Monday, 30 December 2013

Vlog Series - Episode Six - Offers

Though it's late in coming, I thought I better squeeze in the last Vlog episode of the series before the year's end.  Then, in 2014, we can start afresh and dig deeper into this writing world of ours.

If you haven't checked out the previous episodes in the Vlog series about How To Attract The Right Agent, you can find them here:

Episode One - Finding The Agent For You

Episode Two - How To Craft An Attention Grabbing Query

Episode Three - Partial And Full Requests

Episode Four - Rejections

Episode Five - Revise and Resubmit

Here's our final episode - Episode Six - Offers.


Friday, 27 December 2013




**  The badge above is attached to a link...or a link is attached to the badge...regardless, go click it.  No really, go click.  It leads somewhere very good indeed!

Okay, onto the good stuff...

I'm delighted to join in the blog tour for Isobel Irons, author of WAKE FOR ME, a new adult book dealing with the issues of love, connection and how people can overcome the most trying circumstances.


As you might have already guessed, Isobel Irons is a pen name.

In real life, I am (among many things) an indie film director and TV producer with a deep–some might even say obsessive–appreciation for onscreen storytelling and a lifelong book habit that I just can’t seem to kick.

In film, there’s nothing I like better than a JJ Abrams “show, not tell” character reveal, or a Joss Whedon banter session. Or an Erik Kripke-level “bromance.” And of course, I’m a die-hard fan of the will they / won’t they trope, where the fans start shipping two characters agonizingly long before they share their first kiss. Or in Hart Hanson’s case, like three frigging years before. (That’s right, Hart. I’m talking to you, you incorrigible tease.)

In my novels, I use my visual storytelling skills to show the reader an entire menagerie of hidden worlds. When it comes to imagination, there is no production value and no budget. But if there was, I would spend it all and then some. To me, my characters are real people, who just happen to live in my mind. Before I write, I scout locations to set the scene, I hold exhaustive casting sessions to find the perfect quirks that will ignite the maximum amount of conflict. Then, I throw in some tricky, but believable situations that allow my characters to expose themselves–sometimes in a figurative, emotional sense, other times quite literally. Rawr.

Finally, I sit back and let the story unfold. If it sucks, I cut it. I tell my characters–sternly, but calmly–to reset and do it again, but this time give me MORE. Show me MORE. Make me laugh or cry or want to hit something MORE. And then, when I realize I’ve read through the entire thing in one sitting and–Holy shit, is it really that late, and Oh my God I am SO hungry! Have I even eaten today? That’s when I know it’s ready to be unleashed into the world.

Vivid characters. Vibrant settings. Relatable problems. Together, these elements combine to form the Ultimate Literary Crack. Or, as I like to call it, “Promoting Literacy through Shameless Addiction.”

Join me in Shameless Lit & Film Addiction here:

I had the pleasure of interviewing Isobel. We did a "Why" interview, where each question had to be formed in the manner of a "why?".

Why did I do this?  Because I'm nosy.  No, wait, that's not right.  Because I want to know why Isobel writes kick ass books.  That's why. look down...


1)  Why did you become a writer?

Most kids want to grow up and be something awesome. Astronauts, secret agents, paleontologists... I, on the other hand, wanted to be a criminal psychologist. Why, you ask? Because that's what Nicole Kidman was on Batman Forever. In college, I had the most difficult time choosing a major, flitting between such emphases as film, journalism, photography, dance, and vocal performance before finally my university contacted me and told me it was time to get out. So I did what any undergraduate with a deep fear of leaving the insulated world of a college campus (and repaying the equivalent of a small nation's GDP in student loans) would do: I applied to law school. Fortunately, I discovered writing before I went the way of Elle Woods in Legally Blonde. Because I guarantee you that would not have ended well, for me or the law school professors who might have been forced to read my alarming treatises on criminal empathy, using examples of super villains from my favorite comic books. In short (too late, sorry): for me, the best thing about being a writer and filmmaker is, I can be all of those things I wanted to be as a kid, as a teenager, as an adult...but vicariously. And without the burden of excessive debt.

2)  Why do you write in the NA genre?

I'm glad you asked this, because I think with each passing day the category is becoming more and more pigeon-holed, and I personally think that is a total bummer. For me, NA is like the Wild West circa the early 1900's. Whereas all the other existing categories seem to have all these rules of "should" and "should not," NA is still being defined. As someone who has been a die-hard rule breaker since the day I took my first step, I love the thought of being one of the lucky few to jump in and really make a dent. You know? Like carving your name into freshly poured cement. "Isobel Irons was here. And she was a total badass."

3)  Why do you think romantic suspense is a genre that's still going strong after such a long time?

