PW #344: Young Adult Fantasy: ABOVEWATER

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentors: Mónica Bustamante Wagner & Kerbie Addis Mentee: Amaris Glass Title: ABOVEWATER Category: Young Adult Genre: Fantasy Word Count: 68,000 Pitch: When sixteen-year-old Rilla’s twin brother disappears from their small island, the outcast girl risks waking forbidden legends to find him, but soon it’s clear she’s stirred up more evil than good. Now, to appease the vengeful darkness that’s arisen, the Islanders are demanding a sacrifice–Rilla’s own life. Excerpt: The night chilled me with faded starshine and wet breezes. Shivering, I cursed the restlessness that had driven me outside. I’d lain awake for hours, tying my sheets in knots as memories elbowed me in the dark. Finally, I gave up trying. Joss disappeared a year ago today and I had to go searching, one last time. The maze of Island paths spread out before me, behind me, around me. I began to run, trying to build a fire in my belly. Stars bit into the sky, scattered freckles of light that did little to show the way, yet I never stumbled, never took a wrong turn. The scent of olive leaves, the cry of the sea, the weight of the air on my skin––all of this fit into place inside me. I had a map etched in my bones and it never stopped speaking. I was the girl who couldn’t get lost. Joss found this maddening. He lost his way just by turning around too quickly; navigating the paths tangled him in knots only I could undo. I spent our first sixteen years feeling the steady pressure of here I am when we were together, the come find me when he was lost, the fist-squeeze of panic when he was in actual trouble. Maybe we’d shared one heart that had split in two when we were born; maybe that’s why we could never really be separated…until now. Now, Joss was the boy who couldn’t be...

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PW #345: Young Adult Contemporary Fantasy: THE BLOOD KEY

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor Name: Jamie Howard Mentee Name: Kristen Clouthier Title: THE BLOOD KEY Category: Young Adult Genre: Contemporary Fantasy Word Count: 90,000 Pitch: Charlotte’s life revolves around digging up and smuggling rare artifacts—until she uncovers a calling more treacherous than desecrating tombs. She’s the key to destroying a parasitic entity, but fighting its corrupting influence means she’ll have to sacrifice either the man who raised her or the boy who loves her. INDIANA JONES meets THE DARKEST MINDS. Excerpt: The package Elijah overnighted sat on the bed like Christmas morning. Or Halloween. Some holiday where gifts came from someone six feet under and decades past their expiration date. Given I’d spent the last week sharing a pay-by-the-hour motel with a rat colony suffering from boundary issues, the payday waiting inside the box was better than anything Santa could’ve stuffed down a chimney. I ripped open the flaps and dug around for the note.  On good days, I’d find used napkins; on average ones, I’d pull out a stack of fresh toilet seat covers. This time he’d turned the greasiest take-out menu I’d ever seen into his scratchpad— courtesy of Wait a Millet. Lines of red cracked along its creases and yellow splatters stretched from front to back, giving off the scent of chili peppers and onions. I held it like a dirty diaper and set it beside my half-eaten TV dinner and an empty bottle of hair dye. The blue Sharpie Eli used to scribble out a series of cryptic numbers across the menu’s pages bled all the way through to the lunch specials. I choked down a spoonful of lumpy mashed potatoes and went to work on the code— no cipher needed. At least not yet. His first instruction never changed and I could’ve recited it frontwards, backwards, in Latin, or in Greek. The sequence: 12.23, 34.15, 7.18, 4.8. Don’t take it...

