Jan 23, 2014

The Querying Process (in gif form)

When someone decides to become a novelist, no one tells them that writing the novel is actually the EASY part. Don't get me wrong, writing a full-length book is one of the hardest feats known to man. But, in the scope of the publishing process...the publishing journey, if you will...it's like taking candy from a baby.

Its like taking candy from a baby
Well, maybe not this baby.
So you've slaved over your novel for months or years--or even decades! You've worked just as long and hard on your query and synopsis. You have everything in place and all your CPs and Betas are sure your work is going to knock the socks off anyone who reads it. I mean, you have a unique plot, 3 dimensional characters, the the most epic of

Get it? Plot twists :o)

You've opened up QueryTracker in one tab, your email in another, and Absolute Write in a third tab. You're going fishing for agents and you just KNOW you're going to snag a big one. You're going to make a catch so impressive no one else is going to believe it.

You send out fifteen twenty queries because you fucking KNOW every agent's going to love your story. You aren't going to be vying for agent's attention. They're going to be vying for yours. They're going to be begging YOU to be their client. 

Two days go past and you get your first email. You wave it off. You're not going to bother reading it just yet. I mean, you know it's a full request so why bother with it. There will be more where that came from. A week passes. You've got three more responses. You know it's about time to check em out. I mean, you've kept them on the edge of their seat long enough. You've got THEM checking their inbox every five minutes. You do a little dance before heading over to your computer.

You take a gander at your inbox and browse through the email previews. The preview doesn't give you much info so you open the first email, then the second...then the third and forth. Rejections. Your heart drops. But not much because four rejections isn't enough to jar your confidence. I mean, those agents responded wwaayy too fast. They probably didn't even read your work. They were probably like...

You're a little flustered but you don't let that get you down. You wait another week. Silence. Utter Silence. Your inbox is completely naked, minus the BS gmail or yahoo sends you. You start to sweat a bit. It's not a panic because it's only been two weeks. But your writing is awesome. They should have gotten back to you by now. You go over to QueryTracker and check the comments.

Oh hell to the naw, you think. That person sent their query after yours and they already got a response. This is bull. They forgot about me. They didn't get it. They're dissing me. They didn't like my work. I'm a terrible writer. My book isn't as good as a thought. Shit.

Poor kid

No worries. You're going to go write something even better. You bury your head in you newest WIP for two weeks, not even bothering to check your email. Between work, school, writing, and your social life, looking for an agent completely slips your mind.

Until that one day...

You open up your email account and see you have eight replies. Eight. EIGHT! You're afraid to look through them. You're afraid they might be rejections like the last time. You're afraid that this novel might end up like your last one. Shelved. Collecting dust. You start to question your abilities as a writer. You're not good enough. You suck. You'll never make it. But there is that voice in the back of your head that begs to differ. You know you have what it takes. You know your idea is brilliant if someone...anyone...would just take the time of day to read it.

But you can't put this off any more. You have to open the email. You have to know...

Nothing but rejection.

It's crippling. You want to cry. You want to scream. You want to voice your frustration to all the agents who rejected your work. You want to beg them to give you a chance. But you know you can't. That's unprofessional. Not only that but you know they won't look twice at you. They'd know they made the right choice, even if you know they didn't.

You file those email in your 'Rejection' folder while thinking about self-publishing. There are no gatekeepers in the world of self-publishing. Breaking into that world doesn't require the validation of someone you don't even know.

But just as you're about to close out of your email, your phone buzzes its email notification. You click refresh. The email pops up. From the preview, you read, Please send me the full of...

In the sea of rejection you've just swam out of, you think, where the hell did that come from?

No. Seriously. Where DID that come from.

You send off your manuscript and file the email in your 'Request' folder. First one! You know it's going to be a long wait. The agent is one of your top choices. You know they have a hellacious slush pile and it's going to take 6 to 8 weeks for them to get back to you.

