Agent Monday: What this Agent Does and Does Not Want

pumpkinsHappy Agent Monday everyone!  Here in the Northeast it’s a crisp glittering fall morning, the kind of weather that makes you feel you can really take on the world. If you writers are feeling the same, you may feel that extra zing of energy to send out some queries to agents for your latest work. Good for you!  For some help in this department, I thought I’d bring you up to speed on what I do and do not want…

susan-coventry-200But first of all, I want to send out a huge welcome to my newest client, author Susan Coventry!  Susan’s debut was the historical YA The Queen’s Daughter (Holt), which nabbed the 2011 Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year honor. She caught my attention with an unusual manuscript that’s a retelling of the little known Arthurian courtly love story about Enide and Erec. It’s vivid, sharp, witty and fresh. Basically, it’s a cross between The Princess Bride and The Once and Future King (which, if you don’t know, is one of my favorite books EVER).  So I lift a mug of mead (okay, it’s coffee) to Susan in welcome. I’m so thrilled to represent her.

So, back to the land of queries… I spent several hours this weekend reading through my inbox. For those of you waiting on responses, I’m up to queries received on August 1st. (Yeah, there are still a lot more after that, but I DO read them all and answer them all.)

*If you sent a query before this date and never got a response, that means you broke a cardinal rule and were therefore deleted without a reply. Deletable offenses include: mass-mailed queries that aren’t addressed to me, titled things like Dear Sir or Madam, or with no greeting at all…Attaching your query (I won’t open query attachments from people I don’t know)… Openly offensive or rude statements in your query…

*Also, if you see on something like Query Tracker that I have a response time for some folk of like a day or a week, and yours has been sitting around for a month or two, don’t despair. I do like to breeze through queries as they spill in for a quick look – and if something is clearly a no – I’ll zap back a form rejection. If something is a zowie-gotta-look-at-that-immediately query, I’ll request the full right away…otherwise it goes into the queue for later.  And, yes, I have acquired clients from that “later” queue…

Okay, then… What I do and do not want.  Please read my guidelines, people.  You can find them here and also on the agency website.

MP900308953Some things I do NOT want:
- Genre fiction. I’m not a fan at all, so please do not send me your sci fi, romance, high fantasy, or horror novels.
- Extreme violence and gore. HATE that. Please do not send me violent serial killer novels, or slasher books, or blood-soaked stories whether fiction or memoir.
- Horsey books. Confession? I’ve always been afraid of horses – I’m pretty sure they were put on this earth to bite my face off. Needless to say, I never “got” the girl obsession with horses, so if your book is about that? You’re neighing at the wrong agent. ;)
- Things I’ve seen way too many times before. I’m over paranormal romance, dystopian, I never “got” zombies (bite off my face thing again?), or werewolves or stuff like that.
- Things that feel too much like something else. I get a lot of almost fan-fiction-like novels. They aren’t in the same world as the original, but change a few names and it’s the same story.
- Memoirs that are mainly a sad retelling of something that happened in your life. Divorce. A cheating husband. A common illness. The death of a loved one. While I can feel compassion for these writers, I’m looking for something a bit different in a memoir.
- Memoirs that are mere nostalgia, or a telling of a fairly common experience. I get a lot of memoirs that feel like an older person who has decided to chronicle their life for posterity — this may be a lovely gift to pass on to your family, but it’s not a commercial product in my eyes. I also get a lot of “wow, I went on this trip,” or “wow, I went to college,” or “wow, I worked a lot of strange jobs” memoirs — to me, this is just life, and not remarkable enough for others to buy and read.
- What they are now calling “sick-lit,” inspired by The Fault in Our Stars success. I’m not interested in “someone is dying” as the theme driving a YA or women’s novel. It feels a bit too overwrought to me, and there needs to be a lot more to the plot for my taste.