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PW #346: Young Adult Contemporary Time Travel: MOM, I MARRIED A HIGHLANDER

MANUSCRIPT STATUS: Finished Mentor: Marty Mayberry Mentee: Lana Pattinson Title: MOM, I MARRIED A HIGHLANDER Category: Young Adult Genre: Contemporary/Time Travel Word Count: 70,000 Pitch: Abby’s extra credit report derails when a Highlander from the past jumps into her future. Callum’s bleeding, dirty, and…hot. Together, they must discover how to send Callum home before rival time travelers kill him to protect their secrets. And Abby must decide if a life in the past with Callum is worth enduring bad hygiene and possible death by plague, let alone leaving everyone she loves behind. Excerpt: Why did I let Javi talk me into wearing this outfit to school? Some BFF he is. My necktie’s too tight, my schoolgirl skirt keeps riding up, and even over a white collared shirt, my V-necked sweater’s itchy. The Halloween costume—and the taunting—have worn thin. Sarah joins me at the lockers, the once-a-year coat of paint already chipping from the humid Texas weather. She’s got a nice boyfriend and shiny hair and if we hadn’t been friends forever, I’d probably hate her. My green eyes have always been the jealous type. But her boyfriend’s my brother. Awkward doesn’t begin to describe our let’s-discuss-anything-except-boys-relationship. After making sure we’re alone, I slip Sarah the contraband in a paper bag. “Abby, what’s…?” She opens the bag and laughs. “You need a paper bag for Outlander?” My cheeks heat up. “It’s Mom’s. There are some…intense…scenes in it.” Not that Mom will notice it’s gone. She’s on call at the hospital so much, it’s like living with a roommate instead of a parent. “Awesome.” Sarah shuts her locker. “You going to the game tomorrow?” Sticking my tongue out, I unclip the necktie and wrap my frizzed-out hair into a bun. “Obviously.” Of course I’m going to the game tomorrow. Every. Single. Friday. Because football is the main religion in Texas, and I’m a front-pew fan. Not of the game, exactly. Just one tight end in...

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PW #347: Young Adult Fantasy: BONEWOOD

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor Name: Brianna Shrum Mentee Name: Emily Neal Title: BONEWOOD Category: Young Adult Genre: Fantasy Word Count: 98,000 Pitch: STRANGER THINGS meets THE SCORPIO RACES—Sixteen-year-old Miran Salek must hunt for a cure to the taint blackening her brother’s veins inside the Bonewood, a forest haunted by nightmares, before he infects their entire island. Excerpt: I pull my boot out of the heavy snow and prop my heel on my knee. Cold and wet soak my sock as I find the small split at the heel. Well, that’s just sterling. The fresh, crunchy white is bright enough to blind with the sun breaking through the naked branches. It was a beautiful morning, off the island, no chores, no helping Da cobble shoes together, but now I’ve got two hours of walking ahead of me with an ice cube for a foot. “Miran!” “Here,” I say. “Cut the shouting.” I glare at the beanpole in front of me. My stepmother Arica likes to say Konnor Mackenzay has a face chiseled by the gods, but to me he’s out of proportion. Like he stretched instead of growing like a normal boy. Konnor shrugs his coat straight, pretending I didn’t just scare him out of his trous. The black leather of his uniform is buffed and buckled and winking in the high sun, the Mackenzay crest stamped on the shoulder. His severe look doesn’t faze me a bit. Apprentice guard or no, it’s hard to take someone seriously once you’ve pushed them into a canal. “Keep up.” I’m barely four feet behind him and his long legs. “Pull that stick out of your ass.” “We’re miles from the river, eejit.” He pushes his hair back. The too long curls burn russet in the sun. “If I have a stick up my ass, it’s because I don’t want to...

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PW #348: Young Adult Fantasy: FOUR DEAD QUEENS

