Sunday, December 1, 2013

#PitchWars: Down to the Wire

Pitch War submissions open tomorrow at 12:01am. Are you ready? Make sure you read the submission guidelines from top to bottom. All of them. And then follow them. Precisely. Also, while it's not explicitly stated, my preferred font is New Times Roman.

This is my first Pitch Wars so I'm not entirely sure how things are going to break down. I did Pitch Wars last year as a reader for Agent Boss. I know there were ninety-nine entries and I read every single one. Despite knowing that there were even more entries that didn't make it through, part of me is still worried my inbox will be bare.

I do have a plan if I get entries. It involves a spreadsheet. I know, I know, you're shocked, right? I do so love my spreadsheets. Once I narrow it down to my top choices, I will be asking to see the first three chapters and possibly the synopsis as well. I have to be honest, though, I am not sure I'll be sending feedback to each entry. It depends on how many people submit to me. I'd want to be able to send it out in a timely manner and I don't want to promise something I can't deliver. Watch my twitter feed during Evaluation Week. I'll probably be tweeting quite a bit.

My wishlist was culled from things that the participating agents have said they wanted to see, with one or two personal preferences thrown in. However, the only thing that you really need to follow is what I don't want to see (mainly horror and despicable immoral behavior). I am going to read every single entry sent my way so long as it's an Adult or New Adult manuscript. If the writing is amazing, I am going to give the manuscript serious consideration, regardless if it's a romance or not, but I will respond more favorably to certain genres than other. For example, if you have a hard-boiled mystery, there are four other mentors that would likely be a better fit for it than me, but there's nothing stopping you from rolling the dice and submitting to me anyway.

Genre-aside, I'm primarily going to be looking for writing that grabs me and something that I can work with. I'm also going to be looking for any red flags, like, a word count that is ridiculously long for commercial fiction (i.e. above 90k) or typos. If your sample has typos in it, that's going to be a major, major issue for me because in my mind, you've had ample time to go over those five pages with a fine-toothed comb. Sending me something with a typo tells me you either didn't care enough to edit properly or you didn't realize it was a typo. I seriously cannot stress enough how much I don't want to see typos in those five pages.

I think that expands a bit on what I've posted before and covers some of the things I've been asked on Twitter. If there's anything you're curious about, this is your last chance to ask! Better to find out now rather than after you pressed send. Leave me a comment and I'll get back to you.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

#PitchWars: Suggested Readings

With Pitch Wars submissions opening just two days away, I've been compiling some articles, blog entries, and essays that you may wish to peruse as you put the finishing touches on your entries.

On Writing

Baker's Dozen Slush Reader Jodi Meadows: Common Problems with Beginnings
Samhain Publishing: Common Mark-Ups
Agent Janet Reid: How Good is Good Enough?
Pitch Wars Mentor Jaye Robin Brown: Are Online Pitch Contests For You?

On Social Media

Pitch Wars Mentor Erica Chapman: Social Media & You: The Basics
Self-Published Author Leigh Ann Kopans: Publishing 101: Working on Your Platform

On Submission

Author Ilona Andrews: Queries: Common Issues
Pitch Wars Agent Agent Carly Watters: What are agents looking for in a writer?
Ilona Andrews: Do I Need an Agent?

On Pitch Wars

Sunday, November 24, 2013

#PitchWars: Checking In

This blog has gotten so many visitors over the last four days, thanks to Pitch Wars, that I felt like I should check-in or something. By now, all the revisions on your manuscript should be complete and you should be making a short list of possible mentors. Pitch Wars entrants will be able to submit the first five pages of your manuscript to four different mentors on December 2nd. Go to Brenda's blog for the complete listing of submission rules.

Now's the time to get to know the mentors. A lot of us are on Twitter (I'm @lionessbkshelf) and we can often be found hanging out on the #PitchWars hashtag. I really encourage you to peruse the tag because we mentors are a witty bunch. Check out S.P. McConnell's and Fiona McLaren's trash talk, in a way that could only be done by book lovers. I've been answering a lot of 'What do you think about X genre' questions and I've been trying to answer them very honestly and seriously because I want all y'all to get an idea of what it'd be like to have me as a mentor.

I also had to defend my geek cred. 

You know what they say, no pix, no proof. Sooo...

I'm wearing it as I type this entry.
I have a Joss Whedon action figure too! Anyways, I pretty much bought this shirt as soon as Scott Kurtz released it so mine has the PvP logo on the back, but you can buy a newer version with a slant-ier logo here. Action figure not included.

If you can't pick just four out of the wonderful bunch in your category, be sure to participate in the scavenger hunt/word jumble for a shot at earning a fifth mentor slot. Five lucky contestants will win the chance to submit to five mentors instead of four, if they correctly solve the puzzle and submit the answer by November 30th. For the rules and the puzzle, go here. My clue is on my wishlist, but you have to pay attention to find it; Brenda couldn't even find it the first time she looked. 

I will probably post another blog entry or two before the 2nd (it'll be an early Christmas miracle!), but in the meantime, if you have any questions, please ask them now. Comment here or tweet me. I also want to reiterate, because I think some of you are getting blinded by my Whedonism, I am only mentoring Adult and New Adult manuscripts. If you send me Young Adult or Middle Grade, they will be deleted and you will have wasted one of your mentor slots. So do your homework and remember, "small, concealable weapons always go to the far left of the place setting." 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

#PitchWars: The Mentors by Category

Hello all! These are the Pitch Wars mentors sorted by the categories they've chosen to mentor. Each link leads back to their wishlist, so be sure to click in order to get specifics on what they're looking for.

Middle Grade

Brent Taylor
Marieke Nijkamp
Jennifer Malone
Veronica Bartles
Joy McCullough-Carranza
Jen Swann Downey
Gail Nall
Naomi Hughes
Shannon Duffy

Young Adult

Cora Carmack
Elizabeth Briggs
Shelley Watters (Romance only)
Erica Chapman
Molly Lee
Lindsey Sprague
Megan Whitmer
Michelle Painchaud
Fiona McLaren
Monica Bustamante-Wagner
Skylar Dorset
Meredith McCardle
Jaye Robin Brown
Dannie Morin
Stacey Lee
S.P. McConnell
Natalie Knaub
Jessie Humphries
Stephanie Garber
Trisha Leaver
Lori Goldstein
Evelyn Ehrlich
Rin Chupeco
Lindsay Currie
Laura Tims
Diana Gallagher
Sarah Nicolas

New Adult

Cora Carmack
Agent Assistant Lioness (aka ME)
Shelley Watters (Romance only)
Tina Moss
Mina Vaughn
Skylar Dorset
Dannie Morin
Stacey Lee
Nazarea Andrews
Veronica Parks
Trisha Leaver
Julie Sondra Decker
Diana Gallagher
Sarah Nicolas


Heather Webb
Agent Assistant Lioness (aka ME)
Susan Spann
Shelley Watters (Romance only)
Tina Moss
Sarah Henning
Mina Vaughn
Elizabeth Penney
Nazarea Andrews
Julie Sondra Decker

And, of course, the hostess with the mostess, Brenda Drake!

#PitchWars: My Wishlist

Man, I thought writing my bio was hard. I'm going to be mentoring in the Adult and New Adult categories, and I wanted to just be like,
Original art © Allie Brosh*
But I was pretty sure that would rate a disapproving look from Brenda and, perhaps, shunning by the other mentors. So then I decided to look at the agents' websites to see what they wanted to see as well as the Agent and Editor Wishlist Tumblr. I managed to narrow it down to Some of the Things.

