Tuesday, July 19, 2016

PITCH WARS 2016 WISH LIST!!!!!!!!!!

Welcome Pitch Wars 2016 entrants!! So excited you stopped by my blog! No surprise here--I'm mentoring MG! Why? DUH. MG rules, others drool. 

Onward to the good stuff . . .


1. Anything science, technology, or STEM related/influenced, bonus points if it's a female MC. My writing always has a tinge of science--so far I've included comets, teleportation, a supervolcano, and alchemy. I've even made up sciences--like wishing science and luck science. So anything contemporary with a real or made-up scientific element (robots and engineering tech, an environmental angle, i.e. Hiassen, and computer science all count) is right up my alley! PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE send me your science and tech-themed babies!!

2. Anything revolving around a competition/tournament. Think GOLLYWHOPPER GAMES, ESCAPE FROM MR. LEMONCELLO'S LIBRARY, BOOK SCAVENGER, THE CANDYMAKERS, THE LEMONADE WAR. And, similarly, if you have a group of kids who have to figure out how to work together in some sort of game or puzzle or even to solve a cool mystery, I am totally in! (I've also written a tournament book that is currently on sub, so I totally understand the issues that can crop up in the puzzle-like environment!)

3.  Any contemporary fantasy that takes place in our world, such as the Fairy Godsister books, Emily Windsnap, Fablehaven, The Sixty-Eight Rooms . . . I cannot tell you how much I love contemporary fantasy. Our world with a touch of magic (magical realism or straight fantasy) is exactly what I write, and there's just not enough of it out there to read! If you have a story involving any kind of magical element in our world, you have no choice but to send it to me! (*I'm waving my hand and using the force right here, so, no, you really don't have a choice.*)

4. Any fantasy that takes place completely in another world. What this means is that I am not the best for portal fantasy. Secret doors/passages, etc. that lead kids to another magical land have to be REALLY different and special to grab and hold my interest. Yes, they can be done well, but I find myself having a hard time getting into them. There are a lot of other awesome mentors doing fantasy, so your chances might be better with them.

As for those other worlds/other magic systems/other lands . . . the more off-the-wall, the better! I have totally been on a whimsical kick lately--the Iremongers (HEAP HOUSE, FOULSHAM), to UN LUN DUN (Mieville) (and yes, technically this is a portal fantasy), to fellow MG mentor Wade White's forthcoming novel (releasing September 2016!) THE ADVENTURER'S GUIDE TO SUCCESSFUL ESCAPES, and YA mentor Charlie Holmberg's PAPER MAGICIAN series! Finally, I can't neglect to mention my beloved AGATHA H (steampunk). Basically, if you've got a super-weird manuscript where it rains squid, books have legs, and camels have five humps (two for storing sprinkled donuts), let me have at it!

5. I have some favorites where genre really doesn't matter. I love baseball and like most sports (football, tennis, hockey, basketball), board games, mazes/labyrinths, video games, cooking competition shows, HGTV (new obsession: tiny houses!), Springsteen, Star Wars, cephalopods, llamas, and owls. I also have a thing for amusement parks, circuses, safaris, anything nautical, and treasure hunters. If your manuscript has any of these, you will not go wrong SENDING IT MY WAY! 

Have something else? Don't fret! Thing is, I read a LOT of different genres in MG. That's why I shaped my wish list to focus more on topic than genre. Semi-serious contemporary a la Lisa Graff (i.e. UMBRELLA SUMMER & LOST IN THE SUN) will work if it has a dose of humor/light-heartedness. I also enjoy light, funny horror, like MAY BIRD and voice-y contemporary with humor (Paul Acampora, Kristen Tracy). And, finally, while I like new worlds, let's face it, a good traditional fantasy with swords, magic, and fantastical beasts can never be wrong!

Hmmmm. What else can I tell you? 

The high end on word count for MG is about 50,000 (with a few exceptions). We only have a couple months to whip your MS into shape, so the cleaner it is by submission time, the better. I'm not setting a word limit on submissions, but regardless of who you submit to, keep word count in mind and trim before you submit. If you do have a 75,000 word MG, please know I am going to do my best to streamline that sucker! 