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor: Mara Rutherford and Joan He Mentee: Astrid Scholte Title: FOUR DEAD QUEENS Category: Young Adult Genre: Fantasy Word Count: 87,000 Pitch: Ruthless thief Keralie becomes entangled in deadly politics after witnessing the murders of her world’s four queens, captured on disk. The information could be rewarded with lifesaving medicine for the boy she loves, but escaping the palace alive will be her greatest heist yet. RED QUEEN meets SIX OF CROWS. Excerpt: The morning sun caught the palace’s golden dome, flooding the Concord with light. While everyone halted their business and glanced up—as though it were a sign from the four queens themselves—we perched overhead like vultures, ready to swoop in and pick them apart. “That one,” Mackiel said after studying the street below from the café’s rooftop. He jerked his chin toward a woman in a burgundy dress. I snorted at the dirty footprints on the cobblestones behind her. All I’d find in an Archian’s pockets was grain and lint. “Don’t patronize me. Who’s my real target?” The air here was thick with the stench of musty water. Beyond the central square were connections across the marsh to Quadara’s four regions. Mackiel scratched at his collar with beringed fingers, a nervous habit. But I was his best dipper, slipping in and out of pockets with a feather-light touch. I’d never let him down. “Him,” he said finally, his brown eyes landing on the back of a dark-clad figure. The target was clearly Eonist. While we Torians were rugged up in layers to ward off the biting chill, he wore a tight-fitting black dermasuit, an Eonist fabric made of millions of microorganisms that maintained body temperature with their secretions. Gross, but handy. “A messenger?” I flashed Mackiel a hard look. “You sure?” He flicked a charm on my silver dipper bracelet. “Yes, luv. You’re ready.” “His comm disk?” He nodded. “And remember—” “Get in quick. Get out...

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PW #349: Young Adult Contemporary with Supernatural Elements: SHADOWS CAST BY DREAMS

Manuscript Status: Finished Mentor Name:  Heather Ezell Mentee Name: Rachel Griffin Title: SHADOWS CAST BY DREAMS Category: Young Adult Genre: Contemporary with Supernatural Elements Word Count: 62,000 Pitch: When a car accident triggers a series of shared dreams, Rain loses herself in a place where her memories intersect with those of the mysterious boy involved in the crash. Rain is haunted by his world of secrets, but fears a life-saving surgery will result in the only thing more terrifying than the dreams themselves– losing them, and the boy she’s come to love. Inception meets IF I STAY Excerpt: Swamp green. That’s the color Mom thinks her eyes are, which is ridiculous of course. Mom’s eyes are hazel, dark brown rings that burst into rays of brilliant gold and melt into jade. They look like planets, something you’d see through a telescope late at night. Saturn, Mars, Venus, Jupiter, and Laura Singer’s Eyes. I add a touch more brown to my palette, swirling it around until Mom’s eye color is in perfect paint form. My brush slides across the canvas, and soon her planet is hanging in a sea of stars. Mom’s birthday is next week, and I can’t wait to see the look on her face when I give her this painting and tell her it’s how her eyes have always looked to me, like badass uncharted territory all of humanity wants to explore. She’s been cracking jokes about crow’s feet and gray hair, but underneath all the jokes it’s clear it bothers her. The best part is that she won’t be expecting anything: my surgery is in three days, and it’s all Mom thinks about. I doubt she even knows her birthday is coming up. If everything goes well, I’ll give Mom the painting and she’ll be floored when she realizes I planned ahead. And if I die, well, Mom will find the painting in my room and likely form an unhealthy emotional attachment to...

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PW #350: Young Adult Contemporary Fantasy: A MUSE DARK AND WILD

Manuscript Status: Two Weeks Delivery Mentor Name: Kelly Ann Hopkins Mentee Name: Cass L. Scotka Title: A MUSE DARK AND WILD Category: Young Adult Genre: Fantasy (Contemporary) Word Count: 93,000 Pitch: Seventeen-year-old Hazel is a Wild—a rare, all-powerful Muse—born to inspire humanity’s greatest achievements. When her sister kills their mother, Hazel flees to California, where her murderous sister shadows her new life. Hazel must straddle the thin line of revenge and unbridled power, risking embracing darkness or suffering the same brutal end as her mother. Excerpt: The cheerful wreath of yellow flowers rattled as I shut the front door. “Mom! Dad, I’m home.” I kicked off my sandals and tossed my messenger bag under the coatrack. “Won’t need you for the next three months.” I did a hip-shimmy of happiness. Mom flew down the hall and pounced on me, her pale blue sundress swishing around her legs. “There’s my senior girl!” “Mom, I’m not really a senior until school starts again in the fall.” I sniffed the air. “What’s that smell?” “Lilies,” Mom said with a smile. A ginormous bouquet of purple stargazer lilies dwarfed the kitchen table, towering over the bowl of oranges. Dad bought Mom flowers every Friday, but he’d gone big for their anniversary weekend. “Holy crap! That’s crazy huge.” Her bright blue eyes crinkled at the corners as she grinned, goofy and love-struck. “Your father spoils me.” The flowers’ spicy fragrance tingled my nose. “What number anniversary is this?” “Lucky number four hundred and thirteen.” Sunlight set her flame-red hair alight as she watered a pot of rosemary on the window ledge. A pang of unbidden loneliness ached in my chest as a vision of steel-gray eyes and blond hair filled my mind. Adam. My future Guardian, just like Dad was to Mom. A Muse’s other half. My soulmate throughout our thousand year lives. Like all Guardians, Adam could seek me out in my dreams.  So why hadn’t he visited my nights in over a...

