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FIRST FIVE FRENZY with Jennifer Grimaldi of Chalberg & Sussman Literary

  Posted by Amy Trueblood , 30 November 2018 · 41 views



Writing the opening chapter of a book can be a struggle, especially penning those critical first pages. There are always questions about where to start, what you should include to have the most impact, and more importantly, how to get the reader to turn the page.

The First Five Frenzy is all about getting an agent’s perspective on what works, and what fails, in those first few pages of a manuscript. It’s tricky to get the right balance, but I hope by reading each agent’s comments you’ll learn how to make your manuscript a shining gem that’s requested over and over.

Today, I’m proud to share Jennifer Grimaldi’s perspective on what’s important in those first five pages.


Amy: Many writers have the impression that a great first line is imperative to drawing in the reader. How important is a first line to you as an agent?

Jennifer: An author’s real first line to an agent is their query: that’s what I read before anything else. However, not every good writer knows how to sum up their title in a few measly paragraphs, so I try not to hold it against them. I always request that queries include the first 5 pages of their actual manuscript so I can get an early sense of how the novel is written.

So, by the time I’ve gotten to that first line, I’ve already made some kind of quick, snap second decision. If I’m interested and the first line reads well, I’m almost always going to clear some time to read the rest of the query and possibly make a request for more pages. On the flip side, if I’m not already hooked in and the first line is poorly written or uninspired, I’m way more likely to mentally move on.


Amy: A lot of books open with common things like dreams, eating breakfast, riding in a car, starting at a new school, etc. What are some openings you recommend writers stay away from?

Jennifer: All of the above! Your opening should be structured like you’re relating a story to a friend: If you wanted to tell them about that time you got abducted by aliens, would you walk them through bickering with your little brother first? A lot of writers feel like they have to set status quo and stakes for relationships, but readers want to jump right into the action. I don’t recommend that every novel start in media res, but if I haven’t been given a reason to keep turning the pages within the first scene, you won’t be holding my—or other reader—attention for long.


Amy: When you’ve responded to a writer to request a partial or full manuscript, what was it about their first pages that piqued your interest?

Jennifer: I request more pages when I want to keep reading: This means the characters were dynamic, the setting was interesting, or the concept was unique. Hopefully all three! Of course, writing is a factor, too. But I’m an editorial agent—I like to get my hands dirty. So an exciting concept that needs some editing will always win out for me over excellent writing in service of a concept I don’t care about. I’m a big nerd, so I like to work with books I can get excited about. I love to champion the novels and authors I work with, so it’s always a good sign to me when I can’t stop talking about a manuscript I’ve just read to all and sundry; if I’m starting to pitch to the people around me, I know that I’m eager to take it into the publishing world at large.


Amy: What resonates with you most in those first pages? Voice? Pacing? Unique concept?

Jennifer: Certainly all three of those come into play. I don’t think it makes sense to prioritize one over another. Concept is the first thing that will grab me in a query, since it’s the easiest to connect to, but without a strong voice and characters to serve as backbone, the idea won’t get across. Pacing is something that comes into play once I settle in to read the work. I consider it to be the easiest thing to edit, but if I’m struggling to get through a first or second chapter even though I’m interested in the plot and concept, that can be a big read flag.


Amy: What is one piece of advice you’d like to give writers about their opening pages?

Jennifer: Don’t waste your real estate! If a scene is boring or unnecessary, don’t open with it. If you don’t need to describe your character in a mirror, at cheerleading practice, or at their minimum wage job, don’t. Open with the scene where things happen. If you’re worried removing breakfast with Mom makes her death by sorcerer less impactful in scene 3, the issue isn’t the time you’ve spent introducing her on page, but the lack of emotional weight your character is struggling under. Make sure your first few pages hook me, and don’t let go.


Jennifer Grimaldi (formerly Jennifer Letwack) has always gravitated toward otherworldly, fantastical novels that reflect our own world’s past and present. Formerly an editor with Thomas Dunne/St. Martin’s Press, where she acquired and edited S. Jae-Jones’ New York Times bestseller WINTERSONG, she is now building her list as an agent with Chalberg & Sussman.

At C&S, she is actively looking for clients with historicals, romance, horror, and YA & adult sci-fi and fantasy novels, Across all genres, Jennifer loves strong, voice-driven novels, dark and romantic themes, and books that make her think—and learn. She is particularly excited by books that explore gender and sexuality, especially those with diverse, LGBTA+ leads, and own-voice writers.