Which leads to a bigger point--if you sub to me please keep an open mind and be ready to REVISE, REVISE, REVISE. The idea of Pitch Wars isn't to pick perfect manuscripts, it's to pick manuscripts where we think we can add something to help it get an agent's attention and then get published. If you're unwilling to consider suggestions and revise, then, as much as I'd love to read your baby, please reconsider subbing to me.

Getting substantive notes doesn't mean your manuscript sucks or your writing sucks. I just got chapter notes back from a CP, and they're littered with suggestions and comments. Criticism is intended to help. We're all in this together, and if I mention something it's because I think it will make your book better in the end. Yes, revisions take time and it can be difficult looking at your story a new way after the months/years it took you to write it, but just because something is hard doesn't mean it shouldn't be done.

And on that note, the goal here is not to make something "good enough" for an agent. The goal is to make your manuscript AWESOME and the best it can be. Team Kraken will not stand (or swim) for anything less!!


Last year I promised feedback to everyone who submitted to me, but some people really seemed not to care. It takes a lot of time on my part to craft feedback, and there's no sense in spending the time if people don't want it. So, new rule: I will give feedback only if you request it! The best way is probably to just tweet me (@theSol23) after the mentees are announced. I'll add you to the list and get back to you!


This really depends on what changes I think are necessary. The plan is to email an edit letter within the first week, and from there be available for bouncing off ideas. The revising is obviously up to you, but if we can get it to the point where I can read and do line edits before the agent round, I'm all for it. 

Final Thoughts

I tried to be specific but not too specific in crafting this wish list, but I know I'm overlooking something! Last year was my first year as a mentor, and after my list posted I saw mentees tweeting away and was like, "I want that too! And that, and that, and that!" So if you have any doubts, feel free to tweet and ask! If it's for me, I'll let you know, and even if it's not, I can try to steer you to other mentors who may be a good fit. 

For me, I'm essentially looking for a story that is well written that I can get lost in! I will read your pages regardless of the quality of the query. I'm not an agent. I'm a writer, like you, and my goal here is to find a manuscript that I can help. The pages will play so much more of a role in my decision than your query (and synopsis, if you have one), so don't let query/synopsis fears play a role in subbing to me. We can fix that later. 

Last words in my attempt to garner your interest if you're on the fence about picking me: Brenda has increased the number of mentors you can submit to if you make a donation, so go on and donate and give me one of those extra spots! Lol.

Thanks so much for reading, and best of luck!

Oh, and last but not least:

Don't forget to read about the other MG mentors! Hopefully the links display below, but if not go directly to Brenda Drake's website to visit the MG Blog Hop

** And for clarification, my secret letter is W.































Monday, August 3, 2015

Pitch Wars Mentor Bio AND Super-Awesome Wish List!!!!!!

This is it!!! The post of all posts! The post where I tell YOU, Pitch Wars Star Applicant, what I'm looking for as a 2015 Pitch Wars mentor!




I want your . . . .


But what kind of MG, you ask? This is a bit tricky to describe. I write contemporary fantasy with a sprinkle of science and am partial to fun, light-hearted stories. If your manuscript is a dark fantasy, an epic fantasy, or a realistic contemporary involving *serious* issues, I'm probably not your gal, and there are certainly other mentors who are a better match.

Here's some MG I've read and adored:

  1. Wendy Mass's Willow Falls' series (12 Finally, 13 Gifts, etc.) and, really, ANYTHING by Mass, including Every Soul a Star and The Candymakers
  2. Liz Kessler's Emily Windsnap series and Phillipa Fisher series
  3. Chris Grabenstein's Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library
  4. Carl Hiaasen's Hoot, Flush, Chomp, and Scat
  5. Brandon Mull's Fablehaven series and Candy Shop War series
  6. Jennifer Nielsen's Ascendance trilogy
  7. Jody Feldman's The Gollywhopper Games
  8. Jodi Lynn Anderson's May Bird trilogy
  9. Natalie Lloyd's A Snicker of Magic
  10. Jessica Day George's Glower Castle series
  11. Megan Frazer Blakemore's The Water Castle
As you can see, I like my MG (for the most part) with some foot in the real world and a tad of whimsy or fantasy, but there's some straight medieval type fantasy and contemporary on the list. If your manuscript falls anywhere in the above range, even if you wouldn't necessarily use one of these books as a comp, SUBMIT to ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Here's what else I'm looking for in a mentee:

** Someone who has a polished manuscript you've just started querying OR are *thisclose* to starting to query. If you've already queried widely or if you already have full manuscript requests out with agents, your time is better spent working on a shiny NEW manuscript, not continuing to focus on this one.

** Someone who is open to comments/suggestions and really wants to take his/her manuscript to the next level, not just "get in" to Pitch Wars and then do nothing until November, when it's time to post your pitch for agents.

Here's what I'm NOT looking for in a manuscript:

** Perfection. Seriously. If you think it's perfect, there's no need for this contest. If your CPs love it, betas think it's great, and you've already received agent interest and things are rolling along, don't submit because . . . what do you need me for??!!! (Also, if those things are true--YAY for you!!) I'm looking for a manuscript that I think I can help, and that means polished, but it doesn't mean perfect.

** Anything that's not MG. Duh. MG' s target audience is 8-12 years old with the main characters no older than 13. Word count is about 40,000 to 65,000, but 65,000 is the end of the spectrum and usually limited to fantasy. That being said, word count is something we can easily work on, so don't fret too much about it.

Here's what you can expect with me if I choose you as a mentee:

** I read fast. You can expect a full set of comments/suggestions pretty quickly. I'll be open to discussion as you make edits/changes after my comments, but remember it's YOUR story and you'll know the characters the best, so after receiving my notes, it will be up to you to make any revisions you think will improve your manuscript.

** I'll read your revised manuscript again, with another round of comments (as long as time permits) prior to the agent-reveal time.

To Everyone who Submits to Me:

I will try and provide feedback to those who submit to me who I do not choose. I entered Pitch Wars twice and was not chosen either time, but yet I really appreciated any feedback the mentors gave me. So, I will do my best to offer feedback, even just a couple sentences, to everyone who submits to me.

More about Me:

I always struggled whittling down which mentors I was going to submit to, so if you're still wondering if I'm your gal, here's some extraneous info:

** My day job is a lawyer. I'm a big fan of strategic board games (mostly from Europe)--particularly those designed by Stefan Feld, but my new favorite game is Castles of Mad King Ludwig. Other hobbies are biking, fantasy football and baseball, and drawing with soft pastels. 

** Some favorite TV shows are Seinfeld, White Collar, Mad Men, Top Chef, and Once Upon a Time

** Some favorite movies are Star Wars, Shawshank Redemption, Pitch Perfect, Rounders, The Prestige, and The Devil Wears Prada

And I think that's it! Really, reading my MG list above is the best way to tell if your MG is something I'd be interested in reading, but hey if you're in doubt, go ahead and send it! You get to submit to FIVE mentors this year, so take a shot.

I read a lot of MG, YA, and adult fiction that includes contemporary, fantasy, horror, and everything in between. Overall, I just want to get lost in your story and root for your MC, whether she/he is training to be a trapeze artist, a spelling bee champion, or conductor of an animal choir. Make it fun, make it original, and I'm in. Totally. 

Still have questions? Comment below or tweet me - @theSol23! 

And please visit the Blog hop! to see the other mentors' pages!!

Find Other Pitch Wars Mentors Here

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Sunday, July 26, 2015


All of the important dates can be seen at Brenda Drake's blog. I'm not allowed to announce my wish list yet, but make sure to join us for the blog hop on August 3!!!!

Monday, July 6, 2015

AFTER Query Kombat!

Query contests are always thrilling. Throwing your work out there to be judged takes courage, and if you're lucky enough to make it into a contest, your work will be posted/commented on/seen by others. It's easy to get caught up in votes, moving on, agent requests, and the whole whirlwind of twitter activity.

But eventually the contest will end. They all do. So what's next?

Um, old-fashioned querying! You've evaluated feedback and made your revisions. You're ready to send out that shiny new query!

