Nov 2, 2014

NoQS Wrap Up

I want to take a moment to give a HUGE thank you to everyone who made Nightmare on Query Street a success. Agents, mentors, Co-hosts, and entrants, you are all AWESOME. We had a grand total of 81 requests from just 39 entries!!!

dancing animated GIF

Unfortunately, despite my all-star team, we were bested by SC and Michelle. No worries thought. We'll clap for them now, but there's always...

Next year


Hey! What's that....down there...

It's an a blog!

Everyone didn't get requests. That was one of my biggest fears when I was searching for entries. Admittedly, that fear was very real for me. I didn't JUST pick entries that I knew were going to get attention. I also picked entries that I felt DESERVED attention. Do I regret it? HELL NO! And you can quote me on that. I believe in all of my Monsters, and I know each of you will succeed. So, if you didn't get a request (or didn't get as many as you thought you would) just remember, a setback is a setup for a comeback.

Now, to the important stuff. My personal awards for my Monstrous Team.

Heartstrings Award: For Those Who Listen
 Mark, from the moment I read your query, I knew this would be one of those stories that pulled at my heartstrings. I'm a sucker for coming-of-age stories that deal with heavy topics. Your query pulled me right in, and your first 250 sealed the deal. There was never a moment where I doubted whether or not I wanted  you on my team. I hope to see a success story from you in the near future

Most Valuable Query Award: Autonomy

 Standing ovation to Clay, the official Monster MVP. I loved your query, but your first page is really what did it for me. Your voice and pacing is on point. You description is very well balanced, and even without reading your query, I would be very eager to keep reading. I wish you nothing but the best of luck, and I hope you get the pick of the litter when the requests start rolling in.

Personal Favorite Award: Superfail
 You were my last pick. I found you in one of the other host's 'maybe' folder. I'm not going to lie, I was a little afraid. You are the first graphic novel I've ever come across so I had absolutely no way of knowing if the formatting was correct, what was supposed to be included, etc. Even then, I knew this was something special. I really threw caution to the wind when it came to your entry because, dammit it was SO good and clever and funny. I want to read this, so give me a shout when it hits shelves. I don't expect to have to wait too long.

BOO Award: The Othersiders
 When I read Bureau of Otherside Occurrences and realized what the acronym was, I couldn't stop laughing. It's soooo perfect for this contest, and for your story. With my Halloween spirit on overdrive and your entry sounding like the perfect story to satisfy my fix, I needed it on my team. Mere, I wish you the best of luck with all your requests. Keep us in the look with your inevitable success story.

Spin A Phrase Award: The Emerald Eye
 Anne, you can spin a phrase like it's nobody's business. The picture you paint with your voice alone is phenomenal, and quite frankly, I'm stunned at the results of the agent round. I truly believe that we just didn't have the right agent in our arsenal to see your brilliance. I'm sure this isn't your first rodeo where agents are concerned, but don't give up. You have a exceptional story.

Loud Brilliance Award: Grandma Has Murder on her Mind
 I had a Quiet Brilliance award last year, but there nothing quiet about the brilliance of this entry. From your voice to your writing style, to your wit and humor, this cozy mystery has the full package. Alexis, you've got a gem here, and I wish more contest agents could have seen that. That being said, we only had a fraction of them participate. I'm certain others will see the brilliance of your story.

Ghoulish First Page Award: No Shortcuts
 Sheila, your first page was scary good! You perfectly captured the MG voice. I am TELLING were easily the three scariest words to hear as a child. I loved your premise, and as a sucker for time-travel, I'm eager to see what's in store for Sarah.

Humor Award:Mrs. Peterman's Bentley
 I think your main character is hilarious. She's like Mr. Wilson and the Bentley is Dennis the Menace. I'm super curious to know what Dennis the Menace would be like if aliens/alien tech was involved. I'm sure Mrs. Peterman's a riot. Best of luck with this!

Voice Award: The Midnight Flight of the Salem Magi
 Elliot, the voice in your query was the single-handed reason picking your entry for my team was a no brainer. It fits perfectly with your audience, and your opening line pulled me in and refused to let go. The fact that you threw in some history really sealed the deal. After reading your last line, I'm curious to know what comes next!

Never-Give-Up Award: Masquerade
 Michella, part of me always feels terrible when an entry doesn't get a request. When I choose entries for a contest, I don't take trends or agent wishlists into consideration because I believe that you're never really prepared for a phenomenal story, and that's what I think your story is. I wouldn't have picked it otherwise. Don't let these results get you down. There is an agent out there for you, and I'll be looking for your story on shelves every time I make a trip to the library.

Fear Award: The Pirate King and I
 You first page definitely deserves the fear award. Rita, your opening scene builds the suspense and fear felt in the moment flawlessly. As a huge fan of history--and pirates--you had me at your title. The rest was just icing on the cake. I wish you the best of luck with your career as a writer. I hope it's long and full of booty. Aarg! 