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Pitch Wars Interview with Erin A. Tidwell and her mentor, Hayley Stone
Oct24

Pitch Wars Interview with Erin A. Tidwell and her mentor, Hayley Stone

Our mentors are editing, our mentees are revising, and we hope you’re making progress on your own manuscript! While we’re all working toward the Agent Showcase on November 3rd-9th, we hope you’ll take a moment during your writing breaks and get to know our 2016 Pitch Wars Teams. And now, we have . . .  Erin A. Tidwell – Mentee Twitter   Hayley Stone – Mentor Twitter | Website Erin: Why did you choose Hayley? It was love at first sight. I learned about Pitch Wars on a writing forum and I almost didn’t apply. I was in the middle of a different novel and I wasn’t sure I ought to switch projects. Then I came across Hayley’s bio. She had great experience as a writer and an editor. She was humorous but also included some serious warnings about what her mentee was committing to. And her list of wants was a really great match for the novel I was thinking of pitching. I knew immediately that I wanted to work with her. I did apply to 4 mentors. Hayley wasn’t the only mentor I thought would be a good choice. But I thought she would be the best choice for me and my novel, and I’m delighted that she agreed. Hayley: Why did you choose Erin? From the beginning, Erin’s manuscript subverted my expectations at every turn. The first chapter opens with a familiar character and situation to fantasy readers: an assassin has come to take out a political threat to his employer, an ambitious duke. That was enough to get my attention, but the MC must accomplish this murder in a way that does not threaten the psychology of the duke’s daughter who is present. Along the way, he shows compassion and concern to the servants of the estate, going so far as to give them money and put them out of harm’s way. Even more, the duke’s daughter, despite her young age, is not an angsty ingénue but a young woman struggling to figure out what she wants, and how to escape what she doesn’t. The end of this chapter concludes in a twist that I did not see coming, and delighted me immensely. Beyond the manuscript itself, I was impressed by Erin’s reception to my proposed edits (which, among other things, involve adding a second POV), plus her commitment to making her ms the best story it can possibly be. Talent is nothing without a positive attitude and strong work ethic—I’m pleased that my mentee has all three in spades! Erin: Summarize your book in three words. Magic, betrayal, trust Hayley: Summarize Erin’s book in three words....

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Pitch Wars Interview with Christy Chao and her mentor, Isabel Davis
Oct21

