Friday, March 28, 2008

Thriller/Suspense Honorable Mentions

As usual, everyone did a great job in this category, but there were a few more entries that really stood out for us. . . .

Jessica’s picks:
Anonymous 10:59am -- Secondary Targets

MCAS Cherry Point
Present Day

To say that General Michael Hendricks’ days were numbered was not necessarily accurate. Hours--maybe. Seconds--probably. Days--doubtful.

Midnight had crept upon him in silence, bringing with it no viable solutions. A small desk lamp cast a faint glow over his worry-ridden face.

Damn. How could I have been so careless? The words poured over him like a scalding hot shower. Reality had barged it’s way in, pulled up a chair and sat down.

There was nothing left. No time. No solutions. No easy or quick fixes. And certainly not a smidgeon of luck.

The voice is everything for me with these words. I like the quick, sharp prose and the feeling of helplessness we see in the character. I also like the military side of this, that intrigues me and makes me wonder where this is going.

Ray -- Untitled

Jake Black stretched in his car seat and imagined the suspected terrorist charging out of the house across the street, AK 47 spewing bullets. Anything to break up the boredom--in Jake's business, drowsy equaled dead.

His cell phone vibrated in his pocket. He flicked it open--damn, he'd made it clear that his daughter's nanny was never to call him on the job.


Gretchen's whisper shook. "Your wife--she's here."

Impossible. "How?"

"I don't know. The doorbell rang, and there she was."

Dear God. "Does she have Amy?"

"I tried to stop her, Mr. Black, I tried."

I love the idea of a stakeout or a sting operation, so already I’m interested in this, but when you throw in the possibility of this man’s family getting caught in the middle you have my attention. That’s a twist you rarely see in something like this and definitely has me interested in more.

Kim’s picks:
Anonymous 4:48 pm -- A Shame Too Great

Nolan Spencer witnessed his first murder when he was eight. He wasn’t supposed to be skulking in the dark crevices of an alleyway, he was supposed to be carrying out the deed. Initiation. Was the killing of the naked lady, sprawled listlessly in the snow covered street, a part of this initiation? Nolan nibbled on his frozen knuckles and pictured his buddies huddled together in conspiracy. They were tucked safely away in the abandoned basement of the Iron Works. Be brave, he thought, this is what it’s all about. The killer turned and locked eyes with the boy.

I liked the unique POV here. Here’s a young kid that’s bound to get into all sorts of trouble in the coming years, if he’s getting mixed up with a gang. But that whole mess hasn’t even started and already he finds himself in a dangerous situation that presumably isn’t even linked to the unsavory characters he’s been hanging out with. I’m rooting for the kid: hoping he doesn’t get killed for what he’s just witnessed, and wishing the whole situation will scare him straight!

Claire -- Untitled

I had an uncanny knack for finding the kind of people who usually didn’t want to be found. Sam Weber had been no different, except that when I found her she was dead. I should never have broken my own protocol and taken the job. When I started seeing orange I ought to have trusted my instincts and quit.

“You came then.”

Harvey Lee Reynolds. Brother of the deceased and philandering ass hole.

“What‘s that supposed to mean?”

I felt naked without my gun. It had seemed right not to bring it to the funeral, now it just felt foolish.

I just really liked the voice from the first sentence. Why hadn’t Sam wanted to be found and how did she end up dead? The best part of the excerpt, however, is the last line. The reader’s led to believe this Harvey guy is just some obnoxious boob, but all of the sudden the narrator thinks he should have his gun on him. Are there going to be two dead bodies at this funeral? Great setup.

That does it for the thriller/suspense category! The contest is winding down. You’ve all done a terrific job so far. We’re really enjoying this!


Anonymous said...

I'm about to give up writing. Before I type the next few words, I'm donning my helmet and flak vest as I can already hear the incoming rounds.

The agents at BookEnds are tops and obviously know their stuff. Their success in the business speaks for itself, so their opinions are pre-validated.

My entry didn't get picked. I thought it should have been at least tied for first (shock of shocks an author would think such a thing :)) with one other entry. (it didn't get selected, either) As a huge fan and avid reader of suspense/thrillers, I didn't see anything entered that would have enticed me to read word 101, but the agents did - and enthusiastically so.

Clearly, my 'calibration' of what's marketable and what is well-crafted, must be way, way, off.

That's why, perhaps, I should give up writing novels. Or, at least, writing novels for others to read.

Anonymous said...

It's a subjective business.

Which one was yours?

