’s meeting with the gallery owner went way better than she’d hoped. She might, just maybe, have a shot at a show.

And that, right there, would be the turning point in her career. Zara grinned. She’d be able to honor the deal she’d made with her parents after all.

Her cell phone buzzed in her jacket pocket. She fished it out and peered at its paint-speckled screen.
Eleanor.

Zara rolled her eyes and accepted the call. “Hey, listen, if you’re calling about the studio rent, I already sent the check.”

She wasn’t lying. But... She also wasn’t sharing that she’d slipped the late payment into a hulking blue mailbox about fifteen minutes ago.

“No, dear. It’s not that.” Eleanor sighed. “There’s been a fire.”

For the first time in months, Zara ran.

Are You Hooked? Adult Genre Fiction #9

TITLE: Moon Curse
GENRE: Adult - Fantasy

Lady Salandra exchanges shape with her twin brother one day per month, but when the king's questioner slaughters her family, she must seek her amate and discover her role in protecting moonchangers.

Atop our castle’s keep, I laid my hand on a merlon and held my breath, scanning the buildings in the bailey below. I couldn’t believe Father was really going to send us away -- me forever. This was my home, and I wanted to stay. Bran, my twin, would be able to return to Lone Castle once he finished his wardship. If he survived. Without each other, chances were that our secret would be discovered as soon as the full moon rose, and that would be the end of our short lives.

I clenched my strong hand around Slasher’s pommel and focused on the smoke drifting up from the blacksmith’s forge, far below and to the left. The smithy was a good man with a good heart and a steady arm. I shifted my eyes to the right. A tiny dot that had to be Bonecruncher trotted out of the kennels. Legbiter was probably inside, nursing her whelps. I was going to miss them so much. I blinked back my tears. At least up here, no one could see them. The mews lodged our precious hawks and falcons. After our birthday, we wouldn’t be able to go hunting with Father anymore. I crossed to the other side of the keep and looked out over a crenel. The building for the kitchens stood between the mews and the dovecote so that the pigeons would not be frightened by our hunting birds. Each building represented someone who had shaped my childhood. My lip quivered, and I set my jaw. Lone Castle was my home, and Father’s leal servants were...

Are You Hooked? Adult Genre Fiction #8

TITLE: The Princess Wars
GENRE: NA - Science Fiction

Princess Belle wants to be an inventor, not a queen. When a cave-in swallows her brother, Belle descends into the city’s underground labyrinth to find him. But the longer she stays in this underworld, the more time her fiancé, the head of the royal council, has to incite war.

The queen was murdered, and Belle needed to find proof – fast, before they burned the body. But she couldn’t search the rooms quickly enough, not when the dress slowed her down so immensely. A royal funeral required a corset, a petticoat, layers of tulle, black lace everywhere, and a wig so tall and heavy her neck might snap backwards. Today was her mother’s funeral, so she had to look presentable. She put her hands on the mountain of skirts where her hips ought to be.

The queen’s room was packed with roses, stuffed in glass jars and tucked into every corner and crevice of her boudoir.

Of course, they weren’t truly roses. These were flowers a woman would kill for.

Or die for.

The little, scarlet flowers were a drug, hallucinogenic and intensely addictive. The people called it Delusion, and Delusion had killed her mother.

The bedroom was still steeped in her mother’s scent — musk and rosewater. A canopy hung heavy across the bedposts like candle wax caught mid-weep. The blankets were lumpy as if she still rested beneath them. Belle gathered her skirts as best she could, hopped onto the bed, and yanked the canopy down. It fell to the ground like a dollop of heavy cream.

Are You Hooked? Adult Genre Fiction #7

TITLE: Cords of Power
GENRE: NA - Fantasy

Leena has always made her own way - becoming a student at the prestigious Academy despite being royalty. When she’s recruited to be part of a secret organization with terrifying powers she must learn to navigate a deadly, new world while dealing with the machinations of powerful forces watching them all.

