Friday, September 28, 2012

Making A Connection

            Have you read started to read a novel and felt it was too easy to put down? The story was written well and had an interesting premise, but you really just didn’t give a damn. This happens quite often really. In fact I just finished reading one that had the very same problem and that problem is connection.

            Though there is no guaranteed fix for lacking connection, there are a few simple things we can do.

1.    Start writing in first person pov. Using this point of view writing style certainly the easiest way to make a connection with the character, but it’s not fool proof. Better to try and write this way for a while till you can find that connection. From there, you can either continue with first person or try one of the other styles.

2.    Show, don’t tell. It doesn’t matter how good of a writer you are, everyone makes this mistake once in a while. Letting the reader see what the characters are feeling will hit home much harder than simply writing ‘jack hated jill more than anything.’

3.    Make the characters believable. Every character has their own strengths and weakness, but if they need to be identifiable. That means we need to find something with them that we like and possibly understand. You can create an odd looking protagonist, but the stranger they look, the harder it will be to feel for them.

Hopefully these tips will help. Just remember, if the writer can’t connect to their characters when writing the story, then reader won’t either. This is what I believe to be the key to turning a good story into a great novel.



Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Plot Outlines

Hey all!

A few weeks ago I wrote a post on following Kimberley Griffith Little's video on plotting with 3x5 cards. I promised I'd do it since I wasn't exactly the most "outline-y" type of a person. In fact, I totally winged my first book then kinda plotted but mostly winged the second and only did I vaguely outline my third. And to be honest most of that outline went ca-put. So now, with my fourth novel I decided to go the total outline route. I've tried 3x5 cards before but I couldn't quite figure out how to order them or make them work. It seemed like so much to tackle, but splitting them up into Acts has helped tremendously. For those who haven't seen this video seriously click the link at the top. It seems so obvious but the way in which she breaks plotting down is really helpful and I promise you'll learn something new! So without further adieu, below is my 3x5 card outline for my fourth novel, a YA contemporary romance.

I split them up into three arcs and if I were to go back now I'd probably acknowledge the inciting incidents with colorful sticky notes for reference's sake.

So what do your outlines look like? Post them below :D



Monday, September 24, 2012

Everyone's got one...

Can we talk about something for a second? The saying goes, 'everyone's got a story.' And if you're friends/family/doctor/mildly distant oh so annoying accquantinces are anything like mine they all 'thought about writing a book once'
And then comes the reason they didn't.
And that's the other thing EVERYONE has. An excuse not to write. Now, please, don't think I want everyone to write the random ass story that pops into their head about the time they got lost in Mexico--cuz, no. A few name changes does not actually make it fiction. But here's the thing. Not everyone will write.
Ugly truth? Even the people who say they are a writer are not always gonna write. There is always a good reason--the kid has a birthday party, it was a ridiculously busy day, the other kid has a party at school, you didn't feel good, you just didn't want to.
They're excuses, people. And here's my dirty secret: Those were the ones I used last week.
So, wait. You have them too, but your telling us...what?
I'm telling you everyone has them. And sometimes, their legitimate. I have two dear friends who are insanely busy with life and writing is just taking a back burner. That isn't what I'm talking about--everyone will go through a season where writing takes a backseat to this beautiful messy life.
But when you know that you want to write, when you actively say you are a writer, and you still make daily excuses like the ones listed above? When a full course load and internships and nursing school aren't keeping EVERY SPARE MINUTE occupied? Then that's what they are--excuses. And they don't measure up.
Everyone has an excuse not to write. And that's okay--as I mentioned, I have them, too. But if you can push PAST the excuse--if you can find five minutes at the kid's party, or while sitting in pick up line, or driving to your mother in law's house or when you do it even when you don't feel like it.
That's what makes you different from everyone else. That's what makes a writer.
So, you tell me: What's your excuse? And are you going to push through it?

Friday, September 21, 2012

OPAL Cover Reveal!

No one is like Daemon Black.

When he set out to prove his feelings for me, he wasn’t fooling around. Doubting him isn’t something I’ll do again, and now that we’ve made it through the rough patches, well... There’s a lot of spontaneous combustion going on.

But even he can’t protect his family from the danger of trying to free those they love.

After everything, I’m no longer the same Katy. I’m different... And I’m not sure what that will mean in the end. When each step we take in discovering the truth puts us in the path of the secret organization responsible for torturing and testing hybrids, the more I realize there is no end to what I’m capable of. The death of someone close still lingers, help comes from the most unlikely source, and friends will become the deadliest of enemies, but we won’t turn back. Even if the outcome will shatter our worlds forever.

Together we’re stronger... and they know it.

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Follow this link to an ~~~ EPIC CONTEST ~~~ Announcement. You will want to bookmark this page!