I will answer your question with a question: Why do they keep making action movies starring Bruce Willis? Some things will just always be awesome, no matter how long they're around. For me, there's something about watching relationships bloom even under the most dire's like turning up the volume on everything--emotions, humor, fear, sexual tension. It's delicious! That's why, when people ask me to describe romantic suspense, I just shrug and say, "Accidentally falling in love while someone or something is trying to kill you." It's the consummate embodiment of "serendipity." (Which, if you didn't read the "What" interview yet on Dannie Morin's site, means finding something amazing while you're busy looking for something else.) Or, in the words of John Lennon, "Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans."

4)  Why did you choose to write about a character who is trapped in her own body?

I've always been fascinated by dreams, and if given the choice between sleeping and doing almost anything else, I'll choose sleep. So the thought of writing a character who is trapped in a constant dream state, (*spoiler alert* that's only for part of the book) intrigued me on a number of levels. Then, when I started researching dream symbolism and finding out about all the crazy things our brain is trying to tell us while we're dreaming, I realized that there was so much more to it than just being able to write these really trippy scenes. And, of course, there's that whole "forbidden romance" angle, since obviously Viola and Sam can't really be together when she's unconscious.

5)  Why did you contrast this with Sam, an intern whose life is filled to the brim with so much activity and drama that his situation is the polar opposite of Viola's?

 I think you kind of hit that nail on the head with the question. Tension, suspense,'s all about the contrast. However, I think you'll be surprised to find that in the beginning, their roles are actually reversed. I don't want to give too much away, but one of the predominant comments from my beta readers was that they loved how Sam seemed to be the one who was "asleep" in a lot of ways, until Viola came into his life. I do want to make sure that people understand this, though: even when she's in a coma, Viola's life is FAR from boring. This isn't your typical coma love story, guys.

6)  Why do you think readers will fall in love with Sam and Viola's story?

I think (I mean, I hope) that readers will appreciate the fact that WAKE FOR ME is weighted on a number of psychological and emotional levels. If you want to read it purely for its entertainment value, you can. If you're like me, and you're the kind of person who tries to discover all these hidden connections and double-meanings in everything you read, well...let's just say that you'll have plenty to keep you busy. Also, I really wanted WAKE FOR ME to be the kind of story you could go back and read again, months or even years later, and pick up something new each time. Whether it's a joke or a comment you didn't get, or a part of a dream that suddenly makes a whole new kind of sense--something you wouldn't have noticed unless you were actually looking for it.

7)  Why did you choose to have two characters fall in love, despite the fact they lacked the normal human interaction usually needed for this to happen?

Because I am nothing if not a rebel. Nothing against tried-and-true romance tropes, but to be honest I'd gotten a little sick of reading about people who fall instantly and hard for some random just because he/she has a sexy accent or because they meet under super awkward--yet somehow also sexy--circumstances. I wanted WAKE FOR ME to be one of those books where the reader was white-knuckling the pages going, "Argh! Just kiss already, damn you!" Because to me, it's that much more satisfying when you have to wait and pine a little bit first. Also, I wanted the readers to doubt whether or not the romance was real, or imagined. Whether it was one-sided, or reciprocal. Exactly the way we all do, in real life, when we meet someone and we're SUPER into them, but we don't want them to know we've been stalking their Facebook for months and have already memorized their birthday and the names of all their pets, so instead we're like "Oh, you again. S'up? No big deal, just call me whenever." Right?

8)  Why do you choose to follow certain lines of inspiration when writing? Why one idea and not another?

That's an excellent question. The short answer is, I have no idea. Sometimes an idea just grabs me and it's like a crack habit. (I assume, having not ever personally had an actual crack habit.) Other times, an idea will occur to me, but it's not ripe yet, so I'll kick it back in with all the other ideas to stew for a while longer until it begins to take on a more recognizable form.

9)  Why do you think readers will want to pick up your book?

Also a good question. I think different people choose to read different books for different reasons. Maybe some people will see the cover I designed and be like "Hey, that looks neat!" while others will read the blurb and think it sounds like an intriguing story. Haha, sorry if I don't have a more scientific sounding answer. But when I think about the way I buy books, it's basically something along those lines. Then again, I suppose I'd be lying if I didn't say I hoped more people would read WAKE FOR ME after reading this totally kick-ass interview.

10)  Why this story? Why did it demand to be written?

Again I say: "literary crack habit." I wrote WAKE FOR ME faster and furious-er than any other novel I've attempted--which, granted, is only about three at this point. It started as an idea so ridiculous--I mean, come on! A romance where the main character spends the first ____ pages in a coma! Fugghetaboutit!--that a part of me just kept daring myself to keep writing, to see if I could make it work. Whether or not I did make it work...well, I guess that's currently the topic up for debate, isn't it?

Thank you, Isobel, for a fabulous, spunky interview.  Now readers...go, flock, buy!  This is one worth grabbing!

Oh - and comment.  Wish Isobel well.  Tell her the book she wrote sounds awesome.  Because it is.  :-)

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Pitch Wars WINNER!

*drum roll*

The day is here.  The long slog to the 11th is finally over.  At last, worn, battle scarred, and beaten, the mentors can finally announce their picks for Pitch Wars 2013.

