5 words, 14 letters…I HAVE A BOOK DEAL!

“I can’t believe this is real life” has become my new mantra. If someone were to tell me three weeks ago that I’d be sharing this news with you, I’d think they were crazy. And clearly compulsive liars, and why the heck was I friends with such crazy compulsive liars?! I’d need to look into finding some decent friends…

I’m still shamefully ineloquent right now, so please forgive this rambling mess of emotions. This is a post I’ve been dreaming of, patiently waiting for five years (including query trench time) and (more than) a handful of books later to write. It will be told with a series of accompanying gifs because that’s kinda how I roll.

Guys? I have a book deal.


Holy state of denial, Batman. Maybe I should say that to myself again, a little louder this time to be sure: I HAVE A BOOK DEAL.


Like the time I had “THE CALL” with my agent (and was totally convinced Barbara wanted to talk on the phone because she found fancy new ways of lighting my manuscript on fire…using her eyes), I sent my pal A.G. Howard an email, panicking that MAYBE THEY WILL SAY “HAHA JUST KIDDING, NO DEAL HERE, MANIAC. WE FOUND WAYS TO LIGHT YOUR BOOK ON FIRE WITH OUR EYES.”


Ever the reasonable one, Anita assured me that still wasn’t a thing. So now I’m back to quietly repeating my mantra. I cannot believe it’s happening. Like seriously…what dream world did I teleport to and how long can I stay?!

My editor and publisher (SQUEALS!) were even nice enough to have it announced, so I can now stare at it, all wide-eyed with tears streaming down my face, and keep whispering, “I can’t believe this is real life.”

Here’s the publishers marketplace deal announcement:

Screen Shot 2015-11-01 at 12.42.10 PM

And here’s a screenshot of the Publisher’s Weekly announcement:

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This is what it says: Jenny Bak at Jimmy Patterson Books has bought a YA novel called Of Blood and Shadow by Kerri Maniscalco. The debut gothic thriller, inspired by the Ripper murders, is about a Victorian-era lord’s daughter who defies society expectations by secretly apprenticing as a forensics examiner, and soon finds herself embroiled in the investigation of a serial killer who is stalking London’s East End. The book is scheduled for fall 2016; Barbara Poelle at Irene Goodman Literary Agency negotiated the deal for world English rights.

*jumps up and down* *faints*


So yeah. It’s really real. I’m not sure I’ll ever wrap my brain around that, and honestly? I hope I never do. This is such an incredible blessing.

Thank you to my family, Chris (and his family!), loved ones, friends, and all of my writing pals (#goatposse) and critique partners and beta readers and agent siblings. And to my superhero/agent goddess, Barbara Poelle, for making this insane dream come true.

And a BIG THANK YOU to my editor. *waves* Hi Jenny! I am ridiculously excited for what comes next!


Also, I am so grateful and beyond words thrilled to be on this journey with James Patterson and the entire team at JIMMY Patterson Books and Little, Brown. You guys are total dream makers. Thank you forever.


OF BLOOD AND SHADOW is in the best possible hands and I cannot wait to share these characters and this world with all of you next Fall, dear readers and friends.







giphy copy



Click here to add OF BLOOD AND SHADOW on goodreads!

Query critique – YA commercial fiction

Hello, blog friends! It’s been a while since I’ve posted a query crit, so you’re in for a little treat today. Oh, and happy fall! Hope you all get to indulge in some pumpkin spiced goodness and read some creepy books. Have you seen Kim Liggett’s blurb for BLOOD AND SALT? (A super scary looking read that just came out September 22nd!) Yeah, you need to grab a latte, snuggle into your favorite sweater and read it.

Enough book-geeking out, here’s the query crit!

Original Query:

Dear [Agent],

Yasir Thomas, high school basketball star, can’t help but wonder why his mother would name him after Edward Thomas, when he’s not even his biological father. All he wants is the truth. Too bad she’s not around to give it to him. Because according to his grandmother, she’s dead.

When well-paid defense lawyer Edward shows up after being absent most of Yasir’s life, he seeks legal custody to whisk Yasir away from his rough neighborhood. But the court requires that he takes a DNA test to prove his paternity. When the test comes back negative, both of them are taken aback.

Yasir goes to his grandmother for answers, but she won’t even look him in the eye. Refusing to continue travailing in the pain of not knowing who his real father is, he goes on a quest for the truth. But that means less time for basketball. And there goes that scholarship—his only ticket out of the Brooklyn projects.

ONE OF YOU WILL BETRAY ME is a commercial/multi-cultural novel complete at 74,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

All the best,

[Name Redacted]

Query with my immediate questions/reactions while reading the first time:

Dear [Ms. Agent],

Yasir Thomas, high school basketball star, can’t help but wonder why his mother would name him after Edward Thomas, when he’s not even his biological father.

