One month ago, I found out I had been chosen as a 2019 Pitch Wars mentee. It was a supremely exciting moment and for several days I felt like I had to pinch myself, because surely, this couldn’t be really happening to me.
But it was. And it is.
The last few months of the year always are busy for me as freelancer. My clients seem to have more work for me, often with shorter deadlines. I don’t mind and it’s something I’ve learned to expect, which means I build extra blocks of work time into my schedule to accommodate.
Except this year, it’s different. Because: Pitch Wars.
I’m in the process of revising my middle-grade fiction “Murph Meets a Demon” with help from my mentor, Jessica Bayliss. So far we’ve video-chatted, and despite some technical wonkyness, we accomplished a great deal. I can’t tell you how helpful it is to have someone like Jessica for guidance, to point out potential issues, inconsistencies in plot or character actions, and to just have that support. To have someone in your corner. That’s what Pitch Wars can offer. It’s the community—the mentees, mentors, and admin. What a fabulous group!
Now I’m extremely fortunate, I have an amazing writing community that I’ve been part of for a while. This includes my CP’s (critique partners) and writing friends that I connect with daily via phone, IMs, or social media. They are always there for me, and I’m so grateful. But, I’m also grateful to have my fellow Pitch Wars mentees. We are taking a very specific journey together and I have to say, our 2019 group is pretty awesome!
I can’t wait for their books to be out there and for everyone to get to read them. So many incredible stories! You’re going to be adding many to your TBR list.
Also, if you follow me on Twitter, and you ARE following me right? 😏
Anyway, I’ve been sharing Pitch Wars mentee/mentor interviews. This is a great way to meet the different mentees and their mentors AND learn a bit more about their books.
This post has rambled a bit, but that’s how it goes today. All day long my brain is always at least halfway with my book as I write other stuff, do chores, or grab 30 minutes for a walk outside on some of the last warm-ish days of the year. I’m really excited about “Murph Meets a Demon” and I can’t wait to share more with you. I promise, my next Pitch Wars update will delve a bit deeper into my book and my 12 1/2 year old MC: Audra “Murph” Murphy. She’s quite the kid!
Actually, many amazing things happened because I spent Friday through Sunday morning at the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators) Middle of the Map conference. It was a phenomenal conference and I hope to share a bit more about my experiences in another post.
Saturday night, we were just finishing a session of roundtable critiques, and it had been awesome. Great people, fantastic stories, helpful critiques. My phone buzzed and I saw I had an email.
From Pitch Wars. 👀
My heart stopped. 💓 I debated about waiting and opening the email later when I was alone in my room. But I’m not good at waiting. I had to know. I opened. Read and scrolled. Scrolled some more.
And shrieked. I might have happy-cried a bit too. Okay, yes, I totally happy-cried and my wonderful SCBWI friends gave me hugs and congratulations. I was in!
And what is Pitch Wars and why is this such an exciting thing?
I’ll share with you directly from the Pitch Wars site:
“Pitch Wars is a mentoring program where published/agented authors, editors, or industry interns choose one writer each to mentor. Mentors read the entire manuscript and offer suggestions on how to make the manuscript shine for the agent showcase. The mentor also helps edit their mentee’s pitch for the contest and their query letter for submitting to agents. Mentors can participate solo or pair up and co-mentor.
During the agent showcase, each mentee is featured on a post that includes their pitch and the first page of their manuscript. . . . Participating agents view the posts and make requests.
Over the past seven years, Pitch Wars has changed many lives. Countless authors have been matched with agents and even gone on to book deals and successful careers. . . . But most importantly, Pitch Wars has grown the writing community to connect author with author, creating an atmosphere of camaraderie as we go through all stages of revision and publishing.”
My mentor is the amazing Jessica Bayliss and I’m crazy-excited to work with her. She writes young adult thriller and horror. Definitely go visit her website here: http://www.jessicabaylisswrites.com/
During the revision process of Pitch Wars I will be working on my middle grade urban fantasy: MURPH MEETS A DEMON. I can’t wait for you to read it, and meet Murph—she’s sassy, kind, and has just learned the women in her family are demon hunters.
