Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Um, Yeah

It has occurred to me that I ought to, yanno, blog.  Clearly I'm still not fully in the swing of things.

I do want you to know what's coming up, and also to reassure you that things WILL be normal again.  Soon.

(No, I am not going to define "normal.")

  • Our July Secret Agent Contest will run the week of July 11th.  Normally I post the submission guidelines the Monday before submissions open.  However, that falls on the Fourth, so I'll be posting them on Tuesday instead.  Just FYI.
  • We'll have some in-house crits soon, too.  I'd love to have your votes for what you'd like to do next, so please leave your ideas in the comment box.  There are several things we haven't done in a while, and I'd like to please the majority if I can.
  • We are definitely doing another Baker's Dozen Agent Auction this December.  (Squee!)  Seems the agents had as much fun as we did (Josh informed me that the banter and trash talk extended through emails--gotta love that!), so I'm thinking we might have a bigger turn-out this year.  I'll be tweaking the rules, too, as some entries closed quickly because of immediate full requests.  So, yeah.  I'll be working on this in the coming months, and will keep you apprised.

Okay, hit me with your crit suggestions!  Goodness knows I need a nudge or two to get things rolling around here.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Authoress's Great Escape

Hello!  I'm still a bit discombobulated, but it's good to be back.

I think.

Transitions can be tricky, yes?  So I'm kicking off my Big Return with a pictorial history of my awesome vacation.  Because it was crammed with memorable moments, and a few of them are share-able.

Our first stop, after parking for the night at the home of Mr. A's relatives, was an IN-THE-FLESH MEETING WITH JODI MEADOWS.  Not that we were excited to discover that we actually AREN'T the same person.  And that we could, yanno, TALK TO instead of TYPE AT each other.

We met in the parking lot of a local diner, and of course I couldn't wait to plop my red hat onto Jodi's head.  You can see how reluctant she was to try it on.

After a loooooong breakfast (my coffee got so cold that we asked the waitress to nuke it), we headed to the bookstore, where we met up with Ricki Schultz. Okay, it was a little weird being introduced as "Authoress." So I told her my name.

If you try to wheedle it out of her, I will hunt you down.

Anyway, Ricki looks WAY better in the hat than I ever could, don't you think?

And of course, I had to capture the uber-cuteness of Writerly Girls in Hats, just because:

Naturally I had to get in front of the camera, too.  See that flash-drained book?  That's the brand-new-shiny copy of Elana Johnson's POSSESSION I bought while visiting with Jodi and Ricki.  Totally appropriate purchase, don't you think?

And if that's not enough proof that Jodi and I are actually NOT the same person, maybe this will be:

After bidding farewell to Ricki and making my purchase, I made my way to Jodi's house, where I was, with much trepidation, introduced to her Ferret Army.

Clearly my feet are attractive to the long-bodied, hairy type.  Or maybe it was my Birkies.  At any rate, the silly little things won me over in very short order.

This is the part where I publicly apologize to Jodi for maligning ferretkind:


Because, yes.  They are extremely cute and friendly.  Even when they are biting bits of me.

Regardless of the fact that favoritism might be damaging to ferrets, I was definitely fondest of Bobby, who was too small to wear my hat.  So it wore him instead.

Before it was time for me to leave, Jodi taught me how to--wait for it--spin.  As in, fiber into yarn.  As in, the kind of thing my fingers and brain aren't designed for.

But I did it!! And only because Jodi is a patient and attentive teacher.  And a master of spinning and all-things-yarnish in her own right.

Here is my wee skein, of which I am measurelessly proud:

My delightful Jodivisit was followed by a few days at my parents' home, which was followed by an entire week at the shore.  My heart, soul, spirit, and about half of my brain are still there.

Yep.  Birkies and beach.  The above photo sums up the week.  I can only add that there is something about the ocean that lubricates my mind.  I spent the earliest part of each morning alone on the beach, and part of that time was spent plotting.  I can honestly say that I didn't have a single bout of blank staring.  Not one!  Which proves that I should be living by the ocean.