If you are interested in submitting to Jennifer, please check the Chalberg & Sussman website for their submission guidelines.





FALL FICTION FEST Agent Round Begins Today!!!

  Posted by Amy Trueblood , 26 November 2018 · 17 views



Welcome to the Fall Fiction Fest agent round!  It’s the first time for Michelle, Marty, and I to square off and have a friendly competition! Many success stories have come out of our other contests over the years and we look forward to more!

So while I’m pulling for Team Sunshine, every request is to be celebrated. There are 12 Team Sunshine entries for the agents to read, but they can also make requests for The Saucy Cranberries over at Michelle Hauck’s blog and Team Merry over at Marty Mayberry’s blog! To see the entire list of my entries, go to my here.

As the agents move through the entries, please remember that contests are subjective. Our agents have a definitive idea of what they would like for their list. If they do not request, it DOES NOT mean the entry was not worthy. No matter what happens, you’ve got to keep querying and NEVER GIVE UP!

Before Team Sunshine “burns” the competition, here are some guidelines to remember:

There is no commenting in this round except for agents. Sorry, but no cheerleading as this may lead to unconscious bias.

We are happy to see and retweet your thoughts and cheers over on Twitter under the #fallfest tag! That’s the place to hang out and have fun! I hope to see members of Team Sunshine present in all their shining glory! I’ll try to shout out when new requests arrive.

Agents will consider entries on ALL the blogs regardless of team and they might even respond with a fall-themed request! Remember the agent window is open from now until November 28 and agents may show up at any time.

Good luck to everyone. There is amazing talent on all the teams!




FFF 1: WRECKLESS – YA Speculative Fiction

  Posted by Amy Trueblood , 26 November 2018 · 17 views



Category/Genre: YA Speculative Fiction

Word Count: 69,000 words


How Did You Fall For Writing?:

I fell in love with writing at the tender age of eight when I wrote a story for school. My teacher was a sweetheart and encouraged me and I’ve been putting a pen to paper since.



Dear Agent,

In Flags only one thing is certain: no one leaves. With the ban on cars over a century old and teleport station tickets higher than the regular wage, no one can afford a better life. Instead, they pass their free time watching live vid of the car-racing thug known as Dodger escape the Corporation police each night.

Driven and ambitious, Alec Cunningham never accepted his allotted role in life, instead setting his sights on Hampton University to become a doctor and leave Flags with his family. When he is invited to attend a party held by Hampton’s chancellor, Alec meets the chancellor’s beautiful and confident daughter, Liv Mujica… and promptly forgets how to speak.

Still reeling from the party, Alec is dragged by friends to an underground car race the next night. When a Corps raid arrives, Alec joins one of the racers… only to discover not only is the driver the notorious, law-breaking Dodger, but also Liv, the nerve-shattering daughter of the chancellor. With her secret at risk of being exposed, Liv threatens to sabotage Alec’s chance of getting into Hampton unless he agrees to implicate himself by joining her at the next race.

As Alec becomes more involved in Dodger’s world, he suspects there is more at play than simply flaunting the racing laws of the Corps. But crossing the powerful corporations could mean Alec stands to lose more than Hampton and his dreams; he could lose his community, his family… and even his life.

WRECKLESS is a YA speculative fiction standalone complete at 69,000 words and will appeal to fans of Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One and The Fast and the Furious. The story features a biracial Latino, like myself, as a protagonist.

I have been a finalist in the Latinx contest PitchAmericá and am currently part of Kate Brauning’s Breakthrough Writer’s Boot Camp.


First 250 words:

Dad always said a man proved himself by his actions. But if that was the case, what did waiting by the front door of our house for an alarm to go off say about me? Aside from the wise-cracks Jorge would make of course…

Leave too soon and I’d arrive early like some country newb. Leave too late and… well, fashionably late wasn’t my style. At all.

Twenty. Nineteen. Eighteen. The clock ticked by with agonising slowness. The small retro display shone in the bottom corner of my left eye, all the PGMs balanced and organized by title: just how I liked life. In its place. 

The alarm flashed red against my vision and I blinked to shut it off. Annoying. There were other, more streamlined high tech PGMs that synched with body rhythm but I’d been afraid to miss the alarm. Retro. They knew how to live a simpler life. Less tech, less stress.

Action time. I shut the faded white door behind me, and I swore the house shook with the action. Ma stared down at me from a second story window, the bleached curtains blowing in the breeze.

