Monday, September 15, 2008
I just received an offer for representation! I can barely type this because I'm so busy doing my "happy dance!"
Of course, I haven't accepted yet because I want to give the other agents a chance to respond.
Update: I have accepted an agent. His name is Albert Longden.
It's so exciting to have someone who believes in my work as much as I do.

Update #2: Al and I broke up after one manuscript.

Debat between "hooks"

Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Version 1

Not wanting to see the villager’s disapproving scowls or the sheriff who dogged her every step, Brusenna kept her gaze trained on the packed earth as she trudged through the marketplace. The sun scorched her straw colored hair. The street's dust clung to her feet as if begging her to take it away from this stifling place.
Brusenna knew exactly how the dust felt. There was only one merchant that would sell to her, and then only because he needed the money. Keeping her amber eyes on task, she snatched the few meager items her mother needed and then took them to the owner.
“12 upice,” he said sourly.
A ridiculous price. If she were anyone else, she could have bartered it down to half that. But she was not anyone else. She was a witch. She held out the coins. The man’s gruff paw swallowed her tiny hand in mounds of fat. She wondered what marvelous things he ate to flesh out his skin that way. Things like the honey sweetened cakes that she could still smell in her clothes even after she'd left the marketplace.
The merchant counted the money, and then grunted as he counted it again. He pocketed the coins with a scowl—obviously disappointed that she’d paid the correct amount and cheated him of a chance to berate her. “Now get out, chanter.” He shook his pocket and the clink of the coins seemed to reassure him.
Bundling her packages together, she searched for the most unobtrusive path for egress and then darted through people that cringed or glowered at her in turns. At the unexpected sound of hoof beats, she stole a peek at an enormous black horse—its rider scanning the crowd. Ducking her head again, she hurried faster. She felt the rider’s gaze lock on her back.
If she could just make it to the streets, she could hide. Almost there. A few more steps. But she wasn’t quite fast enough. She started when the horse blocked the way. Before she could stop herself, she plowed into the animal’s girth. She stumbled backward. But her legs couldn’t keep up with the rest of her and she landed on her backside. Her purchases clattered loudly to the ground. Sucking air, she fought the urge to cry out as the pain blossomed from her bottom.
Forgetting herself for a moment, Brusenna glanced into the cobalt eyes of the most beautiful woman she'd ever seen. Her hair gleamed like a field of ripe wheat, and she was clad in creamy cotton with brown leather coverings. An expensive musket was strapped to the back of her saddle. That and the horse were signs enough that the woman had money. Those that could afford work animals simply for transport had means well beyond anything Brusenna could imagine.
But what frightened her most was that the woman stared coolly down at her. The fear began with a tingling in her scalp and then worked its way painfully to Brusenna's toes. She scrunched them in the packed earth to hold it in.
“What's your name, child?” The woman's voice was as sweet and lingering as the smell of the honeycakes.
Brusenna turned a pain-filled glance to the marketplace. It had come to a standstill to gape at the interchange. Beauty, wealth, and power didn’t mingle with witches. She forced herself to unclench her fists. The breeze felt cool against her sweaty palms. “Brusenna.”
The leather of the saddle creaked as the woman sank back into it. “Ah, Sacra's only daughter then?”
How could a woman like this know my name, the name of my mother? The marketplace had gone so quiet that her head buzzed. Her packages scrapped against the dirt and pebbles as she dragged them in. She managed to bob her head once.
The woman made a clucking sound and then dismounted. Brushing the dirt off one of the packages, she handed it to Brusenna. “My name is Coyel. Take me to your mother, will you?”
Brusenna swallowed to keep her breakfast of cracked wheat from revisiting her mouth. “I’m not, I mean, I shouldn’t, I mean—”
Coyel cocked an eyebrow and pitched her voice so that none of the villagers would hear, “I am the first of three sisters.”
Brusenna blinked in confusion. Coyel’s statement seemed to have a deeper meaning, but for all her searching, she couldn’t understand it. “I . . . I’m an only child. My sister died before I was born.”
A look of disbelief crossed Coyel’s face, and Brusenna knew that she’d missed the mark entirely. “I knew Arel,” Coyel finally said. “As well as your father, Rench, before they died. Take me there, Brusenna. I must speak with your mother.”
Hot waves of jealousy and wonder rippled along Brusenna’s scalp, traveling down her skin until they hit the ground. From there, they reverberated back through her, like a wave of shimmering heat. This woman knew her father and sister? They had died long before Brusenna’s birth. Her mother never spoke of them. If this woman knew them, then she might tell Brusenna.
She bit her bottom lip before nodding. With a quick glance at the townspeople, she scurried through the streets. Almost as soon as the village thinned, they crossed into fields flanked by deep forests—forests that drew over the gentle curves of the hills like a furry blanket over the sleeping forms of giants. Brusenna’s shoulders itched for the cool, comforting shadows of those forests. She felt naked out in the open like this, where anyone’s hate-filled eyes could watch her. More so with the echoing clop of the horse’s hoofs to remind her of the woman and her cobalt eyes.