This is almost there but not quite. How old is Yasir? It’s almost like there’s too much and not enough in this opening. Plus, in the next paragraph we learn that Edward isn’t his biological father, so it’s kind of redundant info and takes the surprise out of it. What’s the inciting incident in your book? What gets this whole ball rolling? Is it when Edward shows up out of the blue? Is it out of the blue? Why is Edward suddenly taking an interest in him? Does he think that Yasir is going to make it big in basketball and is using him, or does he truly want to build a relationship with a son he didn’t know he had?

[OR…if you keep this opening sentence, build on it from there. Don’t repeat the part about the DNA test in the next paragraph (if he’s not Yasir’s biological father, we get that from the opening) use the next paragraph to get into why he sets off on his quest and up the stakes.]

All he wants is the truth. Too bad she’s not around to give it to him. Because according to his grandmother, she’s dead. Why wouldn’t he believe his grandma if she said his mom was dead? Does she have a history of lying to him? 

When well-paid defense lawyer Edward shows up after being absent most of Yasir’s life wait…has he had interactions with Edward before? this sentence almost reads like he has and is a bit confusing, he seeks legal custody to whisk Yasir away from his rough neighborhood and how does Yasir feel about this? happy, nervous, mad, unwilling to leave his friends and life behind? and where does Edward live? Still in NYC but in a different borough? Still in the tri-state area? What kind of change will Yasir have to deal with? Are we talking from BK to country club Connecticut?. But the court requires that he takes a DNA test to prove his paternity. When the test comes back negative, both of them are taken aback.

This whole paragraph is good information, but can be easily condensed–or even removed from the query–to add more crucial plot info in its place. I still don’t quite understand the inciting incident that sets Yasir off on this journey to discover the truth. What triggers this? Does he find a picture of his dad and want to track him down? Does he do a reverse google image search a la CATFISH the tv show and discover that Edward is a famous lawyer? There’s got to be something that sparks him into action. Give us a little more of that and build the query from there.

Inciting incident happens ——> throwing MC into action because if he doesn’t act now _______ happens/could happen. What are the stakes? Is his grandma sick and possibly going to die, taking with her all the answers he seeks? Right now this is all kind of like background info.

Yasir goes to asks his grandmother for answers, but she won’t even look him in the eye. Refusing to continue travailing in the pain of not knowing who his real father is, he goes on a quest for the truth. What kind of quest? Does he follow clues his mom left? Does he find a box of her old stuff? Did his mom leave clues? HOW does he know where to start this quest. But that means less time for basketball. And there goes that scholarship—his only ticket out of the Brooklyn projects. Again, why is his grandma not being forthcoming with him? (Also, it’s kind of saying the same thing again re: his grandma lying and we still don’t have a firm enough grasp on the stakes and *why* grandma isn’t being honest with him to begin with.) Does she live alone (aside from Yasir being there)? Does she rely on him to help her out? Does she think he’s going to leave her behind?

Losing the scholarship is clearly a HUGE deal, and is great to see what Yasir stands to lose, but the whole motivation and “why now?” hasn’t been answered. And the quest is great! BUT, what’s his starting point? How does his quest kick off?

Also! Since Yasir is a basketball star, and that’s how he sees the world, maybe include some basketball terminology? I.e. How can he attack this issue with the same precision he uses while playing the game? What position does he play on the team and how does that affect the way he goes after things in life? (These are things for you to think of, not necessarily include in the query letter.)

ONE OF YOU WILL BETRAY ME is a commercial/multi-cultural novel complete at 74,000 words.

Great title! Is it a standalone, or a standalone with series potential? Also, what is the multi-cultural aspect of the book? That doesn’t come across at all in the query as it reads now. And to build off of the title more, maybe you should go into more of the betrayal aspect/possibilities IN the query. We don’t really get any of the juicy betrayal factor and THAT is the real zinger and heart of your query. THAT is where the drama lies and where we can see what Yasir is struggling with.

It’s risky, but you could even come up with a short paragraph for each potential betrayal broken down by person. (If that makes sense?) Like, who are the people in his life that are lying and potentially betraying him? I.e. his grandma is suspect one, his mom (I’m guessing) is another suspect — maybe thinking of them like that while you’re reworking this will help it out. 

His grandmother has lied about everything from where she plays bingo to if his mother is actually dead…this time.

His mother’s faked her death countless times, leaving them in debt and grief.

His jealous friends set him up for _______. (Clearly, these aren’t great examples, it’s just an idea of how a reader/agent can get a better idea of how he’s been betrayed in the past, or possible future betrayals. Like, who can he trust when everyone in his life has lied? etc.) 