Leena had heavily miscalculated and she was going to pay for it. A droplet of sweat teetered dangerously over her brow in the hot midsummer sun, threatening to drop into her focused and unblinking eyes. A gleam of sunlight hit the heavy chainmail of her opponent, temporarily blinding her as she continued her search. The only way she’d be able to get her opponent down on the sandy ground was to find a spot of weakness. She chided herself for forgetting her footwork and getting maneuvered into facing the sun - rookie mistake.

She found it - a small sliver of exposed torso underneath their left arm. Lunging to the right she narrowly missed, instead leaving herself open.

Her opponent slammed her to the ground and Kyri could feel every bone in her body reverberate with the feeling. It was futile to struggle against the tight hold but Kyri would be damned if she didn’t try. If she just moved a bit to the side she could get her elbow to wedge into that soft spot right there....
The clammering of a bell, strident and clear, rang through the arena.

Kyri sighed at the sound and collapsed fully onto the ground, spread eagle. Her opponent turned to her, offering a pale hand as help. Kyri grabbed her outstretched hand and hoisted herself up. Dusting the sand off her body, she turned to face her best friend, who was grinning at her, happiness evident on her face.

Are You Hooked? Adult Genre Fiction #6

TITLE: LOVE OVER LATTES
GENRE: Adult - Contemporary Romance

Single mom Valentina is determined to give her son the life he deserves. When she loses the lease on her home, she breaks down over her latte, in front of the intimidating-as-hell stranger she’s admired from her coffee shop seat.

Right on time. Mr. Quad Americano rounded the corner across the street at a trot, then stopped. Lips parted, broad chest rising and falling, he placed two fingers on his neck to check his pulse. I took a sip of my latte, and let out a slow breath.

Every morning before E-Comm class, I sat by the bay window at Cafe Triste and waited for him. The man never disappointed.

God, he was hot.

Just then, he looked in my direction. I didn’t flinch or anything, simply darted my eyes to my laptop screen.

Smooth. 

I’d been doing this for a while. Ever since he first barged into my coffee shop six months ago.

The man had been out running in the pouring rain.

Why anyone would want to work out in that kind of weather was beyond me.

Looking angry and intimidating, he’d stood at the intersection as if trying to decide which way to go. This went on for a while, until a particularly scary thunderclap decided for him.

He’d rushed into the shop. Rainwater dripping from his hair down to his strong jaw and arms. All manly and handsome as heck. He’d ordered a Quad Americano and an iced water, then plopped himself at the table next to mine. I hadn’t been too happy about sharing my window at seven in the morning, but there wasn’t much I could do about it. I didn’t actually own Cafe Triste.

The next day, he’d come back, and then the next, and the next. Same time. Same order. Same table.

Are You Hooked? Adult Genre Fiction #5

TITLE: Perceptions
GENRE: Adult - Fantasy

When nineteen-year-old Prince Vatren discovers a forbidden magical book thought to have been lost centuries ago, and that his father has been using it to remain on the throne, he must decide whether to destroy it or use its power to save the girl he loves.

Vatren tossed and turned, tormented by a maelstrom of what-ifs. What if his father found out he’d been seeing a commoner – would Namora be made an example of? The king had no love for his less fortunate subjects, that was for sure. They’d been so careful, avoiding any place Vatren could think of where they might encounter anyone of his acquaintance.

But the king had been clear at the other end of the kingdom for the last month. Rare was the news that traveled that quickly, even in Lokana.

Still, the prince worried. Exhausted but unable to sleep, he swung his legs over the edge of his bed with a groan. Moonlight streamed in through the windows, silvering everything in its path and illuminating the room just enough for him to find a candle. The night had been unusually cool, and coals still glowed in the hearth where a fire had crackled and popped a few hours before.

Light in hand, Vatren headed for the library and the dullest book he could find. He stole through the darkened corridors of the palace, praying he’d be able to read himself to sleep. When he reached the library, he headed straight for the back of the room. That’s where his father kept his most prized historical texts, so far out of sight that most of the royal library’s patrons had no idea they even existed.

The books were covered in dust; clearly no one had read them in a very, very long time.

