How to get writing help – and maybe an agent while you’re at it! With Brenda Drake

Hey guys!

I met the lovely Brenda Drake YEARS ago while working on the first page of a book that I was polishing for submission. At the time, she was running an online group through her site where people gave feedback to each others first pages. It was great!

Now Brenda is hosting something new, and this looks like an awesome opportunity for those interested in honing their craft.

So here’s Brenda to tall us all about PITCH WARS


Online contests can be a great way to display your work and to meet other writers. The first Pitch Wars contest was in 2012. After running several contests in the past, I discovered something disappointing. Agents who had made requests on entries in my contests would find while reading their requests that the writing and/or plot would fall apart after the first few chapters. Then one fated day, I was watching Cupcake Wars, a competition between bakers to make the best cupcakes. Each baker had an assistant to help them create beautiful and tasty cupcakes for judges. So I thought that’s what we need. We need mentors to help writers who are almost there, but keep getting rejections, to help them work out what is failing in their manuscripts. And that’s how the idea for Pitch Wars came about.

What is Pitch Wars?

It’s a contest where published/agented authors, editors, or industry interns choose one writer each, read their entire manuscript, and guide the writer in revising it for our agent showcase. The mentors also help with their mentee’s pitch. Writers send applications (query and first chapter of manuscript) to the four mentors that best fit their work. The mentors then read all their applications and choose the writer they want to mentor for the next two months. Mentors point out the weaknesses in their mentee’s manuscript and help him or her fix those issues. In publishing, authors must meet tough deadlines all the time. The rigorous two months of revision teaches our mentees how to work on a deadline.

Then we hold an agent showcase with over fifty of the top agents in the industry making requests. We’ve had so many successes in the contests with writers finding agents and book deals. Since its debut year, Pitch Wars has garnered over two hundred successes. The 2016 contest ended three months ago and we’re already at twenty-nine successes.

One of the best parts of the contest is the community it builds. Writers hang out mostly on the Twitter hashtag, #PitchWars, and in Facebook groups. There are many amazing and giving people in our online community of writers surrounding the contests. Many have met long lasting critique partners through participating in them.

17669243I’ve met my critique partners in the community. They were there in the first drafts of Thief of Lies and all my other manuscripts. The community has cheered me on when I got my agent, when I got my book deal, and when I had to make difficult decisions, they supported me. This community is welcoming, they show empathy for others, and they support each other. With all that said, the contest isn’t for everyone and some haven’t had as great an experience as most, but we can’t please everyone. I’m truly blessed to have this opportunity.

If you’re a writer seeking an agent, I hope you’ll join us for Pitch Wars 2017 coming this August.


About Brenda Drake

Brenda Drake, the youngest of three children, grew up an Air Force brat and the continual new kid at school. Her fondest memories growing up is of her eccentric, Irish grandmother’s animated tales, which gave her a strong love for storytelling. So it was only fitting that she would choose to write stories with a bend toward the fantastical. When Brenda’s not writing or doing the social media thing, she’s haunting libraries, bookstores, and coffee shops or reading someplace quiet and not at all exotic (much to her disappointment).

http://www.brenda-drake.com/


 

About Guardian of Secrets

Being a Sentinel isn’t all fairytales and secret gardens.

Sure, jumping through books into the world’s most beautiful libraries to protect humans from mystical creatures is awesome. 29939285No one knows that better than Gia Kearns, but she could do without the part where people are always trying to kill her. Oh, and the fact that Pop and her had to move away from her friends and life as she knew it.

And if that isn’t enough, her boyfriend, Arik, is acting strangely. Like, maybe she should be calling him “ex,” since he’s so into another girl. But she doesn’t have time to be mad or even jealous, because someone has to save the world from the upcoming apocalypse, and it looks like that’s going to be Gia.

Maybe. If she survives.