This is a mystery that Yasir needs to solve — what are some of the clues?

Even though this isn’t a mystery novel, you might want to read the blurbs on a few of them to see how they’re structured. Or, since he’s going on a quest, you could even read some fantasy/quest novel blurbs to see how they’re structured.

Thank you for your time and consideration. ——> fyi: this is a different color, make sure you highlight it and make it black so it doesn’t stick out as a cut and paste job in your query.

Perfect and polite closing.

All the best,

[Name Redacted]

Okay, I don’t have enough info to rework it, so here’s a loose example of a revamped query with fill-in-the blank stakes. Like my agent says the thing to keep in mind while writing your query letter are these three things:

    1. the hook

    2. the book

    3. and the cook

Dear [Ms. Agent],

Seventeen-year-old basketball star Yasir Thomas’s one shot of escaping the projects is anything but a slam-dunk when ______ happens. Then add a follow up sentence of that incident, adding the potential for more problems.

Life isn’t finished handing out violations, and before he _________, _________ happens (think of this as building brick upon brick of the stakes, each getting worse than the last). Now include something here about setting off on the quest, and any other issues that might arise in a sentence or two.

All his time away from practice is ______, and with college scouts coming for the playoffs, he stands to lose more than just _______ – he could lose his scholarship. Now he needs to choose ______ or _______ and his decision will affect not only his life but _________. (Again, just a super loose structure on how you can add the stakes and mystery and choices your MC needs to make and the consequences of them.)

ONE OF YOU WILL BETRAY ME is a contemporary YA complete at 74,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

All the best,

[Name Redacted]

That’s it! That’s all I’ve got. Thank you so much to this brave author for sharing her work with me and letting me dig my little fingers in to it. Having your work sliced and diced and critiqued is NEVER easy. Give yourself a giant hug and bask in how brave and amazing you are. You wrote a book! You are filled with so much awesome. Never forget that.

an ode to the precious and some gemma doyle fangirling

my latest book haul!

my latest book haul!

books are such magical things. we can open them and be transported to new worlds, new times, and new adventures. we can laugh and cry and shake our fists along with our favorite characters, and we can fall in love and have our hearts broken with them, too. my ya gothic horror is on submission right now, and i’m in the midst of researching and drafting out my latest project to keep from obsessively checking emails from my agent. i’m also binge-reading a bunch of books and loving every second of this part of work. here are a few titles from my recent book haul that i’ve been super excited about reading.



A COLD LEGACY – Megan Shepherd

RED QUEEN -Victoria Aveyard

omg the gemma doyle trilogy??? where has it been all my life. so. effing. good. i bought the other two books and am eagerly* awaiting their arrival. i cannot believe it’s taken me so long to get into them.

what debut are you most looking forward to in 2015? and what are some of your favorite creepy books? i need to add some more titles to my (ever) growing list!

*by eagerly awaiting i mean pacing back and forth, cursing the mail for being late, and breaking out into a cold, i-NEED-it-now sweat. the next step will be rocking in the corner and smacking my gums until the precious arrives. not pretty.


Hello Adventure, indeed… Welcome to our new blog!

Kerri Maniscalco:

my sister’s boutique is pretty darn fancy. i just had to share!

Originally posted on dLb lifestyle:

Found on lindsayletters.com

Hello and welcome to our Dogwood Lane Boutique blog! We are super excited to share tips with you, ranging from beauty to home and even yummy recipes. Our focus will be on giving you all the tools you need to be the star of your own life. Throw the best parties, cook simple meals every foodie will go crazy over, and do it all in a style that’s uniquely YOU.

We’ll have links to items featured in our shop, or you can email us to purchase anything that catches your eye. As a bonus: Subscribers* will be the first to know everything – from boutique sales to new merchandise to contests. So come on in, pour yourself a cool glass of sweet tea, and enjoy our community. We cannot wait to start our new adventure with you.

xoxo dLb

*You can subscribe to our blog via email or the follow…

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happy world book day!

just in time to celebrate world book day – behold the new stash!

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset*pets the precious* 

i am really looking forward to reading Nova Ren Suma’s THE WALLS AROUND US this weekend. the cover is GORGEOUS and the inside of the book sounds delightfully terrifying. have you read the blurb yet??

if you’re shaking your head then okay okay okay, i’ll paste it here for your convenience then you can froth at the mouth and grab a copy so we can read and fangirl together. sound good?


“Ori’s dead because of what happened out behind the theater, in the tunnel made out of trees. She’s dead because she got sent to that place upstate, locked up with those monsters. And she got sent there because of me.”

On the outside, there’s Violet, an eighteen-year-old dancer days away from the life of her dreams when something threatens to expose the shocking truth of her achievement.

