Fresh Blood? Who, Me?

Today, voting opened up for the next round of the “Fresh Blood” novel contest. I didn’t even get beat up too badly by the judges this round--although I’ve determined that they simply hate my title. I wanted to share the contest information tonight, and ask for your vote to help me move forward, but I also thought it might be fun to share a little bit about my journey with this particular novel, and a little bit about the contest itself.

Those of you who know me personally probably know that National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is something I look forward to each November. I’ve participated every year for the past seven years. Heart of the City was my 2007 NaNo effort, a post-apocalyptic science fiction novel.

The concept actually came from a short story I’d written for Apex Digest's annual Halloween contest. The contest isn’t for Halloween stories, but rather has a different theme each year. That particular year the theme was “post-apocalypse,” and I have a particular weakness for apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, so I couldn't pass up the chance.

I was happy with the concept I came up with for the contest, but not so happy with the story. As a friend of mine explained, the concept was too big for the 2000 words the contest allowed for a story. It needed to be, my friend told me, a novel.

To no one's surprise, I didn't win the Apex contest, but then November rolled around and with it another year of NaNoWriMo, and so Heart of the City got written. (And okay, so maybe they’re right about that pesky title. Now if only I could think of a better one.)

I didn’t love the novel after I wrote it. My initial reaction was that it would be a trunk novel and no more. Then Amazon announced their second Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition, and on a whim, I decided to pull out Heart of the City and see if there might just be something salvageable there. so I spent a huge quantity of time rethinking and revising it, and then submitted it to the contest.

Much to my surprise, I made it to the top 100 in the contest. In the process I got a review from Publisher’s Weekly, a prize in itself. The review was mixed. They called the story “compelling,” and my ending “artful and unexpected,” but warned that the science wasn’t “rigorous” enough and the characterization could be stronger. I was thrilled with the review. The positive comments gave me the motivation to want to get it back out there in the market, and the criticisms gave me areas to work on.

So work on it I did.

Then Leisure announced their “Fresh Blood” contest. It’s a contest for unpublished horror novelists, the idea being to find the next big writer of horror fiction. The contest was run in competition with Chizine and Rue Morge. And the prize was a publishing contract with Leisure Horror--a publishing house whose horror I’ve been reading since I was in my teens--along with a contract for a limited hardcover run with Chizine. Beautiful prizes, really.

Sounds good, right? I knew I needed to enter. But there was one catch. I didn’t actually have a horror novel written.

Or did I?

I thought about Heart of the City. Certainly it was a dark novel. Sure, it had some strong horror elements. But could I classify it as a horror novel? I wasn’t really sure. Then I thought: what the hell, why not take a gamble. So I submitted it.

A few months later I got the notification that I was one of ten finalists. I was blown away, both shocked and thrilled.

Now, I’m one of five remaining contestants competing for the prize. The rounds going forward will be judged solely on votes. From this point forward, the author with the least amount of votes each round will be eliminated. Each month, there will be different judging criteria. This month it's based on cover copy for the finalists’ novels.

So here’s my plea... If you could take a minute and throw a vote my way, I would be so appreciative. The info for this round of the contest can be found at: and voting instructions are at the very bottom of the page.

For those who want the quick version of how to vote, you can vote as follows:

Send your votes to In the subject header, make sure to put "Fresh Blood Vote," as well as the name of the book for which you're voting. (That would be Heart of the City).

Thank you all so much.


  1. I'm touched by this process you went through. I'll throw a vote in. I'll see if I can get any of my friends to do the same.

  2. Thank you so much, Christina. I really appreciate that. It's been a long process, and I feel like I'm taking something good away every step of the way. :-)

  3. Very exciting! Will vote now. (I like the title!)

  4. Thank you so much Suzette. I really appreciate it! :-)

  5. Very cool! I'll email this to myself and remember to get to it tonight. And dude, dystopian?! I'm all over that. It's my favorite genre.

  6. Thanks Elana. Here's hoping you like my cover copy! :-)


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