And so, without further ado, I'm going to announce my Pitch Wars Winner!!

Please congratulate JORDAN TEOS with her amazing manuscript MERLIN'S FLIGHT.

I gotta say, boys and girls, the premise and the opening pages for this book totally hooked me.  So much so, I didn't even have to request more pages to know that this was the one.  I can't wait to work with this very talented author.  I know we're going to haul an amazing result!
And let's not forget the most awesome of awesome alternates!

My first alternate is the amazing Rachel Horwitz with her compelling YA sci-fi IF SKYSCRAPERS HAD SECRETS.
And my second alternate is JOCELYN RISH with the fun, voice filled YA mystery THE DRAMA QUEEN WHO CRIED WOLF.

To all my other wonderful submissions - I am so sorry I couldn't pick you all.  You truly put up a brave and wonderful fight.  I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to read your work and be trusted with your words.  It wasn't lack of merit that made me choose was lack of spaces available.  Please keep me posted on your books' future success, and feel free to email or message me if you have any questions or comments!

And now...into the fray we go, my trusty mentees and me!


Friday, 6 December 2013

The Pain of Rejections

Since it's come down to the final few on my Pitch Wars submissions, I wanted to take a moment to discuss the process of rejections in Pitch Wars.

While it is incredibly hard for the writer to receive, it's also a heart breaking process for the mentor to go through too.

Let's look at why...

It just isn't ready

Sometimes, a submission comes through that just isn't ready to move on.  This could be a technical reason, a standard industry reason, or because the writing or concept just simply isn't strong enough.

Pages don't match concept

There's something really special about coming across a kick ass concept in your inbox.  You sit up a little straighter, read a little faster, and you get the "oh this is cool" feeling.  However, when you get to the pages, something falls flat.  This can be for a myriad of reasons - you don't connect with the voice, the characterisation is flat, the pace slow.  As a mentor, I try to give my reasons on each rejection, in order to help point the writer in the right direction.

It's not your personal taste

Now this one sucks for writers.  No really, it does.  Because it's the subjective side of the business that a writer can't do anything about.  Well, that's not true, you can study the wish lists and match your book up as best you can.  However, you can't guarantee you have it right because you can't mind read your mentor's head.  So, sometimes we come across the submission with a good concept and good writing but it's just not our style.  And that means it becomes a pass.

It's good, great even, but you like something else more

Again, one of those subjective passes that bite.  There were around 20 submissions I really liked.  Great premises, lovely pages, but...I found others that connected with me more.  This could be for all sorts of reasons.  Perhaps I was just in the mood to read a thriller that day.  Maybe someone's bold attempt with a sci-fi surprised me.  Or it might just be that I felt I could offer more to the Gothic writer.  Who knows?  What I do know is that these books are high quality, I pass them to the Up For Grabs folder, and hope that another mentor will see the merit and click a little stronger with it than I did.

Another mentor wants it

This is so hard.  Another mentor wants the submission and so do you.  And yet you can't both  have it.  So who gets it?  Well, there are a lot of elements involved here.  Firstly, who is most skilled to help this author?  Which mentor has worked more closely in this genre?  Does the writer display in their query which mentor would be their preferred choice?

Not only that, other things need brought into consideration too.  Both mentors need to look at their alternates and decided how strongly they feel about those applicants.  Are they willing to lose one?  Can they trade one for the other desired submission?  This isn't an easy decision, as not only does this involve personal preference, but it also relates back to those questions above.  Who can help these submissions the best?

Not to forget, an equally important part of the decision is which mentor is the most passionate about the submission (but in a lot of cases, this is equal).

At the end of the day, mentors have to be responsible enough to concede to another mentor if it is in the writer's benefit, or the benefit of the alternates.  As hard as it is, them's the breaks.

So those are my main reasons for passes.  Some are harder than others.  Giving up a submission I really like is next to impossible.  And it's not always the best written submissions I love.  Sometimes there's an indefinable X Factor that just grabs me and makes me feel at home, intrigued and curious.  Sometimes it's an amazing concept with writing that can be shined with work.  But the rejections are hard, hard, hard.  I've had to turn down some gorgeous writing, some stunning concepts, and some fabulous authors...all because I can only pick three.

So forgive me, my fellow writers, if I had to pass on yours.  Please know your talent has not gone unnoticed.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

What is Rocking My Boat?

Okay, so I'm thigh deep in Pitch Wars submissions right now, and I'm LOVING every second of it.  However, I know you guys are chomping at the bit for the 11th to roll around, so I thought I'd post a few teasers as to what is rocking my boat right now.  But, oh, how to choose?  I want you all to stay on the boat!

So, what's staying on board so far?

1)  The unusual - quirky retellings, LGBT, verse, graphic, and foklore, and contemp narratives with a twist.

2)  Surprisingly, sci-fi is doing well.

3)  Beautiful, languid prose.