USA TODAY Bestselling author, Jennifer L. Armentrout, lives in Martinsburg, West Virginia. All the rumors you’ve heard about her state aren’t true. When she’s not hard at work writing, she spends her time reading, working out, watching really bad zombie movies, pretending to write, and hanging out with her husband and her Jack Russell, Loki. Her dreams of becoming an author started in algebra class where she spent most of her time writing short stories….which explains her dismal grades in math. Jennifer writes young adult paranormal, science fiction, fantasy, and contemporary romance. She also writes adult romance under the name J. Lynn.

Find Jennifer on: Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Website | Blog

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What's On Liz's TBR List?

Hi all!

For me months go by and every time I see a new blog post or run into something about a book I just hit up Goodreads or B& and add it to my wishlist. Problem is, now that school has started finding time for leisure reading is tough! Still, I figured I'd share with you two of the books at the top of my TBR pile.

What are yours? I'd love some more to add to my collection. You know help the addiction grow...

My Life Next Door which is an adorable contemporary romance. And since I'm working on one I could use a few pointers. Beside isn't that the cutest cover? ;)

Goodreads Synopsis:

“One thing my mother never knew, and would disapprove of most of all, was that I watched the Garretts. All the time.”

The Garretts are everything the Reeds are not. Loud, numerous, messy, affectionate. And every day from her balcony perch, seventeen-year-old Samantha Reed wishes she was one of them . . . until one summer evening, Jase Garrett climbs her terrace and changes everything. As the two fall fiercely in love, Jase's family makes Samantha one of their own. Then in an instant, the bottom drops out of her world and she is suddenly faced with an impossible decision. Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself?

A dreamy summer read, full of characters who stay with you long after the story is over.

Semi-Charmed Life. Lately I'm all about NYC so reading about a blogger swept up into the NYC socialite life, well, that sounds promising. Okay, yeah, I also like the cover. (Yes, I'm one of those people)

Goodreads Synopsis:

In Nora Zelevansky’s hilarious debut, Semi-Charmed Life, an Upper West Side naïf, Beatrice Bernstein, gets swept up in the seemingly magical life of socialite Veruca Pfeffernoose, while ghost writing her blog. Veruca’s glitteringly opulent world soon seduces Beatrice away from her own insular, arty family with a promise of fancy parties, travel outside Manhattan (for once) and one desperately cute guy. But when her new glitzy lifestyle starts to take on dark undertones, Beatrice has to decide who she is—once and for all. With her own magical touch, Zelevansky deftly explores the world of rarified Manhattan in this sparkling modern fairy tale of first love, finding one’s voice and growing up.

What are you dying to read?


Monday, September 17, 2012

Book Review: The Golden Lily

GoodReads synopsis

Sydney Sage is an Alchemist, one of a group of humans who dabble in magic and serve to bridge the worlds of humans and vampires. They protect vampire secrets—and human lives.

Sydney would love to go to college, but instead, she’s been sent into hiding at a posh boarding school in Palm Springs, California–tasked with protecting Moroi princess Jill Dragomir from assassins who want to throw the Moroi court into civil war. Formerly in disgrace, Sydney is now praised for her loyalty and obedience, and held up as the model of an exemplary Alchemist.

But the closer she grows to Jill, Eddie, and especially Adrian, the more she finds herself questioning her age–old Alchemist beliefs, her idea of family, and the sense of what it means to truly belong. Her world becomes even more complicated when magical experiments show Sydney may hold the key to prevent becoming Strigoi—the fiercest vampires, the ones who don’t die. But it’s her fear of being just that—special, magical, powerful—that scares her more than anything. Equally daunting is her new romance with Brayden, a cute, brainy guy who seems to be her match in every way. Yet, as perfect as he seems, Sydney finds herself being drawn to someone else—someone forbidden to her.

When a shocking secret threatens to tear the vampire world apart, Sydney’s loyalties are suddenly tested more than ever before. She wonders how she's supposed to strike a balance between the principles and dogmas she's been taught, and what her instincts are now telling her.

Should she trust the Alchemists—or her heart?


            It’s not often that I like a sequel. They tend to be cursed and The Golden Lily by Richell Mead is book two of the second series set in the Vampire Academy world. Luckily Mead knew what she was doing and wrote an amazing novel. Not only does it make a great continuation of the series story, but it has a plotline that stands on its own two feet. In fact the style in which Richell Mead gives us the recap of book one is devilishly ingenious.  She writes a wonderfully creepy opening scene that both explains what had happened in the first book and gets the reader hungry for whatever could be the next mysterious adventure.

She’s no slouch in the character development either. In the first book Sidney pretends to be older sister to Jill and Eddie while working her Alchemist butt off to protect them and Adrian from being found out. With the newest book, not only does the charade continue, but they’re also beginning to feel like a family. This of course creates a great moral dilemma for Sydney’s Alchemist beliefs. We also get two new characters, Angeline and Brayden. For those who followed the Vampire Academy series till its end, you may remember Angeline from when Rose and Dimitri were on the run. Angeline adds a fish out of water comedic relief at the beginning, no doubt from being plucked from her caveman type of living, but by the end she’d as rough and tough as Eddie is. Brayden is welcomed as well. He’s a brainy human that seems to be the only one who can keep up with Sydney. The two hit it off quiet well and he becomes her first ever love interest.