I’ll be posting here as the Pitch Wars revision process moves forward; as often as I can. There is a lot of work involved in revising/polishing a book to get it ready for the agent showcase, but it’s so worth it.
There are so many people that have supported me along the way during this journey, and I’m extremely grateful. Thank you!
Keep an eye out here and on my Instagram & Twitter accounts for weekly additions to #MuseMondays. I’ll be sharing some of my favorite books, authors, music, movies, and more. Inspirations for both my writing and what I grab to read when I want to escape from the daily mundane.
Today, it’s Josephine Angelini’s “Starcrossed”, a young adult trilogy that I’ve read and re-read multiple times. Add it to your TBR list today; it’s a fun twist on traditional Greek mythology.
Reading on the weekend is more than just a way to relax, it’s an essential part of my existence. While some people may look forward to heading out to the movie theater on a Friday or Saturday, I begin anticipating and planning my weekend reading around Tuesday morning (usually after a particularly long session completing a freelance project.)
This weekend I’m getting a late start. Freelance commitments, family life, and writing new words in my own WIP, pushed back my weekend reads until now. In addition, I wavered on which book to begin. I seriously was leaning towards rereading Josephine Angelini’s Starcrossed trilogy. It’s one of my favorite YA trilogies and if you’ve not read it, I highly recommend it. You can check out my review of the first book here. Angelini’s trilogy focuses on Greek mythology and that seems to be what I’m in the mood for. However, I really wanted to read something that is new to me.
My son left the first three books of the series with me several months ago and they’ve sat there in my TBR pile since. I’m excited to begin reading this series, which means this post will not be much longer. The series begins with The Lost Hero, so keep an eye out here for my review of this first book. I’ve got high hopes for it and am ready to dive in.
What are you reading this weekend? Share the titles and/or links in the comments. I’m always looking to add to my TBR list.
My Goodreads year-in-review tells me I read 44 books in 2018. This is true and misleading. It only catalogs what I tell it and I don’t tell it everything. If you’d like to see what my Goodreads year-in-review, it’s here.
In actuality, I’ve read 50+, I don’t know the exact number because I don’t keep track of all my rereads. You know the ones. Those comfort books you pick up when your life feels wonky, suffocating, bleak, and so forth. We all have those moments and I often deal by escape into a well-worn, many-times-read book.
But I digress. My 2018 Reading Wrap Up features some of my favorite reads of the year and I’m sharing because maybe as you’re putting together your TBR list for 2019, you might want to consider adding one or two or all.
Overall Favorite Book of 2018
Purple Hearts by Michael Grant
Michael Grant’s young adult book Purple Hearts is book three in the Front Lines series featuring Rio Richlin, Frangie Marr, and Rainy Schulterman. In this alternate history, they are soldier girls of World War II. Author Grant gives readers the chance to see what may have happened if women were allowed to enlist and were drafted to serve on the front lines during World War II. I cannot recommend this series enough. It’s raw and wonderful and my overall favorite book of 2018.
Favorite Author Who’s New To Me
I was perusing the young adult shelves of my local library and I saw The Secret Science of Magic displayed cover out. It grabbed me—the cover, the title, and then the blurb. I liked it so much I checked out Life in Outer Space and then The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl, which ended up being my favorite of the three Keil books I read. Her characters are likable, quirky, and I totally recommend checking out author Melissa Keil and her books.
Most Anticipated Releases
Purple Hearts by Michael Grant
The Evolution of Claire by Tess Sharpe
Of Blood and Bone by Nora Roberts
The three books that I’ve listed as my tops were pre-ordered and anxiously awaited, their arrival date circled on my calendar. While I enjoyed The Evolution of Claire, I loved both Purple Hearts and Of Blood and Bone. The latter two are part of series so I already was invested in the story and characters—and neither disappointed.
