Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)

Welcome! I assume you're here for the #PitchWars Mentor Blog Hop. Or maybe you're just here for the gifs. Either way, you're in the right place! So welcome!

For those who don't know what #PitchWars is - here's the deal: The brilliant amazing possibly super-powered Brenda Drake organizes this awesome contest that connects aspiring writers with mentors (like me!) and then we work together scrubbing and shining the aspiring author's manuscript until it is so stinking sparkly that agents will fight for the right to call it their own. For more info and to be part of the contest YOU MUST go to Brenda Drake's blog. 

So this year marks my fourth go round as a PW mentor... which wow. It's really such an honor to be a part of this amazing contest. The reason I chose "Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)", the iconic pump-up jam from C&C Music Factory, as my blog title this year is because everybody is dancing (and sweating a little bit) as part of this contest. Right now this blog post is my chance to dance and hopefully get the attention of some folks out there with some wonderful manuscripts that maybe need just a little extra loving to put them over the top. I want the chance to give that extra loving! 

So this blog post is really just me, doing my little dance, trying to convince you that I would be an amazing mentor. Then later, when it's time to submit queries and first chapters, it'll be the mentees turn to show off their moves.

Alll their different moves.

And by dance I, of course, mean write. Dance gifs are just way more fun than writing gifs. Well, except for this one.

Oh, if only I could write like that.

This year, though, I am not doing the **Please Pick Me For Your Mentor** dance alone. Instead I am once again be co-mentoring with the amazing Mindy McGinnis! 

Because two mentors are way better than one.

Not only is Mindy an amazing author (see: NOT A DROP TO DRINK, THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES, GIVEN TO THE SEA, and the upcoming THIS DARKNESS MINE) and a wonderful friend, but she is a fabulous critique partner as well. If you are a believer in the two heads are better than one theory, well you're in luck because Mindy and I will be working in tandem to make your manuscript shine. (And if you're wondering what kind of manuscripts Mindy will be looking for and how she likes to critique make sure to visit her blog! She also has the mystery word you'll need to complete the scavenger hunt AND a giveaway to win an ARC of her newest book releasing this Fall.)

And like last year I (along with Mindy) will once again be mentoring...

Yep YOUNG ADULT!!! Yay!!

Mindy and I are looking for a mentee we can dance with. Now what does that mean?

Well for me... I love strong often unlikeable protagonists, complicated antagonists, kick-ass girls, romance, depth and darkness, fun, having my heart ripped out, laugh-out-loud moments, mystery, thrills, paranormal/historical/SFF elements, contemporary type hi jinks, cute puppies, Wes Anderson style quirkiness, and some old fashioned (or new fangled) weirdness.

Your book does not need to have all of those elements. Actually, it definitely shouldn't because my head would explode and that would impede my mentoring abilities. BUT the one thing I MUST have is strong writing. That doesn't mean it has to be literary or lyrical or bursting at the seams with similes (oh please definitely NOT that last one), but it needs to have that certain something that's a mixture of craft and voice and your own personal secret sauce that makes every page sing.

So basically I am open to everything and I never really know what exactly will grab me. I am definitely NOT turned off by language, sex, or violence - in fact, when it's a necessary part of the story, I believe it's important to include these elements. But your character does not have to drop f-bombs for me to love them.

If you want a good idea of what I like to read check out my Goodreads. I try to keep this updated every few months with what I've recently read. 

So that's what I'm looking for. But what am I gonna do for you? You'll get all of my best moves.

You could say I have a strong arts backgrounds. Or you could say I have two college degrees of questionable worth. I prefer the former. Anyway, from undergrad I have a BFA in theatre and then, after several years of graduate school, I gained an MFA in film and television production.

I am represented by Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary. My own books are: ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE (HarperTeen 2013),  (DON'T YOU) FORGET ABOUT ME (HarperTeen 2014), and DOWN WITH THE SHINE (HarperTeen, 2016).

And here are a few places you can find me online:

Twitter: @katekaryusquinn (I'll be tweeting with the #PitchWars hashtag, so make sure you're following me!)

So what kind of feedback can you expect from me? 

...Actually let me start with what you won't get from me. 

