Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 was cool and also cats

This morning someone launched fireworks in my ear to wake me up and I sat up and realized; NEW YEAR.


As I was calmly considering the meaning of time and the universe, I hit my cranium on the headboard and it jostled my thoughts about into a more acceptable frame of mind i.e. Not Insane.

2012 has been an incredible year.

I wrote three books. One of them got me represented by a fantastic agent who supports me and guides me in all the right ways. May 11th, my agent called me out of the blue and offered rep. The rest is history.

By June, we were on sub.

I am lucky and incredibly lucky and so freaking lucky and grateful that my submission time was relatively painless. I missed a whole world of horrible anguish. I got my share of kind rejections and static silence, and through it all my writing friends supported me.

Sometimes, before I became represented, I woke up with stress nightmares. Querying for three years took its toll, and only after I'd signed with my agent did the nightmares stop. My faith in myself, my work, and my agent became a driving force in my life. If the book got picked up, great. If it didn't, okay, fine, I can write an even better one! Just knowing there was someone in my corner (Hi Jessica!!) gave me the confidence to forge forward. And that's true to this day.

August 25th, Jessica let me know we had an offer. From a fantastic, mind-blowingly awesome editor and house.

I can't describe the moment. I should be able to, since I'm a writer. The closest thing I've got is the feeling you have when the roller coaster goes down too fast and your stomach lifts off your intestines and the little hollow floods with suspense. And then the coaster sits flat and everything gets back in place and you're so grateful for it, for feeling full and right again.

I talked to Sharyn and I knew. I knew the book belonged to her, and us, but most of all she got it. PRETENDING TO BE ERICA had not only found a good home, but the right home.

I did a lot of silly crying.

Because feeling right, seeing things become right, that's the best feeling in the world.

A few days after that I turned twenty-two and halloween and thanksgiving and christmas. I was a judge in PitchWars and got to read so many amazing manuscripts. I went on my first blind date (!!!), which is insane because I hate dates and am ridiculously shy, but hey, I DID IT. I became friends with lots more writers. I saw writer friends become better and faster and happier and sadder. The world gets so big the less you see, gets so small the more you see, and it's pretty and momentary but always there under the surface, like a tidepool.

When there's a lot of water, a lot of things, we can't see it. When there's a little water, we can see.

And now New Years.

I think most of all, what I learned this year is that living is scary. But fun.

Most of all, I learned that dreams really do come true. I was a cynic and I still am but holy shit. Life schooled me this year. It slapped me in the face and said "how dare you underestimate me". And that's made this year my best one so far.

I can do anything!

So can you!

Isn't that scary.

It's not about the journey, or the end. It's not about who you are or who you'll become. It's about finding what makes you happy. Happiest. And going for it really hard. All or nothing.

Because right now, you are all. And you are nothing.

Thank you. yes. you.

If you're scared, hold my hand. I'll be here for you if you need it.

Let's go.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

PM Announcement!

Okay guys, it's the moment I've been waiting for. It's official. PRETENDING TO BE ERICA has now been announced in Publisher's Marketplace!

Here's the announcement screenshot (click to enlarge!);

December 11, 2012


Young Adult

Michelle Painchaud's debut PRETENDING TO BE ERICA, a thriller about the daughter of Las Vegas' best conman, who is posing as the abducted daughter of a wealthy family in order to steal the family's most valuable asset, to Sharyn November at Viking Children's, by Jessica Faust at BookEnds.

I'm still in a state of shock, really. I found out about the deal right before my 22nd birthday, at the end of August. I never, in my wildest dreams, thought I'd get this far. BIG THANKS to Jessica and Sharyn for believing in me, for taking a chance on a book that, to this day, makes me cry while reading it. 

Much love to my writing group the LitBitches, you guys have been a support ring like no other. I'll love you guys till the end of the world when we release the krakens. ^_~

Mega thanks to everyone on twitter who's been following me and giving the congrats - my arms are hugging you from a million miles away. Thanks to my family and friends for being super cool cats all around. 

Also an obligatory thanks to caffeine and my body for still breathing even when I was freakin'. 

Brb, doing this all day;

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Pitch Wars - AGENT POST~~~

Pitch Wars ... the agents!

Are you ready for this? We have 16 incredible agents vying for our Pitch Wars team manuscripts. We're so excited to see what pitches they fall in love with, and what teams will win the coveted Pitch Wars Most Requested Manuscript title. 

And, in no particular order, here are the agents...

Louise Fury
L. Perkins Agency
Twitter: @louisefury 

Louise is seeking teen Sci-Fi and Young Adult horror.  She's also on the hunt for deep, dark contemporary YA and select Middle Grade fiction with a literary feel--it must be realistic and thought provoking and the characters must be authentic and original. Louise loves horror and romance, especially Regency and Victorian.

