Monday, August 31, 2015

An Open Letter To PitchWars Hopefuls...

As the mentee announcement approaches, I can't help but feel like these are the final days of hope for some people and I kind of want to kick that feeling right in the pants.

Because your lifetime writing goal isn't to get into Pitch Wars is it? If you don't make it in, does that mean you'll never get published EVER? Is this the only door open to you?
Want to hear a handful of reasons why I passed on some things? 
  • Because the inner narration felt to me like more of a narrator than a teenager.
  • Because the writing was AMAZING, but the concept involved something I wasn't super interested in.
  • Because there was a technology element I felt I wasn't the mentor for
  • Because the love interest didn't particularly appeal to me
  • Because while I LOVE LOVE LOVED the book, there were issues I felt I couldn't tackle in two months.
  • Because I didn't think the world building was as solid as I'd like to have seen it (and I'm not an expert on world building, so this wouldn't be the best problem for me to tackle.)
  • Because it felt more middle grade than young adult.
  • Same problem, but thought it was more of an adult voice.
And about 1000 other reasons. 

Do you know what the common theme there is? ME. It wasn't right for ME. And some of you might be saying, "Well you're just one person..."

AND YOU'RE ABOSLUTELY RIGHT. Mentors, agent, editors, we're just people, looking for the book that speaks to our hearts the most.

When I entered Pitch Wars I pretty much just sat around sweating for a week. I know how hard that is. It's not a small thing, and I know it sounds like a brush aside when you're faced with the possibility of not being chosen. "If you don't make it in, you're still awesome for writing a book!" It sounds like a consolation prize, right?

But it's not. The first book I wrote? Holy crap it was sad. The second one was... slightly better. The third one was where I found my voice, and that book got me my agent. Literally the only way you won't move forward from here is if you quit right now.

Submitting to Pitch Wars is a big thing. You submitted your book into a MAJOR contest to be JUDGED by the mentors you submitted to! Badge of honor. Participating in the community, finding friends, and CP's? Badge of honor. NOT making it and still trudging along? SEVEN THOUSAND BADGES!

Nobody writes a book, gets an agent, and gets a publishing deal without someone passing on them. Not one single person in the history of ever. 

Mentors pass? 

Keep going. 

Agents pass?

You KEEP going!

Editors pass? 

Are you writing this down?
It's the only way to break through and find your place in this crazy difficult industry we've chosen to be a part of. 

Think of publishing like a GIANT (but also deceptively small?) shopping mall. There are multiple floors, multiple entrances, and thousands of people wanting to get inside and buy something. Some are going to flock to the same big doors, because they're well lit, and by the food court, and that's where everyone goes in. But if those doors were broken and wouldn't open, you wouldn't walk back to your car and go home! You find another door! 

Pitch Wars is just ONE door, and it's a door that doesn't allow many people through. Is it a great opportunity? Of course! But it's not the only great opportunity! I wouldn't be anywhere without my CP's. If I had to choose between them and Pitch Wars back in the day, I would have chosen my CP's, hands down. 

That's why all of us mentors have been stressing the importance of getting EVERYTHING you can out of Pitch Wars. After the announcement, come talk to us! Don't go away, and be sad. We're here for you! Visit the #Menteemates hashtag and find a CP, or join me for my next CP Matchmaker party on September 12th. (Details in the tab above.) Listen to whatever feedback you get from your mentors, and see what feels right to you.

Make sure the changes you make are ones you agree with! Revise, or get a critique, or send a query! The world doesn't stop just because you don't see your name on that list.

And this, right here, what I'm about to say, is the MOST important thing. Are you ready?

You are AWESOME. You're the perfect mix of stubborn and talent and perseverance, and you are not going to quit! You're going to brush it off and keep putting those words down, otherwise my heart will break into a thousand pieces. (Yes, I'm guilting you now.) Don't break my heart. Don't break your own. 

Keep writing, because I can't wait to see where you go from here. 


Monday, August 3, 2015

Pitch Wars Wishlist!

It's finally Pitch Wars time, lovelies! (And if for some reason you have no idea what that is, you can go here and read all about it!)

I'm absolutely ecstatic to be a mentor this year. I participated as an alternate in 2013 as well as two #Pitmad events, the last of which resulted in me signing with my agent, the oh-so wonderful Mandy Hubbard at D4EO.

These things really work, guys, and I'm so thrilled to be involved.

A little about me:

In whatever shreds of free time I have that aren't immediately eaten up by writing, you can usually find me reading, laying out in the sun, driving too fast, or dream shopping for houses I'll never be able to afford. :-) I love tea, baking outrageous birthday cakes (and baking in general, really), skydiving, drizzly rain, and I'm pretty certain I'm not nearly as funny as I think I am.
And why should you submit to me, you ask?

