Sunday, March 2, 2014

#PitchWars & #ThePride

So I think it's time for one of my rare blog posts, y/y? 

I spent most of December and January in an editing fog. Between Pitch Wars and Agent-Boss's clients, I was editing every day for almost two months. By the time I finished everything I was working on, it felt weird not to be editing. Like when you're on a boat for a long time and you get back to dry land, but you still feel like you're rocking on the water? That was me. I kept thinking, 'Oh, crap, I should be edit-wait, wait, no, I'm done. Pitch Wars is over.' I took a solid week off before I was ready to touch the Red Pen of Doom again. 

I had a blast doing Pitch Wars. My team, The Pride, consisted of Marie Meyer (NA Contemporary Romance Through the Storm), Sarah L. Blair (Adult Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance The Shifting Darkness), and Anna Rains (Adult Contemporary Romance Forever Yours). Since I'd done Pitch Wars from the agent side and had previous experience with the editing process, I mapped out a schedule beforehand and set deadlines for myself & The Pride. I have to say, I don't think it would've been possible to pull everything off if I wasn't off from work during the last two weeks in December. 

I did full manuscript critiques for each Pride member. In addition, I gave them extra optional assignments because it was important to me that they understand that a) this business is highly subjective and b) it is a business. The Pride was fantastic about rising to whatever challenge I set for them and I feel they all grew as writers during the time we worked together. Sarah came away with a fantastic pitch that highlights the core of her manuscript beautifully. Anna not only did extensive revisions, but we worked together to plot out a potential series and she was able to subtly weave in the groundwork for the next two books into Forever Yours. Marie had the longest edit letter and she exceeded all my expectations. She ended up cutting, I think, about 12k. A major character got the cut and several scenes were ripped out. I was brutally honest with her and she thanked me for it. Through the Storm is amazing and I don't think there's anything like it out right now.

I honestly don't know if I'd do Pitch Wars again. I had such a great experience with The Pride, my expectations for the next group would be probably be impossible to meet. I also don't know if I'd be eligible to do it next year or if I'd have the time to devote like I did this year. In any case, I hope The Pride felt they got their time's worth out of me and for my part, this solidified my desire to be an editor. 

As of this moment, none of The Pride have made any agent announcements, but I'm confident they'll come. These ladies have proven they're willing to do whatever it takes to have a career as an author and it was an honor to help them on their journey to meeting that goal. 

I realized I never talked about the Pitch Wars submission process. If you'd be interested in reading my take on that, please leave a comment. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Pitch Wars Alternate Showcase

Welcome to the Alternate showcase!

Today I’m hosting some of the wonderful writers who participated in a six week boot camp where published/agented authors and industry interns mentored a team of writers to help them polish their manuscripts for agents. The mentors picked one to go into the agent round on Brenda Drake’s blog ( and two alternates in case their top pick dropped out of the competition.

The alternates were amazing, so we wanted to do a showcase of their talent to reward them for their hard work. Following this post you’ll find the pitches for the writers I’m hosting.

This is not exclusive to the agents signed up for Pitch wars. All agents are welcomed to make requests in the comments of the posts!

This is not open for critiques. So if you’re not an agent, you may comment only if you want to show some love to the writers. Again, please do not critique in the comments.

Thank you!

ALT #14: A Breath of Silver (YA/NA Fantasy [Time Travel])
ALT #15: You'll Be Thinking of Me (Women's Fiction with elements of romance and suspense)

Other Alternates: 
Middle Grade: Veronica Bartles
New Adult & Adult: Nazarea Andrews

The Pride (my mentees):
Through the Storm (NA Contemporary Romance) - Top Pick
The Shifting Darkness (Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance) - 1st Alternate
Forever Yours (Contemporary Romance) - 2nd Alternate


MENTOR: Susan Spann
CATEGORY/GENRE: Adult Women’s/Historical Fiction
WORD COUNT: 81,000

PITCH:  In 1667, an orphan, a baker, and a farmer’s daughter answer Louis XIV’s call for “mail-order” brides to marry settlers in the Canadian colonies; upon their arrival, the women must rely upon one another, and their unusual friendship, to find the strength to survive--and blossom--on the frontier.