Version 2 (begins a little later in the story).
After leaving the cool of the forest, the sun seemed unbearably hot. Sweat glistened on Brusenna’s forehead. She wiped at it with the back of her hand. The town loomed before her like some great, dirty sore on the earth’s crust. Tucking her straw colored hair behind her ears, she took a deep breath and plunged in. She had to endure the stares of all the town’s citizens before she finally reached Gonstower market. She froze at her regular merchant’s booth. It was empty. Trying to swallow the lump that kept rising in her throat, Brusenna kept her head down as she looked down the line of merchants.
Sweat trickled down her back and made her dress cling to her. She turned to the next merchant and met his eyes. He shook his head in disgust. She made her way to the next. He chuckled, “I don’t think so, witch.” Then she came to a young man; one she’d never seen before. He flashed a smile, his white teeth straight and even. “What does the lady need today?”
Brusenna’s cheeks flamed. Lady? No one had ever called her a lady. “I need a couple needles and some cloth to make a new dress.”
He looked her up and down. “Yes, you’ve outgrown that one, haven’t you? You’re probably old enough for a woman’s full length dress, wouldn’t you say?” He pulled out a beautiful sky blue bolt. “This would look wonderful with your soft yellow hair and . . .” He ducked to look under her lowered lashes. “Golden eyes. Like wheat that’s almost ready to harvest—hints of green. Hmm.”
She found the color rising to her cheeks for the second time. “That would be fine,” she managed.
He chuckled as he measured and cut the cloth and then stuck two needles in a corner. As he handed it to her, his hands touched hers. Her stomach jumped into her throat. Most people made it a point not to touch her, but he hadn’t even cringed as she’d handed over the upice. He smiled again as he put the money away and his skin crinkled around his pale blue eyes. “My name’s Wardof. I haven’t seen you here before. Where do you live?”
Amazingly, Brusenna found herself meeting his gaze. “In the forest.”
“Well, you’re husband’s a lucky man.”
“Oh, I’m not married,” she said quickly, part of her pleased that he thought her old enough for a husband—though she was really only fifteen. “I live with my mother.”
He gestured to his plethora of goods. “Perhaps she would like something?”
Brusenna shook her head. “No.”
“Oh, come now. I’ll throw in something free, just for her.”
Brusenna dug her toenails into the dirt. “Maybe when she comes back. . . “
“Oh,” he said. “Of course. When she gets back from . . .”
Biting her lip, Brusenna looked away. Back from fighting the Dark Witch, she thought. If she comes back at all.
He gave an easy laugh. “Well, whenever she does. Send her down to pick something up.”
She nodded, gave him a small smile, and turned to go. But he reached out and grabbed her hand. “Wait! I have just the thing for you.” He reached underneath his counter and pulled out a silver necklace with an amber pendant shaped like a crescent moon. “It matches your eyes perfectly.”
Brusenna’s eyes widened in shock. “I couldn’t.”
“Sure you could,” he said easily. “I’m sure you’ll make it up to me, someday.”
Brusenna gazed longingly at the necklace. It was beautiful, and she’d never owned a piece of jewelry before. She bit her lip. “I don’t know.”
He came around the counter to stand next to her. Without asking, he brushed her hair over her shoulder and fastened the clasp. The metal felt cool against her sweltering skin. She rotated it, watching as it caught the light. “It’s beautiful.”
“Well, so are you.” He squeezed her hand and stepped back around the counter.
Tears welled in her eyes. Her hand still feeling the pressure of his grip, she cradled it against her body. It had been so long since she’d touched another person. “Thank you.”
“Perhaps you’ll come see me another time?”
To see his smile and speak to him again, Brusenna might do just that. Nodding a shy goodbye, she practically skipped from the marketplace. At least until a group of boys blocked her path. “You’re the chanter, aren’t you?” the one with the crooked nose asked her.
Dropping her head, she tried to duck past him. But he blocked her. “Chanter! Why don’t you cast one of your witch spells?”
Knowing a reply would only make things worse, she tried again to slide past them. Crooked nose easily blocked her. “Oh, look at that boys, she’s scared.” He gave one of her budding breasts a squeeze and made to say something else. He never got the chance.
Her mouth opened of its own accord and a song erupted from the most primal part of her, “Plants, hear my song, an enemy wishes to do me wrong!” He instantly shrank from before her and would have kept going, but the vines twisting around his ankles stopped him. His face drained of color as the plant edged up his legs and the legs of his companions. They tried to kick free, but the vines held.
“Here now!” a voice cried from somewhere behind Brusenna. She whirled to see the sheriff coming round a corner at full speed. She shrank away, desperately wanting to run. But instead of scolding her, he stopped in front of the boy. “Corwood, you’ve done it now! I’ll have you locked up for a fortnight for that!”
Brusenna didn’t care to wait around. “Never touch me again,” she hissed as she stepped past the boys.
The sheriff called after her, but she pretended not to hear. She didn’t notice the pale blue eyes watching her with a knowing look in the crowd of merchants.