Are You Hooked? Adult Genre Fiction #4

TITLE: THE ELEGANCE OF TYRANNY
GENRE: Adult - Crossover Fantasy

A nineteen-year-old bootlegger must work alongside a crew of outlaws and a young man she hates to break the curse holding hostage their city of monsters and dark magic.

The reason Tristas preferred the Hinterlands, the barren northern tundra with snow as deep as his shoulders and trees white as the eyes of a startled victim, over the cities and towns to the south could be summed up in a single word: people.

It was why he avoided parties when he had to travel, why he stayed far from parades and dinners and small talk.

And yet, here he was. Standing on a fire-lit street corner, the flames crackling behind the beveled glass of the lantern overhead, the black iron post cool against his shoulder. It seemed a smokeboy had forgotten about this lamp on his morning round.

It had been a long time since Tristas had seen people. Ordinary people, that was, the kind who strolled along with walking canes and parasols, parcels wrapped in brown paper tucked under their arms, with voices and laughter filling the streets. Laughter was a strange sound. In the whole of Tristas’s twenty-one years of life, he’d known only three people whose laughter he could stomach: his mother, his best friend, and the girl whose name he had vowed to never even think again.
He certainly fit in with everyone walking past, what with his black waistcoat buttoned up beneath his overcoat, and trousers over his boots, which gleamed despite their scuffs. His upbringing was ingrained so deeply into him he didn’t know of any other way to dress. Even when doing his job as a Northern Warden, though more often than not he chose to wear a hooded cloak as his alias Gavan Baines.

Are You Hooked? Adult Genre Fiction #3

TITLE: Be Brave
GENRE: Adult - Contemporary Romance

“Be Brave” is ~95K words and is a contemporary romance.  Kate and Noah go from nurse and doctor to colleagues nearly overnight.  Add in a ton of sexual tension, a large and nosy family and a traumatic past, and Kate and Noah are on a roller coaster ride.                                                 


"Tell me about your strengths and weaknesses, Ms. Murphy", the recruiter says.  This was the first step in a long day of interviewing for a position as nurse practitioner to the junior
cardiovascular surgeon at Children's Hospital in Chicago. My schedule for the day included meeting with the nurse manager of the pediatric intensive care unit, as well as the head of the
department, Dr. Don Summers, and my would-be boss, Dr. Noah Williams.  Dr. Williams was the newest surgeon on the team and I was interviewing for the position as his NP.  My job would
include assisting him in the OR, rounding with the team as a whole, and managing the care of the kids after their surgery.  From surgery to discharge, they would have my smiling face guiding
them through.

Twirling the claddaugh ring that my folks gave me for my sixteenth birthday, I remark "I would say that my weaknesses are a drive for perfection, which can lead to some really long days for me and, on occasion, unrealistic expectations of others.  I give my all and expect that of those around me.  I have learned over time how to harness that energy to inspire those around me instead of butting heads.  I don't subscribe to the 'eating your young' philosophy that, unfortunately, happens with sometimes nurses.”  I know my response sounds trite as it comes out of my mouth.  But it would be bad form to say ‘weaknesses?  What weaknesses?’

Are You Hooked? Adult Genre Fiction #2

TITLE: Game of Art
GENRE: Adult - Psychological Suspense

Soviet defector returns to Russia to reclaim her late uncle’s stolen paintings only to discover someone orchestrated her every move. Now she risks joining her uncle unless she can figure out who is puppeteering the scheme and why.

White Christmas lights trailed up the black steps leading to the stage. I wondered what my uncle would have thought of tonight’s performance. My form of art was very different from his. He would not have approved of many of the ways I showcased my talents, but I know he would have been proud of my show tonight. For him, it would have been a homecoming. As soon as I hit my mark, a soft glow illuminated me from overhead.

Show time.

A laser beam followed my finger as I drew a basic outline of the Kremlin. Before the appreciative coos of the audience died, I wiped the air clean and started the drawing of a scrawny, goat-horned creature bent over making a grasping motion. I allowed my metaphor of Lenin suspend in the air before wiping it out. Repeatedly, I created different images, each one representing stages of Russia over the past hundred years, using a system of computerized graphics. Stalin, gulags, the ravages of the Great Patriotic War, the Cold War, the space program, and glasnost.