You wait. You're a patient person. You worry. Because now you have a lot of time for that. You hope they get to chapter five because you're sure they'll be hooked from there. That's where one of your many twists occur. All they have to get to is chapter five.

Those words practically become a mantra...a prayer. Dear God, just let her read to chapter five. If she gets to chapter five I'll never ask you for anything else.

Two weeks pass. Those weeks are filled with three rejections and two partials from agents you want...but not as much as the agent who is considering your full. You're unsure what to think. You wonder if you truly are good enough to make it in such a competitive field. The question presses on your mind night and day. The moment you gain even a morsel of confidence, you find an error in your story. You become confident that the agent is going to reject your work because of that one, STUPID mistake. 

You lose hope. 

You break down.

computer crying

You want to cry, but you refuse to allow yourself tears. You stone your heart and you get back to working on your WIP.

Just as you're finishing up the fifth chapter, your phone rings. It's a 212 number. Probably a bill collector. You don't answer it. It rings again. Same number. Geez, these bastards are persistent. 

You: Hello.

Agent: Hi. This is Awesome Agent from Awesome Agent Literary. Is Awesome Writer around?

It's the agent who requested your full. HOLY SHIT.

Agent: I read you novel and I loved it. I especially loved the twist at chapter five. I was hooked before, but that hooked me even more. I'd like to offer you representation.

And that is the moment you become a Pokemon trainer.

Ash catches the legendary AWESOME AGENT!

The truth: This post could have ended in tears and depression. The agent who has your full could have left you with a form rejection, and the two partials you have out could have ended with no response. The road to publication is not for the feint or weak of heart. You will questions yourself, you'll want to quit, you'll be driven to the point of making a rash decision (vanity press or an extortionate agents) just to feel like you've made it.

You have to be strong enough to fight against those feelings. You have to be strong enough to persevere.

 I wish every journey could end in success and happiness, but the fact is, many don't. If you take the first steps of this long long journey, you have to be okay with never reaching the end.

You have to be.

