Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Rebecca Williamson Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 7/8/2024
  • Sheila Fernley Agent Spotlight Interview, Critique Giveaway, and One-Hour Zoom Call on 7/29/2024
  • Erica McGrath Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 8/12/2024

Agent Spotlight & Agent Spotlight Updates

  • Agent Spotlights & Interviews have been updated through the letter "K" as of 3/28/2024 and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for more information as I find the time to update more agent spotlights.


Happy Monday Everyone! Hope you're having a great week. I'll be honest. Last week was kind of hard. Sunday was the six month anniversary of Rudy's death. And then on Monday at work our manager announced that an attorney will get their layoff notice the end of October for the end of November and there will be other layoff notices the end of December for the end of January so that most secretaries and attorneys are gone and just a very few left in each office. One of our secretaries had just gotten her layoff notice for the end of October but can work part-time in November.

This is part of our company's closing next year. I expect I'll get my notice either this month or the end of December because we only have 3 attorneys and the managing attorney. I'll be glad to get through this next super big life challenge and am getting ready. A career counselor they hired to help us wrote an awesome resume for me that I'll use when I make a career change to an administrative position. And this blog is in there to show my technology skills. I've been working on my cover letters and starting to network with a few people I hadn't told yet. One asked me to send him my resume now. I'll keep you all posted. And I am so glad to have this blog and all you as friends as I go through this challenging time.


Jessica Sayler's debut book SECRET CATCH just released. Here's a blurb: Tyler Koontz is Trojan gold
all the way and Sam Nolan is Skyhawk red born and raised. There’s one rule in this town... Trojans and Skyhawks don’t date. EVER. So when Tyler and Sam fall fast and hard for each other, what are they to do? Keep it a secret of course. The problem is in a town this small, secrets don’t stay secret for long.  And here's a few links:

And I have a few winners to announce:

The winner of SURVIVAL COLONY 9 is Carl Scott!

And the winner of SALT AND STORM is Suzanne Warr!

Congrats! E-mail me your address so I can send you your books. Please e-mail me by the end of Wednesday or I'll have to pick another winner.

Today I'm thrilled to have long time follower and friend C. Lee McKenzie here to share a guest post on how to get your first few pages of your story right and a giveaway of her new YA contemporary DOUBLE NEGATIVE that released in July. Details of the giveaway are at the end of the post.

So here's Lee!

It’s the beginnings that are the hardest for me to write. I spend more time on that first sentence, that first paragraph, page or chapter than I do with the whole book—almost. And even after I rewrite for the hundredth time, I’m not one hundred percent satisfied. I’ve come to understand that this is my “insecurity” showing up.

Here’s why. Book browsers usually give a book no more than three pages before making the decision to buy or to put a book back on the shelf. Three pages!

“Deal with it, baby.” That’s what I finally told myself.

But how? There had to a way I could rewrite my beginnings and not wind up in a puddle of despair with every book.

When all else fails, I like to resort to logic, so that’s where I went for help. I turned on my left brain coordinates and created a Checklist Of Questions for myself. It has helped, so I thought I’d share that checklist with you today.

Now, in all honesty, some items are mine; some I stole and can’t remember who I stole them from, so if
you see something here that you thought of before me, let me know. Some items are pure common sense and come under the Everyone Knows That For Heaven Sakes Category.

01.Do I have a HOOK?

02.Where is it? (First line? First page?)

03.What’s the HOOK’s question?

04.Is that question big enough to catch the readers’ interest? Will “What happens next?” pop into their minds?

05.Is my main character clearly established?

06.Does my main character have a clearly established goal or desire?

07.Is there any scene that I can improve with better characterization?

08.Is my inciting event in the right place?

09.Will my readers know where and when the story takes place?
10.How much white space do I have? (Where can I add some with dialogue or shorter, quicker-paced sentences?)

11.Do I have any long narrative or descriptive passages that I could a) delete b) break up?

12.Do I use passive voice, and get too wordy?

13.Do I establish and keep the tone I want for the book?

14.Do I have any “blah” description?

I don’t bother with this Checklist of Questions until I come to that miracle called The End. When I type that, I know it’s only the beginning, but I’ve accomplished phase one of my book. That’s when I go back and shred and shred and shred the beginning, using my list of questions.

Do you have a checklist for your beginnings? Anything I need to add? Are beginnings a challenge for you?

Thanks for the advice. Love the list, Lee!

You can find Lee at:

Here's a blurb of DOUBLE NEGATIVE from Goodreads:

"My life was going, going, gone, and I hadn't been laid yet. I couldn't go into the slammer before that happened." Hutch McQueen.