This was not my usual show. I didn’t blather endlessly like a ditz, nor did I sell them on my sexuality before showing what I could do artistically. I feared restlessness in the audience, but I could hear none of the telltale signs of shifting in their seats, sighing, or even yawning. Maybe the lit up images mesmerized them. Maybe it was because of the sudden fascination with Russia after the fall of communism. Maybe I underestimated my audience.

Are You Hooked? Adult Genre Fiction #1

TITLE: THE GILDED THRONE OF BLOOD AND BONE
GENRE: Adult - Dark Fantasy Romance

An unplanned trip into Faery costs Quinn her identity in the mortal world. Seduced by one brother and trapped by another, will she accept the Queen’s deadly favor and return home, or risk her life to save the monster who ruined it?


“How the hell am I supposed to collect my favor if I can’t find you?” Quinn’s voice was a tight whisper, her flashlight cutting a wide slice of landscape from the moon-silvered dark.

Birch, rowan, juniper, and pine were shadowy specters, but there was no trace of the man whose touch haunted her skin. The monster who’d ruined her life, and her only chance of getting back to her family. She inched forward and hesitated, cringing at the crunch and pop of leaf litter under her thick-soled boots. Insects chirped and twittered, a dull hum beneath the forest’s dark canopy. Quinn imagined sharp biting things with gossamer wings, blood-smeared mouths and yellow-eyes.

Another step and a dread chill pulled through her veins, begging her to turn back. A blast of frigid air ripped through her sweater. A chorus of rustling leaves gave a hiss of warning.

Fae magic at work.

Shivering, she picked up her pace, breaking into a quick jog—trying to outrun her nerves. The faint rumble of rushing water filtered through the trees and she recalled that same melody—musical accompaniment to Danjon’s slow seduction. Ducking under a low-hanging branch, she stumbled over a reaching root. The flashlight flew from her hand, light spinning. Hooking her arm around a tree trunk stole her momentum, kept her upright. She grimaced. Even through her sweater, the bark had scraped her skin raw.

Fresh blood.

As if there weren’t enough eyes on her already, now she’d sent a damn invitation.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Friday Fricassee


Behold, my project target box from the end of yesterday's writing session.  Yes, I'm an utter geek when it comes to these colored bars (as I'm pretty sure most Scrivener users are, so just 'FESS UP), and I will often stare at it for a prolonged moment of glee before shutting it down.

For, you see, my greatest joy in writing comes from HAVING WRITTEN something.  When I say I love to write, it's true--but what gives me the deepest satisfaction is looking at what I have already done.

Who's with me on that one?

Before I begin writing on any given day, I will generally stare at my word count and think about my word count and revel in my word count.  Then I will think about adding the next 1000 words.  And then I do it.  Drafting is not my favorite thing to do, but what keeps me motivated is that word count.  Productivity is important to me in all aspects of my life, and when I can actually measure that productivity, I'm pretty much in a state of bliss.

And there you have it.  Utter transparency about my level of geekness.

Of course, the other thing that motivates me is my love for revising, which is where the true magic lies.  As soon as I finish this draft, I'll have the completed raw product to work with.  I love that.  (Of course, I'll actually be setting this one aside to start another draft, which is unusual for me.  But still.)

As I'm drafting, I'm thinking about how this will all shift and transform and come together to create the finished story that it's meant to be.  I'm so used to this process now that I will often find myself thinking things like, "I'm not sure this scene will stay," or "This might not be in the right order," or "Probably this dialogue will need to be trimmed."  But, yanno, since I'm only drafting, I just keep on pressing through, knowing that I will be able to put my editor's cap on when it's time.

Have I mentioned how amazing it is to have the privilege to write stories?

Ah, but you already know that.

So, tell me--what motivates you to get your writing done each day?  Where is your biggest joy place in this process?

It's wonderful to be able to share this journey with so many others.  Thanks for being a part of this diverse, creative, passion-infused community!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Call For Submissions: ARE YOU HOOKED? Adult Genre Fiction

Our recent ARE YOU HOOKED? round for Middle Grade was a success, so let's move forward with a special round for adult genre fiction!