The pain of leaving my favorite beach town was softened by my trip to New York, which was the last Big Exciting Thing on my agenda.  I met Josh at the sparkly-new Hannigan Salky Getzler Agency, where he introduced me to his delightful assistant Maddie Raffel, who deserves to have been photographed but was, sadly, overlooked.  You can get a peek at her adorableness, though, by following her on Twitter.

I spared Josh the humiliation of wearing the hat in the restaurant, but nabbed him after lunch for the Josh-In-Hat photo shoot.

Honestly, I DIDN'T tell him how to pose.  He just owned the moment.

Of course, Josh isn't the one who needs to stay anonymous.  So here's the faceful version:

Can't you just hear him saying, "Look at my new digs! AWESOME, huh?"

And, yeah. Those are stuffed muppets on his desk. (I didn't ask.)

Anyway, it's always interesting to see if you "click" with someone in real life, right?  Jodi was a no-brainer; we spend so much online time together that it's almost like we're in the same room already.  Not to mention the cell phone squeeing during peak moments in our lives -- like the sale of her book last June and my signing with Josh in December.

My relationship with Josh, on the other hand, has consisted of a few phone calls, a steady slew of emails, and occasional Facebook banter.  It could've gone either way.  As in, "Wow, this guy is NOTHING like the way he portrays himself online!" or "Yep, he's totally the Josh I know."

You guessed it.  He's totally the Josh I know.  And I'm certain (yet again, as ever) that I've signed with the right agent.

I have no idea if he had a similar response to meeting me.  You'll have to ask him.

And, yeah.  One more picture.  With BOTH of us.  But you know I can't REALLY let you see me.  Not yet!

So here it is--Josh and the Ghostly Authoress:

There you have it!  And now I'm back to business as usual.  Thanks for hanging around while I was gone!  Now, what should we do next...?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Friday Fricassee

Okay, I'm going to come right out and tell you how hard it is for me to leave.

Not that it's hard to go on vacation. That part is VERY EASY.  Mr. A and I haven't gone on a real vacation in three years.  You can imagine how desperate we are for the time away.

But letting the blog go dark for three weeks?  Putting an auto-responder on my Authoress email accounts? It makes me twitch at even intervals.


I've got to do it, though.  This blog--love it though I do--comes under the heading of "work" (okay, "career" sounds more romantic), so it doesn't need to tag along during my travels. It needs to stay home.

So.  You probably want to know where I'm going, huh?  Well, basically, we're driving and driving and driving to my parents' home in the northeast (yes, it's no secret that I'm a yankee).  On the way, we're stopping in Virginia to visit Mr. A's aunt and uncle, WHO LIVE IN THE SAME TOWN AS JODI MEADOWS.

Yep.  My alter ego and I are going to meet in person for the first time.  Mark your calendars for this coming Tuesday, the official JODI AND AUTHORESS DAY.

I'm just a teensy bit excited.  You know.  Mildly.

Once I come down from my Jodi high, I'll be hanging with and hugging my mom and dad until it's time for Mr. A and me to leave for A WEEK AT THE SHORE.

I may never return.

After that?  More time hanging with and hugging my mom and dad.  Who live about ninety minutes from New York City.

So, yeah.  I'm heading to the city for a day, where I'll be meeting Josh for lunch and getting a tour of his brand new agency! And yes, the red hat is coming with me.

Can you see the Josh-in-red-hat pictures on the horizon?

That's pretty much my June.  I'm beyond excited.  And also up to my elbows with laundry, cleaning, and oh-my-gosh-what-if-I-forget-something-important?  (Like my red hat.)

I'll be back in the blogworld on June 27.  Hold down the fort for me, will you?  Despite the awesome line-up of the next three weeks of my life, I really do hate leaving.

It's that Type A thing rearing its head.  Or something.

Anyway!  'Til we meet again!  It feels good knowing you'll be here when I get back.

(Wait. You WILL be here when I get back...right?)



Thursday, June 2, 2011

What's Broken? #5

TITLE: In the Garden of Iron & Glass

Two brothers are searching through a hill-top cemetery (of mausoleums) for glass tiles. They live in a desert by the ocean and have never seen plants/flowers/etc before. Are you horribly confused by this description?