Young Girl ReadingOkay, so what DO I want?
- Something fresh and original with a recognizable voice.
- Something that moves me to laugh or cry or both without being sappy or stupid.
- Something that takes me somewhere I’ve never been before, or shows me something in a brand new light.
- Something with a hook, meaning it has an understandable and unique theme and conflict, and a clear audience.
- While I don’t DO romance, I’m open to romantic themes in YA and women’s fiction — just please don’t make it predictable or the heroine shallow and all about the guy! Also, what IS it with guys who have green eyes and a crooked smile? Jeesh! Is this every girl’s fantasy or something? (To those guys out there with green eyes and a crooked smile, be on your guard for rampaging women…You have been warned.)
- SMART women’s fiction that can become the next great chick flick — and that is NOT just a rehashing of Bridget Jones, Stephanie Plum, Shopaholic, Sex in the City.
- A YA that is smart and real ala Sarah Dessen.
- Brilliant writing that is accessible. I’m not one for literary fiction with a meandering plot, but I adore gorgeous writing.
- Strong characterization. I’m not one for merely plot driven fiction. I need to care.
- Hilarious and moving middle grade.
- I’m open to elements of fantasy, a fun or moving ghost story, I love the shivers (without blood, please). But DON’T give me genre writing.
- Diversity, but only if it is genuine and intrinsic to your story.
- Memoirs that bring more to the table. Incredible voice, unusual humor, revelations for readers, a takeaway for readers, real heart, a truly unique inside peek at something…
- Books that leave a lasting impression. 

Take a look at my client list here. You’ll see a range of people who are very serious about their craft. You’ll see that their ideas are unique, and that their books stand out on the shelf as something fresh. Read their work and you’ll see their voices jumping off the page.

And if you have these qualities, I definitely want to see your query!

 

*Marie is an Associate Agent at The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency in New York City. To keep up with all her Agent Monday posts, subscribe to her site by clicking on the Follow link located on her page on the upper left margin.

Writer Wednesday: On Writing Magic

*This post originally appeared on my DRAWN Blog Ghost Tour earlier this year at the wonderful blog site The Cozy Reader

MP900414028We writers have the best job in the world.  We get to perform magic, to make things mysteriously appear out of nowhere.  All writers do this when they write fiction, but when we are writing actual fantasy scenes, well, that’s more magical than ever.

The trick, as with all magic, is making the audience believe. In my paranormal novel Drawn, the main character Michelle De Freccio is an artist that draws and then meets Christopher, a hot medieval ghost with a sketchy past.  Okay, so you have to suspend some disbelief when you read books like this, but my job is to make everything as credible as possible.  I didn’t want to create something goofy, but a novel that is gripping and that feels very real. A story that truly draws you in. To do this, I grounded as much as I could in a gritty reality, and only put in a few spare touches of magic.

On the reality front, it helps to have a character like Michelle who is a born skeptic, and a cynical Jersey-girl to boot. She’s hoping to start over in England and have a more normal life (back in New Jersey everyone called the De Freccio’s the De Freakos…her family has an odd background and she was labeled a freak).

Even Christopher, who is technically a ghost to Michelle, is a realist living in his own world in the 1400s. Convincing both of them that they are linked in a time traveling relationship isn’t easy. People who are skeptics need some undeniable proof…and a touch of magic, like in this scene from the book, narrated by Michelle, when she realizes she’s truly in another time and invisible, among other things:

But Thomas Haston’s vision remains barely focused on Christopher. “Yes, master.” He bows his head. “I shall grab the reins.”

He hurries toward us. Straight toward me. He must be completely blind, because he’s going to walk right into me.

“Watch it,” I say.

He doesn’t walk into me. He walks through me. Like I’m a stream to be waded through. My skin feels itchy and a nasty saltiness fills my mouth. Christopher releases me and looks at me with horror. I look at my hands, expecting them to be see-through, but they’re solid. “What the hell?” I say.

“What in hell,” he says, his voice barely a whisper.

 

So who is the ghost here, and what, exactly is going on?  Here’s the end to that scene:

Christopher takes both my hands, gingerly, as if he’s afraid they’ll burst into flames. “What are you? A sprite? A spirit? A phantom?”

“I’m a freak,” I say. And burst into tears.

 

MP900444287While much of Drawn is based in realistic scenes, whether in the present or in the distant past, there are a few times when I really get to flex my magic muscles. One of my favorite moments happens when Michelle brings a book with her into the past, a book that reveals all the battle outcomes in the 1400s.  While Christopher would be able to use this information to his advantage, this will clearly mess with destiny.  Some things are just not meant to happen, so:

I run my finger over the text to where I left off. “The Duke, misreading his opponent, brought his forces for the Christmastime to the castle of…” Suddenly the page looks different. More white space. Less words.

