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.


MENTOR: Amy Reichert
ALTERNATE: Katrina Carrasco
TITLE: The Sweetheart
GENRE: Historical Fiction
WORD COUNT: 98,000

PITCH: San Francisco, 1849. When gang violence threatens her bar, Elena hires a lawman for protection—and discovers he’s leading a kidnapping ring. She must choose between facing the gangs alone or becoming his partner in crime.

EXCERPT: Cold wind cut at Elena’s throat as she squinted at the clouds. Any gleam of sunlight would cast a shadow pointing west, but the narrow strip of sky visible from the alley was gray in all directions. She could not tell the way home.

The street ahead seethed with fog. Shapes of men appeared in monstrous pieces: a back humped with saddlebags, a torso bristling with pickaxes and shovels. If the miners were headed to the Sacramento ferries, going against their traffic would guide Elena away from the waterfront and back to the center of town. But the flow of men was stopping, reversing. Bodies jostled at the alley’s mouth. There was a bark of encouragement. The hollow clap of a punch. Someone fell hard into the muddy road, and the crowd began to roar.

Trash-filled mud shifted under Elena's boots as she moved toward the shouting. She felt a chicken bone’s brittle crack. The solid pop of a shard of glass. A fleshy grind she did not want to name.

At the side of the alley’s mouth a canvas tent shuddered in the wind. Elena paused beside it, waiting for the brawl to break up before she entered the street. Metal clanged so close and loud it left a ringing echo in her ears. A string of curses salted the air. A shout: “Put his fucking eyes out!” Then silence.

Her breath came quick and shallow. She raised a hand toward the young man behind her, signaling for him to wait. Three heartbeats. Four.

She let her hand drift down.

“Let’s g—”   


MENTOR: Shelley Watters
ALTERNATE: Wendy Qualls
CATEGORY/GENRE:  Steampunk Historical Romance with magical realism elements
WORD COUNT: 90,000

A steampunk sorceress and a reluctant inventor must cover up a friend's engagement and fake their own in order to rescue a kidnapped girl.


Tinsmouth, Devon, 1870


Vera froze. No one had called her by her real name in ten years – and no one else's voice had ever caused her mouth to go dry quite like his did. Once upon a time she would have sworn she’d never forget him, or the sound of his voice, but spending the last decade in London must have ground down her brain. Even now, with her old home so close she could taste the raw tang of tin in the air, Cole’s voice had the power to turn her mouth to dust.

Vera squinted down the tunnel, but the faint starlight filtering into the tunnel’s mouth was coming from behind her and she could just barely make out his silhouette as he approached. He hadn’t changed that much – still those massive shoulders, that purposeful gait. Had he always been so menacing, or were her emotions merely getting the better of her?

She took a deep breath and tried to will the sudden tension out of her system. Somehow, in all the time she’d spent dreaming of this homecoming, she had managed to convince herself she was ready to face Cole again. She couldn’t afford to be wrong.

Cole stopped, close enough for Vera to make out the shock on his face. He was looking beyond her, up the tunnel to the gaping hole in the once-solid wall which had protected the town of Tinsmouth from the outside world for the last quarter-century. The mine's weathered steel door still stood beside it, silent and menacing in the deep shadows, but Vera's digging machine was much more efficient with the rock.

 She resisted the urge to turn and admire her work. The machine's work, mostly – she had only needed to use her Calling to create the initial spark which ignited the boiler. Although it was a miracle she hadn't accidentally set the whole coal hopper ablaze, considering her anxious state. Ten years ago – honestly, ten months ago – she wouldn’t have thought it was possible to come back like this.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


MENTOR: Shelley Watters
ALTERNATE: Martha Mayberry
CATEGORY/GENRE: New Adult Fantasy
WORD COUNT: 80,000


After goddess-born, NYC socialite Pandia travels through time, she convinces Julius Caesar to ditch politics for gardening, altering his destiny. As punishment, her father, Zeus, sentences her to mortality in ancient Pompeii. Pandia must show she’s changed, but a gladiator’s proving tempting and Mt. Vesuvius is rumbling.

If I hadn’t traveled back in time to attend that party with Aphrodite, I wouldn’t have met Julius Caesar. Jules wouldn’t have taken my advice to ditch politics for gardening, and I wouldn’t be in deep shit with my father, Zeus.

I took a fortifying breath, yanked down my red crop top, and swept into the Great Hall. My father and step-mother sat in gilded thrones at the end of the room, wearing tropical clothing and matching scowls on their tanned faces.

As I strode through the pillared aisle leading to the receiving area, the click-click-click of my heels echoed in the stillness surrounding me. Normally, gods packed the aisle and the alcoves between the pillars, chatting as they waited for a word with my father. The fact that it was just me, Dad, and Hera was ominous.

I halted before the dais and tried not to squirm under Dad’s white-hot gaze. His silver hair stuck up in all directions, as if he’d raked his hands through it.

A frown deepened the lines on his face. “Pandia,” he said without his usual greeting. “You’ve done it again.”