4)  Concept, concept, concept in mysteries & thrillers.  Wow, you guys.  Wow.

5)  Some male writers are really making a splash.  There's a high percentage of men in my maybe file.

6)  Banana writers.  I was right to include this secret word, as those writers are showing PHENOMENAL skills in detail.

Okay, so those are the main things that really have me singing.  I have a very unusual mixture of genres and writers in my Top Ten file at the moment and picking out who I want is going to be so hard.  Really hard.  Each book is so individually talented in its own way, that it's going to come down to the nitty gritty.  I'm going to have to compare the agent wish lists to what I've picked out and weigh that into my decisions.


I have requested more information from various people.  Sometimes chapters, sometimes synopses, sometimes just to answer a question.  However, there are a few of my favourites I haven't contacted because they already gave me everything I needed to know.

Got any questions?  Fire away in the comments...

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Release Day - SLEEPER!



by S.M. Johnston

Title: Sleeper (Book I in the Toy Soldiers series)

Author: S. M. Johnston

Release Date: December 2, 2013

Publisher: Entranced Publishing, Rush

Genre: Upper YA/NA speculative fiction

A new heart should mean new life, not a living nightmare.

Mishca Richardson’s life is at an all-time high after her heart transplant. With new boyfriend, Ryder, the two of them have the perfect summer romance. Even the nightmares that have been plaguing her sleep since her operation can’t dull the high she’s on.

Things start to unravel as Mishca develops superhuman abilities. She does her best to hide them so as not to end up a science experiment in a lab. But she can’t ignore the instant attraction she experiences when she meets her university professor, Colin Reed.

Torn between the blossoming love and the obsession, Mishca must decide if she wants Ryder or Colin. But the organization responsible for her changes and her connection to Colin, is moving to secure Mishca for himself so that she can be the weapon he always intended her to be. If Mishca can’t resist her programming she’ll have a lot more to worry about than romance.


Buy Links:



SOMEONE WILL DIE SO I can live. I’ve come to terms with that. It used to turn my stomach, how my donor might die, but now I’m used to it. It’ll most likely be a car accident or a drunken fall from a height, especially at this time of year, with all the end-of-school parties. But not from illness or any other “natural” causes. A violent, painful death will be my savior. That’s how I will get my new heart.

I open my eyes and stare upwards, hoping the white, fluffy clouds that splotch against the blue sky will distract me from the images of people dying that flow through my head. I guess I’m not as used to the idea of getting someone else’s heart as I thought. The harsh Australian sun brings beads of sweat to my brow and a squint to my eyes. I swing my legs around and hoist myself upright on the stadium bleacher, looking out over the sports field. I readjust the singlet strap that had slipped off my shoulder and try to think happier thoughts. At least I won’t be responsible for the person who dies so I can get a new heart.

Yeah, happier thoughts.

I let out a sigh. This is not how I expected to be spending my schoolies week, with my dad as he puts hopeful rugby league players through their paces. My friends are all doing the traditional, Aussie, end-of-high-school celebration with a weeklong party, but instead of Airlie or the Gold Coast, they’re all in Bali, where I should be. It’s the big party to start our summer holidays before we find out which university we’ve been accepted into. When Mum and Dad found out I was at the top of the transplant list, they vetoed my November plans in case someone croaks this week. So all my friends left, minus me. I know it’s because Mum and Dad care. They’ve proved time and time again that you don’t need blood ties to be great parents, or overprotective ones.

“All right, boys. That wraps it up for today,” Dad calls out to the pack of sweaty guys.
“Hit the showers, and I’ll see you all tomorrow.”
I do my best not to stare as the group heads towards me. Half of them are shirtless, their muscles glistening after the training session. Okay, so I’m staring. A cute, red-haired guy catches me looking and winks. So, I reward him with a smile. A guy from school, who obviously chose a potential sporting career over a party week, nudges Cutie Ginger and then shakes his head. I hold back a huff. I thought with the end of an era, I could have a fresh start, but my reputation looks like it will haunt me beyond high school. Mishca the untouchable.

Dad lingers behind, deep in discussions with the managers and trainers, no doubt discussing the fates of the young men desperate to break into rugby league at a national level. They were all trying so hard to get Coach Tom Richardson’s attention. If only I had that many guys chasing after me. I wipe the sweat that’s formed at the edge of my almost afro, before it trickles down my brow. Yuck. Finally, Dad makes his way towards me, leaving his entourage behind.

“So, any contenders in your latest batch of victims?” I ask, picking up my discarded copy of West Side Story. I’d been rereading my university audition piece, torturing myself on how I could have performed it better. I wish I had tried out for plays at school, but I was a closet actor, only performing in drama class for fear that somehow my weak disposition would get in the way.  But next year will be different. A new heart and new hope.

