Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Spencer Hill Press -- Open Submissions Wish List

As you know, Patricia and I are both senior editors at Spencer Hill Press. This Saturday we open to unagented submissions--which means that all your well-polished novels have a chance to be read and find a home with SHP.

Spencer Hill Press is an independent publishing house specializing in sci-fi, urban fantasy, and paranormal romance for young adult readers. Our books have that "I couldn't put it down!" quality. If your book is young adult and features anything that's abnormal --a dystopian world, special abilities, ghosts, goblins, space-- we will consider it .

While we are considering all manuscripts, this is a short list of projects some of our editors would *love* to see. So, if you've got something you feel fits what we're looking for, you can direct your project to a specific editor, either in the query or the subject. 

  • A book withunique magic - complex from Game of Thrones to fun and unique like Once Upon a Time.
  • Something withambiguous characters who walk the line between good & evil.
  • Story with abadass villainess; complex like Morgan/Morgana in Starz’ Camelot or BBC’s Merlin
  • A love storywhere the couple is already together
  • A Hook-likecharacter from Once Upon a Time. (Notnecessarily a pirate, but guyliner and magic and ambiguity.)
  • A fairytalewith a twist (like a steampunk fairytale or a unique take on something we already know)
  • A well-built Sci-Fi world (like Across the Universe)
  • A novel where the main love interest is the villain
  • Something with ninjas! 
  • A story with ahot Cajun boy
  • A book told from a male point of view (single point of viewfor the entire novel)
  • Where the main characteror the perspective used is something out of the usual (i.e. consider The BookThief and how Death tells the story
  • Multicultural that's more than just a token race/issue book—would die for a complex heroine with Cherokee background, in particular.
  • Story focused on a strong friendship (rather than romance)
  • A story with multiple boy characters and one girl...not a love triangle, just something fun and adventurous with a wide cast of characters


  • An Upstairs/Downstairs style story (A YA or NA style Downton Abbey)
  • Stories with magical elementsset in the 1870s-1970s with vivid time period details and settings.
  • An I Dream of Jennie typestory (magic + fun/comedy)
  • Fairy tale retellings,especially incorporating multiple stories/lands like Once Upon a Time and The 10th Kingdom
  • Super hero(ine) stories--think X-Men: First Class meets The Avengers with great characters on both sides of thefight
  • Gender-swapped well-knownstories/legends or stories told from the POV of unlikely sidecharacters/antagonists.
  • NA/YA magical realism
  • MSs with LGBTQ teens as the protagonists.  Any genre of NA/YA is fine, but thestories would preferably be post-coming out stories.
  • Stories that take place in a new setting -- take me to China or India or Greece, somethingunique
  • Sweepinghistoricals with a killer speculative twist or set in a new region of history (no Tudors/Regencies,please!)
  • Second-worldfantasy that grapples with complex morality instead of straightforward battle betweengood and evil
  • An exciting newtake on hauntings
  • YAs withcriminal/mafia/hacker elements—this can work in almost any genre (think White Cat, Boardwalk Empire, Lies of LockeLamora, Sneakers, Kill Bill)
  • Fantasy that'sinspired by non-Western settings
  • Something with an asexual protagonist (like Every Day by David Levithan)

  • Midgradecontemporary fantasy: particularly faery tale, folk tale, or faery related
  • Any age level:superhero stories! Like, comics in novel form
  • Midgradehorror, like Goosebumps, Are You Afraid of the Dark, or dark, creepy fantasywith monsters
  • Anythingthat's bordering on (or definitely set in) the horror realms, really, any agecategory
  • Stories withimportant equine characters (yes, this is weirdly specific, but good horses,unicorns, kelpie, pegasi, etc. will always have my attention. ESPECIALLYunicorns. 


Any book, regardless of sub-genre, needs to be un-put-downable. If I find myself reading straight through, fully engaged in the story, I know other people will do the same.

I love urban fantasies and paranormal romances that make their fantastic elements part of the real world in a way that leaves the reader wondering if they could, in fact, really happen.

A strong, humorous narrative voice will get me every time.

Any magical, paranormal, or sci-fi elements need to be logically consistent--they don't have to be true to canon (e.g., Stiefvater's Shiver has a very unique take on werewolves), but they do need to work the same way throughout the story or series.