If you write anything that falls under the umbrella of "genre fiction" (science fiction, historical, mystery, fantasy, romance, etc.), this round is for you!  (If you write literary or commercial fiction or kid lit, this round is not for you.)

Submission guidelines:

  • The submission window will be open from 1:00 PM EDT today until 1:00 PM EDT tomorrow.
  • Submit a 50-words-or-less LOGLINE and the first 250 words of your manuscript.
  • The bot will accept 30 entries (this is not a lottery).
  • (If for some reason response is bigger, I'll open another 10 slots.)
  • Your excerpts will post on MONDAY, MAY 16.
  • ADULT GENRE FICTION ONLY!  If you enter anything else, it will be disqualified.
  • Enter HERE.
Questions below!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Debunked: "All The Best Agents Are In NYC"

It has come to my attention recently that some aspiring authors believe that the only place an agent can be truly effective is in New York City.  I'm here to tell you that isn't true.

(Disclaimer:  My agent is in NYC.  She's amazing.  I adore her.  But she would still be amazing and adored if she lived somewhere else.)

I've asked several non-NYC agents to answer a few questions.  Hopefully their answers will shed some light on the truth about Agenting From Other Cities (and even continents).

1.  YOU'RE A LITERARY AGENT.  WHY DON'T YOU LIVE IN NYC?

Melissa Jeglinski:  I lived in NYC for 17 years. Honestly, that was long enough for me. The cost of living was very high, the commute time just to get to work was crippling. I needed to be able to think about something other than making enough money to just pay my rent. The internet made it possible to work in publishing outside NYC and immediate surrounding areas.

Rena Rossner:  I grew up in Miami Beach and in Jerusalem, and I always thought I’d end up working in NYC after university for a few years, but life happened. I met and married a Canadian, lived in Montreal for a while, and then moved to Israel. I love it here and I’ve been here for 13 years now and I can’t imagine living anywhere else. I thought that I’d given up my dreams of working in publishing, until I found The Deborah Harris Agency.

Tricia Lawrence:  I started working in publishing in 1995 and made a conscious decision then to stay in my beautiful Pacific Northwest. I was born and raised here and I love mountains, trees, and the Pacific ocean, plus our lifestyle suits me. Hello, REI! Don’t get me wrong, I love NYC and get a thrill every time I visit and hang out and it’s just such a cool place. In another life, I would have moved there in a minute. But this is the life I have, with my West Coast hubby and our two dogs who relish their life here ruining our backyard grass. ;)

2.  WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF LIVING AND WORKING WHERE YOU DO?

Melissa Jeglinski:   I live in Raleigh, NC, where home prices have allowed me to buy my own place and keep an office on the premises. I can dedicate more of my day to work because I’m not commuting hours to an office—just walking down the hall. My environment also gives me a sense of peace and makes me a better person—I think that also makes me a better agent because I am less frustrated with my surroundings.

Rena Rossner:   I love how international my potential client base is (half my clients are Israeli and the other half are Canadian, American, and other.) I get to go to the Bologna and London and Frankfurt Book Fairs every year, (and when I meet editors there they are usually the heads of publishing houses – total benefit!) and since I work in foreign rights as well, I really feel like that gives me a bird’s eye view of what is happening in the global publishing market, helps me realize that not all markets are the same by a longshot - especially as I struggle with the challenges of my own market. I also think that because Israel is in the Middle East and is a country of so many immigrants - being outside the USA has really opened my eyes to the global community of authors and I love that I’m a part of that.

Tricia Lawrence:   Seattle is a very literary city, with a ton of arts and crafts going on. We may be the home of Amazon, but our indy bookstores are THRIVING and the local writing community is amazing and supportive. I don’t have to go far to meet up with publishing professionals. We’re not NYC by any means, but we are who we are and we’re proud of that. Also, fresh air, fresh salmon, and I can see Mt. Rainier from my living room. She’s a beauty!

