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Friday, May 28, 2010

The results are in!

Before I get into the winners I'd like to introduce my SA for the month of May.  Ms. Natalie Fischer of the Sandra Dijkstra agency (ie my agent as I'm sure some of you have already guessed). She is truly an "awesome agent" as one of my agency sisters has dubbed her and I'm so glad that she helped make my first Secret Agent contest a success.  Thank you, Natalie!


NATALIE M. FISCHER is a Literary Agent and Assistant at the Dijkstra Agency. She is in charge of managing permission requests and foreign tax, among other things. An honors graduate of the University of San Diego, California, Natalie holds a BA in Literature/Writing. She started as an intern at the Agency in 2007, after which time she left to write author profiles and book reviews for the San Diego Union Tribune. Finding that journalism was not for her, she returned to work full-time at the Dijkstra Agency in April 2009.
Natalie is actively seeking new clients, and is especially interested in talented, hard-working new authors with a fresh, unique voice and hook. Her specialty is commercial fiction, with an emphasis in children’s literature (from picture book-YA/Teen), romance (contemporary and historical), historical fiction, multi-cultural fiction, paranormal, sci-fi/fantasy in YA or romance only, fairy-tale/legend spin-offs, and “beautiful dark” novels. She will also consider select memoir (has to be really unique) and that amazing project she never even knew she was looking for! She is always drawn to an open and positive attitude in an author, good grammar, and fantastical, engaging and sexy plots.
Natalie is not interested in thrillers, "boy" books, ABC books, bug books, spiritual guides/novels, and books geared toward the Christian market.  (BIO and picture courtesy of her agency's website.)

Before I announce the winners, I'd like to post the interview that she was so gracious to do with me, just so we can get a better feeling for this "awesome agent." 


JS:  How did you become an agent?

NF:  By writing and interning. By writing, I learned what the heck an agent was, and by interning at the agency for two years and doing first reads and edits for romance agent Kevan Lyon (now of Marsal Lyon Literary), I learned exactly what an agent does. After starting a position here at the Dijkstra Agency in 2009 and getting the green light in September to start building my own list, I was an agent!

JS:  Tell us about a recent project you’ve sold.  (You can skip this one if you don’t feel comfortable talking about it.)

NF:  Most recent project was a lovely, lovely picture book, called RED IS A CHILI PEPPER (title pending). It’s quite an inspiring story, actually, how this one came about. The manuscript was sent in to the editor last SEPTEMBER, and, only last MARCH did she have time to really read and decide she loved it! It can take quite a while for things to happen in this business (especially in children’s literature), so don’t give up!

JS:  Are there any books coming out now that have you excited?

NF:  Oy, I just want to catch up with my already-purchased reading before I even think about this question. I have a two-foot pile next to my desk of MUST reads, and a bookshelf of unread books to read…eventually.

JS:  What are you looking for right now when tackling the slush pile?

NF:  RIGHT NOW at this moment, I’m looking for well-written, steamy romances (I’d love to find a time-travel romance, or a GOOD Regency or Victorian, or something like Jude Deveraux’s TEMPTATION) and REALLY unique fantasy/sci-fi YA. As in, not just a spin off, but in a whole class of its own. Also, well-written, well-plotted historical fiction.

JS:  What are you sick of seeing in queries that come across your desk?

NF:  Vampire novels, adult chick lit, “this is exclusive” even though we’re a no response if not interested agency, rhetorical questions, typos, a FANTASTIC premise that isn’t well-executed, pictures, abuse memoirs, and really, anything that makes me go “ick.”

JS:  Name three things that make you stop reading every time they crop up in a submission.

NF:
1.     Word count 100,000 or over
2.     Present tense (this is SO hard to do in my opinion)
3.     Whiney, bratty, snotty, or rude characters (snarky is ok)

JS:  How do you know when you’ve got “the one” sitting in front of you?

NF:  If I’ve read it and I want to write back to the author at one o’clock in the morning OMG but have to restrain myself to remain professional.

JS:  Will you be at any upcoming writers’ conferences where writers can meet and pitch you?

NF:  The next event I have scheduled is a panel at the Ventura Book Festival in July, and after that I’ll be at the Society of Southwestern Authors’ Conference in AZ. Staying pretty local for a while.

JS:  Do you have any advice on how writers can maximize their success in this changing industry?

NF:  Keep reading. The best way to soak in what you want to write is to read it, see what’s out there and what’s working. Stay tuned to discussions on Twitter, blogs, etc. And keep on persevering.

JS:  What is something about you writers would be surprised to hear?

NF:  I’m pretty “superstitious,” you might say. Any time I pass a patch of clovers I look for a four-leafed one (my five-leaf clover is taped to my computer). I believe in gut “feelings” and intuition, like to consult the online magic-eight ball on occasion (though, so far, it hasn’t really been all that reliable), and am a through-and-through Cancer. I also keep thinking of these fantastic ideas for novels that I’m never going to write. L

I’d also like to add that I’m pretty approachable. I know most agents and editors scare the bejeebes out of writers, but really, we’re just over-caffeinated book nerds like you. I hate getting calls about submissions, but emailed questions I’m always happy to answer. 

And I’m obsessed with SUPERNATURAL. And cats.

JS:  Best piece(s) of advice we haven’t talked about yet?

NF:  One of my favorite quotes comes from Lady Gaga, speaking to her younger self: “Don’t give up bitch; you’ve got a long way to go.”

JS:  How hands-on are you in terms of editing? How much input do you expect to have with your clients’ work?

NF:  I’m pretty well known as a hands-on agent. I expect any client I sign to be open to suggestion, and I always discuss this upfront. I don’t expect to re-write a book, and I also expect to have to back off if the writer absolutely feels that what I’m suggesting is not best for their work. I really enjoy a collaborative working relationship.

JS:  Best way for writers to submit to you?

NF:  Hard copy, unless requested, then by email. Submission guidelines are available at www.dijkstraagency.com

Bonus Question: What is your favorite way to relax on a warm summer’s eve?

NF:  Drink wine and play Pictionary with a small group of good friends.




And now the news you've all been patiently waiting for:  the winners of  my first Secret Agent Contest.


Dear Secret Agent contestants,

Thank you for entering! I had such a hard time judging; there were SO many
close calls on this one. I literally sat on my bed for hours with the
submissions spread before me, biting my nails to get it perfect!

Congratulations to the honorable mentions:

#10 - Perfection - what gave me pause on this was the word count, and that
Ellyssa is perfect.

#9 - The Other Life - This was great; I just wasn't convinced there was much
of a hook past the post-apocalyptic setting

#8 - Everything That Matters - Although I really liked the premise, the
mistakes in the query and sample writing gave me pause. The author doesn't
know if it's romance or women's fic, para two sent one needs a semi-colon,
and an extra "a" in the second para of writing.

#7 - Pretty Girls Make Graves - The author has a great voice, but the query
confused me a bit. Is she literally haunted? Is it a serial-killer mystery
or a paranormal? Both? It's a little short as well.

#6 - Confessions of the World's Oldest Shotgun Bride - This was, again,
great, but it's very short, and relies very heavily on the cougar hook.

#5 - Secrets Revealed - What a wonderful, unique premise. I was incredibly
intrigued -- and at the same time, incredibly confused. It was well-written,
but I just wasn't sure what to make of it!

#4 - Preyers - This was ALMOST in my top 3, but the word count made me know
that it needed cutting without even reading more!


And...drum roll please!


#3 - Lure - winner of a 25 page critique!