Sixteen-year-old Hutchinson McQueen is trapped in a dysfunctional family. Shackled by poor vision and poor reading skills, he squeaks through classes with his talent for eavesdropping and memorizing what he hears. After another suspension from school and suffering through one of his mother’s violent attacks, he escapes to a friend’s house that turns out to be a meth lab. The lab is raided and Hutch lands in juvenile detention. When the court sentences him to six months in a new juvenile program, he meets a teacher with Alzheimer’s who will change his life and hers.

Lee has generously offered a copy of DOUBLE NEGATIVE for a giveaway.  To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through October 18th. I’ll announce the winner on October 20th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, please leave it in the comments.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. Also if you like Lee's new Facebook page and add DOUBLE NEGATIVE to your Goodreads list, mention this in the comments for extra entries. You must be 13 or older to enter. This is an International giveaway with a print version for U.S. and e-book for International.

Here’s what’s coming

On Wednesday I'm giving away a number of recently released Harper Collins middle grade books that I know many of you would enjoy.

Next Monday after that I have a guest post by another long time follower and debut author Kim Van Sickler and a giveaway of her YA contemporary SNACHED IN GULLYBROOK.

Tuesday that week I’m participating in the Spooktacular Book Giveaway Blog Hop. I’ll have lots of great choices for you or an Amazon Gift Card if you don’t like what I picked.

Wednesday that week I'll be hosting a giveaway of the entire YA urban fantasy Heir Chronicles series by  Cinda Williams Chima, one of my all time favorite authors. So excited about this!

And the Monday after that, I’ve got a huge celebration giveaway because we’ve reached over 4000 GFC followers. They'll be a huge giveaway of both MG and YA books and a grand prize Amazon Gift Card. Hope you'll stop by to help celebrate!

The following Monday 'll be thrilled to share an interview with debut author Martina Boone who so many of us know with a giveaway of her fantastic YA Gothic romance COMPULSION. You'll love the small town Southern setting and the characters who are all so unique.

And don’t forget Casey’s Thursday Agent Spotlights.

Hope to see you on Wednesday!


Beth said...

Congratulations to Lee! Great suggestions for working on the beginning of the book. I often just give books one page in the bookstore before making a decision, so her advice is pertinent.
I'm still deluged with books, so don't enter my name in the draw, but good luck to the rest.
And I'm sorry lsat week was such a difficult one. Hope your transition isn't too difficult.

Jemi Fraser said...

Great advice Lee. I'm awful at checklists - but I wish I was better. My brain just doesn't work that way!
Sorry you've had a tough week Natalie - hope things start looking up on the job front!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I love checklists. That's a good one.

Congrats, Lee.

Greg Pattridge said...

Thanks to Lee for putting together such a great list. I also struggle with that opening, trying to make it just right. It takes time. I've been keeping tack of the type of opening from every book I read. It helps get me in the right frame of mind to write my own.
Keep getting over those bumps in the road, Natalie. The journey through life always has too many.

cleemckenzie said...

Oh, Natalie, you've had enough hurled at you to handle and you've done a masterful of dealing with all of it. So sorry about the job, but I know you'll find something, and it will be better than what you have now.

Thanks so much for hosting me today. I love being on your blog.

Jessica Lawson said...

What great advice on opening pages~ thanks so much, Lee!

Natalie, I'm so glad to hear that they provided a career counselor and hope that your transition into a new position happens smoothly.

Angela Brown said...

Very helpful list, Lee. some of those may be common sense when written in bullet point but MAN do they evade the mind in the thick of writing lol!

Kristin Lenz said...

Thanks, Lee! I have the hardest time rewriting my beginnings. Thinking of you, Natalie, and sending lots of good energy as you go through all of these changes.

Joanne R. Fritz said...

Thinking of you as you deal with these changes, Natalie. I'm sorry. It must have been hard this past weekend, and it will be difficult on holidays and special times. But know that we're all here for you, sending positive thoughts.

Great checklist, Lee. I need to work on several of those, especially #14.

Brenda said...

Sorry that you've had such a rough week. I hope that things on the job horizon get better for you real soon. With the addition of a career counselor it sounds more promising. Sending positive thoughts your way. I'm busy busy busy with Cybils reading so please don't enter me in this one.

Andrea Mack said...

Natalie, I'm crossing my fingers that you get a wonderful new job. It sounds like you're putting everything in place.

Lee, thanks for the great checklist!

Please don't enter me in your draw, as I'm already behind on my reading.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Crap, I think I'd fail that checklist...
Good stuff, Lee!!