3.  WHAT ARE THE DRAWBACKS OF NOT LIVING IN OR NEARER TO NYC?

Melissa Jeglinski:  I can’t “just do lunch” with a NYC editor at the drop of a hat. I’m not able to drop by a publishing house for a face to face meeting. But I still “do lunch” with editors at conferences and have meetings with publishers on video conference.

Rena Rossner: I have to condense all of my editor meetings into a 2-3 week timeframe of craziness. I usually go to NYC every November and run around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to pack everyone in. I don’t get to just have “editor lunches” throughout the year, and I really miss not being able to go to book launches and literary events that happen in NYC. Also, hello? New York City. Food. Culture. Entertainment. Did I mention food?

Tricia Lawrence:  It’s a long trek east when I do go. I don’t get to the events that I want to and I think the food delivery options are greatly enhanced in NYC. Here, we can’t even get Jimmy Johns to deliver to us because we’re just outside the delivery areas of TWO STORES. So, yes, NYC has infinitely better socializing amongst food and drink opportunities. Also, Broadway. *sigh*

4.  SOME WRITERS BELIEVE THAT IT'S NOT A GOOD IDEA TO QUERY AGENTS WHO DO NOT LIVE IN NYC.  CAN YOU DEBUNK THIS?

Melissa Jeglinski:  Agents, whether they are living in NYC or not, are not walking into publishing offices on a daily basis and speaking face to face with editors and publishers about what they want. That’s not how they solicit interest in their clients. They still send emails, make phone calls. And that’s how an agent outside the immediate NYC area does business. Everyone sends projects via email so it really doesn’t matter where the material is generated from. Maybe an agent who lives outside NYC doesn’t need as many clients to make a decent living…perhaps that allows them more time to develop newer talent. We, at The Knight Agency, make great efforts to reach out to editors and ask them what they are looking for; we keep spreadsheets of editors we may not have met in person, but could be great connections for future projects. In this day of social media, it’s very easy to reach out and make a connection with someone you haven’t met face to face.

Rena Rossner:  We live in such a hyper-connected world today with mobile offices etc. that it’s super easy to reach and query anyone you want, wherever you want. Despite my yearly trips to NYC, most of the books I’ve sold have been to editors I’ve never met. Good writing is good writing and as long as your agent comes from a reputable agency, the fact that I’m not in NYC has never gotten in the way of my selling a project. I think I give my authors added benefits – a global perspective, hands-on foreign rights experience, and I get to hand-sell their books at the world’s three largest bookfairs.

Tricia Lawrence:  I think they are focusing on the wrong criteria. Writers should be focusing on finding the agent that has a vision for their work, not just because said agent lives in a certain part of the world than another. Email and phone keep all agents, no matter their time zone, in touch on a regular basis and I have access to the editors just like anyone located in NYC. That said, if an agent in NYC is the dream, because you admire an agent that lives in NYC, go for it! The most important criteria for an agent to be successful in this industry is the ability to magnify and ally with writers of all walks of life and to be able to communicate their work and their POV to editors and publishers successfully. Agents don’t have to be physically in NYC to do this. It’s more about who the person is than about where they are as they pitch writers’ manuscripts.

5.  BRAG TIME:  WHAT ARE YOU MOST RECENT SALES (IN THE PAST YEAR OR TWO) THAT MAKE YOU SAY, "SEE? I'M ROCKING THIS NOT-IN-NYC THING!"?

Melissa Jeglinski:  Ginger Garrett’s debut Middle Grade novel, THE LAST MONSTER, to Delacourte. (Published just this April) Aimie Runyan’s Historical Fiction debut, PROMISED TO THE CROWN, to Kensington, in a two book deal. (2016) Karen Booth’s THE TEN-DAY BABY TAKEOVER, Romance, to Harlequin Desire, in a four book deal. (2017)

Rena Rossner:   My most recent sale was a Middle Grade series called WINTERHOUSE by Ben Guterson, which I sold in a 6-figure deal, in a 3-book deal, at pre-empt, to Christy Ottaviano at Christy Ottaviano Books. The author is American and lives in Washington State. I’m also really proud of my author Nic Stone. I sold her YA book DEAR MARTIN on the basis of a 13-page partial, at pre-empt, in a 2-book deal, to Phoebe Yeh at Crown. It’s a book about race relations in America and it’s going to knock your socks off.