Favorite Mystery of 2018
One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus
I love mysteries. My all-time favorite author is Agatha Christie, known as the Queen of Crime and writer of more than 60 mysteries. When I can get my hands on a new mystery, I’m in heaven. This year, I had the pleasure of reading a young adult mystery that I couldn’t put down because it was that good, that immersive. If you haven’t read One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus, do it. And then be sure to make a place on your bookshelf for her second book Two Can Keep a Secret which releases January 8, 2019.
Favorite Re-reads of 2018
As I mentioned earlier, I reread—a lot. And I do have many favorites. However, after much consideration, I decided to list four as my Favorite Re-reads of 2018.
Front Lines (Front Lines series book 1) by Michael Grant
Silver Stars (Front Lines series book 2) by Michael Grant
Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
Until the End by Christopher Pike
2018 was a good year for reading, amazing new stories alongside old favorites. Just yesterday, two new books arrived that will be part of my 2019 Reading List and I’ve two more new releases arriving in the first week of the new year. Yay!
What was your favorite book you read during 2018? Share the title and author below in comments, please as I’m always looking to add new titles to my TBR List.
It’s Cyber Monday 2018 and let’s not forget about the writers and book lovers on your lists! Check out a few holiday gift ideas for writers and book lovers that capture the imagination, offer inspiration, and add another touch of whimsy during a magical season while providing joy throughout the upcoming new year.
NOTE: I receive no compensation for any of these items. I am not connected to any of these artisans, sellers, companies, and so forth. They’re items I personally like and wanted to share as ideas.
Let’s start with a few gems from Storiarts. A couple of years ago, my wonderful husband gave me this pair of Pride and Prejudice writing gloves. I love them! Seriously, love them and wear them throughout the cold months as I work. As a writer, I totally recommend adding these to your gift list for anyone who spends long hours at the keyboard.
Storiarts also has a several other fun items, and I want to point out the book totes. Personally, I love the Matilda one, but there are many choices and you can’t go wrong with a book-themed tote bag for any writer or book lover.
From the Mareshop on Etsy, discover another type of fingerless glove perfect for a fantasy writer, dragon lover, or anyone who might love these colorful, handmade gems. I’m partial to this pink pair, but there are several colors plus two length styles to suit personal tastes.
Moonglow jewelry ads have appeared recently in my social media feeds and I’ll confess, I think they’re beautiful. Here’s the deal, you pick a significant date and the mini moon on your jewelry will feature the phase of moon from that time. Cool, right?
Why not choose a significant date for the author on your list? It could be the release date of their debut novel or the date they officially signed a contract with their agent or publisher. You can choose from pedants to earrings and bracelets, but I’m partial to this particular bangle bracelet.
You can’t go wrong with 200 themed magnetic word tiles: Magnetic Poetry Kit—Moist and Other Awful Words. It’s fun, sassy, and can be mixed-and-matched with other magnetic poetry tile kits.
Next up is Scapple, a program available through Literature & Latte. It’s a way for writers to brainstorm ideas and connect ideas even when things seem at their most scattered. If the writer(s) on your list love Scrivener, there’s a good chance they’ll enjoy Scapple.
How about a waterproof notepad? Never forget a great story idea when in the shower or bath again. Add AquaNotes to your gift list.
There are so many different literary, book-inspired, and writerly-styled mugs and drinkware available, I could go on and on. But I won’t. Instead, I’m sharing something I hadn’t seen before until today. These are so much fun! And great for English teachers, too! Check out this set of eight plates from Grammar Stuff.
Something for the Home
Whimsical bookends, beautiful bookends, unique bookends! Head over to Etsy for a huge selection of bookends, truly something for every book lover.
And just fun for, why not a Writer’s Block? It’s the perfect paperweight and desk accessory for any writer.
Book-inspired parties! That’s what is on my mind today. This morning I was working on a project for a client—unfortunately not a plan for a book-inspired party, but it was New Year’s Eve related, so fairly festive. Along the trail of research I had the good fortune to stumble upon the InLiterature.net website. This site has fabulous ideas and information for planning a book-inspired party, everything from recipes to decorations plus crafts and activities for kids’ parties.