Adventure Award: Game On
 Rebecca, wow. You have successfully combined my two favorite pastimes (reading and video games) and mashed them into one exciting read. I'm super eager to see what adventures Jared, Aaron, and Maxine must venture through in order to shut down the game. Step aside Wreck-It Ralph, there's a new team of heroes in town!

Quiet Brilliance Award: Shade and Shadow
 I loved your first page. You voice was spot on and I liked Ari and her mom right out the gate. Even though I knew there were a lot of ghost stories out there, I felt yours was different from the ones I read, and I hoped NoQS agents would see that too. I was wrong, but that doesn't mean I was wrong :o) You've got a great story on your hands and the voice to tell it well. We didn't have the right agents for your genre, but I'm positive the right agent is out there. Don't give up. You've got a team of Monster that believe in you.


To all my Monsters: I wish you the best of luck with all your life and publishing endeavors. I chose each of your because I thought your writing was something special. Don't quit, don't give up, and don't compromise yourself just because others don't see your brilliance. You see it and I see it, but the former is all that matters.

If there's anything I can help you with, shoot me an email via my blog's 'contact me' page. I'll do my best to help.


Oct 28, 2014

The Agent Round is Here!!!


Are you guys excited? BECAUSE WE ARE!!

Below this post, you'll find the thirteen Monsters I picked for my team! 

You can head over to SC's and Michelle's blogs as well. (You don't really have too. We all know I have the winning team)

My team is so amazing...

Sorry everyone, but no commenting, cheerleading, etc. Only agents will be able to comment.



CHEER OVER ON TWITTER! We're going to be under the hashtag #NoQS and we will be having FUN. So vent, be nervous, cheer each other on, and hold hands over Twitter. One of the best parts of contests is seeing how the writer's community gathers and supports each other.

I'll be looking for all my Monsters there. I expect you to be roaring louder than the Minions and Spooks. We're MONSTERS. That's what we do!

For the next two days, agents will have fun ways to request in the contest.

They can SCREAM for a full request.
They can SHRIEK for a 50 page request.
They can SHIVER for a 10 page request.

And agents can make as many requests as they want! So go wild! We have some awesome talent for you to peruse.

GOOD LUCK EVERYONE!! Hope you all get a ton of frighteningly amazing requests!

And remember: Monsters Rule, Minions and Spooks drool!

Minions running scared Despicable Me 2 Free HD Wallpaper

Oct 27, 2014

NoQS Agent Round: MASQUERADE: YA Fantasy

Genre: YA Fantasy
Word Count: 80,000

My Main Character’s Most Fearsome Obstacle:
Jules’ most fearsome obstacle is her own grief. It overwhelms her to the point she’d rather not feel anything (conceal don’t feel…). She’s locked herself into a tiny Jules-sized hole where she plots her revenge, convinced it will bring her happiness. Because she’s been this way for years, she fears that she can’t change her ways now. She doesn’t know who she would be without the grief and the anger and the perpetual scowling.

Jules also fears: warm hugs, goat milk, and pet wolves that want their bellies rubbed.


The city of Ronan has been purged of magic. Queen Isabella likes to think so, anyway. But when Isabella murdered seven-year-old Jules’ parents, she unknowingly created a monster. Now grown, Jules has revenge on her mind and spent her life training to accomplish her murderous goal. Born of magical parents but completely ordinary, crafting herself into the perfect assassin is all she knows.

Unfortunately, when her plans go to hell on day two because of petty larceny, some swords, and a snooty prince, Jules needs to regroup. Enter Ulric, a magician, and his daughter, the larcenist. As fate would have it, they want Queen Isabella dead, too. In fact, Ulric has a whole crew of magicians ready to go into battle and take back the city. They just need Jules’ help to get themselves into fighting shape.

As Jules trains and plots alongside them, bodies are turning up at an alarming rate, only crystalizing her resolve. This has to be Isabella’s work. However, Mr. Snooty Prince doesn’t think so and as their paths continue to cross around every plague-infested corner, Jules is terrified to admit she might be falling for her target’s son. Worse, what if he’s right and the bodies don’t trace back to the castle? Jules thought she had her lines clearly defined: magic, good; queen, evil. But now she’s not so sure and in too deep, with the way out eleven years behind her.
First 250 Words:

The Wanted posters were still up.
What a homecoming, Jules thought, and such attention to detail. She tore the damned drawing from its tree, cringing at the sight of her seven-year-old toothy grin.
She kept moving, forcing the creeping feeling of familiarity into oblivion. She had not returned to Ronan for sentimental reasons. She was here for a job, though that was technically untrue as no one was paying her. But if Jules looked hard enough, she could have found several people willing to dole out a fortune for the swift murder of Queen Isabella.

Just no one dumb enough. Killing queens was a hard business and even Jules knew enough to avoid a suicide mission.

This was revenge.

The cottages seemed smaller, but she also wasn’t four feet tall anymore. Children were running barefoot, laughing and shrieking, probably to distract themselves from the rattling of their stomachs. Cruel really, when the market was just ahead and smelled as enticing as new sewage did (which was better than old sewage).

A ball landed in her path. The kids skidded to a halt.

