Wednesday, December 9, 2015

GOOD BOOK NEWS: Anna Strong Picture Book Sold to Abrams Kids!


 ...Kind of. I actually found out in August, while on vacation in beautiful Savannah GA, that I'd be working with the amazing Howard Reeves at Abrams Kids on my nonfiction picture book biography of Anna Smith Strong. She was a spy during the Revolutionary War, helping to pass intelligence that aided General George Washington in winning the battle at Yorktown and turning the tide of the war.

I learned Anna's story while researching the Revolutionary War because of my interest in genealogy; I have several ancestors who fought in that war, one being Benjamin Pendleton, a soldier in the Culpeper VA militia, and another being Corbin Lane, who smuggled supplies to the rebels--Americans, that is. :) When I read about Anna's contributions to this incredible moment in history, I knew her story needed to be shared with kids everywhere; after all, girls and boys alike can appreciate the bravery of this female spy!

I feel beyond lucky to be working with a place like Abrams Kids, and I can't wait to bring Anna's story to you all!

Oh, and maybe watch this space for some more good news soon, okay?

Peace. <3

Saturday, August 22, 2015

On Why Passes in Publishing Don't Always Mean "Not Good Enough"

A couple days ago, I tweeted a thing that seemed to resonate with a lot of people. In case you missed it, here it is:

Aug 18:
mentoring has already taught me so much about subjectivity. Passes do NOT always mean "not good enough." Not by far. <3 <3

Naturally, since other people seemed to be paying attention to it, I've thought about these words a lot in the past few days. So now, I'm attempting to gather those thoughts into a (hopefully) coherent post--because there's so much more I want to say on this topic than what will fit in a 140 character limit.

Here's how what I observed and experienced while reading slush for Pitch Wars has changed my outlook on the passes I receive on my own work--and how it should change yours, too:

First, the obvious. There are a number of things outside of the writing itself that an agent (or editor...or in my case, Pitch Wars mentor) takes into account while reading a query/submission. Like word count. A book that's 170K, for instance, isn't going to sell in the current YA market. It could be full of voice and have the most beautiful, quotable phrases, but it's not going to happen. Beyond word count, there's genre. A strong voice can sometimes overcome a really unmarketable genre, but a query for a book in a desirable genre will often get requested first (at least, from my limited Pitch Wars mentoring experience!).

But the things above aren't really what I want to talk about. Imagine: your inbox has almost 200 queries and first chapters waiting to be read. Out of them all, there are a hundred books that have appropriate word counts and seem highly marketable. All have great titles. And all have prose that's strong. They start their stories in the right place. They maintain tension throughout their first chapters. There aren't any grammar errors. Their plots seem clear, but also keep you guessing. Their pages drip with atmosphere and voice.

So what makes one stand out from all the others, when so many seem close to perfect as it gets? It's so hard to describe, and it varies from person to person as much as what makes me smile or laugh differs from what makes you smile or laugh.

In Pitch Wars, I couldn't request everything that was really strong; there wasn't enough time. I also didn't feel a pull to request everything that was really strong. The main character of one story, for instance, would resonate deeply with me for a number of reasons I can't begin to list, yet other mentors would request something I'd passed over because the characters in that manuscript had resonated with them.

I used to get frustrated when I'd comb the internet trying to understand what makes an agent request a book beyond great writing. But in Pitch Wars, when I was the one making the requests, I found myself saying something I'd heard so many times while querying (and admittedly, it's a phrase that's made me roll my eyes a time or two): "I'm not connecting." Or, "I just don't feel that spark." And I was saying it about wonderful, polished manuscripts--books I didn't request despite their fabulous writing and tension and seemingly well-executed plots, just because I wasn't feeling a strong pull to read more in the limited time I had for slush (I'm only one person, who gets to pick one mentee, much like agents and editors have limited time and client/author lists they have to keep small to preserve their sanity).  

And as I kept wading through the slush, it dawned on me: Being drawn to a voice or story that's well-written is as complex as what makes us feel. It's different for everyone.