1. Because I'm a plot ninja! In my critique group, when someone needs brainstorming help, they come to me. Sometimes I can't fix my own book to save my life but give me someone else's manuscript and I have about a million thoughts that at least spark some kind of new idea in whoever I'm working with.

2. I give really detailed edits. I like to start off with a big picture kind of chat about the book and the places I think need to be worked on. That's not to say you have to change everything I point out. This is more of a conversation about your book as a whole and what we both agree needs to be worked on. Every bit of the editing process should be working toward making your book better, but always staying within what YOU want it to be. It's your diamond, I'm just shining it up.

3. Once the big picture stuff is resolved I like to line edit, offering suggestions and comments as I go, and I LOVE pointing out the parts that made me laugh out loud or cry or scream at my computer. Like a running commentary on your book as I read it.

SIDE NOTE: If you're not ready to do some real revisions, please don't submit to me. My job is to work with you and make your book as perfect as possible in time for the agent round, not flatter you and tell you everything is fantastic just the way it is. Working with me requires actual WORK. :-)

4. I have a serious knack for romantic progression. It's not always easy to take two people from first meeting to falling in love without losing that... spark. If you feel that's something that might need to be worked on, I'm definitely your girl.

5. I have a quick email turnaround, and I'm a huge fan of Google Hangouts. I'll be available pretty much always to answer questions, brainstorm, vent to, whatever, because I know what it's like to be on the other side of things and have worries about the contest or how things are going to work.

6. I plan to give feedback to everyone who submits to me. With so many people entering and so few slots available (especially this year, since there are no alternates) I want to be able to offer something to everyone who takes the time to send their writing my way.

ANOTHER SIDE NOTE: Feedback may take a while to put together depending on how many submissions we're talking about, but I'll eventually get to every single person. Just be patient with me.

7. I give some great pep-talks (and lets face it, who doesn't need one of those every once in a while?) Contests and agents and querying can all be stressful and I've got your back through it all.

Okay! Now for the wish list.

I am mentoring YOUNG ADULT ONLY. I'll have to automatically pass on anything else. :-(

In YA, I'm looking for gritty, intense plots, terrifying unexpected twists, sudden deaths, original characters, and achingly beautiful love stories fleshed out in rough circumstances. I'm a sucker for a fantastic love story. Forbidden romances, love triangles, secrets, kick-ass kissing scenes, and super sexy love interests, in all forms. But it's not just about the sexy. Show me characters WORTH falling in love with and you'll hook me.

Give me psychics that prey on people’s dreams, terrifying plantations and chases through swamps, or serial killers picking off teens at a Halloween party. Give me epic, fantastical worlds that are seriously messed up. Give me dark and twisted. Give me heartbreak, and misunderstandings, and betrayals.

Bonus points if you make me gasp, cry, laugh out loud, or jump for joy.

More specifically:

Horror/Thriller- The book that got me my agent is a YA horror about a demon train that abducts its passengers from all over the world and tortures them with their worst fears. Horror is my go-to genre. Give me ghosts, urban legends, cults, psychos, hauntings, possession, the occult, southern gothic (I LOVE southern gothic!). I'm interested in horror based in reality as well as more fantastical twists and settings (like my train.) However, I steer clear of gore/slasher/mutilation type horror, where people are chopped up and tortured for no reason other than the shock factor. I want to be creeped out, not disgusted.

Concerning thrillers, I'd rather see manuscripts that embody the psychological side of things, rather than the heist/mystery/hunted-by-a-secret-government-organization kind of stuff. Think Vanishing Girls, The Tenderness of Thieves, etc.

Fantasy/Magical Realism/Steampunk- New approaches to magic, especially when it's there but not the whole focus of the book (a la, The Scorpio Races.) All original urban fantasy, alternate histories, portals. I want super creepy high fantasy worlds, truly terrifying antagonists, new twists on old tropes, and jump-off-the-page, gritty settings that feel as real as the characters.

*I have a soft spot for pirates too. The more original the concept the better.* 

Historical- Historical thrillers (again, psychological), original approaches to time travel, retellings, and historical fantasy. I love, love, love magical/paranormal elements in historical settings. (ex- The Infernal Devices or Pirates of the Caribbean.) 

*Bonus points for Regency era or anything resembling Pride and Prejudice but with a paranormal twist.*

But Most Importantly: Sometimes I don't know what I want until I see it. I don't know how many times I've read a synopsis for an upcoming book and thought "Holy crap that sounds good" and it's something I normally wouldn't have gone looking for on my own. When in doubt, ask me. I'm very active on Twitter.