Jan 22, 2014

Natasha's Interview with Pooja Menon

As promised. This is the One on One interview that should have happened on the blog. As you know (and if you don't, check previous post) the interview had a few issues so was conducted over the phone. This is the transcript of the conversation between Natasha, winner of the One on One contest, and Pooja Menon, agent at Kimberley Cameron and Associates.
What are key attributes you like to see in a query that compel you to make a request for additional pages?
It should be one page. When I read the first paragraph, it should introduce me to the name of the book, the word count, the genre, and any themes you think I should know about up front. You should state why you think the agent you sent it to would be a good fit for this particular book.
Then, I look at the pitch and the bio. What makes me want to read more, is if it’s organized, that’s the most important thing, then I can find out all the pertinent information right up front. The pitch should be tight. Sometimes, people get creative and they ask a series of questions. That’s a huge no-no. Stick to the traditional format.
It’s good to have comparison titles, where you think if people enjoyed that book, they might enjoy your book, as well. For example, you share some themes or issues your antagonist deals with… This is important because when we pitch to editors, we have to give them comp titles so they can decide how they can market the book. And who knows comp titles better than the author who wrote the book?
You’re [MARKED] pitch right now is great, but if you have to include your bio it gets a little long. So, that’s something you need to work into compressing into one paragraph. You can end it on a little bit of a mysterious note.
If the query is good, we want to see the pages. If it’s not done well, agents wonder how well the pages will be done.
Your bio mentioned that in fiction, you’re currently looking for mystery/thrillers and YA fantasy. Can you tell us a little more about what you look for in those genres?
A good story. Crime issues and thrillers that’s done well, a fresh spin on what’s already out. Something intelligent and smart for adult mysteries and thrillers.
In YA, I’m open to all kinds of mystery and thrillers, as long as they are different. The same thing applies to YA fantasy. I see a lot of the queen/princess of a kingdom has to escape and do something to save her kingdom, she meets up with a prince… It’s a very common theme that I see a lot of. I’m looking for unique concepts.
I open to all kinds of fiction as long as they are different, they are unique, and they have a different plot line that I haven’t read before.
Are agents open to authors who have already pursued the indie route?
That’s a smart question. There’s no harm in going the indie route, as long as they’re not trying to get an agent for the indie book. If it’s an independent book by a small, reputable publisher, then agents are open to it.
Agents are open to negotiating contracts. However, there are a lot of small publishers no one has heard of, and sometimes writers come to agents because they have an offer for which they want an agent to negotiate the contract. Sometimes, we’ve never heard of the publisher, we don’t know how they market books and we don’t know how they work, so we have to be careful about it.
Publishing companies like Spencer Hill Press or Entangled are places most agents are aware of, so it would be fine. 
If you’ve already published an indie book, and you’re submitting a different query, it shouldn’t impact your present manuscript. 
With the rise of indie publishing, what do you see as the agent’s role in 2014?
The thing about indie publishing is that there are people who don’t do decent contracts, who don’t give you advances, who make you do most of the marketing. It’s important to pay attention to the details, the terms of the contract. You also have to keep in mind how well previous books have sold.
Most writers like to focus on writing books, and they find the whole social media and the business aspects to be very tedious. What we do as agents for our clients, is help the find strategies for social media, marketing their book, along with polishing their book to go on submission, we take a look at the contract…
Pretty much, instead of you spending 50% of their time trying to figure out things outside of writing, you have an agent who knows the business. Even with the rise of eBooks, you have agents negotiating eBook contracts, hard cover print contracts…
Self-published authors even come to agents and say, “Hey I published my book, it’s not taking off as much as I want, and now I want to go down the traditional route. Can you help me?”
Agents are still going to be a necessary part of publishing.
What do you want potential clients to know about you as a potential agent?
The most important thing for me is to have the same vision. If I want to take the book in a different direction and you don’t agree about it, that’s a relationship that’s going to be contentious as we move forward. For me, it’s always important for the author to know right up front what I have in mind, so we are on the same page. My way of working is like a 50/50 partnership; we brainstorm ideas and marketing, so client’s need to be open to the vision. Critiques are not easy to hear, but they are important.
I’m looking for clients who are open to working together, willing to brainstorm new ideas, communicative, and willing to put in the work. Authors should talk to me about their issues or concerns, if they have them.
It’s important for clients to have a realistic view of the industry and the timeframe agents work with, have patience. Things take time.
I’ve heard it mentioned that an author has other completed material in a query can put unintentional stress on an agent. When is the best time to mention other completed works?
That’s a question for a phone call or follow up emails. Mention that this is your debut novel or whether you’re published by an indie publisher. If an agent likes your work, she will ask you what kind of other books you write.
An agency looking for author relationships with a client is looking to build together.
Which do you prefer, a story that’s well-written or easily marketable?
First and foremost, is a story that’s well-written. You don’t have to write to market trends, but you do need to read widely and see what’s been done to the point it’s becomes no longer marketable. For example, people still like reading dystopian fiction, and writing dystopian. Unless the book is really different, editors aren’t looking for it anymore, unless I can bring something new to the table.
Writers should know what’s been overdone.
What qualities do you think an author needs to succeed?
Patience. A thick skin, this is a tough industry. You need to be positive, willing to re-work things. Authors need to keep writing, keep confidence that something is going to happen, keep learning about the industry, go to conferences, read widely, do critique workshops, be tenacious, stay positive.
 What advice do you have for unpublished authors?
Join a critique group. That’s really important. Always get your work critiqued by other people.
Get short stories out to as many places as you can, get as many credits as you can. It’s not mandatory, but it’s nice to see. Start with small magazines and anthologies, and then aim for the big ones.
Writing short stories is a good exercise because you have to economize your words.
Okay, now it’s time for some fun questions. Have you ever met a celebrity?
Not face to face. I saw Julian Moore and the Grumpy Cat at a book signing event.
What is your favorite food?
I love food, all kinds. I like Ethiopian food, Japanese food, and Indian. I eat everything.
What’s the last movie you watched?
The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty.
If you could eliminate one thing from your daily schedule, what would it be and why?
Someone who could help me go through my slush pile…. Otherwise, my schedule is just fine. Perhaps, more free time. 
Name something beautiful you’ve seen in nature.
I like the whole autumn thing. Where I come from in Dubai, you don’t really have different seasons. That’s something about nature that I love, especially the autumn season. It’s something I never had growing up.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?
We have some Turkish friends who took us to this restaurant and mixed this dish with vinegar and chili. They told me to eat it. I asked them, “What am I eating?” and they said if I knew, I wouldn’t eat it. After I finished the soup, I told them it was delicious. It was sheep’s brain. But it was delicious, as long as I didn’t know it. That was the most recent weird thing I’ve had.
Thank you very much for taking the time to talk with me today. I really enjoyed our conversation.
This was absolutely fun for me. Great questions, by the way.