I requested one book, for instance, because the voice felt like a blend of several of the fantasies I grew up reading. It pulled at my heartstrings, almost like it was an old friend. There, I had that "spark." With another, I found myself smiling and actually laughing out loud--and making my husband listen to passages I'd read aloud. Something about the characters and setting felt familiar, yet exciting to me, and even managed to tackle humor (a tough thing to do in books), so I had to request.

But there were other books that had amazing premises, yet the writing or characters didn't grab me. I admired them, but I didn't feel that burst of excitement, for whatever reason. I can't put into words what was missing, and while I don't speak for any agents, I bet some of them would have a hard time saying why they don't feel that "spark" with certain well-written manuscripts.

So the next time you hear the phrase "not for me" or "not connecting," know that it's not necessarily a reflection on the quality of your writing. None of us know what will make someone else feel that spark for a book. It's a bit like falling in love that way--emotional and unpredictable, something that takes a good deal of searching to find!

But you want an agent or editor who will make that connection with you. Who feels strongly about your manuscript, because they're going to spend so much time on it, fighting for it, and making it the best it can be. And after working so hard on your book, you deserve someone who will share your passion for your characters and world.

Too, your search for the perfect agent might be a frustrating process because, as I've just witnessed in Pitch Wars, there are just SO MANY amazing books out there! So many talented writers!! And not enough agents to sweep them all up at once and feel ALL THE FEELS for their books.

--But that just means you have to keep making stories you love, and polishing them, and seeking out agents until you find the one who absolutely loves your book the way you do.

Finding that right agent may be hard, but you should never give up. Once you have a well-written book, it's down to timing, and making that connection.

And you know what? You so deserve it.

Good luck to everyone who's been part of Pitch Wars! And to everyone who's currently querying! Have patience and persevere; after reading so many wonderful stories these past few days, I believe in you all!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

PITCH WARS TIME: Mentor Bio and Wishlist

Hi everyone! I'm incredibly honored to be a YA mentor in this year's PITCH WARS, and I can't wait to see your beautiful manuscripts in my inbox! I could ramble on, but let's get right to the good stuff instead:


-Fantasy is my greatest love. I especially enjoy epic and historical. Have something like Lord of the Rings with a female-centered cast? I want it! (HUGE Tolkien fanatic here). Have the next Graceling, The Winner's Curse, or Girl of Fire and Thorns? Gimme! I also love fairytale retellings, especially any lesser-known fairytales. And please, give me all your dark fantasies!!!
-Ghost stories, provided they're original. I read heavily in this genre and could really help someone with a compelling ghost story. Keep me up all night and make me scared to go to the bathroom alone, and I'll be yours forever! Think something like the movie The Woman in Black or The Conjuring- not gory, but heavy on using atmosphere/setting to build tension. Or, if you have anything like Simon St. James's historical ghost stories with romance, that'd be a huge win!
-Historical, particularly with unusual time periods and/or interesting events. Pre-1920s preferred, with one exception: I'd love a YA version of the TV show Astronaut Wives' Club! And definitely no WWII-era settings, as they're outside my expertise/interest. However, if your book is set during The Great War (WWI), try me!
-Mysteries/Thrillers. A fresh take on the genre though, please! Also, I'm of the belief that most books should have some element of mystery in them. It helps keep readers turning the pages!
-Sci-Fi. I love sci-fi almost as much as fantasy! More character-driven and less technical though, please! To give you an idea of my tastes here, I'm a Browncoat. I also love Farscape, Stargate: Atlantis, Defiance, and the new show Dark Matter. Currently, I'd be most drawn to an earth-set sci-fi that's full of quirky and memorable characters a la SyFy Channel's Warehouse 13, Eureka, or Haven. But if you have awesome aliens and diversity in another world, please still give me a try--I adore anything with a Farscape feel and I've love to mentor in this genre!
-Southern Gothics. I'm a Southern belle (I even attended cotillion) who loves to be creeped out. If you have curses, sweet tea, spirits, and drama--send, send, send!

*Also, if you have anything that reads like the show True Detective Season 1, please share.