"Wow! Look at these tiles!" Hector walked slowly, trailing his hands across the surface until one in particular caught his eye. The tile was made of clear blue-tinted glass, but the flattened object inside was frail, delicate, and would easily fit in his small palm. The center looked like a sun polyp, a tiny yellow disc with dozens of miniature tentacles sprouting from the entire surface. It was nestled in the center of a three-pointed star that was so white, Hector thought it was paper until he noticed the slight ridges of veins across the surface. "Hey, come over here, I think she'll like this one. Do you know what this is inside the glass?"

He stepped back so that Simon, who had been following close behind him, could see.

Simon frowned. "I don't know. It's too fragile to be coral and it's not any kind of algae or seaweed." He wiped a thin film of dust from the tile with his sleeve. "It's not paint, either. I wonder if it's something from far away that the caravans brought."

Hector's eyes roved over the row of coffins. There were hundreds of tiles with mysterious and colorful objects pressed between the layers of clear glass. He wandered to the end of the aisle, intending to check the other side, when he stopped, his heart hammering in his throat like the waves against the shore. "Simon... Simon, what is that?"

Below Hector was something strange. Behind the top row of mausoleums the ground dropped away, rolling down to a lower ridge before a sheer drop to the black, rippling sea. On that barren ridge of sand and stone, something large and green clawed up towards the sky, something wider and taller than any house or factory in the glass city.

Hector shaded his eyes against the sun and squinted at the tallest point, which was vaguely cylindrical, and tried to figure out what he was looking at. It rose from the wide nest of green, too perfect to be natural, but not smooth sided or linear like a building should be. From there, his eyes wandered towards the ground and across the mysterious expanse of green. To him, it looked vaguely like an underwater reef, pitted and twisted from the slowly compounding growth of coral life, death and rebirth. Hector stared, breathless, unable to describe the layers of green overlapped with sun and shadow in a wild and tangled nexus with blue sky tearing through every tattered gap. Then the wind blew, and what Hector took to be solid formations began to move. There was a muted rush as suddenly the air was alive with rustling, like the fluttering of a thousand birds. The snarl of green warped, shook and bucked as it yielding to the wind.

What's Broken? #4

TITLE: The Dragon and the Enchanted Kingdom
GENRE: Children's/pb

I have rewritten/edited several times. It has been short listed with one editor and received good responses from two others. Yet it is still rejected. Timing seems off somewhere and ending kinda lame. Any advice would be wonderful. Thanks.

Horns are trumpeted all around for some heroes to be found.

A call goes out across the land -- Help is needed!

10 -- Ten beautiful fairies fly over …

9 -- Nine guardian dwarves marching in rows of three. Who meet up with …

8 -- Eight ornery elves driving a wagon full of hay. For …

7 -- Seven knights brave and strong riding on armored horses. Who are busy


6 -- Six lively pixies mounted on squirrels skittering from tree to tree. Trying

to avoid --

5 -- Five gnomes with pointed hats. Who are sidestepping….

4 -- Four white unicorns charging up the hill. In front of …

3 -- Three feisty leprechauns with clovers standing tall. Who have hidden

their pots of gold from--

2 -- Two human children

All have gathered together to defeat--

1 -- One mean, vicious, smoke rolling, fire spitting, soot blackened, red eyed

dragon. She has flown into the kingdom and claimed it as her own.

The dragon takes to the air as the battle begins; her powerful wings whipping up dirt

and debris. The falling dust covering everything with a layer of filth as far as the eye can


The dragon puts up a fierce fight, challenging all who come near. She uses her fire

breath to scorch wings and burn hats; smoke wagons and blacken armor. Shrieks of

surprise and then shouts of joy can be heard.

When the dust settles true heroes can be found in--

10 -- Ten dirty fairies limping off the field.