On the inside, within the walls of the Aurora Hills juvenile detention center, there’s Amber, locked up for so long she can’t imagine freedom.

Tying their two worlds together is Orianna, who holds the key to unlocking all the girls’ darkest mysteries…

What really happened on the night Orianna stepped between Violet and her tormentors? What really happened on two strange nights at Aurora Hills? Will Amber and Violet and Orianna ever get the justice they deserve—in this life or in another one?

Book Review: The Cure For Dreaming

CureforDreaming_finalcover (214x324)Title: The Cure For Dreaming

Author: Cat Winters

Publisher: Amulet

Genre: YA Historical

Rating: Five Stars

Jacket Copy:

Olivia Mead is a headstrong, independent girl—a suffragist—in an age that prefers its girls to be docile. It’s 1900 in Oregon, and Olivia’s father, concerned that she’s headed for trouble, convinces a stage mesmerist to try to hypnotize the rebellion out of her. But the hypnotist, an intriguing young man named Henri Reverie, gives her a terrible gift instead: she’s able to see people’s true natures, manifesting as visions of darkness and goodness, while also unable to speak her true thoughts out loud. These supernatural challenges only make Olivia more determined to speak her mind, and so she’s drawn into a dangerous relationship with the hypnotist and his mysterious motives, all while secretly fighting for the rights of women. Winters breathes new life into history once again with an atmospheric, vividly real story, including archival photos and art from the period throughout.


i cannot even BEGIN to express how much this book kicked ass. i loved Olivia Mead and how determined she was to remain true to herself, despite living in a timeframe where girls and women were supposed to be quiet and content with staying at home, taking care of the menfolk.

that’s not to say it was a guy vs. girl thing. on the contrary, it was a beautiful expression of how important it is to have EQUAL rights across the board. no matter your race, creed, sex, or sexual orientation, you have the right to live your life freely and with respect.

what an empowering and positive read!

it was bittersweet in a way, too. women have come a long way, but we still have so far to go in the equality department. we need to remember that and cherish each other. being a feminist isn’t a dirty word. being a feminist means being proud of being a woman and all the wonderful layers that come with that. we can be strong and weak and emotional and rational and outspoken or shy. we can be intelligent and sexy and cute and fierce and love to be in the kitchen and STILL be feminists. we can be boy crazy one minute and fighting against discrimination the next. we are a thousand things all rolled into one and we are pretty freaking amazing. strapping guns to our hips and ninja-kicking people doesn’t always equal strength. being yourself in a world that’s constantly trying to force you into one box or another is being just as strong, and is hella brave.

i’ve got a whole new appreciation for the suffragists who’ve paved the way for us to be whoever we want to be and wear our identities proudly. we still have to fight the good fight, but we’ll get there. thank you, cat winters, for shining the light on these amazing ladies and their stories.

Hang out with Cat Winters on the interwebs:





Savory Gluten Free / Dairy Free Chicken and Dumpling Soup

homemade gluten free/dairy free chicken & dumpling soup.

Credit to Write.Eat.Repeat

Credit to Write.Eat.Repeat

i looooove making savory soups in the winter time. there’s nothing quite like having the house smell so aromatic while it’s blustery outside. there’s just something so comforting about a nice bowl of soup after a hectic day. if you’re short on time, but want something yummy then this is one of those set-it-and-forget-it meals that’s absolutely perfect.

cook it in a large pot on the stove top, or toss it in the slow cooker and go about your busy day. add a quick salad, pour yourself a glass of wine, grab your favorite book, and you’re really set!

here’s what you’ll need:


4 carrots, chopped

3 stalks celery, sliced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 yellow onion, diced

1 c peas

1 tbsp soy free butter

2 large chicken breasts

1/4 c. white wine

3-4 tbsp sage

2 tbsp thyme

1 tsp rosemary

4 c Chicken broth

Salt & pepper

2 c GF flour

1/2 c soy milk


Cook onions, garlic & butter until clear & add white wine.

Add celery & carrots w/some broth (just enough to cover them while they boil).

Sauté chicken w/garlic & onion powder & sage with a little olive oil, chop into bite-sized pieces & add to stew.

Add remaining seasonings & rest of broth.

Cook on med heat 1-2 hrs (or more).

Add dumplings (2 c gf flour/ 1/2 c soy milk, 1 inch balls) cook covered for 30 mins and enjoy.

*GF dumpling trick – i loosely mold them into 1 inch balls, it’s okay if they want to fall apart. they come out a little more fluffy when they’re not tightly compacted.

serves 6.

this will be the last recipe for a little while, i’ll be posting more writerly things soon. hope you’re all staying warm and writing up a storm! xoxo