            If there is a flaw to the novel, it’s the time it takes for me to get into the new story. I only say this because I’m more of a plot type of reader. In general the plot of a novel should be seen within the first 25 to 50 pages. With The Golden Lily, I was well into 100 pages before I even had an inkling of what it could be. It’s not a huge issue, but it could deter a new reader to the series from picking it up.

            Even with this subjective blemish, the novel was excellent and I am so looking forward to the third book. I have my hopes about what comes next for Sidney and her vampire family. How about you?

Rating: 4.75 out of 5 stars

Friday, September 14, 2012

Building A Real World part 2

When I begin my world building process, it’s hard to know where to start. There’s just so much that needs created to make the world feel real. I’m sure every writer has felt like this at one point. The best advice I can give is to start where you’re most comfortable.

Here is a quick set of areas needed for a world to feel real.

1.    Characters.

2.    Places.

3.    Storyline.

4.    Laws of man.

5.    Laws of nature/magic/science

            I’ve always felt I was best at getting the story plotlines together, but sadly that’s a horrible place to start. What I had to do was come up with a few characters first. I wrote down a minimum set of characters and worked on them a bit. Most genres will have some specific type of character like the hero and villain, and their friends/minions.

            After I had a small scale of character roughly worked out, I used story plotting to guide me through the rest of the way. Nazarea once stated that she will have written her query months in advance of completing her novels first draft. This is a great tool to use to help one world build with story plotting. It lets you find holes in the plotlines, which shows us where we need to focus on. It could be that we’ll need more characters, how the character should interact, or even something to do with the basic nature laws of the world. And remember to use your CP’s. Bounce ideas off them, and don’t worry about giving away secrets. They’re there to help.

Sometimes when creating the world, there is a temptation to make it perfect. Several of my friends always get on me about how horrible my endings are. They want picture perfect, or what I like to call the Disney Effect. To this I always tell them to go watch The Matrix.

Confused? Let me explain. There is a part in the movie where Morpheus has been captured by the Agents and they’re holding him in a large skyscraper. As Agent Smith is interrogating Morpheus he expresses why he thinks humans didn’t accept the blissfully perfect world. “Human beings define their reality through misery.” This is great advice. Keep the world imperfect, or rather, make the imperfections your perfection.

So now you know how I work to build the world and get through my writers purgatory. Do you guys have any tips or another process that works for you?


Thursday, September 13, 2012

And the winner is....

Edit: We received an email from Bridget this morning saying she'd like to receive queries from the 5 finalists. WHO are these finalists you ask?

#24 Heather Hawke --Raven's Wing
#16 Karen lee Hallam --AbeGale Force
#14 Sara Biren --CLOUD 9
#10 Kate Brauning --The Other Side of Silence
#5 Emily Cushing --Race to Butch Cassidy's Gold

(Be sure to mention you were a finalist!)

As for the others involved feel free to query her too and mention the contest in your subject line :)


You guys are so awesome, with all the comments and the awesome entries. We have a very talented group of followers, dears. So! First up...
The mystery agent is....
Bridget Smith of Dunham Literary!!!
A bit about Bridget:
Bridget Smith began her career at Dunham Literary, Inc. in June 2011.
Previously, she was an intern at Don Congdon Associates, worked at a secondhand book store in Connecticut, and evaluated short story submissions for under Liz Gorinsky and Patrick Nielsen Hayden.
She graduated from Brown University in 2010. While there, she studied anthropology and archaeology, worked as a radio DJ, fenced on the varsity team, and helped design an experiment that she later performed in microgravity at NASA.
A lifelong fan of children’s books, she’s looking for middle grade and young adult novels in a range of genres, including fantasy and science fiction, historical fiction, romance, and contemporary, plus anything that bends the rules of genre. She is actively seeking books with underrepresented or minority characters.
She is also seeking fiction for adults, especially fantasy and science fiction, historical fiction, and literary women’s fiction.
In accordance with her college degree, she’s interested in informational, literary nonfiction, especially science or history written by experts for a general audience.
And for the part y'all are all waiting on. Bridget has selected Entry 8--Lovesense by Robin Hall as the winner! She will be critquing the first 50 pages of your manuscript! :)
Please email us at for instructions :)
Thanks for participating, y'all. We're hoping to put together a contest for late October or early November--if you have any suggestions for it, please share them in the comments or email us! :)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Author Interview :)

Today we have S. R. Johannes on the blog! I was able to interview her on her blog tour for Untraceable (so good) and was thrilled to do so again for her new book, Uncontrollable! :) And I will be reviewing the book when we get closer to the launch date (September 24). For now, lets talk a little about indie vs. self publishing (Did you know there was a difference??)

1.      Can you tell us what the difference is between indie and self-publishing?
This is a huge debate. To me it is like splitting hairs but I’ll try to explain.

Indie publishing is when someone independently publishes on their own

Indie presses are publishers that are small – not corporations – and they usually have more than one author.

Indie author is an independent author who manages his or her own publishing.