Jessica Sinsheimer
Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency
Twitter: @jsinsheim 

Jessica is seeking Literary, Women's, Middle Grade, and Young Adult Fiction.

Twitter: @Natalie_Lakosil 

Natalie is looking for commercial fiction, with an emphasis in children’s literature (from picture book-teen), romance (contemporary, paranormal and historical), and upmarket women’s fiction. Specific likes include historical, multi-cultural, paranormal, sci-fi/fantasy, gritty, thrilling and darker contemporary novels, and middle grade with heart. 

Twitter: @BookaliciousPam

Pam represents young adult and middle grade children’s book authors, and adult romance authors. 

Twitter: @bluedragonfly81 

Jordy is on the look out for Romance (contemporary, historical/Regency, and paranormal). YA contemporary/historical or dystopian, sci-fi/fantasy with romance elements. She's also open to YA GLBT within those genres. She'd love to see unique, well-developed plots featuring time travel, competitions, or travel.

Andrea Somberg 
Twitter: @andreasomberg 

Andrea's looking for the following categories: Fiction; literary, commercial, womens fiction, romance, thrillers, mystery, paranormal, fantasy, science fiction, young adult, middle grade.

Jennifer Mishler
Twitter: @literarycounsel 

Jennifer is seeking Young Adult Fantasy, Young Adult Contemporary, Young Adult Literary, and Young Adult Historical. 

Suzie represents adult and children's fiction. In adult, she's specifically looking for romance (historical and paranormal), and fantasy (urban fantasy, science fiction, steampunk, epic fantasy). In Childrens' she loves YA (all subgenres) and is dying to find great Middle Grade projects (especially something akin to the recent movie SUPER 8).


Victoria Marini

Victoria is looking for literary fiction, commercial fiction, pop-culture non-fiction, and young adult. She is very interested in acquiring engaging Literary fiction and mysteries / suspense, commercial women's fiction (romantic suspense, sci-fi, fantasy), and Young Adult (contemporary, sci-fi/fantasy, thriller and horror ).

Kerry is looking for Young Adult and Middle-Grade fiction, both commercial and literary. She tends to shy away from werewolves, zombies, faeries, and the like, but she’ll read anything with a fresh voice and compelling characters. She is particularly keen on contemporary YA, quirky MG, books with a strong cinematic element.  

Drea is currently seeking: fiction, memoir, crime, non-fiction and YA. Her roster consists of British, American, and Canadian clients. International talent is welcome. 

Katie Shea

Katie specializes in fiction and memoir, especially women’s fiction and commercial-scale literary fiction, and realistic YA.  She is most interested in coming-of-age stories and stories of unique relationships.

 Elise Capron

Elise is interested in serious character-driven literary fiction, well-written narrative nonfiction, and short story collections. (Note: She is not interested in Fantasy, young-adult/middle-grade, picture books, romance, and sci-fi.) She aims to work with writers who have a realistic sense of the market and their audience.

Jodell is interested in YA, MG (especially funny) , fiction and nonfiction, book proposals, and picture books. She will also coach writers wanting to self publish.  She simply loves a well-paced story that moves her between joy and tears.

Brittany and Michelle are teaming up to look for Adult, YA, and MG manuscripts. 

 Michelle Johnson

Michelle’s published one novel, The Footloose Killer, and edited several others for publishing houses and private clients. She also is a Script/Story consultant on an independent film in Halifax, NS, Canada, and enjoys working closely with writers to help them develop their voice and craft.

Brittany Howard

When reading, Brittany  loves to be introduced to new and interesting people and places. She looks for strong voice, good storytelling, and fascinating relationships between characters—romantic or otherwise. More than anything, she loves when a book surprises her.

There's just one more day to get your applications in for Pitch Wars. Make sure to check out this post here to get all the details.

Monday, November 26, 2012

PitchWars pt. II: Mentor Bio/Wishlist Post!!!

LET'S GET RIGHT TO IT. It's very early in the morning, so have some doughnuts before we begin;

~~*~*~*~*Submissions for PitchWars start today ~*~*~*~

The cut off time to get your applications (query & first five pages of manuscript) in is 8AM EST on December 5.

Send your applications to Writers can apply for up to 3 coaches.
The coaches' categories are set. Coaches can only consider the categories they've signed up for. Writers cannot apply for a coach that is not in their category.

For additional information about this contest go HERE.

- This is open to finished manuscripts only.

- You may only enter one manuscript.

- Only the genres requested by each coach will be considered for the contest.


Subject line: Pitch Wars Application: Coach Name you want to apply for: Title (Example: PitchWars Application: Brenda Drake: GONE WITH THE WIND)

Name: Your Name

Genre: The genre of your manuscript

Word Count: The word count of your manuscript

Query letter here (embedded in email). Single spaced. No indents. A space between each paragraph.