But my advice is to wait a second and take a good look at your entire manuscript. If you received comments regarding your first 250 words that your language was too flowery, was it really the case that you were too flowery only in the first 250? If you received feedback that your language tags were confusing--check and change throughout your manuscript. If you received comments that you were repetitive (and I saw a LOT of this), I doubt that issue was limited to only your first 250 words.

So before you jump on querying, take a look at the suggestions you received, and if you think there's merit--if you revised your first 250 based on those critiques--do yourself a favor and apply those same principles to the rest of your manuscript. Your work will be that much stronger for it, and when you get that full request from an agent, you can feel comfortable sending it off without first diving back in and trying to make a bunch of quick fixes before you press send.

Good luck everyone!

OH! And since I'm a part of Michelle's guess the QK judge contest, all I can say is: 138.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Query Kombat - Standing Out 

Last year I entered my MG contemporary fantasy into Query Kombat. It was the first contest I entered with that MG, and I was thrilled when Michelle chose it for her team. I subsequently advanced through a few rounds and received a few agent requests. While those didn't pan out for me and I eventually found my agent through the slush pile, more than a few of my former competitors did obtain their agents through Kombat. I also found CPs and beta readers during the fight, so yeah, in case you didn't know before, it is a big contest.

Of course, before you even get to the Kombat stage, you have to be picked by one of the three creators: Michelle, SC Write, or Michael Anthony for their team. They get only 21 picks each, and with hundreds of entries expected, that in itself is going to be a challenge. So how can you stand out? Here's a huge tip from what I noticed last year:

*** The queries chosen were not perfect. ***

I know, right? But for real--I saw typos, unclear thoughts, queries with no stakes, queries a bit too long (ME!), etc. Thing is--this is a query contest, but it's also a mentoring contest in that, when voting, the judges offer suggestions and critiques on how the query can be stronger and complement the first 250 words. The entrants then get to make changes to their queries and first 250 as they advance. This means that the queries chosen are not necessarily the most expertly written, but they do have one thing in common:




ALL of the entrants that made it into Query Kombat had one or more of these things in common. They had a clever hook or a fresh idea or voice that killed. Something to make Michelle, SC, or Mike sit back and think, "Hey, if this query was better, this could rock."

I'm not saying you shouldn't proofread, and I'm not saying you shouldn't format your query the right way. What I'm saying is that to stand out in this contest, you need to provide that spark or glimmer of a cool idea to show you're different from the others and can benefit from the structure of the contest.

How can you do that?


None of these:

"If Kim can't defeat the king, the kingdom will fail."
"Kim has to choose between her heart and her career."
"Kim discovers a secret that will change everything."

You get the idea--nothing vague. Offer us those details that show you're story is different.

Instead of "must save her kingdom":

"If Julie can't travel to the neighboring solar system, steal the sun, and trap its rays in the bottle, her kingdom will freeze."

Instead of "choosing between heart and career":

"If Amy accepts the appointment to the bench, thereby fulfilling her life-long dream of becoming a judge, she'll miss out on moving to Wyoming and being with the man she loves."

Instead of "discovers a secret":

"Then Carrie discovers her rescue dog is a robot and is just one of many animals the government is using to collect secrets on its citizens."

It's those details that peak our interest and make us stop and think, "Hey, this sounds neat. Yeah, the query could be clearer, and I'm not sure about the first 250, but the idea's intriguing. I want to see more."

THAT type of thing gives you a better chance of making it through than a perfectly written, dry query. For more ideas of what caught each judge's attention the first time around, head over to the three judges' blogs. I know Michelle still has last year's rounds on her blog--you can see what caught her eye!

Good luck! Can't wait to read!


Saturday, December 6, 2014

Liebster Award/Blog Hop fun!

Been stuck here with the flu (I think--but isn't that the purpose of a flu shot?) so sorry for the delay, but here we go . . .

I've been tagged by Wade White to answer the following questions for the Liebster Award/blog hop.