The books range from classic literature to favorite children’s stories and everything in between.
Just a few of the books included are:
A Christmas Carol
Julie & Julia
Pride and Prejudice
And of course you can find pages on the site for Harry Potter party ideas.
Do you want to learn how to make a paper mache mandrake? Here you go. InLiterature.net has step-by-step directions.
How about whipping up a batch of Fizzing Whizbees to enjoy at your Harry Potter party? They have a three-ingredient recipe for that too. It looks so easy!
Several years ago I worked at a library and hosted the weekly reading programs for kids. It was a blast! For the preschoolers each week, it was always a program theme relating to our book of the week. I would have loved to have had access to a site like this. Now I’m actually considering a theme party somewhere down the road. But which book to choose?
So how about it? Do you have any good ideas for book-inspired parties? Share your ideas or links to cool sites in the comments below.
When you own a complete book series, do you care if the books are mixed-and-matched? Does it make you twitchy to own book one of a series as a paperback and books three through six (soon to be seven) as hardbacks?
Yes, I’m looking at you GONE series.
And how about different cover art?
Currently I own three series, three of my all-time favorite book series, that are not matched. It doesn’t usually bother me until it’s time to clean and re-organize my bookshelves, then it makes me twitchy because they don’t fit in nice and neat.
This brings me to the next question:
Do I treat myself to a new set of each?
Here is the series that stimulated this train of thought:
The first three books are paperback and the last two are hardback. The first one has different artwork—which I do like.
However, the white really doesn’t go with the darker palette of the other four. Now in reality, does all this make a huge difference?
Of course not.
But it’s my bookshelf and since I gaze at it while working daily, I like a certain aesthetic.
Sonora’s popularity means more to her than a new Michael Kors purse. With Fall Fling around the corner, she’s on the lookout for the perfect gown in the small Texas town. But a ghost has different plans.
When her best friend’s body floats ashore Brushy Creek, Sonora is haunted by the corpse-like spirit. The incessant ghost refuses to leave the cheerleader alone. She must risk death and sanity to find her friend’s killer. If Sonora isn’t careful, she’ll be the next victim.
Girl Gone Ghost is a standalone novel. If you like gripping suspense, sizzling chemistry, and dark secrets, then you’ll love Dawn Husted’s mystery, thriller romance.
Perfect for fans of We Were Liars, Pretty Little Liars, and The Sixth Sense.
Would you like to get a sneak peek at Girl Gone Ghost? I’ve got it for you! Read on!
Yes, Brenham—a town in the birthplace of Texas—had a serial killer. My best friend’s body was discovered nine weeks ago.
Holding Magnolia’s obituary in my hand, I couldn’t peel my eyes away from her heart-shaped face. My eyes watered. The newspaper clipping encompassed her mesmerizing smile and all the years we spent growing up together. Why did she have to die? I kicked my shiny green pompoms into the corner of my room. One of my cheerleading medals fell off the bedroom wall, onto Kaylee’s fluffy black and white tail. My border collie growled and her back stiffened, hair raising along her spine.
“They’re only pompoms,” I muttered as I bent to pick up the medal. What’s the matter? The sea green ribbon attached to the medal had formed a perfect M on the carpet. Bending over, a chill wafted over my back and up my neck. The air conditioning hummed on above my head.
Kaylee showed her teeth at the corner. I waved my hand at her. “Stop it. Sit. What’s gotten into you?” I hung the gold medal back on the nail next to dozens of others. My fingers had crinkled the top edge of the clipping. Dang it.
I grabbed my copy of East of Eden off my desk and stuck the clipping between the pages to flatten it again—and put the obit away one last time. A familiar pang squeezed my chest, and I wiped a tear from my cheek with the back of my hand. I couldn’t focus on Magnolia anymore. I needed to let her go. She was gone and she wasn’t coming back. Opening my dresser drawer, I slid the novel inside. It rested beside my half of our friendship necklace, the same one I had removed two days after her death.
My phone buzzed with a text from my boyfriend, Chris Jenkins. Just pulled up.