Let me know which is your favorite! I need to decide as soon as possible.

Query for The Last Witch

Friday, September 5, 2008
Dear _____:

This is the personalized section.

For decades, an underground war has been waging between two factions of Witches—the Sisters, who believe their duty is to unreservedly shore up the natural bindings that keep the Earth from falling into chaos; and the Dark Witch and her Servants, who wish to overthrow all other witches, giving them complete control over nature, and therefore, complete dominion over mankind.

Brusenna is ignorant to all of this until a stranger arrives, begging for Brusenna’s mother’s aid in their last stand against the Dark Witch. Left alone and untrained in Witch Dueling, Brusenna unwittingly leads the witch hunters to her hidden home, setting off a chase that ends in a grave discovery—her mother and the remaining Sisters have been captured. She is indeed, The Last Witch.

If Brusenna is to rescue her mother and the other Witches from the Dark Witch’s prison and save mankind from uncontrollable storms and temperature shifts, she will have only the aid of a young man and a faithful dog. Together, they face darkness only Brusenna can stop—if she can find a way to defeat the one witch who has toppled all others.

The Last Witch is a young adult fantasy of 91,000 words.

My previous writing accomplishments include the publication of a short story entitled Turning Point in The Western Horseman and NHSRA Times. I have also won numerous writing competitions (most recently the Eden Writer’s Conference and the LDSStorymaker’s Conference). I hold a bachelor’s degree in English Literature and am a Chapter President for the League of Utah Writers.

The Last Witch is a stand alone with sequel potential. Thank you for taking the time to review my query letter. I look forward to hearing from you.


Amber L. Smith

So whaddya think?