Jules imagined she didn’t look very approachable, with a permanent scowl and numerous blades hanging off her. She straightened her spine and stepped around the villainous red orb, as if it were Isabella reborn and not a harmless plaything.

The dirt path bled into the cobblestones and then she was in the market. Her feet ached from the journey—she’d had to sell her horse halfway through—and now they were being trampled on. Joy.

NoQS Agent Round: THE PIRATE KING AND I: YA Historical Adventure

NoQS Agent Round: SUPERFAIL: MG Humor

Oct 25, 2014

NoQS Agent Round: FOR THOSE WHO LISTEN:YA Contemp.

Genre: YA Contemporary
Word Count: 51,000

My Main Character's Most Fearsome Obstacle:

Aidan's not afraid of jumping off the Ben Franklin Bridge—what really frightens him is living. He's been working up the balls to jump since his dad committed suicide a year ago on Christmas, and at this point, death looks like the only option to escape his grief. He expects it to be difficult—but what he doesn't expect are the two other teens who show up at the bridge with intentions to die on the same night.


It's two hours to Christmas, a hurricane is brewing, and seventeen-year-old Aidan is going to jump off the Ben Franklin Bridge. Really, he's got perfect timing—his dad did the same exactly a year ago, and in his mind it'll be the present his mom, who's already moved on, always wanted. But then he realizes he's not alone. Two other teens had the same idea.

Out of empathy for their spectacularly horrible situations, Aidan talks them down and tries to escort them home. But when the storm forces the three to take shelter under a closed-for-the-holiday supermarket's awning, shy transgender boy Chris helps them break into the store. While waiting out the hurricane, Aidan and Chris bond over food fights with bread products and trust falls off aisle dividers, while Mara flirts with Aidan by quoting Sylvia Plath and indie rock. For a moment it doesn't matter that they'll all have to face their families when the rain stops; for the first time in a while, Aidan feels alive.

But when Chris and Mara fight, things quickly turn hostile. Soon he and Mara are at each other's throats, and all three begin to rethink not dying when they first tried. So when Chris tries to die a second time, Aidan and Mara have to work through their animosity to help save his life—and their own in the process.

Told from Aidan's, Chris's, and Mara's points of view, FOR THOSE WHO LISTEN is a YA contemporary novel complete at 51,000 words.

First 250 words:

Between the screaming of my thoughts and the wind, I almost didn't notice two other people trying to kill themselves alongside me.

My body convulsed, a constant and slightly annoying reminder that I was, in fact, doing this very thing I'd dreamed of for a year. When I regained control of my muscles and turned my head in the direction of the oblivious passing cars, I noticed the first person, a girl. Close enough so I could make out her face through the hair whipping all around. Her expression was painted in shades of shadow and abject terror, and perfect black sneakers with cherry-red laces tied in big bows peered out over the ledge like scared kids from under a blanket. On my left, someone else—short and silhouetted—stood, but seeing this one wasn't as big a shock after the first. Mostly a pang of pity took precedence where the nausea had been in my stomach.

What were they doing here? Well, I knew the answer, but why did they want to die two hours to Christmas? Most people I knew were ironically waiting for Santa; why weren't they?

Why wasn't I?

I jerked my head back down and decided two things: what they did was none of my business, and I would not lose my resolve. They were just two other people actively trying to die like me. Two other lost, confused, lonely people who were fed up with the world and trying to leave it. And much as I only wished harm to myself, I had no right to stop them.

NoQS Agent Round: GAME ON: Upper MG Mystery/Sci fi

Title: GAME ON! (previously MASH-UP)
Genre: Upper Middle Grade Mystery/Science Fiction
Word Count: 67,700 

My Main Character's Most Fearsome Obstacle:

My most fearsome obstacle?  My little sister, Maxine. 

Normally, Maxine was just annoying, but one day my science teacher handed out these sunglasses that turned everyone wearing them into their favorite avatar.  Imagine a mash-up of every popular video game character out there taking over your school.  Awesome!  My gaming bud, Aaron, and I were psyched for an epic battle.  But Maxine freaked and set off to shut down the game.  Then Aaron admitted he thought Maxine was cute and she brainwashed him into helping her rather than hanging with me.  Not cool. 

My little sister – such a nightmare.


Twelve-year-old Jared lives for video games. Science? Not so much. So when he walks into school to find his science teacher handing out sunglasses as part of a marketing trial, he’s suspicious. The sunglasses seem like just a cool accessory until the system that runs them is secretly activated. Suddenly, everyone wearing them appears as their favorite game avatar. Laser guns, fireballs, and swords arm Thompson Middle School for a real life video game mash-up. It’s Jared’s dream come true.

But before Jared can jump into the fray, he has to find his little sister. Maxine’s a bookworm, not a gamer. Her straight-A report card won’t help her fend off the ninjas and space marines battling in the halls. Jared would love to see Maxine try to take on the gamers, but Mom’s punishment would be extreme…no electronics. When Jared finds Maxine, she refuses to hide. She’s decided the game is trouble, and searches for a way to shut it down. She’s even crazy enough to expect Jared’s help.