#2 - Tempest - winner of a 50 page critique!

#1 - Fated Mishaps - winner of a full ms critique!


Jessica, thank you so much for having me guest judge; congratulations to all
winners!

Sincerely,
Natalie Fischer
Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency

Congratulations to these three winners!  Please email me for instructions on how to get your manuscripts to Natalie! 

~JA

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

UPDATE! Again! LOL.

The results are IN.  I'm waiting for one more piece of information from the SA and then ALL will be revealed.  Muh, ha, ha, ha, ha!  :D

Monday, May 24, 2010

UPDATE on Secret Agent Contest

The SA has determined the winners, but has asked for a few more days to offer a sentence or two explanation for the top ten as some of them were VERY close and hard to chose between.  Please watch for the post soon.  :D  I'm just as anxious to see who the winners are as you. Good luck!  And just a reminder, I am open to query critiques.  Official rules can be found here

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

New blog contest

A twitter friend of mine is having a contest to win an amazon giftcard.  Go on check it out! 

http://kathybradey.blogspot.com/2010/05/hooray-my-first-ever-contest.html

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Revised entries are up.

For those interested in critiquing again.  The new and revised entries are up are ready for some crits from all you critters!  Please take some time to take a look.  Thanks.

Good luck!  Remember, if you didn't make it to this next round, there will be another.  I've already confirmed my next SA for July.  :D 

Friday, May 14, 2010

Query letters

For the semi-finalists, if you've changed your query letter and/or first 250 and would like me to post a revised version for SA feel free to email me at secretagentcontest (@) gmail (.) com.

Now as for my ongoing query letter critiques.  I'll be starting that this Monday. 

Here are the Temporary rules (I will post a page with the OFFICIAL RULES by Monday):


1) FICTION QUERIES ONLY.  If you send me non-fiction/memoir I will not post or comment on your query.

2) make sure you include:
a. word count
b. title
c. genre

3)  NO ATTACHMENTS!  I will only accept entries that are pasted in the body of the email.

4)  By emailing your submission to me, you are giving implicit permission to have your work posted and publicly critiqued.  While I'll be honest, I will not be harsh or cruel.  My goal is to give you advice you can use and learn from.


Policy on comments

Comments are moderated.

Comments that are overly harsh or not beneficial in any way, will NOT be posted.

Comments that disagree with my opinion are usually posted, unless they are overly harsh or unbeneficial.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

List of entries that made it to the next round

Monday, May 10, 2010

Launch day for Oasis for YA!

Just a quick break from the contest from a word from our sponsors.  :D  

I'm thrilled to announce the launch of Oasis for YA. A collaborative blog between YA authors A.E. Rought, Jessie Harrell, Nikki Katz, S.A. Larsen, and myself. It's a place we've designed for YA writers (or all writers really) for those times when you really just need to get away from it all. To an oasis maybe. :) Every day there will be something fun and exciting up to help with the processes of writing, revising, and submitting. Daily topics will include: Monday's Sanctuary (easing the stress), Tuesday Tunes (check out our favorite tunes for the week and post your own), Writer's Wednesday (writing tips), Thankful for Thursday (let's share our good news for the week), Friday Freestyle (including interviews, reviews and/or give-aways). Stop on by and make yourself at home.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

And they're up!

Wow, guys, I'm impressed!  These are some really great queries and stories.  Now remember, please critique a minimum of 5 entries.  And please, give more than just a "wow this is great" response.  Thanks.

You will have until next Tuesday at 8 am EST to get those critiques done and I'll choose, with your help the 25 that will make it to round to and which ones will be seen by Secret Agent.

You may not be able to scroll down and see all the entries.  But if you go to the side bar, you'll see a list of titles and their entry numbers.  Simply click on the ones that interest you and critique away.

ETA:  I'd like for every entry to have at least 5 different critiques, so please start critiquing the ones that have less than 5.  Once we get 5 on all posts we can go back and start critiquing any and all that you want.  As always thanks for all that you've done. 

Also, in case you're wondering what happened to #34, she got some great news and asked to be removed from the contest.  Congrats to you, Dear Author.  And good luck with your big things.  :D

Oh, and if you notice that there are a few comments on an entry, go to the next.  Let's give every one a chance to get a critique. 

Good luck!

~JA

#39 FATED MISHAPS (REVISED)

Dear Secret Agent,



Stuck in a loveless engagement arranged by her uncle, Lady Evelyn “Evie” Newbury struggles with her decision to obey her uncle or follow her heart.  Orphaned at a young age, she had vowed to be the perfect picture of a dutiful niece; yet Evie soon discovers that, with her future at stake, she must do what she can to find her own happiness.  As she plots her escape, Evie soon finds an ally in the mysterious stranger in her uncle's dungeons. The only problem is how to get her out…

Soccer practice, babysitting, chasing off her mother’s latest boyfriend, and going on trial for being a witch; junior year is not starting off very well for Toni DeWitt.

As an average teenager, Antonia "Toni" DeWitt has never placed much importance in history.  Yet when she’s suddenly transported back to the past with a mysterious necklace, she soon finds herself wishing that she had stayed awake during her hours at school.  Her strange looks and speech along with her smart aleck comments soon land her in the dungeons quicker than she could say “homecoming queen”.

FATED MISHAPS, (92,000 word young adult fiction) follows the adventures of two girls from different time periods as they unexpectedly find a friendship that gives them the strength needed to do what they must to survive betrayal, love, and life.  Told through the eyes of the quirky and proud Toni and the caring and naive Evie by alternating chapters, this novel is a mixture of humor and adventure that shows readers that some friendships can survive anything through time, even in its most extreme form.

This novel is a stand-alone book but has potential to become a serious. Enclosed is the first 250 words. I’ll be glad to send you my complete manuscript for review. Thank you for your time and consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Regards,


***



I will never be Lady Hakebourn.

He will never speak to me. He will never touch me.

These reassuring thoughts repeated themselves in my mind as the maid continued fastening the buttons that ran up the back of the wedding dress. With every button, the laces beneath the dress pushed tighter against my skin, gradually squeezing the air from my lungs, making it harder to breathe-all to please the godforsaken realm of fashion.

The day’s fitting was in preparation for next week’s wedding. Since it was a hasty engagement, the dress had only arrived from the seamstress this morning.

Yes, a hasty engagement. Baron Hakebourn’s second wife recently died of unknown reasons, though the gossips swore that he had simply beaten her too harshly one time too many. Of course, they stopped their mutterings as soon as I came within earshot, so I haven’t heard more than a whisper of that.

And unfortunately, given my recent luck, the dress seemed to fit perfectly, meaning that I couldn’t send it back and have another few days of freedom. As tempted as I was to secretly rip out the seams, I knew that would only be a temporary solution. And a cowardly one at that, to place the blame on the maids. My parents would be disappointed in me if they knew. Of course, if they were still alive, I wouldn’t be stuck in this predicament.

#38 Dark Hours

Dear Agent,

I am writing to you today because I'm seeking representation on my young adult, urban fantasy manuscript DARK HOURS.

When you're seventeen marriage is the last thing on your mind.  Unless you're Summer James, and doing so saves the world.

Part witch and part Decca warrior, Summer has just five months to bind herself to a suitor. Of course, not just anyone will do, she must be in love with them. Otherwise, a crazy demon will rise and rule the world. In order to stop this event from occuring, her parents force her to go out on blind dates hoping she'll fall for one of them. This isn't how she wants to find love.