First five pages of the manuscript here (embedded in email). Single spaced. No indentions. A space between each paragraph.

~*~*AS A REMINDER~*~*: You can send an application for up to 3 coaches.


Michelle is the YA author of PRETENDING TO BE ERICA, a young adult thriller forthcoming from Viking/Penguin in 2014. After four years and six books in the querying game, she's got a solid handle on how to pitch and polish a book for the querying ring. She's also exceptionally terrible at talking about herself, but would like you to know she's 22-going-on-old-cat-lady, likes baking, and can't contain her childish enthusiasm for video games, manga, pretty dresses, and Channing Tatum.  Her work is represented by the indomitable Jessica Faust of BookEnds, LLC. She's best at pinpointing weak spots in a manuscript and smoothing out a work's plotting pace. She's blunt, prefers to speak her mind, and won't mince words when it comes to critiquing, but is very good at what she does and hopes to work with someone fun and cool who loves their work and wants to see it become the best it can be!

***WISHLIST(now with a scary bacon face)***

All genres must be in the Young Adult (YA) category. I do not accept Adult, Middle Grade, or New Adult.

GENERAL WANTS (AKA things I LOVE to see in a manuscript)

- If you've got YA that addresses any of these, regardless of genre, send it my way!
- Quirky cast of deep, fully-realized characters
- Romance as a subplot, not the main plot.
- Main Character(s) with a strong, addictive voice. If you have a strong, unique narrator, I will definitely love love love it.

My face if you have these in your manuscript:

but i really do like you


- Contemporary: I prefer the darker, creepier contemporaries. Any contemporary with an edge (drugs, suicide, death in the family, plain old anger issues, etc) is often something I like. Thrillers and Horrors are right up my alley. Murder, kidnapped children, redemption, struggles, blackmail, mistaken identity - it spices things up. I want a legitimate sense of dread and tension. An artsy, literary twist to the work would be awesome, too; think Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma.

- Historical: I'm the biggest sucker for foreign history - usually not in the U.S. Give me Europe, Asia, Africa, all of it. Libby Bray's The Diviners is a great example set in the U.S. If it has magical/speculative elements, even better! I love reading about dresses, food, and plucky MCs who don't feel quite at home in their timeframe.

- SciFi: This genre is too often confused with Dystopian these days. I don't want future societies, but FAR future societies. Give me spaceships, space stations, aliens, lasers, viruses, robots, new planets, and crazy Blade Runner fashion. Give me grand adventures and a motley spaceship crew ala Joss Whedon's Firefly.


Check back soon for a complete list of the amazing agents participating in the contest. There's over a dozen!

Our mentors ...


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Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Good morning, guys! I'm psyched to be a mentor in Brenda Drake's PitchWars contest.

As some of you may know, I entered PRETENDING TO BE ERICA in one of her contests a while back, and got great response and feedback from it, so I can't stress enough what an awesome opportunity this is.

Without further ado, here are the details!

We're extremely excited to announce an upcoming event where agented authors, industry interns, and editors team up with aspiring writers to shine up their manuscripts and pitches to present to some awesome agents.

Here's the deets...

·         The teams will consist of 1 agented author or industry intern or editor (coaches) and 1 aspiring author.

·         November 26: The coaches (listed on the linky below) will post on their blogs what genre/category they want to coach. They'll be very specific genres. Aspiring writers will hop around and decide which coaches best fit their manuscripts.

·         November 26 - December 5: Aspiring writers will submit 3 "applications" to their top choices for coaches to the contest email ( during the allotted times (8AM to 8PM EST). That means, participants will send three separate emails to the contest email addressing each with one of their three top choices for coach.
     Coaches will read the applications and pick teammates.The coaches don't have to pick from their applications. If a coach passes on an application, it is then up for grabs and another coach, if they haven't connected to their applicants, can snatch it after notifying the applicant and if the applicant chooses the coach.

·         December 12: Teams will be announced. On the announcement post there will be instructions on how the winners must send their work.

·         December 12 through January 16: Each coach will read their teammate's manuscript and give general notes on any issues they find. The coach will help their teammate get his or her pitches ready for the agent round.

·         Note: The material for the agent round will be a 3 sentence pitch and the first 250 words of your manuscript. Coaches will read manuscripts and query letters only once and give notes. It is up to the writer to use the notes from their coaches to get the manuscript and query letter in as best shape as they can to send to requesting agents. The coaches will critique the three sentence pitch and first 250 words. The coaches will read them as many times as they deem necessary. In no way will writers expect the coaches to read the manuscript and query letter more than once or the pitches more than twice.

·         January 20: Coaches will submit shined pitches to the contest email.