“There may be some. Tomorrow will be the clincher,” Dad replies, humouring me. He knows I’m not that interested in his latest player acquisitions. He puts his hand on my shoulder.
“I’ve got to grab some paperwork from the office before we go.”
“Sure thing,” I say to his back as he retreats up the tunnel under the stadium. I trudge behind him, my book clutched in my hand.With each step the tips of my curls brush lightly against my bare shoulders. It tickles and I regret agreeing with Mum to grow my hair out. I shove my hands into the pockets of my denim shorts and focus on the cool shade I’ll get once I’m inside.

My nose wrinkles the moment I step in the door. The whole place smells like dude, and not in a good way, but in the male equivalent of a stinky, wet dog way. I walk down the corridor and lean against the cool cement wall outside Dad’s office.

My heart transplant operation is like a ticking time bomb waiting to go off, only there’s no countdown to watch. Evil thoughts invade my mind again, only now about my parents.  Would they still have wanted to adopt me if they’d known I had a congenial heart disease, or in simpler terms, a hole in my heart?

Review Snippets:

“SLEEPER is a fast-paced adventure filled with mystery, romance, action, and humor. Mishca and Ryder rank up there with my favorite heroines and heroes ever! S.M. Johnston is an author to watch out for.” ~Wendy Higgins, author of Sweet Evil, Sweet Peril, and Sweet Reckoning.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

About the Author:

Sharon is a writer from Mackay in Queensland, Australia who has short stories published in anthologies and was also runner-up in the Australian Literary Review's Young Adult short story contest with KARMA. By day she is a public relations executive and by night she writes weird fiction and soulful contemporaries while her husband, two sons and cat are fast asleep.

Facebook page:
Goodreads Sleeper Page:

Friday, 29 November 2013

Vlog Series - Episode Five - Revise & Resubmit

Hi!  It's time for the next episode in the Vlog series: How to Attract The Right Agent.

Welcome to Episode Five - Revise & Resubmit, where we'll be looking at what to do if an agent asks you to revise your manuscript and send it back to them for further consideration.

If you missed the previous episodes, you can check them out here:

Episode One - Finding The Agent For You

Episode Two - How To Craft An Attention Grabbing Query

Episode Three - Partial And Full Requests

Episode Four - Rejections

Happy viewing!


Friday, 22 November 2013

Want Some Pitch Wars Help?

Only ten days to go until the infamous Pitch Wars!

The heat is ratcheting up as SUB day fast approaches.  So, since I am trying to earn the best of the best submissions in the game, I thought I'd share a few secrets and tips on how to really get the most from your manuscript (especially if it's coming my way!).


Fiirst off, let's talk character:  What makes a good character?  A good character is someone we root for, someone we believe in, someone we wish we were, someone we can relate to, or someone we are fascinated by.  Or a combination of all of these elements.

Characters WANT something.  They have a burning desire.  And we need to know not only what it is, but WHY.  And the quicker you can get this on the page, the quicker you're going to hook your reader.

I could waffle on for hours.  But, someone better than me should.  So let's go over to the wonderful, amazing article by Mr Donald Maass:


Whether you're a panster or an outliner doesn't matter.  What matters is that your plot is organic from your characters.  The choices made have to be such that we believe THAT character would make those choices, and if they don't, there is a compelling enough reason WHY NOT.

Plots needs to be tight with pacing, ideally set up in three acts, with each scene and chapter moving the plot forward towards the ultimate end game.

You need to keep the stakes high.  You need to almost give your character what they want, then rip it away from them.  You need to break them, build them, love them.

Be mindful that you have to balance internal and external conflict.

This is a really cool link about plotting:

Now, my advice as good as my advice can be, there are the masters of writing that you really want to study no matter WHAT your genre.  So go check these vids out.  Don't worry if it's not your genre.  The advice still applies:

Neil Gaimen:

Mr. Stepen King

Jodi Pilcoult:

And a nice little combo of links to watch through:

These are just a few of the very, very talented authors you should be reading up on.  I picked out names off the top of my head.  If your genre isn't represented by these writers, still learn from them.  If you really still want a video to watch of someone who writes amazingly well in your genre, comment and I'll find you one.

Good luck in Pitch Wars!  May the odds be ever in your favour!

Thursday, 21 November 2013

10 Things That Will Make Me Notice You In Pitch Wars

Hi!  Since Pitch Wars is fast approaching and all prospective mentees are busily choosing their lucky mentors, honing their pitches, and trying to work out what they can do to send their submission to the top of the pile, I thought I would do an extra little post about what will really convince me to think seriously about choosing YOUR submission as my winning entry.

My wish list is here:

If you fall within my wish list categories, then read on to find out what will really rock my boat!

1)  Regardless of genre, a little bit of mystery in the opening goes a long way.  Tease me with something.  Give me just enough to follow the thread to see where it leads.

2)  Keep your writing tight.  Eliminate passive writing, "that", "very", and a whole stack of adjectives and adverbs.  Taking extra time to study your craft will help immensely.

3)  Make your query straight forward and simple.  Character + Conflict + Stakes.