Anonymous said...

The people who make the decisions at Book Ends 'subjective' judgements are what pays their rent, therefore more equal than the opinion of others.

My first reading said this was only someone's expression of sour grapes, but now I can feel the writer's frustration.

Anonymous said...

Whoa there Anon 9:56... You give us far too much credit. As the other commenter pointed out, publishing is a very subjective business and I think that's been evident throughout the contest. Even two agents within the same agency have trouble agreeing sometimes, so imagine how many different opinions and tastes are out there in the entire publishing industry.'s only 100 words. We know we can't judge the marketability of a book based just on 100 words. But given limited time and cyberspace, we can't make it the 100,000 words contest.

You certainly shouldn't stop writing based on the contest. That would just be silly.

Anonymous said...

P.S. -- If Jessica and I stopped submitting a book after two editors said they hated the voice or didn't respond to the writing, we wouldn't be able to pay our rent. We might feel a little discouraged at first, but inevitably we end up selling the book to another house and enjoy great success with it.

BookEnds, A Literary Agency said...

I want to add to what Kim said. This is a 100 word contest. 100 words out of potentially 100,000. A drop in the bucket compared to the rest of your work. Yes, there certainly are times when we receive a submission and choose not to read beyond those 100 words, but there were many, many entries in all categories in which I would have loved to see full chapters. The talent here is far-reaching and the voices are so different that choosing was never easy.

To put it into perspective, when I read through the entries I make a short list and pull out those that spoke to me the strongest. My list usually ends up somewhere close to ten entries. From there I weed out five, those that when looked at a second time didn't ring as strongly. From the five entries Kim and I each pick we look for matches for a winner and runner-up. It's amazing how rarely we've had matches or how, at times, we've had to go to our longer lists to find a match.

And truthfully, I'm not always so sure of my picks either. It's 100 words folks. Not enough to truly judge a book by.

Working to hone your craft and a little bit of luck are the only way to success in this business. Someone once said that with each query you send out and each book you write about 10 other unpublished authors drop out of the game, bringing you closer to your goal. That is probably close to the truth. Don't be one of the 10, be one of the few who takes those steps toward getting published.


Anonymous said...

I agree with the ladies...I submitted my 100 words, it didn't get picked, but, I sent them a query letter and Bookends requested a partial...Am I upset?

Not in the least...

Congrat's to the winners and honorable mentions...well deserved indeed!!

Thanks to the ladies at Bookends for taking the time from their schedule to put on the contest.


Anonymous said...

Hello Anon....

Don't give up.

After my first book, I sent 70 queries and got three requests for paritials and that's where it ended.

I wrote book number two, sent out 81 queries and got zero requests for anything.

I going effing backwards, but won't give up. Book three is 2/3 into its first draft and we'll see what it brings.

Mr Tom Clancy's, Hunt For Red October got turned down 105 times.

Sookie said...

Well said, ladies, and thank you. I must admit to a little frustrated, but then, that’s the biz. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

I have learned from your choices, and I think that is where our focus needs to be. We are not competitors but colleagues. There is room for all of us if we learn.

Thanks again, Kim and Jessica, for giving us this opportunity.

Congratulations to the winner and all honorable mentions, everyone put their hearts into their submissions and it shows.

Best of luck with your careers.

Anonymous said...

Where do the gals at Bookends find the time for these contests?

Thank goodness, they do.

Anonymous said...

If you are uncertain about whether or not your writing is "speaking" to others in the industry, try seeking out a good critique group. They can tell you if it is time to give up the ghost, or at least put a project under the bed.

That said, there are a lot of entries that caught my attention, and I'm a very picky reader.

Don't give up based on this. This has to be one of the hardest contests I have ever seen. Only one hundred words, and two opinions with well over 100 entries for most of the categories. Those aren't good odds for winning.

I'm also curious which one was yours. I bet it was a powerful one. I thought there was a lot of good writing in the "killer beginning," entries, but I had to stop reading because I couldn't handle so many sick-o killers in such short bursts.

I think part of the game is starting out in a way that is different than the majority. I noticed a lot of the historical romance entries had a girl running away, either on horseback, or otherwise.