As luck would have it, she receives a special mission from the high council of the Decca warriors. She must protect Drew Falcore from a killer hunting him. Now, forced to spend all their time together a past attraction is reigniated. But a love like theirs is forbidden and the punishment is death.When Landon, a student of her father's is sent to protect her, she notices something growing between them. She forces herself to push away when she uncovers his family's future plans for him, which don't include her.

When the fate of the world hangs over her head and time running out she feels she'll need a mircle to make the right decision. Because one of these guys holds the key to vanquishing the threat against her life and the world. DARK HOURS is a young adult urban fantasy, complete at 60,000 words.

I am an active member of the YaLitChat group.

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



Sincerely,

***

Chapter 1: Decisions

 It was near the violet hour, or as humans call it, evening.

I began pacing around in my ugly, pastel green bedroom, trying to think of a great excuse to set me free from this god-forsaken date with, Josh Wickman. He was gorgeous, sure, but that didn’t matter to me.  His brains were mush— like most males, I quickly found out. Oh, and his arrogance? Wow!

I never thought I’d meet anyone as pigheaded and disgusting in all my life, but somehow I had.  Thanks to my stubborn, loving parents playing the game of matchmaker— I had the new job of getting rid of him.

Stupid clan vow! Curses flew out of my mouth.

A knock came at the door, pulling me away from my thoughts. I grumbled, rolled my eyes, and called out, “What?”

“Summer… Josh is here,” My mother said sweetly outside my pale oak door.

Josh "The Loser" who knows everything about the element of Fire. Yay, I thought sarcastically as I brushed past my bed.

I moaned, “I’m not feeling well.” It was followed by a hard, fake cough that hurt my lungs.

Executed to a “T,” if I were dealing with humans, they would have thought I had bronchitis. In fact, any other mother or father would have fallen for it. My parents were different though. So naturally, she burst into my room, glaring at me as she stormed her way in. I didn’t stiffen, as usual. Instead, my feet remained planted firmly to the floor while her violet eyes gave me a once over.

Monday, May 3, 2010

#37 Dying to Find You (Revised)

Dear Secret Agent,

After a witch’s spell leaves Karie in someone else’s dying body, she manages to yank her spirit out in time to avoid the afterlife. Since, technically, her body hasn’t died, she’s not a ghost. Of course, that distinction won’t matter if she can’t track down the witch and regain her body before her spirit dies in one week. What she doesn't know is that the witch is in league with an immortal diabolist who is determined to sacrifice Karie in order to save himself from eternal damnation.

She enlists the aid of some new friends—including sexy college classmate and demon-hunter Rafael—to track down the witch and stop the diabolist from releasing the demons of Hell on an unsuspecting world.

DYING TO FIND YOU is a 90,000 word urban fantasy novel inspired by a parable from the Bible, “The Rich Man and Lazarus”. My story infers what happens after the rich man, who is damned for eternity, strikes a deal with a devil to gain his freedom at the expense of his brothers' souls.

I am a reformed accountant who made the leap into freelance writing full time last year. I have two short stories published in anthologies by Indie publisher Twin Trinity Media. "Fly" was published in Elements of the Soul in 2009. "The Ring" was published in Elements of Time in March of 2010.

Thank you for your time.
 

 ****

Dying to Find You




Karie had faced down death twice in her life already, so dealing with a frat house full of drunken college students should have been no sweat for her. She wiped her damp hands on her ultra-skinny denim leggings for the third time and searched the smoky room for her BFF, Lily.


“Karie, you finally made it. I was about to send out a search party,” Lily yelled as she stumbled around other equally drunk partiers to cross the living room. The house probably started out with tasteful furniture before years of keggers and spoiled rich guys trashed it.


Lily's attire was classic urban skank. The micro-mini she wore barely covered her thong, and her low cut shirt revealed a black, lace push-up bra. The mighty powers of the bra pushed “The Girls” together so tightly her cleavage could hold a single piece of thread upright. An unfortunate fact Karie learned when Lily forced her try it.

 
“Oh, look Jell-O shots. Let's grab some. The alcohol burns away all the calories.” Lily snatched several of the colorful offerings from a tray circulating nearby.


Karie waved away the Jell-O shot and sipped at her bottle of Diet Coke. She shuddered at the thought of it. Jell-O tasted too much like Kool-Aid. Besides, there was no way she would blindly drink anything anyone handed her ever again. Drinking one glass of poisoned Kool-Aid in her lifetime was enough to make her suspicious of everyone. Sure, she had trust issues, but if you couldn't trust your own mother not to poison your drink, who could you trust?

#36 THE BOOK OF GENERATIONS (REVISED)

Dear Secret Agent:

Eve had no choice but to eat the fruit; the gods had no choice but to protect her.

Created to right the mistakes of Adam and protect God’s people, the Garden is no paradise for Eve or the others who were first made. After Eve’s creation and God’s death, Adam sets himself up as a god in the Garden, and his first goal is to take the two things forbidden to him: Eve as his wife, and the Fruit of Knowledge. Eve must escape Adam's control and the Garden in order to save herself and her people.

Thor and the other Norse gods did not arrive until long after Creation, but now that they’ve settled there is much to learn.  During one of Thor's journeys, he discovers Eve: beautiful, immortal, and for some inexplicable reason, living like she isn’t a goddess. With a wife waiting for him in Asgard, he never meant to fall in love.

After millenia without his memory, Adam comes looking for Eve in modern day France. Thor must step in to stop him, but doing so risks not only Eve's sanity, but the destruction of the world.

THE BOOK OF GENERATIONS is a re-imagining of mythology borrowing from the Nordic, biblical, and classical traditions.  It is best classified as a work of fantasy with elements of historical fiction. THE BOOK OF GENERATIONS is roughly 97,000 words.

I graduated from the University of North Dakota with a BA in English and Classical Studies.

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

Sincerely,

***


Chapter One: Creation

Bone and flesh, sinew and soul, He created her.

Be Filled With My Spirit, And Breathe.

She gasped. Sound roared in her ears and the darkness of birth became blinding light. The air in her lungs was suffocating, but she could not find relief. The world pressed down upon her in all its living glory, and the void, the blessed void, was gone.

“Eve?”

The light became shapes and colors, and a pair of hard grey eyes. She touched her face, then stopped and stared at her fingers. Her hand. Her arm.

Another hand pushed her arm away. “Can you hear me?”

She looked back at the eyes. The face. The moving lips. She heard another noise, whimpering and sorrowful, and realized she was making it.

“Don’t be afraid, Eve. You’ll understand in time.”

Arms slipped beneath her and she felt herself lifted up. What hold she had over her vision failed with the movement and Eve closed her eyes to stop the way the world spun.

“There’s a storm coming.” The other spoke while carrying her, and she tried to concentrate on the voice. There was so much noise. And underneath the sounds and the voice a steady beating that echoed inside her body. “Without God to protect us, we’ll need to shelter in the caves.”

She was set down on cold earth, and Eve opened her eyes. Cave, she thought, shaping the word in her mind around the stone and the dirt that swallowed her.

#35 THE DARK GIFT: BIRTHRIGHT

Dear Secret Agent,

Everyone knows it's not safe to go out drinking alone, especially for a beautiful twenty-four-year-old woman.  That's why Liz did the smart thing and went with her friends.  Oh, she was on the lookout for the run-of-the-mill pervert all right, but no one ever bothered to explain that things other than lecherous men prowled the night.  And they sure never told her she could become one.