·         January 23 and 24: Agents will read and make requests on the pitches they like (it is likely that not all participants will get requests).

·         January 25: We'll announce the team with the most requests and who will take home the winning prizes (an amazon gift card for each).

·         This is open to finished manuscripts only.

·         You may only enter one manuscript.

·         Only the genres requested by each coach will be considered for the contest.


Subject line: Pitch Wars Application: Coach Name you want to apply for: Title (Example: Pitch Wars Application: Brenda Drake: GONE WITH THE WIND)

Name: Your Name

Genre: The genre of your manuscript

Word Count: The word count of your manuscript

Query letter here  (embedded in email). Single spaced. No indentions. A space between each paragraph.

First five pages of the manuscript here (embedded in email). Single spaced. No indentions. A space between each paragraph.


REMINDER: You can send an application for up to 3 coaches.

Our mentors ...
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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

writing and how it saved me

Sometimes I stare out the window and just marvel. At rain, or clouds, or how the world keeps spinning. 

Mostly I marvel about how writing saved me. 

Once upon a time, I was a very different girl. A girl who didn't like herself. Or life. A girl who thought maybe if she left for good, off into that nothingness void, no one would mind. 

Today I researched the five stages of grief for a WIP and realized, when I was that Very Different Girl, I went through all five stages. And right on the edge of the last stage, Acceptance, right when I was getting used to the idea of a world without me, writing found me. 

Writing listened. It let me say the things I wanted to, the things I felt, without judging. It just blinked its cursor at me and gave me more page space. Infinite page space. I could say anything. So I said everything. 

Soon, I started looking forward to writing. I woke up happy that I got to write another day. I had a purpose. I could swallow anything life threw at me, as long as I could sit down at the end of the day and write until my fingers went numb. Writing let me create, and love, and hate, and cry, all at the same time. 

I didn't think about leaving life, anymore. 

I'm okay now, of course. Time heals all wounds. 

But writing helped me hang in there until Time could get to me. 

In a way, it's a religion. But writing is so much more than that. Maybe one day I'll be skilled enough to explain it right. 

It is a state of being. A force of energy. The prettiest, quietest supernova you will ever feel the heat of. 

I hope, I really, really really really really really really hope, that the love I have for it reaches you when you read my stuff. My books. There will be many. And I hope, wherever you are, you'll read them and feel my love in a non-creepy way.

Or in a creepy way. 


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Obsessions of september

these were a few of my obsessionthings this month



weird hair colorsx2


I hate arugula but the garden exploded.
apples+cheese makes it bearable.


found my old cartridge! 700mil points on
sapphire board BEAT THAT

Writing wise: 

-Revisions for Project 1 done/sent off to amazing agent d=(´▽`)=b

-6k written for Project 2 。◕‿◕。

-11k written for Project 3 book 。◕‿◕。

-Still can't figure out which project to focus on more ( ≧Д≦)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

What I had trouble learning before I got an agent+booksale.

Instead of 'what I learned about publishing after _____', I decided to focus on what comes before. The struggle. The sweet poison fog of self-doubt and small triumphs.

All my eloquence goes into my books. So I'm just going to come out and say it straight.

I'm not one of those authors who just wrote what she was obsessed with and got published because of it. You know the type. The fairy tale stories of 'first book' or 'second book' homerun hits.

In sports talk, my journey was more like a bunch of bunting.

And I loved every second of it.

But that doesn't matter. I'm not going to talk about **~~~my journey~~~**, because that's something that's boring and you should experience for yourself. It's best understood when experienced firsthand. If I typed 'journey', and you read it and visualized a flood of pains and efforts and elation, then we're on the same page. The same journey.

I wrote six books in the span of two years.

This isn't to say 'oh look I'm so productive'. I just want you guys to know. I realized I was the only one in control of my writing career. I could make or break myself. So I wrote. Anything and everything. I tried lots of genres and every Main Character type. Conflicts. Villains. I tried everything because I didn't know what exactly would get me somewhere. I knew I wanted to be a writer, but I couldn't visualize of what genre, exactly. At first I was sure I would never write something not-fantasy/scifi. But that changed as I learned to love my books for the characters instead of the magic/cyborgs/witches/cool fights. For the story instead of the baubles.

All I knew was I wanted to write.

Publishing is an amazing, intricate world full of possibilities. And everyone has their own way of writing. Stick to your way. Stick to what your heart knows.

But. But if you want to get to that magic part of the journey, go outside what you know.

That's what I learned. That success is luck, and hard work, and talent. But more than that, it's you challenging yourself. Trying new things constantly. Go for one book a year instead of writing one every three years. Put just a little more into writing. Sacrifice that one movie night to really delve into your characters and world. Sacrifice. Everything and anything short of your health and family. Dive into the deep end and come out the other side. Don't constrain yourself with what you know and love. Explore. Sacrifice your security and comfort, and find something new and invigorating.

