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