We're excited to start seeing your manuscripts. We open to submissions on December 1, and you can check our website for more and up-to-date information! 

Let us know if you any questions--but please do not query us or pitch in the comments!! 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving Week!!!

If you are like us, then November has been pretty insane. (Seriously, where did the month go??) We've all been very busy revising books, querying books, running imprints, writing books, editing books, moving, starting new jobs, waiting, having a life and sleeping! With Thanksgiving only a few days away, we must now dive into the cooking portion of life. But we wanted to drop y'all a note before we disappeared into mashed potato heaven. (It's a real place.)

We're really thankful for the things that have happened this year--and that we've had the ability to share moments of our journey with you. This blog has been a lot of fun for all of us. We enjoy getting to meet new writer friends and hear your stories. As we go into the day of Thanksgiving, please know that we are all thinking of you. Wherever you are in the writing process, this is the perfect time to take a step away and look back. Be grateful for all the hardships and the questions and the people and what you have learned and achieved this year. (We certainly are.)

From all of us to all of you:    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!!!

We will see you in December. :)

The Tangled Girls


Friday, November 9, 2012

The Bittersweet End

I hate endings.

I still have the last half-season of Battlestar Galactica hanging around on my DVR because I can’t bear to watch it end. (NO DON’T TELL ME WHO THE FINAL CYLON IS.) The more I’m enjoying a book, the slower and slower I read it toward the end, savoring every word, dreading the point when I reach that last page. 

I hate writing endings, too. I feel like we lifelong aspiring writers are bound to be better at starting a book than finishing it. When we first take a stab at writing a novel, we inevitably end up with 800 first pages and then, only much later, are we fortunate enough to carry a story to its completion. So we’re already better practiced at launching our plot than guiding it safely back down to earth.

Fortunately, there are a couple things we have going for us as we reach THE END.

Momentum. When I’m really into the draft I’m writing, right around the time I hit that third act marker, the words are flying. Every plot thread is untangling itself in my head and I have a good enough of an idea of what needs to happen to conclude all the various components that it becomes a frantic race to the end before it all unravels in my brain again. Of course, the downside is that you inevitably forget something, which makes for very annoying revisions.

Inevitability. In a lot of ways, endings write themselves—there’s only one way the story can end, and chances are good you had some idea what that was when you started writing it, though you can and should do your best to obfuscate it from the reader. When the book ends, they should have both never seen it coming and also know that it could never have ended any way else. (Not asking for much, those readers, huh?)

Closure. You love all the wonderful plot threads you put into your story, right? You want to give each one of them their due. So if you find that you just can’t sort out a good way to close something out that builds off of the overarching plot, then maybe it doesn’t really belong there in the first place. Make a note to yourself, drop it, and trim it out in edits.

I hope these tips will help you get through your own endings! I can’t make them any less bittersweet, but hopefully you can use these guidelines to end them on just the right bittersweet note.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Make The Last One Count--A Little Something I Learned From Friday Night Lights

If you've followed me at all on Twitter over the last week, you know that I've been watching Friday Night Lights. I've seen a few episodes here and there over the years, but I have never sat down and watched the whole series (despite my mother's insistence during high school that I would love it.) She was right, of course. I do love it.

***I feel I should mention there are no spoilers below, but I do use pictures...***

What makes this series amazing? For me, it's the characters. Jason Katims, producer of FNL and currently Parenthood, makes all of his characters real and vibrant and multi-dimensional. I could seriously do a breakdown of FNL characters, but this post isn't about characters: it's about endings. And as writers, our endings have to count. 

I completed all five seasons of FNL in one week, and the finale episode - Always - got me thinking about lasts. Last moments, last images, last lines, the last time you will see the characters that you love in their element. It has to count. By the end of the show (or book) despite all the comings and goings of the characters, you love them. You're invested. And you want the payoff to be something worthy of your time and passion. FNL is one show that delivers.

The final episode of Friday Night Lights was one of the best hours of television I have ever seen. (And trust me, I've watched more hours of TV than some people have been alive.) TV is such a great tool to learn about story-telling--from characters to plot to pilots to endings. 