Fighting against an all consuming blood lust, Liz’s only hope of regaining humanity is to locate the man who bit her.  Finding him could be more than she bargained for.  Michael, her unwitting maker, is a vampire assassin.  Years before she was born, his archenemy Monroe set a spell in motion to bring about his destruction.  Liz is the tool that could bring it to fruition.

Trapped in an ancient battle between good and evil, she encounters a world of magic, supernatural beings, and treacherous plots to kill those she holds dear.  Liz must decide if she will remain true to her unfailing belief in the preservation of life, or succumb to the darkness that dwells inside her. 


THE DARK GIFT: BIRTHRIGHT is a 94,000 word Urban Fantasy.  It is suitable for crossover to YA.

I am an active member of Yalitchat.


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

Regards,



***


          This was crazy. Just Forty-eight hours ago, the man Elizabeth was willing to sacrifice herself for before this council of vampire elders, had been the very same man who killed her.  She glanced around the large hall hoping to find a friendly face—anything that might calm her wrangled nerves.
           
The spacious room coupled with a high arched ceiling could have doubled as an auditorium.  Three lines of tiered benches surrounded the grayed wood floor adding to the effect.  Dotted throughout the crowd were beings of extraordinary beauty.  But there were others there.  The kind pictured in horror stories. Sallow skinned, tangled hair, with monstrous features and fangs, they laughed and jostled each other in anticipation of what was about to happen.  If the vampires gathered had been using their voices instead of their minds to speak, the noise would have reverberated to the intensity of a rock concert.

“There he is.  I wonder if he's ever considered being under the hand of his brand of justice?”

            “Oh, she's beautiful.  The pain of this loss will be great for him,” another voice snickered.

            “Two hundred years I have waited for this moment.  Tell me, Michael, how does it feel?  Was it all worth it now?”

            Nothing she could make out sounded like a help to their cause.  The vampires wanted retribution.  Without thinking, she edged closer to Michael.  In the presence of all this hostility, his nearness felt like a safe haven.

#33 Secrets Revealed

Dear Secret Agent,

     Cathleen Wilson died.  Twice.  First, giving birth to her only child.  And again, willingly sacrificing her own life to save that of another.  Each time she was chosen, as only the purest of heart are, and given another chance at life, at happiness.  Now, she has come back once more, her final chance.  With her memories wiped clean, as each time before, she struggles just to survive the less than ideal hand life has dealt her.

    Desperate and penniless, two young sisters embark on a journey to a new land.  The older sister, Cathleen, affectionately called Cat, plans to try and pass herself off as her former employer, a self-centered wealthy heiress, to the woman’s
betrothed.  Theirs was an arranged engagement and neither had seen each other since childhood.  The groom-to-be, Duke Samuel Epworth, proves to be more than the sisters bargain for, though.  The dangerously astute and devilishly handsome womanizer quickly becomes the one man Cat finds it impossible to fool or refuse.  His persistence and charm soon wears downs her resistance.
    
     At first, seeing her as a challenge, Samuel is determined to learn the secrets behind the man who is following Cat and what lies in her past that makes her so untrusting of men.  But, when his feelings become engaged, he realizes that the challenge just may be getting her to let him inside of the protective walls she has built around her wounded heart.  In the end he must enlist the assistance of the secret protectors of the Dark Forest to aid him in his quest to save Cat from her pursuers and even…herself.

     Secrets Revealed is a 96,500-word paranormal romance set in the mid-1800’s and in a fictional land called the Dark Forest.

     I am a member of the Romance Writers of America and RWA’s online chapter.

     Thank you for your time and consideration.  I would be pleased to send a full manuscript.

                                                                      *************
     At times, one can work to create for one’s self a second chance to right wrongs, and in doing so attain inner peace.  Other times, the opportunity comes about purely by luck.  Sometimes though, second chances are granted to the uniquely deserving by the greater powers whose existence most are completely unaware of.  For one woman, a third is granted.
                                                                        #
     October 1840
 
     The sound came again, echoing through the long hall. Cat’s fingers tightened on the rag in her hand, the bucket of soapy water all but forgotten sitting behind her beneath the window.  She inched forward, dread driving her feet towards the woman’s muffled cries. Careful to step lightly so her oversized, second hand shoes would not clack on the tile floor, she made her way to the end of the corridor.  Her limbs trembled and her breaths became short as she approached the closed door.  With trembling fingers she reached for the knob.  A man’s voice, his voice, froze her in place.  Lord Gilmore’s nasally words rose above the woman’s sobs.
    
“You truly thought I would make you my mistress?  Good Lord, woman.  Are you daft?  You are a servant.  A bloody servant.”  The room grew quiet behind the door.  “By God, you should consider yourself lucky that I am giving you a letter of recommendation and twenty-four hours to find a place to go.  If Anna had her way, you and those two sniveling brats of yours would have been tossed out onto the street last night with nothing.”

#32 VITILIGO

Dear Secret Agent,

James Nathanial Pratchett left Balmer, Alabama as a terrified black
boy, falsely accused of his adoptive father's death. He returns
sixteen years later as a white man, enacting the plan he has bent
every decision towards: taking something from each of the five men who
ruined his life.

He plans to take the livelihood of the town's general store owner, who
didn't stop the sheriff from beating James' mother over a loaf of
bread she didn't steal.

He plans to take the joy from the sons of those bigoted men, who
tormented him throughout his childhood for his dark skin and the
strange white spots that began to appear and grow on it-- the same
sons who attacked him the day he fled town.

He plans to take everything the sheriff knows for the beating his
mother didn't survive.

Sixteen years of preparation and a diagnosis of vitiligo, a condition
that de-pigments the skin, have brought James back to where he began--
only this time, with a plan. But there's one thing in Balmer that
James isn't prepared for: Katey Adelaide, his only childhood friend
and first love, is still there, and James' arrival has put them both
in danger. As the plan begins to change in ways he never considered,
James will have to decide if the revenge he has craved for so long is
really all that matters to him.

VITILIGO is a 77,000 word commercial fiction novel of vengeance and
the vagaries of even the best-laid Plans.

Sincerely,

***

       Sixteen years ago I left Balmer, Alabama as a black boy. I
return today as a white man.
   
Not a stick of the town has changed. Not even the weight in the air,
the hot, dusty wind, or the mottled blue sky overhead threatening
equally distasteful sunlight or thunderstorms.

    I approach on foot from the outskirts, and a well of trembling—what,
I don't know exactly, fear? rage?-- fills me at the very sight of it.
I expected something else. I don't really know what I expected, but
after the calm of the years past, coming back here with a purpose
feels . . .different.

    A sharpness pierces me as McPherson's General Store, the first
building on the left, looms up out of the dusty morning shadows.
Sixteen years ago a boy stood there, next to the bottom step. The
other boys surrounding him called him a freak, along with other names
I won't repeat in dignified company. He didn't stay standing for long.
They shoved him down, their feet connecting with the strange white
splotches on his mocha face, raining pain and fear on him from above.
They didn't understand a black boy. They understood a black boy
covered in white patches even less.

    The memories of that day bubble up inside of me, causing the
trembling to intensify as I walk down Main Street, looking for changes
in the buildings and people. There are none.  Main Street is still,
like the mindsets of its residents, from another, older time.

#31 BITE ME, YOUR GRACE (REVISED)

Dear Secret Agent:

BITE ME, YOUR GRACE takes place in London in the midst of Western Europe’s vampire craze spawned by the publication of Dr. John Polidori’s The Vampyre.