*Adding a special call-out here for any YA novel about Vikings. I've got Scandinavian heritage and would love a historical or alt history focused on Viking culture...and shieldmaidens!

*I don't normally read contemp, but here's a special call for the two types of contemp projects I'd look at: A YA version of Breaking Bad or Weeds (or if you put this concept in a fantasy? GIMME NOW) and a YA version of The Big Bang Theory.

*I love Avatar: the Last Airbender and Legend of Korra beyond reason. If you're a huge fan of either (hopefully both) of these shows, I know we'll get along!!! (Just to quickly add: what speaks to me about these shows are the themes of friendship, tolerance, bravery, and being true to yourself. I'd love to find a book with characters as strong and diverse as the casts of Avatar and Korra!)


-LGBTQ+ , especially the L and B, but not coming-out stories. Bonus points if your ms is SFF!
-Building off that: diversity in all its forms--thoughtfully written, of course. Diversity in the authors submitting to me is welcomed and encouraged, too!
-Unique settings: from the Amazon to the Arctic to ancient empires...take me somewhere new!
-Love stories: I love being in love. Give me a romance that sweeps me off my feet (steamy scenes are great, by the way-I'm an advocate for sex in YA!), but I'd prefer that romance isn't the sole focal point of your novel.
-Family relationships: Siblings, parents, and/or grandparents often play important role in teens' lives. Send me novels that deal with these complex relationships!
-Structural quirks: send me your multi-POV novel, or stories told in reverse!
-My dream manuscript is also a perfect blend of commercial and literary. Basically, a high-concept plot balanced with lyrical writing and excellent pacing.
-Oh, and in case this wasn't clear enough, I love a strong female heroine. Especially one who doesn't need to put her male counterparts down in order to show her strength! In my books, the girls go on the quests. The girls save princes. They also love and respect their male friends!


Contemporary (see the two exceptions above!)
Horror that's gory.
Novels in verse
-Anything dealing with animal abuse; hits too close to home because of my rescue pups.
-Anything involving rape/sexual abuse
-Gratuitous/excessive torture. If you have characters like the Boltons from Game of Thrones, your novel is absolutely not for me!
-No angels, demons, or were-anything, please! *Edited to add: But I love fairies!


The obvious first: Tolkien, Rowling, Gaiman
Patricia McKillip
Garth Nix
Charles de Lint
Tamora Pierce
Libba Bray
Laini Taylor
Ann Bishop
Rae Carson
Spencer Quinn

ABOUT ME (Aka, why you want me as your mentor!):

-I'm a soon-to-be-published author. My debut YA historical fantasy novel Fear the Drowning Deep comes out in September 2016 from Sky Pony!
-I've got a good amount of industry knowledge and insight accumulated over the past several years. I'm represented by Christa Heschke at McIntosh and Otis Literary, and can give you advice and guidance on the path to traditional publishing!
-I write across all age levels of children's literature, from YA to picture books!
-I won contests while querying, including the one that landed my agent!
-I've mentored in several other contests like Query Kombat, Sun vs. Snow, and Nightmare on Query Street! I've helped many writers polish their queries and manuscripts, and formed lasting friendships with my mentees from previous contests. I've also had several CPs sign with agents in the past year!
-If you want total honesty in your critique, combined with kindness and support that won't end when the contest does! Choose me, and I'll whip your manuscript into fighting shape--all the while pointing out your strengths and helping you sharpen your writing skills! And occasionally making you laugh.
-I'll school you in everything from voice to story structure and pacing! I'll clarify your action scenes and help you streamline your world building, something I've worked hard on this year! I can help you bring settings to life and craft a compelling romance if there's love in your story!
-If you aren't afraid to work hard, truly want to improve your writing, and hopefully make a friend for life, I'm your gal!