What makes the end of this series so good? Well, I have a few ideas and I think they apply to us as writers. And I swear, it only has a little bit to do with my love of 33 & 7. (Props if you know who they are & if you don't, then google!)

It's circular. 

For this show, the way things ended reflect a similarity to the way they began. It all felt true to them, from the slogan of the show to the characters' reflections, to the final sequence. It made every moment in the show feel like it mattered, like nothing was forgotten or lost or unexplained. Even as the characters grew from the beginning to the end, it still reflected a piece of who they were in the beginning--if only to show a difference in that piece at the end. A good ending will do this. It will be circular, a motion of growth and giving and finality. Everything connects, even in a small way. Plus, great endings answers all the big questions. 


It's believable.

I believed everything. That's really pretty self-explanatory. The places the characters ended up, the way they said goodbye or hello, where they traveled throughout the show to get there, the peace in their eyes or lives or hearts, the open-endedness of it all--I believed it. A good ending will be believable. You'll write it or read it and know there was no other way that could've happened, especially after all the crap the MCs had to go through to get there. 


It's memorable.

A good ending sticks with you. It presses something into your soul and your heart and even months later or years later you can still feel it and see it and love it. When you tell people about it, you'll tell them about that ending.

  • The first season finale of The Vampire Diaries
  • The end of Friends
  • David Tennant's last episode of Doctor Who (or heck, all the companions in DW)
  • The last scene in Titanic 
  • Remember Me
  • Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry. 

Those are some of my memorable endings. They are things that will always be talked about, always be part of me, always be something that connects me to that part of that story. Whether it's an image or an emotion or a goodbye, endings should be memorable.

It's final.

Even if it's not the end of a character, it's the end of our journey with the character. Like in Always, the characters in FNL are left in places that felt full circle, believable, memorable and final--even though in many ways their stories are just starting. We don't get to see what happens next, but we do get to think about it and hope that based on where the show ended, they are all in the path that we've wanted for them. It's not the end of their story, but it's the finale. And it's final. And I think, even in writing, we want that final place to be a place where the reader is left feeling that it's the end, but it's also the beginning.


It's forever.

Even if you don't watch Friday Night Lights, you probably have a show or a movie or a book that you love the ending of. Something that when someone talks about said show or movie or book, you connect with it because of X and Y. It's forever a part of you, a part of someone else, a part of history. Endings are forever, and as a writer, your story will be part of someone's forever. Be true to yourself, to your characters, to your story, and give it a great ending. Greatness remains forever.

So whatever you are working on, when you get to the end: Make it believable. Make it memorable. Make it great. Make it last.  



Side note: Here are four really great posts that talk about the ending of Friday Night Lights with more depth. If you've seen the show, you should check them out because they really break down what made that ending (and show) so believable and unforgettable.  One || Two || Three || Four

Friday, October 26, 2012

A Little Eli Anyone?

Name: Eli Evans

If you were a dish at a Mexican restaurant, what would you be & why? 

Hmm…I’d have to say I’m most similar to the nachos. You know that moment when you take your first bite of nachos covered in cheese and sour cream and guacamole and pico de gallo and you feel like you’ve died and gone to heaven? Yeah…that.

Describe yourself in five words or less. 

Deliverer of the dead. Do I get points for keeping it under five? I know some of these other guys struggled with that.

Name one thing you just cannot live without. 

My tikari. Seriously.

Okay....Boxers or briefs? 

Well, see, the answer to this question depends on a lot of things. When I was younger, you know, back in the 1800’s, the underwear I wore wouldn’t fall under either of those categories. And today? I’m afraid if I told you the truth it might kill you, and honestly, my job is busy enough.

 What's your favorite smell? 

Shampoo. Girl shampoo. Even more specifically Karina’s shampoo. I don’t know what kind she uses, and I’ve never told her this, but it’s like a drug. By the way, this is just between you and me, right?

Where do you think you'll be in 10 years? 

There’s really no way to know where I’ll be, but I can tell you where I won’t be. New Hampshire. I mean, it’s kind of pretty in the Fall, but I could do without the snow.

Have you ever had a spiritual/religious/awe-inspiring experience? 

Every single day of my life.