Pitch Wars Interview with Christy Chao and her mentor, Isabel Davis

Our mentors are editing, our mentees are revising, and we hope you’re making progress on your own manuscript! While we’re all working toward the Agent Showcase on November 3rd-9th, we hope you’ll take a moment during your writing breaks and get to know our 2016 Pitch Wars Teams. And now, we have . . .  Christy Chao – Mentee Twitter Isabel Davis – Mentor Twitter | Website   Christy: Why did you choose Isabel? I’m thrilled to be working with Isabel and was happily surprised she chose me! I knew from the moment I finished reading her wish list that I’d be subbing to her. Careful Twitter research made me 110% sure we could work well together! Isabel: Why did you choose Christy? I chose Christy’s book because from the beginning, the characters grabbed me. I was pulled into their world, and rooting for them. I felt everything they felt, and I knew Christy is truly talented. Christy: Summarize your book in three words. Space. Pirates. TimeTravel. (yes, I understand the definition of cheating…) Isabel: Summarize Christy’s book in three words. Adventure. Rebels. Galactic. Christy: Tell us about yourself. What makes you and your MS unique? Hello! I’m Christy 🙂 I’m obsessed with YA. All of it!!! I’m originally from San Diego, but I’ve lived on the East Coast since college. My favorite color is green and I’m allergic to cats (but send me all the cat GIFs please!). I’m also allergic to scary movies. When I’m not reading, writing, or eating, I’m working towards a graduate degree in Chemical Engineering. Yep, I’m a science geek enthusiast and I wanted my MS to include things I love like women in STEM, cool technologies/engineering, and hackers! Isabel: Tell us about yourself. Something we might not already know. I design greeting cards for a living 🙂 Thank you for supporting our Pitch Wars Teams! And don’t forget to stop by the Agent Showcase starting November 3rd to see how our teams do in the final round....

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Pitch Wars Interview with Ellie Luken and her mentors, Sarah Nicolas & Leigh Mar
Oct21

Pitch Wars Interview with Ellie Luken and her mentors, Sarah Nicolas & Leigh Mar

Our mentors are editing, our mentees are revising, and we hope you’re making progress on your own manuscript! While we’re all working toward the Agent Showcase on November 3rd-9th, we hope you’ll take a moment during your writing breaks and get to know our 2016 Pitch Wars Teams. And now, we have . . .  Ellie Luken – Mentee Twitter Sarah Nicolas – Mentor Twitter | Website Leigh Mar – Mentor Twitter | Website Ellie: Why did you choose Sarah and Leigh? Honestly, my first time through the blog hop, I skipped their wish list because I had submitted to Sarah last year. Even though I was entering a completely different book this year, I thought it’d be safer to apply to mentors who’d never seen my writing before. But then Sarah tweeted that anyone with a YA lesbian fantasy had better submit to her (yeah, I’m paraphrasing) and also tweeted that people who’d subbed to her in the past shouldn’t assume she hated their writing. There were many reasons I’d submitted to her the year before like the fact that she’s one of the most experienced mentors, has a great track record with mentees, and has editing experience, and I was excited that she’d teamed up with a former mentee who’d be able to provide a different perspective (and Leigh interns for an agent, as well as being agented, so she’s pretty experienced as well!). So I slunk over to their wish list and reconsidered because their combined experience was so strong I knew I would’ve killed to work with them. They went on my list even though I thought it was a risky choice–but I guess it paid off! Mentors: Why did you choose Ellie? Sarah: Funny story: I get a tweet from Leigh that she’s marked a submission with the “Sarah interested” tag in our inbox. I’m like, really? I’m picky and hard to please, so I’m not sure, but I trust Leigh. So I open up the inbox and get actual chills reading the submission. I basically attacked Leigh via Twitter DMs asking why the full wasn’t in our inbox yet. When we get it, I start reading and am totally sucked in. I forget I’m supposed to be looking for things to edit because I’m just reading like I do for pleasure. There were others that were great, too, but VENDETTA OF MONSTERS stole my heart. Leigh: I love love. I love revenge. I love stories with both and Ellie’s story has plenty of each. VENDETTA OF MONSTERS stood out in our inbox, it was fantastic from start to finish and we’re so excited to work with Ellie to take it from great to omg-you-won’t-be-able-to-set-it-down levels of greatness....