I am not big on correcting grammar, spelling, punctuation, and other things of that nature. That's not to say that these things are not important - they are. I am just not the person to make those elements shine. If I notice them, I'll mark them, but I'm not the eagle-eyed type who catches everyone of those things.

I also don't expect you to write like me. Or to write your story the way that I'd write it. Instead, I want to help you write the story in your voice and style, and tell it the way you need it to be told. I will, however, occasionally throw different ideas out. In my screenwriting classes ages and ages ago (see that MFA does come in handy!) my one teacher used to call the process of throwing different ideas out spitballing. Sometimes you use the spitballed idea, but mostly it just helps get your own ideas flowing.

I will never tell you that your story sucks. Or you suck. That doesn't mean I'll only have positive things to say, because ooohhhh trust me I will point out what is not working for me. But I also always make a point of talking about the things that are working oh so very well. Personally, I find the odd "YAY!!" "HEE HEE HEE!" or "LOVE LOVE LOVE!" comments can make an otherwise tough critique go down a lot easier.

Finally, do not expect only a line or two of notes for feedback. As you may have guessed from this blog post, I can be a little long winded at times. And yes, sometimes I do go on and on and on and... Okay, I'll stop now. The point is, I tend it give pretty long critiques with lots and lots and lots of thoughts.  

You can also check out the first page critiques that Mindy and I did on Brenda's blog to get an idea of how we dance (and critique) together. Usually, we're pretty closely in sync.

Okay, we're almost done here, but in case some of you are reading this and wondering, "Okay but what if I submit my work to you and don't get picked as your mentee, cause that sort of sucks." 

Well yes, it does suck (although hey if you want to be in this business handling rejection is unfortunately a huge part of it). BUT you might get chosen as someone else's mentee (which is why you get several picks) and that would be awesome! However, some people won't get picked and so Mindy and I had a discussion about what we can do for those writers. Cause let's face it - everyone can benefit from a little extra feedback. 

So we put our heads together and decided to offer a query and first page critiques which will be posted publicly our own blogs to those who submit to us but are not chosen as mentees. If you're interested in that offer we'll email you once the mentees are announced and let you know how to collect on that offer. (Pssstt... I also offer paid critique services which is another option if you are not chosen for PitchWars. I try to keep my prices low to make it a manageable expense. You can find more about all that here.)

Okay, how was that dance? Are you convinced that Mindy and I would be the best mentor for you and that come November we'll all be doing the happy celebratory dance together? 

If you still have questions, you can find Mindy and me on Twitter. Or hit me up here in the comments. In fact, leave a comment here and on July 26th I'll do a first 500 words critique for one randomly chosen commenter. If you don't have a question, feel free to instead tell me what dance gif I should have included in my collection here. 

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Monday, March 13, 2017

BAD BLOOD Giveaway!

It's release day for Demitria Lunetta's new novel, BAD BLOOD! 

I was lucky enough to read an advanced copy of this book. The wonderful Scottish setting and characters transported me to another place (and time - thanks to some well-placed flashbacks). There was just the right amount of magic and creepy mysteries to keep the pages turning, but not so much that I was afraid to turn my lights off at night. Best of all there was just a bit of romance, which was so very well done and something I always enjoy. All in all it's a great read and one I highly recommend. So trust me, you definitely want a copy. And as luck would have it, I am giving away a copy.

On a more personal note, Demitria is also a close friend of mine. Last year we were even co-mentors for PitchWars. If you have't yet heard of her amazing new book it's because she hasn't been able to do a lot of promo as she's been busy kicking cancer's ass since last November. Demitria has also been amazingly brave and honest about her whole journey so far and you can read more about it on her blog in a brilliant post title: "My Cancer Diagnosis: How My Left Breast Is Trying To Kill Me"

A girl discovers a family secret and a past full of magic that could both save her and put her in mortal danger in this suspenseful novel that’s perfect for fans of Katie Alender and Natasha Preston.

All sixteen-year-old Heather MacNair wants is to feel normal, to shed the intense paranoia she’s worn all year like a scratchy sweater. After her compulsion to self-harm came to light, Heather was kept under her doctor’s watchful eye. Her family thinks she’s better—and there’s nothing she wants more than for that to be true. She still can’t believe she’s allowed to spend her summer vacation as she always does: at her aunt’s home in Scotland, where she has lots of happy memories. Far away from all her problems save one: she can’t stop carving the Celtic knot that haunts her dreams into her skin.