In the reflection of the dresser mirror, an outline of our high school’s mascot stared at me with wide-eyes and a green, roaring mouth. I remembered the day Magnolia helped me place the cub sticker on the wall—the same day we made the cheerleading squad our freshman year, three years ago. Closing the drawer, I breathed the memory of Magnolia in and out for the last time.
The doorbell rang. I turned my light off and rushed to let Chris inside. We were having dinner tonight—like it was another normal Saturday night with my family.
Opening the front door, Chris walked in and winked. “Hey, babe.” His arms slid around my waist and squeezed. I laced my fingers through his. He smelled woodsy.
I glanced into the kitchen. Mom grabbed food from the island in the middle and placed the bowl on the dining table.
“Sonora, fill the glasses,” she said. Chris released my hands.
“Where have you been? I thought you’d be here fifteen minutes ago?” I asked him.
“Sonora, did you hear me? Fill the glasses, all the way to the top.”
I hated filling glasses with ice, and she knew it. The cold icky cubes sounded like freshly painted fingernails scraping the hood of my Taurus.
Mom’s pristine hair swayed on her poised shoulders as she hung her apron on the hook.
Chris followed me and grabbed the glasses off the kitchen island and handed them to me one by one, winking at me with his dreamy, dark chocolate eyes.
“Make that one half-full,” he whispered to me as he grinned.
I stuck my chin out to mimic her, “Mom likes the ‘hot tea to melt the cubes with perfection.’” I laughed and smiled at Chris but filled each cup as requested.
Here we were, having dinner, like normal. But my senior year was on the brink of spiraling out of control—I could sense it. Who had killed Magnolia? Why? Dad turned off the jazz music playing in the background and shooed my border collie, Kaylee, into my room. “In you go. No begging at the table,” he told her as he shut the door. Dad turned back to the long wooden table. Behind him, vintage racks displaying antique spoons hung on the navy blue wall. We held hands as he sat. “Who wants to say grace? Chris?”
I squeezed Chris’s fingers, prompting him to speak.
“Sure, Mr. Stewart,” Chris replied, closing his eyes and bowing his head.
“Bless this food and help Brenham High win the game Friday.”
“Amen,” Dad said, loosening his tie from around his neck. He wasn’t the football type, but that didn’t stop him from cheering for the team.
“Sonora, can you grab the sour cream please?” Mom asked. Scooting my chair back, I ambled into the kitchen, past my brother’s empty seat. I missed Bram. Why did he have to move out? I yanked on the door and studied the contents. Containers of yogurt, butter, and assorted Tupperware blocked the view. I reached for the sour cream behind leftovers of questionable age. An eerie dampness floated over my arms. Something smelled old and rotten as if seafood had been left to spoil. I rubbed my nose, shaking the horrid odor off, and shut the door. “Mom, you need to clean the fridge,” I said, entering the dining room.
“Sonora, don’t be ridiculous. The fridge is spotless,” she replied, waving my insane notion off as usual. I grimaced. Why did she have to use my name in every sentence? Why? I handed her the container and sat next to Chris, wriggling the moldy smell from my nose. Beneath the table, he casually crossed his ankle over mine.
“So Chris, are you starting on Friday?” My father passed him the green beans from the middle of the table.
“Yes, sir, Coach wouldn’t have it any other way.” Chris plopped a serving onto his plate, passing the blue bowl to me next. “And Sonora will be cheering from the sidelines.” He winked and nudged my side. I was the cheerleader dating the star football player.
“How do you like the new coach?” my dad asked.
Chris nodded, focused on the food.
Dad wasn’t about to ask deeper questions about football. His professor brain didn’t allow much time for sports, but he knew the town had hired a new coach. Everyone in a small town knows when that sort of thing happens.
“Sonora, how’s the dance committee coming along?” Mom asked as I took a bite.
My fork froze in midair. “Fine,” I replied, not exactly feeling in the mood to talk about the Fall Fling. I wanted to stop thinking about Magnolia, but it was hard. I guess Mom found it easy to forget my dead, best friend.