Tricia Lawrence:  YES! Multiple picture book manuscripts for the same authors at different big 5 publishers, second and third picture book manuscripts to the same big 5 publisher (sometimes that’s really tough). My clients are ROCKING it!



Melissa Jeglinski is with the Knight Agency.


Rena Rossner is with the Deborah Harris Agency.


Tricia Lawrence is with the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Friday Fricassee

What a fun assortment of Middle Grade!!  Thanks for all the great critique -- KEEP IT COMING!  If you haven't had a chance to leave feedback for your colleagues, don't hesitate to pop in any time over the weekend.

Participants, please remember to critique a minimum of 4 other entries.  Your way of giving back.

PSA from Operation Awesome for all entrants (whose work is FINISHED and POLISHED), and also any of you middle grade writers who missed the entry window:

Their PASS OR PAGES contest is open next month for MIDDLE GRADE SPECULATIVE FICTION.  If that's you, and if you'd like to enter for a chance to have your query and first page evaluated, GO HERE TO READ THE DETAILS.

(Note:  PASS OR PAGES includes agents, like our Secret Agent Contests.  So be sure your work is agent-ready if you decide to enter!)

For those of you who DON'T write Middle Grade:  The success of this week's critique round has encouraged me to do more of the same, so keep an eye out for the next one:  Adult Genre Fiction!  (Spread the word!  Spread the word!)

As for me--quick Authoress Update:

  • I'm hitting 45,000 words in my WIP today.  SLOW AND STEADY WINS THE RACE!
  • I'm also thickly into the planning of Another Novel, about which I am so excited that I can barely contain myself.  My protagonist now has a name (this was no small task--for whatever reason, her name simply would NOT come to me!  But now it has.), and I've developed a secondary character whom I'm already in love with.  I'm just exhilarated right now!
  • Story Idea #2 won't go away, so this weekend I'm planning on jotting down all the little snippets that have been dancing around in my head over the past several days.  WHO AM I?
I'm so busy writing and planning and dreaming about stories that I haven't had a whole lot of time to obsess about the submission process, which feels SO VERY HEALTHY.  Sure, we've had a few early rejections come in, which is normal, but for the most part my manuscript is out in the editorial wild, and the silence is deafening (and also normal).  I'm thankful to have so much creative energy right now.  (If any of you figure out how to regulate that, rather than to simply be a victim of its fickle waxing and waning, please clue me in!)

All right, then -- onward!  Happy weekend, happy writing, happy everything!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Are You Hooked? Middle Grade -- Critique Guidelines

Ready to dig into our 40 MG excerpts??

Remember that, in addition to everything else you'd normally critique, we're looking for comments on VOICE.  Things to think about:
  • Is the voice (particularly the main character) believable for the age?  Or does it sound a little too old or a little too young?  (In other words, if the protagonist is 12, does he sound like a believable 12-year-old?)
  • Are their instances where the author's "grown-up voice" is showing?  (Turns of phrase, word choice, a perspective that is too adult, etc.)

General guidelines for critique on MSFV:
  • Please leave your critique for each entry in the comment box for that entry.
  • Please choose a screen name to sign your comments. The screen name DOES NOT have to be your real name; however, it needs to be an identifiable name.  ("Anonymous" is not a name.)
  • Critiques should be honest but kind, helpful but sensitive.
  • Critiques that attack the writer or are couched in unkind words will be deleted.*
  • Cheerleading IS NOT THE SAME as critiquing.  Please don't cheerlead.
  • Having said that, it is perfectly acceptable to say positive things about an entry that you feel is strong.  To make these positive comments more helpful, say why it's a strong entry.
  • ENTRANTS: As your way of "giving back", please critique a minimum of 4 other entries.

*I can't possibly read every comment.  If you ever see a comment that is truly snarky, please email me.  I count on your help.