Here's what I don't want: no horror, cannibalism, evil zombies, incest, child abuse, animal abuse, pedophilia, necrophilia, or anything that goes beyond taboo and into despicable. I also do best with books that have a happy ending, whether it be happy forever or happy for right now. The book can be full of struggles and angst, so long as I have the comfort of knowing everything will turn out all right by the end. 

Moving onto my area of expertise, I am best with romances (big shocker there, huh?) and, more specifically, paranormals. I do read pretty much anything that has a romantic element in there somewhere, regardless of overall genre. However, if you have something that you think isn't my usual fare, but you're sure I'm the perfect fit because Joss Whedon is your Master too, submit it to me anyway. 

Now, onto, my wishlist with specifics (these are my dream plots; if you have any romance-y book, please consider submitting to me!):

My 'I Wanna Read This' Wishlist
  • Urban fantasy along the lines of Ilona Andrews or Patricia Briggs, but with a different twist. Also, a modern-day Buffy book, complete with quirky humor.
  • Thriller/Mystery/Romantic Suspense/Military Romance centering on a realistic plot ripped from today's headlines like global warming, genetically modified foods, superstorms, or honeybee extinctions. 
  • Magical Realism Contemporary, something like Eureka, but where it's magic instead of technology. 
  • Contemporary NA that focuses more on the college side of life or a long-distance relationship where they email during the semesters and reconnect during breaks. 
  • Science-Fiction with strong female characters and ethnically diverse characters. Think Voyager's cast with TNG's storylines. 
  • Contemporary NA involving a quarter-life crisis.
  • Steampunk set in America, where things diverged after Ben Franklin discovered electricity. 
  • Any paranormal romance, but it shouldn't feel like a clone of what's already been published. 
  • In any commercial genre, a book inspired by a gender-swapped fairy-tale. For example, a gender-swapped, sci-fic, Cinderella: He's the lowly grunt on his step-father's ship and she's the highly-decorated captain looking for a second in command. A fantasy-esque Swan Princess: He's cursed by the sorcerer because the Big Bad wants the heroine for himself, but she says F that and sets off on an epic quest to rescue the hero. 
  • Erotica. I would love a true mmf menage, a la Lauren Dane's Laid Bare. Also, something with a risque edge to it, like exhibitionism or voyagerism. I'd particularly like to see a NA erotica, but all parties should definitely be over eighteen and, to be the most marketable, they should ideally be at least twenty. No bestiality or water sports please. MM or FF is fine, but I don't have a lot of experience with FF materials. 
  • Contemporary romance where the main couple are/were contestants on a Voice-type reality show and their relationship starts to develop during filming, or if they were child contestants together twenty years ago and reconnected during a reunion special. 
  • Space Western, i.e. Firefly in book form, but it shouldn't read like Firefly fanfiction. 
  • A 'contemporary' that is set fifty years from now and is futuristic without being dystopian. 
I'm going to stop myself here because I could go on. In general, I'm looking for something I haven't read before. I've read over 300 books this year alone so I want something fresh with an unique voice. I'd also prefer books that aren't completely white-washed.  I live in white suburbia where there wasn't a single black person in my graduating high school class, but I still have people of various ethnicities, and sexual orientation for that matter, in my life. I'm not saying I want cultural stereotypes, just not a book full of straight white people. The only exception here is if your book is a historical or has some other setting where cultures wouldn't mix. 

I hope between the wishlist and my bio, you now have an idea if I could be the mentor for you. Follow Brenda's blog for more details on how to submit when submissions open on December 2nd. In the meantime, if you have any general, non-pitchy, questions, the comments are open! 

*Graphic was taken from Allie's hilarious Hyperbole and a Half blog entry, This is Why I'll Never Be an Adult, This entry was also reprinted in Allie's book, Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened. I gave it 5 stars on GoodReads. 


#PitchWars Bio: A few of my favorite things

I thought a lot about what to write in my bio since I am a lady of mystery. Then I realized that this is really an exercise in compatibility. It's like when contestants have to pick a judge on The Voice. Belters and Divas go with Christina. Quirky and Unusual go to Cee-lo. Country goes to Blake. Rockers go to Adam. It doesn't really matter where any of them are from, it matters what their areas of expertise are, on who will 'get' the contestant the best. So my bio is going to be focused on the things that, I feel, will best indicate whether or not we'd be compatible as mentor and mentee.

Professional Experience: I worked at Borders Books and Music for nearly a decade before the chain went under. I spent five of those years as a romance expert, a program run by the romance buyers. From there, I transitioned in academia and I now work in a university library. In addition to the library, in 2012, I was selected to be an intern for Literary Agent Boss and then she promoted me to assistant, which I've been for the last six months.

What's My Critique Style: Professional but blunt. I try to highlight the positive, but I am definitely going to mention the not-so positive. My goal is to help you grow, to become better than you already are, not to encourage you to stay the same.

Must-See TV: There are season passes on my DVR for The Voice, Sleepy Hollow, Castle, NCIS (original and LA), Hawaii Five-O, Bones, Haven, Grimm, Once Upon a Time, Person of Interest, S.H.I.E.L.D., Elementary, Switched at Birth, and Supernatural. I was a huge fan of Leverage & Veronica Mars before they were canceled, The Big Bang Theory before they made Sheldon a caricature rather than a person, anything that had Joss Whedon's name on it, and the first season of Glee. Oh, and the original Primeval, Dark Angel, and Kim Possible. I also wrote fanfic for Roswell, Stargate: Atlantis, and Wolf Lake.

Auto-Buy Authors: Shelly Laurenston/G.A. Aiken, Dana Marie Bell, Ilona Andrews, Patricia Briggs, Nalini Singh, Thea Harrison, JD Robb, Jayne Castle, Gena Showalter, Kristen Ashley, Kate SeRine, and Robin D. Owens.

Auto-Read Authors: Nora Roberts, Jayne Ann Krentz/Amanda Quick, Alyssa Day, Tamora Pierce, Jean Johnson, Jill Shalvis, Julia Quinn, Vivian Arend, Lauren Dane, and countless others.

Selection of my Favorite Books: Rose in Bloom by Louise May Alcott, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling, Pegasus in Flight by Anne McCaffrey, Heart Dance by Robin D. Owens, Visions of Heat by Nalini Singh, Oracle's Moon by Thea Harrison, Law Man by Kristen Ashley, Written in Blood by Anne Bishop, and Conspiracy in Death by JD Robb

Favorite Music: Country and Top 40 Pop

Favorite Movies: The Hunger Games, The Avengers, Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-long Blog, Star Trek (2009), Meet the Robinsons, all three Lion King movies, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Live Free or Die Harder, and America's Sweethearts.

Least favorite holiday: Easter

Favorite 80s Cartoon: She-Ra, Princess of Power

Favorite season: Winter. I love snow.

Biggest Real World Pet Peeve: Inconsiderate people, especially people who don't use their blinkers.

Biggest Literary Pet Peeve: Authors who mix up discreet and discrete.

Stuff I Collect: Autographed books, nail polish (I went a little berserk this year), Disney vinylmations, baking recipes, and ticket stubs.

Dream Vacation: All expenses paid trip to either a Disney resort or the United Kingdom (I'd love to see Scotland and the Harry Potter Studio Tour).