Angelica Winthrop has big plans to ruin her reputation so she may avoid marriage and become a gothic authoress like her idol, Mary Shelley. Unfortunately, her schemes always backfire and the wedding noose tightens with every escapade. To find inspiration for her next story, she breaks into the home of Ian Ashton, Duke of Burnrath. Ian is the Lord vampire of London and because of Polidori’s story, tongues are wagging and wagers are being made about his nocturnal proclivities.

The duke destroys Angelica’s plans by publicly proposing marriage to her in order to save his reputation and to keep her from revealing his secret. Sparks fly as she attempts every impropriety to dissuade him and he retaliates with his skills of seduction.

After a quirky courtship and a tender wedding night, their rocky marriage is played out before the scandalized eyes of the ton. When Angelica writes a vampire novel, Ian is infuriated and threatens to abandon her by leaving for the continent. She learns that literature can have dangerous effects when she faces a vampire hunter and a pair of misguided kidnappers to save her love.

BITE ME, YOUR GRACE, a regency paranormal romance complete at 75,000 words, is available upon request. I am a member of the Idaho Writer’s League. Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

*******
 
“Mother, no!” Angelica cried, lunging forward too late. Her stocking clad feet slipped on the smooth wooden floor and she had to grasp the bedpost to keep from falling on her face.

“I cannot have you reading such trash,” Marjory Winthrop said as she threw her daughter’s favorite book in the fireplace.

            Angelica watched in dismay as the pages of “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman,” by Mary Wollstonecraft, was engulfed in flames. It didn’t matter that she had read it enough to recite it verbatim. It broke her heart to see a precious book destroyed. Her lip curled in self-recrimination. She knew she should have waited until after the ball before taking it from its hiding place.

            Her mother’s furious countenance was nearly as red as her curls. “It is bad enough that your father turned you into a blue-stocking, with all the Plato and such he raised you on, but if anyone knew you were a radical, your reputation would be blackened beyond redemption, with all hope of an advantageous marriage turned to dust.”

            “Maybe I want my reputation to be ruined, mother,” she said, unable to hold back her ire. “Maybe I do not want to be a brood mare for some stupid cad while he spends my dowry on his mistresses and… Ouch!” She rubbed the skin on her upper arm where her mother pinched her.

            Lady Winthrop hissed, “If we were not going to the Wentworth ball tonight I would slap you.”

#30 The Beautiful People (revised)

Dear Secret Agent,

The problem with witnessing a mob hit is that Natalie Ross becomes a liability. She’s given an ultimatum - keep quiet or die.

Natalie Ross’ brother gets her a job at Crimson, the hottest nightclub in Philadelphia. Her first night there she meets Dominic and becomes instantly hooked. She’s finishing up her last semester of college; her bills are paid and, despite her brother’s protests, Natalie finds herself in a trusting relationship with Dominic– a new concept for her.

Natalie learns why her brother, Grant, is so resistant the night she witnesses him kill three men; shot them, in the head, with no remorse. Turns out he’s a hit man for the Philly Mob and has been for years. Dominic, the man she let her guard down for, is a second generation Mafioso. She’s initially enamored with the mafia as it offers the close-knit family she has craved her entire life, but Natalie soon learns that this "family's" values are more than skewed. A series of traumatic events, including a sexual assault and a friend’s suicide, comes to a violent end and she flees the city. Natalie doesn’t know if her brother will pay the price with his life or if she will be pursued by the mafia, the FBI, or both.

The Beautiful People is voice-driven commercial fiction and complete at 88,000 words. While numerous books have been written about the mafia, The Beautiful People is from the unique perspective of a young woman thrust into the criminal underworld.

I worked in the Philadelphia nightclub scene while attending Temple University, where I received a degree in Journalism. Professionally, I have a background in marketing and advertising. I recently won an online flash fiction competition and I’m a current member of the Maine Writers and Publishers Association.

Thank you in advance for considering The Beautiful People.

 

Regards,



***  



The club thumped and pulsated. I watched the crowd move with the beat as I waited for my drink orders to be filled. One of the bartenders, Dominic, smiled and winked at me as he put two beers on my tray.

“How’s it goin’?” He yelled over the music.

“So far so good!” I hoisted my drink tray up and proceeded to weave through the wall of people. My short skirt and tight top showed more skin than I was comfortable with and even though this was my first night working at Crimson, it didn’t take long to realize how many men considered the skimpy uniform an open invitation to grab at my body. If I earned a dollar for every time someone touched my ass, I would have been able to retire after that night.

When the club had cleared out, I joined the other employees around Dominic’s bar.  He was busy stacking clean glasses and smiled when he saw me approach. I looked away quickly before gathering the courage to meet his gaze. His attention no longer focused on me, but on the beer tub girl, for obvious reasons. Her cosmetically enhanced boobs were testing the confines of her top. She was skinny and had white blonde hair, a regular Barbie doll. I glanced down at my B cups and attempted to get them to grow on command, but no such luck.

I noticed the rest of the employees around the bar were all in various stages of perfection.
 

#29 Enchanted Goddesses: The Genesis

Dear Secret Agent,

I am querying you about my YA contemporary fantasy novel titled Enchanted Goddesses: The Genesis.

Between first dates and school dances, five sixteen-year-old girls find it hard to fit in time to be superheroes.

Okay, so they are not officially superheroes yet, but when the girls slowly begin to discover their elemental powers, that is how they start to see themselves. These new powers are exciting (Who wouldn’t enjoy conjuring a breeze on a hot day or turning on the TV without a remote?), but also dangerous (especially when your hands emit fire while fighting a stuck-up girl who spilled punch on you). Separated at birth, the girls are reunited by their eccentric guardian, Malaysa, who reveals their true identities. She’s a little late teaching them about their powers though; one of the girls is in trouble with the law because of hers while another nearly exposed hers to her adoptive family. However, the girls still believe going out on dates and shopping at the mall is more important than training their powers, until they realize dark forces from their home planet have set out to destroy them. Somehow they’ll have to find a way to stop arguing about superhero names and who should be leader, for their bond is the only way to overpower their enemies.

This novel is like a “sisterhood of fantasy” and may become part of a series that will watch the friendship of these girls grow through hard times. I wrote a short story for the anthology, Potpourri, and another of my novels was a finalist in the Zirdland Novel Competition.

The manuscript is complete at 54,000 words and available upon request. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,


* * *

There was no mistaking the darkness on the eastern horizon. They were coming.
Malaysa clutched the balcony railing as she stared out over the land in the predawn glow from the sky. The tinkling of metal tubes continued to ring out in the air. They were what had woken her up.
 
Her mother, standing by her side, bore a terrified expression. “Those are the alert chimes. Mage Breez must’ve rung them.”
 
“The Drab Forces are attacking, aren’t they?” Malaysa asked.
 
Mom nodded. “And you know why.”
 
“But how did they find out the Enchanted Goddesses have been born?”
 
“Perhaps they have undetectable spy drones, just like we do.”
 
“Do you think the Drabs want to steal the infants?”
 
“Or kill them.”
 
Malaysa frowned and looked down to where fellow clan members were also rising out of bed and gathering together for battle. Most of them were sorcerers, their long robes billowing in the conjured gales; the same winds that tossed Malaysa’s auburn hair to and fro.
 
“It’s the beginning of the war,” Mom muttered.
 
“Can the Lucent Forces win?” Malaysa inquired.
 
“Our clans will certainly try their best. But it will be years before the Goddesses can fight.” She glanced towards the approaching enemy army. “Our powers won’t help in this battle. Let’s get to the underground shelter.”
 