And in the suspense there were a lot of "killers" opening the books. Perhaps the only problem is not with the writing, but that the opening is structured just like so many other submissions.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:56,

I have a hunch that every published author has thought, at least once, about giving up. It's a tough business, and it's a crazy business and as the others have pointed out, it's a highly subjective business. One editor may reject a novel and another offers a three-book contract based on the same submission. The only thing you can truly count on in publishing is that you can't count on anything. *s*

But while I understand your frustrations, I have to say that, if not getting selected in a 100-word contest on the BookEnds blog is all it's going to take to make you quit . . . well, your chances of surviving this crazy business aren't looking so good. I mean, trust me. It's gonna get worse. The worst thing you can do is take any of it personally.


Jeannie Ruesch said...

This is such a crazy business in some aspects - we volunteer to be rejected from the onset. We expect it.

But this is such a subjective business. Agents and editors are human beings just like we are. They focus on the stories they feel passionate about in that moment...and the ones who turn into clients are the ones they KEEP feeling passionate about. But that doesn't mean that other agents won't see something different in the works presented, and find something different THEY are passionate about.

I imagine if you had two or three other agents from other agencies look over these same entries, they might make other choices. Not because Jessica and Kim are wrong, but because it IS subjective.

It's no different than how each of us has different authors we love. We won't all choose the same ones, but that doesn't devalue the ones chosen.

It would be a curious thing to have the blog readers vote on THEIR favorites and see those results as well as Jessica and Kim's choices. [A nightmare to manage from Bookends perspective, I imagine, but still interesting. :)]

Christie Craig said...

Okay, I'll admit there were times I was very frustrated while limping along the publishing trail. But I still recall a conversation with my hubby after I got a handful of rejections in one week and had just finished a pint of really good "Double Monkey "Something"" ice cream.

Hubby: You aren't thinking about giving up are you?

Me: The idea has crossed my mind. But . . . who am I if I'm not a writer?

Hubby: (thinks a minute and tenderly says) You're my wife. The woman who sleeps with me. Cooks for me. Cleans our house. Cuddles with me. Watches movies with me.

Me: (thinks for a longer moment) You're right. If I can do that without getting paid for it as long as I have, I can do this, too.

Moral of the story. You have to be committed to being a writer, married to it, for better or worse.

If giving up is more than just a passing thought brought on by too much Ben & Jerry's, Double Monkey "something" ice cream, then maybe this path isn't really where you want to be. It's tough.

Someone said, "If you can stop writing, do it! You don't belong in the business." To me, that seems harsh, I'm more of a cheerleader, shaking my pompoms and yelling, "Never give up. Never give up." But the truth is . . . this business is not for the weak of heart.


Jeannie Ruesch said...

Christie, I love your comment! LOL You are SO right.

I was talking to someone just last night actually, about how to keep on writing when you're rejected. And I told her that I'd read a question somewhere - if someone told me today that I would never be published, would I keep writing?

I answered yes, because writing is just a part of me. I write because I love it. So even if that goal isn't the end result, I keep writing because it's my passion. I think that's what keeps me strong...because I know those rejections aren't the end of the road.

Anonymous said...


“Stinky, get this, we got copycats. Amateurs.” I snapped off Jessica’s pink computer. “Where are you? Speak up.”

The door behind Jessica’s desk creaked opened. “Uh oh, I did the dirty deed. Hurry, light a match.”

“What’s wrong with you? You don’t use other people’s toilets. Not for a stinky.” I clicked my BIC. “You didn’t make a mess? No prairie dogging?”

“I’m a little insulted.”

“You realize I had to ask, considering what happened at the Nelson Agency.”

“Oh yeah, Kristin’s shrine to Britney. But the fingerprints on Brit’s poster, I had to cover them up.”

“Your fingerprints?”

“Not mine.”


Anonymous said...

Christie, great post.

I almost didn't enter the contest after I read aimless writer's entry about the man in the elevator. I thought - there's your winner right there. I thought it was amazing and it didn't get a mention.

Of course, I'm not a trained professional, but when people say the business is subjective - it's true!

So, anonymous, if you can picture yourself not writing, then maybe that's what you should do. Writing makes me a better person, published or not, so I'll keep at it.

And thank you ladies, for the contests - they are a lot of fun!

Anonymous said...

I very nearly wrote what Anon 9.56 put - a little tongue in cheek BUT the point is valid. I sent six entries in to various categories. I could have done the erotic one too but I have a book coming out with Ellora's Cave at the end of the month so I figured I'd proved I could do that. But the six that got nowhere- well despite the fact that it's a subjective choice- none were liked enough to get a mention so I HAVE to assume that like Anon, I'm not writing something that catches the eye. The one thing I've learned is to sharpen those first 100 words because in the end, that might be all the time you get to impress.