About The Agent

Pooja Menon joined Kimberley Cameron & Associates as an intern in the fall of 2011, with the aim of immersing herself in the elusive world of books and publishing. She soon realized that being an agent was what she was most drawn to as the job was varied and challenging. She represents both fiction and non-fiction for Adult and YA markets.
Find more here.
Once again, congrats to Natasha, and good luck on your partial request.

Jan 16, 2014

One on One Interview with Pooja Menon

Edit: So everyone is probably wondering what happened with the agent interview. Well, it's kind of a funny story. Pooja lives on the West Coast while Natasha and I live on the East Coast. Between Pooja and I, neither of us thought to bring up the little issue of time zones. Noon here is 9am there. 

So, I finally got in touch with her when she was on her way to the office. Being the awesome person she is, Pooja was going to do the interview at 12:30pm EST (9:30am her time) BUT Natasha was driving somewhere and I couldn't get it touch with her. On top of that, Pooja couldn't seem to leave a comment on my blog so even if everyone showed on time, things would have still been chaotic. 

To remedy the situation, Pooja offered to do the interview over the phone. After dozens of emails (with me acting as the middle man) the interview finally happened over the phone. Natasha recorded it and is transcribing it now. She'll send me the transcription and I will post it on the blog for all to read.

Now, on a personal note, I want to say how utterly awesome both Pooja and Natasha were during this entire ordeal. I've had several dealings with Pooja (through contests) and every time we've worked together I am left stunned how nice, friendly, willing, and approachable she's been. She truly is a class act.

Natasha. Things got a little crazy for a while. Thank you for keeping your head and being amazing about the technical and non-technical difficulties we faced. I'm glad everything worked out. Good luck with your request!

Entrants, check you email. Pooja made some requests. 

Natasha and Pooja, please conduct your one on one time in the comments section of this post. If you have any questions for me, don't hesitate to ask.

Good luck!

Winning Query:

Dear Pooja Menon:

Lexi Ripley doesn’t do bloodshed. She’s co-president of her high school PAW Club, loves all things animal, and hates anything that brings people or creatures harm. When the family secret turns out to be a heritage of monster slaying, her birthright goes against her beliefs.

Her family’s legacy was forged centuries ago, when the Brotherhood swore to defend mankind from rogue paranormals. From that moment, sons of the eight bloodlines have answered the call with pride. Now, with the death of her Uncle Lucas, a daughter is Marked. It’s unprecedented and unacceptable. She’s not the chosen one; she’s an accident.

Lexi is plagued by visions of bloody battles, despairing dreams of loves lost, and stuck with a few jerks who refuse to take the “No Girls Allowed” sign off the entrance to their secret hideout. Worse, she senses danger watching, looming in wait, but the warriors won’t listen to her. The Brotherhood’s patriarchal practices may deem her unworthy, but this…thing, whatever it is, doesn’t care about their judgments. It’s closing in, and with it, the evil that killed her predecessor.

MARKED, a YA urban fantasy with series potential, is complete at 70,000.

