March Live Event

Featuring literary agents Jim McCarthy and Michael Bourret. 

Topic: Getting started in today’s market.

Live event is on Monday, March 28 at 5 PM EST.

 Find out more information here:

Create Your Own Adventure Contest

Ok, there is this great little contest going on over at Adventures in Agentland.    (

You know those fun stories where you have a bunch a people and one starts off a story and each person adds a line or two to the story?  The fun thing about it is you have no idea where the story is going to go.  Well, that’s what’s going on here, and let me tell you, the story is hysterical!   I put my two-cents in there about Prince Littlehorn.

Come on all you writers out there, join in.  This is fun stuff!  Oh, and good luck!!

Rules for contest and prizes (from the website):

To re-iterate and clear up the rules:
To enter the contest, post a comment continuing the story. It can go in any direction you wish – no preparation necessary. You MUST, however, continue on from the previous poster. Minimum entry length is one sentence; maximum length is three sentences.

For example:

My post: I love dogs.
Entrant: This is what I thought as I walked down the path.
Your post: And then a magical LEOPLURIDON jumped out!
Next Entrant: He showed me the way to Magic Mountain.

Obviously, I’m going for fun here, so have FUN with your post. I will randomly select THREE winners from those who post before Friday, March 25th at Midnight PST.

The winners will be announced on Monday, March 28th.
Each winner will have a choice of:
Treasure 1: Hidden Gems – query and first twenty page critique
Treasure 2: Sustenence for Future Quests – $5 Starbucks card and a brainstorm via chat session on whatever you like for 30min
Treasure 3: Gold – $15 Amazon gift card

Query Critic Competition and Interview with Jeyn Roberts

Jeyn Roberts is a name you will know well by the end of the year. Her amazing novel, Dark Inside comes out in September in the UK and November in the US and it’s going to be BIG! For those of you looking for agents, Jeyn landed her dream agent and has shared a bit of her story below. She is also offering a query critique to help an aspiring author land their dream agent.

The competition closes on 31st March – please provide links for additional entries.

Agent Pitch Contest

Are you a writer of YA stories? Do you have a complete manuscript that you are ready to pitch to an agent? Then you’ll want to head right over to YAtopia for their first ever agent pitch contest. You have a chance to pitch to Ammi-Joan Paquette, who is currently closed to submissions. This is a great opportunity, so make sure you take advantage of it! Here’s the address:

I’m a Semi-Finalist in Brenda Drake’s ‘Show Me The Voice’ Contest!

I just checked back on the Brenda Blake’s blog site and saw my submission of the first 250 words of my novel, In the Shadow of the Dragon King, is the number one spot in the list of semi-finalist in the “Show Me The Voice” contest!!!!

This has me so stoked!

I’d like to take a moment and thank everyone, including my kids, my phenomenal beta readers, and my critique partners who put their eyes on this baby. Your comments and patience has really helped me find David’s voice and fine tune it. Thank you so, so much.

I know this isn’t a book deal (you’d think it was by the way I’m reacting :-)) , but the significance is just as important to me. This is truly a success point for me. Baby steps, right? Next step – to win the contest! How awesome would that be!!!!!

Even if I don’t, the experience is phenomenal and I’m just giddy all over. It’s a great day!

Hugs to the world!!! I’ve got to write, revise and write some more . . . after I get my coffee!

I got my first rejection from an agent!

And I survived!  🙂

I thought I would be crushed, heartbroken, overcome by tears.  Instead, my heart and brain did that little hiccup and then they sighed a little sigh together . . .  and then I laughed.  I did.  I really did. 

It was a standard form letter,  you know the ones.  Thank you but no thank you, but what I loved about this one was that in the side margin was a hand-written note that said:

“strengthen your query letter.  You may have better luck elsewhere.”

Now at first this seems rather harsh.  Especially since I thought I’d written the epitome of the perfect query letter:  one page, single-spaced.  I’d researched the agent and the agency, the works they each represented.  There were no errors, the plot and characters were summed up in few words.  Everything an agent wants, right?

“strengthen your query letter”

What in the heck could I strengthen?  And then it hit me like a speeding train at 3:30 this morning.  Voice!  You didn’t give them your voice!  Yes, the query was text-book perfect, but it wasn’t agent/publisher perfect.  What bombarded my thoughts in the middle of the night was something daring, something I’d never even thought of.  In fact, I’d swear the literary angels infiltrated my mind and wrote the new query for me . . .

and let me tell you, it’s good!  It has voice, it has style, it speaks to the agent/agency.  It’s really darn good, if I must say so myself.

So, here I am today printing out the latest and greatest query sure to capture the hearts, mind and attention of my targeted agents and publishers.  Now, several envelopes and stamps later, I kiss them good luck and pop them in the mailbox.

I feel really good about this one.  I’ll let you know if it works.

So, how are your queries and synopses coming along?  Any colossal brainstorming ideas waking you up late at night?

Brenda Drake’s Show Me the Voice Contest!