Malaysa and her mother began to turn away, but before they could reenter their hut, they heard a voice shout from below.
 
“Malaysa!” a woman called.
 
The young girl spun back around and approached the balcony’s railing again.

#28 LARCH


Dear Secret agent,

I am seeking representation for my 60,000 word Young Adult dystopian manuscript, LARCH.

Seventeen-year-old Larch has her uncle, the dictator of New America, wrapped around her finger. She can have anything she desires -- except for her freedom, the one thing she wants most. To make matters even worse, after two kidnapping attempts she's assigned a mysterious new bodyguard named Stone.

Larch can’t decide if Stone’s a blessing or a curse. He makes her feel alive, special...and even LESS free than before. He's stuck to her like glue -- until her house catches fire, and she's separated from him...and realizes he's not the only one with secrets.

Larch is a clone of the dictator's dead wife, the only successful clone in the world, and her creator -- none other than Stone's father -- wants her back.

Larch must escape the dictator's marriage bed, her creator's lab, and her own doubts about Stone if she is to survive, and finally gain the freedom she has craved her entire life.

Sincerely,


*****   

    The excitement flowed through my body like molten lava until I thought I would explode with happiness.  Today was the day I would meet my secret friend, the first friend I’d ever had in my almost fifteen years of life, and I just knew it would be special.

    It wasn’t as hard keeping the secret as it was hacking into the guards internet connection to experience the outside world.  Although the government controlled everything from the internet to television channels, the active Underground had many secret sites available, which is where I met my friend, Renee.

    Renee was sweet and funny, and wrote of a world I couldn’t imagine, a world full of people of all ages and freedom.  She even had a boyfriend.  During the six months of our friendship building, I waited and dreamed of the day I could truly leave my prison.

    “Come on, Larch,” Kate called.  “Time to go.”  I loved Kate.  She was tough yet still beautiful, and I admired her, but didn’t want her going today.

    “Kate, please stay home,” I said.  “You need to rest and think of the baby.”

    Kate rubbed her belly where her baby was growing.  Rodriguez, her husband, came out of the house and dropped to his knees in front of Kate, pressing loud kisses against her stomach.  Kate giggled, glowing with happiness.

    “Our Larch doesn’t want me going,” she said to Rodriguez.

    “You can take the day off, Amante,” Rodriguez said, using his pet name for Kate.

#27 KINGDOM JUMPER (REVISED)

Dear Secret Agent,
 
Fourteen-year-old Kyle Briggins didn’t enter Camelot Junior High with an evil sorceress or Excalibur in mind.  But when a mistake in roll call brands him as Kyle Pendragon – a surname shared with King Arthur – his part in an old legend begins to surface.

School bullies and teachers aren’t the only ones making such ridiculous claims either.  The class pet, a talking ferret named Merlin, insists Kyle is the real King Arthur, and if that wasn’t bad enough, his math teacher is Morgana, an evil sorceress who’d happily kill him for the throne.

Traveling to ancient Camelot with a talkative ferret as his sidekick is nothing compared to the characters he’ll meet once they get there.  Stuck in the middle of a legend, Kyle must face Morgana, her dark realm of nightmares and brave the school dance.  Should he survive, he’ll have to make the hardest choice imaginable – stay in the magical kingdom of Avalon or return home to new friends – his own Knights of the Round Table.

KINGDOM JUMPER, a middle grade fantasy, is complete at 33,000 words.  Additional materials are available upon request.  Thank you for your time and consideration.  I look forward to hearing from you.



*****
 

First 234 words:
 
Kyle’s sneakers squished as he walked the long corridors of Camelot Junior High.  A newbie surrounded by sharks, his heavy steps left wet footprints all throughout the halls.

After checking his schedule for the fifth time this morning, Kyle crept inside room 12B before the first bell rang.  With only three desks open, he shuffled down the middle aisle and landed in one at the back of the room.  A group to his left pointed at him, wide grins smeared across their faces.
 

“Check out the drowned rat,” the first said.

A boy with a mess of brown hair laughed.  “What’s amatter, new-kid?  No shower in the sewers?” he asked.
 

 “Where’s your pack, rat?” asked a third.
 

Kyle sunk in his chair, blond hair wet and dripping down the sides of his face.  In the history of first days lived by eighth graders, Kyle figured this had to be the worst ever.
 

First, the bus broke down before reaching his stop.  Then, his umbrella turned inside out and he had to wait in the pouring rain.  He’d be lucky to dry off before the end of the day.

Bunching his shirt around his middle, Kyle leaned over so the excess water could drip onto the floor.  The voices around him hushed as the classroom door closed.  A young woman in red stood at the front of the room.  Kyle read his schedule: Ms. Parrish.

 

#26 THE OTHER LIFE (REVISED)

Dear Secret Agent,
 
Sherry can't remember the feel of sun on her skin nor the smell of freshly cut grass. 1,139 days since she saw the sky. 27,336 hours since she heard her friends' ceaseless chatter. Countless minutes since the mutated rabies forced Sherry and her family into the shelter beneath their house.

Only two minutes since they ran out of food.
And with every minute passing by, the clicking of her Grandma's knitting needles feels more like the countdown to their doom. Time is running out.
 

Click. Click.
 

Sherry and her family face the choice of starving in their bunker - a place that feels more like a prison than a home - or leaving the walls keeping them safe. When her father goes out to search for food, Sherry doesn't hesitate to accompany him. She won't become the second corpse in their freezer, thank you very much. Soon she realizes getting infected with the rabies isn't their main problem. Mutants neither human nor animal prowl the streets. During an attack they carry her father off. Sherry would have shared his fate, had it not been for Joshua, another survivor. Now, she is hell bent on rescuing her father with his help.
 

A dangerous quest. All their lives are at stake. Saving her father and making sure that Joshua's thirst for revenge doesn't get him killed pose a seemingly insurmountable challenge for Sherry. And their situation gets only worse when they find out a fence has been built to keep the mutants, but also every survivor on the West Coast, from setting foot on the other side – the new territory of the USA. Their government has forgotten about them and apparently has every intent of keeping it that way.
 

THE OTHER LIFE, my YA post-apocalyptic novel, is complete at 56,000 words.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
 

***
 

3 years, 1 month, 1 week and 6 days since I'd seen daylight.

Almost one-fifth of my life.

“We're running out of food,” Dad said as he rummaged through our pantry. His forehead was creased in worry and there was this expression on his face that didn't bode well. I'd seen it countless times lately.

Please not another fight.

Mom looked up from the floor in our improvised kitchen and stopped mopping. Her unwashed, blond hair hung limply down her shoulders and back. “What are you talking about? We should have food for at least eight months left.” She wiped her hands on her flowery apron – exactly eighty-nine flowers, I'd counted them several times. And they were hideous flowers, let me tell you.

She stepped into the pantry.

Here it comes.

I stifled a sigh and tried to ignore them. As if that was possible! They didn't even try to be silent most of the times.

1139 days since I'd heard the chatter of my friends, since I'd seen the sky.

Her hands on her hips, Mom glared at Dad, her brows creating a solid line in her rising anger. “We've stocked food for four years. You said so yourself.”

Dad sighed as he slumped against one of the shelves in the pantry, running a hand through his short, red hair. “We must have calculated the rations wrongly. Maybe we ate more than we should have.”

It always began like that: accusations and denial followed by screaming, then crying.