Jan 15, 2014

Winner of the One on One Contest

With 6 votes, the winner of the One on One contest is... (drum-roll) NATASHA for her magnificent query for an even grander story, MARKED! Congrats, Natasha. You are the winner of a one on one interview with with the wonderful Pooja Menon of Kimberley Cameron and Associates.

As a reminder, the interview will take place on Friday, January 17th at noon (EST). The interview will be on this blog using the comments section of a special blog post.  It will be the first post and clearly marked so their is no confusion.

Good luck and once again, CONGRATULATIONS!!!

Jan 8, 2014

Our Perspective (The QK Crew)

The last three years have been pretty amazing. Michelle, SC, and I have helped so many writers achieve their dreams, and that alone makes everything we do worth it. QK and NoQS have grown to be so much bigger than we ever expected, and I'd like to thank the writing community for that.

I'd also like to apologize.

As most of you know, SC is no longer a member of The QK Crew. I thought the diplomatic and professional thing to do was to stay silent. But you can't really do that in a community, and I'm sorry for trying.

The decision to part ways with SC wasn't made lightly, and I don't think I can stress that enough. I didn't just discuss it with Michelle, I sought the opinion of complete, unbiased strangers (https://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/3gskyk/does_lack_of_diversity_in_any_given_industry/). Why? Because I'm not arrogant enough to think my way of thinking is always right.

I have a few issue with the campaign, one being the use of the word 'racist', and the fact that it's being used without evidence. If you read my conversation with SC over twitter (August 11th), you'll see exactly where we disagree. He feels it's okay to call an industry racist without indisputable evidence (https://twitter.com/SC_Author/status/631157498058309632). I don't. I think it's mean and inconsiderate to the people who work in the industry (and who have donated their time to helping us with the contests). SC believes that a system can be racist, even if the people that comprise the system aren't (https://twitter.com/SC_Author/status/631147467405434880). I believe that a system can ONLY be racist if individuals within the system are acting on racist impulses. Lastly, I don't believe anger fixes anything. I think it makes things worse.  SC disagrees(https://twitter.com/SC_Author/status/630486476183203840).

As you can see, most of the tweets referenced above are recent, yet I  knew about the #WriteInclusively Campaign during QK2015. In fact, Michelle and I gave the go ahead for SC to use the #WriteInclusively campaign as a submission requirement for Query Kombat. Why? Because we believed in what he was doing, and we felt QK would be an excellent platform. As The QK Crew, we endorsed the #WriteInclusively campaign by partnering during QK2015.

Since then, Michelle and I feel like the tone of the campaign has darkened. On August 11th, Michelle brought her concerns to my attention. She, as well as others, were hurt by some of the things SC was tweeting. I decided to talk to him to get his point of view. During our discussion (both over twitter and via email) I asked him to consider creating another account for his campaign. Why? Because people who feel hurt by his accusations still need to read through his tweets to get pertinent contest info. Do you see our predicament?

The email I wrote to SC took a long time to write. I started and stopped a few dozen times because it was one of the hardest emails I've ever written. I DID say that "his passion for the Write Inclusively campaign may be unsettling or uncomfortable for people who don't write from the POV of ethnic characters, or who don't portray ethnic characters as 'honestly' as you would like." 'Passion' is the operative word, but SC interpreted it as us siding with racist white people. We're not. Michelle and I WANT more diversity. What we don't want is for writers/agent/editors/publishers to feel attacked because they don't consciously tackle racial issues in their work. I don't want agents to feel attacked because their agency is comprised mostly of white people. And I don't want to accuse the industry that makes our contests possible without evidence.

There is a need for diversity in the publishing industry, but I don't feel the lack of it is due to racism or oppression (http://careers.penguinrandomhouse.com/ Check out the image on that page.). I think  the stigma of little to no money in publishing drives the lack of diversity. Instead of shaking our fist and calling the industry racist, I think we should work with the industry to disprove negative statistics, and help advertise them to minorities in high school and college. The fact is, creativity is lacking in the education system (http://www.businessinsider.com/a-ted-talk-on-how-the-education-systen-is-killing-creativity-2013-1) and until we fix THAT (the foundation, IMO) we have little chance of making a lasting change.