Good friends and boys with Scottish accents can cure almost anything…except nightmares. Heather can’t stop dreaming about two sisters from centuries ago, twins Prudence and Primrose, who somehow seem tied to her own life. Their presence lurks just beneath the surface of her consciousness, sending ripples through what should be a peaceful summer. The twins might hold the key to putting Heather’s soul at rest…or they could slice her future deeper than any knife.

FIND IT ONLINE: Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble

FIND DEMITRIA ONLINE:  Twitter, Facebook

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

PitchWars Critique - THE KILLING BLOG

I LOVE being a mentor for PitchWars. BUT there is one bad part - having to choose just one manuscript to mentor when there are so many ones with so much potential. 

And so, wanting to give something back to those who chose Demitria Lunetta and myself as one of the mentor teams to submit to, we decided to offer first page and query cirtiques on our blogs. Demitria will be hosting critiques on her blog on Tuesdays, while mine will be here on Thursdays. Our decision to do this via our blogs, rather than a private email, is so that (hopefully!) everyone can learn a little bit from this feedback. 

And for anyone out there looking for personalized feedback, I also offer manuscript critique services which you can find more out about here 

Dear Agent,

For some girls, the Internet is a place to go shopping. For others, it's a place to post their hottest selfies and get as many likes as possible. But for Amy Fickett, it's a place to share pictures of her freshly-killed victims with her millions of fans across the world. So the first two sentences here come across as gendered in a rather negative way. It feels like you are making statements about girls that really apply to all people. This is easily solved by removing the word girls in your first sentence.

After pulling the trigger on her father's suicide, Amy starts a new life with her estranged mother and sister in the picturesque and WASP-y suburb of Rochester, Michigan. WOH!!! The whole "pulling the trigger on her father's suicide" needs way more explanation. Like, for example, what does that mean? So far I am getting a really negative view of your MC all I know about her so far is that she posts pics of her murder victims on a blog and she helped kill her own father. We need some details to humanize her and get the reader on her side. On the other hand, I don't think we need to know she moves to a picturesque and WASP-y suburb - those are details that seem much less vital. She tries to fit in at her new high school, but her exotic looks and violent past make her an outcast. Amy withdraws deeper into her online world, where her love of shocking Internet videos and memes gain her a following. Can you be  more specific about the exact nature of these shocking internet videos?

But when Mom's boyfriend crosses the line, Amy snaps, killing him and taking pictures of his dead body. Again more details are needed here. How exactly does he cross the line? How does she kill him? Right now I am not convinced I would like or be able to understand your MC if I were to read your book.  The photos go viral and Amy, thrilled with her newfound fame, creates her own website to share her murderous deeds. The Killing Blog is born and Amy craves more blood, along with followers and likes. 

To hide any suspicion she transforms herself into a fashionable, charismatic, and manipulative teenage girl while she moonlights as the first serial killer of the Social Media Age. More kills leads to more fame until she's dangerously close to losing it all. She must fight to evade the law, keep her sanity, and stay alive. Okay, same problem again. This may just be a matter of taste and my own personal preferences, but a girl killing people for no other reason than to get social media likes and followers just does not feel like a character I want to spend a whole book with. Even describing her as a manipulative girl makes me think that there is nothing here that makes her seem like a character I can relate to. Think of a character like Katniss. She kills people brutally, but she has reason because she herself is hunted and in danger. Even if your book is about a character who kills for no good reason, you still need to humanize her in some way (ie: Dexter) so that your reader wants to stay on board with you.

THE KILLING BLOG is a young adult contemporary thriller, completed at 73,000 words. Thank you for your consideration.