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Hold on to EVERY LAST BREATH – A review of Jennifer L. Armentrout’s ELB

Every Last Breath by Jennifer L. Armentrout (Audiobook)

This is the third book in a series. It was almost everything I wanted it to be, and it’s probably the best book out of the three. There is a love triangle in this series, and the author put a vote out to fans for them to choose which guy got the girl in 17455817the end. I knew this before I read it, and I had a pretty good idea who everyone picked. Problem is, that was the wrong guy for me. I had to read, with my own heartbreak, as the guy I would have chosen had his heart broken for no reason whatsoever. He did nothing wrong. In fact, he did everything right, where the guy who got chosen did everything wrong. I hated that.

But that aside, I have to admit that seeing the “wrong guy” develop for that point was a treat, and by the end, I did like him a whole lot more.

There are a lot of interesting spins in this book, and it definitely kept my attention. I listened on audiobook, and I was a little surprised that when I hit the climax of the book, there was still an hour and a half of listening left. At first I thought maybe there was a double climax. Instead, there was a very long, slow wind-down to the end.

Now, in general, I HATE long wind downs… but this one kept my interest until the very last page. I think it was necessary, because two characters are left broken… one because her boyfriend dies, and the other because he was dumped for an A-hole. (Yeah, still miffed about that) The long wind-down closed out all the open issues in all three books, and it really worked well. While none of these books will be in contention for best reads ever, I did really enjoy them.

 


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Interview with Jennifer M. Eaton

This gallery contains 4 photos.

Originally posted on Bookish Mom Abroad:
It’s been a very exciting past couple of months! My heart is overjoyed for so many of my author friends who are celebrating the release of their new books. I’ve gotten to know Jennifer…

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An authors dream… Living in a bookish world with Shaila Patel

If I had a choice to live in a book world, it would have to be at Hogwarts from the Harry Potter series. How could anyone not want to visit the Room of Requirement!? Even without it, having access to Hogwarts’ library (including the restricted section!) would have won me over. I could also spend hours in the Gryffindor Common Room, sitting in some comfy chair in front of a roaring fire, with my laptop, and a head full of story ideas. (The ghosts would be a plus!)

dragonHarry Potter’s world has been a great teaching example for me as an author. Two of the main reasons the series did so well was because of author JK Rowling’s wonderful world building and her portrayal of such loveable characters. They’re aspects I try to perfect in my own writing.

She created a fantastical setting filled with small details and descriptions that paint a gorgeous picture in our minds. Will we ever climb a stone staircase and not think of the shifting staircases of Hogwarts? Can you ever walk past an old portrait of some guy with white fuzzy hair and not imagine it moving? Using these examples as inspiration, I look for details to add to my own writing and hope for a bit of that same magic!

And though her characters are underdogs, their quiet bravery always shines through, doesn’t it? Insecurities and doubts plague them just like they do us, but it makes them instantly relatable and easy to root for. Using that as my template, I try to balance my own characters’ vulnerabilities with their strengths and hope I make them even half as likeable as JK Rowling’s unforgettable cast.

If I ever find something lacking in one of my scenes, all I have to do is whip out one of her books and lose myself in several chapters. Harry Potter is always the perfect inspiration!


ABOUT SOULMATED:

Two souls. One fate.

Eighteen-year-old Liam Whelan is a prince of an Irish empath family. All signs have pointed to Liam being the one who can bring his family into prominence by expanding his power. All he needs is his soul mate. Though no one is sure what Liam will become once soulmated, Liam’s father has dragged the family all around the world, following vague psychic visions. They settle in a small North Carolina town and focus on the most promising target, but Liam, tired of disappointment and weary of his father’s obsession, finds understanding in the captivating eyes of the girl next door.

Indian American Laxshmi Kapadia lives under her very traditional and overprotective mom’s thumb. As she finishes her junior year of high school, Lucky’s mom issues an ultimatum: go to college as a pre-med student and become a doctor, or have her marriage arranged. Freedom was never so tempting when the gorgeous and charming Irish boy moves into her neighborhood.

As drawn to her as Liam is, could Lucky be The One? And if she’s not, will he be able to give her up? When a dark and ancient group seeks to interfere, Liam knows he has to protect Lucky at all costs, but when it comes to fate, sometimes choosing your own isn’t always easy.