Christine Rains said...

That's an excellent checklist. I rewrite my beginnings a lot too. The book HOOKED gave me a lot of great advice on how to write beginnings, much like your tips. :)

cleemckenzie said...

One page is usually enough, so make it good. Thanks for stopping by to say hello while I'm here.

cleemckenzie said...

Imagine an Aquarian right-brain at work on this and you'll see just what kind of uphill I'm on!

cleemckenzie said...

Your checklists are fabulous.

cleemckenzie said...

I hope the checklist helps someone else. I love it when I somebody makes it simpler for me--at least a bit. :=)

cleemckenzie said...

Thanks, Jessica.

cleemckenzie said...

Do I ever know that! LOL.

cleemckenzie said...

Naw. Some needs it. Some don't.

cleemckenzie said...

I haven't seen that. Thanks.

cleemckenzie said...

My pleasure. Andrea.

cleemckenzie said...

That blah description always needs work!

cleemckenzie said...

I think I'll be rewriting my beginnings forever.

Carol Riggs said...

That IS an excellent checklist! (and congrats to Lee!) I have the urge to copy it and paste that list in a document. I need to apply it to my WIP, I think!

And I can't wait to read COMPULSION!! :o)

Dawn Simon said...

Natalie, I'm hoping you find an excellent and rewarding job very soon. Sorry to hear about all the stress.

Lee, that's a great checklist. I'm a list girl, too. Thanks for sharing, and congrats!

Stephen Tremp said...

Yeah, I rewrite my beginnings and rewrite and refine. In three of my four books the first chapter is an epilogue that really needs to deliver, so it really has to jump off the page, grab the reader by the lapels, and smack them across the face. Okay, scratch that last part.

Rosi said...

Excellent post. Thanks for this. Natalie, I sure hope things work out for you and quickly. That kind of stress you do not need. I think I'll pass on this giveaway. I have too much on my late right now.

cleemckenzie said...

I like the grabbing by the lapels part.

cleemckenzie said...

Thanks, Dawn. Lists seem to keep me sane these days.

cleemckenzie said...

Hope you enjoy Compulsion and thanks for copying the list.

Empty Nest Insider said...

Natalie, I'm sorry this is such a sad and stressful time for you. Sending lots of good thoughts your way.

Lee, Thanks for the great checklist! I'll have to remember to beware of the "blahs!"


Mary Preston said...

Great post.

I must say that I know by the end of the first page if the book is for me. It's mostly to do with the writing style.


Anonymous said...

This book sounds like it has some awesome elements to it! I'm sharing the giveaway in my blog newsletter.

Unknown said...

Congrats and that's a really helpful checklist! The book is added to my goodreads and thanks for the chance to win!!! :)

cleemckenzie said...

I post that word on the left of my screen. I need that reminder.

cleemckenzie said...

I agree. I love it when the prose can also sweep me up in the sound and the rhythm.

cleemckenzie said...

Thanks for sharing this, Kira. Appreciate it.

cleemckenzie said...

Thanks, Manahil! Great to find your comment.

Stephanie Garber said...

I loved your list, Lee! That is super helpful. I'm totally going to keep this list as a future reference. Thanks so much for sharing.

And Natalie, my heart goes out to you. I hope you find a new an amazing job! I am sure anyone would be lucky to have you working for them.

Kelly Polark said...

Hugs to you, Natalie. You've had such a difficult year. Good luck to you! I know you will find something great!

Also, congrats to Lee! And these are great questions to ask about my manuscript!

Unknown said...

I love this guest post, Lee! Beginnings kill me too. It's so hard to get a good balance between action and inner-thoughts/backstory. Argh! And "blah" descriptions are my nemesis too. It takes a lot of revisions...

Double Negative looks great! Wishing you much success! :)

Rachna Chhabria said...

Great checklist Lee, I am bookmarking this post. It will be very helpful for my current WIP.

Toi Thomas said...

Natalie sorry to hear of work problems but an glad to heard that you have plan and are looking to the future. It's really great that your blog has been able to not only serve as a support system, but a good reference of your skills.
This is a really good guest post. I love the tips Lee shares and will be using them myself. Here sounds pretty good too.

Robyn Campbell said...

Natalie, :( I'm so sorry. I wish I could take away the pain. I'm sorry about your job too. It sounds like there is a great plan in place to help you find another job, asap. I love that the blog in in your very cool resume. You guys do an outstanding job.

Wonderful guest post. Awesome tips, Lee. Must read Double negative.