#25 PRETTY GIRLS MAKE GRAVES

Dear Secret Agent,

Waking up with wads of gauze wrapped around your head and your mother
crying in the corner is pretty much a crappy way to start the
day—especially when you can’t remember why you’re sporting such
unattractive headwear. As seventeen-year-old Faith Daniels gradually
pieces together the events that landed her on the neurosurgeon’s
table, she becomes haunted by her past. Literally. And there’s nothing
worse than being stalked by a bunch of your dead classmates. Except
perhaps becoming one.

With the help of her psychologist, Faith eventually recalls the
horrific details of the catastrophe that lead to these unexpected and
ghostly class reunions. But when she remembers her brother's
involvement in the deaths of her friends, she must make a
heart-wrenching decision: hide the truth or betray her family.

My young adult novel, PRETTY GIRLS MAKE GRAVES, is complete at 55,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

***

Strange things go through your head when you’re having an MRI. And I’m
not just talking about the electromagnetic currents, although that
certainly does cause a flicker of scientific curiosity. I mean things
like if my hair will grow out right, or if my mother would let me get
my favorite band’s new CD, or who it might be that cleans the insides
of these machines, or if Adam and Eve had belly buttons.

That I’m thinking so clearly at all is a miracle, they tell me. The
number of patients who can function as well as I can after the type of
brain surgery I underwent is not an impressive figure. According to
them anyway. Maybe it’s just my amateur opinion, but when someone goes
poking metal objects into an organ as complicated as a brain, prodding
around in there as if dipping pieces of fruit into a chocolate fondue
pot, I’d be impressed if the person who’d been operated on didn’t come
out of surgery having attained the glorious functioning level of
drooling all over their fecal-stained hospital gown.

Of course, it’s not as if I came out of the operation scot-free. My
recovery has been only partially successful so far. Sometimes I forget
what I’m doing in the middle of doing it. Sometimes I forget names.
But worst of all, I can’t remember ever coming to the hospital to have
brain surgery.

#24 A SILVER RING

Dear Secret Agent:

Thank you for helping @JASouders and the rest of the #amwriting gang on Twitter with this contest. We all stand to gain from it; even if we don't win! I hope you do, as well.

I used to think my soul was all me, all my own, but a single nightmare changed that, made me want a child, and inspired me to write a novel when he was born years later. Multi-generational like BLOODROOT, in a frame similar to THE NOTEBOOK, but told in omnicient third-person, my 110,000-word coming-of-age saga, A SILVER RING, is the story of four different protagonists in a family line of pilots.

Marine Aviator Derrick Hutchinson needs everything and everyone he’s made of to resolve a crisis no pilot could handle alone, but today, he’s distracted. He’s forgotten something - the worthless heirloom at the heart of a beautiful, terrible family secret that lay buried beneath emotional rubble from World War Two: his great-grandfather's silver Army Air Corps ring. Derrick knows he’s the fourth Hutchinson to leave the ring behind before going up. He knows, because the first three never made it back.

Existence transcends time as Derrick's forbears' final struggles resolve and, through him, fulfill a collective Destiny. A hillbilly princess’ brother dies saving his bomber crewmates. His orphan learns of his noble legacy as his own son marries a strangely familiar firebrand, rekindling a forty-year-old family feud. And a prodigy born to consanguineous parents, who joined the Marines to avoid life as a target, risks it all to save those who are.

I was taught to fly by my father from age eight, became an airline pilot at age twenty, and now fly internationally for American Airlines. My writing has appeared in two aviation trade magazines. Thanks for participating in this contest and considering my entry.

Sincerely,


***

Something had finally managed to kill the old bastard. Not easily, and not at all quickly, to be sure, but his mom’s e-mail told Derrick cancer had beaten the man only she and her mother had ever truly frightened - his last surviving male elder, a Medal of Honor recipient who, legend had it, could extinguish an ordinary house fire with just an axe and a glare: longtime Captain of the Cleveland Fire Department and chain-smoking Pall-Mall man, Frank Lawton.

 “Cancer’s a bitch,” Lieutenant Derrick “Toons” Hutchinson mumbled as he stared through, more than read, the rest of the e-mail from his berth aboard the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan. He’d been a young boy when the disease claimed the grandmother his father had barely gotten to know, and now it had taken his Grandpa Frank, who he’d only just met ten years before. Apparently it wasn’t for the Hutchinson men to get to keep their fathers, or grandparents, for long.

“Mmhmm. What?” Hutchinson’s cabin-mate, Lloyd “Tivo” Tenpas, a proudly devout Mormon whose callsign came from his irritating tendency to record the Mormon Tabernacle’s Sunday service on his squadron's DVR back at Pensacola, was reading his faith’s Book, something he did so often it became solid, cheap entertainment to distract him.

“Cancer. Got my Grandpa. Yesterday.” Rick had completely forgotten about the cup of yogurt he was going to finish while he read his e-mail.

Tenpas was irritated, as usual, by the interruption but, realizing Rick wasn’t just messing with him, couldn’t bring himself to say anything but, “I’m sorry, man.”

#23 CELEBRITY STATUS

AJ Thomas has a crush on her childhood best friend, Sebastian Russo. 

It's inevitable. No one can resist Sebastian's good looks, his charm, but mostly his talent. AJ knows this and has resigned herself to the bottom of the growing list of females who keep Sebastian in their dreams. The worst part is, as his best friend, it’s AJ who has an inside door to Sebastian, it's her he shares his fears with, his dreams with and it's her who will be her standing beside him at his wedding--as his best man.

But when Sebastian wins a local contest with a record deal as a prize and admits to AJ that she is in his dreams too, she feels like reality has taken a hike and together, everything they've hoped for is about to materialize in front of their astonished eyes. She finally has him; he has a record deal and a fast track to the big time.

As quickly as Sebastian's fame skyrockets, so do AJ's insecurities about having lost him to the world before she has a chance to really have him to herself.  AJ begins a downward spiral to cope.  Her best friend turned boyfriend is in the limelight, living the dream, but at what cost?

“Celebrity Status” is a contemporary young adult novel completed at approximately 79,000 words. I would be pleased to submit a detailed synopsis or full or partial manuscript for your perusal. Thank you for your time.

Yours truly,




***

It’s late. I’m out past curfew. As I make my way up the stairs in the eerie blackness of our house, I try to tip-toe along the hallway but every time a floorboard creaks, or a pipe makes a tiny noise, I’m sure I’m busted.  My heart rate is accelerating, palpitating even, like I’m committing a major crime.  Like I’m going earn the next spot on Americas Most Wanted. I had no idea that Marina and her boyfriend Adam were going to get into a huge fight tonight, which they did. I had no idea it would take me two hours to console her after the battle of the sexes, which it did. I left her sobbing as it is but if I didn’t get home, I’d be grounded until my eighteenth birthday and six months of imprisonment was a very long time.  A punishment I’m unwilling to subject myself to, even for a friend.

I make it to my door and gracefully push it open.  Like the stupid floorboards it creaks, causing every limb on my body to freeze.  I try not to even breathe.  Deciding my paranoia is unwarranted, I close it softly and move through the room with near perfect night vision, taking off my shirt off to toss it on the floor, relishing the very thought of crawling into bed.  I’m tired and my eyelids are heavy and watching Marina and Adam behave like they should be in a boxing ring has made me even more exhausted.


 

#22 Bernie Bolts Bergen

Dear Secret Agent,

Bernie Bolts Bergen is an adventure about a young cat exported abroad as the next superstar cat and TV star. A fight at his first outing puts paid to his promising career. Unwanted, he heads back home. His journey home is one of adventure, danger and excitement which threaten all of Bernie’s nine lives. Bernie Bolts Bergen is a middle grade, fantasy adventure, chapter book which is complete at 28,500 words.