Favorite spots in the City (aka Manhattan): The Strand, Books of Wonder, Cosi's, and American Museum of Natural History. I am not a big City person. Too many people too close together. I prefer my home in the suburb.

Apple vs PC: I prefer Apple for my mobile technology, but I'm a PC girl for my desktop and laptop computing.

I could go on, but I hope that's enough to give you an idea of who I am. If you're curious about anything, comment! Click on the linky to see the other mentors and go here for my wishlist.

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#PitchWars: The Agents!

Let's be real. While getting feedback from pretty phenomenal people is positively a plus, primarily Pitch Wars (Couldn't resist; I'm done now) is about getting your work in front of agents. I am pleased as punch (hee) to announce the 18 agents who will descend on the hosting blogs on January 22nd to request away. In no particular order:

  1. Louise Fury - Bent Agency
  2. Suzie Townsend - New Leaf Literary
  3. Nicole Resciniti - The Seymour Agency
  4. John M. Cusick - The Greenhouse Agency
  5. Sarah LaPolla - Bradford Literary Agency
  6. Victoria Marini - Gelfman Schneider Literary Agency
  7. Jessica Sinsheimer - Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency
  8. Pam van Hylckama Vlieg - Foreword Literary
  9. Quinlan Lee - Adams Literary
  10. Jen Udden - Donald Maass Literary Agency
  11. Emily Keyes - Foreword Literary
  12. Brianne Johnson - Writers House
  13. Carly Watters - P.S. Literary
  14. Lana Popovic and Natasha Alexis - Zachary Shuster Harmsworth
  15. Molly Jaffa - Folio Literary Management
  16. Evan Gregory - Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency
  17. Stefanie Lieberman - Janklow & Nesbit Associates
  18. Rena Rossner - The Deborah Harris Agency

Sunday, October 20, 2013

#PitchWars: What Else I Don't Want to See

I posted two weeks ago about the importance of eliminating typos from your manuscript before submitting it to Pitch Wars. Today, I thought I'd talk about what else I don't particularly want to see.

  1. Song lyrics: You can mention the band or the album, so long as you're not using it a negative context, but the lyrics themselves are copyrighted. In order to use copyright material within your book, the publisher would have to pay for it. If your main characters are in a band, you need to come up with original lyrics for them to sing, not a cover. And while we're on this topic, use of trademarks and brand names can be tricky as well. The blog post Can I Mention Brand Name Products in My Fiction? discusses this in a very clear manner. In addition, while it's from 2003, I also recommend reading the three part Intellectual Property and Its Uses series from Lori L. Lake: Part One, Part Two, Part Three

  2. Prologues: I'll be honest, as a reader, I never particularly cared if there was a prologue or not. I'd read it if it was there, but I was never like, 'Oh, you know what this book should have had? A prologue.' However, the more experience I get while wielding the Red Pen of Doom, the more I've come to dislike the use of prologues. The only time I feel prologues are kosher is when they are setting up a series (see Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone or Anne McCaffrey's Dragonflight) or necessary to establish an immediate emotional reaction in the reader. Most readers will not be picking up your book blind. They will have read a description or back blurb. If your blurb says, 'After being kidnapped by angels as a child, seventeen year-old Jonathan has resigned himself to life as a prisoner," my first thought is not 'How did they kidnap him?,' but 'Why did they kidnap him? Angels are supposed to be the good guys!' If your prologue focuses on the actual kidnapping, chances are the book is going to feel like it opens slowly because you're not telling me what I want to know. If the prologue is from the angels' POV just before or after the kidnapping and I get that feeling of 'dun dun DUNNN,' that's a different story. When in doubt, ask yourself how many books in your genre have prologues? In the category I'd like to see (*coughCommercialFictionLikeRomancecough*), prologues are not very common. 

  3. RTF files: I hate reading .RTF files. They crash my iPad. So if you're interested in submitting to me, please, for the love of whatever you hold holy, send a .doc file. While we're on the subject, when Brenda announces the agents, check out their submission guidelines. Some may have specific guidelines as to how they want things sent to them and knowing ahead of time will prevent you from scrambling to convert something if you get a request.  Oh, and while I'm being picky, I prefer New Times Roman over Courier. 

  4. Ginormous Word Counts: Anything over 100k is suspect and the higher the word count goes, the more I think massive editing will be needed without having read a word. You may be all, 'well, Harry Potter was huge, so it's okay that mine is long too.' No, no, it's not. The Harry Potter books gradually got longer. The page lengths basically corresponded with the skyrocketing sales. Since you are entering Pitch Wars, you are likely a debut author and it's unlikely an editor is going to look at your 150k word count & go 'I'm sure every word is essential to the book.' Even if you think you may self-publish or that your book is perfect for an epub, a huge word count is still problematic. An ebook's pricing is determined by its word count. Higher word count, higher pricing. If you're convinced that nothing can be cut, look for a place where the manuscript can be split in half. A 150k manuscript can be turned into two 75k books and now you have a potential series on your hands. Bree Ogden discusses word count from an agent's perspective here.

  5.  A Genre I Didn't Ask For: While I'm not supposed to tell you my wishlist yet, I can tell you that I don't want to see horror. I am not a horror person so even if you're the next Stephen King, I will probably be too busy hiding under my covers to recognize your brilliance. I will also not be open to certain erotic fetishes, like scatology, incest, golden showers, full-on sadism, or pedophilia. If you are writing a heart-breaking, gut-wrenching, book dealing with child sexual abuse, that is one thing, but anything that portrays it as 'okay' is not something that I want to be involved in, ever. Same thing goes for animal abuse. There will be 46 mentors open for applications and you can only choose four of them to submit to. Read the wishlists carefully and make sure you're submitting to someone that you feel will genuinely appreciate your work. 
Today's the 20th, so you have forty-three days left to whip your manuscript into shape by the December 2nd submission deadline. Get cracking! 

All opinions expressed are mine alone and should not be associated with or attributed to anyone else. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Review: Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened

Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened
Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Snagged from NetGalley.

I made the mistake of reading this while eating lunch. I alternately choked or sprayed food due to fits of laughter. Luckily, my co-workers have grown enured to my antics.

This isn't organized in any shape or form. About half of it, like it says in the blurb, is reprinted from Allie's blog; specifically, the first five on the 'Best Of' sidebar. I was hoping for the Alot strip, but sadly, it's missing. I think they specifically went for the longer stories, but there were only two pages out of the 374 without any illustrations and it was almost jarring to see them after prolonged giggling at Allie's art.

Actually, I just went back and skimmed my way through the blog, and I think they chose strips that didn't make Allie to put this...disturbed. The post, Wolves, for example, cracked me up again until I was practically under my desk, trying to muffle the laughter. However, I think some people, like those who ban books for example, might take issue with the idea of a pack of six year old girls (the "wolves") repeatedly hunting down a thirteen year old boy (the "deer"). The comics in Hyperbole and a Half focus more on topics that are mainstream relate-able.

In addition to the new content (I took the time to search, half of the book really is new), Allie also expanded some blog posts. Dinosaur, for example, is a funny blog post about an invading goose, but Allie has added new illustrations that elevates it to a hilarious, dribble-your-lunch-down-your-chest-because-you're-laughing, tale. There are more introspective moments, as well. Adventures in Depression is there as well as a new narrative about identity.