Get your copy here!

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About Shaila Patel

As an unabashed lover of all things happily ever after, Shaila Patel is a member of the Romance Writers of America, and her debut novel SOULMATED won first place in the Young Adult category of the 2015 Chanticleer Book Reviews Paranormal Awards. She’s a pharmacist by training, a medical office manager by day, and a writer by night. She enjoys traveling, craft beer, tea, and loves reading books—especially in cozy window seats. She loves to connect with readers. You can find her online at:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | Goodreads

 

This is the strangest book I’ve ever read. A review of Grasshopper Jungle.

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith (Ebook) [Language warning] This was a really really really really strange book. And yes, I did intentionally repeat the word really… because this book was really really really strange.

This was the pick for my book club this month, and I started scratching my head in the first few pages, then I went back and looked at the burb to find out what this book was about. In the beginning, this is a coming of age story about a teenage boy struggling with his sexuality. He is an obnoxious, foul mouthed, chain smoker with no redeeming qualities that I could see. For the first quarter or more of the book, we have to listen to this really unlikable kid and his problems. Then, out of the blue, the sci-fi elements pop in. I have to admit that things got better from here. These two unlikely heroes try to take on the apocalypse caused by a man-made virus. (That turns people into giant man-eating bugs) The style of the writing might be genius. We are basically reading the main character’s journal chronicling all that is going on. However, we don’t get deep into any scene, and I found myself not really caring about the characters. But I kept with it, because you know, book club and all. I hoped for that payoff in the end, but the book never takes us there. Nothing gets resolved, not the end of the world, and not even the personal plotlines. Overall, this was a very unsatisfying read for me. I’d give it three stars because the author gave us a really well thought out story. The execution, however, and no satisfying ending, were a downer for me. Warning – Don’t pick up this book if you are sensitive to really foul mouthed kids.


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It’s Release Day for Embers in the Sea! Dork Dancing Allowed for Everyone!

embers-coverYou guys! The day is finally here! EMBERS IN THE SEA, Book 3 of my FIRE IN THE WOODS series is finally out loose in the world.

And early reviews give it 4.75 stars!

embers-4-75-stars

Wahoooo!

To be honest, a few years ago I never dreamed there would be more than one book let alone three, and I’m thrilled to pieces you guys have embraced my little alien action adventure with such gusto.

 Saving the world is tough work, but don’t worry, Jess and David are up to the challenge at least one more time!


This is going to be a short note, because so much is going on right now that I can hardly keep up, but I’ll paste the blurb below if you want to check it out.


Just in case you’re new here, the first five chapters of FIRE IN THE WOODS are available to read free on Wattpad. Click here to start your race through the woods!


Book One is on sale today if you want to check it out!

Here’s the blurb and a puuurrrtttyyyy picture of EMBERS on my eReader. (Insert crazy author giggle of glee here)

embers-reveal2Alien scientist David has dealt with disappointment his entire life, but failing to breathe life into the planet Mars is his greatest regret. Out of options and in need of a new home for their people, the alien Caretakers rekindle their plan to inhabit Earth. First they will have to eliminate the human race, including Jess, the only human David holds dear.
Humanity has one final chance at survival. David needs to emulate Earth’s precipitation on Mars. But the catalyst to make it rain lies in the fathomless depths of Earth’s ocean.
The clock is ticking down to humanity’s last hours as Jess and David face a world more alien than either of them can imagine. The sea hides secrets, but some secrets don’t want to be found.

And there you have it! I really hope you love this one, guys, and thanks again for all your support!

Alien Kisses! —Jennifer


embers-coverAlien scientist David has dealt with disappointment his entire life, but failing to breathe life into the planet Mars is his greatest regret. Out of options and in need of a new home for their people, the alien Caretakers rekindle their plan to inhabit Earth. First they will have to eliminate the human race, including Jess, the only human David holds dear.