“Adíos, Alec ¡buena suerte mi amor!”

I smiled at her. She looked older these days – crow’s feet and grey hair cropping up each day now. We didn’t have the money to afford the fancy life-extension surgeries and procedures the rich and famous used. No. For Mamá, it was old fashioned aging. I suppose less tech didn’t always mean less stress.




  Posted by Amy Trueblood , 26 November 2018 · 17 views



Category/Genre: Young Adult Contemporary

Word Count: 72,000 words


How Did You Fall For Writing:

On February 14, 2004, I attended a teacher’s conference, listened to an author, and started my own love affair with writing.



Dear Agent X:

Seventeen-year-old Bea Taylor wants to win The Crème de la Chrome Food Truck competition so badly she can taste it. But in order to do so, she’ll have to overcome Momma’s protestations, salty customers, seasoned competitors, and her own inner critic while staying within the boundaries of the contest’s rules.

When Bea receives the coveted letter informing her she’s been accepted into the tenth season of the Crème de la Chrome food truck competition, it’s sweeter than a Sunday peach cobbler, but the rules clearly state she must have a team of three. With only forty-eight hours to confirm her entry, she recruits Tiny, a fellow overeater with no professional cooking experience, and Aimee, a girl she knows from the local cupcake shop, to form The Bea Team. And then there’s Momma. Without her approval, Bea can’t move forward. The stress brings back Bea’s worst enemy—Bull, the nickname she’s given to the voice that drives her bulimia. But a delectable fish dinner and Tiny’s help gain the needed approval.

The Bea Team heads to Atlanta, where they meet competitors who’re all more experienced. After placing in the bottom during week one’s signature dish, Bea knows she’ll have to work harder to impress the judges and satisfy the finicky customers. But weeks two and three don’t go much better. Finally, during week four’s breakfast challenge, her team’s fried crème brûlée toast wins the weekly Silver Spoke award while also igniting a flame with rival chef, Holland.

The rules forbid fraternizing with the competition. Bea wants to win, but she follows her heart and starts a secret romance with Holland. The stress of the competition and defying the rules feed Bull, creating a toxic recipe that not only poisons Bea’s chances of winning but also her well-being.

THE BEA TEAMan LGBTQIA novel, is WHEN WE COLLIDED by Emery Lord blended with DUMPLIN’ by Julie Murphy and a dash of CHEF’S TABLE. I am an active member of SCBWI. In 2010 and 2017, I won the Writer’s League of Texas Middle Grade Manuscript contest for THE R.U.I.N.S AT FIDDLEFERN and for LOOKING FOR STARDUST respectively.


First 250 words:

An almost-perfect water spot circles the word—contestant. Raising one shoulder, I wipe sweat off my cheek. The cheap plastic fan does little to cool me down. Lined up on the make-shift counter are mounds of grated cheese, a pile of seasoned panko, and a stainless steel bowl of a frothy egg wash. I have to start serving samples to festivalgoers in just under an hour. But I want to savor the words on the milky white page a bit longer. They’re ones I’ve waited for six months to see.

Dear Chef Bea Taylor,

Chef. It’s the one word out of all the many words on the page that means the most. It’s like seeing your name on your own birth certificate. Verification.

On behalf of Birdeye Productions and Changing Tastes we’re pleased to inform you of your acceptance into the tenth season of The Crème de la Chrome RaceWe’ve cooked up a lot of surprises for this season, including an even bigger first prize—a customized food truck, state-of-the-art equipment, choice of location anywhere in the contiguous United States, in addition to the $100,000 start-up monetary prize. This prize package is worth an estimated one million dollars.

It’s rumored the owner, chef Birdie Sauer, will come out of retirement to make an appearance this season. Meeting her would be exquisite, but having her taste my food, well, that would be a seven-course Michelin star dinner. Now to figure out how to make that happen.





  Posted by Amy Trueblood , 26 November 2018 · 16 views



Category/Genre: Young Adult Historical

Word Count: 69,000 words


How Did You Fall for Writing: 

In second grade, I had a strange dream that I decided would make a good story. Writing it all down was the first time I felt that creative rush. It was the first time I experienced a story coming to life and trying to breathe on its own. I had never given life to something before, but I did to that story just by writing it down. Before that, I had loathed writing and thought it boring because I never had anything I wanted to write about, but that one exciting feeling changed it all. I started taking the time to write outside of class, came up with new ideas I loved, and never looked back. If eight-year-old me had never had that dream, it might have taken much longer for me to grow to love writing, if at all.