If you're a fan of the blog, you won't be disappointed and, personally speaking, I'm glad I've already pre-ordered my copy. If you haven't read any of Hyperbole and a Half yet, I'm sorry, I don't think we can be friends.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

#PitchWars: What I Don't Want to See

It's official! Brenda has announced the 47 mentors who will be participating in the 2014 Pitch Wars events. As you know, I am one of the 47, billed as 'Intern Lioness.' Technically, if we're going by titles, I'm now 'Assistant Lioness,' but close enough. As per Brenda, I'm not allowed to post what I'd be open to (*coughcough* Romance *coughcough*) or anything about myself, so I thought I'd talk about what I don't want to see. 


If I see typos in your pitch or 250, it makes me wonder how many typos are going to be in your manuscript. After all, you know that you are being judged on your pitch and 250, therefore, presumably you have gone over it with a fine tooth comb. So if typos have escaped that fine toothed comb, that tells me that you didn't look closely enough, didn't care enough to self-edit, or aren't experienced enough to recognized the typos. Your writing is going to have to be pretty damn compelling to make me overlook the presence of typos. 

I give you five of the most common typos I've seen:

  1. DISCREET vs DISCRETE: This is my biggest pet peeve. Ever. Discreet means to say or do something quietly, prudently. Discrete means separate, distinct. Here's how to tell them apart. Discrete is a mathematical term. Greece is the birthplace of mathematics. Crete is an island in Greece. So, disCRETE = math. If you want to refer to separate objects, like individual numbers (hence the math reference), use discrete. If you want to indicate someone did something on the down-low, use discreet. 

  2.  IT'S vs ITS: One is the contraction for 'it is,' the other means something belong to an intimate object. You can figure out which one to use by reading the sentence out loud, using 'it is.' For example, "The robot waved its arms," should be read as "The robot waved it is arms."  Obviously, in this case, you want to use the possessive term, not the contraction. So, the thing to remember is 'no is, no apostrophe.' This also works for YOU'RE vs YOUR.

  3. PUNCTUATION IN QUOTES: Periods go inside the quotation marks. If you're quoting a quote, it's single quotes inside double quotation marks. If you're ending or beginning the sentence with a dialogue tag, the quote ends with a comma, i.e. "The road was red dirt," she said or She said, "The road was red dirt." However, if the quote is being followed by another sentence, the quote ends in a period or exclamation point, i.e. "The road was red dirt!" She stared at the truck's tires. 

  4. ALOT vs A LOT: A lot is two separate words. Always. I refer you to Hyperbole and a Half if you want to know what an "alot" is. 

  5. PLURAL POSSESSIVE: If something belongs to a group, the apostrophe goes on the outside of the 's.' For example, the house belonging to the Smith family would be the Smiths' house. An object belonging to John Angelos would be John Angelos's object, since there is only one John Angelos. For more apostrophe rules, this is an excellent site

For more grammar tips, I recommend the Purdue OWL. It was used as part of my training in college and I still consult it when I need a refresher. 

Submissions open on December 2nd, so you have fifty-seven days left to get your manuscript in tippy-top shape. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

#PitchWars? What is it good for?

Maybe absolutely nothing. Maybe absolutely everything.

Pitch Wars, for those who don't know, is an event created by Brenda Drake for writers who are unagented and are shopping an unpublished manuscript. You can go here for last year's rules.  It's sort of billed as a contest, but it's really a networking event. Basically, you, the writer, sends in a sample of your work, the judges/moderators fish out the ones they like the best, and then everything's posted on a series of blogs for industry peeps, mainly agents, to peruse. What makes Pitch Wars different from Pitch Madness is that there are mentors who select an author to work with so that they end up with the best possible manuscript.

I'm mentoring this year.

I wanted to mentor because I think Brenda's Pitch events are a great way to be exposed to a lot of different authors and writing styles. It's like one-stop shopping for agents. However, I see manuscripts all the time in my boss's slush that are good, but that still need a lot of editing before they are submission ready.  If I pick you for Pitch Wars, I can pretty much guarantee you'd get extensive revision notes. In nearly eighteen months that I've been working for my boss, I've only come across one manuscript, out of hundreds, that I didn't feel needed significant edits.

So what does this mean for you?

Well, the mentors will be posting in late November about what categories  and genres they will be accepting. I don't think it will shock anyone to learn that I'll be looking for romances, all sub-genres, as well as something with an unique concept and voice, probably in the Adult or New Adult categories. However, if last year's rules carry over to this year, you'll be able to apply to three mentors, so I'd probably be also open to fantasy, urban fantasy, and light science-fiction, preferably humorous. I believe you'll be able to apply in the beginning of December, which basically means you have two months to put your manuscript through the wringer and fine-tune your query/pitch.

Take advantage of CPseek and Absolute Writer. Get beta-readers and critique partners who don't love you to pieces. Join Twitter if you haven't already and participate in the #PitchWars hashtag. Follow the mentors and get to know what they might be looking for so you can apply strategically (If you're not following Brenda already, you should be). Several people did pitch critiques before Pitch Madness. Read through the entries/comments and see if anything can be applied to your work.

My boss has signed several clients after Pitch events and getting an agent can absolutely be considered the brass ring, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't enjoy the ride. Participate in Pitch Wars for the community and for the connections. Being selected for a mentor's team may mean your manuscript will get an audience, but just being a part of Pitch Wars could mean getting better.

It should go without saying, but if you feel you don't need to get 'better' and that every word of your manuscript is precious gold, Pitch Wars is probably not the event for you.

For everyone else, start getting ready. Pitch Wars is coming...

All opinions expressed are mine alone and should not be associated with or attributed to anyone else. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Review: Redesigned by Denise Grover Swank

Redesigned by Denise Grover Swank

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While I saw the plot twists coming from the very beginning, I still enjoyed this book immensely. Mostly because Reed was scorching. I was reading this on the train and when he started talking dirty, I mean, like, whoa. *fans self* I am a huge sucker for the straight-laced good guy with a raunchy side and Reed fits that trope to a 't.'

In addition, I liked how Swank handled Caroline's fixation on wealth. There's a scene where she's describing how she will never let her children experience the hardships she went through and I sniffled quite a bit. It made the moment she realized she loved Reed even more poignant. The relationship was executed beautifully and I loved the transition from frenemies to lovers. It actually reminded me a bit of my own college experience.

By the end of the book, I was fully on board with Caroline's and Reed's relationship. Those crazy kids are totally going to make it! ... Okay, I'm still a little sick. Regardless, I do recommend this one and I liked it better than After Math. Did I mention how hot Reed is? You could probably read Redesigned without reading After Math, but be forewarned that Math's couple is fairly prominent in Redesigned and, I have to admit, I liked Tucker a hella lot better after his actions in Caroline's defense.

I don't know if I'll ever read any of Swank's other books, but I am certainly looking forward to the next book, Business As Usual.

I didn't forget to tell you how sizzingly sexy Reed is, did I? Why can't I find a guy like that to jump start my car? *sigh*

Monday, August 19, 2013

Review: Long Shot by Hanna Martine

Long Shot
Long Shot by Hanna Martine

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So I've been wrestling with a sinus infection for the last coupla days and despite the stack of manuscripts waiting for me, I wanted to read something that wasn't going to require much thinking.

Long Shot was perfect.

There was no obvious plot holes, no 'well, why doesn't character X just do this?,' no 'I've read this before,' no 'The world doesn't work that way,' and especially no '*eye rolls*.' I barely had to think at all, I could just enjoy the story. It was lovely.