“The castle of?” Christopher prompts.

I try to focus on the words. “…for the Christmastime to the castle of Sandall, but…” Something seems to move across the paper. My skin crawls, as I slide my eyes downward. I watch with horror as the letters at the bottom of the page disappear one by one.

I flip the page. Letters disappear from the bottom here, too. The white of the paper grows, eating away at the words. Frantic, I flip back to the page I was just reading. Completely blank. “Oh God.”

“What is wrong?” Christopher tries to sit up.

I flip ahead a few pages. Two paragraphs are left. I quickly read, “Henry’s forces had been gathering throughout the area for some time and the land was heavily for—” The rest of that word is gone, as is the rest of the writing on that page.

“Why did you stop?” Christopher says and peers at the book. He draws in his breath as the words I’d just read vanish like a fabric unwound by a pulled thread.

 

Every novel with a fantasy element must have its own set of rules.  In Drawn, messing with destiny can be killer, literally. The history book with its unraveling writing sends up a warning to Michelle, but she disturbs destiny anyway, and winds up putting Christopher’s fate in horrific danger…  Okay, I can’t say anything more about that without spilling too much about the story.

But I can say one other thing about writing magic: If you put a very real moment right up against a magical one, the contrasts can create a seriously strong scene. In this scene from Drawn, Michelle is in her own time being attacked by a bunch of thugs from “the wrong side of Castle Road”:

Drawn-ebook cover final borderAs rough hands drag me off the sidewalk, I shriek “Christopher!”

They laugh. “Calling your posh boyfriend?” Bobby says. “Guess he can have you when we’re through.”

I close my eyes and hear a scream. It’s not me.

My eyes fly open. Bobby cradles his arm. Blood seeps through his fingers. “Who did that?” He looks around wildly.

I back away and another guy tries to grab at me. He shrieks as his thumb is sliced off, seemingly by nothing. It lands bloody beside me. I catch a glimpse of a rusty truck in the street before I close my eyes and curl up in a ball. Tears streak my face.

There’s more terrified screaming, then I hear them run away.

“Michelle. Michelle?” someone says and touches me. I whimper. “It is okay. I came. They will not hurt you now.” I feel the hand rub my arm and he says, “Shh now. Shh.”

I dare to open my eyes and there is Christopher kneeling beside me, a blood-smeared sword in his right hand. He drops the sword and gathers me into his arms.

 

For some reason, this scene always gives me the shivers.  I guess I’ve always been a sucker for a brave hero in tall boots.  Now that’s magic!

Reviews, News and Free Stuff!

Hey gang,

Lots of stuff going on out there…Reviews, news and free stuff, oh my!  Definitely update time.

First of all, here’s a freebie for you folks.  Today and tomorrow only, August 8th-9th, you can snag your own free ebook copy of my novel DRAWN through Amazon. Just click here.

I’ve received some awesome support for this free promo from a number of sites and people, such as Free Kindle Books and Tips.  If you are ever searching for top-rated free ebooks, this is a great place to visit and bookmark.  To pop by today’s listing, which features DRAWN (yeah!), click here.

I also highly recommend the site Flurries of Words, which gives top billing to the best ebook deals. They highlighted my novel here!

Another excellent site, Digital Book Today, has just featured an interview with me where I share the moment when I met a ghost in a dungeon, and then…well, you’ll just have to find out for yourself by clicking here.

And props also go out to the awesome review site Night Owl Reviews, who not only gave DRAWN a glowing “Top Pick” review, but also created a banner for the free giveaway of DRAWN just because they are so awesome at supporting authors!

In other news…the fab book review site Book Love 101 just posted this amazing review of DRAWN. The reviewer said: “I loved the passion between the two characters, the forbidden romance, the ever impending mystery that could tear them apart. Loved it all!…We’ve got forbidden romance, time travel, mystery, deception, heart break, and so much more! All put together to make one truly EPIC read! Five stars from me! I’d recommend this read to anyone!”

Zowie!  Needless to say, I’m thrilled.  If you’d like to read the full review, and check out other reviews by Book Love 101, just click here.