I agree with SC's vision. I don't agree with his conclusion, and I don't think it meshes well with the spirit of our contests. Since SC post (http://scwrite.blogspot.com/2015/08/a-query-kombat-noqs-announcement.html), I've cut all communication with him. After the laughing, joking, and good times we've had over the years, to even imply that I'm racist because I don't agree with his conclusions is utter ridiculous. I never said he was wrong. Never once. I simply asked for evidence/testimony. I side with facts, and SC doesn't have them. Only when it is proven that the publishing industry has a track record of turning away qualified applicants of color will I accuse it of racism. To do so at any moment beforehand is shortsighted and hurtful.

Jan 5, 2014

One on One Voting Instructions.

Edit: Please vote in the comments section of the particular query you are voting for. Sorry about the confusion.

The top ten have been chosen! Now, it's up to the ten of you to choose who will be numero uno.

Each of you have a total of THREE votes. You can spend them in anyway you wish, but you CAN NOT vote for yourself. If there are any ties, I will cast the tiebreaker. All votes must be in by noon on January 14th. Good luck!

I wonder who will win...

Edit: If I made a mistake on your entry, let me know A-SAP.

Satellite Hearts (One on One Contest)


Dear Pooja Menon:

Sixteen-year-old Zahra Mbali has 150 days until her preprogrammed body explodes.

Zahra’s country, Botswana, is populated by programmable humans. She’s different; she is a treasured soldier, one designed to kill. Considered valuable military weaponry, the government relocates her to a boarding school in South Africa to train her as their soldier; one that kills programmed humans incompliant to the system. But the system is unaware of her timed detonation and its malware effect.

Unbeknownst to her society, her world is a computer program designed by her father and run by a government agent. A system administrator is constantly tweaking their subroutines, and no one knows of life outside the program, and if they have a physical body. Feeling betrayed, Zahra’s desperate to uncover why the father she loved deceived her and made her a monster. Her only way out is to discover the secret memories her father deleted from her and to reprogram her body to stop her timed explosion. But tampering with her biological technology is risky.

One mistake could end her life but Zahra wants to live…outside the program.

SATELLITE HEARTS, a YA sci-fi, thriller, is a multicultural novel complete at 98,000 words. It can be described as The Matrix meets Debra Driza’s Mila 2.0.

Dreamwalker (One on One Contest)


Dear Pooja Menon:

While everyone else gets to sleep, Alice Kingston spends her nights fighting creatures known as Nightmares. These fugly beasts threaten to plunge the world into chaos and misery. When the tall, dark, and annoying Addison Hatta charmed Alice into this life, she expected things to be less guts more glory. Instead, the battles grow bloodier, the days darker, and Hatta a little mad…der.

His deteriorating mental state builds into fits and rages, and Alice crosses into his home world of Wonderland to find out what the fel is going on. She’s intercepted by The Black Knight, whose sharp wit and sly compliments disarm her better than any weapon, even though he’s an ass. The bastard plans to unleash a cataclysm that’ll devour Wonderland from the inside, and Hatta along with it. Countering the spell will save his life, but the backlash could shatter the bridge between worlds, throwing them off balance, and casting both into eternal terror.

DREAMWALKER is a young adult fantasy with series potential. The whimsy of Alice in Wonderland meets the unadulterated ass-kickery of Buffy in this story complete at 86,000 words.

The Pirate's Daughter (One on One Contest)


Dear Pooja Menon:

1533-Tudor England

Seventeen-year-old Jenny dreams of becoming a pirate. She knows the pirate’s code by heart: Never go back on your word, honor your captain, share your bounty, kill your enemy, and eat, drink, and be merry because today may be the day you die. But when the Red Lady--an infamous pirate Queen and Jenny’s long lost mother—returns for her, she realizes being on the high seas isn’t as glamorous as she thought it would be. The food is awful, the crew reeks, and the king wants them dead.