1. Is the book you landed an agent with the first book you ever wrote?

Alas, it is not. It is not even the first completed book I wrote. When I began seriously writing a YA a few years ago, I would read "How I found my agent" posts and see that, most of the time, the successful writer reported the book that landed the agent was not the first book. I'd scoff at those people. Scoff! Because of course MY first book would be different. It'd be awesome, and I'd get an agent once it was done. Uh, not so much. I think it does take one under the belt to understand not only the writing, pacing, etc. process, but also the query process.

2. Favourite type of pie (you must answer this even if you don’t like pie)?

Easy. My sister makes a triple berry pie for my birthday and for Thanksgiving -- raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries. Yum!

3. Was there any aspect of querying agents that turned out differently than what you anticipated? If so, what is it?

I don't think so, but I joined Query Tracker early on, so I could see what other people were doing, what worked, what to do/not do, etc.

4. Name one book or author that has had a significant impact on your own writing and why.

Stephen King. I loved his books when I was in high school, especially the short story books--Night Shift was a particular favorite. His On Writing is one of the best books on writing there is. I also loved Crichton and the way he brought science into mainstream fiction. His nonfiction book, Travels, is one of my favorites, and I will still go back and read it, along with stories in Night Shift.

5. Where do you do most of your writing?

My basement. And I know that sounds creepy, but I remodeled my basement, and it's comfy without distractions.

6. The genre(s) you tend to read the most versus the genre(s) you tend to read the least.

Hmm. I do read a lot of YA and MG, simply because that is what I write, and it helps with developing voice. Those are more contemporary or fantasy. In the adult realm, I'm all over the map, from King to Patterson to George Martin, Terry Brooks, Terry Goodkind, Crichton, and one of my recently discovered favorites is Chris Kusneski. I've also read Patrick O'Brian, whose more literary. Oh, and John Sandford's Prey books! Really all over the map in adult, except women's fiction.

7. Best piece of general advice you’ve received from a critique partner?

Try and make chapter endings have a hook. I try to do this, but he emphasized it.

8. Do you prefer to read the book first or see the movie first? And with or without popcorn?

Read the book, and then complain the movie didn't hold up! Doesn't everybody? Not a big popcorn eater, so I'll sit and sip my Diet Coke.

9. What is your favourite part of the writing process (first draft, editing, revising, submitting, etc.)?

I LOVE editing. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE. To me, the best part is getting a good first draft done, so I can print it on crisp white paper, take it to McDonald's, where I again am sipping a Diet Coke, and read it through with a red pen, making edits, revisions, etc. This obsession spills over into my job as a lawyer too, where I am always volunteering to read other people's motions/briefs, and edit them.

10. The one bit of advice you wished you had discovered before you started querying.

I don't think there's any advice I wished I had discovered. I think I pretty much exhausted the query process before I started. Now, there's parts I should have listened to more, like making sure word count makes sense with genre, etc., but I don't hink anything caught me off guard.

AND, there we go. Now, I hereby tag Samantha Joyce with the following questions:

1.  When did you first decide you wanted to write a book, and how long after that did you start your first real attempt?
2.  Is there a particular book or author that made you want to write a book?
3.  Did you pattern any of your characters after people you know? Use any names of people you know as characters in your book?
4.  Do you watch TV, listen to music, or do anything while you write?
5.  What is your favorite movie from a book and why?
6.  While writing your book, did you think of actors/actresses who would play your characters when they make your book into a moive?
7.  What part of the writing/editing/revising process do you like the most? The least?
8.  Do you outline before you write? How much of the plot/character development do you have mapped out before you begin?
9.  If you had to do it over again, from first writing your book, to the querying process, to the phone call with agents process over, is there anything you would do differently?
10. Now that you have an agent, have you started the next book?

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Agent News!

Hi everyone! The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity at my day job and in writing. But now that the craziness has died down (somewhat at least!), I'm happy to report that I am officially agented!


And although I did not get an agent via Query Kombat, it was Query Kombat where I first submitted my query, got great feedback, met my wonderful CP, and well, why I am telling you all this? Check out the story at the blogs of Query Kombat's sponsors:

Michelle's blog

SC's blog

Michael's blog

And while you're at it, check out the blog of my CP, Wade White:

Wade's blog