It’s on! Everyone post your entries to your blog now. Get critiques from your followers and the participants, and when you’ve polished those first 250 words send them to me at in the body of the email. Or if you don’t need the critiques send off your entry now. And here’s more details…

So, here are the first 250 words of In the Shadow of the Dragon King. Please let me know what you think.


Name:  J. Keller Ford
Title:    In the Shadow of the Dragon King
Genre: YA Urban Contemporary Fantasy

David Heiland chucked the PS3 controller on his bed and scrambled onto the balcony as four F-18 Hornets screamed overhead, disappearing into the sunrise over the Tennessee Mountains.  A flock of ducks took to the sky, squawking as if in protest.

“Yes!”  David punched the ice-cold air. “Man, that’s freaking awesome!”

He shivered and scurried back inside, flicking a sideways glance at the photograph on the wall of his father in the cockpit of an F-16.  Sucks you can’t be here for the air show next weekend, Dad. We’d have a blast.

David rummaged through the laundry basket for his sweater and jeans and headed to the bathroom. He emerged twenty minutes later, showered and dressed, his hair an uncombed mess, and checked his phone. He smiled and read the text message from his best friend, Charlotte.

chk ur e-mail. sent you a pic from my 5th b’day party that will make u laugh!

Oh, man, this has got to be good, he thought.

David opened his laptop and within minutes brought up a photograph dated ten years earlier. Charlotte stood sopping wet in the foreground, her fists clenched at her sides. Martin Sanderman lay at her feet, his hand to his cheek. The third person in the picture – himself at five years and one day – stood in the background, his mouth twisted in a grin.

He chuckled and typed:

OMG, talk about an April Fools Day gone bad for Martin!  I still can’t believe you clocked him, but he so deserved it for pushing you in the barrel.



Margaret Atwood – 10 Tips for Writing Fiction

More tips from one of the greats!

1. Take a pencil to write with on aeroplanes. Pens leak. But if the pencil breaks, you can’t sharpen it on the plane, because you can’t take knives with you. Therefore: take two pencils.

2. If both pencils break, you can do a rough sharpening job with a nail file of the metal or glass type.

3. Take something to write on. Paper is good. In a pinch, pieces of wood or your arm will do.

4. If you’re using a computer, always safeguard new text with a ­memory stick.

5. Do back exercises. Pain is distracting.

6. Hold the reader’s attention. (This is likely to work better if you can hold your own.) But you don’t know who the reader is, so it’s like shooting fish with a slingshot in the dark. What ­fascinates A will bore the pants off B.

7. You most likely need a thesaurus, a rudimentary grammar book, and a grip on reality. This latter means: there’s no free lunch. Writing is work. It’s also gambling. You don’t get a pension plan. Other people can help you a bit, but ­essentially you’re on your own. ­Nobody is making you do this: you chose it, so don’t whine.

8. You can never read your own book with the innocent anticipation that comes with that first delicious page of a new book, because you wrote the thing. You’ve been backstage. You’ve seen how the rabbits were smuggled into the hat. Therefore ask a reading friend or two to look at it before you give it to anyone in the publishing business. This friend should not be someone with whom you have a ­romantic relationship, unless you want to break up.

9. Don’t sit down in the middle of the woods. If you’re lost in the plot or blocked, retrace your steps to where you went wrong. Then take the other road. And/or change the person. Change the tense. Change the opening page.

10. Prayer might work. Or reading ­something else. Or a constant visual­isation of the holy grail that is the finished, published version of your resplendent book.

Roddy Doyle’s 10 Rules for Writing

I’m always curious to know what famous, successful authors have to say to aspiring authors about writing. So, for the next few days I’m going to post some famous authors’ rules for writing. Enjoy. Today, is Roddy Doyle, author of The Commitments, Paddy Clark, Ha Ha Ha and The Woman Who Walked Through Doors (among many others)

1. Do not place a photograph of your ­favourite author on your desk, especially if the author is one of the famous ones who committed suicide.

2. Do be kind to yourself. Fill pages as quickly as possible; double space, or write on every second line. Regard every new page as a small triumph ­–

3. Until you get to Page 50. Then calm down, and start worrying about the quality. Do feel anxiety – it’s the job.

4. Do give the work a name as quickly as possible. Own it, and see it. Dickens knew Bleak House was going to be called Bleak House before he started writing it. The rest must have been easy.

5. Do restrict your browsing to a few websites a day. Don’t go near the online bookies – unless it’s research.

6. Do keep a thesaurus, but in the shed at the back of the garden or behind the fridge, somewhere that demands travel or effort. Chances are the words that come into your head will do fine, eg “horse”, “ran”, “said”.

7. Do, occasionally, give in to temptation. Wash the kitchen floor, hang out the washing. It’s research.

8. Do change your mind. Good ideas are often murdered by better ones. I was working on a novel about a band called the Partitions. Then I decided to call them the Commitments.

9. Do not search for the book you haven’t written yet.

10. Do spend a few minutes a day working on the cover biog – “He divides his time between Kabul and Tierra del Fuego.” But then get back to work.