Jenny’s mother plans to use a treasured brooch she stole from the king to barter pardons for herself and her crew then sail to warmer waters. She makes Jenny swear to uphold the pirate’s code if anything happens to her. When the king’s guard captures her mother and part of the crew, Jenny must decide: Break the pirate code and let them hang or rescue them and be branded a pirate.

THE PIRATE'S DAUGHTER- a YA historical is complete at 64,000 words.

Daughter of Lilith (One on One Contest)


Dear Pooja Menon:

Daughter of Lilith is a 71K young adult, paranormal stand alone with series potential novel.

Sixteen year old, Ariel is a daughter of Lilith, the biblical first wife of Adam. As a half-demon, she rips souls from the living as casually as one orders coffee at Starbucks.

Her upbringing tells Ariel humans are a worthless blight on the world. But when an accident leaves her stranded, minister’s son Mike Flannery goes beyond the call of duty to help.

Getting to know him, she realizes she’s only a puppet used to carry out her mother’s petty vendetta against humanity. She vows never again to be manipulated. Mike’s infatuation for her leads him to offer his help. But leaving the family business isn’t as easy as giving two-weeks’ notice.

Now the target of a blood hunt, Ariel sees letting Mike into her life is endangering his. In order to keep them safe, she must confront her personal demons, both internal and external, and trust those she spent her life seeking to destroy.

Jan 4, 2014

Marked (One on One Contest)


Dear Pooja Menon:

Lexi Ripley doesn’t do bloodshed. She’s co-president of her high school PAW Club, loves all things animal, and hates anything that brings people or creatures harm. When the family secret turns out to be a heritage of monster slaying, her birthright goes against her beliefs.

Her family’s legacy was forged centuries ago, when the Brotherhood swore to defend mankind from rogue paranormals. From that moment, sons of the eight bloodlines have answered the call with pride. Now, with the death of her Uncle Lucas, a daughter is Marked. It’s unprecedented and unacceptable. She’s not the chosen one; she’s an accident.

Lexi is plagued by visions of bloody battles, despairing dreams of loves lost, and stuck with a few jerks who refuse to take the “No Girls Allowed” sign off the entrance to their secret hideout. Worse, she senses danger watching, looming in wait, but the warriors won’t listen to her. The Brotherhood’s patriarchal practices may deem her unworthy, but this…thing, whatever it is, doesn’t care about their judgments. It’s closing in, and with it, the evil that killed her predecessor.

The Mall in Gullybrool (One on One Contest)


Dear Ms. Menon,

Your bio on the Writers Out World blog mentioned that you're looking for voice-driven contemporary YA that deals with darker themes as well as prevalent issues facing teens today. The Mall in Gullybrook is such a book. Although as realistic as Lucy Christopher's Stolen, Elizabeth Scott's Living Dead Girl and Theresa Flores' The Slave Across the Street, it's told through three interconnecting viewpoints and with an uplifting aftertaste. The POV shifts ratchet up the tension while also providing breathing space.

During the course of a year, three strangers from upper class families living in the tony enclave of Gullybrook disappear. The local mall is their ingress into a sex trafficking industry they never knew existed. Overnight, they lose control of their bodies. The girls turn to drugs, mind games, and each other to cope.

There's Sissy. The 16-year-old junior from Sweethaven Academy who's nabbed when a friendly shopper leads her on a wild goose chase for the perfect Homecoming dress. Two months later, Candace, a freshman cheerleader at Gullybrook High disappears after a secret job interview. One year later, Megan, a sophomore at Lake Catholic High School is pinched trying to shoplift a present for her maybe girlfriend.

Through the violence, degradation, despair, and heartache, these girls find strength they didn't know they possessed to keep going. Fighting to endure, until they can find a way out of their sex prison. The Mall in Gullybrook is complete at 62,000 words.