And at the end of the day, if your book embodies this quote, I'm probably game:

Things NOT for me:
  • Dystopian, mystery, or science fiction.
  • Novels told in verse.
  • Vampires, werewolves, angels, or any other played out magical creature. If I roll my eyes, you’ve lost me.
  • Books involving graphic rape scenes, clich├ęd boarding school type settings, or torturing babies/children.
  • Your bubbly, happy, contemporary about true friendship might be a future bestseller, but it’s also not for me.

And that's it! Check out all the other awesome mentors below and then send me all those amazing manuscripts! :-)
You know you want to...

Monday, July 13, 2015

RANT: Beware Of Pushy "Agents"

So... there was some talk on Twitter yesterday, about a certain "agent" condemning authors who had the audacity to ask her to wait for a response on her offer of representation until the author heard back from the other people who had their manuscript. I tweeted about it for a bit, but I want to expand on that a little more here, where my tendency to be longwinded didn't make that a problem.

Okay, let’s spin a little scenario for you here, so I can better illustrate how insane this is (and downright predatory when you take into consideration the number of writers who wouldn't question this stupid request because they'd have no idea that this isn't the industry standard!)

Say you’re a relatively “new” writer. You’ve worked hard, you’ve toiled, and done everything you could to make your book as perfect as it can possibly be. You love this book. It’s the thing born from all your struggles, and abandoned ideas, and late nights typing away while everyone else had fallen asleep.

You decide, this is the one. This is the book you’re going to send out into the world. You compile a list of agents, you sweat over a query letter, and after psyching yourself up for more time than you really think you should need, you hit send.

What happens next is a spiral of emotions. Excitement. Fear. Anxiety. Worry. Every single time your phone makes that incoming email sound you leap on it like it might scamper away from you. And every rejection breaks your heart a little bit more.

Then, that magical day comes. You open your email and there’s something from an agent you queried, or one who requested pages from you during a contest. Finally, you read something other than “This just isn’t for me.” They’re interested! They want to talk! It's "THE CALL!!"

And then they tell you they want an answer right away. 

“Don’t bother notifying the other agents who have your book."


"Just sign with me right now, it's unprofessional to ask me to wait for you." 


"Don't waste my time.”


You stare at the email and think this is great…. right? They want to work with you. But a little voice inside of you is screaming that something’s not right with this. And if it’s not, it definitely should be!

Agents are great people. They’re understanding, competent, awesome professionals who take things like this beloved book of yours and fall in love with it just as completely as you have. They want the best for you AND your book.

They also understand that what’s best for you, might not be them. That’s why any reputable agent out there won’t bat an eye when you ask for a couple weeks to make your decision. Time to let everyone else with your manuscript know you’ve had an offer of representation. Hell, most of them will even come right out and tell you to do this.

Anyone who says otherwise, or asks for special liberties with your book, or demands to have a response right that second, doesn’t have YOUR best interests in mind. They're concerned about them, and what they want. They don't give a crap about you.

Do yourself a favor. Don’t sign with someone just because they make an offer. Talk with them, talk with anyone else offering, mull it over, sleep on it, make sure that when you say “yes” it’s to a person you’re 1000% confident in.

Your agent doesn’t just sell stuff for you. They advise you on your next book, on the path of your career, they talk you down when you’re convinced everything sucks, they read your manuscripts over and over, and advocate for you on a daily basis.

It's a big job, and it's not something you want to put into the hands of someone who will make the publication process harder. Going from an unknown author, to an agented author, to a published author is a LONG process and it’s stressful enough without feeling like you haven’t got a single person in your corner. Your agent should always be that person.

It’s been said a million times, and it’ll continue to be said because it’s the truest of truths:


Write that on a post-it and stick it to your computer. Paint it on the wall. Skywrite it. Dream about it. Whatever it takes for you to keep that at the front of your mind while querying.

If you have even the slightest feeling the agent interested in your manuscript isn't right for you, walk away. Trust me, you’ll regret it if you don't.

Do your research, take your time, and make informed decisions. There are people out there who WILL try to take advantage of the insecurities felt by undiscovered writers. Don't let them. Push back, and take control because there are so many genuine, absolutely WONDERFUL agents who are always eager to advocate for talented writers.

Good luck!


Monday, April 27, 2015

Music to My Ears...

My music obsession has been getting a little out of control lately. (The playlist for my new WIP is about 50 songs long and growing more by the day.) So I thought I'd do another Music to My Ears post, since it's been a while, and I'm in the mood to procrastinate today. :-)

Speaking of procrastinating, I've spent a lot of time in the last few weeks discovering tons of new music in random Spotify playlists. There's a lot of clicking around involved, but every once in a while I'll come across a song that has perfect tone for my newest project; a creepy, emotional thriller set in the heart of the French Quarter.