Hera smirked and clutched the arms of her throne with fingers like talons.

Sunlight streamed through the stained glass windows, creating colorful patterns on the marble tiles. I traced an outline with my peep-toe Louboutin and avoided his eyes. “Could you be more specific?”

“Julius.” He sighed like the weight of a planet rested on his shoulders. “When will you stop fooling around with notorious mortals?”


MENTOR: Amy Reichert
ALTERNATE: Ellen Brock
TITLE: The Things Between
GENRE: Soft Science Fiction
WORD COUNT: 85,000

PITCH: A man who is legally dead, a street kid, and the guardian of a disturbed child must band together to stop a man who can manipulate dreams.

She was a child. An infant.

Wally stood with his fists shaking at his sides, staring down at the baby curled up on the ground. He had seen many people die, had even helped facilitate most of those deaths, but he had never harmed a child.

His brother Frank stood beside him, a broad grin on his face. They had been looking for someone like this, and she was better than they had expected. Her energy pulsed through the dream as if charged by electricity. It was a sensation neither Frank nor Wally had ever felt from another dreamer.

Wally stared down at the child. Her dream was nothing more than brown and red blurs accompanied by the sound of a beating heart. She had nothing to dream about yet, and it struck Wally how untainted she was, how innocent.

Frank put his hands on his hips and sighed. “We're going to have to go through her parents since she can't tell us where she lives.”

Wally nodded, as enthusiastic as ever, but looking down at the girl, a naked pink infant unmarred by the outside world, he wanted to tell Frank no. For the first time in twenty-five years, he thought about what he was doing, what his brother was doing, how they used people and then threw them away.

Frank pulled back towards consciousness. “Let's go,” he said, flickering for just a moment before disappearing from the infant's dream.

But Wally didn't follow. Without his brother there to tell him what to do, to get angry at him for sympathizing, he bent down and picked up the infant.


MENTOR: Nazarea Andrews
ALTERNATE: Portia Moore
TITLE: Sweet Nothing
CATEGORY/GENRE: NA Contemporary Romance
WORD COUNT: 68,000

PITCH: Lauren was thrilled Cal gave her his his body, heart and his last name. The thing is, it wasn't his to give. It all belongs to a man named Clay and he has no idea Lauren or Cal exists.

Here he comes. My very own Prince Fucking Charming, Cal Scott. He walks in and his eyes quickly skim the packed suitcase in my hand and briefly rest on my face. He lets out an exasperated sigh, places his keys on the table, and takes off his coat. His eyes fall on the empty bottle of wine I finished today, and a smirk spreads across his face before he walks past me and into the living room.

I’m not surprised by his lack of response. It’s expected, but it hurts all the same. He regards me more like his personal high-class escort than his wife.

I clutch my suitcase, full of the very few things that are mine. He can keep the cars, the money, and the penthouse—the things he believes should comfort me in my loneliness. All the material things in the world can’t make up for the growing disconnect between us. I glance down at the four-carat yellow diamond on my finger. It’s a beautiful but painful reminder of the vows he broke.

I look over at him, now slouched on the couch with a self-assured cocky grin plastered on his face, the same cocky grin he was wearing the day I met him. I walk into the living room. He’s watching a basketball game on his obnoxiously big television screen like he hasn’t a care in the world.


MENTOR: Nazarea Andrews
ALTERNATE: Heather Lynn
TITLE: The Lightning City
WORD COUNT: 91,000

PITCH: In the Lightning City, being a magical wielder is illegal. Ilya, a young policeman and wielder, wants to change that and goes after the powerful magical mafia – if his own side doesn’t arrest him first.


Ilya steadies the needle over his arm – it’s a liquid silver mosquito ready to bite him. The metallic taste floods his mouth, coating his tongue. And the needle isn’t even in yet. But he’s sweating, his palms are slick. It’s still gonna hurt like a sonofabitch.

The syringe is filled with metallic poison, after all.

He lays his arm flat on the table – a dumpster dive find. He’s added a few instruments that don’t come standard -- like several shackles to hold him in place. He stretches his right arm flat, flexing his muscles, the vein jumping out. Outside dogs are barking, on the floor above him, bass reverberates through the ceiling, and down the hallway a couple shouts at each other. When he presses the needle into his arm, his scream goes unnoticed. His arm spasms, but the restraints do their job. His mouth floods with the acerbic taste of iron. After the injection, his veins are silvery tattoos. They darken to black before fading away and sliding back into his body.

Existing shouldn’t be illegal – but his is. With each thump of his heart, the iron invades his body, extinguishing each spark of magic. Ferrous is a banned substance, illegal to make, to use, and to own. It’s almost as bad as being a magic wielder to begin with. At least using the ferrous is his choice – even if it makes him doubly screwed.


MENTOR: Tina Moss
ALTERNATE: Luisa M. Perkins
TITLE: Enthralled
CATEGORY/GENRE: Contemporary Fantasy
WORD COUNT:  89,000

Una’s sick of being someone else’s magical battery pack. Fighting both her mother’s powerful hexes and her abusive fiancé, Una will do whatever it takes to be free—even accept the unlikely help of Tom, her mother’s bounty hunter.