Dear Agents:

In the 1886 Utah Territory, Rebecca Steward spends her days scanning wanted posters and riding alone from town to town. Bounty hunting is a good way to make a living, but vengeance has always been her primary motive. Rebecca tracks unsuspecting criminals with the belief that they’ll lead her to the outlaw duo who murdered her family.

The killers come sauntering back into her life when they team up with one of her bounties and take a sheriff hostage. Rebecca reluctantly partners with the sheriff’s son, Jack, to pursue the men. When the sheriff is found dead, Jack chooses to avoid making vengeance the center of his life even though he lost his home along with his father. Rebecca still craves revenge for her own murdered family and continues to track the outlaws. Jack stays by her side because he is unwilling to lose the last constant in his life.

Rebecca’s obsession with vengeance begins to distance Jack as she puts her goal above everything and everyone, including him. Though she is prepared to take the outlaws’ lives, the men will not die quietly. As both the desperation and danger surge, Rebecca is forced to decide how far she’ll go to get justice against her family ’s killers.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


First 250 words:

Loud, drunken laughter echoed out from the saloon and onto the street. I smiled, knowing the man would already be drunk this late in the afternoon. That would certainly make my job easier.

This was the end of the line for Wolfe. I’d been tracking him for weeks and weeks. Now I had him cornered.

I smirked as I eyed one of his wanted posters hanging a few feet away. They’d be taking those down shortly. Just as soon as Wolfe was jailed. Not only would he be locked up, but I’d be a little richer, too.

Wolfe was the only remarkable thing in this town. There was nothing more than the same dusty streets and ramshackle, wooden buildings I’d gotten used to seeing. Most towns looked the same, no matter what territory I happened to be in.

I pushed back the brim of my hat and sauntered toward the saloon’s doors. My eyes stayed alert, though I made sure to keep my pace slow and relaxed. I wanted to join the scene as a bystander.

My skirt did a good job hiding both the pistol and knife strapped to my legs. My belt was tightly cinched to accentuate my waist and my shirt was close-fitting as well. Any outlaw I chased was like all the rest – easily distracted by a woman’s body. If Wolfe was distracted, then he’d be a quick catch. After all, no outlaw ever expected a woman to be the one to bring them to justice.








  Posted by Amy Trueblood , 26 November 2018 · 16 views



Category/Genre: YA LGBTQ+ Contemporary

Word Count: 60,000 words


How Did You Fall for Writing:

I always assumed I would write a book someday, but it seemed like something I wouldn’t be able to do until I was older and more intelligent. However, one day I read a popular YA book that left a mark on me, and I became determined to write my own. I started working on my manuscript almost as soon as I finished that series, but it took me awhile to complete it.



Dear Fall Fiction Fest,

Sixteen-year-old Skye only knows life in the polygamist group, the Community. However, when her father, a highly respected member of the Community, marries his sixth wife, Becka—Skye’s classmate who is a year younger than her—the pairing and her own sudden romantic feelings for Becka force Skye to doubt the values she has been raised with.

As soon as her father leaves the Community for his honeymoon, Skye seizes the opportunity to sneak to the outside world where her mother grew up. Her forbidden excursion leads her to Calvin, a cute music store employee who she is drawn to, and Calvin offers the key to making contact with her long-lost aunt. Despite her fears of betraying the Community, Skye insists on meeting with her aunt, hoping she’ll learn not only about her deceased mother’s past, but also the meaning behind her own newly awakened feelings.

But then her father returns with the “good” news that he’s arranged a marriage for her to an older man with several wives, and Skye’s mission suddenly has a time limit. If she stays with the Community, she’ll be trapped in an unwanted and toxic marriage and will lose Calvin, who she might like as more than a friend; if she goes, she may lose everything she’s ever loved.

HERE COMES THE SUN should appeal to fans of DEVOTED and THE SACRED LIES OF MINNOW BLY. I went to Eastern Washington University where I graduated with honors. Like Skye, I am LGBTQ+, but I’m not bisexual, which is why I didn’t put that it was Ownvoice.


First 250 words:

As soon as my half-brother Jonah told me we were having a family meeting, I knew nothing good could come from it. My father’s wife, Heather, had to be expecting. Father had five wives, a decent amount for someone in the Community, but none of them got pregnant often, even though he was a godly man. However, there could be no other reason for the meeting.