That's what we do as writers. Sacrifice.

I learned, after writing six books, that writing is a living thing. It breathes, it demands so much of you, but most of all, it demands you become a better you. Quicker typist. Quicker wit. Tighter describer. More abstract thinker. If something isn't working, try something else. Go outside yourself. Push yourself to try a new genre, a totally new voice, free yourself from restraints of 'Don't do this POV' or 'don't make your character unlikable'.



Do anything and everything you want in writing, because in this life, we can't do anything and everything we want.

But on paper, we can do anything.

We're writers.

Go nuts. And if going nuts doesn't work, go bananas. Apples. Figs. SOMETHING DIFFERENT.

Try something new with your writing, everyday. I know it's a lot to ask, when just 'trying' is a chore in itself. When you're tired and worn down and even typing seems a horrible task all you want to do is settle into the rut you've previously outlined for yourself as a writer. The comfortable writing. The easier writing.

But if you really want to get better, faster, quicker - explore the scary blackness of 'what if'. What if I write a space opera today? What if I make a main character who's nice for once? What if I make her a chocolatier? What if I make him a criminal? What if I make a world of ice and mammoths, or casinos and mob bosses? What if I take all the magic spells out of this book? What if I put a bunch of magic spells in the book?

What if I push myself out of my comfort zone?

What if I become a better writer for it?

It took me three years to learn that.

Geez, I'm slow.

Sunday, September 2, 2012


Happy Labor Day weekend, author friends! I have been so incredibly busy my head is now on backwards. My lovely agent sold my book (check the Books page! Squeee!) and I'm getting ready for a move! Mostly my head is still on straight, and things are settling, so let's get back to regular communications!

I'm proud to announce I'm re-opening the Punch My Query segment. For details on how to submit, see this post! Ideally, I will post one PMQ every Friday. Please keep in mind that depending on how many submissions there are, I may not use your query. This could also be because a previous query was similar and addressed similar issues, but fear not! If you submit, but I do not use your query, I will still read it privately and send you a paragraph or two of feedback! That way, everyone wins!

I'm super excited to start this up again! Submit, submit!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Punch My Query - June 17th, 2012

HELLO! Many apologies for this delayed Punch My Query - sickness SUCKS. I’m back now though, so let’s get to Punching. Today’s query comes from Crystal and Erin ( @SnowmenWrite on twitter). Thank you for volunteering your query!

||||||||||QUERY CRIT|||||||||||||||

537 BC

Aphrodite abducts Eros’ love forcing him to flee Mount Olympus.


Mariposa collides with a boy at a party who stares at her like he has seen a ghost.

(Okay, let’s start off with the good; this is a very unique opening. It should be formatted a little differently to stay more in a query-like mold, but overall it’s an abrupt but interesting way to draw attention!)

As their fates are woven together the hope in Eros’ heart is restored. (This is a little too vague here; whose ‘fates’? You have to be specific and mention the ‘who’ in the same sentence.) But Aphrodite’s jealous nature leads her to interfere once more (When did she ever interfere before? You‘re alluding to something that‘s never happened. I know mythology a bit, so I know she‘s pretty jealous, but the query has to read as if it makes sense to someone who has no idea of Greek mythology. You ensure maximum understanding and won‘t exclude an agent who may not know Greek mythos well), setting Mariposa up to betray him (how? Does Aphro make her kiss another boy? We need specifics). Now broken, (I think betrayed is the better word, here) Eros escapes back to Mount Olympus leaving Mariposa defenseless in the hands of Aphrodite.

(Wait - what happened to Aphro abducting Eros’ love in the first sentence of the query? Did Aphro send the girl down to earth? Reincarnated her and wiped her memories? Include that.)

To fight for a chance to get Eros back, Mariposa sets out to prove her worth by enduring excruciating tasks. (Who sets her on these tasks? Why does she want to get Eros back? You haven’t established that she loves him or that he loves her - I’m just not feeling their connection through your choice of words.) But when she is sent to the underworld (by who? Why? Did she do something bad?) her chances of survival are lost in the mouths (jaws maybe? Has more impact) of the three-headed hound that guard its gates (you can shorten this sentence, a lot of people know Cerberus). Eros must find a way to look past his shattered heart and find her before her fragile human life is eternally lost. (So who exactly is the hero? Do we follow the journey of Mariposa or Eros? This last sentence muddles things more than defines them.)

BROKEN EROS (cute play on words!) is our debut young adult mythological retelling (you need a genre here. Young Adult is not enough. Is it Fantasy? From what I’m getting, it’s paranormal romance, but since that term is so overused, you could go with Fantasy) completed at 79,000 words.