Byron Sadik

Three weeks in a mental hospital, days of police interrogation, and tThe white carpet soaked in blood and flesh lingered on her mind as she headed to the bus stop. This sentence reads a bit jumbled - I had to read it a few times. I think it's because you start listing passage of times three weeks and then days of interrogation - then you switch to an image. It would make more sense to either follow the first two with something more like, "and weeks of packing boxes to move." Or (and I think this is the stronger choice) start with focusing on just that image of the white carpet per my cuts above. Dad's unexpected suicide forced Amy away from the run-down strip malls and apartments she lived for many years, and back to the cul-de-sacs and McMansions I don't think McMansions should be in caps of Rochester there are Rochester's in many different states, maybe be more specific? Walking through the winding sidewalks do you walk "through" sidewalks? and massive lawns, each driveway had a mandatory BMW-policy: every driveway had one parked just outside the garage. every driveway is repetitive after "each driveway" and this whole clause really just says the same thing that you already communicated more succinctly with "mandatory BMW-policy." As she wound through the big, airy, and monotonous homes of her new “neighborhood,” she found a group of kids around her age, backpacks slung on their shoulders. The two girls had blonde hair, though their eyebrows were as dark as Amy's black ones. So I think you spend maybe a little too much time on the optics of this neighborhood and Amy walking through it. It's a bit repetitive because you have Amy first "headed to the bus stop" then "walking through the winding sidewalks" and then later "wound through the big, airy, and monotonous homes." You really want to grab a reader with your first page and make every single word count. 

“Excuse me,” Amy said. Amy looked around and instantly felt out of place. Her pin-straight black hair, courtesy of her Indian father, didn't match with her golden-haired peers, natural or otherwise. Looking down at her own black pants, black boots, and black Nirvana shirt, she looked like a vagrant. She noticed one of the girls eying her up and down as though she knew her. Amy begged fate not to have to talk to her, but Amy knew what was coming.

“I like your hair,” the girl said. “You look like Alexa Arzniyan.”

Nothing made her blood boil worse than that. Amy hated Alexa Arzniyan. She hated that someone could go from a grainy sex video on Spankhub to an American icon. The best American icons committed suicide, as indicated by her Kurt Cobain shirt.

“I'm not Armenian,” Amy insisted. “I'm Indian.”

“Aren't you guys basically the same?”

Amy sighed. “Yeah, sure.”

“Do you speak Indian?”

Nobody speaks 'Indian', you dipshit. “I know a little Punjabi,” mostly swear words uttered from Dad's drunken lips.

“So are you, like, full Indian? You look pretty—”

“—White, I know.” Though her skin was pale, it had enough olive tone to remind herself that though she was white, she would never be white enough. Her hands dug deeper into her pockets and she turned away, but the girl didn't get the hint. By then it was too late. A tear dripped down her face like the blood from her father's gunshot wound. Suck it in, suck it in. Amy stiffened her lip, as she always did when he used to beat her. Years of abuse trained her to hold in her tears even as her ribs cracked within her. Okay, so the scene definitely picks up here with the dialogue - I would get to this sooner! And you do a nice job of humanizing Amy in this paragraph - it might be helpful to mention in your query that she was abused by her father.

Rochester High School was a barb-wire fence away from being a prison with its two main buildings joined by a walkway and surrounded by giant brick walls. Nice details - not overstated. Amy stepped off the bus, and took in the sight of her new classmates. They seemed wealthier, and, compared to the ethnic diversity of her old school, whiter. She followed her peers into the academic penitentiary. She roamed through the sterile, white walls. Amy hated white. It reminded her of places of despair: hospitals, police stations, and her father's apartment. She found her way to the correct classroom and opened the door. This paragraph may actually work better as your opening than what you have above.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

PitchWars Critique - EVIL IN THE WALLS

I LOVE being a mentor for PitchWars. BUT there is one bad part - having to choose just one manuscript to mentor when there are so many ones with so much potential. 

And so, wanting to give something back to those who chose Demitria Lunetta and myself as one of the mentor teams to submit to, we decided to offer first page and query cirtiques on our blogs. Demitria will be hosting critiques on her blog on Tuesdays, while mine will be here on Thursdays. Our decision to do this via our blogs, rather than a private email, is so that (hopefully!) everyone can learn a little bit from this feedback. 