How tough is my Dad?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008
My cell phone vibrates. I look at the caller ID. My dad.
"Hey, whaddya doin'?" he asks.
My two year chucks a rock through my neighbors fence. "Just watching my kids make a mess." He chuckles.
"What are you doin'?" I ask in return.
"Oh, I'm at the hospital."
"Yeah. Guess I broke my leg in a couple places."
I lean back and take a deep breath. "How?"
"I was chasing cows with Bob Jensen up below the reservoir. It was kinda slick from all the rain. Horse slides right out from underneath me."
In my mind, I'm running through all the different horses my dad rides. "Which horse?"
"The three year old colt."
I roll my eyes. At fifty, Dad just won't stop breaking colts. "How'd you know it was broke?"
"Well, I should have bailed off, but I held on. Horse landed on my leg. My foot was stuck in the stirrup. When the horse rolled to get up, I heard my leg pop."
I shudder, imagining my dad's leg making that kind of noise. "Did you call for Mom to come get you or did Bob give you a ride home?" I ask.
He takes a deep breath. "Well, I told Bob I was alright and finished chasing cows. I figured I'd just sprained my ankle cause the burning was so low."
I know my dad rather well, and I'm beginning to see where this is going. "Dad, how long ago did you break you leg?"
He thinks for a minute. "Monday."
I run my hand through my hair. "Dad, it's Wednesday."
"Yeah, you Mom and your Uncle Bart wouldn't leave me alone about it."
I still can't quite believe I'm having this conversation. "So, are they going to cast it?"
"Have to wait for the swelling to go down. The broken part is kinda leaning in toward the other bone, so they might have to operate. I told 'em I had to have a walkin' cast. Gotta bring all the cows outta the mountains here in the next few weeks."
That's my dad. Can't stay away from the ranch for more than a few days or he turns into a moody teenager all over again. How many vacations did he not come on, or cut short cause he had to check on the cows. "Dad, you're hella tough."
He grunts. "Yer ma don't think so."
I sigh, unwilling to be dragging into that argument. What I call tough, Mom calls stubborn and prideful, but hey, I don't have to live w/ the guy anymore. "Tell me you're staying home today."
"Yeah. I gotta go in tomorrow though."
I sigh again. Might as well argue with a fencepost as keep Dad away from the ranch. "Be careful."
We hang up and I study my phone for a minute, wishing I were half as tough as the man who raised me.

I survived

Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Seriously, I survived this weekend. And before you think I'm using a metaphor, let me say, "I am not kidding." My son and I came very close to serious injuries. In the end, he walked, and I limped, away.
But let me back up.
We were camping in Mountains behind my home. I took my son on a four wheeler ride. We passed a few head of cattle, and my son announced, "Meow!" Immensely pleased with himself, he contiued to chant, "Meow, meow, meow."
I turned a bend and came upon a deep wash running down the center of the road. Immediately letting off the gas, I cranked the handlebars to straddle the wash. Just in time, the wheels straddled the center. Unfortuantely, the silt on the sides of the road came loose and sucked the back wheel in. That pulled in the front wheel. The machine tipped to the side and our weight threw it in deeper.
The thought flashed in my mind that we were going to crash. The next instant, I thought of my little baby. I threw my leg out and tried to hold the machine up. I wasn't strong enough. It jerked me forward and slammed me into the ground as it fipped, it's wheels still spinning in the air.
My son was trapped under the fourwheeler.
I screamed for my husband, but he was too far behind us.
I was on my own.
Wincing as I stood, I threw my weight into the machine. But I couldn't hold it up and pull him out.
"Connor, you have to get out."
Through his shrieks of terror, he managed to scramble out. As soon as he was clear, I let the fourwheeler fall back to the ground. As it finally choked and died, we scrambled to the side of the road. My back throbbing, I checked my son over. He crawled into my arms and cried it out.
A moment later, my wide eyed husband pulled up behind us. "Are you okay?"
Through my tears, I shook my head. "My back."
We both looked over to see our little two year old pouring silt over his head. "I think he's okay."
Strong man that he is, my husband flipped the fourwheerer. After a few tries, we got it started.
After climbing stiffly back on, I said a silent prayer of gratitude and headed back to camp.
As we drove, my little son chanted, "Meow, Meow, meow."
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