4)  Quirky, unique characters.  Stereotypes turned on their heads.  I want someone mentally fascinating.  Good people who make bad decisions for the right reasons.  Bad people who make good decisions for the wrong reason.  Mix it up!

5)  Read your work out loud and check how it flows.  I WILL be reading your work out loud, so if it doesn't flow, I'll know!


6)  Tell me why you want me to be your mentor.  Don't blow smoke up my ass.  I want concrete reasons why we would work well together.

7)  Do your homework.  Give me a comparison title in your query.  Let me know where you see your work sitting on the bookshelf.  And don't worry if I don't agree, my job is to help get you there.

8)  Don't get description heavy (unless you're Historical, in which you have some leeway).  Pick unique details to paint your world.  Don't bombard me with the whole painting.  I want to fill in some brushstrokes in my mind, too.

9)  Start somewhere interesting.  And I don't mean a huge action scene.  I mean the moment when something changes for your MC.  Inciting incident.  If you don't know what this is, ask.

10)  Show me you cared enough to find out more about the mentor you are submitting to than just blind "that'll do".  Normally, when you query an agent, you would personalise the query.  I expect the same.  So, in light of that, anyone who has been dedicated enough to read this post, if you tag the word "Banana" at the end of your query, I'm gonna throw up a full 1st chapter critique on your work if you're not my winning entry.

I know the contest can make it feel like there's a lot of work to do, and, truth be told, there is.  The same amount of work it takes to query an agent.  But here's the rub, this writing gig is a hard, hard slog and if you're not prepared to put in the graft, then you're going to be disappointed.

I look forward to your queries and I can't wait to get to know all you wonderful writers!  Happy subbing!!

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Mentor Wish Lists - Pitch Wars!

OMG!  I am ridiculously excited!'s that time of year again!  *cue battle cry*  It's...PITCH WARS!!!

So, here's the scoop.  The mentors are back in force, and we're looking for a very special writer each to coach and critique through their ENTIRE manuscript.  Then, we'll throw it up for agent attention.

This is the X FACTOR of the writing world.  If you've got it, we'll help you flaunt it!  So grab your snowballs and join the game! (and thank the amazing S.P. McConnel for the awesome illustration below!).


Pay attention to the post, as you'll see where to go for dates, where to look for submission rules, and who your target agents are, as well as my mentor bio, how to click onto other mentors' bios AAAAND see what last year's winner from my team achieved with her book!  It's all going on here.

So what's up first?

Details first:

  • 11/20 Mentor's post bios and wishlists
  • 12/2: Submission Window
  • 12/3 -12/10: Mentors read their applications
  • 12/11: Mentor's announce their picks
  • 12/11 -1/17: Mentors work with their writers
  • 1/22-1/23 Agent Round



    As this is my second year mentoring Pitch Wars, it's my chance to tell YOU why you want me as your mentor (including that my mentee got a publishing deal last year (shameless, aren't I?)).

    First off, here's a little Vlog (gulp) about what I'm looking for and why you should pick me.  And if you can't access it for any reason, I've also listed them below so you can read them too!

    Okay, in writing, here's a list of the genres I'll be accepting.  Please note:  I only accept Young Adult submissions.  Right, that said, these genres are what rock my world:

    *  Contemporary YA (issue based, dark, gritty, or edgy)
    *  Urban Fantasy
    *  Thrillers
    *  Gothic
    *  Mysteries
    *  Horror (but not perverse)
    *  Mash ups (ANY genre mash up at all, not limited to those above)
    *  Historical
    *  Fantasy
    *  Anything else that is not on the below list that I forgot to write here!!!!!!!!

    I am NOT your girl for:

    *  Dream openings
    *  Elves and whatnot
    *  Vampires (sorry!)
    *  Straight up romance

    Now, if your book falls into one of those categories I want, then read on to find out whether we'll make a good match or not.  Here's a little about me:

    Fiona McLaren is represented by Jamie Bodnar Drowley of Inklings Literary Agency for her YA contemporary novel "The Sum of It" and her gothic horror novel "Overtoun Bridge".

    She has interned at two separate literary agencies, scanning the slush for hidden gems and reviewing any full mss sent her way.

    She works as a freelance writer, ghost writing for a variety of clients, and has over three hundred publications under her belt - including articles, short scripts, historical fiction novels, children's books and short stories.

    She loves to edit - character arc, plot arc, line edit, conceptual...whatever it takes. She believes that critiquing is a teamwork operation and that staying true to the author's vision is as important as making the book as commercially ready as it can be. Critiquing is all about communication.

    You can get to know Fiona better as @BookOmnivore on Twitter. See you on the Pitch Wars hashtag!

    Here's a quote from Fiona's mentee last year, who went on to secure a book deal with Entranced Publishing:

    Last year during Pitch Wars the fabulous Fiona picked me, and my book Awakenings, to mentor. I was shocked, I was awed, I may have fainted...just a little though. After I recovered from the shock, Fiona and I got to work. Let me tell you, she was an absolute dream to work with! She was so supportive and the critiques she gave were right on the mark. My book came away cleaner and much stronger, so much so that on the day of the contest I got three full requests!