9 -- Nine guardian dwarfs dragging the--

8 -- Eight ornery elves. In front of--

7 -- Seven knights brave and strong hanging onto armored horses. Who are still

watching --

6 -- Six pixies sitting astride tired squirrels. They are shuffling in front of--

5 -- Five gnomes with hats a smoking. Who are trying to stay out of the way of--

4 -- Four brown unicorns walking down the hill. In front of --

3 -- Three tired leprechauns with clovers bent and wilting. All have cleared a

path for--

2 -- Two human children carrying--

1 -- One large blackened pot on wooden planks, full of the dragon's fire, with

smoke a-drifting.

Battered but not beaten; tired but not trampled the heroes have won. They have

defeated the dragon and have captured her fire.

Cheers can be heard throughout the land for now the kingdom is safe. Without her

fire, the dragon is no longer a mean and vicious beast. She is now a kinder, quieter ~ new


What's Broken? #3

GENRE: YA War/Dystopian

No lead-in should be necessary - this is the very beginning.


My feet grip the glass in the darkness, and my biceps burn like acid. Can't believe Steven and Elisabeth talked me into this. If I get back without some sorta serious injury, it'll be a goddamn miracle. It's prison at the least if I get caught--and worse, too, if my luck's as shit as usual.

I shouldn't've even entertained the idea. No one sneaks into the Glass City and gets back unscathed--especially not us Pewts, the lowest of the low. The City is gorgeous--we can see it from below, see it sitting smug on these glass stilts, like it's balanced on a forest of fat crystal straws. Beautiful, especially compared to the filth of the Sprawl.

I grit my teeth and haul myself up further, hugging myself to the glass. I'm strong, yeah, but this's ridiculous. The anchors--the stilts holding up the Glass City--are maybe four hundred feet tall, and the only tool I've got is a wide, flat strip of leather slung around the glass, to grip it better than my sweaty fingers could.

I look down and my throat yanks shut like the neck of a drawstring bag. If I fall, I'll die. There's no way I won't when I'm this high up--it's a dizzying, painful height that makes my head bang.

So I look back up and keep pulling. I'm pretty close. It's been a whole hour of climbing.

I thought the actual climbing part would be harder, to be honest. But it turns out there are scars and gouges in the glass from weather, which make good footholds.

I yank myself up and up, digging my feet into the cracks, cursing Elisabeth and Steven. I shoulda listened to Cory. He always has my best interests at heart--dammit, why didn't I listen?

I reach the top of the anchor. Time for the hard part.

The City is built on a disk of glass that sits on top of the anchors. It's at least as thick as I'm tall, and ten feet of packed dirt lies on top, tight wire mesh trapping it in. But tree roots erupt from the mesh, dangling down about a foot to my right. Up here, a foot's distance feels like half a mile, but I close my eyes and grapple for the closest root. As my fingers find the damp wood, I put weight on it, and it lurches. My eyes pop open. Dirt crumbles out from around the root, I let out a high whimper of fear--doesn't even sound like my voice--and my hands break into an uncontrollable sweat. Then, worst of all, the wind tears the corner of the leather strip outta my other hand. The downdrafts yank it from side to side, the material making a flapping noise. It curls and twists until it's out of sight, like it's waving goodbye.

What's Broken? #2

TITLE: Smoke and Wait
GENRE: Urban Fantasy

Alexandra MacPherson has mixed feelings about being back from the field.

Info dump, telling, or showing? All the above?

I don't know why I'd convinced myself things would be different. Only months, not years, had passed since I'd been in the field office. The building smelled the same; the walls and carpets were infused with a damp and musty odor, courtesy of an inefficient HVAC system that could cool things down -- mostly -- but not dry them out. Someone had burned popcorn in the break room. My desk hadn't changed, either. A single, framed picture of Jack and Sophie sat front and center. Jack, just off the plane and still in uniform, holding Sophie for the first time.

I picked up the photo and dusted the glass with my shirt sleeve. Sophie's right foot was bare, a victim of those worthless baby socks that never stayed on. I used to find them everywhere. In the car seat. Under the car seat. On the floor mat, covered with safety glass from the right rear window. I chewed savagely at my bottom lip before shoving the frame into the corner of my desk and under a shelf where it would be less noticeable.