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Pitch Wars Interview with Ashia Monet and her mentor, Katherine Webber
Oct14

Pitch Wars Interview with Ashia Monet and her mentor, Katherine Webber

Our mentors are editing, our mentees are revising, and we hope you’re making progress on your own manuscript! While we’re all working toward the Agent Showcase on November 3rd-9th, we hope you’ll take a moment during your writing breaks and get to know our 2016 Pitch Wars Teams. And now, we have . . .  Ashia Monet – Mentee Twitter | Website Katherine Webber – Mentor Twitter | Website Ashia: Why did you choose Katherine? Katherine is awesome and her mentor bio showed it. She had a huge list of qualifications so she obviously knew her stuff. As if that wasn’t awesome enough, she also made costumes of book characters (she dressed up as Karou from Daughter of Smoke and Bone!) which was honestly so cool. We liked works by some of the same authors, too– Laini Taylor, Rainbow Rowell, V.E Schwab and Maggie Stiefvater. When I read that she loved stories that were set in our world but with fantasy elements, I was super excited because I knew I had one of those! And then I may or may not have stalked her on Twitter. Katherine: Why did you choose Ashia? Ashia’s pitch is what initially hooked me: “Cassandra Clare meets Amazing Race” with a time-bending magical forest….I knew that this was something I NEEDED to read. The sheer scope of her imagination blew me away, and I couldn’t get the world and the characters she created out of my head. The whole manuscript is incredibly cinematic, I could really see it, and it looked amazing! And I totally fell for the characters. THE BLACK VEINS has a wonderful diverse ensemble cast, and Ashia does a wonderful job of getting the reader to care about and invest in all of them. And the dialogue! Ashia’s got a natural ear for dialogue, and I love how her characters banter back and forth. The main character, Blythe, is also incredibly loyal and devoted to her family, and I liked that a lot too. It takes a while for her to warm up to people, but when she does, she’d really do anything for them. All of the characters are so real. And that magical forest that I mentioned earlier…I love it so much that our team name is #TeamTempore (the name of the forest). Everything about THE BLACK VEINS feels epic and exciting…I really think it has the potential to be huge and I am thrilled that I get to work on it with Ashia! I could also tell pretty early on how we could make the MS even stronger, and I had a really clear vision for revisions and edits, which was super exciting! I also did...

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Pitch Wars Interview with Lacee Little and her mentor, Juliana Brandt
Oct14

Pitch Wars Interview with Lacee Little and her mentor, Juliana Brandt

Our mentors are editing, our mentees are revising, and we hope you’re making progress on your own manuscript! While we’re all working toward the Agent Showcase on November 3rd-9th, we hope you’ll take a moment during your writing breaks and get to know our 2016 Pitch Wars Teams. And now, we have . . .  Lacee Little – Mentee Twitter Juliana Brandt – Mentor Twitter | Website Lacee: Why did you choose Juliana? Juliana’s love of rich fantasy worlds and complex magic systems made me eager to get her help sorting through mine. I knew that her strengths with world-building would challenge me to make my setting, and my magic, as lifelike as possible. Juliana: Why did you choose Lacee? Lacee’s richly imagined world was spell-binding! Her characters felt fully realized and had distinct, compelling voices. I was absolutely thrilled with the creativity of the magic system, and the way she pitted her main characters against one another with their magical talents. I was also incredibly excited to see where we could take the book! I thought she would be absolutely lovely to work with, and I was blessedly right! Lacee: Summarize your book in three words. 1880s Magical Outlaws Juliana: Summarize Lacee’s book in three words. Magical Book Thieves Lacee: Tell us about yourself. What makes you and your MS unique? I am absolutely in love with historical fantasy, especially the kind where magic appears around the cracks of real historical events. Growing up in Oklahoma made me appreciate the history of the West and wonder how much more wild it would’ve been if outlaws could use spells instead of six shooters! I have enjoyed exploring a part of the world that is not normally seen as magical and turning the familiar into something fantastical. Juliana: Tell us about yourself. Something we might not already know. I would love to be Diana Wynne Jones when I grow up…Ohh, we already knew that? Then instead: I dream of building a rock climbing wall in my garage, so I can practice bouldering at home!   Thank you for supporting our Pitch Wars Teams! And don’t forget to stop by the Agent Showcase starting November 3rd to see how our teams do in the final round. Save...

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