    Just two months later I received a contract that I accepted. Awakenings hit the market and within three weeks broke into the 100 Best Selling YA Paranormals, making it all the way to number eighteen. I could not be more pleased with the results and I could not have picked a better mentor.

    So what are you waiting for! Pick her and just bask in her awesomeness. You will not regret it. :)

    J.E.Shannon author of Awakenings (Entranced Publishing)

    Contest applicants:  Do the right thing and support your fellow Pitch Wars winners from last year and buy a copy of their books.  After all, you want to win so you can publish.  So did they.  Let's pay it forward.

    Last year's winner from my team:

    Title: Awakenings

    Author: J. E. Shannon

    Publisher: Entranced Publishing

    Genre: YA paranormal romance

    Release Date: July 29th 2013

    Evie Shepard awakens to a nightmare. She's been buried alive and has no idea how or why. As she struggles to remember what happened, she begins to notice changes -- heightened senses, as well as increased speed, agility, and strength. And her heart no longer beats. She soon makes a disturbing discovery: she wasn't buried alive; she was murdered. Somehow, she has come back...and she wants revenge.

    Buy Links: Amazon | Kobo | Smashwords

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    And which amazing agents are you hoping to snag...well, I'm glad you asked!

    14. LanaPopovic and Natasha Alexis - Zachary Shuster Harmsworth
    17.  Stefanie Lieberman - Janklow & Nesbit Associates
    18. Rena Rossner - The Deborah Harris Agency

    Alright, peeps, I will see you in the trenches.  Let's gather those snowballs and get to war....who's with me?!  :-)


    Episode Four - Rejections

    Hi!  Welcome back to the Vlog series: How to Attract The Right Agent.

    This is the fourth episode out of six in the series.  If you've missed the first three, you can find them here:

    Episode One - Finding The Agent For You

    Episode Two - How To Craft An Attention Grabbing Query

    Episode Three - Partial And Full Requests

    This week's episode looks at what to do when/if you get a rejection.

    Happy watching, and I look forward to seeing you for next week's instalment! Comments or questions below!


    Monday, 11 November 2013

    Writing Process

    Yay!  I love blog hops!  And today's is on a great subject - your writing process!
    First off, let me say that at the end of the blog, we're supposed to tag three writers to hop along to their blogs.  However, I'm going to break the mould here because I'd like you all to put your blog link in the comments, so everyone can visit your site.  If you want to fill out the answers to your writing process too, then all the better!

    Okay, the questions ask about your current project.  So I've chosen my top secret WIP.  :-)  Hope you enjoy...
    1. What are you working on right now?
    I'm thrilled to be working on a mash-up piece.  If you've seen the little counter bar at the top right handside of my blog, you'll have deduced it's a Gothic Western.  It's creepy, cowboy-ish, and full of bones, mysteries, and a girl who is definitely not what she seems.

    2. How does it differ from other works in its genre?
    Good question!  I think it's different because it focuses on a genre that's been out of vogue for a while (Western) and combines it with a creeptastic genre that a lot of people like (Gothic).  The idea is to spit-shine those spurs and modernise a classic old genre.

    3. Why do you write what you do?
    Ever since I was a kid, I've loved the odd, bizarre and unusual, so that tends to reflect into my writing.  There's something fascinating about the everyday normal being turned on its head.  I also love how the mind works, especially the darker aspects of human nature.  I hope that doesn't say too much about me!  lol

    4. How does your writing process work?
    Butt in chair.  That's it for me.  It doesn't matter what's happening around me.  If I want to write, I just get right down to it.  As far as plotting goes, I'm a mix-and-matcher.  I plot a little, I pants a little.  I do what feels right in the moment.  I don't like to hem myself in to one strict way of doing things.  Instead, I jumble up my schedule, my style, and my process.  It keeps my brain from going stale.
    Now, I've shared mine, you share yours!  Leave your blog link in the comments so everyone can see what you do too!
    Thanks for reading!  :-)

    Saturday, 9 November 2013

    Vlog - Episode Three - Partial and Full requests

    Welcome back to the Vlog series: How to Attract The Right Agent.  This is Episode Three: Partials and Full Requests, which looks at what to do if you receive a request from an agent.

    If you're just joining the vlog series, you might want to check out episodes one and two on the links below:

    Episode One - Finding The Agent For You

    Episode Two - How To Craft An Attention Grabbing Query

    Happy watching, and I look forward to seeing you for next week's instalments!  Comments or questions below!

    Thursday, 31 October 2013

    Vlog - Episode 2 - How to Craft an Attention Grabbing Query!

    If you've been following this vlog series about attracting the right agent, then welcome back to Episode Two - How to Craft an Attention Grabbing Query!  If you're new to the series, go back and check out Episode One - Finding The Agent For You.