If you choose me, you'll get this genius in the mix, too! ;)
*When I'm not working on my books, I'm spending time with my four rescued greyhounds. I work to raise awareness about puppy mills like the one my Italian greyhounds Romeo & Juliet were saved from. I'm a proud nerd, and love playing video games and card/board games (Star Realms, 7 Wonders, or Lords of Waterdeep, anyone? I'm a big fan of Wil Wheaton's Tabletop, too!) with my equally nerdy husband. I also attend events like FaerieCon and AwesomeCon to celebrate all things magical and nerdy.

These are some of my crazies!

*My love for Harry Potter (Slytherin represent!) is rivaled only by my love for my husband (a Ravenclaw) and rescue pups!

These are more of my crazies. Yep, I have a dog circus!
*I like to relax by painting with watercolors. If your book inspires me, I might paint you a little something!

*I still think vampires are cool.

*I met Tamora Pierce one time and it was bloody amazing. Pick me as your mentor and maybe some of my Tamora-Pierce-meeting luck will rub off on you? ;)

Tammy. She's incredibly kind and made me glad I've looked up to her for so long!

I keep adding to this post, but whatever. Here's me acting stupid with Milo Ventimiglia (Jess from Gilmore Girls/Peter Petrelli from Heroes!)
*You can find out more about me by checking out my Twitter, Pinterest, Goodreads, and Instagram. Please do this--if I'm one of your top mentor choices, engaging me on social media like Twitter will be a great way for us to get to know each other while I'm trying to decide on a mentee!

*Here are a couple of interviews I've done, if you want to read more about me and my writing:

Query, Sign, Submit with Sarah Marsh on Write for Apples

Team Rogue YA Introductory Post with Sarah Marsh

***All that being said: I understand what it's like to put yourself out there by entering your work in these sorts of contests. I'm shy, and understand some of you might be, too. So, I promise to treat you with the utmost respect if you reach out to me!


-If I love your query and first chapter, I will most definitely be requesting additional pages and a full synopsis of your work, so make sure you have one polished and ready to send off! Also, be prepared for me to ask about your query history with this book. If a book hasn't been seen by many agents yet, it'll have a better chance in this contest!

-Please include comp titles in your query. Bonus points if they're for books I've enjoyed or TV shows I love (a few are mentioned in this list, but others include Castle, Supernatural, Ghost Adventures, Ghost Hunters, Sleepy Hollow, Grimm, Vikings, Agents of SHIELD. Lighter things include Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Friends, and The Big Bang Theory).

-Additionally, please don't sub to me if I've critiqued some or all of your work before. If you're a CP or past mentee, you already get to pick my brain, and I'm always just an email away! I want this opportunity to go to someone new.


*If I request pages from you, I'll tell you where I stopped reading and why.

*If you sub to me at all and I'm passing on your pitch, I'll give a brief explanation as to why. 

Also, the cover reveal for my debut FEAR THE DROWNING DEEP is happening over on Pop! Goes the Reader today, so if you're inclined, please go check out the pretty and ENTER TO WIN AN ARC!!! YAY!

Mister Linky's Magical Widgets -- Auto-Linky widget will appear right here!This preview will disappear when the widget is displayed on your site.If this widget does not appear, click here to display it.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Cover Reveal for FEAR Coming Soon!

Hey friends!

On Monday, August 3rd, the fabulous Jen at Pop! Goes the Reader will be debuting the cover for FEAR THE DROWNING DEEP. There'll be an interview and an ARC giveaway, so you won't want to miss it! Keep an eye on her site for more soon!!!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Cuisine on the Isle of Man (Food from FEAR THE DROWNING DEEP)

Hi all!

Today, I'm re-posting something I wrote for Team Rogue YA (see the original post here). I hope you're hungry. Although I don't eat seafood myself, I love the sound of the Isle's bonnag cakes! This post outlines some of the things that Bridey and her family eat in my YA debut novel, FEAR THE DROWNING DEEP. Enjoy!

Original Post:

When I tell people that my book takes place on the Isle of Man, I’m often met with the response, “I know where that is!” …only to have the person then point to the Isle of Wight, the Isle of Skye, random places in Scotland, or any number of other gorgeous, windswept locations in and around the U.K. But the Isle of Man is a unique destination!
Isle of Man, circled here in yellow; it’s a Crown Dependency, but not actually part of the UK!