Overall, this is an above-average query. The sense of the stakes is woven throughout the book, if only because the stakes are romantic (ie, losing a love one, winning a loved one back, etc). I don’t get a strong sense of the characters or their love. It seems their love is supposed to be strong simply because they were *sparkles* meant to be *sparkles*. This is a common mistake in a lot of queries and easily fixed with a strong, voice-y sentence that tells of their dastardly mutual attraction.

The voice of the query is very stiff and formal, almost to the point of choking the story, but in this case I think it sort of works - this is a story about Greek gods of old, and old language was formal. If nothing else, this query gives a strong sense of the voice of the overall book, and that’s something you always want to strive for.

Let’s try to rewrite it in a different way, shall we?

|||||||||||||MY REWRITE||||||||||||||||

537 BC - Aphrodite abducts Eros’ love, and he flees Mount Olympus. Thursday - Sixteen-year-old Mariposa collides with a boy at a party who stares at her like he’s seen a ghost.

(Put whichever age she is, I substituted sixteen. I feel it flows better as one sentence, and the italics help contrast what the original query left to a whole line of space.)

Now reunited, Mariposa and Eros find comfort in each other, and their love becomes stronger than ever. In jealousy, Aphrodite pulls the two apart by tricking Mariposa into betraying Eros. Eros, heart wounded, flees to Mount Olympus.

Determined to win him back, Mariposa descends into the Underworld with a guarantee from Aphrodite that if she survives the trials within, the Goddess of Love will admit her trickery to Eros. Winning Eros back may kill Mariposa, but her life without him is already like death.

BROKEN EROS is a completed 79,000 word YA/Fantasy retelling of the Greek myth of Psyche and Eros. (Do mention the specific myth you are retelling, please.)

||||||||||FINAL THOUGHTS||||||||||||

Since I haven’t read the story, the query was a bit hard to put together. Overall I would detail more about the ‘trials’ Mariposa has to go through, and I would spend more time trying to elaborate on their chemistry. A perfect sentence that encompasses their attraction to each other can go a long way, and make both characters likeable. You also need to tie in how Mariposa ended up on earth after her abduction, and why her memory was (presumably) wiped (It needs to be spelled out clearly.)

Hopefully that was helpful! Thank you again, Crystal and Erin, and here’s wishing you the best of luck in your querying adventure!

Stay tuned next week for another Punch My Query!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Punch My Query - June 8th, 2012

Welcome to the second Punch My Query! Today, the lovely Nikki  (@NikkiUrang on twitter) has volunteered her query for us! Thank you Nikki. My thoughts will be in purple text, as usual.

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Sixteen year old telekinetic Emma Jackson is trying desperately to control her new ability. (This is a very decent hook! But I feel like there could be more of Emma’s character injected in this sentence.) When her emotions become too strong, objects around her explode. (Again, nice detail, but more voice! More uniqueness!) If she doesn’t get a handle on her ability soon, she might accidentally kill someone. Like her boyfriend. (Awesome. This is the hook - that she might kill someone at anytime.)

Emma and her cousins form the Scarlet Order, a group of four girls chosen to protect an ancient power. (Okay, this is a little abrupt. You go from Emma to suddenly four other girls, and they’ve formed an order? Why? How? What is this ancient power? That ancient power bit is especially too vague to grab an agent’s attention. How the heck did they get chosen? Divine will, I’m guessing. But I shouldn't be guessing. If I'm guessing, the agent is guessing too.) An energy so strong that the Fallen will stop at nothing to get it, even if it means killing all four girls. (I assume this was meant to be in the last sentence. Connect it with a hyphen or comma) And (Starting a sentence with ‘and’ can be voicey, but I’m afraid in this instance it doesn’t work) if the Fallen (Who? Who the heck are the Fallen? Again, you’re jumping around a bit here) get their hands on the power, there is nothing left to stop them from manipulating the energy around them (Um, what energy around them? From the ‘ancient power’? Is the ancient power everywhere? The Scarlet Order must have a hard time protecting it if it’s everywhere), enslaving mankind, and absorbing energy from humans to make them stronger. (This is book logic and really doesn’t need to be in the query - leave the explanations for the story.) Because (again, starting sentences with an ‘and’ or ‘because’ might seem voicey, but it’s not working in this case) if the Fallen don’t absorb from humans, they become human themselves. (Okay, so the Fallen aren‘t human. What are they? We need to know what they are right away, and much more clearly than you‘ve let on here. At this point, I’m really confused and feeling lost. What happened to her boyfriend? Getting control of her powers?)