And for anyone out there looking for personalized feedback, I also offer manuscript critique services which you can find more out about here 

Dear Mentor:

I’m currently seeking representation for my YA Horror novel, EVIL IN THE WALLS

After Annie’s grandmother dies, her family moves into her hotel during the summer in an attempt to save it. Due to a few murders that occurred in the past, the hotel has gotten a bad reputation over the years. This second sentence comes across as unintentionally funny, because to say that a hotel has a bad reputation after a few murders feels like a HUGE understatement. A bad reputation might happen after the discovery of cockroaches in the bathroom or a few cases of food poisoning, but murders seem like they would have a more chilling effect. I also think you could really just get a lot more atmosphere and details in here, since overall this query feels really thin and underwritten. Maybe something more like: Over a hundred years old, The Hotel Hampton (or whatever it's specifically named - specifics are always good) was once the best place to stay in Hampton Grove. However, after a series of bloody murder five years ago that left three women dead, only those truly desperate booked rooms.  Upon moving in, Annie and others begin to notice that strange things keep happening. Okay, again, we need more specifics here. What strange things are happening? Also a little atmosphere would be nice. Right now the big problem here is that this just doesn't feel original enough. What sets this story apart from other haunted house/hotel stories?

Annie and her new friend, Charlie, How does she meet this new friend? begin to unravel the mystery within her grandmother’s journal what is the specific mystery within her grandmother's journal? but as more of the guests and staff begin to die, MORE people are dying? How are earth do they have anyone staying or working there??? the evil inside the hotel becomes stronger. When Annie is forced to see what is real and what isn’t, she may have to sacrifice something dear to save her family. Again specifics. What does "what is real and what isn't" mean? What exactly is she seeing? And what exactly will she have to sacrifice?

EVIL IN THE WALLS is complete at 51,000 words and available, in part or full, upon request. 

Thank you for your time and consideration.




he tea cup was halfway to her lips when she first heard the noise. Her hand paused, slightly shaking. No. Not again. Aya Hara pressed her lips together tightly and waited. One second. Two. Five. Twenty. Everything was quiet. Swallowing, she moved the cup all the way to her lips, opening them to take a sip of the hot tea. She took a sip of the hot tea. She always liked to have a cup or two at night; it helped calm her.

There was the sound again. Low, but it resounded throughout the room. Something in between a groan and a howl. Her hand began to shake so badly that a stream of brown liquid began to dribble down the left side of the delicate china cup. Taking a deep breath, Aya tried to calm herself as she lowered the cup to its saucer on the table beside her chair.

Aya pressed her hands together. “That’s enough,” she said as loudly as she could. It wasn’t very loud. She was ninety-six years old, and her voice seemed to be getting quieter and quieter lately. Taking another deep breath, Aya reached for the ornately bound notebook that she’d been scribbling in since the death of her husband. Ten years of musings and she only had one last page left. She hoped that it would explain everything when she was gone.

There was no other solution that she could see. The hotel had to be destroyed. Over fifty years of hard work had to be demolished. Sadness filled Aya, but she knew it had to be done. If she didn’t destroy the hotel, it would destroy her and all that she loved. She couldn’t let that happen. So she pressed the tip of her pen to the paper, thinking of how to word an explanation in case she didn’t make it. Though she planned on surviving, she knew she shouldn’t take any chances. She was too old to be sure, and even if she’d been younger, there was no way to know for sure if she’d be safe even then. Why now? If things have been bad for a while and she is nearly a hundred years old why wait so long to make this decision?

This was her insurance plan in case things didn’t pan out. No one else was here; all of the help had been asked to go home over the weekend. All of the guests had checked out, the vacancy sign outside was dark, and no one was able to check in. It was just her and the evil that dwelled inside the walls. Her heart felt heavy. She had worked so hard and for so long on this place that it was like she was killing a piece of herself. She had to, though. If she didn’t, she knew deep in her heart that it would go after her family. The Grand Kansai had to go.

This first page has the same problem as your query - there are just not enough specifics. What is the evil inside the walls? You can leave a bit of mystery but you need to show us rather than just tell us how bad it is. Right now all we're shown are a few scary noises, which doesn't actually seem all that frightening. I am also not sure if this is the best place to start your story. As a YA novel starting with an elderly grandmother may not be the best way to grab your intended audience. Otherwise, the writing is good, although there are a few places where the wording is a little clunky or unnecessarily detailed (ie: cup to its saucer on the table beside her chair.)

Thursday, October 20, 2016

PitchWars Critique - Killers, Inc.

I LOVE being a mentor for PitchWars. BUT there is one bad part - having to choose just one manuscript to mentor when there are so many ones with so much potential. 