May 1667: Salpêtrière Charity Hospital, Paris

One, two, three strokes up... Rinse. One, two, three strokes down. Rinse. Move three inches to the right...

Rose Barré scoured the floor on her hands and knees, her once fine hands now raw and bleeding, as she tried to rid the small room of the stench. The battle was futile. One clean cell would not mask the stink of filth and disease that permeated the dozens of others surrounding it.

This was one of Rose’s bad days where, no matter what she did, she could not stop scrubbing, even though her officière had forbidden the endless scouring. No matter how Rose reasoned with herself, she could never get the room clean enough to sate the urge. She wiped her matted black curls from her forehead with the back of her hand and moved the brush three inches to the right.

Officially, the Salpêtrière was a charity hospital for women. It served the poor, the homeless, the deranged, and—as in Rose's case--the orphaned and dispossessed. In reality, the Salpêtrière was a prison whose inmates served life sentences. A well-connected family member need only write a letter, and a daughter, niece, wife, or sister could find herself imprisoned in the Salpêtrière for life.

Rose was no exception. Her mother died in childbirth, and when her beloved father was shot over a hand of vingt-et-un, twelve year-old Rose was sent to live on her aunt and uncle’s estate outside of Paris, a place of crystal chandeliers, gilded furniture, and gardenßs manicured to the point they no longer resembled nature.


MENTOR: Susan Spann
WORD COUNT: 60,258

PITCH:  When a child abuser turns up dead in an immigrant family’s home, a down-and-out security guard must find the killer, and the missing teenage girl accused of the crime, before the police—or the killer—discover the secret evidence that will force the security guard to take the blame.


Clifford reacted as if a corpse was a common thing to find.  Then again, he’d been to Vietnam.  And he hadn’t been in the hallway with that terrible thing--easy for him to play it cool.

I was … less cool.  “Jesus Christ, a freaking cadaver!  What the hell do I do?”

Cliff made the face that meant he wanted a cigarette – his face scrunched up when he thought about smoking – but I wouldn’t let him smoke in the store, even if either of us could afford the habit, which we couldn’t. 

“You’re real sure it wasn’t Rosa, right?” Cliff asked.

I thought about it.  True, I still didn’t know where Rosa was, which terrified me – Was everyone dead over there? – but I took some deep breaths and considered the shape in the stairwell.  It was all wrong for a teenage girl. Much bigger, much broader. Even without the head, I was a hundred per cent sure.

“Nah man,” I said. “It wasn’t her.  It was a dude.”

Clifford shrugged.  “Okay then.  I’m recommending doing nothing.”

“What?” I asked.

“Monty, how you even gonna explain why you were over there?”  Clifford settled into his seat and shook his head. 

Good point.  I’d taken off in the middle of my shift.  I’d left a homeless person in charge of the store.  In fact, the entire night’s events, which ended with me walking in on a headless corpse in a stranger’s unlocked house, sounded pretty unlikely. 

Forget getting fired, I’d probably get arrested.


MENTOR: Heather Webb
ALTERNATE: Stephanie Renée dos Santos
CATEGORY/GENRE: Historical Fiction w/ Magical Realism
WORD COUNT: 117,000


When an earthquake devastates Lisbon in 1755, a Portuguese tile maker flees the wreckage to the Amazon. In the jungle Piloto falls under a female shaman’s spell and together, they must fight missionaries for their right to live.


The sky was an ironed blue sheet without a crease of cloud. A solitary silhouette wheeled over the Atlantic, then cut inland to the outskirts of Lisbon. The shadow followed the Tagus River dotted with merchant ships.  In the distance seven church-spired hills blessed the skyline. Over terracotta roofs, cork orchards, and tile factory smokestacks the carrion crow sailed.  It swooped, coming to rest on the kinked branch of an olive tree, in the Fabrica Santa Anna’s red geranium-lined courtyard.  

The bird gave a guttural caw, and took flight again.

Piloto Manuel Pires arose from his workbench and set an ear to the door.

A boy as black as squid’s ink burst into the shop, pleading, “Pai! Padre! Help!” 

Piloto abandoned the pricking of holes into transfer paper. Ebony faces turned from their worktables pushed against whitewashed adobe. A worker slapped a ball of clay onto a gesso tabletop and halted. Dust floated in the air. Scents of loam permeated the space, room enough to house a king’s coach and steeds.