The last thing I wanted was to see Heather gloat. Her face always lit up, and she would smirk and roll her eyes, even though it wasn’t sweet. I would try not to clinch my fists, and I always attempted to look delighted when she had something she felt compelled to brag about, but I wasn’t great at it, despite all my experiences.

“You might want to hurry if you’re not planning to miss it,” Jonah said. Being Heather’s son, he’d probably like if I did since I would get in trouble. He gave me one last look before hurrying off.

Skipping it would have been wonderful. I could stay at the lake, daydreaming and working on my sketches. Maybe, I could finally get the ripple of the waves right. But no, I was being summoned, and I had to attend. I had no choice. Father didn’t approve of lateness, and he could be cruel when angered. I knew better than to aggravate him.





FFF 5: SLIDE POINT – YA Space Opera

  Posted by Amy Trueblood , 26 November 2018 · 17 views



Category/Genre: YA Space Opera

Word Count: 75,000 words


How Did You Fall for Writing: 

I wrote my first book in first grade; it was a graphic novel about two astronauts visiting number-themed space aliens. That was all it took–I was hooked!



Dear Agent:

When she was a child, Zubeda Omar’s greatest wish was to be a Lady of Fortune, a silver-tongued, planet-hopping adventurer seeking fame and wealth. But fortune did not take kindly to her. On an interstellar cruise, 9-year-old Zu was the only survivor of a pirate attack that killed her mother. Zu left the ship with nothing but a souvenir pack of playing cards–and the knowledge that her mother was following secret information leading them to the lost human homeworld, Earth.

Seven years later, Zu plans to set off through the cosmos and reveal her homeworld to the galaxy to honor her mother’s memory–and, of course, to see what fortunes can be made from the venture. She strikes a deal with Dweiji–a hulking, semi-feral alien predator with a starship and a shared love of card games–to track the clues leading back to the lost planet. While Zu wants to find it for glory and riches, Dweiji, with her deep sense of justice, is more interested in uncovering the conspiracy hinted at in Zu’s mother’s notes, one in which a small company of humans is keeping the riches of Earth hidden for themselves.

But the voyage is rife with friends and enemies: aliens, living ghost ships, dashing pilots who model their lives on TV shows, card sharks, terrorists, amoeboids with attitude, cutthroat businessmen, doctors in diners, hyperdimensional kraken, and Dweiji’s own violent rules of honor. Zu will need all of her skills to make her way through them. And even if she does reach her mother’s goal, the fabled Earth, will it lead to the renown she imagines?

With smart, relatable characters, including LGBTQ+, PoC, and #ownvoices autistic representation, playing against an interstellar backdrop, SLIDE POINT takes readers along on a fast-paced adventure with flair and humor. Fans of Lando Calrissian’s smooth-talking, swashbuckling, high-stakes endeavors and the found families in Becky Chambers’ WAYFARERS series will cheer Zu on as she charms and bluffs her way to becoming a Lady of Fortune!


First 250 words:

The rain washed out the lights of the cafes and lounges around Zubeda Omar as she moved along the midlevel walkways of Johari Reef. Any sensible person would be inside one of those, instead of out here in the city’s pouring chill.

It was just her luck the person she was following was not sensible.

Though it was on the street below, Zu had no problem keeping track of the figure: it was like stalking a bus. Well over seven feet tall, it was big even for an arhod, though Zu couldn’t make out much else under the vast waterproof poncho that reached almost down to copper-colored trouser cuffs. The pair of wicked four-inch dewclaws that gleamed as Dweiji stumped through puddles added a sharper sense of menace to her bulk..

Zu was a little disappointed that she couldn’t get a better look. She’d like a chance to take in the infamous Dweiji Yodthr.
Well, soon enough. The datastick around her neck was burning to be used. She had to do something with it, and her friend Jedok had been adamant that Dweiji was the one to see.

She hoped Dweiji wasn’t going far. The bar Jedok had suggested Zu try was near the spacedocks—close enough that, even in the heavy rain, Zu periodically saw a superlight ship shoot into the sky like the beginning of a fireworks display.

Jedok had been right, but Zu had arrived at the bar just a little too late.