    I hope you enjoy episode two!


    Thursday, 24 October 2013

    Vlog - Attracting the Right Agent

    Howdy!  This week I've started a new vlog series on how to attract the right agent.  This is a six part series designed to help new authors break into the publishing world.

    Here's episode one:  Finding The Agent For You.


    Saturday, 12 October 2013

    Shine those books for Pitch Wars!

    How to shine those books for Pitch Wars!

    Okay, we all know it's coming.  We're all as impatient as hell.  It feels like it will never come.  And then it'll be over as soon as you know it.  So while we're in the phase that I like to call "The Epic Wait", I thought it would help if I shared some tips on how to get your manuscripts in tip top shape.  Also, because it's almost Halloween and that just happens to be my all time favourite season of the year, I thought I'd throw in some of my favourite writing resources for your reading pleasure too (cause we all know that we'd rather be procrastinating than drafting!).

    So what exactly do I need to do to get my manuscript picked out of the slush?

    Be different.  No, seriously.  It's got to be fresh.  There are thousands of writers competing against each other every week.  Really sit down and analyse your concept.  Write down, in one sentence, what's really different about your book.  Write down in another sentence WHY it is different.  Tell you what, here's a challenge for the bravest among you - write these two sentences in the comments.  I'll give you my feedback.

    Okay, so that's half the battle.  What's the other half?  Character and prose.  We need to care.  And I mean really care.  Caring can mean we either love your character, or we are intrigued or fascinated.  Why do you like the character?  What is it that makes YOU connect to them?  Tear through your opening chapters and really hone in on whether you are conveying this.  Don't just write and hope for the best.  Use the resources you can to really find out if your words are doing what they are supposed to (the Donald Maass link at the bottom of the post can help you with this.  But it's tough, tough work.  But how much do you want it?).

    We mentioned words.  These are important.  Almost the right word is not enough.  You need the exact words.  But that's not all.  You need flow and voice.  Think of the people you know.  They all talk in their own way.  So do you.  So should your characters.  Get in their voice.  Don't just write in your own voice.  Become your character.  Actually, one of the best pieces of advice I heard came from an improv actor.  He acts out his characters then writes them.  He literally becomes them.  Try it.

    Okay, I'm out of the slush.  What now?  How can I make them love my book baby?

    Work as hard on your whole ms as you do on the first three chapters.  It's sad to say, but writers hone and polish their first three chapters to a high shine, and then they let the other chapters just trundle past.  I'm not saying writers don't edit and critique their full ms.  Of course they do.  They have critique partners, they stay up to the small morning hours checking plot arcs and character growth.  However, they don't put the same focus on the full manuscript as they do on the first three chapters.  Take the time to do this.  There's nothing worse than reading something in the slush that has amazing opening chapters but then the rest of the manuscript doesn't live up to the high polished sheen of those first few pages.  Trust me.  It will pay off.  Really, really work them.

    Make sure your concept matches your actual story.  It's surprising how you can get an amazing pitch but then the actual plot doesn't reflect us.  Don't hook an agent with a killer hook if the story isn't really focusing on that angle.  The idea isn't just to get them to read it.  They need to love it.  An agent will get disgruntled if these two things are at odds.  It's a huge disappointment.

    Check for flow.  Flowing sentences, paragraphs and pages count.  Your writing should be invisible so that the reader can fall into the world effortlessly.  You get this by having flow.

    Learn the writing rules.  Properly.  Know them.  Check through your WHOLE book.  Then break a few.  No one ones a pitch perfect book.  Pitch perfect is boring.  Choose wisely about what you write.  Don't be afraid to experiment.

    Know your genre.  Simple.

    I'm waiting, what now?

    Query selectively.  Enter contests selectively.  Don't just throw your book at every wall and hope for it to stick.  Research your next book idea.  Work out what you learned from your last book.  Apply it to your new book.  Think of your pitch.  Yes, now.  Use it to keep your writing focused.

    And that's it.  Study your craft.  Question yourself and your book.  Analyse what you've done.  Let your muse flow.  Have fun.  Enjoy.  Research.  Reach out and ask others for help.  Stay true to yourself.  Learn and grow.  And don't give up.  Keep doing this and eventually it'll all come together.

    Trust me.  I'm a slow learner but I stick around.  It took me sixteen years to get an agent.  If I can do it, so can you.  Just repeat and rinse the above advice.  Over and over and over, as many times as you need.  I'll see you on the other side!

    Please, please, please check out all of these blogs:

    1)  Brenda Drake (really you should know this url off by heart now):

    2)  For the YA writer:

    3)  For ANY writer (this is an extensive resource):

    4)  If you value your writing in any way at all, listen to Mr. Maass:

    5)  Yes, this is for YA, but EVERY writer should use this as it discusses diversity in books:

    6)  Wonderful, incise writing blog:

    7)  A fantastic writing community: