Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tuesday's Special Is...Wicked Game!

WICKED GAME by Jeri Smith-Ready

Buy from Amazon

Jeri's website

Recovering con artist Ciara Griffin takes a marketing internship at a local radio station, where the DJs turn out to be vampires, stuck forever in the eras in which they were turned. To boost ratings and save the station from corporate takeover, Ciara re-brands the stations.

“WVMP, the Lifeblood of Rock ’n’ Roll”--hiding the DJs’ vampire nature in plain sight and disguising the bloody truth as a marketing gimmick. WVMP becomes the hottest thing around--next to Ciara’s complicated affair with grunge vamp Shane McAllister. But the “gimmick” enrages a posse of ancient and powerful vampires who aren’t so eager to be brought into the light.

"WICKED GAME was consistently surprising and original...I highly recommend it."--Book of the Week pick, NY Times-bestselling author Charlaine Harris

Please read the following excerpt and answer the question at the end for a chance to win a free copy of WICKED GAME! Or, pop in and chat!!

Excerpt from WICKED GAME:

David touches my elbow to urge me forward a few steps. “I’m hoping Ciara will be our new intern.”

The hostility fades from the faces of the four awake DJs, replaced with a patronizing politeness. I attempt a smile, encouraged by the slight thaw.

“Spencer does our fifties show,” David says. “Birth of rock ‘n’ roll and all that.”

A man in a white dress shirt and black pants stands to greet me, unfurling endless legs from under the table. His dark red hair is slicked back into a ducktail. He squeezes the hand I offer.

“Hey, baby, what’s shakin’?” Spencer’s southern drawl and impeccable clothes give him a gentlemanly façade, which doesn’t quite gel with the feral look in his eyes.

“Not much, Daddy-o.” It just comes out. Rather than take offense, Spencer smiles and nods approvingly.

The next guy springs out of his chair, and I force myself not to retreat from his approach.

“This is Jim,” David says.

“Man, I really dug your portfolio.” Jim hugs me. His long brown curls and tie-dyed shirt reek of marijuana and patchouli. “I used to go to art school, too.”

“Thanks, but I’m not an artist.” Is he sniffing me?

Jim pulls back and regards me at arm’s length. “Then how’d you get all those layouts to look so groovy?”

“For my class projects? I used the computer, of course.”

His eyes crinkle with confusion. “The...?”

David clears his throat loudly enough for my bullshit alert system to creep into Code Yellow. What the hell’s going on?

Comprehension crosses Jim’s face, and he snaps his fingers. “Right. Back in my day, we had to do it all by hand.”

I squint at him. He looks just a few years older than I am. They all do.

“Back in your day?”

The third man scrapes his chair against the floor as he rises. I turn to him, relieved to slide out of Jim’s personal space, which seems to lack boundaries.

“I am Noah.” The man’s voice rolls over me like a warm Jamaican breeze. “It is a pleasure to meet you, sweet lady.” He reaches across the table, takes my hand, and draws it to his full lips. My eyes go all moony and unprofessional under his gaze, which is softened by a pair of dark-rimmed glasses lying low on the bridge of his nose. Noah’s green, gold, and red knit cap perches atop a fetching set of chest-length dreadlocks. I’m relieved the seventies are represented by reggae instead of disco.

“Oh, please. Get the fuck off her, you wanker.” Despite the Briticism, the punk/Goth woman—Regina, I presume—has a flat Midwestern accent. Beneath a shower of spiky black hair, her face is a study in monochrome, with black eyeliner and lipstick setting off her skin’s porcelain perfection.

Regina gives me a chin tilt and a “yo,” before turning to Shane. “You can pretend to wake up now.”

He slides his flannel-shirted arm from his face, then turns his head. I take my first full breath of the evening. His warm eyes and crooked smile make me feel like I’m really here and not just a stain someone left on the rug.

“Hey.” Shane drags his battered Doc Martens off the couch and stands up slowly. Even with the grunge-cool slouch, he’s taller than the others. As he approaches, he flicks his head to sweep a tangle of nape-length, pale brown hair out of his eyes.

When our hands touch, he starts as if I’ve shocked him. He pronounces my name perfectly, and so softly I wonder if someone else in the room is still sleeping. Then his gaze cools, and he half-turns away, hands in his pockets.

Aw, he’s shy. How lovable, huggable, stuff-in-a-bag-and-take-home-able.

Question: Jeri needs another Bullshit Alert System for her next novel. What kinds of codes would you suggest? (As many or as few as you like!)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Hot Hook-Ups

From the desk of Ms. Spitfire...

My dearest Suzy-Q,

So what's new in the deep down? Are there any birthday plans for the triplets? I always did think that they threw the most fantastic parties---particularly for themselves. I don't think I've ever had as much fun as their 63rd! I can't imagine why Auntie Maybel Sue Jean disapproves so much of them! I think they're fantastic and far more fun than many people my own age...
This week has been a good one for me. I've been busy and surprisingly productive. The week felt full and strong-bodied, like a good cup of coffee. Not overwhelming and jittery, like too many hastily drunk espressos.

That being said, this upcoming week is going to certainly be a busy one. We're having a sales conference this week, which is--at least for me--one of the most important and pivotal parts of the season (remember? Three seasons in publishing: spring/summer, fall, and winter.)
I know I told you about launch, which is when all the editors present their newly-acquired books (for the "new" season) to the marketing and publicity team. Well, launch is followed by a flurry of weeks in which the marketing department and publicity department divy the books out to the marketing manager and publicist who will work on each title. These mini teams familiarize themselves with the books and meet with the editors to talk strategy, and then formulate their marketing and publicity plans. Depending on the type of book and how "big" it is, the marketing manager will begin to do some of the marketing work--particularly if the marketing plan involves something elaborate and long-term, such as partnering with a company that will promote the book, or making a book trailer.

All in all, the "behind-the-scenes" teams have several weeks after launch to get their act together before presenting the whole shebang to the sales team. This is sales conference--the big, important teleconference when the editorial, marketing, publicity and art teams band together to present the upcoming list (this one will be for Fall '09) to the sales force, who will (in the upcoming weeks) have to go out and sell the book to the major chains and independent bookstores.

By sales conference, marketing and publicity plans have to be ready. Advance publicity and already-under-way marketing extravaganzas are put on display. Cover designs have been mostly completed, although in many cases sales conference provides an open forum to discuss covers that--for a number of reasons--are actively disliked or simply fail to impress.
Sales conference is exceedingly important not only because it serves as a major motivational push for plans to be made and teams to get cracking but also because it makes sure that everyone all the way from editorial to sales is pretty much on the same page about the new books.

My last three weeks therefore have been frantic scratchings, scurryings and dashings-about of brainstormings, meetings with editors, cover design discussions, making of marketing plans for different books, and--lastly--putting together powerpoint presentations for each book about those plans. All leading up to this moment...

I'll write next week and tell you how it all went!


P.S. Antonio loves the hyacinth blossoms you sent me. I begged him to take care of them so that they wouldn't die. Besides, they cheer up the office so much. Hyacinths really do smell like heaven, don't they? If only I could have freshly blooming hyacinths all year round.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Thursday's Special is...Heart of Stone

HEART OF STONE by Sandra Kay

A marriage in name only. A secret past. Can love be found amid the tangle of distrust and betrayal? HEART OF STONE is a contemporary romance taking place in the Hill Country of Texas. It is a story of love and betrayal, with elements that will resonate with today’s readers.


For me, Heart of Stone was the perfect read. The author, Sandra Kay, does not waste any time drawing you into the story . From the git-go you know who the main characters are and what is really on their minds despite the fact they are both determined never to trust or love again. I was totally captivated by the entire Brandon family and their sense of "family" and what it really means. Before it was all over I was ready to be adopted by them.

When I finished reading Heart of Stone, I was a little disappointed, I wanted more. I was happy to discover that the Brandon Family will live on in a series of books by Sandra Kay. I will be keeping my eyes open.

To buy Heart of Stone from The Wild Rose Press, CLICK HERE

Click to visit, Sandra's website or to read her blog.

Excerpt from HEART OF STONE

“Amber?” he yelled as soon as he threw the front door open.

“Stone, help me.”

The weak, panicked voice stopped his heart.

“Amber, where are you? What’s wrong?” Stone’s heart lurched to a start again, but thudded into his throat.

“I’m up here… ”

Her voice trailed off into a scream that bounced off the walls in the empty house.

He ran toward the sound, boots pounding on the wood floor, joining her scream in the echoing cavern of the vacant rooms. Fear gripped him when he reached the stairwell to find her collapsed on the landing, her back against a wall. As he neared, her face contorted and she cried out in pain.

She’s in labor!

He bounded up the steps three at a time, and dropped to his knees.

“The baby’s...coming,” she gasped.

Her hazel eyes seemed too large for her face, and he heard the fear in her voice.

“Its okay, Amber. I’m gonna take you to the hospital. Don’t worry. Everything will be all right.”

Stay calm, cowboy. Don’t let her know she’s scaring the hell out of you.


Please answer the following question for a chance to win a free copy of HEART OF STONE. Or, pop in and chat with Sandra!!
What would you name Stone and Amber's twins?

I’ve been writing contemporary romance for about 9 years, and have belonged to the Orange County Chapter of Romance Writers of America since 2000. I have been on the Board of Directors for 3 years, currently serving as Secretary. My husband, Bob, has been a wonderful source of encouragement and support for my writing—never losing faith in me. I have two daughters, a stepson, and 7 fantastic grandchildren.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Tuesday's Special is...A Daughter's Promise

A DAUGHTER'S PROMISE by Christine Clemetson

A Daughter’s Promise, by debut novelist Christine Clemetson, is a sweeping love story of sacrifice and unexpected hope. In war torn Italy, 1944, Serene Moneto made a promise to her dying mother—a promise so haunting that it directs the course of her life. When she chooses to save an American soldier from death, she risks everything—her name, her life, and capture by the Germans. Finding forbidden love with this soldier tears her world apart. Against the backdrop of a war raging right outside her door, can she choose happiness? Despite the promise she made those years ago?

To buy A Daugher's Promise from The Wild Rose Press, CLICK HERE

Click to visit, Christine's website.


Serene’s heart pounded as she peered around the silent restaurant, alive hours earlier but now masked with an eerie paleness. This room and her life would never again be the same. She whisked off the wetness around her eyes, sucked in a daunted breath, and remembered her purpose.

“Are you all right?” She hoped her English was still understandable.

No response from the American.

Leaning a little closer, she gently placed her hand beneath his, finding it warm and moist with life. “Can you hear me?”

Still nothing.

“If you can hear me, squeeze my hand.”

Serene checked behind her. She unbuttoned his coat, soaked in warm blood, and slid her hand inside, relieved to feel at least a slight rise and fall to his chest.

“I want to help you, but not now. I have to go, but I’ll be back. Can you hear me? I’ll be back.”

Halten Sie!” Boots clicked toward her on the stone floor.

As she let go of the American’s hand, the slightest pressure passed her fingertips.

He had heard her.


Please answer the following question for a chance to win a free copy of A DAUGHTER'S PROMISE. Or, pop in and chat with Christine!!
What kind of help is Serene offering the American?

Some people have called Christine a book worm. And were they ever right! Growing up in a small beach town in New Jersey, she wouldn’t have been caught on her beach towel without a good book. Nothing on earth equated to stepping into the library each week, hearing the creaks of the wood floor, and knowing an unable-to-put-down story was waiting. Through all of this, she caught the fire of creativity and discovered she had her own story to tell. Not just one, but many! While earning her degree in literature, and developing her career as a technical writer, Christine kept writing and learning the craft of putting together a good story. Now, with a growing family, endless driving to soccer games, and a crayfish that needs to be fed every three days, she still manages to get her characters down on paper.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Ms. Spitfire's Favorite Pitches!

From the desk of Ms. Spitfire

(Ms. Spitfire has selected her favorite pitches, and has explained what made these stand out. Please scroll back to March 17th's post for more details about the Pitch Party.)

Mandy's Pitch:

A curse forces Lexi to spend every night swimming. Her body craves the water, demands the water, until she can’t say no. At dawn she returns to school, where she’ll sit in class and wait for dusk. But she’s not just a mermaid-she’s a siren, and her songs are also a deadly lure. Soon a new boy discovers her lake, and Lexi must choose between agony outside the water—or falling in love.

Mandy Hubbard and the teen swimming pool siren: I absolutely loved Mandy's pitch and knew as soon as I read it that it would be among the top five. Here's why: in five short sentences, Mandy is able to describe a story simple enough for me to understand and yet with enough intrigue and possibility to pique my interest. While authors have a hard time summing up their complex plotlines and character development, Mandy delivers her story in a silver filigree nutshell. Moreover, I'm a sucker for teen novels and especially those inspired by or based on fairy tales and/or mythology. In reading the full manuscript, however, I'm going to be on the lookout for some emotional complexity as there is the tendency that this great concept will not be supported by any real depth.

Embee's Pitch:

There are two things Holly Bailey has never known: Her father, and a sense of belonging. Holly’s only chance to learn her father’s true identity is her estranged and slightly daft grandmother, who tells her a ridiculous faery story that only leaves her frustrated. But Holly soon learns that the story isn’t so silly after all, and suddenly finds herself journeying through an ancient realm and back again searching for her father, herself, and a place to belong.

Embee and the realm-travelling, fatherless Holly Bailey: Once again, I was won over on this pitch by the brevity and clarity with which Embee shares her story. I have a good sense not only of the plot line--the protagonist's rather fantastical search for a father and a sense of self--but also of some tasty characters--slighty daft grandmother!--and the driving themes--the thirst for a sense of belonging and knowledge about one's own roots. Furthermore, the fantastical element (fairies!), was the icing on the cake. I think this sounds like a strong story--escapist, plot driven, and yet anchored by very universal, human themes that readers will relate to on a personal, emotional level. In reading the full manuscript, I would be on the lookout for the character's actual journeying to be evenly interspersed with the main character's personal journey--I'm a little worried that one or the other would be too complex and the other would get lost.

Strugglingwriter's Pitch:

Luck you say? Niko Calender had some luck. Wouldn't have been picked for his school's honors project without it. Got to time travel, he did.Not all of it was good, mind you. Had to travel through with his nemesis Cody.Got a bit of a mess in pre-historic times. Time machine ran out of gas. Teacher got arrested because of a sneeze. That’s the thing about luck. Sometimes you gotta make your own.

strugglingwriter's time-travelling N. Calendar: I'm not sure what strugglingwriter envisioned, but I see this as a fantastic middle-grade novel. His writing tone really comes across in the pitch; succinct, humorous, and creative. Time-travelling, in my mind, is always a fun base for a story but what caught my attention was strugglingwriter's unique twist: time travel w/arch nemesis. I would have liked a slightly more developed plotline--I feel I was given a good set-up but not given a very good idea of the arc of the plot--but overall, I was won over enough to want to read the full manuscript. I would hope that the full manuscript shared a more complete story and didn't drop the ball 3/4 of the way through like the pitch.

Phoenix's Pitch:

When theologian Pierre Abelard and his gifted student Heloise fall in love, they're certain God approves -- until Heloise's jealous uncle and Abelard's ecclesiastic rival intervene.Hounded, castrated, and denounced a heretic, Abelard seeks exile as a monk. Heloise, pregnant and unrepentant, takes the veil. Forced apart by circumstance, kept apart by God, they bare their shameless desire in letters that will echo for a thousand years. But how long can their star-crossed love survive?

Phoenix for star-crossed, theologically minded historical novel: Wow! Again, fantastic job summing up a potentially complex and dynamic novel in two short paragraphs. This is a talent that many otherwise talented authors never develop. I like this pitch because while on the one hand it remind me of many of the world's great, doomed romances (even just the word "star-crossed" brings to "Romeo and Juliet" to my mind immediately), on the other hand, the particulars of the situation and the characters seem quite original--at least for me. I love the use of letter-writing (epistolary novels--even if this isn't strictly so--always float my boat) and this sounds like a story that would really sweep the reader up and away into a different place, a different time, a great love and a great story... I'm wary, however, that the final novel would take itself too seriously and--in attempting convey all this greatness--would sound grandiose and lack emotional sincerity.

Macaronipant's Pitch:

Consolation will die on her eighteenth birthday, as each of the women in her family have before. Armed with her Sylvia Plath memorabilia and a bottle of Tequila, she’ll meet the family curse head on. When death doesn’t come, she hasn’t a clue what to do. Led to a women’s shelter, she finds resurrection in the form of a small boy. When death comes calling, this time she fights for what she’s come to love.

macaronipants's sylvia-plath-clutching, curse-overcoming novel of hope and redemption: This may be my favorite of all. It has everything that many of attributes I've seen in best-sellers: a quirky protagonist, fantastic and unique details, a succint set-up and an ending that promises hope and redemption. I really can't see anything wrong with this pitch at all and I would be very intrigued to read the manuscript--I think my thumbs up or thumbs down would be entirely based on the actual writing and learning more about the inner workings of the main character. As the plot stands, I love it--but it's a bit bare for me to know exactly what to expect in terms of characters, genre, book length, etc. etc. etc.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Thursday's Special Is...Elizabeti's Doll!

ELIZABETI'S DOLL by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen, Illustrated by Christy Hale

Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen

“Elizabeti doesn’t have a doll and yet she wants to take care of a baby all her own, just like Mama takes care of the new baby. So she finds a rock, kisses it, and names it Eva. Like her friend Rahaili, readers may at first laugh at such an idea, but they will soon be won over. The text is original, clever, and consistent in its respectful treatment of Elizabeti’s notion. As the rock is compared to the real infant, it actually takes on a personality so that when it’s lost, having been mistakenly used for the fire pit, it’s clear that no other rock can take its place. Once found, Eva is quickly cleaned off, hugged, and soothed with a lullaby. This story takes place in Tanzania, and lifestyle differences, such as how a baby is carried in a kanga cloth and the way that food is cooked in a separate hut, are an integral and unobtrusive part of the text. The mixed-media illustrations are intimate and remain focused on the girl and her family while also giving a sense of place. Bright cloths and patterned dresses add a touch of color to the splattered backgrounds painted in dry desert tones. This book is a splendid celebration of life and the power of a child’s imagination.” – SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL

“Charmed by her new baby brother, Elizabeti decides that she wants a baby of her own; she picks up a smooth rock, names it Eva.. [T]he illustrations reflect the story’s simplicity; accompanied by an attentive hen, Elizabeti follows her indulgent mother about, mimicking each nurturing activity. The object of Elizabeti’s affection may be peculiar, but the love itself is real..Stuve-Bodeen’s debut is quirky but believable, lightly dusted with cultural detail, and features universal emotions in an unusual setting.” – KIRKUS REVIEWS

Christy Hale

"I received a B.A. in Fine Arts and Masters in Teaching at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, then worked as an art educator for several years. I relocated to New York, earned a B.F.A. in illustration at Pratt Institute, then worked in publishing as a designer and art director. I taught at the Center for Book Arts and in the Communication Design department at Pratt while beginning my illustration career. I’ve illustrated many books for children and now am writing stories as well. After 9/11 I relocated to Northern California with my husband and daughter. I still enjoy illustration, design, and art direction projects, and continue as an educator, developing art curriculum for Scholastic and Instructor magazine as well giving presentations at schools and libraries, and leading programs for staff development."


Excerpt from ELIZABETI'S DOLL (a picture book)

((Note: For those unaware of picture book length, well, they're shorter than your average mystery or romance novel. Besides, we gave you extra helpings yesterday. Today, it's half portion.))

Elizabeti had a new baby brother named Obedi. Elizabeti watched Mama take care of him and she wanted to care for her own baby.

She didn't have a doll, so she went outside and picked up a stick. She tried to hug it, but it poked her and she dropped it on the ground.

Then Elizabeti picked up a rock. It was just the right size to hold and it didn't poke Elizabeti when she hugged it. She kissed the rock and named it Eva."


Please answer the following question for a chance to win a free copy of ELIZABETI'S DOLL! Or drop by and chat with Stephanie and Christy!!

What after-school activities would Eva be signed up for?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wednesday's Special Is...The Agency!

THE AGENCY by Ally O'Brien

Ally O’Brien is the pseudonym for a writing duo that includes an international bestselling author of suspense novels and a successful, well-known international entertainment agent based in London.

Visit Ally O' Brien here

Or, if you want to know the secret identity of Ally O'Brien, click here.

Buy THE AGENCY from Amazon

Once in a while, we like to mix things up at the grill. For today's special, readers are treated to an extra helping. We'll be posting the entire first chapter rather than an excerpt. This is one lucky week for all of us!!

Read the following from THE AGENCY, then answer the question that follows for a chance to win a free copy!


Chapter One

My life.

Eight thirty-seven in the morning, en route from Putney Heath to Piccadilly, first crisis of the day. People push the crisis button in my business like a lab rat pushes a lever to get pellets of food, but this is a big one. Lowell Bardwright was just found hanged by his Hermès tie, with his fingers clenched in a death grip around his dick.

Lowell is my boss. Well, not anymore.

“Was it erotic asphyxia?” I asked my assistant.

“Erotic what?”

“Was this some kind of sex game?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Emma replied. “I assumed it was suicide.”

Not bloody likely.“No, I’m sure it was an accident,” I said.

When you are the managing partner in a successful entertainment agency, you don’t kill yourself. Lowell made millions of pounds on the ability of people like me to attract scribblers, footballers, Soho chefs, and other celebs who can be hocked to the public on grocery store bookstands or on the eight million channels of satellite TV. He had a flat on the Thames and a weekend home outside Cambridge. God was going to have to come down and wrestle Lowell personally into the afterlife.

“Was he alone?” I asked.

“I guess he was.”

“Don’t be so sure. If I know Lowell, he found himself a Julia Roberts look-alike who freaked when he stopped breathing.”

“What’s erotic asphyxia?” Emma asked, with an unhealthy curiosity.

Emma is twenty-five, and what she lacks in her face she makes up for in the size of her breasts and the tightness of her drainpipe jeans. I remember what it was like at that age, when your sex drive revs like a Ferrari. Hell, I’m still like that, although I’ve downshifted a little in my mid thirties. Emma is into girls, however, and I play for the traditional team.

“Some people say that the sensation of orgasm is heightened by lack of oxygen,” I told her. “So they try cutting off their air as they get close to coming. Unfortunately, a lot of them wind up like Lowell, so don’t try this at home, Emmy. I know you.”

“Hmm,” she said.

You want to watch every head snap around on the 14 bus? Say the word ‘orgasm’ on the phone.

“What does this mean for the agency?” Emma added.

Good question. Every entertainment agency boasts of having the most influence and the best connections, and they’re quick as hyenas to pounce on any sign of weakness at a competitor. Right now, the phone lines of London are buzzing. Did you hear about Lowell? My God, what a shock. Of course, without him, they don’t have anyone who can reach the senior producers at the Beeb. Oh, it’s true, and he was their top man for Fleet Street, too. This may be the time to think about switching your representation, my dear.

Meanwhile, inside the Bardwright Agency, where I work, they’re busy soft-selling Lowell’s importance. He was beloved, darling, but he was a figurehead. Hadn’t closed a big deal in years. Never missed an industry party. A “mentor” to every 24-year-old girl in the agency, that scoundrel, ha ha. No, we’ll miss him, but don’t worry, nothing will really change without him around.

But that’s not exactly true.

There will be one big change, and it affects me more than anyone.

“Cosima will be in charge now,” I told Emma.

“Oh, Lord.”

In my head, I heard a blast of organ music. You know, like in silent films, when the mustachioed villain in a black cape abducts the blonde virgin. Not that you’ll find many virgins in this business.

“I hope the police checked for Dior coral lipstick around Lowell’s mushroom,” I said. “Cosima has been looking to send Lowell to an early grave for years. Maybe she was there to help him along.”

“You are so bad.”

I did feel a little bad, only because I wasn’t crying over Lowell’s death. I worked down the hall from him for ten years, after he hired me out of the books side of the biz. Me, I thought the agents made the money, which was what I needed back then. No one told me that the partners who own the agency make the money, and the rest of us divide up the crumbs that fall from their smacking lips onto the floor. Lowell and I had our run ins over the years, but he was a decent guy. Big, loud, with tobacco breath and roving hands. Fifty-five years old, a lifer in the biz, who remembered a time when bookstores sold more than the fucking Da Vinci Code and films didn’t rise or fall on the box office receipts from the opening weekend. He never pushed me to drop clients who had potential, even if their sales were under-performing. He indulged my fading ideals that it really meant something to find the next Mailer or Capote. On the other hand, I saw the numbers on the royalty statements from my clients, and then the numbers on my agency paycheck, and never the twain did meet.

However, Cosima Tate makes Lowell look like Sir Gawain gallantly taking on the Green Knight. I admit I have my own reasons for loathing Cosima, but I’m not alone in feeling that way at the agency. She is our wicked witch. The kind of witch who would have bitch-slapped Dorothy and served up Toto sausages to the flying monkeys.

“What does this mean for us?” Emma asked, which was the obvious question. I like that Emma says “us” when she talks about her and me. She is as loyal an assistant as you can find. Organizing my life is not my skill set, and without Emma, I would probably starve because I would never know when, where, or with whom I was having a single meal.

“We’ll be fine, don’t worry.”

“Yes, but Cosima hates you,” Emma whispered.

True enough, but I am bulletproof.“We have Dorothy, darling, remember?”

“Oh, well, that’s true.”

Dorothy Starkwell, an American eccentric from the Tribeca area of Manhattan, writes little books about talking pandas that have become the biggest thing in children’s fiction since Pooh set foot in the Enchanted Forest. She is my client. She is my gravy train. As long as I write eight-figure deals for her – and the latest deal is in the offing – no one will touch me.

And at that moment, I had my big idea.

Later, if I knew the pain that idea would cause me in the next few days, I wonder if I would have handled things differently. Perhaps I should have been more paranoid and realized that people really were after me. Or I should have known how resourceful and vengeful Cosima could be. However, when you are thirty-six, you never think about being forced to start your life over, and the truth is, it is every bit as hard as anyone will tell you. Still, sometimes you have to wipe the slate clean and find out if you are truly the person you always imagined yourself to be. “Do I still have lunch with Guy on Friday?” I asked Emma.


Guy Droste-Chambers is Dorothy’s editor. The man who makes the deals. He is a sleazy bastard, but Dorothy is infatuated with his wordsmithing. Or perhaps he reminds her of her panda hero, Butterball, with his porky belly and soup dripping down his chin. Regardless, Dorothy will not hear of switching editors or publishers, despite my advice that she could do better elsewhere.

“Take the lunch out of my calendar, will you?” I said.

“You mean cancel it?”

“God, no, keep the appointment, but delete it from the agency calendar right away, okay? Don’t mention this to anyone. Just remember to remind me about lunch on Friday.”


Emma knew better than to ask me why. The truth is, I wasn’t entirely sure myself. All I knew was that I didn’t want Cosima to find out that Guy and I were close to inking a new contract for Dorothy that would gross around ten million pounds in advance monies. In agency terms, that’s one-and-a-half million to us. Not that I would see any of that myself.

Which brings me back to that big idea of mine.

I’m thinking of going out on my own. Launching my own agency.

What should this new agency be called? Be fun. Be creative!


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

And the Winners Are...

THANK YOU to everyone who spent time with us today!! Thank you to the editors who helped us to understand what makes a pitch stand out. There were so many fantastic pitches, it was truly a pleasure reading through them all!

Without further ado, we're go ahead and post the pitches that the editors selected. Not all are in yet, so stay tuned!!!

Special acknowledgement to Ello, who probably caused the most snort laughs with her Ode to Luck:

Luck is a hard assed bitch. Fickle too. Sometimes she teases you like the whore she is. Other times she leaves you high and dry, with your pants down around your ankles and no toilet paper. I've been chasing the hussy for years now, at every tournament, at every casino. I've gotten so close, I could feel her gold plated, diamond encrusted hair slip through my fingers. She mocks me. But no longer. This time, I’m gonna kill the bitch.

Editorial Anonymous:

Embee's “Holly Bailey” pitch

There are two things Holly Bailey has never known: Her father, and a sense of belonging. Holly’s only chance to learn her father’s true identity is her estranged and slightly daft grandmother, who tells her a ridiculous faery story that only leaves her frustrated. But Holly soon learns that the story isn’t so silly after all, and suddenly finds herself journeying through an ancient realm and back again searching for her father, herself, and a place to belong. (Embee)

Children's Book Author’s “doll hospital” pitch

Beatrice was a lucky girl. In 1905her dad owned the first doll hospital in New York. She learned how to fix and make dolls. Little did she know that during World War I, her family's luck would run out and threaten to close the doll hospital. That’s when Beatrice made Red Cross nurse dolls and save the family business. Later she changed her name to Madame Alexander and started the most famous doll company in the world. (Children’s Book Author)

Lindsey’s “Secrets” pitch

After catching an epic wave and accidentally exposing her right “tah-tah” to the San Diego locals, GRACE Parker is relieved her best friend FORD thinks she’s “perky.” Grace avoids a roller coaster home life by surfing, focusing on school, and hanging out with Ford. Her friendship with Ford blossoms into love, and he becomes her Spanish knight in rusted Chevy. Through his love, Grace makes a choice that will change her life. (Lindsey)



When theologian Pierre Abelard and his gifted student Heloise fall in love, they're certain God approves -- until Heloise's jealous uncle and Abelard's ecclesiastic rival intervene.

Hounded, castrated, and denounced a heretic, Abelard seeks exile as a monk. Heloise, pregnant and unrepentant, takes the veil. Forced apart by circumstance, kept apart by God, they bare their shameless desire in letters that will echo for a thousand years. But how long can their star-crossed love survive?(Phoenix)

vote for Phoenix for adult--I actually want this book. Ha!

Sarah Laurenson:

Curses are for princesses in books, not twelve-year-olds in Cranford, NJ. In THIRTEEN BLACK CATS UNDER A LADDER, Sasha inherits her brother’s curse and the cure he never figured out. She has to step on a crack, find a black cat, walk under a ladder, break a mirror, open an umbrella indoors and spill salt – in the right order, before she turns thirteen or her party will be a catastrophe and she’ll break a leg. (Sarah Laurenson)

For YA, I vote for Sarah Laurenson. She better actually write this book now!

Pink Ink:

When her lover does nothing to stop a rebellion against her father, an 18th-century Philippine princess flees into exile. Juzliza forges a new life and even finds a new love. Then the Spanish-colonial government imprisons her father for treason, so she sails south to negotiate his release. Her mission turns awry, but success is still possible…with her former lover’s help. Dare she trust him? Will fortune smile upon Juzliza as she confronts her past? (Pink Ink)

And if there's an honorable mention, I would have LOVED to see Pink Ink's book, but her pitch was a little disorganized, with too much information. I think in part this might be a 75-word problem.

Evil Editor:

Mrs. Cleary

Mrs. Cleary always had an awful time keeping the birds away from her garden. But when she woke up one morning to find all those nasty creatures in Mrs. Krate’s garden, pecking on the dead body of Mr. Krates, she knew she’d have to break open her new stationery. The box of Thank You notes with fancy gold leaf lettering and pastel colors. Then she’d help Mrs. Krate dig a hole. In her garden, certainly.(Mrs.Cleary)

[I would prefer this if it simply read: Mrs. Cleary always had an awful time keeping the birds away from her garden--until the morning she awoke to find all those nasty creatures in Mrs. Krate’s garden, pecking on the dead body of Mr. Krate. (Not Krates). The rest is intriguing, but it's intriguing enough without the mystery of how stationery is connected. Explain or delete.]


The luck of the Irish….that is what it will take for Maggie and Sean to survive the next forty-eight hours. A plan worked out to the smallest detail hits a major pot hole when they are discovered breaking into the offices of a local mob boss. On the run they must dodge bullets, avoid cops, and control an attraction to each other that may prove more deadly than those chasing them. All for little Sweet Revenge.(Lyncee)

[This I would change to: The luck of the Irish….that is what it will take for Maggie and Sean to survive the next forty-eight hours. Their plan to get revenge on Meadow Soprano for stealing their lunch money hits a major pot hole when they are discovered breaking into the offices of a local mob boss. On the run they must dodge bullets, avoid cops, and control an attraction to each other that may prove more deadly than those chasing them. This tells us what's going on as soon as the "plan" is mentioned.]


When theologian Pierre Abelard and his gifted student Heloise fall in love, they're certain God approves -- until Heloise's jealous uncle and Abelard's ecclesiastic rival intervene.

Hounded, castrated, and denounced a heretic, Abelard seeks exile as a monk. Heloise, pregnant and unrepentant, takes the veil. Forced apart by circumstance, kept apart by God, they bare their shameless desire in letters that will echo for a thousand years. But how long can their star-crossed love survive?(Phoenix)

[I'd just drop the last sentence from this one. I'm not sure what it means, and the previous sentence is a better wrap-up.]


1) Drew is “just a girl,” at least that’s how her new dark-elf boyfriend describes her to his family. And she’s never felt that more profoundly than at Wylde Lake summer camp, where all of the fairies and monsters are waking up in the surrounding forest and coming after Drew...who is just a girl, and, incidentally, the girl an ancient prophecy says will stop the darkness from taking over the Fae by sacrificing herself to the light. Lucky her... (Heather)

2) A curse forces Lexi to spend every night swimming. Her body craves the water, demands the water, until she can’t say no. At dawn she returns to school, where she’ll sit in class and wait for dusk. But she’s not just a mermaid-she’s a siren, and her songs are also a deadly lure. Soon a new boy discovers her lake, and Lexi must choose between agony outside the water—or falling in love. (Mandy Hubbard)

3) Mrs. Cleary always had an awful time keeping the birds away from her garden. But when she woke up one morning to find all those nasty creatures in Mrs. Krate’s garden, pecking on the dead body of Mr. Krates, she knew she’d have to break open her new stationery. The box of Thank You notes with fancy gold leaf lettering and pastel colors. Then she’d help Mrs. Krate dig a hole. In her garden, certainly. (Mrs. Cleary)

Again, Thank you to all!! Ms. Spitfire will return on Monday with her selections, and a detailed critique of why they worked! Do come back!

New Pitch Party thread!

Due to length of the previous one. Check out rules below and get pitching! Thanks to our wonderful editors for making this the place to be today.

UPDATE: It's 7 pm, so the contest is now closed. THANK YOU to everyone who dropped by!!!!
Please come back at 9 pm where we'll post the editors' choices!!!

We'll keep the thread open for general discussion.

Welcome to Our Pitch Party!

Welcome, One and All!!!

Thank you for dropping by!

This is your opportunity to catch the attention of a group of most awesome editors! Please post your pitch in the comments section.

Recap of Da Rules:

1) Pitch limited to 75 words

2) One pitch per person

3) Pitch must somehow relate to today's theme - luck. (good luck, bad luck, no luck--whichever you choose)

4) Hours of operation: 7 am - 7 pm (New York time)

5) Pitch may be based on a real book, or may be used as a writing exercise. (Or, just for fun!)

Everyone is welcome to offer constructive feedback on the pitches throughout the day!

Each editor will select three pitches and say why those pitches appealed to them. The winning pitches will be posted at 9 pm.

Special thanks to the following participating editors!!!

Editorial Anonymous


Evil Editor


Ms. Spitfire

Monday, March 16, 2009

Slush Party! Bring Your Own Pizza...

From the desk of Ms. Spitfire

My dearest Suzy-kins,

It was so good chatting with you on the phone this weekend! Even with all of our emails back and forth, I still hate that we live far away and that we can't be a bigger, more present part of each other's lives. This new man you've just met sounds very interesting and I look forward to hearing more about him. Oh--and--as per our calendar-comparing conversation, I am looking into plan flights for the middle or end of May. You better start grinding the mint for the mojitos now, my darling cuz.

When we spoke, I forgot completely to tell you a great story from my week. As Antonio becomes more competant around the office--and his English begins to improve--I continue to give him more little responsibilities and fun projects. This past Thursday I introduced him to one of my favorite "busy" tasks--setting up the slush pile party.

Here's the deal: big publishing houses only accept solicited manuscripts, i.e. manuscripts that come from an agent to an editor who has already asked for and expressed interest in reading said manuscript. In other words, nobody--agent or author--simply sends an editor a manuscript and expects it to get published and, what's more, editors pretty much only read submissions from agents and not directly from authors.

The surprising thing is that even though this is a well known fact, we still receive hundreds of submissions each year from authors ravenous for publication. These authors address their letters to "Editor"; are writing from everything you can imagine including prisons, pension-plans and Russia; and send every variety of pitch letters and sample chapters, their full manuscripts, or even their vanity-press published works. In response, every 4 or 6 months, our company's assistant join forces at the slush pile party; pizza is ordered, the slush pile is brought into the room in a giant mail bin, and one by one, the brave team of assistants sends a form "rejection" letter to every author.

It astounds me that authors continue to send works directly to publishers. Is it possible that so many authors are simply unaware? This might be the case, of course, for those authors who send us hand-written missives or laboriously typewriter-written works. I always feel a pang of sympathy for those submissions and imagining an earnest-souled, paper-skinned octegenarian sitting with tears glinting from his deeply lined face as he reads his 87th form rejection letter, wondering why their 627 page novel about a guilt-ridden WWII pilot's failing marriage and passionate love affair with a Syngapore beauty has been returned unread.

Of course, it is clear that there are many authors who are perfectly aware of the "no unsolicited manuscripts" rule and continue to send submissions anyway. These fall into two categories: those who send the same submission time and time again--"Hey look! It's the children's book about the cherry red fire-hydrant who befriends the large scary black rottweiler! I remember rejecting this last year!"--and those who actually send their submissions with pitch letters from fake literary agencies, pretending to be agents pitching a "new and upcoming" author--"Has anyone hear ever heard of the "Happy Days Literary Agency"? Oookaaay then, literary agent Ringo Starr...". Again, I am boggled. Do authors think that somehow their manuscript might slip through? I wonder if they realize that none of the manuscripts ever make it into the hands of an editor; they go straight from mail-room employee, to assistant, to assistant, back to mailroom employee and right back to the author again...

Some of the most creative writing and ideas--albeit, many of them quite bad--end up in the slush pile. When I was an assistant, I really looked forward to these slush pile parties and used to occasionally sneak photocopies of my favorite submission letters and sample chapters to reread later over a latte with a friend. This year, I asked Antonio to pick two or three of the funniest or most interesting submissions and bring them back to me. At the end of the afternoon he came back with:

1) A 278 page poetry manuscript in which every single word began with the letter 'A'. 2) A pitch letter in which an author earnestly explained that his manuscript was inspired by his realization that he was the Jesus Christ, son of man and God, in a previous life, and 3) a collection of short stories all sharing one subject: boxes.

Suzy dear, if you ever do write a novel, please don't send it to a random publishing house where it will end up in the hands of assistants who have no authority to do anything with it!
On another note, if you were to write a novel, what would you write about? (Remember, A-ccentric poetry and "box"y short stories are already claimed.)

Much, much love,

(Ms.) Sally S.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Pitch Party! All are Welcome!

Welcome to Our Pitch Party!!!

When: Tuesday, March 17
Time: 7am - 7pm (NY time)
Attire: casual
Occasion: Pitch an editor! Theme - Luck
Details below...

A few things to get the party going...

Q. What's little and green and goes two hundred miles per hour?

A. A leprechaun in a blender!

"May you live as long as you want, and never want as long as you live". - Traditional Irish Toast

“May you have warm words on a cold evening, a full moon on a dark night, and a smooth road all the way to your door” - Author unknown

“Here’s hoping you’re in Heaven ten minutes before the devil knows you’re dead.” – Author unknown

Now that we have the crowd warmed up, let's talk about *the* pitch.

Da Rules:

Post a pitch in the comments section on Tuesday, March 17. Your pitch must somehow relate to the theme--luck. Even if your book is a very unlucky story, you are a writer and must show your creativity.
Update: So, if the luck in your book reeks of ill-fated quests and damsels doomed to distress, send 'em over!

Your pitch is limited to 75 words. This does not include your name or punctuation.

Only one pitch per customer. If you have two books, you can combine two pitches into one, as long as they both relate to our theme and are within the 75-word limit. (Our theme is luck). Your pitch may look crappy like that. Perhaps it's best to stick with your favorite book and pitch that.

You may comment on other people's pitches. But you may not pee or poo on anyone else's pitch. We're not even letting the editors do that--and it's what they do best.

Speaking of editors, you all are really lucky we found some terrific editors for you:

Please drop by and join the party on Tuesday! Pitch, chat, or just hang out! Everyone welcome!!!
((We post a blurb now so you can polish your pitches. Please wait until Tuesday to begin posting your pitches. Do not post them here.... Thanks!!!))

Friday's special is...Touch of the Demon

Touch of the Demon by Christina Phillips

It's Friday the 13th...so the Book Roast is turning off the gas and gathering in darkness to invite you to experience...The Touch of the Demon (insert sinister laugh)...in honor of the date, and the fact that both roaster and roastee are based in Aust
ralia, this is one roast that will continue deep, deep, deep into the night...are you afraid of the dark?...we don't care...if you're over 18 come and join us...if not, come back Monday, sorry...

Dark angel Rafe travels back in time to destroy the woman who is fated to bring untold chaos to the cosmos. Instead, he finds Celeste, a child of the Earth Goddess, who is sworn to protect the one Rafe seeks. He mistakes her for his quarry but an irresistible attraction prevents him from taking her soul. And although Celeste holds the one weapon capable of banishing Rafe from Earth forever, she's unable to deny the overwhelming desire to possess this creature from hell. They come together in a frenzy of passion, each believing they are changing destiny by their actions. But when the Earth Goddess appears they discover her plans are more far reaching than either had imagined.


“I’ll beg you for nothing.” It was a lie. If Celeste thought begging could get her anywhere, then she would already be on her knees before him. She kept that knowledge locked deep in her heart.

Rafe took a step toward her and her heart hammered in her breast. He was taller than any human she had known over the years. But then, he wasn’t human. Beneath the long leather coat he wore against the night’s chill air, his broad shoulders all but blotted out the rest of the world.

She sucked in a suddenly panicked breath, and his evocative scent of other worldly essences, meshed with hot, heavy male enveloped her. Against every principle she stood for, her nipples strained against the fabric of her bodice, peaking with desire and disgust and pure, animal heat.
A mocking smile twisted his full sensual lips. “I could make you beg, human.” His finger traced the outline of her face and she shuddered, hating the way she reacted and yet unable to help herself. “I might even listen to your pleas.” His smoky whisper shimmered along her senses, searing with words unsaid.

Trailer for Touch of the Demon

More about Christina Phillips

Born in the UK, I met my very own hero when I was just fifteen, was married at twenty and we went on to have three delightful (well they're delightful most of the time...) children. To get me through my driving test after baby #2 was born, I wrote a couple of romances to keep my mind off reversing round corners. It turned out to be a very good diversionary tactic, but unfortunately the writing sucked and all I received in the mail were form rejections from Mills & Boon (I did pass my driving test though, so there was some method in my madness).

I jacked in the writing lark, since with two toddlers and two jobs I was too knackered to think of anything else! But in the back of my mind, the bug stayed. And grew. Like it does.

Fast forward a few years... add another baby... and we emigrated to Australia. Once all the excitement had settled down, the writing bug came back with a vengeance and I decided that this time I'd stick with it.

I'm now writing dark erotic romance for The Scarlet Rose line of The Wild Rose Press, and absolutely love it! My latest release is Touch of the Demon, described by my publishers as a Futuristic/Fantasy, "lush and dark, providing an interesting fantasy for the tumultuous days of earth".

Drop in to visit Christina at her website or her blog

To buy Touch of the Demon from The Wild Rose Press, click Here , or to buy Christina's debut Scarlet Rosette, Foretaste of Forever, from The Wild Rose Press, click Here

To win a free copy of Touch of the Demon, answer the following question:

Falling for a Creature from Hell is never a good idea. Tell us about your worst-ever relationship, with your own private Creature from Hell...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Thursday's special is...The Heart Never Lies

The Heart Never Lies by Cindy K Green

When ranch hand Beau Tucker announces his intent to leave the Double C for California, Kit McCauley tells herself, ‘Good riddance.’ Unfortunately her heart isn’t quite in agreement with her head. Perhaps she’ll just have one more talk with the handsome cowboy before he disappears out of her life forever.

Temperatures rise as their inte
rlude is interrupted by an injured horse thief who shoots at Beau and kidnaps Kit. Will Beau be in time to save her or did the ruffian’s bullet ring true, bringing his young life to an end and forever keeping their revelations unsaid?

Cindy K Green was born in California but now resides in North Carolina with her husband and two young sons. Growing up, she loved reading and writing, but her heart always lay in teaching. After graduating from college with a degree in history, Cindy taught Jr. High for four years in just about every subject. After the birth of her second child, she was able to stay home and focus on her writing as well as homeschool her children. In her spare time, she loves reading, photography, scrapbooking, Period Dramas, and spending time with family. Cindy writes Inspirational, Contemporary, Suspense, Young Adult, Fantasy and Historical.

Buy The Heart Never Lies here or visit Cindy at her website or blog


“Get off me, Beau Tucker.” She attempted a glare, but her lips trembled and a tear trailed across her cheek. Her compelling eyes, brimming with hurt, almost made him forget about his doubts in her—about everything other than kissing her senseless.

“Why should I answer any of your questions?” She struggled against him, but he held her in place. She huffed but rested back against the hay. “What’s the real reason you’re leavin’?”

“So, you do care that I’m going?” He couldn’t help the self-satisfied grin he sent her way.

“Don’t get all swollen-headed. I…I don’t give a straw where you go or what you do.”

“You don’t, do you?” He slid his left hand from her shoulder, across her collar bone, and up the column of her slender neck. Her pulse raced hard beneath his fingers.

“No, I don’t.” Her voice faltered. “Now let me up,” she whispered as her eyes clouded with moisture.

Tears—real, wet and huge tears—tumbled onto her collar. She truly cared he was leaving. It made him dare to hope. He inhaled her light rose scent and pulled her closer. Vulnerability peered up at him in those innocent eyes of hers, filled with such distress. Desire spliced through him, and he lowered his mouth and kissed her sweet, pink lips. Blood pounded in his veins as his heart hammered at the contact. She slid her petite hands slowly up to his chest as their kiss deepened and intensified. In that moment, there were no thoughts of leaving, no thoughts of his rejection—there was only Kit and how well she fit in his arms.

When they came apart, she looked at him as if he were the most important thing in the whole wide world to her. She smiled with a soft expression in her eyes, alight with the love he’d always hoped to see there. How she confounded him. Like hot, then cold water in his face. He pulled slightly away from her, needing to leave before indulging his desire further. She didn’t really want this. She didn’t want him. Her flirtatious actions with Matt Reynolds at the barn raising last week proved it.

“Beau…” She removed his hat, tossed it, and pulled roughly on his shirt, bringing him closer again. The passion swirling in her warm brown eyes communicated her message in unison with her words as she whispered. “Beau don’t go. Make love to me.”

After you've had a cold shower, answer the following question for a chance to win a copy of THE HEART NEVER LIES:

What really goes on behind the scenes at a barn raising?

And don't forget to drop into the comments and chat to Cindy!

Wednesday's special is...Point Surrender!

Point Surrender by Ann Carter

Amy Winslow isn't looking for a mystery; she doesn't even like secrets. In fact, secrets have nearly destroyed her life. But when a terrible accident forces her to take control of her brother's mysterious California lighthouse, Amy finds herself immersed in its shocking past and uncertain future. Enchanted by the mystery, she refuses to rest until she finds out who died in the aging white beacon, and why.

Case McKenna hasn't quite reconciled his own painful history when he sails his crippled boat into Newburg Harbor, intending to stay only long enough to make repairs. His plans change when he becomes entangled with a local couple intent on restoring a long-shuttered lighthouse. Despite an overwhelming urge to flee, Case follows intrigue and passion, as he, too, finds himself drawn in by Point Surrender...

Buy from Amazon here, or visit Ann at her website or blog


The view silenced them both. It was some time before either ventured to speak. Case walked the circumference of the light, looking first outside and then at the lens. "Still in place after almost ninety years. Wow." Fingers splayed, he caressed the glass enclosing the lens almost reverently.

Amy watched in fascination as Case admired the craftsmanship. "Do you know anything about these things?" she asked, her fingers still tightly wrapped around the interior handrail.

His spell momentarily broken, Case diverted his eyes to Amy's and shook his head unconvincingly. "Not really. But just look at it! You don't have to know anything about it to appreciate how fine it is. Look at all that brass! Nobody's polished her in a long, long time." These last words were tinged with unmistakable sorrow.

He was quiet for a time, contemplating the lens, before turning back to her. "So do you want to go out, or what?" he asked softly.

Suddenly weak, Amy leaned back against the handrail. "Out?" she whispered, her face now so close she could feel the warmth of his, feel the words he spoke against her forehead.

"Yeah, outside. I'll take you out on the gallery if you want."

"Oh. N–No, that's not necessary. Maybe next trip."

"C'mon. It's okay, really. The fresh air is good."

She let him. When did he take her hand? The feel of his fingers laced with hers was natural, easy, warm. Gently tugging, he slowly led her through the door. Amy's senses were heightened, at least as much by his touch as by the rush of being so high, so exposed to the world.

He was right, the cool air felt good against her cheeks. Maybe she could get used to it, this high altitude thing. Especially with Case McKenna beside her. She ventured a look down at the small, faintly green lawn that spread in patches to the edge of the cliff. And saw him again. The man in the grey shirt.

"Do you see that guy?" she asked, grasping Case's sleeve with her free hand. "Look. Over there. What's he doing?"

Case squinted, looked down. Tilting his head slightly, his parted lips told of his surprise. "That's the guy I saw from my sloop! The guy that fell. He was standing just like that, only facing the lighthouse last time."

Amy turned to look up into Case's eyes. "When was this?"

"When I came into Newburg harbor. I saw this guy fall…but…" Turning to look back toward the cliff, he paused. The man was gone.

Amy pressed her hand to her mouth. "It's the same man I saw the day you came up here to help. He…he disappeared then, too." She stared hard at Case's face, trying to read his take on their similar sightings. "I don't…I don't get it. What…Who is he?"

Case let go of her hand and slipped an arm around her shoulders. "You're looking a little pale. Let's go back downstairs."

"Yeah, okay." Amy was both disappointed and relieved when Case moved away from her and squatted to pull open the trapdoor. After taking a few steps down ahead of her, he turned and extended his hand."I guess I'm the one who needs hand-holding," she muttered, grasping his hand solidly and relishing the warmth that spread throughout her body as a result. Back in the kitchen, she dropped the key back into the drawer next to the sink.

"What do you make of that?" she asked, her heart still thumping hard in her chest.

"Weird. I thought it was just me. I'd been asleep, I guess. But this time, we both saw him. It's gotta be some guy playing a prank."

"You think?”

"Well I sure as hell don't believe in ghosts."

Answer the following question for a chance to win a free copy of Point Surrender:

Do you believe in ghosts? Why?

Come and chat to Ann and ask her about some of her own ghost stories!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tuesday's Special Is...The Emerald Tablet!

The Emerald Tablet by PJ Hoover

Benjamin and his best friend Andy are different from normal. They love being able to read each other's minds and use telekinesis to play tricks on other kids. In fact, they are getting all set to spend their entire summer doing just that when Benjamin's mirror starts talking. Suddenly, Benjamin's looking at eight weeks of summer school someplace which can only be reached by a teleporter inside the ugly picture in his hallway.

And that's the most normal thing he does all summer...

The Forgotten Worlds Book 1: The Emerald Tablet, October 2008
The Forgotten Worlds Book 2: The Navel of the World, October 2009

To find out more, drop into PJ's website and blog

Buy from Amazon

"Fans of Rick Riordan’s PERCY JACKSON series will particularly enjoy this book." -- Teens Read Too (Gold Star Award for Excellence)

Tristate Books of Note Pick for 2009


Benjamin’s dad and Joey Duncan sat at the kitchen table, but when Benjamin and his mom walked in, Joey got up. The only things Benjamin knew about Joey Duncan was he worked with Benjamin’s dad and he was the coolest person in the world. It wasn’t just the ponytail and special powers like Benjamin’s; it was that he never minded when Benjamin used his powers around him.

“All I’m saying is that if the escape rate doesn’t go down, things are going to change.” Benjamin heard Joey’s telepathic comment clearly.

“What escape rate?” Benjamin replied audibly.

Benjamin felt a mind block go up in the room, and no one spoke. At least not aloud. Nor could he hear any more telepathic thoughts. It irked him. He was almost thirteen now. Why did all the grownups still exclude him from conversations? He wasn’t a baby anymore.

“What escape rate?” Benjamin repeated.

The mind block went down.

“Oh, it’s nothing,” Joey replied. “I came over to give you a going away present.”

Before Benjamin could respond that he had no intention of going away, Joey telekinetically tossed an object to him. It stopped in front of Benjamin and rotated in the air.

The sphere was multilayered and constantly changed color. The pieces didn’t look like they could even be turned by hand, and, just for kicks, Benjamin telekinetically reached out and flipped one.

“What is it?” Benjamin asked. He’d never seen anything like it before, and was pretty sure Joey hadn’t bought it at a Wal-Mart.

“It’s a Kinetic Orb,” Joey replied, grinning from ear to ear. “Kind of like a Rubik’s Cube, but for smart people.”

“Wow, thanks,” Benjamin replied. “But I’m not going anywhere.”

But even as he said it, Benjamin knew, deep in the pit of his stomach, he was. He knew there was no getting out of this summer school thing, whatever it was.

“Yeah, whatever,” Joey replied. “Anyway, I thought you might like it. The trick is not only to solve all the phases, but to learn to do it with your eyes closed.”

“How in the world do I do that?” Benjamin asked.

“If I told you, it would take all the fun away,” Joey replied with a smile. “Anyway, have a great summer, and I’ll see you when you get back.”

Answer the following question for a chance to win a free copy of THE EMERALD TABLET:

Whose mind would you like to be able to read, and why?

Pop into the comments to chat with PJ!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Viral Marketing? Deliciously Dirty...

From the desk of Ms. Sally Spitfire

My dearest Suzy-kins,

I think that for once all of the warm wishes you and Auntie Mabel Sue Jean keep sending me have finally made it! Although the week began bitterly cold (below zero wind-chill after the sun went down!), by Friday the temperature took a turn for the better and began climbing all the way into the fifties. You should've seen how quickly and gladly we New Yorkers shed out Northface winter jackets and puffy eskimo gear. The first daffodils and t-shirts even began peeking up for a breath of fresh air. I know that it won't last, of course, but my, my is it delicious while it's here!

But enough about the weather. On to this week's publishing world tidbit...

One of the more immediate effects of economic crisis on my job (aside from no longer being provided with free bottled water in my office) has been the gradual disappearance of money in the budget for advertising. In the past, any truly healthy marketing plan had some sort of advertising--whether it was in the New York Times or in the School Library Journal e-newsletter. In fact, in my company we have a whole team that used to be known as the "ad-services" department whose main job it was to design and place ads in newspapers, magazines, journals, and online.