But Emma’s loyalty to The Scarlet Order is shattered when she discovers her family’s darkest secrets, that she is part Fallen and the father she thought was dead lives right across town. (Okay, these are two huge things that distract from the plot. You have not established that Emma has loyalty to the Scarlet Order at all in the paragraph before this. I don’t get a sense that she likes or even wants to be in the order - you didn’t give us any reasons why she joined/started it. I’m just not believing your character’s motives at all, because you haven’t spelled them out - don’t make the agent guess at motives, it’s an instant turn-off.) When Emma’s boyfriend reveals his own secret, that he’s also part of the Fallen, her perfect world crumbles. (Why? What perfect world? Her world was perfect when she was guarding an apocalyptic power from evil? Her world was perfect when she figured out she could blow people up? She wasn’t devastated at all by those things, either? Her world falls apart JUST because her boyfriend says he’s an evil dude in comparison to her duties/powers just seems unbelievable.)

Now Emma is faced with a choice: stay with the Scarlet Order and fight for everything she’s supposed to believe in (What is she supposed to believe in? Have the Order really laid down concrete rules? Why would they?) or trust the Fallen and fight against the people she’s not sure she hates despite their lies. (Way too confusing. She’s not sure she hates them despite their lies? What lies? Why does she hate these Fallen again? Totally confusing sentence.) Confused about which side to choose (why does she have to choose? Does someone force her to? Does she feel she needs to? And why? Again, motives need to be clear), she must follow her instincts if she is going to survive. (What? Why? Is she going to die if she doesn’t choose a side immediately? If so, say that.) But Emma isn’t prepared for her instincts to push her toward the Fallen, the father she never knew, and the boy she’s always loved. (You’ve presented the stakes at the end, which is good, but the stakes are so weak they don’t compel me to read more. Who cares if she chooses the Fallen side? What are the ramifications of choosing that side? Why is it so bad to choose that side? What will happen if she does? End with strong stakes and a question, not a statement.)

THE SCARLET ORDER, a YA Urban Fantasy novel, is complete at 65,000 words.

Overall, this was a very vague query. I felt lost constantly and could not get my bearings as the query jumped from point to point without linking them together. It had little to no voice, and by the end of it I didn’t want to read any more. I’m not saying this a bad query, it certainly tried very hard, but an agent would not request much off this query. If they do, that’s great! Nevermind me.

Let’s try to rewrite the query with what we have.

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For sixteen-year-old Emma, getting mad means things around her go boom.

(This is your hook. Telekinetic powers have been overdone, which is why I don’t mention them in the first sentence.)

Emma’s telekinetic powers rampage when her temper flares, and to tame them she joins a group started by her likewise gifted cousins called the Scarlet Order. Together, they keep a powerful concentration of energy safe from evil scumbags called the Fallen. The Fallen want to use it to make themselves gods. (This is all the relevant information packed into a few sentences instead of spread out over two paragraphs. Since your information on the Fallen was very vague, I tried to construct some kind of stakes and left most of the technicalities of the Fallen (the human energy sucking, which still wasn’t very clear) to the book.)

But the Fallen are close. Too close. Emma’s boyfriend is one. Her father is one. Her choice to remain faithful to the Scarlet Order or defect to the Fallen will change the world for good - pitch it into a darkness ruled by the Fallen with humans as their slaves, or keep the world in mundane, tranquil light.

(I’m sorry about the vague ending, but the stakes you presented were just not high enough. I couldn’t do much other than end with the generic light/dark, girl chooses to save/destroy the world.)

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Overall, I did what I could with this query. The stakes are simply not high enough to constitute a truly good punch, and for that I apologize. Thank you, Nikki, for being a great sport, and I hope this query crit has helped in some way!

Feel free to let me know if you feel I was too harsh.

Stay tuned next week for our next Punch My Query!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Punch My Query - June 1st, 2012

(Note: That is not actually me or anyone I know. Thanks google!)

Welcome, one and all, to the first ever Punch My Query! Today, the lovely Amanda  (@AmandaBurckhard on twitter) has volunteered her query for us! Thank you Amanda. Let's jump right to it, shall we? My thoughts will be in purple!

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To Alita, senior year means high school graduation and Princeton here I come! (This is a good first sentence - but the change in tense with the ‘I’ is jarring. Cute, but jarring.) That is, until she accidentally unleashes the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. (Okay! You’ve got my interest!)

When she suddenly develops weird empathic, telekinetic, and clairvoyant abilities on her eighteenth birthday, the powerful combination draws a sadistic cloaked man who stalks and kidnaps her. (There are too many vague things here. ‘Suddenly develops’, ‘weird’, and the telekinetic/clairvoyant description doesn’t really tell me what she can DO. Reading minds? Levitating? You might want to list specifics just to give us an idea.) But the mysterious Alexareus (who? We need to know who this guy is from the get-go.) frees her from the man’s clutches and tries to teach her to control the stupid (A nice bit of voice with this word, but maybe you could use something more powerful.) powers that will be the death of her perfect GPA (is that really all she‘s worrying about? With this sentence, you paint her as a girl who only cares about her grades, not the way the powers affect her relationships with family, her sense of self worth, and her identity.). She falls for him. Hard. Harder than smacking the sidewalk after a ten story fall. (This is an unnecessary sentence, but I can understand the need to draw a metaphor. Metaphors mostly waste space in a query unless they are REALLY original and breathtaking, which this is not.)