Self-publishing is one who publishes their own work.

As you can see, they all kind of overlap.

2.      Which do you prefer and why?
I will say that I use the term “indie author.” Mostly because I manage my entire process in publishing from legal work to formatting to covers to marketing to accounting. Self-publishing doesn’t encompass that – for me.

3.      Do you feel there is still a negative stigma to self-publishing?
I do feel like there is still a stigma with self-pubbing. I think if you self publish, you need to know you go in with a point against you and you have to prove yourself. Traditional authors don’t. They get the credibility just from getting a book deal. Self-published authors are seen as jokes unless they prove themselves.

4.       Why did you choose the self-publishing route?
I had tried traditional publishing for years. Had an agent. Got close way to many times to count. When my agent and I parted, I stopped writing for 6 months. During that time I researched different options, self-pubbing especially. I decide in order to move on and get back in the game; I would put out my own book to close the door on that chapter. I had no idea it would take off.

5.      What are some pros and cons of indie/self publishing?
Pros – you control everything
Con – you control everything
Pro – you get paid quickly
Con – you might not get paid
Pro – you own the creative process
Con – you might do it wrong b/c you don’t have the expertise
Pro – you are your own boss and editor
Con – you are a one-man show
Pro – you set your own pricing and an be creative
Con – you have to hope you chose right.

Self-pubbing is not for everyone just as traditional pubbing is not for everyone. You have to research both and find out what is best for you. If you don’t want to be an entrepreneur and own your own pubbing business, self-pubbing is not for you. It is not the easy way out.

6.      Our standard question: best piece of advice you didn’t get when you started writing?
That your journey is unique. It does not look like everyone else’s. Your road may not be what you expect. So keep your options open and your paths clear. You never know how you will reach your dreams.

7.      Last but not least—what is your favorite dessert?
Magnums Double Caramel Ice Cream Bars

Monday, September 10, 2012

Entry #29

Name: Mike Hays
Title: Battle of Wonderland Gardens
Genre: Upper Middle Grade Contemporary Fiction
Tagline: Deep in the heart of the Wonderland Gardens Retirement Community, a demon possessing the body of the elderly owner kidnaps 13-year old Ellis Brown's arch enemy, Alicia Swanson, with plan to switch to a younger body. Ellis must recruit the gifts and talents of the residents to rescue Alicia, while also driving the demon and its band of nine ravens from Wonderland Gardens forever.

First 250 words:
Ellis Brown smiled at his brilliance. He practically giggled as he parked his bike and walked the sidewalk to the front doors of the Wonderland Gardens Retirement Community. A Saturday summer morning and before him was a whole retirement home of elderly potential customers to buy his youth theatre tickets to Alice in Wonderland, The Musical.

He would finally savor a sweet victory in the ticket sales contest. A small victory, true, but small victories are still victories. His classmate, Alicia Swanson, always won, especially against Ellis. He clenched his fists just thinking about it. With each step, painful memories of crushing defeats at her hands jumped into his head. 
She beat him out for the lead in every show and every science fair ribbon. His step picked up a little faster. He lost spelling bees and every math and art contests to her. He breathing turned fast and shallow with the memory of the most painful loss at Alicia’s hand. She had beaten him out for starting quarterback on the 7th grade football team two years ago. Even after last fall when he led the 8th grade football team to the championship as the starting quarterback, his friends still gave him crap over getting beat out by a girl.

He cheeks burned red. He had to beat Alicia Swanson at selling tickets this year. He had to win the top sales award. That was it; end of story. Ellis practically smashed through the glass front door as he entered the Wonderland Gardens Retirement Community.

Entry #28

Name:  Sharon K  Mayhew
Genre: Mid Grade Historical Fiction
Tagline:  Think World War Two meet the Boxcar Children.

1st 250 Words:
 August 1, 1941

“But I don’t want to carry a gas mask around with me all the time,” I said.
“It’s not a choice, Joyce, you have to.  Everyone has to, from grandparents all the way down to babies,” Mummy said.
I flung my gas mask over my shoulder, pulled out a kitchen chair, and plopped down.
“Well, I don’t think it’s fair that the war is coming to England,” I said. “That Mister Hitler is a real rotter!”
“I think everyone in the world would agree with you on that, Love,” Mummy said.  “You need to show Gina that it is all right and not fuss in front of her about carrying your mask.  Imagine how grateful you will be to have it, if something horrible happens.”
“I know how to make it less scary for Gina,” I said.  “I could make Dolly a little gas mask box.”
“That’s a wonderful idea!” Mummy said.  “Perhaps you can be making it that while I am getting the house ready in case the air raids start.”
 I found a matchbox, sticky tape, and some string in the odds and ends drawer.  I quickly made Dolly’s gas mask box.
Gina came in the kitchen carrying Dolly.
“Look what I made for Dolly,” I said. I held up the tiny gas mask box.
  “Oh, that’s perfect!” Gina exclaimed. “Now Dolly will be safe too.”
  Gina slipped the gas mask box over Dolly’s shoulder.
  “What are you doing Mummy?” Gina asked.