What is the grandest romantic gesture you've ever made?

Does cooking dinner count? I did that for Karina and I think she liked it. But then again, her mother is a professional chef, so I'm not sure I could ever compete with that. Actually, now that I'm thinking about it, I could really use some pointers on being romantic. I'm a little rusty.

What's one trait you have that Karina finds annoying? 

I’m pretty flirtatious. She hates that. Oh, and she’s also not a fan of my sudden appearances and disappearances. I do that a lot.

What is the one thing you'd never admit your significant does better than you? 

Karina does almost everything better than me, but have you seen her photographs? Amazing. 

If you could change anything about Karina what would it be? 

I wish I could make it easier for her to forgive herself. She’s really hard on herself for the mistakes she made, and I know that’s really painful for her.

If you had a superpower, what would it be and why?

You mean besides what I can already do? If you ask me super powers are overrated. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I can do, but sometimes it’s just nice to be normal. Or at least pretend to be.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Curious Life of Finn O'Connor

My novel Ether is about two Bostons in parallel universes - one is the city we know, the other, Ether, is a city where no one has any long-term memory or knowledge of their pasts.  When Leah wanders into Ether to escape her own sordid history, she falls in love with Finn, whose job is to persuade Bostonians to give up their troubles and move to Ether forever.  The rest is classified... for now!  But you can meet Finn, if you like!

If you were a dish at a Mexican restaurant, what would you be & why?
I'd be the chips and salsa at the beginning.  I'm free and tasty and the start of something fantastic, but you totally forget about me by the end of the meal.

Describe yourself in five words or less.
Perceptive, adaptable, charismatic, anxious, tired

Name one thing you just cannot live without.
My neighborhood.  I literally cannot live without it.

Okay....Boxers or briefs?
Oh aren't we curious? Why don't you come out for a drink with me and maybe we'll get to that.

What's your favorite smell?
Leaf burning fires in the fall.

What was your first impression of [girl MC] when you met?
I thought she was one of us and I creeped her out by staring at her on the subway.  I can't really blame myself, though, she was practically glowing.  She stood out, clear and sharp and colorful and everything around her was just a fog to me.

Where do you think you'll be in 10 years?
The same place I've been for the past few decades, splitting my time between Ether and Boston and helping people 'move in,' so to speak.

Have you ever had a spiritual/religious/awe-inspiring experience?
I kind of remember going to church when I was little, back when I lived in Southie. I don't remember feeling much, but it was a pretty building and I liked the music.

What is the grandest romantic gestures you've ever made?
One time, I told Leah what I was actually thinking.  I've never done that before.

What's one trait you have that [girl MC] finds annoying?
She can be a royal bitch. She just kind of walks into a situation and assumes she knows all there is to know and has the solution to every problem in her pocket.  Of course... she is very smart, and she does solve a lot of problems... but yeah, it can be annoying.

And wow, I read this as what's annoying about her! Ha! Leah finds a lot about me annoying, I think.  Mostly she's frustrated that I'm evasive about personal questions (she says 'cryptic) and that I'm really dedicated to my job.  I'm kind of a work-aholic. 

What is the one thing you'd never admit your significant other does better than you?
I don't have an SO.  But if you mean Leah... she's worlds smarter than I am.  I freely admit that, though. There's nothing I admire about her that I feel like I have to hide. 

If you could change anything about [girl MC] what would it be?
I wish Leah knew, really knew in her heart, that she's so beautiful and vibrant and brave and smart. I don't think she believes it, and her life would be different, better, if she did.

If you had a superpower, what would it be and why?
I wish I could turn back time and prevent people from getting hurt to begin with. I do my best administering emotional anesthetic, but it would be great if I could actually solve problems instead of just covering them up.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Tangled Boys Take Over: Valentin of SEKRET!

I'm so excited to share this first look at Valentin with you guys! He's from my debut novel, SEKRET, a YA historical thriller set in 1960s Soviet Russia where psychic teenagers are forced to spy for the KGB. SEKRET won't be out till early 2014 from Roaring Brook/Macmillan Kids, but I hope Valentin will pique your interest!

Valentin Borisovich Sorokhin. Uh…  sorry, it’s Russian. You can call me Valya.