Jared’s first instinct is to stick her someplace safe so he can play. But as the school descends into chaos and people vanish, Jared has a decision to make: get his game on, or help his little sister on her mission to take down the Best. Game. Ever.

First 250:

Lots of guys called themselves gamers, but how serious were they? Me, I was dead serious.

When my best bud, Aaron, and I started playing LEGO: The Lord of the Rings, I read the books. Yeah, that was plural. The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King. That’s a lot of pages.

My first plan was to watch the movies, but Mom didn’t go for it. “We’ll buy the DVD’s as a reward after you read the books,” she’d said.

Most guys would’ve given up right there. They’d play the game clueless, never knowing what was coming. Not me. After reading the books and watching the movies, I was pretty much a Lord of the Rings expert. Everyone at school who plays the game comes to me when they get stuck.

But today was Tuesday. There were four full school days until Aaron and I could get into a serious game marathon. The weight of class time and homework between me and Friday afternoon made my feet drag.

I trudged through the steel doors of Thompson Middle School, then froze. Aaron slammed into my back, then followed my gaze to the center of the lobby and snorted.

My tall, balding, evil science teacher stood there wearing rock star sunglasses. Black ones, with mirrored lenses and frames that wrapped around the sides. Mr. Sykes held a second pair high over his head. He yelled something I couldn’t make out over the start-of-school-day confusion, but a crowd of kids stood listening to him.

NoQS Agent Round: NO SHORTCUTS: MG Sci fi

Genre: MG science fiction
Word Count: 42,000

My Main Character's Most Fearsome Obstacle:

“My most fearsome obstacle?” That would be my big sister, Mann. She only pays attention to me if I grab her phone. I need it for homework, but when I slightly-accidentally peeked at her messages, she went ballistic. I've been thinking a lot about that since I got caught in this stupid interdimensional rift. I feel guilty for bugging Mann so much, especially because I've just realized something: my only way home is to get Mann to listen to me. And she's going to be mad. Nothing, not even the rift, is scarier than a mad Mann.


Fifth grade didn't teach Sarah how to be homeless. She had to figure it out herself. The worst part isn't that she has to steal food or sleep in a doghouse; it’s that everyone who knows her is disappearing.

The only person left who can help is the last person she’d choose: Mr. Gomes, the crazy old man who shouts at squirrels and pops your ball if it lands on his lawn. But he’s got a spare room, hot food, and a plan for Sarah to get her life back.

A Cold War weapon Gomes invented is eroding the barriers between worlds, causing Sarah to wake each morning in a different version of her hometown. When Gomes tested the weapon 35 years ago, he also created another anomaly: time wells opened up near the test site, connecting Sarah’s present-day town to that fateful morning in 1981. Now Gomes is desperate to send Sarah on a mission – back to her own dimension, and back in time – to stop his younger self.

All Sarah needs to do is jump back to 1981, take on paranoid military bosses in their secure compound, and enlist the help of her own seriously annoyed big sister who gets dragged along for the ride. If Sarah can stop the weapon, the old man swears she’ll get home: right time, right dimension. If she fails, millions more people will end up just like her, never waking in the same world twice. 

First 250:

I am not hard to get along with. Honest. But the last time I ever walked home with Mann, the way she shouted at me, you'd think I was the most annoying sister in the universe. Ok, so I probably shouldn't have messed with her phone. And I could've been more helpful putting up posters. But you can’t blame me for stomping on the ice-puddles.

They only crunch like this right at the end of winter, so you've got to do them when you see them. The wide puddles with white ice make the best pops, big and hollow like a drum. The shallow ones you can just scuff through and they crack like Rice Krispies. I had a whole string of them lined up and ready when my sister screamed at me like she was being mauled. If you ask me, sixth-graders get way too worked-up about stuff.

“SARAH! Come ON!” Mann was way ahead, leaning against the next telephone pole, holding the flapping poster with one hand. “If you don't quit it and start helping me, I am TELLING!”

“Just four more!” I jumped through them snap-crackle-pop like hopscotch, then I ran as fast as I could. When I reached her I was panting.

Mann stuck her hand out, back over her shoulder. “Thumbtacks.” 

I rattled the box out of my backpack, chose four to drop into her palm and watched her spear the poster at the corners. She stood back to look at it and wiped her hands on her jeans.

Oct 24, 2014

NoQS Agent Round: SHADE AND SHADOW: YA Contemp. Fantasy

Genre: YA Contemporary Fantasy
Word Count: 80,000

My Main Character's Most Fearsome Obstacle:

I once had a bite of sugar-free cake on my Old-School's 67th birthday. Never again. Sugar-free must be what party planners serve in hell.


After moving to the tiny Texas swamptown of Uncertain, sixteen-year-old Ari Jones meets the very charming and very dead Samael Lowood. Great. Just when she thought she'd gotten her head trips under control. But as it turns out, Sam is not a hallucination: he's a real live ghost. Ari can't help but feel relieved. Hallucinations? Hell no. Actual ghosts? That could be interesting.