Humanity has one final chance at survival. David needs to emulate Earth’s precipitation on Mars. But the catalyst to make it rain lies in the fathomless depths of Earth’s ocean.

The clock is ticking down to humanity’s last hours as Jess and David face a world more alien than either of them can imagine. The sea hides secrets, but some secrets don’t want to be found. Embers in the Sea is part one of the heart-stopping finale to Jennifer M. Eaton’s Fire in the Woods series.


Available wherever books are sold

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Ponder. List. Outline. Type. The YA Gal’s Guide to Plotting.

Are you a Plotter or a Pantser? Writers love to bandy around that question in online chatrooms and Facebook forums. Do you plot out your novel to the very last scene before you start writing, or do you let the Muse guide your pen, and write by the seat of your pants?

I’ve found that neither strategy works well for me. I’ve tried plotting intricate outlines and lost inspiration fast. When I sat down at my computer and just “went for it” I ended up with story arcs that fizzled out.

Over the course of many years and two published novels, I’ve created my own method of plotting that fits my needs. It’s an easy structure to remember because PLOT says it all: Ponder. List. Outline. Type.


Ponder

PKO_0005504The Ponder step is the most important. The publishing industry is so competitive, that unless a concept is perfect a book is doomed. I spend several months, and sometimes years, formulating the right idea. I let the story germinate in my mind while I drive around town running errands, or struggle to fall asleep at night. During the Ponder step, I determine what my logline hook will be. With GENESIS GIRL it was “An Internet innocent gets sold to the highest bidder.” For DAMAGED GOODS it was “Scarred by a childhood spent in captivity, Blanca struggles to recognize friend from foe.” The hook is the one sentence description that describes the whole novel.


List

unending-list-aBefore I start writing a book, I list out my main characters. One of the hardest things about writing a book is making characters seem alive. If Good Morning America interviewed the people in a novel, the author should know exactly how the characters would respond. But getting to that level of intimacy is difficult. One trick I use to help flesh out my characters is a graphic organizer I call my Character_Map. I print out a page for each major person in my book and fill it out in detail. These lists of descriptions, quirks, backgrounds and secret desires give me a strong cast of characters to utilize.


Outline

Every writer has a different level of comfort when it comes to outlining, but even a simple outline can help keep a manuscript on track. Jotting down the main plot points ahead of time gives a story structure and helps define story arcs. If I’ve done the Pondering step properly then I already have a one sentence description of my book before I start writing an outline. Taking time to formulate a beginning, middle, and end saves me time in the long run.


Type

For a writer, following the Muse is essential. That’s why when I finally sit down to type my story, I sometimes change course while composing my first draft. Story arcs change. quick-typing-aCharacters are eliminated. Often I don’t nail down a person’s name until I’ve written hundreds of pages. Typing out the first draft is the hardest part for me. But the effort I spend in the Pondering, Listing, and Outlining steps, makes the Typing step easier. Once I’ve written my first draft, it’s time to celebrate—and let my manuscript sit for a couple of months before I start revising. For me, revising has its own separate process, but unfortunately, I haven’t come up with a cute acronym yet!


Jennifer Bardsley writes the column “I Brake for Moms” for The Everett Daily Herald. her novel GENESIS GIRL debuted in 2016 from Month9Books. GENESIS GIRL and its sequel, DAMAGED GOODS, Jennifer Bardsleyare about a teenager who has never been on the Internet. Jennifer however, is on the web all the time as “The YA Gal” on Facebook, the @the_ya_gal Instagram, and @JennBardsley on Twitter. Jennifer is a member of SCBWI, The Sweet Sixteens debut author group, and is the founder of Sixteen To Read. An alumna of Stanford University, Jennifer lives in Edmonds, WA with her family and a poodle named Merlin.


Genesis Girl (Blank Slate, #1)About the Blank Slate Series

Eighteen-year-old Blanca has lived a sheltered life. Her entire childhood has been spent at Tabula Rasa School where she’s been protected from the Internet.

Blanca has never been online and doesn’t even know how to text. Her lack of a virtual footprint makes her extremely valuable, and upon graduation, Blanca and those like her are sold to the highest bidders.