  Posted by Amy Trueblood , 26 November 2018 · 17 views



Category/Genre: YA Fantasy

Word Count: 60,000 words


How Did You Fall for Writing:

“I fell in love like you would fall asleep: slowly and then all at once” John Green, The Fault in Our Stars



Dear Agent,

Seventeen-year-old Princess Cordelia has spent years trapped in a castle by a wicked witch, dreaming of her prince charming. But on the day of her rescue, he is slain by a masked figure. The assassin reveals herself to be the lost Princess Rosemary and exposes the shocking truth about Cordelia’s so-called “fairy tale”. To prevent female heirs from coming into power, the rulers of the nine kingdoms craft daring rescues from princes in order to marry their daughters off and ensure a patriarchal reign. Rosemary introduces Cordelia to the Damsels: Warrior Princess Assassins. Their mission? Liberating princesses from their false happily ever afters and uniting the nine kingdoms under the singular rule of a prophesied queen.

The Damsels allow Cordelia to return home where her father arranges her to marry a prince she despises. Fed up with his cruel politics and her lack of choice, Cordelia abandons her former life to train with the Damsels. On her first mission, she meets Prince Cyrus, the younger brother of her deceased betrothed. The connection between the two is magical, but the Damsels believe he’s just another prince tasked with stealing her throne.

Despite their concerns, Cordelia still secretly wishes for her own fairy tale ending. But if she marries Cyrus, she’ll have to play the role of a silent and docile queen. Now, Cordelia must choose: continue her quest with the Damsels or lose her newfound freedom to the promise of true love.

Thank you for your time and consideration


First 250 words:

When I was a little girl, my mother told me stories of princesses who wished upon a star and all their dreams came true. On the one thousand, four hundred, and fifty-sixth day of my capture, I gazed up to the sky and cursed the wretched balls of light. Four years locked in a tower by a witch and I still had no prince charming to save me. At this point, I’d settle for a knight in shining armor, or dreamy farm boy or, hell, even a distant cousin. My mother didn’t prepare me for the boredom that came with being a damsel in distress.

I glanced down at the swampy grass at the bottom of the stone tower. My makeshift rope hung about ten feet above the ground from my window. I could jump. If I survived the fall and made it across the moat, maybe I could sprint to the nearest village. My tower was surrounded by miles of thick green forest. I couldn’t remember the last time my bare feet touched the grass or what a fresh flower smelled like…


With my seventeenth birthday approaching I couldn’t leave anything to chance. I had to remain put for my prince if I wanted my happily ever after. Tonight was for exploring the castle while the witch was away and adding as many new trinkets to my collection as possible before my prince swept me off my feet.

Looting during a rescue was unprincess-like.





FFF 7: BEAUTY TO ASHES – YA Psychological Suspense

  Posted by Amy Trueblood , 26 November 2018 · 16 views



Category/Genre: Young Adult Psychological Suspense

Word Count: 77,000 words


How Did You Fall For Writing: 

I was always very shy and when I was thirteen years old I was diagnosed with severe scoliosis and had to wear a chin-to-neck back brace. It was the first thing people saw when they looked at me, and many assumed I had some sort of mental as well physical handicap. It made me very self-conscious of my appearance. I wished I could disappear, so I did, inside my head. I started day dreaming more and more and this led to the desire to create stories as well as read them.



A name randomly drawn out of a basket of prayer bracelets sends a seventeen-year-old ballerina spinning into the arms of death.

Unaware that her life is on a collision course with a killer, Hannah Marsh heads to the shore to attend a week-long youth retreat. One night she is savagely attacked on the beach and carried into the sea, only surviving through the heroic intervention of Dale Harrison, a fellow retreat attendee. Her attacker drowns, leaving Hannah traumatized and haunted by questions no one can answer.

Returning to her elite boarding school, Hannah is determined to put the past behind her and pursue her passion for dance. But her fear that she’s being stalked is amplified when a close friend is murdered. Worse, she’s afraid that someone close to her, maybe even her own boyfriend, may be following in a madman’s deadly footsteps. The danger escalates when Hannah discovers a link between herself and three other girls who mysteriously drowned after attending the same retreat. Fighting to survive this dance with death, Hannah discovers that the darkest hell of all is locked inside the human mind.

BEAUTY TO ASHES will appeal to readers who enjoy Kimberley Dertings’ BODY FINDER series and fans of Natasha Preston. I am the author of seven adult romances, a young adult mystery, and a series of non-fiction picture books for elementary-aged children. I’ve been a corporate speech writer and earned my MFA in writing, but what truly qualifies me to write this is story is that I am a dance mom with a very dark imagination.