So today, I’m here to share a little about the Isle of Man by introducing you all to an important aspect of any culture: the FOOD! Hopefully, by the time you’ve read this post, you’ll have at least the briefest of insights into what makes the Isle of Man a special place to visit (or, you know, to use for a book setting!).

Food features prominently in FEAR THE DROWNING DEEP: Bridey and her three sisters share secrets over meals. Bridey’s da provides for his family by going to sea and filling up his nets—until something scares all the fish away. Whenever Bridey’s in distress, she can run to her mam’s kitchen and make her favorite oatmeal-currant cookies. 

As you might imagine, I had to do some delicious research on Manx cuisine! The food on the Isle, like the rest of its culture, has both Celtic and Norse influences. Below are some dishes that Bridey herself would recognize as authentically Manx.

#1: Spuds and Herrin’

This is one of the most popular meals on the Isle, and is the Manx national dish! Despite Bridey’s distaste for seafood (she doesn’t trust anything from the ocean!), her mam often makes spuds and herrin’ for supper.

#2: Kippers

While Bridey may not care for these salted, smoked fish (usually herring like the ones seen above), her mysterious crush, Fynn, can’t get enough of them.

#3: Queenies

These Queen scallops, locally known as “Queenies,” are another popular seafood on the Isle. They’re often served with bacon and garlic butter. Mackerel, crab, and lobster are also frequently caught and consumed here!

#4: Loaghtan Lamb

The Loaghtan is a type of sheep found only on the Isle of Man! These Manx sheep have four to six horns, and their dark, rich meat is considered a delicacy by many. Here’s a recipe for Manx Broth, which could be made with lamb or (if you don’t live on the Isle) regular beef.

#5: Bonnags

This Manx cake-like fruit bread, often served for breakfast or tea-time, is one of Bridey’s favorite foods!

*If you’d like to try your hand at making a bonnag, there’s a handy recipe here.

#6: Samson

A beverage made of treacle (molasses) and hops; Manxmen of the early 20th century believed this drink to be good for a boost of energy and strength! However, it isn’t made today.

And now, I’ll leave you with this adorable non-food picture:

(Because no post about the Isle of Man would be complete without the tailless Manx cat).

Thanks for reading! And as Bridey would say, “Cair vie!” –That is, “Fair winds!”

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Summer Critique Giveaway for Query Kombat!

Hi all!

After talking this morning with some Query Kombat participants who don't think they'll be moving on to the next round, I started thinking of how dejected I've felt at different points in my writing career. And of course, about what (and who!) helped me overcome those moments.

By far, what helped me most was receiving critiques from more experienced, more established authors. Even if the feedback stung, once it really sunk in, I'd go back to their critiques and feel like I actually had the knowledge and tools to make a much better story.

And while having a good query letter is important, most agents always look at sample pages. I mean, if you have a great query but the writing's not quite there, you might wind up with a pass from an agent you really wanted to work with.

So, that's why I've decided to set up a quick critique giveaway! Here's the rundown.

Who Can Enter:

Anyone who was knocked out of Query Kombat, round 1 or who didn't make it into round 1. (Honor system is in place here, people!)

What I'm Giving Away:

One* person will receive a critique of the first 10 pages of their Query Kombat manuscript from me! 

Please note: I'm always kind, never hurtful with feedback, but I'll also be honest. So make sure you want to hear the tough stuff if you enter the giveaway!

*If there are a considerable amount of entries, I'll do a second 10-page critique giveaway!

**Also note: Picture book authors are welcome to enter, and if a PB author wins, he or she can submit their full PB text for critique!

How to Enter:

Use the handy Rafflecopter below :) I'll leave it open through Tuesday. And good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, June 1, 2015

In Which I Answer Some Questions About FEAR THE DROWNING DEEP!

Hi everyone!

If you're curious about my YA historical fantasy novel that releases next year, head over to Team Rogue YA's website and check out the interview where I answer ten questions about FEAR!

I'll leave a handy link right here. :)


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Shiny Bookmarks Coming Soon!