Entry #27

Name:  HollyD
Title:  Death by High Heels
Genre:  Women's Fiction/Mystery
Tagline:  When Kimberly Murphy is caught standing over a dead body again, hot homicide detective Grant Tompkins is determined to put her in handcuffs - and not the pink, fuzzy kind.

First 250 words:

Cops hate it when you vomit all over their crime scene – a mistake I had no desire to repeat. Then again, the fact that I’d just trampled all over this scene was probably a whole new mistake I should have avoided.  I stared at the corpse and fought the urge to hurl. If only I hadn’t answered the door, I’d be eating dinner instead of standing in my neighbor’s apartment looking at a dead guy.

I’d seen plenty of weird things but this had to be one of the weirdest. The guy was just sitting there in the chair. Looking at him you would think he was asleep – if not for all the blood and his guts spilled onto his lap. I tore my eyes from him and asked my annoying neighbor the question I most wanted the answer to.

“What the hell did you hit him with?”

Lindsay dropped the strand of blonde hair she’d been twirling and glanced down at the floor.  “My shoe.”

“Damn it, Lindsay, you can’t kill someone with a shoe!”

“Hello, they’re Via Spiga.”

“Ugh.”  I glared. There was no way in hell she had done this kind of damage with a shoe.  If she had, women would soon be saying goodbye to their much-beloved accessory.  Men-even NRA members- would insist on an instant ban of the deadly yet sexy weapon.

I set my hands on my hips. “Any idea how he got this giant hole in his stomach?”

Entry #26

Name: Natasha Hawkins
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Tagline: 1.76 seconds. The time it takes seventeen-year-old Abigail Montgomery to plunge forty feet to almost certain death. 1.52 seconds. The time it takes her Watcher to pull her from its clutches.

1st 250 Words:
Here lies Abigail Montgomery. Devoted daughter. Sister. Dog-lover.

At least, that’s what I worry will be chiseled into the grave marker above my eternal resting place if I’m not careful. If my emotions get the best of me.

A musical sound tangles through the sea breeze and floats into my ear. “Don’t jump,” it says. A warm stir of air seals its plea against my temple like a set of pulsating lips laced with honeysuckle and citrus.

 “I won’t,” I whisper aloud, even though there’s not another living person on this deserted pier. The same pier at La Paz Beach that Gram and I would buy caramel popcorn each summer I came to visit Santa Flora. 

Carefully, I cross over the railings that are designed to keep people from accidently falling over the edge, and white knuckle the wood rail behind me. There is no false protection in front of me now. In fact, there’s nothing but the murky black of an unrelenting ocean; the dark, swirling water forty feet below taunting me. 

But I didn’t come here to jump. No. Death is the last thing I want. I came to the pier to remember Gram. To honor her memory. To feel close to her.

A residual warmness still lingers in the briny air despite the sun dipping below the horizon hours ago. Sorrow fills me as I think of the sun. Even though I can still feel my grandmother's love like the sun’s faithful warmth, unlike my Gram the sun will return in the morning, spread its arms and embrace the world with its comforting rays. Gram will not.

Entry #25

GENRE: Middle Grade Fantasy
TAGLINE:  When she discovers that dark magicians are searching for a magic crossbow to conquer Earth, Linh must locate it before they do, risking her life to stop them from putting everyone she loves in danger.

First 250 words:
Linh sighed in the hallway, her arms folded. She became bored of doing homework after school, so bored that she sat on the bottom step of the staircase and fiddled with the phoenix talisman around her neck. Suddenly, strange sounds came from the living room.

Eeek! Eeek!

“Mom, are you already home?”

No response. Of course, her mother was at work.

They were probably mice. No surprise there. She’d grown used to hearing those horrible little rodents scuttling inside the clogged drainpipes at school. Likely they’d come out because of her house’s currently clogged drain.

Then she heard thumps within the wall. These couldn’t be mice—unless their tiny feet had grown overnight. She tiptoed toward the sound and tried to pinpoint its source.

One minute. Three. The sounds had stopped.

Stepping toward the large window, she pulled away the long, velvet curtains. She gasped. A narrow door stood beneath the window. Linh couldn’t believe her eyes. There'd been no door there before, ever. Or had there? Why would she never have noticed, right beside the back door?

She bent down and placed a trembling hand on the rough doorknob. She hesitated for a moment. If she felt danger on the other side, she could return home quickly. With a hard squeeze of her heart, she opened the mystery door and walked through it.
A sun beamed down on a colorful, spacious backyard—so unlike a gray, summer day in Dublin. Linh blinked: she wasn’t daydreaming.

Entry #24

Name: Heather Hawke
Genre: YA Fantasy
Tagline: When noble-born Raven joins the rebels to escape being forced to secretly bear the king’s heir, she risks her life to lead a coup and restore her family to power, but the real price of failure is slavery for everyone she loves.

First 250:

My brother had no name. He was our secret. Until the night we were betrayed.