Being me, I did have two thoughts. The first one was 'Aw, that's a sweet acknowledgements page.' The second was 'I'm impressed with how the author consistently takes a very-popular-to-the-point-of-cliche subgenre and puts a fresh spin on it.' If you're wondering about the difference in coherency, the last thought was towards the end and my next dose of medication had just kicked in. In any case, it's true. Liquid Lies took on paranormal romance and focused on a 'race/species' that's not usually seen. In Long Shot, we got that 'small town' feel that's so popular in contemporaries these days, but that wasn't the only setting we got. I was also very impressed by where Martine decided to take the ending. No worries, this is definitely still a romance, but Martine, well, let's say she went outside the traditional 'small town' boundaries.

There was an excerpt for the next book at the end and I was excited to see that it was going to be (highlight to read) Shea and Rugby Guy! I thought they had mad chemistry and I like that he's going to be a rough-n-tumbly kinda sweet. I think rugby may be the next big 'sports' thing. But Chris should have his own book too! *nods firmly*

Anyways, I recommend Long Shot for those cozy fall days when you just want to curl up under a blanket with a cuppa somethin' hot and sink into a book. Or just don't wanna think. Either way.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Review: Uncommon Passion by Anne Calhoun

5 very big stars. 

After I finished Uncommon Passion, I sat with a stupid grin on my face for a few moments before logging onto B&N and putting a reserve on Unforgiven. While, okay, it's only the beginning of August, this is my second favorite book of 2013. It's Written in Red by Anne Bishop, Uncommon Passion, and then Heart of Obsidian by Nalini Singh. Yes, it bumped Nalini.

The heroine, Rachel, she is the type of heroine that I want to be. She has the courage to break away from everything she's ever known, the compassion to keep reaching out to her father and the hero (Ben), and the self-respect to walk away when Ben is unwilling to meet her halfway. Ben is a police/SWAT officer who's running from his past and chasing adrenaline thrills to distract himself from the emptiness inside. He thinks that teaching a virgin about sex is something new to break the ennui he's been experiencing, but Rachel knocks him on his ass. She doesn't offer him ultimatums or ask him to go beyond the rules he's set out, but rather, Rachel, by simply accepting Ben, makes Ben want to be better than he is. He tentatively starts to examine his issues because she makes him believe that there is more to life than emptiness.

The writing was amazing. Calhoun made the smart call of keeping the book's time frame focused on the weekends, at least at the beginning. So we get the sense of time passing, we can see how their relationship develops, slowly and in a burst of passionate fire, without a lot of exposition dragging down the pace. By the end of the book, there was no doubt in my mind that these two belonged together and that they were going to live happily ever after. The sex scenes were hot and yet Calhoun managed to keep the reader emotionally connected as well. At the second-to-last sex scene, I was right there with Rachel as on one level, she enjoyed herself, and on another other, she figured out the psychology behind Ben's actions.

My favorite of the book has to be the end. We all know that I love a book that shows the characters making smart, self-aware, decisions, and Uncommon Passion delivers on that with a vengeance. When Ben starts getting himself together, he doesn't rush over to Rachel and be all, 'you were absolutely right, I need to change. Let's get back together!' No, instead, he acknowledges that he's f-ed up and that he needs to get himself straight before he can be a worthy partner for her. When he and Rachel finally do re-connect, it's like a new beginning. They don't jump right back into bed. They date. There's coffee and long conversations and all the getting-to-know-yous that they didn't do the first time around. They love each other and for the sake of that love, they take the time to do their relationship right. I'm getting teary just thinking about it.

Long-time followers probably have guessed that I'm quite the speedy reader and, due to the whole anti-delayed-gratification that I have going on, it's rare that I savor a book. Yet with Uncommon Passion, I took breaks. I didn't want it to end too soon. I haven't even started a new book yet, I'm not ready to say goodbye.

I hate that this is going to be a trade paperback because I want to tell y'all to run out and pre-order it. So email your public libraries, and tell them to add it to the collection, but if you're going to splurge on one book next month, make it this one. 

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Review: Drawn Together by Lauren Dane

4 stars.

Snagged from NetGalley.

Sometimes I'm surprised Berkley still gives me stuff because I'm the crazy chick who can't wait until closer to the review date to read the ARC and then, when I finish it, I must post ASAP. Clearly I am a publicist's worst nightmare.

In deference to their nerves, I will not say that while I found the pacing a bit slow and the twist made me go, 'wait, what?', I thought it was a great addition to the series and I'm pretty sure this is my favorite after Never Enough (I love that book...I should dig out my copy and re-read it). Instead, I will say that you need to read the following books before you start Drawn Together: Laid Bare, Coming Undone, and the novella "Sway," found in Cherished. The novella is particularly important because the hero of Drawn is the brother of the hero in "Sway." It would also help to read Never Enough, but it's not strictly necessary (you should, though, because it's awesome).

I'm also going to share with you the dedication of the book because I thought it was really sweet, and I was very excited by the second paragraph. To be on the safe side, I'll white it out (highlight to see), but there's nothing about Drawn Together specifically.

Dedication of Drawn Together:

"Ever since Erin first came onto the page in Laid Bare, I've had so much love for this group of family-- intentional and biological. The Brown Family novels have been a joy to write and I'm very grateful readers have enjoyed them so much. 

I'll be back at some point because I can't really imagine being totally done with these folks. After all, there's a whole new generation of artists and rockers coming up. 

In the meantime, this one is for the readers who've made this series possible--especially for those of you who've understood that despite her crusty exterior, Raven was worthy of her happily ever after."

I didn't know until I read that second paragraph that I want Miles's book with a burning passion. Like, he's the oldest and his book should come first. Or, Lord, can you imagine what Alexander might be like when he grows up? Dayum.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Review: Love Overdue by Pamela Morsi

Love Overdue
Love Overdue by Pamela Morsi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Snagged from NetGalley.

When I first started reading this, I intended to just peruse the first chapter or so. I ended up getting sucked in and I read much longer than I intended to, much to the detriment of my schedule. The characters were wonderful and I loved the look at what it's like to live in a farming town. While my family line hails back to the days when the Island was mostly farmland, and one branch actually still operates a farm out east, my branch of the family is firmly rooted in suburbia. All the women in my family have windowsill gardens, but nothing to the scale that would require a harvest, so I was fascinated by the idea that this entire town would shut down to help harvest wheat.

However, it must be said that, while I've shelved this as contemporary romance, it's really not. There's actually not much plot at all. It's like a leisurely look at the inner workings of a small town. The focus on the relationship was erratic and I didn't feel it was ever really resolved. Indeed, the minute we were supposed to get the romantic payoff, the book faded to black and the next bit was the epilogue. I was very disappointed.

So if you're looking for a wonderful setting book, along the lines of Billie Letts or Fried Green Tomatoes, check out Love Overdue. Otherwise, you may want to give it a pass.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Review: Affliction by Laurell K. Hamilton

Affliction by Laurell K. Hamilton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 stars.

This was repetitive as hell. Not just within Affliction itself, but the series as a whole. How many times is Anita going to angst about the fact she kills so easily, bemoans Asher's pissiness, or go head to head with various law enforcement about her personal life? There were also moments when I felt like Hamilton herself was speaking rather than Anita and once or twice I was like, 'well, that's convenient.'