And so, wanting to give something back to those who chose Demitria Lunetta and myself as one of the mentor teams to submit to, we decided to offer first page and query cirtiques on our blogs. Demitria will be hosting critiques on her blog on Tuesdays, while mine will be here on Thursdays. Our decision to do this via our blogs, rather than a private email, is so that (hopefully!) everyone can learn a little bit from this feedback. 

And for anyone out there looking for personalized feedback, I also offer manuscript critique services which you can find more out about here 

Dear Agent,

So far, 1979 is a year seventeen-year-old Alia Nasiri would like to erase from her memory. Disowned by her parents, her life is unravelling. So when groovy, yet severely wounded stranger, Fabio Santos, offers Alia big bucks to drive him to hotspot Miami, she has no option but to accept. There’s only one problem: Miami’s the cash, cocaine and murder capital of America. Okay, the voice is really nice here... or should I say groovy. ;) I think, however, you could be more precise with your wording. For example does she have "no choice but to accept" or it is too tempting of an offer to turn down? Also you don't quite explain why Miami being the cash, cocaine, and murder capital of America is a problem for Alia. 

Though with its allure and glamor, glamour accompanied by her growing feelings for Fabio, Miami seduces Alia into staying longer than she expects. But Fabio isn’t being entirely honest about himself. He keeps dozens of different identities tucked in his wallet and has a clear link to the gun-toting Columbian hit men who dominate the cocaine rush raking the city. They’re called cocaine cowboys. 

And Fabio is one of them. 

After a night gone horribly wrong at a disco more specifics here about what specifically goes wrong, Alia is hurled into Fabio’s world, with six days to make up for a hit she accidentally ruins.There are only two ways out of it - catch and kill the targets herself, or end up another unmourned body on the streets. Until then, Alia’s on Fabio’s list his list for what? I don't understand this—whether he wants her there or not.

Trouble is, Alia’s no murderer. But the longer she stays in Miami, the quicker killing doesn’t look so bad anymore. But then again, neither does dying. This just repeats the same problem you state above - that she needs to kill or be killed. Is there something else - something bigger at stake here?

Complete at 83,000 words, KILLERSINC. is a historical fiction with a cross between Pretty Woman and Scarface. If this is a young adult novel (which you should specifically state) then you need at least one of these comps to be a young adult novel, especially because both of those movies are very adult movies. Thank you for your time and consideration.

July 28, 1979

    I’m a thief. 
            Everything I’m dressed in right now…all stolen. This nurse’s uniform. The matching apron and cap. The white stockings. The stethoscope hanging around my neck. Stolen.
            Oh, and the car I’m driving?
            That’s stolen too. 
            Quick. I punch the car’s radio buttons and switch the station. I’m sick of rock and roll. Of Janice Joplin and Led Zeppelin and Kiss. Adam used to love that crap, jamming in his dank basement with his head bobbing and a joint dangling from his lip. But he’s done with me, and I guess I’m done with Detroit. So yes, rock ’n’ roll can go to hell, and Adam along with it.
            After settling on an Earth, Wind & Fire disco tune, I look out the rearview mirror and scan the road for cops. It’s been forty minutes since the start of this heist and already my heart is clambering out of my chest, jolting every time a car inches too close like they’re trying to get a good read on my license plate.
           Look, there’s one now. My heart starts beating wildly like it’s trying to steal out of my ribcage. above you mention her heart clambering out of her chest - it's a bit repetitive Then I realize that it’s just a taxicab. Relax Alia, calm down. But I suppose that happens when you use chloroform to knock out a nurse and steal her junk: you get a little paranoid. A little on-edge. Maybe explain why she would decide to do this?
          I wipe the sweat from my brow.
         A fly lands on the steering wheel between twelve and one o’clock, rubbing its tiny hands together like it’s coming up with some devilish plan—probably one more sophisticated than mine. It’s been staked here since before I pinched the car and I can’t seem to guide the little shit out the window. I try to wave it away, to wave it over to the other seat, but that’s when my gaze lowers and I spot something I really didn’t want to see.
         The gas gauge shows the tank is near-empty. 
The voice here is really nice and I can feel the character's desperation. I'd like a bit more information about why she's in this desperate situation and also more of a sense that this is a teenager.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

PitchWars Critique - Heart of A Brave

I LOVE being a mentor for PitchWars. BUT there is one bad part - having to choose just one manuscript to mentor when there are so many ones with so much potential. 