Like these:

I'd be so lost without my music. Sometimes hearing the right song at the right time suddenly inspires a solution to a problem I've been unable to fix for days, thus ending my string of procrastination as quickly as it came on. Good music + being productive? Ah, yes please.

Happy Monday!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A Matter Of Opinion

*DISCLAIMER: I'm about to rant.*

I have a huge issue with judgmental writers. Thankfully, I haven't come across too many since I made my way into the writing community, but they're out there, and they irritate the hell out of me.

The people who tell you you're a terrible writer, doomed to fail, because you had a couple "telly words" in your third chapter.

Those who say there's only one right way to describe an emotion/character/setting.

The ones who read through your chapter and return it completely rewritten "how they would have done it."

The champions of the pat-yourself-on-the-back club.

The few I've met happened to wander into my life at very unfortunate times. Times when I might have already been worrying about my writing ability, or after a particularly tough rejection. I was looking for new eyes or another writing friend, and instead, I got judged and picked apart and left feeling every bit the terrible writer I feared I was.

(This last happened almost exactly a year ago, by the way.)

And thinking back on those emails and conversations makes me so mad I could spit. When did it become a thing to tear others to absolute shreds and call it critiquing? Does it really make some people feel that much better about themselves when they set themselves up to be the writer that's higher up on the totem pole by kicking everyone else down below them?

When I have to write something critical in my notes for someone, I stare at the screen thinking of ways I can give them advice on what I think should be changed while also making it damn clear that my opinion is not the only thing to be considered. I suggest they have other people read it and get a few opinions on the issue. I tell them not to change a freaking thing if it doesn't feel right to them. I give them examples of how to change things without just diving in and rewriting it all the "right way."

Because --and this is very important-- how I would do it, and what I think, doesn't mean a damn thing. It's not my book. My only job is to read it, and give out whatever advice comes to mind. That's it. It's not my job to try and convince someone that my way is best and they're doing it wrong. It's not my job to whine and moan when they don't take my suggestions. It's not my job to turn their book into anything other than what they want it to be.

The writing community is a very small place, and a lot of us are dealing with the same anxieties and insecurities. We should be helping, and supporting, not tearing people down. We're supposed to be creating things, not destroying confidence.

And this is not to say that being critical in a critique is a bad thing, because it's not. There's no point in reading for someone if you pass over any problems you see in favor of comments that say "This is all so great!" because then you're just doing the author a disservice. Point out the issues, but don't be mean about it. There are some hard and fast "rules" of writing that someone just starting out might need a better handle on, but when it comes to a person's voice or how they choose to tell a story, that's all up to them to sort out.

All I can do is hope that my notes help in some way, and support that person as much as possible. Being another set of eyes doesn't have to turn into some kind of competition, to decide who's got more natural talent, or a better voice, or the prettiest language and anyone who says it does is doing something wrong.

Support each other. Be nice, be helpful, and above all else, remember that they're YOUR opinions for a reason. They don't need to be carried by anyone else.

*END of rant.*

Monday, January 5, 2015

Insert Sappy New Year's Title Here :-)

I didn't really make resolutions this year.

Or last year.

Or the year before that.

Mostly, because I know myself, and I know that making resolutions for a new year pretty much guarantees they'll be forgotten by the end of the month. But there are some things I've had on my mind for the last couple months that I definitely want to focus on in 2015.

This time last year I was querying. I think I actually sent my first query letter EVER on January 2nd. And now, a year from hitting that send button in a neurotic haze of gummy bears, I've signed with my wonderful agent, and completed multiple rounds of pretty substantial edits, both as a client and before. I plotted out three more books. I put together CP Matchmaker and got to see that help tons of other writers. I was invited to join the YA Misfits, and finally started to make a dent in my massive TBR pile. (Especially over the holidays.)

2014 was really, really good to me.

And while signing with Mandy was a giant sparkly highlight, what I loved most about last year was making so many amazing new friends. I got to know other clients at D4EO, as well as the wonderful ladies at the Misfits. I met so many awesome people during the #CPMatch twitter parties, and got to see several of them go on to sign with agents, win contests, start new projects, and get book deals.

For every exciting moment of my own in 2014, I can think of at least a dozen other things that happened to my writer friends, and it's those things that made my year one to really remember.

I have high hopes for myself in 2015, and there are so many things I'm looking forward to, but I am also itching to see what's in store for you.

This is our year to keep moving forward, no matter what that means to you. Agents, book deals, new projects, defeating writers block, or whatever else you hope to accomplish. We've got this.

Happy (belated) New Year, everyone.