However, if someone had wielded an editing pen ruthlessly and cut the dead weight, this would've been a five star book for me. We learn more about Micah's past, there was an actual mystery to be solved, and there were less than four sex scenes. The overall series plot advanced a bit and the supporting characters were mostly great. What really sealed the deal for me was the introduction of Marshall Hatfield.

I want Hatfield to get a spin-off series. I want to leave Anita behind with all her drama and get back to the purity of the earlier books. Hatfield starts off as a typical Hamilton female supporting human character (Shifters are usually exempt from being positioned as antagonists, but female vampires will likely also be 'against' Anita), who has major problems with Anita and her lifestyle, and is generally a character you're willing to see die. But then, then, Hamilton does something I don't think she's ever done for a female supporting character before and actually redeems Hatfield. From Chapter 55 onwards, Hatfield is dedicated, determined to atone for her earlier behavior after a massive screw-up. I'm going to put a spoiler-ish quote. It's an exchange between Edward, Anita, and Hatfield, and this was the point that I decided Hatfield needed a book of her own.

"If there’s anyone, or anything, that can help me do my job better, I’m all for it. I got those people killed last night. I can’t bring them back, but I can get better and not do it again." 
"You didn’t kill them, Hatfield," I said. 
"Neither of you would have stored the body parts in the morgue of a hospital. If either of you had been in charge last night, all five victims from last night would be alive now. Tell me how my ignorance didn’t cost them their lives."
I didn’t know how to answer her. 
"We all make mistakes until we know better," Edward said.
"Exactly, and I’m going to follow you both around like your fucking shadows and learn all I can before you leave."

I think it takes guts to admit when you make a mistake, especially one that colossal, and true strength to go to such extremes to learn from it. I was very disappointed when Hatfield went off-screen before the climax and I seriously hope Hamilton finds a way to bring her back. This series needs another positive female role besides Anita.

Oh, just as a FYI, there are cannibalistic zombies here, but most of the people-eating was suggested rather than on-screen and despite my squickiness in this area, I was okay with it. In addition, there's a sex scene where Nathaniel and Nicky use breath play on Anita. It's all consensual, but I had a bit of a hard time with the underlying violence of it, especially when Nicky says he loves seeing Anita's face 'change colors.' *shivers* Another hard line to add to my list.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Review: Ten Tiny Breaths by K.A. Tucker

Ten Tiny Breaths
Ten Tiny Breaths by K.A. Tucker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Snagged from NetGalley.

I really liked the heroine of this one. She was different than most new adult heroines, as she was harder, more determined, and even stronger in a way. Kacey went through a horrific event and emerged with steel within her. I could actually relate to her and I saw a few pieces of myself on the page.

The hero, on the other hand, meh. Don't get me wrong, the tension between Trent and Kacey was palpable, but I knew from the blurb inside the book, the line about 'one explosive secret,' that Trent was somehow involved in the car crash. Knowing that, I felt like I was just biding my time, waiting for the grand reveal. However, I definitely didn't figure on him being quite so...troubled. Both characters are supposed to have PTSD and maybe I just empathized better with Kacey because I rather felt Trent checked out of the mental hospital too soon. Don't get me wrong, I do feel like Tucker did a good job of portraying the treatment of mental illness as an ongoing process. I think what it basically boils down to is that I can understand why Trent wanted to be with Kacey, but I didn't get why Kacey wanted to be with Trent.

The supporting characters were excellent. I always prefer it when an author chooses to focus on a few select supporting characters, allowing them to be full-fledged people rather than just scenery props, and she does the job admirably with Livie, Ben, Storm, and Storm's daughter.

I would recommend this to people looking for a slightly meatier and more complex On Dublin Street.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Review: The Girl's Guide to (Man)Hunting by Jessica Clare

The Girl's Guide to (Man)Hunting
The Girl's Guide to (Man)Hunting by Jessica Clare

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A librarian heroine and an ex-NFLer hero? Woohoo!, I thought.

Not so much.

This might be a bit of a personal preference thing because I kinda found their relationship a little, um, icky. I mean, who the hell sleeps with a guy that you think, basically, performed a sexually charged action against you without your consent? And maybe it's because I've lived in suburbia all my life, but I can't believe an entire town is blaming for the victim for what was, in essence, child pornography. She was a minor. Okay, I went back to double-check and the author makes it a point of saying it's the heroine's freaking birthday and so she was eighteen when the photos were taken. Still. Even if I'm going to accept the fact that the police were like, 'eh, you asked for it,' (let's face it, it's possible) why the hell didn't the heroine just email the hero & be like, 'Bastard, take down the pictures!'? Why didn't he email her if he was trying to contact her? Clearly the internet existed back then if the photos were uploaded.

I ended up skipping over most of the sex scenes, not because of their lack of hotness, but because I just couldn't deal with the inequality of their relationship. First, I felt like she was paying him for sex because the book was all 'two grand for the class, yadda, yadda' and it was clear that the heroine was only doing it for the possibility of sex and revenge. Then, once we learn that the hero has no idea about the pictures, I felt bad for him because he has no idea that the heroine is perpetrating a major deceit with the goal of sexually exploiting him.

Furthermore, when the photos were actually taken down, I felt like the consequences should've been a lot more severe. Being recorded without consent is creepy and if it's sexually explicit, it's wrong. To go a step further and distribute it, well, I'm on my work computer so I can't exactly Google 'posting naked photographs without subject's knowledge legality,' but I'm pretty sure it's illegal. Male or female, no one has the right to do something sexually explicit to you without your permission. No matter how you slice it, it's a form of rape.

If I pretend that the heroine is mad at the hero because of some run-of-the-mill misunderstanding, The Girl's Guide to (Man)Hunting would have been three stars until they got out of the woods, at which point it would've gone up to four stars. It's obvious who the other couples will be and I might read the next book if I ever see it at the library. So if you think I'm taking the 'naked photos on the internet' too seriously and you liked Molly O'Keefe's books, you may enjoy Girl's Guide. If you agree with me, then skip it.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Review: Down London Road by Samantha Young

Down London Road
Down London Road by Samantha Young

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was actually not a huge fan, personally speaking, of On Dublin Street, mostly because I didn't like the heroine. As a result, I put off reading Down London Road.

However, I loved Down London Road, mostly because I felt it was on the realistic side of things. Every time I started to roll my eyes or be like 'really?', the characters would stop and reconsider their actions. They acted like adults, mature adults. This isn't to say that they didn't make mistakes or do boneheaded things, but the way Young wrote it, you understood why they were behaving this way and it seemed very natural.

What made the book even more fascinating to me is that nothing extraordinary happens. There was no mystery stalker or sudden windfall. This really is just a story about two people, one rather messed up (Jo the heroine), falling in love. The instant attraction, the getting to know yous, finally getting together, the inevitable first fight, that make or break moment, and then the certainty of being in love. As a result, the pacing reflects the slow growth of the relationship between Jo and the hero, Cam.

Joss and Braden also returned. I don't know if it was because of my original dislike for her, but Joss felt like a completely different character to me. She was sharp and sarcastic, and I liked her much, much better. Braden also got a chance to flex his alpha muscles. In addition, Young introduces Jo's younger brother, Cole, who's just an all-round awesome kid, albeit one who should really look into therapy at some point. Other new characters include Olivia, Jo's cousin, and Nate, Cam's best friend. These two will be the main couple of book three, Before Jamaica Lane, and Young very subtly laid the groundwork for them in London Road. Like, I had an inkling, but I couldn't be sure until I saw the posting on her blog.