And the very cool review site Supernatural Snark is currently featuring a guest post that I wrote titled, “Catching a Spirit.”  I talk a bit about that thin veil between the past and the present, and share an excerpt from DRAWN where Michelle first meets a spirit who is all too real. It’s a bit of a tingly moment, and you can catch it (and tingle?) by clicking here.

Also, the fun review site Romance Bookie was nice enough to feature an interview with me on their site!  I talk about my inspiration for the novel, will there be a sequel (?), and offer a bit of writing advice too.  Read all about it by clicking here.

I have to say that this is just the tip of a wonderful iceberg of supporters. I wish I could mention every single one. The people who take the time to post reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. The folks who bother to Tweet about DRAWN and post about it on facebook and on their websites.  It’s overwhelming in a good way.

My gratitude goes out to you all!

Happy reads,
Marie

DRAWN Voted Book of the Month!

Happy to announce that my novel DRAWN has just been voted as Book of the Month over at Long and Short Reviews!  Thanks so much to everyone who cast their vote and showed some love for this novel about Christopher the sketchy medieval ghost, and Michelle the artist who draws him in.  When DRAWN was reviewed by the Long and Short Reviews site earlier in the month, it was rated “Best Book,” which is above their usual 5-Star ranking.

Here’s some of what that reviewer said: I was drawn (pun intended) into this book from the first page and couldn’t put it down…This story is so deftly created that I was in each setting and could easily “see” Michelle’s art without illustrations…I recommend Drawn to tweens, teens and above. It has the perfect amount of romance, and enough action and suspense to keep the most distracted reader turning the pages.

To read the full review of DRAWN over at Long and Short Reviews, just click here.

Happy reads!

Marie

DRAWN is Rated “A Best Book”

Happy spring everyone!

SO happy.  I just found out that the review site Long and Short Reviews has rated my paranormal novel Drawn a “Best Book.”  This is high praise indeed.  Higher than their 5-star rating.  As the site explains it, the Best Book rating is reserved “For a book or story that is truly exceptional. You think about it when you’re not reading it. You wonder what happens to the characters when you finish. You would absolutely buy everything else this author had to offer. The highest praise – and reserved for only a few.”

So you know I’m smiling about this.

In case ya don’t know about Drawn, here’s the description:

She’s the artist that finds him in her drawings. He’s the medieval ghost that conquers her heart. And their time is running out. 
 
Michelle De Freccio moves to England seeking a normal life, but someone starts appearing in her sketches. Then he grabs her at the castle, his pale green eyes full of longing. She’s immediately drawn to him, but is Christopher Newman real? She’s either losing it, or channeling a hot ghost from the 1400′s. History calls him a murderer. Her heart tells her other truths. Now Michelle faces endless dangers…and a timeless love. 
 
A Night Owl Reviews Top Pick: “…an utter delight to read. I could not put it down. This is a fantastic romantic and tender story that will continue to enchant readers for years to come.” 

So… back to today’s write up.  At the Long and Short Reviews site, the reviewer said: I was drawn (pun intended) into this book from the first page and couldn’t put it down…The setting is wonderful…This story is so deftly created that I was in each setting and could easily “see” Michelle’s art without illustrations…It has the perfect amount of romance, and enough action and suspense to keep the most distracted reader turning the pages.

This review also gives a great spoiler-free summary of the novel, so if you want a feel for whether this book is for you or not, you can check out the complete write up by clicking here.

I’m also happy to report that Drawn is currently ranked #29  in its category of top sellers over at Amazon, and it keeps consistently getting great reviews from book bloggers and readers alike.  In fact, the novel’s goodreads.com page is full of praise from readers who have been saying stuff like: “I LOVED this book. It wa (sic) such a breath of fresh air. It was so well written and so entertaining i could not put it down.” And “This book was so unexpectedly amazing…”  To check out the goodreads page for Drawn (and to add your own reviews there if you’ve read the novel), simply click here.

If you haven’t already read Drawn, you can find an excerpt along with links to reviews and purchase info by clicking right here.

"I'm not Josie Grossie anymore!"