But even gentlemanly ghosts have agendas, and Sam's is a grave one. He wants Ari to find something called a Nanorian, a demon's heart hidden over a hundred years ago.

Forced into the search when three hellish sisters kidnap her father, Ari discovers death doesn't always mean the end. With Sam's help she sets out to find the Nanorian and rescue her father. And when Ari learns the Nanorian puts anything within the grasp of whomever knots it around their neck, she'll have to choose carefully. Even if the only choices are bad ones.

First 250 words:

It wasn't a dark and stormy night. It wasn't even late afternoon. Despite that, the sight looming on the horizon fit perfectly into a ghost story. It was a house: dark, dreary, and desolate. The windows peered out like gloomy eyes, and the front steps were barely visible through piles of brown leaves. Bare trees were spaced evenly on either side of the driveway. They would be pretty come spring, but right now they resembled disfigured hands begging the sun for warmth.

"What do you think, Ari?" Judith Jones parked the car and turned to her daughter. "A little paint, maybe a garden, and it’ll be perfect."

Ari didn't mirror her mother's good mood. She bit back a sardonic laugh and turned to stare out the window. Her mother, gardening. Right.

Judith threw open her door and jumped out into the chilly air like an enthusiastic child. She hugged her arms around her middle and smiled up at the house. After a moment, she motioned for Ari to join her. "Just look at it," she said as Ari shuffled over. "It's calling your name. Can you hear it? Mariaaan."

"Mom, you know I hate it when you call me that," Ari mumbled. She kicked a clod of dirt, expecting it to skitter across the ground. It stuck to her toe instead.

"Of course I know, sweetie. It's the house calling you that." She gave Ari's foot a playful nudge with her own. "And stop getting mud on your shoes."

NoQS Agent Round: AUTONOMY: YA Thriller

Genre: YA Thriller
Word Count: 75,000

My Main Character's Most Fearsome Obstacle:

Jason's most fearsome obstacle is his own mind. If he could, he would tear apart the people who abandoned him and his friends in the desert, but signs indicate that he may be on their side. His kidnappers seem to know his every move, and it forces him to question his own sanity.


The researchers told seventeen-year-old Jason that after spending six months in their danger-free study, his family’s money problems would go away for life. Less than a day in, the cat-like equivalent of Frankenstein’s monster tries to maul him to death.

Dumped onto the plains of the African savanna—in the heart of the study—Jason dodges death and dismemberment until he joins a group of participants who have been fighting to survive for months. A trip to the study was a one-way ticket, and no one knows the study’s real purpose. Only that life will end in either a violent mauling or a freak accident.

When Jason kills a fellow participant in self-defense, a tattoo hidden on the kid’s body suggests the impossible—that Jason may be helping their kidnappers. The group questions who Jason really is, and soon Jason is questioning his own sanity.

Trekking across the African plains searching for a way out, Jason follows a desperate group who questions him at every turn. And while they must work together to escape before the study kills them all, a question plagues Jason during their search. Is he helping his friends, or trying to kill them?

First 250:

Jason didn’t drink, but he assumed this was what a hangover felt like.

A pile of mush had replaced his brain, and his body itched with sweat. The lazy whirling in his vision slowed to a stop, but the sun’s glare still poked at his eyes like needles.

A metal cage in the middle of a field didn’t serve as the best place to sleep, but he hadn’t been given a choice. His back felt like the testing center for a hammer factory. Sitting up, he put a hand on the steel to support himself, but pulled it back with a hiss through his teeth. The sun had turned the surface into a skillet.

He immediately hated where he was. The air was hot and humid, wrapping him in a cocoon and making the fuzziness in his head worse. He had no clue which country he was in, but it had to be far away from home.

A desperate voice yelled in his direction.

He moved to his feet, soles clanking on hollow steel as he tried to find the source of the noise. Dead grass surrounded the cage, wind bending the stalks with a giant, invisible hand. The walls must have disconnected while he slept, serving as four ramps to the cracked dirt and weeds below. A backpack and a spear lay beside him.

The last wisps of sedative started to fade, and he focused on the nearest landmark—a lonely clump of trees a hundred feet away.

NoQS Agent Round: GRANDMA HAS MURDER ON HER MIND: Adult Cozy Mystery

Genre: Adult Cozy Mystery
Word Count: 70,000

My Main Character's Most Fearsome Obstacle:

Her mother. Concetta Liberatore is Milton's all-star, all-powerful realtor. With a senator's perfect jet black bob and the countenance of a caring gynecologist, she is the kind of woman you confide in. After 20 years of going in and out of every home in town, Concetta has something on pretty much everyone. She isn't afraid to use her secrets to get her way, no matter who she destroys. In fact, Concetta seems almost giddy at the prospect of ruining her own daughter and mother when their murder investigation gets in the way of a sale.


After a childhood smothered in red sauce, Anna Liberatore expects her Grandma Rose to live life one magnificent plate of manicotti at a time. But the tenacious septuagenarian drops her fork and can only think of murder when her best friend Mona is thriving one day and found dead the next. The rest of their sleepy Hudson Valley town finds the suggestion of foul play ridiculous. To them, Mona was a sickly shrew whose time had come, and Rose is a foolish old lady terrified of her own mortality.