It should be clear by now that I loved this one and I definitely recommend it, but I do have a caveat: if you're looking for a book that's exactly like On Dublin Road, you're going to be disappointed by Down London Road. Despite the cameos made by the previous characters, London Road really stands alone and that's how you should approach it. If you go in with a negative opinion about Jo and the kind of relationships she had prior to Cam, you're not going to like it as much as I did.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Review: Born Wild by Julie Ann Walker

Born Wild
Born Wild by Julie Ann Walker

My rating:  3.5 stars.

So on the Friday during BEA, before it opens, I'm standing on line with a friend and she's all excited because Sourcebooks will be giving away copies of Born Wild at its booth that day. I admit to her that I've never read anything by Julie Ann Walker and she looks at me as if I just admitted that I occasionally stroll in work naked. Therefore, I made sure to snag an ARC.

Normally, I like to read a series in order, but since I'm not a big fan of the whole 'alpha male dispensing justice from the back of his motorcycle' trope, I kinda figured 'screw it,' and just started reading. Y'know what, though, Born Wild stood alone pretty well. I think I missed out on some of the emotional payoff since it appears these characters made cameos in previous books, but I never felt lost or like I was missing something.

The book was good enough that I checked out the first two from the library. I thought the mystery was great and that the identity of the Big Bad was skillfully revealed. However, the romantic relationship hinged on a lot of 'let's talk around the giant conflict and create more misunderstandings rather than deal with it like adults.' I'm not a big fan of that. You have the balls to disarm an IED, but you can't be all, 'You should've returned my calls'? Pfft. Both the hero and heroine suffered from this failing which annoyed me and would probably lead to couples counseling down the road for them. If the mystery hadn't been so compelling, I likely would have bailed halfway through.

I wanted to rate this book three stars, but after thinking it over, I'm bumping it up to four, because a lot of this book simply wasn't for me. I think Walker's fans will enjoy it and it's definitely accessible to new readers. I see it as a cross between Lora Leigh's Elite Ops and Jaci Burton's Wild Riders, so if you're a fan of either of those series, you should check out Born Wild.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Review: The Cursed by Alyssa Day

The Cursed
The Cursed by Alyssa Day

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Truthfully, this isn't really a five star book, but, Lord, do I love the hero. Like, he's a wizard with a penchant for blowing things up, and yet I'm still entertaining the question of 'If this guy was real, would I date him?' I am actually going to quote all y'all a section that solidified my devotion to the hero.  From page 129:

"Before she had a chance to even think about her next step, a thunderous explosion shook the house, and then the door burst open, and Luke stomped back in, slamming it behind him.

"'I just blew up the Helga's Tea Room van,' he announced. 'Blew it to smithereens. There's not a scrap of metal bigger than a shoe box left of it.'

"Rio's mouth fell open and she realized she was completely speechless.

"He advanced on her, swept her up off the stool into his arms, and kissed her until she was having trouble breathing again, and then he walked around the counter and started drinking coffee while she sat, half-dazed, tingling in every nerve ending she'd ever thought of having. He wasn't even breathing hard, darn him.

"'I know. Don't yell at me,' he said, half sheepishly and half defiantly. 'I'll buy her a new van. Hell, I'll buy her two new vans.'

"'But why--' She couldn't wrap her head around any of it.

"He scowled, but somehow she knew it wasn't directed at her. 'I don't know how to have all these feelings. I know how to blow stuff up. You were hurting, and I wanted to help, but I didn't know how, so I blew something up.'"

I've never had a fictional boyfriend before, but I want Luke to be my first. *swoon*

For the non-hormonal portion of this review, I have to say I wasn't crazy about the world-building. I was confused as to the nature of Bordertown because quite frankly, it put me in mind of a Wild West town and it's actually more like a cross between the Dresden Files and the Shiftertowns in Jennifer Ashley's Shifters Unbound. In addition, The Cursed suffered from first book-itis. The plot jumped around a lot in order to expose the reader to the new world. We meet a lot of supporting characters and different races.

I really should have rated this 3.5-4 stars, but I'm powerless against Luke and his adorkable ways.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Review: Heart of Obsidian by Nalini Singh

It had been over 365 days since I read a new full-length Psy-Changeling novel and I did my best to refrain from impatient whining. As a reward for my uncharacteristic, albeit reluctant, acceptance of delayed gratification, the Book Gods saw fit to grant me a boon. Enough about me, though, as I know you want to know about the book, so let's move on to the pretty-much-spoiler-free-because-it's-all-my-reactions review.

Heart of Obsidian reminds me of those long, quiet, hours that mark off time before night slips into the dawn. Change is happening, anything is possible, and a new day is breaking. Still, this is not an easy book. As much as one could claim the main theme is rebirth, there's no denying the traumas that perpetually ripple throughout the book. It will be a trigger for some, especially given recent events, and, by the end, parents may reconsider the wisdom of letting their teenagers fly too far from the nest.

Despite the heaviness, this is one of Nalini's simplest books. It could almost be a stand-alone, if the reader was familiar with the sociological and political framework of the Psy/Changeling world, as it focuses very tightly on the hero and heroine. The SnowDancers don't appear at all and only two of the previous heroines make cameos. However, just like I said in my Tangle of Need review, starting with Heart of Obsidian will do you a disservice. Nalini has brought together disparate threads to reveal a stunning tapestry that finally shows what she has been working towards during the past eleven books. There are clues as far back as Slave to Sensation and jumping to the end will rob you of the grand reveals.

With Tangle of Need, I was willing to cryptically answer questions, but I'm not going to do that with Heart of Obsidian. As I said previously, the book is so tightly focused, a hint about one thing could also apply to everything. so feel free to speculate in the comments, but I will not confirm or deny anything. However, I will tell you that my personal theory about the Ghost was very wrong. Oh, and the hero. I'll tell you the hero.

Don't highlight if you don't want to know.


Last chance to back away.

Here it comes.

I give you the first sentence of Heart of Obsidian"Kaleb Krychek, Cardinal telekinetic and a man no one wanted to meet alone on a dark night, had been searching for his quarry for seven years, three weeks, and two days."

I know there are some die-hard Kaleb fangirls out there and you are going to be very happy. Nalini took a cryptic blank-slate-could-go-either-way character and turned him into a fascinatingly complex man. And, dayum, he's also scorchingly hot. There was one bit on page 131 that had me cranking up the AC. 

Heart of Obsidian releases on June 4th. If you buy the e-book from Barnes and Noble, steeling yourself against Penguin's WTF ebook pricing, you should be able to download it around 1am on the 4th.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Being Internly: Lessons from Liberty States Fiction Writers' Conference, Part III

I'm struggling to stay awake right now, which is never a good thing when you're at work, so I decided to start writing this entry in hopes it would perk me up. Here are the last nuggets of wisdom from the Liberty States Fiction Writers' Conference, these carefully mined at the Agents panel.

Things You Should Know from the Agents Panel

Panelists: Marisa Corvisiero (Corvisiero Agency), Louise Fury (L. Perkins Agency), Brittany Howard (Corvisiero Agency), Marie Lamba (Jennifer Dechiara Agency), Lori Perkins (L. Perkins Agency), and Eric Ruben (The Eric Ruben Agency). 