Mother towed me along with such speed that I soared between impossibly long steps. Her dress wrapped around me; the cloth billowed and flowed like jewel colored clouds. I felt her fear as we ran for our lives. Even though I was small for twelve summers, I slowed her flight.

“Hurry Vellineuvia!” she hissed at me between gasps for breath. “They’ll find us!”

My side cramped with pain.

I looked over at my brother in the evening light. Mother clutched his hand too. He was taller than I was and could keep pace. He grinned and giggled. Sometimes he would talk, but only to me.

“Veldt,” he would say, “Veldt, Veldt, Veldt.”

That was his name for me.

Mother and Father just called him “our lamb.” He had never been allowed outside; even the courtyards of our home were too exposed. My sisters and I had seen little of the world either. Before going out, my nurse would shroud our faces in veils that were supposed to hide our mahogany-colored eyes from unworthy peasants.
That day, I had no gauze to smudge the city of Ursing into opacity.

My two older sisters ran together behind us over the decrepit floating walkways that united the marsh city’s many islands. I don’t think I had ever seen them hold hands before.

Entry #23


Entry #22

Name:  Ashley Keene

Title: Alex Daily: Sometimes Superhero

Middle Grade Adventure
Tagline:  New superpower every morning. 9:00 bedtime every night.

First 250 words: 

The day before getting his first superpower, Alex Daily found himself climbing to the top of his stepdad’s forbidden twelve-foot ladder. The sun-soaked metal burned his fingers and the cardboard box under his arm kept catching beneath each rung and throwing him off balance. He’d be grounded for life if Mom or Walter caught him climbing this ladder. The worst part? He didn’t even want to climb it.

Melanie watched from below, a half-smile tugging at the corner of her tiny mouth. He was afraid of heights and of breaking rules, but he was most afraid of being called a wimp by a girl. Melanie was a tomboy but she still counted as a girl, and her half-smile (which threatened to open wide and start calling him names) was the only thing that kept him climbing.

When he got to the final rung he set the box on the little shelf at the top.

"Okay, Melanie, you ready?" Alex asked. He wanted to get it over with.

“No!” she said. “You have to go to the tip-top.”

"The box is on there. Besides, it’s made for paint cans and tools."

"Not that part, stupid. Look! You’ve still got a step to go."

Melanie was right, as usual, but she couldn’t see the sticker that covered the top rung. "NOT A STEP!" the red letters warned. There were pictures of stick figure men falling to horrible stick figure deaths.

Entry #21

Name: Ella Schwartz
Genre: MG Fantasy


Nara, a fourteen year old banished princess, must work with her
nemesis, a mere commoner, to decipher the mysterious clues from the
Gods and end the plagues battering the kingdom.

First 250 Words:
Nara pushed her way through the soup of darkness. Her shoes clicked
against the marble pathway towards the royal palace. Blackness covered
her like a thick cloak, weighing her down; even though it was only
lunch time. The absence of daylight still gave Nara the creeps. It had
been like this for three weeks.

But she knew how to fix it.

And she would tell her stupid cousin, even though he hardly deserved
it. Anything was better than living under a dark cloud all day, every

It was strange coming to the palace without her maidens and royal
guardsmen. But now that Nara and her mom were no longer palace
residents, the entourage was gone.

The guardsman at the palace gate, a fellow by the name of Warner who
Nara had known since birth, bowed his head slightly as he pushed open
the heavy iron gate letting Nara inside.

“Good day, Lady Nara,” he pronounced.

Nara with a dismissive flick of her wrist said, “Day? Is that what
this is? I can’t tell anymore.”

The oppressive darkness covering the kingdom of Chernadova indeed made
it hard to tell day from night. For three weeks, since the death of
Nara’s father, it was as if the Gods decided it would be a good idea
to cover the kingdom with a large, dirty, dishrag. And every day the
dishrag grew dirtier.

“Yes, my Lady. It certainly is a strange phenomenon.” Warner paused
for a moment, shuffling his feet before continuing.

Entry #20

Name: Nicole Zoltack
Genre: YA Paranormal

Tagline: Learning that she's magic incarnate turns fifteen-year-old Crystal's faith upside down but she has more to deal with than question about faith and her soul when her boyfriend is kidnapped by a witch hunter and shamans snatch her aunt.

First 250 words:

I never saw the attics stairs down before.
The attic door was always secured and padlocked, but now the stairs hang out into the hallway like a lolling tongue in a particularly dark and dusty mouth.
Something heavy bangs above my head, and I jump. What on earth is Mom doing up there?
Eager to learn what secrets the attic contains, I ascend the steps until blackness clouds my vision as a trash bag plowed into me. Thankfully, despite its large size, the bag is rather light.
"Crystal! What are you doing up here?" Mom asks.
I blink, surprised by Mom's sharp tone. After picking up the trash bag, I descend the steps. "I wanted to see—"
"Since you're here, can you take these bags down to the living room for me?" Mom's smile looks forced as she climbs down to stand beside me.
Mom hands me another bag, then lifts the steps, closes up the attic and padlocks it before I can even glimpse inside it.
Shrugging half-heartedly, I do as she asked and drop the bags near the living room desk. Wonder what's inside them.
Rubbing my eyes, I can feel a headache coming on. I sit down in front of the computer, ready to get back to my homework.
"I'm sorry for snapping at you, dear. You just caught me by surprise," Mom says as she comes into the room. Dust colors her dyed hair, covering her strawberry blonde strands with gray.
"What were you doing up there?"