I was stupid with contradiction. I refused anything stronger than Tylenol in the hospital, trying to prevent a fall off that wagon I worked too hard to find. But then I called Jack, listened to Sophie's voice on a message I should have deleted years ago. Two bad habits that usually led me right to the cliff of Screw-It overlooking the valley of I-Don't-Give-A-S***-Anymore. I hadn't been there in a while, but apparently I was contemplating a visit.

I scrolled through the emails that bred during my absence. Out-of-office must not have meant what I thought it did. I flagged the few that looked important, but right click and delete became the order of the day.

At least a hundred offerings for continuing ed. Right click, delete. Weeks-expired coupons from Borders. Right click, delete. My father's administrative assistant needed to make reservations for Thanksgiving dinner, and was 2:00 p.m. at 1906 Longwood Gardens okay? Right click, delete.

Unbidden, the fingers of my left hand tapped a beaten strip of metal against my mouth. I dropped it when I realized what I was doing, but who was I kidding. Avoidance would never work. The ball chain holding Jack's tags had been around my neck since the day he gave them to me. I wore them on my wedding day instead of pearls. They were as much a part of my uniform as they'd been part of his. And if Sophie had been old enough to have a cell phone when she was killed, I'd call her, too.

I roughly crammed the contents of the case file on my desk into a manilla accordion folder and mashed it all into my messenger bag. "You ready to go?"

What's Broken? #1

TITLE: Voice of Asheva
GENRE: Fantasy

The rogue prince who supports the rebellion of Asheva has been imprisoned, and now no one in the rebellion knows what to do. Enter Evyn Stonecry, a young female magician, who asks the council of Asheva to get permission to rescue the prince.

There was a brief silence. To the surprise of no one, it was broken by Oryin. "A girl?" Some of the council reluctantly took their gaze off of her and turned to him; he looked incredulous. "How can a girl help? Can she win a war for us?"

Evyn stood, revealing two curved daggers at her waist. Dark, fringed bangs fell over her strange eyes, eyes like the edge of a summer sunset, and she rested a hand on her hip. Her gaze was cool as it fixed on Oryin. "I donâ't mean to win a war for you, councilman."

As she stepped away from the table, the room fell further into silence. The calls of merchants and street vendors drifted in from the Tala outside as she crossed the room, past the stone pillars that held up the ceiling, past the tapestry depicting the injustices of Stoyrian royalty. Her voice was soft as she drew closer to Liae's end of the table and said, "But I can give you gift worth more than a thousand fighting men, even magic wielders."

"And what is that?" Fayo asked, not harshly.

"I can give you your prince."

As one, the council twisted in their seats to look at Toreph, confused. Even Oryin's face abandoned its normal sarcastic expression. But it was the councilwoman from Rivertown who spoke first. "What in Asheva's name does the girl mean, Toreph?"

He didn't answer, just switched his blue eyes back to Evyn and nodded at her.

"I mean," Evyn answered, her eyes sharing none of Toreph's amusement, "that I can go to Gaeon, sneak into the dungeons, and rescue Prince Theyrn from the city without any of the royal guard even knowing I was there -- until too late."

Oryin laughed, but he was the only one. The other council members were frowning at Evyn as if they'd never seen a girl before. Liae didn't laugh either, noting the determination in Evyn's face. Knowing the look, she felt a small surge of hope; the casual confidence -- that confidence that lacked arrogance -- was nearly as reassuring as Asheva's prophecy had been.

Our One and Only June Crit, Now Underway!

And here come the What's Broken? excerpts!  Entrants, please critique a minimum of two other entries.  Everyone else, please remember to sign in with a screen name (don't choose "anonymous" when you leave your comment).

I'm trusting that this round will be as helpful to the authors as last month's round.

Allow me to apologize ahead of time for Blogger glitches.  In short, if you find you're having trouble leaving a comment, it's probably not your fault--and it's probably not something I can fix.  It's just that Blogger is fickle, you see.

No, you don't need to have a Blogger account.  Or any other account.  Just choose the "Name/URL" option and type in your screen name.  It's that simple!