I have consulted with human trafficking expert, Dr. Jacquelyn Meshelemiah, at The Ohio State University, to highlight lesser-known victims of human trafficking. These are girls from middle to upper class American families who never dreamed anything like this could ever happen to them...until it did. Dr. Meshelemiah wants to make The Mall in Gullybrook required reading for her classes. She currently teaches a MOOC (massive open online course) on human trafficking with 10,000 enrolled students this semester.

The Space Between (One on One Contest)


Dear Pooja Menon:

Yelling hurtful words to a best friend is one thing, but dedicated DEA agent Deanna Ellis belittles her partner moments before hellish gunfire kills her. Now choked by haunting survivor’s guilt, Ellis vows to uncover the reason their biggest case yet nosedived into chaos. First, she must find the at-large murderer.

Everyone impedes her pursuit. The DEA head honchos deny her involvement into the official investigation and her boss argues she’s unfit for active duty. A colleague blatantly accuses her of selling out her partner and threatens revenge. Worsening matters, her partner’s family demands answers to their sister’s death as the killer tries unnerving her with taunting phone calls.

When the new Special Agent in Charge suspiciously transfers Ellis to help an undercover FBI agent in Miami, Ellis fears another deterrent. But then the killer hints he’s in Miami too. Neck deep in the new assignment, she discovers macabre betrayal; she’s entrapped. Several agents’ lives rest in her hands, forcing her to reach within for courage as she learns both justice and treachery can be bought, and whatever skulks in the void between guilt and redemption is, to her, the space between.

THE SPACE BETWEEN is a 93,000 word contemporary suspense novel set in Atlanta and a rainy Miami.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Deadly (One on One Contest)


Dear Pooja Menon:

Sixteen-year-old Cammie Carter is a pro at stopping her sister from hooking up with psycho bad boys, but Court's at it again—and this time big sis could lose more than her virginity.

A killer's on the loose and he isn't just after Court. Cammie seeks help from her small South Carolina town, but she's cried "wolf" too many times, and everyone thinks she's crazy. That is, except for her forgetful Nana, a freshly dead author, and the police chief's hot nephew.

Her sister, and this whole freakin' town, better be glad Cammie's a humanitarian obsessed with stopping serial killers, especially after the bones of two local girls are found in the river. The clock is ticking and the murderer could strike again at any time. That's nothing to what Cammie's up against when she follows the trail of incriminating clues straight to the murderer's laboratory.

Deadly, my YA thriller with a touch of magical realism is complete at 63,000 words.

Escape 11 (One on One Contest)


Dear Pooja Menon:

Fifteen-year-old Ever is blind. Only able to see what her boyfriend, Fox, looks at, which is most often herself. But sometimes it’s also the muscled men who kidnapped Ever and Fox, and sometimes it’s an unused mall in New York City where the two teens are locked up until they’ll come into the paranormal gifts for which they were stolen. Having spent years in this mall, Ever is ready to do anything to escape.

Not so with Fox. Yes, he longs to escape too, but there’s one thing that he values above his freedom. It’s Ever’s love. Still, when the two get a chance to escape, they take it, only to discover that this chance is so dark and twisted that it just might destroy Ever’s love for Fox.

The Drought of Sam Dakota (One on One Contest)


Dear Pooja Menon:

After seven years as an advocate, Sam Dakota encounters a child he can't protect--his son. When Danny vanishes, the chances of finding out who took him slowly dwindle with every dead end. Faced with changing theories and dwindling police interest, Sam makes the tough decision to hire Rami Amato, an unconventional P.I. with an aversion to "kid cases." Amato uncovers a conspiracy of old lies and fresh betrayal that threatens to bury all hope of finding Danny alive.

When strange notes show up, depicting the horrors being exacted on Sam's son, there's nothing authorities can do. The ongoing nightmare consumes his life as the kidnapper starts a clock, counting down to Danny's death. Rami's last kidnapping case ended badly; he refuses to let another end like that. Besides, it's clear Sam won't survive that final letter. Everyone's time is running out.

The Drought of Sam Dakota is a thriller of 73,000 words.