Hey everyone!

As some of you may know, I'll be at BookitCon in August for my first-ever author appearance! Since my book isn't out yet (and is still awaiting a finished cover), I was initially unsure what I could sign for event attendees.

But luckily, I got in touch with the brilliant Hafsah Faizal of Icey Designs and she came up with a gorgeous bookmark design that I can't wait to share with you all! NOTE: the design on these bookmarks is NOT MY ACTUAL BOOK COVER. This beautiful design is Hafsah's, and these are "limited edition" bookmarks that I'll only be giving out until I get my official cover art--so if you like them, be sure to come to BookitCon and grab one from me while you can!

And now, a preview of said bookmarks. They're super shiny, and I couldn't be more pleased:


Back, featuring a quote from the book:

Well, that's all for now! Hope you enjoyed the peek at these beauties, and watch this space/Twitter in the coming months as I'll be giving a few of these away!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Query, Sign, Submit

Hi everyone!

If you've ever been curious my journey to publication, or about what it's like to go on submission or work with an agent in general, check out my "Query, Sign, Submit" interview with the lovely Dee Romito over on her blog Write for Apples RIGHT HERE.

Go, go! :) And thanks again to Dee for having me!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Spring Update: Contests and Signings, or, Where You'll Find Me This Year!

Hey all!

It's been a busy spring so far, and it's shaping up to be an even busier rest of the year!

Here are a few places where you'll find me soon:


Query Kombat Judge: I'm thrilled to be returning as a judge for another year of this wickedly fun contest run by Michael, Michelle, and SC from their respective blogs!

Pitch Wars Mentor: This will be my first year as a mentor in Brenda Drake's popular Pitch Wars contest that kicks off in August. I can't wait to start searching for my mentee--of course I don't know who he or she is yet, but I do know we're gonna rock this!


I'm also excited to announce my first author appearance: I'll be signing bookmarks and raffling off a few sweet prizes at BookitCon on August 9th in Moorestown, NJ, along with many authors whose work I love and admire! Get your tickets here!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Signing My First Book Contract!

Signing the contract for FEAR!

So this happened tonight: I got to print and sign the contract for FEAR THE DROWNING DEEP. Next spring, you'll be able to grab a copy for yourselves! (If you're into sea monsters, witches, and romance, that is). And in the meantime, I'll be hard at work making the book even more awesome!

In related news, you can now also find me at Sixteen to Read and Team Rogue YA, two debut author groups that have some fun things planned for the coming year!

Hope everyone else is having an equally fun, productive spring. And as always, thanks for reading!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Sun vs. Snow Returns: A Query Contest!

Hey everyone!

The end of January means that it's time to break the dreary winter monotony with a fun contest for querying writers!

Michelle Hauck and Amy Trueblood are once again hosting the super fun Sun vs. Snow contest, which allows a group of selected writers a chance to revise their query and first page with mentors before their entries are seen by agents! (One of the terrific agents participating this year is my very own, Christa Heschke!)

I'm mentoring on Team Snow, which means I'll be working one-on-one with three YA/MG writers to polish their queries and first pages. I can't wait! Check out my bio, along with the other members of Team Snow, on Michelle's blog right here, then get ready to submit your entry! Michelle makes her picks for Team Snow on January 26th.


Monday, January 12, 2015

New Website!

Hey all!

While this will continue to be my personal blog where I post about writing and my doggies, I'm pleased to announce that I've now also got a professional author website!

Check it out here. The new site (as well as this one) will feature book news and other such fun things!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Staying Positive in the New Year

Hey everyone,

HAPPY NEW YEAR! If you're looking for inspiration to stay positive with your writing in 2015, or any time really, consider checking out my post on Michelle Huack's blog. I'm over there today talking about the highs and lows of being on submission, and how good things happen when you least expect them (and work really hard)!

So, if you want something to read this morning, check out the post here:

Getting the Submission Call with Sarah Glenn Marsh

Hope everyone had a fun New Year's Eve, and I can't wait to read more literary success stories as the year unfolds!