In the doorway of the draft room, Piloto’s wife Paulina, and their two daughters, Constanza and Isabella, froze and stared at the shop’s main entrance. He grimaced, fixing his gaze on the little boy and the shelf above him, where their ceramic statue of Saint Anthony was perched over the doorway. Light shone through the shop’s warbled panes, stacked crates of tiles called azulejos resting below.

Piloto stuffed his pouncing tool behind his ear, and swiped chalk glaze from olive-brown hands onto his smock, careful not to soil the Franciscan habit...


MENTOR: Heather Webb
ALTERNATE: Dayspring MacLeod
TITLE: The Death Clock
CATEGORY/GENRE: Literary with speculative elements
WORD COUNT: 99,000


In Kit's world, everyone is born knowing when they will die. But an ex-lover's posthumous message leads her to a terrible secret: the government is carrying out medical experiments on refugees -- and death is not as predictable as it seems. Now a dead man is Kit's only ally in exposing the plot and saving thousands.


Death minus eighteen hours.

The sun was high over the Kensington Park horizon, and the reds and oranges of Jonathan's last sunrise had faded into a pale blue morning. There was, Jonathan discovered, a last time for everything. Last flight, last visit to his old flat, last sight of the Houses of Parliament striking a pose for the omnipresent flock of tourists. Last pair of pyjamas, last outfit laid out ready for the morning ahead - the last morning.

Jonathan turned from the window and looked at the antique pocketwatch open on the bedside table. Its hands had stilled, but time would not stop. On his alarm clock, on the grandfather clock in the hall, on Big Ben, all through the house and the world, his last minutes alone ticked away. Eight o'clock now - any minute, the precious quietude would end. And yes, even as the eighth bong of the grandfather clock died away, there was his cousin's slow, heavy stride creaking up the stairs.

Zach Levine was a ponderous person, his size giving him an air of authority. Nevertheless, he opened the door and looked in timidly, with a red face and a silly pasted-on grin. 'It's a big day,' he bleated, a rehearsed line. 'How are you feeling?'

His words came out in a panic, all in that stupid shrill tone, and he moved stiffly, as if his shoulders were as tightly sewn as the sleeves on his jacket.


MENTOR: Sarah Henning
ALTERNATE: Jeremy Hepler
TITLE: The Gardens of Sunray
CATEGORY/GENRE: Adult Mystery + Hint of Supernatural
WORD COUNT: 80,000

PITCH: When Parker Lundy’s dad is murdered and he learns Malik, a gifted young boy who was seen fleeing the scene with a gun, is innocent, he teams up with his new-found sister Cherie and ex-girlfriend Hannah. Together, they struggle to peel back the layers of deception surrounding the crime and bring the killer to justice, and also to protect Malik from racist townsfolk and a relentless, Islamic radical father.

EXCERPT: Other than cursing after each unsuccessful attempt at trying to reach his uncle, Parker traveled in absolute silence, knuckles white on the wheel. He and his dad had talked on the phone regularly, shooting the shit about everything from sex to taxes, and when they’d talked just ten days ago, his dad hadn’t mentioned having problems with anyone in town.

Sure, Will had been in his fair share of disagreements and spats over the years like everyone else, but he had few if any real enemies. And violent crimes were rare in Sunray. The last armed robbery happened back in ’11 when a meth head stuck up the Toot ’n Totum on Highway 55, and the last outright murder happened way back in ’05 when sixteen-year-old Kim Dawkins stabbed her dad in the crotch while he slept because she “wanted to poke him the way he’d been poking [her]” every night since she was twelve. It just didn’t make any sense that someone would want to shoot Will Lundy. It must’ve been an accident. Or a mistake.

Parker reached Sunray around five a.m. and rolled down his window for some fresh air when he turned onto Main Street. A mild fall breeze rushed in, carrying a faint scent of smoke with it. 

Both of Sunray’s fire trucks were parked in front of Lundy’s Local Luxuries—a brick one-story building tucked between Hal’s Shoe Store and the Education Federal Credit Union—and two cop cars, lights flashing, sirens off, blocked the road on either side of them.