Anonymous said...

"The one thing I've learned is to sharpen those first 100 words because in the end, that might be all the time you get to impress."

And that's the true beauty of this contest. Honing an introductory paragraph into 100 kick-butt words becomes an advanced writing class. I'm a better writer today than I was a month ago because of this contest. After the deadline for this one passed, I wrote another entry that was only 81 words, and it won this week on another forum.

My anonymous friend, it is indeed a tough business. It has chewed me up and spit me out like a wad of tobacco many times. I continue because I know I can be better than I am now, and because writing soothes an ache inside. You must find your own reasons to continue. Just remember that both you and the industry can grow.

Anonymous said...

For the scribe of ‘Grinding in the Big Girl’s Lair’, 'Ante up the Grind', and 'Back to the Old Grind'

Does Stinky’s friend have a name. Inquiring minds want to know.

Thanks for the laugh. (With all three subs!) Good timing.

claire said...

Kim, thank you so much for the honorable mention. You made my day!

Congratulations to all the other contestants and many thanks to Bookends for giving us this fantastic opportunity.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations to the winner and the honorable mentions. I appreciate these contests. They are fun and offer great incite into what Kim and Jessica like.

Kim chose one of my favorites: the honorable mention by Anon 4:48. I think that one is true suspense. Some of the others, clever and cute as they are, are not thrillers/suspense, at least not what I like to read. Yes, it's VERY subjective. Maybe that's why Anon 9:56 was/is upset? When I think thriller, I think John Sanford, Karin Slaughter, Alice Blanchard, Keith Ablow, etc. So the winner of this contest as talented as they are--kind of threw me. I guess like my suspense a lot harder. But I'm jaded.

Anyway, I hope Anon 9:56 doesn't give up. It's bloody out there, but worth the wounds.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to add my two cents worth to this subject.

Yes I've entered most of the contests so far and haven't had even an honourable mention.

Am I about to give up?

No way.

This has been the biggest learning curve in my writing career.

I now look at every words twice, see if I can use one stronger word to convey the same meaning.

To quote Ms Weathers one perfect rose instead of a bunch of straggling daisies.

I also look at my first chapter and choose the scene that can be milked for the most poignant opening.

In one entry my 6 page prologue became the first 100 words of 250 word prologue and yet lost nothing in the telling.

Have I learned something?

Indeed and I would like to thank Kim and Jessica for running these contests.

I have learned so much from both the other entries and their valuable comments.

Anonymous said...

Hey Anon 9:56 AM,

I hear ya, boy, do I hear ya! And, oh get this, I got an Honorable Mention from Jessica in the mystery competition! So, why can I still relate to what you're saying? Because after 100 words, she still doesn't know what my story is about. What if she hates it? What if she asks for a partial and is bored after only five pages? What if she asks for the full and thinks the story falls apart somewhere in the middle? What if she reads the whole thing, decides she loves it, and then a published author already on her list turns in a project with a similar premise???!!! ACK! (Okay, now I'm really freaking myself out.)

My point is, this contest is only the tip of the iceberg, there's so much more beneath the surface and you have to prepare yourself for that. There'll be many more trials, tribulations, and me. But there'll also be victories, and celebrations, and a wonderful sense of accomplishment when you finally get what you want. But only if you keep going.

You know, I think you should do exactly as you suggested. Write for yourself. Write a book that you love and are so darn proud of you just can't stop beaming. Then, send it out to a long list of choice agents and while you’re waiting to hear back from them or to get that coveted call, sit down and write another.

That's the only way to keep doin' what we do.

Julie Weathers said...

Anon 9:56. Take off the flak jacket and helmet. You are among friends and fellow writers.

First off, you obviously love to write and you feel you have a good story. How hard are you willing to work to birth that baby?

Compuserve Books and Writers' forum has a firsts workshop going on right now. They are now up to first chapters.

Paladin's Pride lost some of my favorite scenes and I wept bitterly for their untimely demise. The story is much, much beter now.

Dragon Valley lost the whole first chapter and opens with the second chapter.

When you get involved in good critique groups and enter contests it not only polishes your work, but it also polishes you. It also has a tendency to toughen you up to rejection. This business is filled with rejection so you need that elephant hide.

Here's the way I look at it. I want to be a published writer and I believe I will be one day. I can either keep working on that goal or give up. If I keep working on it, what have I lost? In a year I will be a year older, whether I am closer to my goal or not. I might as well make this year count for something.