With nowhere else to turn, Rose asks Anna, a big-city attorney, to figure out what happened. Anna refuses to get involved, especially when it means crossing her old high school flame, now the local police sergeant. But when she learns that the victim, a militant Atkins dieter, left her front door open and supposedly gorged on gloriously carb-loaded cookies for her last meal, Anna teams up with Rose to dive in and prove that Mona was not home alone the night she died.

The women navigate a veritable buffet of age-old feuds and raging gossips to reveal that half the town secretly had it out for Mona. Anyone from the victim's seemingly perfect family, to the kindly senior bus driver, to a couple of shady antique dealers could have killed her. With Mona's body set for cremation and her estate scheduled for a raucous town auction, Anna and Rose must race to discover the truth and get justice for their friend before the evidence is lost forever.

GRANDMA HAS MURDER ON HER MIND is a 70,000-word cozy mystery, complete with Grandma Rose's favorite recipes.

First 250:

Whenever Grandma Rose called, Anna went running. Not because Rose was about to die, or because her furnace was acting up again, or because Rose thought she saw a mouse and spent four hours circling the block to avoid a rodent showdown. Anna went running because if she didn't, she would never hear the end of it. If there is an afterlife, Anna will have a chubby little Italian lady dishing her meatballs dripping in red sauce from a bottomless pot saying, "Would it have killed you to call?" On a loop. For eternity.

Anna assumed it was another false alarm when Rose left her a wild voicemail one night in late October. She still dragged herself onto a bus when she woke the next afternoon and headed upstate from Manhattan to Milton, her Hudson Valley hometown.

Ringing Rose's door bell, Anna heard a familiar "coming, coming, coming" chant followed by a symphony of lock clicks and clangs that would make the fellas at Fort Knox beam with pride. Anna flicked her menthol into the neighbor's birdbath just before the door flung open to reveal her grandmother.

"What are you doing here?" Rose said.

"Are you kidding? Your message said 'Get here immediately.' What's going on?" Anna said.

Rose rubbed her hands together and looked at the ground. When she faced Anna again, tears streamed down her cheeks.

"It's nothing really, nothing you need to worry about at least. Just my friend Mona. She's dead. Murdered. End of story."

NoQS Agent Round: OTHERSIDES: MG Paranormal Fantasy

Genre: MG Paranormal Fantasy
Word Count: 48,000

My Main Character's Most Fearsome Obstacle:

I see ghosts when other people can't. Which wouldn't be so bad, if it weren't for the fact that the ghosts I encounter became spirits because they were murdered. My parents put me in therapy when I was six, and I learned to stop telling others what I saw so they’d think I was normal. Now, I finally have the chance to be with others like me, others who see the things I see. Only, I’m not sure that’s any better. I don’t like seeing ghosts. So why would I want to spend an entire summer surrounded by them?


Twelve-year-old Sebastian—Seb—Silver has seen ghosts his entire life. But when he arrives at Camp Wanagi, he’s not sure he’s ready to spend an entire summer learning more about the restless dead.

Run by the Bureau of Otherside Occurrences, Camp Wanagi brings together kids from all over the world who possess paranormal abilities. Surrounded by people who can see the ghosts of dogs, tell when houses are haunted, hear the pleas of the broken-hearted dead, and even draw out the anger in spirits, Seb realizes that he’s finally found a place where he belongs. But Camp Wanagi is a training ground for future members of the Otherside. Agents of the Bureau devote their lives to tracking and freeing spirits, and Seb doesn’t know if that’s a future he really wants.

Between learning about the art of ghost tracking, studying the history of former Otherside Agents, and completing paranormal camp activities, Seb has to decide whether he’s prepared to spend his life seeking out the dead. And the sooner he figures it out, the better, because Seb only has until the end of the summer before he and his friends are faced with their final task—contacting a spirit and setting it free.

First 250:

Once, when he was very small, Seb believed that nothing came after death.

If he reached back to the edges of his memory, he could vaguely recall stormy nights where thunder bellowed, tree branches cracked against windowpanes, and a tiny version of himself believed that when things died, they were simply gone. Even back then, he understood the difference between living and dead. He simply understood it wrong.

Long ago, he thought the spirits he saw were living people. Now, as he leaned across the threshold of the old, crooked house, he knew better.

“Hello?” Seb peered inside the shadowed entranceway in a vain attempt to see anything of the gloomy room before him. He took a step forward, his foot pressing down onto a floorboard that groaned under his weight. “Anyone here?”

His voice dissolved into the dust that clung to the walls and danced through the musty air. Seb took the final step inside. His eyes strained against the dark, and his body shuddered with unease when the front door closed slowly behind him, as if it were on some kind of automatic switch. A noise like thudding footsteps from above disturbed the eerie quiet of the space, and he stilled, tilting his head up towards the low-hanging ceiling. He wondered if the sound came from the house, from another person on the second floor, or from something that used to be a person, something now eager for a target to haunt.