Entry #19

Name: Judy Mintz
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Tagline: In CHICKADEE, a 57,000-word contemporary, realistic YA novel, sixteen-year-old Emma Daley struggles with her sexuality.

 1ST 250 Words:
If anyone asks, I’m straight.

I’m sixteen and I’ve never had sex, not that you have to sleep with someone to know if you’re attracted to them. I could have, had sex. I’ve had boyfriends. I like boys. I don’t spend all my time drooling over them like my friends do. They’re not that interesting to look at. Sometimes I catch myself staring at a pretty girl, you know, to study her makeup. Sometimes they’re not wearing makeup.

If anyone asks, though, I’m straight.

Normally this isn’t something I spend a ton of time thinking about, but some girl from Sweden is coming to live with Mom and me and I’m sweating the loss of my personal space – in advance. I barely slept last night thinking about it, so I was beat and running late this morning. I slung my pack over my shoulder and went out the front door, ignoring my mom’s predictable, “Emma, take your coat. It’s cold out!” As I walked down the hill, I pulled on my gloves, the kind without fingers, and fished my ear buds out of my back pocket.

Waiting at the bus stop was the usual morning crowd. Jon towered over the rest of them.

“Hey, Emma! What’s the deal with your exchange student?” he asked.

I pulled out an ear bud. “My what?”

“Your exchange student. You know, that alien you’ve been freaking out about.”

“She’s still coming. I’m still freaking. And Mom’s still trying to make it sound like fun.”

Entry #18

Name: Stacey Hays
Title: GRIM
Genre: YA Paranormal crossover Speculative Fiction
Tagline: Seventeen-year-old Derek Weber must travel to the underworld and find the culprits responsible for hijacking his shipment of souls before war is raged on the reaping world. Too bad sixteen-year-old Kansas is caught in the cross fire.

First 250 words:

I yelled from across the massive bonfire when I sent a perfectly elevated pig skin, spiraling through the air. It’s caught by Tallahassee’s most talented wide receiver and he is wobbling from an alcoholic stupor. Still, with hardly any effort at all, he caught the football and tucked it underneath his arm like a natural, born to play football while being drunk.

“Touchdown! Tallahassee wins their fourth consecutive state championship, beating out the Miami City Purples! Haaaaaaaa, haaaaaaa. And the crowds go wild. Derek the D-Man Weber makes another touchdown pass to the crazy, unforgettable, most magnificent best friend ever, Travis Dean Bird!” Travis ran around the huge fire, between the wild Raiders fans, red solo cup in hand, reliving the last three hours of our football success.

“Untouchable, unforgettable, number one ranked team in the nation. No one can beat us, and no team can defeat us!” His massive receiving hands tore off the raider flag attached to the tailgate of his truck and he waved it passionately through the air wrapping it around himself like Caesar.

My lungs convulsed, I laughed while my best friend chugged the remnants of his cup and continued running around the student body, screaming football quotes like an idiot. His screaming antics died out and the only real noise left is the crackling fire in which I purposefully place myself next to, alongside the other drunken high-schooler’s who felt socially obligated to attend.

Entry #17

NAME: Kimberly Lynn Workman

TITLE: Heaven and Hell Alike

GENRE: Paranormal Fantasy

TAGLINE: When God goes AWOL, righteous demon Liam and angelic lover Mikael become pawns in the battle for Heaven. Victory means losing everything they've built together.


When Liam took over the body of a railroad worker fifty years ago, he hadn't realized he'd suffer from caffeine withdrawal every morning. But at the time he couldn't be picky. And if he had to make sure he had a steady supply of coffee to get through his day, it was a small price to pay.

Liam was back on his Harley after only five hours of sleep, heading through Davenport, Wyoming to find the local diner. He'd promised to meet Sid on his way through town, but that was something he was regretting now.

As he rounded the next block, the weather-worn sign for Davenport Diner came into view. Liam headed toward the far right of the parking lot, safely away from the crowd of cars. He'd rather not be forced to do harm to some fool who scratched his bike, even by accident. The altercation in Stewart was still fresh in his mind and he didn't have the desire for a repeat.

Shutting off the engine, Liam removed his helmet and watched Sid cross the cracked, gray pavement. Unlike himself, Sid looked like his early morning had been filled with sugar or illegal substances. Knowing Sid's usual activities, it was more likely he hadn't even been to bed yet.

“I need coffee,” Liam said, his voice deep from lack of use. “Drag me out here way too early and then you're all hyper. Something's wrong with your head.”