As a lecturer, with some 20 years experience, the majority of my writing has been of an academic nature. Bernie’s story represents a welcome departure for me and develops and refines some of the stories that I have told my children and more recently my grandchildren.

The story follows Bernie through a series of encounters and incidents; that include werecats, vampire squirrels, a ‘near drowning’ in a helicopter (whirlie) crash and more, as he crosses land and sea. Through his journey he meets both friend and foe. Almost home he is involved in one more incident; this means he has to face the cat gods. Is the accident one too many? Has Bernie used all nine lives? Can he go home? Only the cat gods have the answers.

The story is an extraordinary journey that is a mix of fantasy and adventure with a heart-tugging end. Bernie starts out as a spoiled brat who wants for nothing but he has to rely on his own initiative, inner strength and he is also humbled by all those who help him on his journey. In some ways the story can be seen as a coming of age story through the eyes of cat.

The book will appeal to fans of Michael Morpurgo or Kate DiCamillo.

I would, obviously, be delighted to provide you with the finished manuscript should it be of interest to you.
 
Many thanks for your time and attention.

Yours sincerely

 
 ***


The small thirteen year old girl pushed her way through to the front of the large crowd that had gathered to see who would be crowned the Champion of Norway.

‘C’mon on Bernie’ shouted Stina.

Bernie was her cat; he was really her mum’s cat but he slept in her room and everyday at 3 o’clock he sat in the window, waiting for her to return from school. She had travelled to Scotland with her mum to bring this beautiful young cat to Norway for this very moment. As soon as he had arrived in Bergen, Stina’s home town, people had fallen in love with him and within weeks he had been chosen to appear in a series of TV adverts. He was now in the final of the Norwegian championship and only one cat, Jingles, stood between him and the trophy that Stina’s mum wanted so badly.

She was so proud of Bernie that she even wore the short lilac tartan skirt that she had bought when she was in Scotland. The crowd focused on the brightly lit stage in the middle of the hall as they waited on the final two cats. Stina jumped up and down nervously. There was only one winner in her mind and that was Bernie. She adored him and he adored her.

            ‘Jingles!Jingles!’ chanted Jingles’s owner.

            To rousing applause the two cats were carried on to the stage by two stewards dressed in white coats, just like those worn by doctors.
 

#21 Confessions of the World’s Oldest Shotgun Bride

Secret Agent,

Since you represent contemporary romance authors, I hope you’ll consider my cougar tale, “Confessions of the World’s Oldest Shotgun Bride.” This 60,000 word manuscript was a finalist in the recent Dorchester/Textnovel.com America's Next Best Celler Contest, as well as several RWA chapter contests.

Katie St. John is smart, sexy, over 40, and about to hop in bed with an incredibly hot young guy, but she’s no desperate housewife. She’s not married, or even looking for commitment. She’s given up on love, which she sucks at, to focus on her red-hot career. All she wants from Steve Tyler, an incredibly sexy, surprisingly sweet Air Force pilot twelve years her junior, is a fun vacation fling. Sure, the chemistry between them is hotter than the Caribbean sun, but once this vacation’s over, her Inner Good Girl will muzzle her Inner Slut and she’ll go back to plotting corporate coups.

But Steve has other ideas for the glamorous “older woman” who lived next door when he was a kid. He’s lusted after Katie since before he was old enough to understand what lust was. Now that she’s finally moved from his fantasies to his bed, he’s not about to let her go without a fight – especially once he learns she's returned home with the mother of all souvenirs!

As a former Washington lawyer and Air Force officer, I’m very familiar with Katie and Steve’s world. I hope you're intrigued enough to ask for more. 

Thanks for your time and consideration.



***

A burst of red, green and blue tracers lit up the sky over George Town harbor, followed by a loud boom. There were still several hours left before midnight, but someone was getting a head start on celebrating the new year.

That was Kathryn St. John’s cue to get out of Dodge. She’d made an effort. Now she could finish her drink, go back to her hotel, get a good night’s sleep, and be fresh for the next day’s scuba diving. New Year’s Eve was a lousy time to be unattached, and she was feeling out of place, sitting by herself at the bar in the Hard Rock Café. A sign in front of the mirror behind the bar announced that this was the “home of the second best mudslides in all of Cayman.” She hadn’t tried the top-rated mudslides, but these were pretty damn good. She was on her second one, and feeling it.

Kathryn hadn’t planned to vacation alone. Best girlfriend Amanda Conrad was supposed to be sipping second-best mudslides with her. By now, bubbly blonde Amanda would have had an armada of desirable men surrounding them.

Men like that rowdy bunch of twenty-somethings near the door. Their accents gave them away as Americans, their short haircuts as military, and one’s brown leather jacket as pilots.

Kathryn wrinkled her nose. She’d developed a distaste for that breed when she’d worked at the Pentagon. The cockiness needed to keep them alive in combat made them obnoxious in other environments.

#20 Everything That Matters (REVISED)

Dear Secret Agent,

Thank you for considering my women's fiction/romance query.

Two hearts, three lives, one future…

Pregnant and fleeing an arranged marriage, Dianna Marshall sets sail on the Titanic in the company of Margaret and William Stewart, a childless couple who offer Dianna sanctuary in exchange for her unborn child. But when the Titanic sinks, and William Stewart dies, Dianna's hope for a discreet return to her entitled life die with him.

William's tragic death is more than disappointing for his American cousin Jake Douglas, it's life changing. William's impoverished widow is harboring a run away; both are facing deportation. Against his better judgment Jake accepts legal and financial responsibility for both women and takes them back to his ranch in Texas, a decision that nearly costs him his life and liberty, small things when he realizes the young woman he only wants to help has taken the one thing he feared losing the most—his heart.

Dianna's desperate bid to reclaim the life she knew shatters everything she knows, and forces her to rethink what really matters: is it the life she's been raised to lead, the man her heart desires, or the unborn child she's come to love? She can't have it all, and the wrong choice may leave her with nothing.

About me: I am a married mother of four, and RWA member, published in Canadian Living Magazine and The Vancouver Province, British Columbia's best-read newspaper.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

***

Southampton
April 10, 1912


"Aye, here they come, Miss."

Dianna Marshall followed the line of Dirk’s callused index finger to the boat-train gliding up to the Southampton dock, each craft in the chain loaded to capacity with men, women and children. She must have a made a small noise, because Dirk looked at her.

"Aye, don' fret Miss," he said kindly. "I'm sure the Stewarts is fine people. Milady wouldna send ye otherwise."

Milady would send her off with the devil himself if it meant sparing the family's reputation, but Dianna withheld her opinion. Dirk's loyalty to his Mistress ran as deep and wide as the ocean that would soon separate Dianna from her sisters.

Tightening her hold on the handles of her portmanteau, Dianna blinked to stem a sudden rush of tears. Dirk tactfully ignored her fluster, as he gestured to an alcove under the boarding tower.

"Ye'll less likely to be trampled waiting there, while I search out the Stewarts and bring 'em to ye."
And once he brought them to her, they would take her with them.

She grasped his coat sleeve. "Tell Alaina and Lizzy I love them and I won't forget them."

Dirk's snowy brows arched high. "Ye say that like ye don't intend to come back?"

"Just tell them."

Avoiding her gaze, he shook his head. "Milady said not one word to anyone, especially Miss Alaina and Miss Elizabeth."

"You must. I had no chance to say goodbye. Please," she added and squeezed his forearm.