But happiness (Happiness? What happiness? There was happiness? Falling hard for a boy is happiness even when you’re confronted with huge power and responsibility and learning to control them? Hm.) is short lived with a power mongering psycho (who exactly is this psycho? What happened to the other psycho in the previous paragraph? Are they the one and same?) after her. The cloaked sadist returns (Ah, see, there. Use this first. Don’t confuse your reader with that previous psycho reference.) and despite her wariness (wariness is not a strong enough word, and every time you talk about how your MC feels, you need to write it in her style, voice, tone), he manipulates (how? Need specifics that make us empathetic toward your MC and hate this antagonist more) her lack of control and releases the Four Horsemen. (I feel like this should be the beginning of the story. The Four Horsemen are what drew me in and what makes her special. Telepathic powers are overdone, but the Four Horsemen aspect has only been done a few times.) Rioting ensues (how? Does her town go crazy? Are they mad? How do they know about the Horsemen if they’re rioting? Or are they rioting because the Horsemen are manipulating them to riot?), diseases ravage livestock, and murder rates skyrocket (where? In her town or the country or the world? Again, more specifics.). As the world dissolves around her (dissolves is not strong enough, you need punch here), she discovers the horrible origin of her powers: she’s the product of a wager between God and Lucifer. (This threw me for a loop. You never mentioned Lucifer. The Four Horsemen aren’t strictly in league with Lucifer - they’re simple the heralds of the end. However, if you’re using this as the reason for her powers, it’s your choice. My job is to crit the query, not the story.) She’s a pawn in their bet (how? Does she have to do something to win the bet? Who’s pawn is she; god or the devil?), and the winner (How does one win?) receives dominion over the souls of Earth.

Now she's the only one who can tip the scale of celestial rule (why is she the only one?) and force the riders back into their eternal prisons (Ah, that‘s why. Try to move this part up). Except that means sacrificing Alexareus. The riders have him, and they vow that if they have to go, so does her love. (This is a great ending. You've stated the stakes. Always end with a problem - something that needs to be solved.)

THE UNLEASHING, complete at 75,000 words, is a YA paranormal suspense sprinkled (do you want to say sprinkled, or maybe a more punchy word? Woven? Layered? Laced?) with steamy romance.

All in all, this is a decent query. I feel most of the confusing aspects are due to the story, and not the query itself. Let’s try and rewrite it with what we have here.

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High school senior Alita sees herself at Princeton; taking tests, meeting boys, not developing psychic powers, not crushing on a boy who saves her from a psycho who wants said powers, and definitely not unleashing the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

(Your first sentence needs to tell the agent who your MC is, and what your hook is. Blending these two can be tricky, but that’s exactly what you need to do in the first sentence. Make us like/relate to your character’s tone, and then tell us what the hook is. The most unique aspect. In this case, it’s our MC awakening the Four Horsemen. Again, there are so many elements in this book and some I don’t know since I didn’t read the book, and since we can’t change that, we’re going to work with the elements that make it stand out.)

The telekinetic abilities she’s developed on her eighteenth birthday aren’t just going to ruin her Princeton dreams - they’ve earned her a stalker who wants her powers, baited her, and used her lack of control over them to unleash the Four Horsemen. Murders, disease, and insanity ravages her town. But it’s not all doom and gloom - a dreamy boy named Alexareus tries to teach her to control her powers.

(Here we’ve outlined the consequences of the first paragraph - we’ve fleshed out things a bit. Not too much, not too little. Keep in mind you always need to weave how the story affects your MC. In this case, we kept the Princeton aspect in the forefront.)

But she can fix it all. She can send the Horsemen back to whatever stinking hellhole they came from. All it takes is sacrificing Alexareus.

The Horsemen will take her love with them.

(I didn’t elaborate on the god/devil bit, simply to keep the query punchy. In fact, you don't need to know about god/the devil at all in the query. Leave the logistics for the story. Again, ending with a question/the stakes is always good.)

THE UNLEASHING, complete at 75,000 words, is a YA paranormal suspense laced with a heaping helping of steamy romance.

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Overall, this was a great first query to start with - it shows many of the mistakes a beginning querier might make. Thank you Amanda for being a great sport, and I hope you've all learned something about making your queries punchier!

Also feel free to yell at me if you thought I was too harsh.

See you next Friday with another Punch My Query! If you wish to enter your query, please see this post for details.

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