NoQS Agent Round: THE EMERALD EYE: Adult Mystery

Genre: Adult Mystery
Word Count: 76,000

My Main Character’s Most Fearsome Obstacle:

Colt Ryder was named after the gun and makes her living as a hired one. Sporting a pistol in her bra-holster, she’s not afraid of the bad guys. She’s more concerned with outpacing the guys she works with: both at Daddy’s security firm and back home on the ranch with her brother Win. She doesn’t want anyone, from ranch hand to body man, to see her as chicken. She isn’t. Or to think that she might need them. She doesn’t. Self-reliant Colt would do anything not to ask for help—especially from a man.


Named after the gun, Colt Ryder makes her living as a hired one. In 2011, the Texan crosses the pond to protect the Queen of England on her historic visit to Ireland. Colt’s sweep of Dublin Castle yields a letter promising a long-lost treasure—and the hunt for the Irish Crown Jewels is on!

Ireland needs to stake its claim to the regalia before the British monarch arrives and asserts hers, leaving Colt one week to track a century-cold trail. And she’s not the only dog in the hunt. The Irish Republican Army, rogue British spies, and the Knights of St. Patrick target Colt as a means to the gems. Someone threatens Her Majesty, too, reining Colt back to her primary mission, as a bomb ticks down to a deadly royal welcome…

Colt reckons the castle archivist might be the last man she should trust. Dec O’Brian boasts a stockpile of secrets, a girl in every pub, and a lass in every library. But Colt needs him for his expertise and has no time to question his loyalties—in love or in politics. They suss out clues hidden everywhere from the Book of Kells to Ireland’s favorite painting. Southern heat meets Celtic cool, and Colt lets down her guard.

Promising the key unlocking the treasure, Dec escorts her into a crypt and…Bam! The door slams shut, the tomb floods, and Dec has vanished like a ghost.

Colt is in far too deep. And the whole thing is about to blow up.

First 250:

Colt Rose Ryder was fixin’ to lose an eye.

And the fascinator she wore was not going to help. Although the contents of her Flashbang bra-holster just might.

While the rest of the security personnel disappeared beneath the shade of English Field Maples, Colt stood out as bright as a bluebonnet. She didn’t usually sport headgear shaped like a flying saucer, but at least her ridiculous half-hat came equipped with a camera, mic, and receiver. She should ask Win to upgrade her Stetson.

As a redhead in bleached-blond Texas, Colt was used to standing out. She just had a hard time standing still.

She’d been admitted to Westminster Abbey, not as a guest for the Royal Wedding, but as protection against potential threats. They hadn’t brought 25-foot-tall trees indoors for show. Those sturdy maples could be knocked down into horizontal beam barriers, if necessary.

She ground the heels of her boots into the chessboard tile and scanned the guests. Maybe one day, she’d walk down the aisle rather than sweeping the perimeter. For now, she was wed to the job. Always a bodyguard, never a bride.

Colt didn’t have to look up to know that she was also being watched. Like her brother was going to let her out of his sight. Win remotely piloted the EyeBallTM flying overhead. Daddy had invented the spherical aerial surveillance camera, and Win had lovingly modified the Eye, adding facial recognition and a weapons system.

“Colt—I’ve got something!” he hollered through her earpiece.


Genre: MG Fantasy
Word Count: 55,000

My Characters' Most Fearsome Obstacle:

Like most young magi in colonial New England, Ark and Swanette fear two things: being caught by witch hunters and a cookie famine. While Tribulation James, royal witch hunter and Jerk-In-Chief, plagues their days with the aim of putting them in chains, it is the legend of the Great Cookie Famine that haunts their nightmares. According to their mother, the Headless Horseman, having lost the ability to eat cookies, prowls the night intent upon stealing all the sweets in New England. If he cannot have them, no one else will be allowed to enjoy their doughy goodness either. Whether trapped in chains or an America without cookies, which is no true America, they can only hope to never see such dark times.


Ark and Swanette are under a curse that most parents would wish for— they cannot tell lies. While this curse should keep them out of trouble, it's a recipe for fleeing town fast and often when you're thirteen-year-old magi descended from the Salem witches.

With royal witch hunter Tribulation James hounding their trail, the twins escape to Boston in hopes of finding safe haven within the colonial metropolis. Instead, they uncover a plot to blackmail New England's magi: any witch or wizard caught supporting the patriots will have their names released to the public. Although Ark and Swanette were taught by their mother to stay hidden, they know the terror of being chased by mobs and can't abandon their fellow magi to such a fate.

As Tribulation James and the redcoats marshal their power to crush the patriots, Ark and Swanette must form an alliance with Abigail Adams, leader of the Boston Magi Society, to save New England's magi. Because when witches, wizards, and dragons are coming, it's one if by land, two if by sea, and three if by air.

First 250:

At dusk I’m scheduled to burn at the stake. I don't like to brag, but I'm really good at it. This will be my third time. It’s made me something of a celebrity around New England. While burning magi has always attracted large crowds, I like to think I’ve taken the spectacle to a new level.