1) Good agents can spot a hole in the market and will look for something to fill it. On her website, my boss lists general categories she's looking for, but, in reality, her wishlist is a lot more specific. At the panel, women's fiction was mentioned several times, but specifically, (and I'm paraphrasing a bit) something like Gone with the Wind, albeit shorter and more modern. No chick-lit or books with recipes. Also mentioned were LGBT books that featured established relationships. No coming-out stories. Brittany Howard said she wanted a 'literary-feeling' middle grade manuscript. No so-called 'portal' adventures. I realize all of this may sound as clear as mud, but basically, it goes back to what I've said before. They don't want manuscripts that feature trends that are hot right now; they want trends that will be hot two years from now. 

2) Agents are your business partners, not your friends. Louise Fury spoke quite passionately on this topic and many of the other panelists were nodding. Agents are there to help you make money. They are there to help you produce the most marketable book possible and to make sure you get the best contract available.  They are not there to hold your hand when you've had a rough day. That's what your emotional support system is for. They are not there to read every single draft of your book and make suggestions. That's what your beta readers and critique partners are for. I'm not saying you and your agent won't be friendly, but think about this: an agent could have twenty clients. If they spent an hour every day, simply listening to ten of those clients, that's the entire workday shot to hell. When are they going to have time to sell your book or negotiate on your behalf? So when you're tempted to call or email your agent, ask yourself, is this important enough that I'd rather they take the time to read it and reply than do something else on my behalf? 

3) Be patient. An agent may offer you representation on a quick turnaround, but that's probably because they see potential in you and don't want to risk losing you to someone else. That doesn't mean they're going to immediately start sending out your manuscript. Chances are you're going to need to revise or edit before your agent thinks it's submission-ready. Also, once you go on submission, it could still be a while before your book gets sold, if it ever does. Getting an agent is a vote of confidence in your talent and an important step forward, but there's still a lot of work to come. 

4) Ask questions and pay attention to the answers. If an agent offers you rep, be excited, but still be smart. Have a conversation about where you both see your career going, your manuscripts, money, expectations, everything. Make sure the agent is a person you can trust to look out for you, someone to whom you can entrust your manuscripts and reputation. Email a few of their clients and ask politely how they  like working with the agent in question. This is the equivalent of checking references after a job interview. If the agent has a problem with you talking to their clients, then that's a red flag. A good agent will also give you time to contact any other agents who have your manuscript so you can see if anyone else is interested. My boss typically gives prospective clients a week from when she offers rep. Even if the author knows my boss is their dream agent and wants to sign immediately, she still makes them take the week. This is a business relationship and it's best if everyone signs the contract confident that this is the best decision. 

5) Talk to your agent before you talk to the internet. I forget the exact question the moderator asked, but it was something about what do authors do that you wish they wouldn't. I think it was meant to be about pitches or querying, but one of the agents (Eric Ruben, I think) said that if authors have an issue, they should ask their agent about it before complaining online. There were no specific examples given, but what they meant was, if you're worried submission is taking too long, think your contract is nuts, worried about your publisher giving you the runaround, anything like that, talk to your agent before you vent on Twitter or your blog. 

Bonus Wisdom from me: Interns and assistants do more than you think. The agent will always make the final decision, but the better the intern, the more weight their opinion is going to carry. In addition, interns often operate like scouts. You may be tracking every move an agent makes from across the room, but their intern may be sitting right next to you. When you attend industry events, network as much as you can and be polite & professional to everyone you meet. My badge might say reader or librarian, but that doesn't mean I can't ask for your card and tell my boss about you later on. Polite and professional, m'kay?

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Being Internly: Lessons from Liberty States Fiction Writers' Conference, Part II

I would celebrate posting two weeks in a row except I'm writing them both on the same day and I should be doing client edits right now. Eeeee. Let's move on, shall we? Bits of wisdom from the Liberty States Fiction Writers' Conference, this time from the Editors panel.

Things You Should Know from the Editors Panel

Panelists: Jillian Bell (Ellora's Cave), Shannon Criss (Harlequin), Toni Plummer (Thomas Dunne/St. Martin's), Bob Podrasky (AudioGo), and Michelle Richter (St. Martin's)

1) They really prefer you have an agent. The exception here was Ellora's Cave since they are an e-pub that basically offers the same contract to everyone. Shannon Criss from Harlequin talked a lot about the different ways you can submit to the publisher, agent or not, but I definitely got the feeling that the majority prefers to deal with agent for business matters rather than the authors themselves. It helps keep the relationships separate because when you're dealing with an editor in an editorial capacity, it's more of a symbiotic relationship. However, in a business capacity, that editor's now going to be looking to get the best deal possible, which may not be the best deal for the author. I'm not suggesting they're going to be unethical or try to screw you; they're simply looking out for their own interests. An agent can be all aggressive on your behalf and your editor can play hardball with them, but keeping you out of it means your relationship with your editor remains healthy.

2) Unsolicited means do not send anything that hasn't been requested. At all. Someone asked this question at the end of the panel and I was a little surprised about that, so I thought I'd cover it here. If you see in Writer's Market or on someone's website 'closed to unsolicited submissions,' that really means 'If you send me a query/manuscript, I'm going to have an intern look at it to make sure that it's not something actually important and then reject it/delete it.' Even if they are open to submissions, unsolicited materials rank at the very bottom of the 'look at' list. One of the St. Martin's editors (I can't remember if it was Toni Plummer or Michelle Richter) basically described the hierarchy like Authors Already Under Contract -> Agent Submissions -> Conference Submissions (solicited) -> Other Solicited Submissions (contests, twitter, etc.) -> Unsolicited. This is yet another reason to attend as many pitch sessions as you can, online or in person, and more confirmation about why it's important to get an agent.

3) Don't call us, we'll call you. I know it's hard being patient when you're waiting for an editor/agent to make a decision, but the entire panel cautioned against aggressively following up on a submission. Shannon related an anecdote about a manuscript she'd been excited to read until the author started calling her every day to see if she'd read it yet. Now, not only does she have no desire to work with the author, she no longer wants to read the manuscript. My advice would be to find out what their time frame is and give them a gentle nudge two weeks past that. For example, Shannon says Harlequin's policy is to respond within 90 days. So if you submitted to Harlequin on April 1st, I would politely nudge on July 15th.  Above all, be professional, folks.

4) A good manuscript will always trump the economy. Times are tough all around, but according to the editor panel, it hasn't stopped them from buying books by debut authors.  Sure, they might do smaller print-runs or only buy the first two books of a series, but if they love your book, they'll still go for it. A wonderfully entertaining, beautifully crafted, story will always find its way if you are persistent enough.

5) Do your research. All of the editors complained about receiving submissions that don't fit their categories. Jillian Bell made a point of saying, no, Ellora's Cave doesn't publish picture books. Even a rudimentary glance at Ellora's website reveals its 18-and-over content. Shannon also mentioned that her last name is frequently misspelled on submissions (I feel I should point out that both Shannon's and Bob Podrasky's names were misspelled on the conference website). It wasn't specifically mentioned during the panel, but if you are un-agented, you should definitely do research on the companies themselves, especially the smaller e-pubs. A company may be "actively acquiring" dozens of manuscripts, but how are they getting all of those manuscripts edited? Who's doing the marketing?  Which online stores are going to offer the book for sale? Do your research.

I also want to mention that Bob gave a pitch for Man in the Empty Suit that basically had the entire room salivating for the book. It sounded so good, I was surprised at the low GoodReads ranking. This is the power of a pitch that highlights the unique, people. I'm off to go do those edits, but, hopefully Part III (the Agents Panel) will be up next Sunday.