Thanks so much to my readers who have shared their love for my book.  I have no words to express how this makes me feel.  As Drew Barrymore says in Never Been Kissed, “I’m speechless.  This never happens to me. Words are my life!”

Marie

Stephanie Winkelhake is Golden Heart Finalist!

Some news is just too great to keep to yourself, right?  In addition to being an author, I’m also an Associate Literary Agent for the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency, and one of my awesome clients is Stephanie Winkelhake.

Stephanie’s debut YA novel, THE MATTER OF SOULS, caught my eye right away. The voice is incredible: smart and insightful. And the novel is intricate and passionate and heart-breaking.  So I can’t say I was completely surprised (though very excited and proud!) when Stephanie told me the wonderful news that this manuscript is a national finalist for the 2012 Golden Heart Award.

This is a prestigious award offered each year by The Romance Writers of America to promote excellence in the romance genre by recognizing outstanding romance manuscripts. Each year, 1,200 manuscripts are entered for the award, and Stephanie is one of 8 finalists in the YA category.  She’ll find out if she wins the award during a special banquet held at the RWA National Conference, but she’s already a winner to me!

Here’s a little bit about Stephanie’s debut manuscript:

Sixteen-year-old Riley Andersen must come to terms with the inevitable: she’ll never graduate high school, never go to college, and never become a wife or mother. With only three months to live, she abandons all hope of a future. What she doesn’t realize is that death isn’t the end. In fact, for Riley, it’s only the beginning. As soon as Riley sees Hayden, her ex-boyfriend, she’s convinced her mind is playing tricks on her. He is, after all, dead…

Okay, can I just say that when Hayden leans over and whispers, “Riley?” in her ear, it makes me shiver? Their story seized me by the heartstrings and I was absolutely glued to this manuscript as I found out more about Hayden’s death, as Riley had to loosen her own grip on life, and as the souls of these two star-crossed lovers teetered on the edge of love and of doom.

Keep your eyes peeled for this rising star, and follow her website by clicking here.

And congrats, again, to my wonderful client!

Marie

Haunts at the End of the Road

Sketch from Marie's England journal

The Drawn Blog Ghost Tour is on its final week, and what a week it is! Posts filled with passion (hey, Valentine’s Day is approaching, right?), giveaways, writing advice, excerpts from my paranormal Drawn and tons of book reviews, too!  And everywhere you will discover more tidbits about Christopher the ghost from the past who has been labeled by reviewers as extremely “swoon-worthy!”

The reviews the book’s garnered so far are so amazing, it’s spooky! Reviewers have praised the novel’s setting, characters, plotting, romance, its ending. It’s really been a thrill for this little writer to see the responses from seasoned book reviewers.  You can see reviews by clicking here (I update this page as the reviews come in).

Haven’t ordered your own copy of Drawn yet? Um, why not?  The ebook sale (just 99 cents) is going on for just a few more days, and the paperback is priced at $12.99.  That’s lovable, right? All the book and ebook purchasing links can be found by clicking here.

So, without further ado, here are the highlights from our final Drawn Blog Ghost Tour week!:

February 13th: Is it love? Is he a prince or a frog? Ever have a crappy boyfriend? Ever spent Valentine’s alone? Well, check out this post.  It just might restore your faith in love! Get in the spirit of Valentine’s Day over at I Just Wanna Sit Here and Read, with my guest post “Caught in a Bad Romance,” plus a Drawn eBOOK GIVEAWAY!

February 14th: Here’s one for those writers out there: Author Janice Bashman features my guest post “Just Because You Can…” which explores a bunch of no-no’s for writers.

February 15th: IB Book Blogging features my guest post “Not All Bad” about creating villains you’ll love to hate.

February 16th: Eve’s Fan Garden hosts an interview with me, plus their review of Drawn, PLUS an ebook giveaway to one lucky winner.  Act fast! It runs Feb. 16-18th.

February 17th: Author Jo Ramsey closes out our amazing tour by featuring an interview with me, plus a red-hot excerpt from Drawn

Missed any of the past tour dates? No problemo.  Just visit the Drawn Blog Ghost Tour page and follow the links.

Thanks, again, to all the awesome bloggers and reviewers who have made this tour so phenomenal, and to you, the readers, who are helping to spread the word about Drawn.

<3

Marie