Thanks to my reputation, the villagers have packed the town square despite the short notice. A local baker rambles through the crowd, hefting a food tray overhead. "Cookies and freshly baked bread! Enjoy your favorite foods while you enjoy the show."

I’d wave the baker down, but I’m chained to the stake atop the log pyre. Instead, I hop in place to rattle the chains. "Do you have any oatmeal cookies?"

The baker raises his bushy eyebrows. "Kid, no one likes oatmeal cookies."

"Well, I do."

He shakes his head. "In that case, no one but you likes oatmeal cookies."

I let out a huff that turns to fog in the cold air. "I’m surrounded by Philistines."

They form a crowd that stretches toward the horizon until their faces begin to blur in the fading light. I can see latecomers scrambling up ladders to reach the nearby rooftops. A few have even taken the time to bring telescopes.

Comparing the town’s size to that of the crowd, every person in the region must have come to find out if I can honestly survive being burned alive. Thank Goodness. If everyone is watching me, no one is searching for my friends.

NoQS Agent Round: MRS. PETERMAN'S BENTLEY: Adult Sci-fi

Genre: Adult Sci-fi
Word Count: 70,000

My Main Character's Most Fearsome Obstacle: The Internet! Mona Peterman can thank Twitter, Instagram, and text-messaging for every noisy, littering tourist who's on her lawn trying to get a better look at the mysterious car in her garden.


For years, 81-year-old Mona Peterman has stubbornly refused to give back any toy the neighborhood kids accidentally toss over the fence and into her prize-winning tomato garden. But when a traveling alien accidentally drops a broken transporter into her yard, Mona finds her latest acquisition is more than she can handle. Mona plays with the device and causes a 1925 Bentley to materialize in her garden overnight. Poking front-end first out of a bed of tomatoes, the quarter-million dollar vintage car quickly becomes an oddity that draws unwelcome sightseers to Mona’s lawn.

Nothing Mona does with the device makes the car disappear and digging it out would destroy her lawn. As a result, Mona becomes an unwilling internet sensation as well as the target of a nosy reporter and a jealous garden rival looking for a chance to unseat her as the town's tomato-growing champion. But the toughest blow of all is how her own adult daughter reacts when Mona finally tells her about the alien device. Realizing she will have to track down the alien to prove her sanity, Mona finds herself in a race against time to get rid of the car and get her quiet life back.

Mrs. Peterman’s Bentley is a 70,000-word Science Fiction novel born out of my love for old cars, gardening, and the town of New London, Connecticut, in which this story takes place.

FIRST 250:

It seemed hard to believe, but there it was. Rising out of the earth between the six-foot-tall tomato plants were the smooth, rounded ends of two front fenders, twin headlights and tires. The paint job on the Bentley (for Mona Peterman was certain it was a Bentley) was a deep maroon that sparkled faintly where the light hit it in and out of the tomato plant shadows. Where the vines weren’t folding over it, they were wrapped around the car like a lattice, as if protecting it.

“Goodness.” Mona walked around her large, thick garden, peering in between the vines without actually stepping inside. “Goodness me.”

The car had only been in Mona’s garden since late last night, and now, by the light of day, she could get a good look at all the damage it had done to her bed. It was buried at an angle, and the front poked out of the ground as if it were a plane on takeoff. The car ended and the dirt began at the bottom of the front wheels.

Mona took off her gloves and flung them in irritation. They ricocheted off the car’s shiny paint job and slid to the earth, getting lodged between two thick beefsteak tomatoes. Mona sighed as she began picking through fallen pieces of fruit and stacking them on a windowsill.

This was going to set her back considerably in the upcoming Field of Greens tomato competition.

Oct 20, 2014

Monsters of NoQS 2014

Taking on the slush pile is always a daunting task. I fall in love with SO many entries knowing that I only have a limited number of spaces to fill. This year was no different. I know the last word any of you want to hear is 'subjective', but that's truly the best word to describe how I approached slush.

Whether you made it or not, don't give up and don't be discouraged. A good friend of mine always says, 'A setback is a setup for a comeback'. Remember that, and there is nothing in this world that can stop you

Be sure to check Michelle's blog and SC's blog for their picks. 

Now to reveal the Monsters of Nightmare on Query Street 2014!

In no particular order:

Shade and Shadow
For Those Who Listen
Grandma Has Murder on Her Mind
Mrs. Peterman's Bentley
The Midnight Flight of the Salem Magi
The Pirate King and I
The Emerald Eye
No Shortcuts

A new class of Monsters is here. 

Keep an eye on your inbox. Mentors will be contacting you through the email you used to enter the contest. If that's not your actual email because a friend mailed yours in, you'd better let me know. Each entry will get one mentor assigned to them. 

Please return your revised entry using the same format to the contest email by noon on October 26th.  We need that time to swat down unruly formatting and create the posts before the agent round. Please do not be late. We will go live without you.

Come back on October 28th to see the agents Shriek, Scream and Shiver!