If you were a dish at a Mexican restaurant, what would you be and why?
I’ve never had this “Mexican” food. Given the nature of my psychic abilities, though, I’d be whatever dish scrubs your insides out. Oh—that’s most of them? There you go.

Describe yourself in five words or less.
Intense, musical, passionate, determined, silent.

Name one thing you cannot live without.
The out-of-tune baby grand piano in our prison. Well, it’s not technically a prison, but it might as well be. Playing piano keeps me grounded; it orders my thoughts so I don’t hurt anyone unintentionally. I’d gladly give up that piano to escape, though. Preferably to somewhere that also has pianos.

Okay… boxers or briefs?
Whatever the KGB brings for us that given week. Trust me, there’s nothing sexy about Soviet underwear, regardless of the style.

What’s your favorite smell?
The salty air coming off the Black Sea, back when I lived on the coast. In the evenings, my mother would throw open every window in the house and we’d play piano duets while waiting for Papa to come home.

What is the grandest romantic gesture you’ve ever made?
I’d have to let Yulia tell you all the details—it’s not mine to share—but I took all the wonderful thoughts in her head and turned them into her own song. I, ah… [Furious blushing.] I wanted her to hear the beauty that I heard whenever I looked at her.

What’s one trait you have that the MC finds annoying?
Perhaps “annoying” isn’t the right word, but she is not much of a fan of the way I warp the thoughts of those around me. The first time she got caught in that crossfire and realized what I’d done, she nearly pushed me out a window.

What is the one thing you’d never admit your significant other does better than you?
She’s much better under pressure than I am. I wouldn’t be afraid to admit this to her, though I think sometimes if I act more confident than I feel, that gives her the courage to do what she needs to do.

If you could change anything about the girl MC, what would it be?
I would take away her anger and hurt. She’s right to be furious about our situation, but I’m afraid it will make her do something dangerous.

If you had a superpower, what would it be and why?
I do have a superpower, and believe me, I’d be rid of it in an instant if I could. I don’t like causing such pain. I suppose if I have to choose another one, I’d choose invisibility, so I could slip away from everything.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Tangled Boys Take Over: Here's Ben!

Come meet Ben! 

(Ben is from a contemporary manuscript I am currently writing with a working title: The Girl with the Broken Wings. The tagline for the MS is: Seventeen-year-old Amy’s life is a mess. Her mom’s a workaholic. Her dad’s an alcoholic. And she’s left somewhere in the middle of their divorce, taking care of her eight-year-old brother with autism.)

(Cute, right?! I don't remember who this model is, but all the credit goes to him and appropriate photographers, et al.)

Name: Benjiro Sampson. But everyone just calls me Ben.

If you were a dish at a Mexican restaurant, what would you be and why?

I'd have to go with a dessert like bunuelos. I've got a killer sweet tooth. Seriously, just ask Amy. I make her try all of my "crazy candies." So, slather some bunuelos in chocolate sauce and I'm in heaven.

Describe yourself in five words or less.

I'm like a daifuku treat. (They're these Japanese confections that are stuffed with a sweet filling. There's more than meets the eye to them and me...I might be kind of hungry if I'm comparing myself to desserts. But they're delicious. Man, now I really want one.) 

Name one thing you just cannot live without. 

My truck. She might groan and look a bit beat up, but I worked hard to buy her. 

Okay....Boxers or briefs?

Well that's kind of personal. Is this Amy's revenge because I might have, accidentally, completely not on purpose seen her in her underwear and a small tank top kind of shirt? I mean, you can't blame a guy for noticing what walks right in front of them. *sigh* I'll let you have this win, Amy. I mean, I win so many of our bets, why not? It's boxer briefs. Does that satisfy your burning desire to know about my unmentionables? You're imagining me in them right now, aren't you?

What's your favorite smell? 

Fresh cut grass on a summer night.

What is the grandest romantic gestures you've ever made? 

Sometimes Amy needs a break from everything--her family, ex-boyfriend (the idiot), and not so friendly friends--so one night, I stole her away. I took her to this field where you can see a ton of stars. We laid out in the back of my trunk on a bunch of blankets and looked at the stars, talked, and ate too much candy.  