Sid plastered on a wide grin and gave a shrug. “You always said we've got to be crazy in our line of work, boss. I'm just living up to my reputation.”

Entry #16

Name: Karen lee Hallam
Title: AbeGale Force
Genre: upper MG
Tagline: Abegale's turning thirteen, and life has become as foreboding as the number itself, filled with may-not-be-human landladies, a missing grandmother who could be right under her nose, and a horrifying discovery at an abandoned cottage.

1st 250 Words:

It’s not as if I want to keep secrets from my best friend, and I sure don’t want to meet her new landlady—privately, or at all, with the way she stares at me. Mrs. Egremony doesn’t even stop, when I catch her doing it.

But I have to speak with her before Stephanie gets home, and find out what she meant saying my “grandmother Rose is near, but far.” Yeah—far, she disappeared in the Andes three years ago—that’s pretty far.

I better hurry.

The Maiden Villas sit at the highest peak of Pine Crest, hiding under the shadow of trees. Why Mrs. Egremony named them Villas, when they’re more like shacks, is a little weird. Three years ago, they were Donald’s Cliff Cabins.

I sometimes imagine Mrs. Egremony up there in her nest of twisting vines, waiting for some unwilling creatures…

Ridiculous. She’s just an old woman -- I know, but there’s something not right. Like the way she dresses in those Little House on the Prairie skirts dragging along the ground, and wearing a full body apron. And why she call herself Mrs. when she’s not married? Stephanie tells me she sees her sometimes, working in her garden late at night. Creepy, if you ask me. Now Mrs. Egremony tells me she knew my grandmother, and said I should come first thing this morning, alone, which is why I’m racing over.

I have to stand on my pedals to reach the top of Ridge Road, heaving like a billy goat, and swaying side-to-side, when the black mass of what I later realize is a crow, swoops in front of me--CAW!

Entry #15

 Name: Jeanmarie Anaya
Genre: Contemporary YA
Word count: 78,000 words

Tagline: Crushing on the hottest senior in school who already has the perfect girlfriend is a lose-lose situation for sixteen-year-old artist Abby Wheeler, until a shady frenemy proposes a foolproof plan for attaining the unattainable.

First 250 words:

Ian Koch had no business telling me where to sit. Talk about pissing me off royally.

He lifted one hand, looking like it pained him to wave me over. Great. Front row. As if Global History wasn’t excruciatingly bad enough. I dragged my feet to the chair next to him, then slammed my ass down so hard I was almost paralyzed.

I’ve never liked sitting up front. Aside from looking like a bonafide dork, Mr. Rausch has this charming habit of spitting whenever he’s passionate about war (which, in Global History, is just about every day). And since spit-shields aren’t sold in the school supplies section at Staples, I steer clear of the front row. Hiding somewhere in the middle suits me fine, anyway. It’s a way of life.

“Should we sit at Mr. Rausch’s desk instead?” I tapped my pen on the side of the teacher’s desk. “Maybe do the lesson for him, too, while we’re at it? Just saying.”

Ian smirked. “I didn’t make Dean’s List by hiding in the back of the classroom.”

“I don’t hide.”

“Please. You’re a perpetual hider, have been since kindergarten.”

I scowled. “I have awards, too, you know.”

“Art awards don’t count, sweetheart.”

No less than five minutes into Global Studies and the first stab of a migraine had already pierced my left eyeball. It started at the exact moment I’d shoved my hand into that paper bag and pulled out a slip of paper with Ian Koch’s name scrawled on it.

Entry #14

Name: Sara Biren
Title: CLOUD 9
Genre: Young Adult
Tagline: Seventeen-year-old Cat McClure makes her annual escape to the easy summer life of Cloud 9, but soon learns that things are not as simple as they used to be.

First 250 words:

The milkshake at the entrance of Cloud 9 meant freedom.

Cloud 9 was like no place else, strange and wonderful and perfect – an entire campground and waterpark thrown back to the 1950s, set smack dab in the middle of the rustic Minnesota Northwoods.  Nothing could top seeing that massive rotating chocolate milkshake for the first time each summer.  It towered high above the road, complete with whipped cream, red and white striped straw, and a cherry that blinked Welcome!

That milkshake meant lazy days.  It meant leaving my lonely, pathetic life in Minneapolis behind for three whole months.  It meant escape.  I faced the window so my mother could not see my grin.  I couldn’t wait to get out of the truck and get into summer.

Mom drove past the milkshake toward a low building of coral and teal bricks.  A sign on the building, a huge fluffy white cloud, flashed Keenan’s Cloud 9 in blinking blue letters.  She pulled into a parking spot under a long striped awning but did not turn off the engine.

“Wait,” I said.  I turned toward her.  “You’re not driving me in?”

 “Cat, really,” she said.  She sighed.  “I’m sure your grandparents have no desire to see me.  I love them, you know that, but it’s still too hard.”

 Right.  So hard that she couldn’t take fifteen minutes out of her important life and say hello to her ex-husband’s parents who had loved her like their own daughter?

“Fine,” I said.  “That’s just fine.”