And so, wanting to give something back to those who chose Demitria Lunetta and myself as one of the mentor teams to submit to, we decided to offer first page and query cirtiques on our blogs. Demitria will be hosting critiques on her blog on Tuesdays, while mine will be here on Thursdays. Our decision to do this via our blogs, rather than a private email, is so that (hopefully!) everyone can learn a little bit from this feedback. 

And for anyone out there looking for personalized feedback, I also offer manuscript critique services which you can find more out about here 

Dear Agent,

In 1928, seventeen-year-old Amelie Lecuyer thinks a clandestine romance with her womanizing, alcoholic boyfriend, Jonathan, is her biggest worry. It isn’t until her Native American ancestry comes to light, inciting her brother’s murder, that she discovers her family lineage is a far more dangerous secret. This is a great start and gives us the basic info about Amelie and what her main problem within the story will be. The only thing that gave me pause was the first sentence - I wonder why Amelie is involved with a womanizing alcoholic boyfriend and why she cares to continue her clandestine romance.

Turning to her mother’s long-forgotten tribe for help, Amelie learns that their ancient adversary, Tsinoo—soulless humans, immune to both love and pain, who feed on the hearts of others to extend their survival—have returned. Oh, so this has a paranormal angle and the book seems to be more about this. Hmm, in that case, I would maybe skip that whole first sentence above about the boyfriend and just go straight to brother's murder uncovering her family lineage. 

Pressured by her tribe into training as a Brave—a chosen warrior—to help destroy them, she is thrust into a violent world of fear and death. Why would her tribe want her to do this? Is there something special they believe she can contribute? Can she find the courage to detach herself from Jonathan and the carefree life he provides? But the life you described with Jonathan sounds anything but carefree. Or will the onus of killing Tsinoo lead her to reject this frightening legacy? Under all her doubt and fear, does she have the heart of a Brave? Great final sentence!

Heart of a Brave is a stand-alone Young Adult Historical Horror novel (with a lovely smack of romance). It is complete at 74,000 words and has series potential.

A bio paragraph would be nice here - especially since you are two authors writing together - might be nice to know a bit about you both.

Thank you for your consideration!

Warm Regards,
Laura Poston and Erin Locati

June 1, 1928
Chapter 1

"Jump, Amelie!"
I peer over the twenty-foot drop-off into the Winooski River and can't help but break into a smile. The fifty-four new graduates of Saint Monica's Catholic Academy are swimming in nothing more than their underclothes. They look like a rookery of white seals splashing in the sea.
I cup my hand around my mouth and yell, "I'm not a senior!" The water looks cold.
"You're close enough!" shouts my best friend Lydia. She shakes her short blonde hair, sending a shower of water over her twin brother. He picks her up and throws her in retaliation, making her scream with delight.
Dozens of spectators line the old red brick bridge; most of them are junior classmates like me. Ten minutes ago the last bell of the day rang, signaling the end of prep school for a quarter of the student body. To carry on the long-standing Saint Monica tradition, the enraptured seniors had raced down the back lawn of the school to fulfill their unofficial, yet obligatory farewell bridge jump. 
I step back from the edge and undo the buttons on the front of my navy blue school dress. I slip it off and hang it over the parapet of the bridge as everyone else has done. The wall is littered from end to end with the navy and white uniforms of Vermont's finest school.
I kick off my shoes and climb atop the middle of the bridge's low barrier wall. The deep river flows gently below me and for a dizzying second I feel like I could fly into the cloudless sky. The sun is hot my skin as a breeze blows up, fluttering my pale pink chemise.
Jonathan begins chanting my name and others quickly join in. "A-me-lie! A-me-lie! A-me-lie!"
Butterflies dance in my stomach as I take a big breath and leap into the air.  This is a great first page! This is such a vivid and fun opening scene that immediately draws me in. I really have nothing to critique except that a part of me wonders how historically realistic it is that girls and boys together in 1928 would be swimming in their underthings together and no one would be scandalized by it.