These days, however, the attitude towards advertising has changed considerably. First and foremost, in a world where publishers need to cut extraneous costs wherever possible, advertising is inevitably going to suffer. Ad placement in the more prestigous papers and magazines is incredibly expensive--tens of thousands of dollars for 1/4 or even 1/8 page ad.
Much of the time, authors are confused and unhappy with this change. However, the truth is that while advertising is out--online marketing is IN! and this change actually makes a good deal of sense.

Look at it this way: while publishers no longer seem to have the money to place as many ads in papers and magazines, a large number of Americans are gearing away from buying those same publications. It has escaped no one's notice that more and more people are spending their free time, doing their shopping, and even book browsing online. And so, where print and online advertising used to appear in marketing plans, now we are using phrases like "BLOG CAMPAIGN!", "PODCAST TOUR", "VIRAL MARKETING!!!"

Of course, internet marketing is by no means new. Any publishing company worth its salt has had a digital marketing team in place for a few years now. At different houses, there have been big pushes to major networks of websites for each house, imprint and book; to not get left behind in converting books to e-formats; to set up direct-to-consumer sales portals.

I apologize, Suzy dear, if some of these phrases I'm bantering around have confused you. Believe me--you are not the only one. A good deal of the publishing world is still confused by much of what is happening online and working hard to keep up to speed.

It seems to me that the publishing world is divided into three groups when it comes to understanding the new surge of internet trends: First there are the digital marketing teams and the young, tech-savvy employees who talk DRM (digital rights management) and HTML (a computer language) with the best of them. There are people like me who aren't experts, but have a pretty solid understanding of the important stuff, for example, the differences between blogs and podcasts and webinars and Skype and e-newsletters and list-servs and so on and so forth. And then--still wading through the mud--are those who are--intentionally or not--letting the digital wave pass them by--the ones who understand very little of what's going on in online and digital publishing, but have learned to nod very enthusiastically whenever the phrases "viral marketing" or "blog campaign" waft in their direction.

So, while the loss of advertising has certainly made some authors (and agents) unhappy, the smarter ones recognize that much of the action is now happening online and online is where the marketers need to be. Unfortunately, it's an ever-expanding universe and every month it seems that there is some whole new "incredibly, amazing thing" that needs to be understood, examined, and exploited in the name of selling books. Three years ago, it was blogs. Two years ago, it was podcasts. Last spring, it was facebook. And this week it is Twitter.

Oh Suzy! Have you yet learned about Twitter? I bemoan it's existance, but at the same time, I am starting to build it into my marketing plans... More on this next time, perhaps? I feel that I could manage a whole letter just about the new Twitter trend, the way that publishers are reacting, and who is "tweeting" these days...

I love and miss you and hope that all is well down in the sunny south. Ah!

Your lovin' cousin,

(Ms) Sally Spitfire

P.S. In honor of the warm weather, Antonio has brought some potted flowers into the office, saying that we need more flowers and beauty after all the drabness of winter. I couldn't agree more, but you never I've never had anything like a green thumb. Antonio, apparently, is fantastic with green things. You should see him singing Italian operettas while he waters those plants...

Friday, March 6, 2009

Friday's Special Is...Dating da Vinci!

DATING DA VINCI by Malena Lott

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How can Ramona, a young widow who teaches English to immigrants, get her groove back? Find out in the humorous and heartfelt Dating da Vinci by Malena Lott. A tale of love, longing and la dolce vita. When handsome Leonardo da Vinci walks in to her classroom, she helps him find his way in America while he helps her on her journey to find la vita allegro, joyful living. Publisher's Weekly raves, "written smartly...satisfying and uplifting."



I NEVER INTENDED TO take home da Vinci. I don't mean "a da Vinci" as in a reproduction of the man's art, best known for his Mona Lisa and Last Supper paintings. I mean to say I took home Leonardo da Vinci, the living, breathing man; only not that man, the genius from the fifteenth century, but a young Italian immigrant who shared his name in modern day Austin, Texas.

It is far more accurate to say I took home Italian for dinner.

It began innocently enough, with me breaking my rule yet again not to get involved with a student, but I assure you I had never gotten this involved before.

My students, all adults ranging in age from their twenties to their sixties, shuffled into the cramped classroom with the wide-eyed wonder of children on the first day of school. I smoothed my blonde hair behind my ear and reviewed the student roster on my clipboard: eight students, five languages. Of the 6,912 known living languages in the world, I had personally encountered more than fifty in my role as an English language instructor to immigrants (including those speaking languages most Americans have never heard of, like Balochi, Dari, Pashto, and Tajik). But it wasn't an unfamiliar language that caused me to catch my breath. It was a name, jumping off the page like a typo or emblazoned in lights on a marquee. The usual: Miguel, Margarita, Jesús-Spanish; Helena-Swahili; Jayesh-Farsi; Pénélope-French. And lastly, the one that caused the hair on the back of my neck to stand: Leonardo da Vinci-Italian.

My best friend says that funny tickle is the breeze of fate telling you your life is about to change, but I'd been walking around in a fog so long I barely noticed.

I surveyed the students-none remotely resembling an Italian. I'd encountered people with famous names before: a homely grade-school friend named Elizabeth Taylor, a high-school boyfriend named Bill Clinton, even a wiry bank teller with the macho moniker of John Wayne, but someone named after perhaps the greatest genius of all time? This I had to see. I imagined he would resemble the only sketch I'd ever seen of the artist da Vinci: a self-portrait he'd made in his old age, with a crazy long beard and deep wrinkles. I wondered if Cecelia, my friend in admissions, was playing some kind of joke on me.

I watched my students take their places, smiles plastered on their faces as they exchanged pleasant nods to their classmates. A smile was the universal hello, even if it wasn't genuine, but it soon would be. I wished Americans could see how well the students got along: people from vastly different areas of the world, from all walks of life, from peasants in remote villages to descendants of royalty. My students shared one distinct characteristic that bonded them for life: they were outsiders desperately wanting in.

I could typically tell who was whom from their appearances. Their skin colors ranged from the very fair, belonging to a lanky French woman to the rich ebony of an African. Their dress was the second cultural marker, though you could tell how quickly they planned to assimilate if they wore American-style clothing.

I passed out the workbooks, noting that da Vinci was still missing, if he existed at all. Getting lost in America was common, something that we concentrated on heavily in the first six weeks-how to get from point A to point B was critical for survival. Each student carried a map with color-coded instructions. My building, the Panchal Cultural Center of Austin, was in orange. I noticed the map was the one item all my students carried in their hands. I waited a few minutes longer for da Vinci to show, but when he didn't, I started my class as I did each semester, with a welcome in my students' languages.

"Karibu! ¡Hola! Bonjour! Xosh amadid!" I welcomed them with a smile, my hands clasped together then widening in a warm gesture.

My students replied back in their native tongues, pleased that we had made a verbal connection. I knew the word welcome in a hundred languages, but was only fluent in four: German, French, Spanish, and English. As a linguist, I knew enough to get around in dozens of foreign countries though I'd never traveled anywhere outside of the United States, except for Mexico where I went with my husband every year for vacation. My heart paused as I thought of him, but soon resumed its normal rhythm. I'm not certain how long it takes a broken heart to mend, but I hadn't done anything to speed along its recovery.

In fact, my life had become so simple and routine that I began to believe survival mode was the only mode, or at least the only mode for me. My only source of adventure lay before me, the seven students who would hang on my every word, unlike my two sons, who grew more belligerent with each passing year, especially with their father gone. After Joel died, I wanted nothing more than to stop communicating altogether, yet finances forced me to work right through my grief. In the almost two years since Joel's passing, I found myself more comfortable with complete strangers from around the globe than I did with my friends and family.

I liked that each semester began with a blank slate-I did not know them, and they did not know me. They were floundering to make it in America, I was floundering to make it through another day. I had never had so much in common with my students. For the first time in my thirty-six years, I didn't fit in, either.


Answer the following question for a chance to win a free copy of DATING DA VINCI:

What's your favorite story about your childhood friend, PeeWee Herman? (Not the PeeWee, of course, but that kid who unfortunately shared the famous name.)

Stop by and hang out with Malena! Maybe we can even break out a few languages. Go nuts!