What's one trait you have that the MC finds annoying?

I tend to say the wrong thing a lot. I mean, I don't think it's the wrong thing at the time, but Amy does. I've realized I have to really think about my wording when talking about certain subjects with her.

What is the one thing you'd never admit your significant other does better than you? 

She handles situations with her family that I can't even imagine being in. I'd crash and burn if I were her. 

If you could change anything about [girl MC] what would it be? 

This is a tricky question because there might be things I'd want to change about Amy, but if I did, then she wouldn't really be the Amy I liked, would she? So I could say, it'd be nice if she didn't take some of things I said as being bad and realized that I might not know the right way to say what I want to. But then she wouldn't have the fire and fierce protectiveness about the people she loves which is one of the things that draws me to her. And I'd much rather have that than an Amy that doesn't care. 

If you had a superpower, what would it be and why? 

I always thought it would be awesome to fly. How cool would it be to feel the summer sky on your face at night and see lights twinkling above and below you? Plus, I could take Amy with me. I think she'd love that. I'd get a pair of costume wings and make her wear them. Haha. She'd probably refuse to wear them, but she'd look cute with a pair of wings. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Tangled Boys Take Over: Come Say Hi to Carter!

We have a treat for you! You know how everyone loves a boy with swoon? Well, we are no exception. And to celebrate hot boys with swoon, we are interviewing our fantastic MALE MCs. All the Tangled girls asked some questions, and each of us will answer them with one of our boys. So get ready...the boys are taking over.

Name: Carter Trent

My hot boy is from the project that I'm currently querying, so I really can't say anything about it. But I have no doubt that Carter will enjoy telling you all about himself. Seriously.

If you were a dish at a Mexican restaurant, what would you be and why?

A tamale, because you have to be brave if you want to handle this spice.

Describe yourself in five words or less. 

I'm a lover and a fighter. (Yes, that's six words, but libraries leave out "A" and "And" in the card catalog so it doesn't really count and I only used three words. Ha! I get two more: kick ass. "I'm. Kick. Ass. Lover. Fighter." Do with that what you want.)

Name one thing you just cannot live without. 


Okay....Boxers or briefs?

Briefs. There's more support. *laughs* But really, there's just something more classy about briefs. Sometimes I wear boxer briefs, but only on special occasions.

What's your favorite smell? 

Freshly baked pies, crusts, cakes, breads. Anything you put in the oven because the smell lingers forever and you can taste it before it touches your mouth. The anticipation is unlike anything else. Except that first kiss.

What is the grandest romantic gestures you've ever made? 

I'm not really a kiss and tell kind of guy, definitely not with Pen, but there was once when she was having a really crappy couple of days and she almost got killed by these demons, and I had messed up bad and I wanted her to know how much I cared about her. I let her re-live one of her memories, and I won't say what it was, but it was a turning point for us. 

What's one trait you have that the MC finds annoying?

She really hates when I call her nicknames: Felt Tip, Nelly, Penny Sue. Or she used to. She doesn't complain much anymore about Pen. I pick on her a lot, but it's only because I love her. I think she secretly likes it. 

What is the one thing you'd never admit your significant other does better than you? 

She takes action. I always thought I was acted before thinking, but then I met Pen. She's stubborn and she knows what she wants. I always worry that one day she's going to run into a room of demons to save someone without thinking it through and get herself killed. I'd do the same, especially for her, but she does it for anyone. 

If you could change anything about [girl MC] what would it be? 

Penelope's not very easy on herself. She never really thought she was good enough--even after she's proved herself over and over again. There's a lot of pressure to be a certain way; sometimes I want to tell her that she's perfect, but I know how hard that is to believe in our community. Witches are supposed to be one way, and anything different is scary. I wouldn't change her being different. I'd change her mindset that different is a bad thing. 

If you had a superpower, what would it be and why? 

I'm a witch. I have superpowers every single day. Although, I don't have a cape. Maybe I need a cape...and a mask! Pen and I can get matching ones. She would look good in Spandex. 

And that was Carter. Wow, I'm a little embarrassed. I don't even know what else to say.

Hey, listen--don't tell Pen I said that bit about the Spandex. She'd probably smack me, and I don't really want to deal with that.