Port Authority Bus Station, Manhattan

The symptoms hit Una sooner than she had calculated. She had to get on that bus—fast.
She dug her fingers into her waist as cramps twisted through her gut. Stumbling at the accompanying dizziness, she leaned a hand on the soot-stained wall—then snatched it away and wiped it on her jeans.

She was moving too slowly. She forced herself not to check over her shoulder yet again. That would only attract attention she couldn’t afford.

At Gate 58, Una pushed open the door and exhaled shakily. The express bus to Kingston idled in the depths of the massive parking garage. If she could get on it and make it through the first stages of thrall withdrawal, she’d be free.

Once on board, she knuckled sweat out of her eyes and bit off a moan. She just needed a little space to curl up alone so she could fight through this. But as she staggered down the aisle, it seemed like every eye was on her—hostile, suspicious. She knew she looked like a common junkie. Maybe the bus had been a bad idea.

Near the back, Una found someone who wasn’t staring. He glanced up with a polite half-smile, but immediately returned his attention to his book. He looked like her best chance of being ignored. That cinched it.

She slipped into the seat and slid her knapsack off her shoulders. She gritted her teeth against the bile rising in her throat and peered past her neighbor out the dusty window. Just a few more hours, Una. You can do this.


MENTOR: Tina Moss
ALTERNATE: Cheyenne Campbell
TITLE: A Breath of Silver
CATEGORY/GENRE: YA/NA Fantasy (time-travel)
WORD COUNT: 100,000

In 2165, when historian Bryn MacBride uncovers a conspiracy regarding her idyllic town’s dark past, she seeks help through the forgotten London Underground. Outside Cimmeria for the first time, she emerges in 1692. In the Scottish Highlands, her ancestors wield ley lines, and a link between the Glencoe Massacre and Cimmeria’s origins. To return with help, Bryn must untangle her history — and relinquish her newfound freedom.       

I never entered the Ruins for anything other than research, but that day, I made an exception. As Sod’s law would have it, this turned into a complete cockup. My boots pounded the gravel as I darted through the fence separating town’s cottage rows and sculpture-dotted promenades from the acrid haze. Weekly research expeditions built my tolerance to the Ruins’ psychological residue and resultant disorientation, but Tessah and Hyde had no such tolerance. Racing across the melted landscape, I swore for the fifth time in as many minutes. If anything happened to them, I’d never forgive myself.

Tessah was practically my kid sister, and I’d planned on distracting her with our recent discovery – the second-largest pre-Meltdown structure on record. Hyde brought packed lunches, and if Tessah’s father hadn’t been cremated hours earlier, it might’ve been a rip-roaring afternoon. But the damn kids snuck ahead, and now I envisioned them swallowed by treacherous mists like other Cimmerians down the years. Like my own father.

I negotiated Sector Four, where last week I’d unearthed a rare specimen: a 20th-century jar, intact. Thrilled at the time, now I could only consider its uncanny resemblance to the vase holding Tessah’s father in particle form atop his wife’s mantelpiece. Pressing onward, I swore again, vehemently deciding on two fundamental absolutes in life. One: I would never voluntarily fit into a vase; and two: marriage was complete and utter bollocks.


MENTOR: Elizabeth Penney
ALTERNATE: Densie Webb
TITLE: You’ll Be Thinking of Me
CATEGORY/GENRE: WF with elements of romance and suspense
WORD COUNT: 93,000

PITCH: Rachael Allen’s chance encounter with actor Mick Sullivan and an impromptu video trigger an improbable fairytale romance marred by threats and obsessive love. A stalker leaves a bittersweet gift behind and Rachael’s HEA comes at a price. 

She was attractive. At least, it registered that way in his alcohol-soaked brain. Blond. He preferred brunettes, but he was experiencing a unique brand of loneliness after weeks of nonstop traveling. He had been antsy, unwilling to give himself over to sleep and the inevitable nightmares, so he came downstairs to the Austin hotel bar and made his way to the corner booth unnoticed. He ordered a beer, then another, and another, as he fixated on the photo shoot from earlier that day. No one had told him he was going to have to strip down. When he took off his shirt, the dick photographer with the ponytail announced, “Dude, where’s the six-pack? Oh, well, we’ll retouch it later. And can somebody cover up Snow White? I thought you had lasered that thing,” he said, pointing to the tattoo on his unchiseled chest.

His thoughts were interrupted by her voice. “Mind if I join you?”

His eyes at half-mast, he blinked against the lights over the bar. “Sure, have a seat,” he said, his tongue thick with alcohol. “I’m Mick Sullivan.” She had no visible reaction as she slid into the booth beside him. He had lucked upon a woman—a hot one no less—who had never heard of him. She wanted to keep him company, not scream at him, grab him, touch the hem of his coat. That crap, he could get any time.

He waved to the bartender and ordered her a beer, but her warm hand on his thigh told him what she really wanted.