The horrid smell rushed around me. The same fishy smell as before. Weird. Where was it coming from? I leaned over to Chris and sniffed.
“Did you just smell me?” he whispered out the corner of his mouth.
I shook my head, playing it off. His cologne was distinct, rosewood and lemon, his hair astutely angled. He was perfect. My boyfriend wasn’t the rancid haddock source. I glanced over at Mom’s flawless makeup and Dad’s impeccably ironed shirt. Nope. Not them either.
The smell became overwhelming. How did nobody else notice it? I sucked in a breath. It had to be from outside. Chris shoveled mashed potatoes into his face. Dad dipped into the dinner rolls, unaware.
Ugh. I coughed, and an errant bean lodged in my throat. I coughed again, trying to knock the lump lose, but it remained in place.
Then I couldn’t cough.
Trying to take a deep breath, the slimy, healthy vegetable obstructed my airway. I tried to cough. Choking! No air in. No air out.
I frantically gestured to my throat. My eyes widened.
Chris dropped his fork. It clanked against his plate. “Sonora?” Jumping up, he yanked me from my seat and knocked my chair out of the way with his foot. Wrapping his arms around my stomach, he thrust inward and upward violently. My ribs throbbed. My lungs begged for air. Nothing.
“God, do something!” My mom yelled, panicked.
Wait. Mom never panics. Her voice wavered in and out.
“C’mon! Breathe!” Chris clasped his hands around my waist, but I could barely feel them. Stay conscious. Bright neon spots flickered in my vision, and the table clouded out of focus. Was this what Magnolia experienced when she died?
He yanked inward AGAIN.
“Sonora!” Dad’s voice echoed.
My legs wobbled, my stance weakening. Chris thrust his fists into my stomach once more. I hunched over from the force, and the green bean dislodged, skittering across the table.
Inhaling an enormous mouthful of oxygen, life breathed back into my limbs. Weak, I slapped my palms against the table in effort to stay upright. The placemat slipped off the edge, and my plate of food plummeted to the floor—over my new Gucci flora flats.
“Sonora,” my mom said again, sounding less worried and more annoyed by the mess.
Would you please stop? I wanted to scream at her but didn’t. Months ago, I’d had a mental breakdown from stress, and ever since, it was like Mom couldn’t repeat my name enough.
I hung my head as the table slowly stopped spinning. It was as if I’d finished a string of back handsprings at a pep rally, and my brain hadn’t caught up with my eyes.
Chris’s panicked hand rested on my back.
The room became solid once more, but something was different.
In the corner, behind my dad—stood a ghostly corpse, one silvery eyeball hung from its socket. The ghost paled in comparison against the dark blue walls.
I shook my head and squeezed my eyes shut. I must be seeing things. Oxygen starvation did things to a person. I breathed in steadily and looked once more.
The corpse had moved closer. A worm slithered in the hollow place behind the droopy eye. Water ran from its hair and dress, collecting in a silvery pool at its feet. Her drenched white dress sucked to her body, turning the dress a shade of slippery peach. Golden hair hung like sodden pompoms down both sides of a haggard face.
My legs buckled and my right elbow slammed against the table as I collapsed to the floor.
“Sonora!” Chris yelled, dropping next to me, shaking my shoulder. “What’s wrong?”
Four feet away, she peered at me with one glossy eye above swollen cheeks. Her wet face resembled a purple water balloon about to pop. Her eyes and nose a permanent shade of bruise.
The tiny shimmer of a friendship necklace, a gold locket in the shape of half-a-heart, dangled around her translucent neck.
It can’t be.
I plunged backward, away from Chris. Away from everybody. Away from HER! My spine skinned the edge of the wooden chair, and the pain held me upright. This couldn’t be real. She couldn’t be real.
Magnolia had been my best friend—nine weeks ago, her body washed ashore on Brushy Creek’s swampy banks. She had been murdered by the Creekside Killer.
This wasn’t any corpse. It was Magnolia. I’d known her my entire life. I hadn’t seen her dead before, but I’d recognize that necklace anywhere.