Thank you in advance for your consideration.


First 250 words: 

The beach was dark, abandoned.

Hannah almost turned back. The lights of the campsite were well behind her now, and despite the warmth of the sea breeze, goosebumps pricked across her arms. Ahead of her was only the ocean. But a dare was a dare. Besides, all she had to do was gather some wet seaweed and she could return to the safety of the cabins. It would only take a minute, and the moonlit sea was beautiful. So vast. So powerful. So alive.

She jogged through loose sand to the water’s edge and wandered along the shoreline. It was disappointingly bare of seaweed. Earlier, when she and Aubrey had gone swimming, there’d been plenty. It’d tangled around her ankles and brushed against her legs. Even knowing it was simply a plant, each time it touched her, she’d felt a thrill of fear, as if the tentacles of a sea monster were reaching up from the bottom of the ocean to grab her.

She kicked off her sandals and waded a few feet into the water, gasping at the coldness, the tug of the undertow. The smooth sandbar sloped gently, inviting her deeper. Feeling with her foot, she inched forward, scanning the ebony water.

Thigh deep, she looked back to see how far she was from the shore and for a moment, she thought she glimpsed movement near the dunes. The waves rolled through her, soaking her shorts, making it hard to balance. Hannah froze, studied the shadows. It was probably nothing




FFF 8: SISTERS OF THE MOON – YA Fantasy with Magical Realism

  Posted by Amy Trueblood , 26 November 2018 · 16 views



Category/Genre: YA Fantasy with Magical Realism

Word Count: 97,000 words


How Did You Fall for Writing:

I was up late reading Stephen King one night as a teenager. Alone in the house, I remember being scared by every noise and too afraid to get off the couch and go to bed. As an artist, I rely heavily on visuals, and it takes a lot to scare me. I admired the images he created with words and vowed to hone my skills as a writer and produce at least one novel in my lifetime. Fast forward to today and many novels later, I’m no King, but I’m still writing.



Dear Agent:

In an all-female village hidden deep in the woods, seventeen-year-old Juniper relies on her ancestral witchcraft for protection against persecution by the fundamentalist patriarchy in the neighboring town. 

When Juniper discovers Abel within the borders of her village, terror strikes her at the realization he somehow broke the protection spell. He eventually challenges her belief that all men are evil and gains her trust, yet she must keep their interactions secret or risk being executed as a traitor.

At the annual ritual to ensure the survival of the village, the Goddess chooses Juniper to seduce and mate with a male from town. Terrified, Juniper convinces her sister to secretly take her place. The ritual typically conjures a female conception, but as they’ve defied the Goddess, the girls are punished by the birth of a boy, who must be sacrificed to preserve their matriarchal society.

Juniper vows to save her nephew, but to succeed, she must battle the hatred and intolerance that oppresses her village and risk death by defying generations of sacred tradition. If she fails, the baby dies, and she loses both Abel and any chance at liberation.

The story has elements reminiscent of Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and should appeal to fans of Ernshaw’s The Wicked Deep and Spotswood’s The Cahill Witch ChroniclesIn addition to writing, I am an illustrator, and have studied paganism and witchcraft extensively as it is a key theme in much of my artworkI am a current member of the New England SCBWI.

Thank you so much for your consideration.


First 250 words:

We are one with the earth: fire, water, blood, bone. When this life ends, we return to the ground, body to ash, soul to the air. We trust no one but our own. To the west, smoke rises from the homes of our enemies. Skeletons of dead leaves crunch beneath my boots as I trudge the path along the river that flows between us, protection from those who wish us harm. The snow-covered branches of the barren trees sway in the gentle breeze, like bony fingers of ice reapers bestowing their death touch on the mourning black sky. In the darkness, the ambient light casts down from the wolf moon upon my mother’s grave. I renew my vow to find her killer and avenge her death.

Rowan takes the spirit board from beneath her cloak and clears a space to set it down. Bryony places a small cake on the headstone while I struggle to dig a hole in the frozen earth with the sharp edge of a rock. The ground is cold and stubborn, but I manage to carve enough away to plant a cluster of snowdrops just deep enough to cover the roots. I pat the tilled soil tightly around the stems and scoop the remaining dirt into a pouch as the echo of a lone raven cawing in the distance cuts through the bleak silence. The eternal grounds seem especially desolate after the Esbat ritual held earlier, when our coven celebrated the new life entering our village.




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