Believe in yourself and your work, then make others believe in it.

Spy Scribbler said...

Anon, bless you for being so brave! I've hesitated to say something all day, considering, but your post really tugged at me.

You know, when I entered conservatory, I was the second worst pianist there. But so what? I learned, studied, practiced, and eventually was one of only two pianists in the whole school to get A's on their jury one year.

But so what? That didn't really matter, either.

Either way, neither made a difference in the fact that after college, I went out and made a living for myself with the piano.

Maybe that just says I'm real comfortable with other people being better than me, LOL. I believe that I can find--and make--my spot, no matter what. I believe I'll keep working every day to improve, and I believe I'll keep making opportunities for myself.

I lost the erotica contest, and rightly so, because there were some kick-ass entries. But so what? I still make a little money from erotica, and I still will--readers, thankfully, want to read more than one story, and they have vastly different tastes.

I won this contest, but again ... so what? (Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful! It was very kind and was a wonderful boost, and I appreciate the first chapter critique immensely.) But I'm still going to have to get out there and make a career for myself.

And you know what? Those writers on the front tables of Borders? Those writers at the top of the bestseller lists?

They still have to get out there, every day, and make a career for themselves.

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth Anon 9:56:

I too entered this contest (with more than 1 entry, even), and was not among the chosen ones.

However, my actual query to Bookends received a request for partial (still haven't heard back it's been about a month now). Different story, though, not that I think it would have placed in the contest anyway.

So don't freak out about not winning the contest. The real contest is in the query process. Freak out if all your queries get rejected, but not about a little contest.

Anonymous said...

The women at BookEnds are great, don't get me wrong, but they are not the be all and end all for what will sell in this country or world. And I'm sure they have said so or will tell you the same thing. They confess to sometimes having a hard time agreeing on what entries worked for them and sometimes (historical category) didn't agree at all. If they don't like your stuff, there are at least another hundred or so agents that might feel quite differently. If you are an avid reader in your genre believe me your 'calibration' is just fine.

And really, I think 100 words can tell someone if you can't write right off the back, but for those CAN write pretty well, it won't tell you how great a story you've got. This exercise is not to discourage anyone, I think it's to help us really weigh every word we put down on paper (especially in the opening scene).

Plus, if you manage to get an agent ask for more off a query, they'll probably give you about three pages before they decide they don't want to read anymore.

Aimlesswriter said...

Dear Anon;
"I'm about to give up writing"
In the immortal words of Richard Simmons, (remember him?) "Never, never, never give up."
You're a writer--so write. And keep writing no matter what. Do it for the love of the word and do it for yourself.
You might not have won this time, (me either!) but you tried so that put you one step ahead of the guy who didn't. As long as you're moving forward you're on the right track.
Someone once said, "A man is not a success because he has never failed, but because failure has never stopped him."
Take off the flak vest. We're friends, connected through our writing and this blog. I think we all felt a mixture of dismay and elation when we saw the winner/honerables. Darn! Its not me, but hey-Spy won. Yay Spy! (check out her blog-its great!)
As a writer I think we go through the times when we think its never going to happen but look deep inside and you know it will. Its there, inside you and someday you'll hit the right agent, on the right day, with the right book.
John Grisham caught the eye of an editor on his 100 submission of A Time to Kill. He was all set to send it out for the 101st time when he got the call.
It will happen. Know it in your heart.
Later gator, I gotta go count my rejection letters to see if they hit 100 yet.

bob said...

Wow, don't get discouraged Anon 9:56. I just did a post on my blog as to whose women's fiction entries I enjoyed and I hated to admit that there were some that I didn't even get thru the first sentence because I know what I like and don't - it's all subjective.

Hang in there and keep going!

Anonymous said...

It really does come down to individual taste. And if every agent could run a contest like this, we writers would get a much better idea of who to submit to. These "sound bytes" with explanation have really demonstrated agent taste without having to search out and read every book an agent reps to get a "feel" for their likes.

Jessica requested and rejected a partial of mine. After reading her faves in these contests, it's absolutely clear that my style is not for her. Yes, I looked at the titles she reps before submitting, but I didn't have time to read them all (sorry!).

Kim's choices are closer to the way I write, but I've learned this too late :o).

My questions are: If one of Kim's Honorable Mentions had been submitted to Jessica, would Jessica have passed the project to Kim? And vice versa? Did any of the choices of one of the ladies surprise the other? Or did the judging simply validate the "a no from any agent is a no from the agency at large" policy?