31950044Blanca is purchased by Cal McNeal, who uses her to achieve personal gain. But the McNeals are soon horrified by just how obedient and non-defiant Blanca is.

All those mind-numbing years locked away from society have made her mind almost impenetrable.

By the time Blanca is ready to think for herself, she is trapped. Her only chance of escape is to go online.

Damaged Goods: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | TBD

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I’m totally OUT OF CONTROL! No, Really. I am. (A Review)

Out of Control by Suzanne Brockmann (Audiobook) [Adult Content Warning] This is my second Suzanne Brockmann book, and I now think she 6635813may be in contention for my favorite author’s list. The first book I read by her was “Over the Edge” and I loved it. I grabbed another book to see if she’d be able to suck me in again, and in this book, she sucked me in even faster. What I enjoy about this author’s writing is she pulls in the characters that have small rolls in the story, and brings them to life, so when the random person ends up in the sites of a terrorist, and our hero decides to save them, you have stakes in both the victim and the hero. I really love that. This book uses the same characters as the previous book I read, this time concentrating on a different Navy Seal as he is trapped in the jungle with a pretty attorney with two different drug rings chasing after him. Great action, great adventure and an all around great read. As soon as I am done here, I am adding the rest of the 18 books in this series to my TBR. The challenge for me will be to NOT read them back to back, because I already have about 50 other books to read sitting on my shelf.


 

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Please don’t come and arrest me because of by browser history! @DanaProvo

When writing a book, one of the most important aspects is research.

PKO_0007533Authors are not only wordsmiths, they are also doctors, lawyers, teachers, and whatever else their characters dream of being. Authors need to research as much as they can about what they are writing. Sometimes a character will change their path and start walking toward an unknown area of expertise and it’s the author’s job to make sure all PKO_0005301the facts are correct. I tend to write realistic fiction for young adults and adults so when I come across a subject I’m not familiar with, I put on my researcher hat!

Writing the first draft of Bleeding Hearts came easily for me. But when it came to editing, there were some parts in the book I had to stop and do extensive research for.

What did my internet browser look like? Here’s a list of searches I did:


  1. Serial Killers
  2. Gun safety
  3. Can a gun go off if it is dropped?
  4. Gun Laws in Virginia
  5. Police procedures for a murder
  6. How to get out of a choke hold
  7. Can a woman overpower a man?
  8. Tendencies of a stalker
  9. How far down can you fall without dying?
  10. Wine tasting for beginners

 

Fight PKO_0013559

Those are only ten things I looked up when I started editing Bleeding Hearts.

I even got my husband to demonstrate how a woman could easily overpower a man in a crisis or get out of a choke hold.

Yes, that was an interesting conversation, but he helped me.

The next time you want to start a realistic book, make sure you set aside some much needed research to make your book as accurate as you can.


Find out more about my book and even read an excerpt. Bleeding Hearts is a new adult, romantic suspense novel.

 

Orphaned at an early age, now twenty-four-year-old Camryn Lucks is ready to commit to find that special someone, and so accepts a date from a charming, gallant, handsome stranger. The last thing she imagines after accepting that first date with Carson would actually be the beginning of her worst nightmare.

31390356Red roses, a reminder of her parents’ killer, soon become an emblem of horror for Cami as one by one, those closest to her fall victim to a serial killer. Cami becomes an obsession for Carson, the man she had finally allowed herself to love. Not only is he vying for her heart, but also her life.

Finding herself in a whirlwind of torments shadowed by the blood-colored bloom, Cami finds solace in Isaac, a neighboring police officer. She’s desperate to escape the haunting memories, but she must revisit them in order to catch her would-be killer. Living life in constant fear has driven Cami to second-guess every choice she makes. Will the police catch the illusive murderer, or will Cami be forced to face him once again?

You can Purchase Bleeding Hearts here!


Here is a short excerpt of the first chapter:

31390356My arm trembles as I grip the cool handle of my pistol, keeping a firm grasp to ensure it doesn’t slip out of my sweaty hand. It usually stands sentry in my left nightstand to scare the nightmares away. But this isn’t a dream. The room is dark and hides the face of the man whose intent is to kill me. But I know who he is. A metallic taste fills my mouth; I want to gag. My blood drips off the blade in his hand in slow, steady beats on the carpet. My arms shake as I lift the barrel and point it in his direction. He doesn’t move. His heavy breaths alert me to the meager distance between us.

We’re at a stalemate.

A soft glow from the lamppost just outside my window casts a sliver of light on his face. His dark, beady eyes that I have grown to know rake over my body like I’m another one of his many victims. He lifts the edges of his mouth into a smile. My heart plunges into my stomach. I know what that sinister expression means, and I think back to all the times he had looked at me like that before. I had been so blind.

31390356Before I react he lunges at me, grabbing onto my waist and twisting me to the ground. I shriek as my head slams against the bed frame. Black spots flood my vision. I squeeze my hand only to find it empty. My gun is gone. The sound of the knife clattering on the floor gives me slight hope. Not much though. He climbs up my body trying to pin my arms to the floor. I thrash my fists around, desperate to knock him off.

“Get off!” I scream, pulling on his shirt and kicking him off balance. Wrapping his hands around my arms, my attacker cuts off the circulation of blood. Rug burns flare across my skin as he drags me across the carpet. He closes his hands around my neck, shutting off my air supply. I pull at his hands but it’s no use; he has always been stronger than me. My pulse drums a frantic beat in my ears. The air slowly leaks out from my lungs, killing any hope I may have left. I search for the gun around the room; it may be my only savior now.

“Why are you doing this?” I struggle to get the words out. He squints his dark eyes. I’m wondering if there might be a chance that he will stop this madness. I am wrong.

“It’ll be over soon, sweetheart.” His hands again tighten around my neck, blocking the air from entering my lungs.


danaauthor

Dana Provo has always loved books and reads everything from young adult fantasy to adult historical romances. When she’s not reading or writing her next novel, Dana can be found riding her horses and getting ready for competition. Dana lives with her husband and two house plants in Richmond, Virginia.

Social Media Links:

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You can Purchase Bleeding Hearts here!


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Ashes and Fire2You can find Fire in the Woods and Ashes in the Sky at all these awesome bookish places!

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Sometimes you just need to get a little WICKED but only if you are an adult, please

Wicked by Jennifer L. Armentrout (Audiobook) [Adult Content Warning] I am a big Jennifer L. Armentrout fan, so WICKED has been on my TBR for a while. I know I like her style when she writes under the JLA pen name, 22895264so I didn’t even bother to look at the blurb. Wicked has all that I love about a JLA novel, but it also has a lot that I didn’t love. Jennifer L. Armentrout also writes under the pen name J. Lynn. I read a J. Lynn novel once and quickly realized why she wrote it under another name. (I will not pick up another J. Lynn novel again) Wicked, while not being quite as graphic as the J.Lynn novel, was pretty close to it. The blurb does state that the character is 22, and it does allude to a heat factor, but the sex scenes are not glossed over in any way shape or form as it is in other JLA novels. As a fan of her work, I just wish I was warned in the blurb. I understand writing in different genres, but if you are a YA author, I really think there should be at least a warning so you know what you are getting in to. Okay – rant over. I did, believe it or not, enjoy this book. The hero is not the most likable. He is a playboy who wanted to get in the heroine’s pants the moment he saw her. Not my type of guy, but okay, I went with it. I did enjoy the heroine, and I loved her sidekick, Tink the Brownie. This was an exceptional character.

At its roots, this is an interesting paranormal story– something like Shadow Hunters set in New Orleans. If you enjoyed Shadow Hunters, you’d probably love this. Just be ready for a foul-mouthed hero, and some pretty graphic intimate scenes. And a very predictable twist at the end, but when it comes right down to it, JLA writes so well that sometimes it is fun to read despite knowing what is going to happen.


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