Why Pitch Wars?

If you follow me on twitter at all, or saw last week’s blog post, you’ll know that I’m a mentor in this year’s Pitch Wars. Don’t know Pitch Wars? It’s a contest where mentors pick a mentee and help them revise their manuscript.

In reality, it’s much more than this.

I see Pitch Wars as kind of the holy grail of writing contests. At the outset, there are about 130 writers/writer teams involved. These are authors who are agented, published, and/or editors. These are authors who have been through the trenches. We have knowledge and experience to pass on.

And we do.

Just take a look at the hashtag and you’ll see any number of mentors offering up advice. Check out all the bios, each mentor will have some tidbit to share.

I’ve mentioned this many times before, and I’ll mention it again: I’ve learned most of what I know about writing from contests.

Through contests I’ve gained valuable information. Through contests I’ve met my CPs. Almost all my writer friends I can trace back to a contest, directly or indirectly. Here’s a way to strengthen your writing and fine tune your skills.

Even if you don’t get in.

In 2014 I entered Pitch Wars for the first time. I didn’t get any requests. I wasn’t chosen. But I learned and made connections. In 2015 I entered again. I had a recently revised manuscript and I felt like something major was still wrong, but I had no clue what to do with it. Last year we could sub to five mentors, and I did. I got requests from four that totally made my day.

I didn’t get in.

I did, however, receive some very encouraging feedback. A few weeks later I landed my agent through the slush. Which means one big thing: I didn’t get in because I didn’t need it.

Now, I’m not patting myself on the back here. If I hadn’t done my revision yet? I might have needed that mentoring. But after the revision it was ready to go.

Keep this in mind, potential mentees. Some of you won’t get in simply because you are ready. Your story is ready. And a mentor can’t see how to take your amazing story to the next level, because it doesn’t need to be brought there.

Others will not get in for a variety of reasons, the main one being: we can each only pick one. I’m going to want a novel I can read over, and over, and over again. I’m going to want something that while I read, a little lightbulb goes off and I see how to bring that magic up a notch. I’m also going to want a writer who is ready to roll up his or her sleeves and do the work.

If you participate on the hashtag feed, if you listen to the mentors and make friends, you’ve already won. There’s so much information out there, but if you are not open minded enough to check yourself and learn how to change, you won’t get anywhere.

Writing is hard. It’s blood, sweat, and tears. I’ve killed parts of my story that I love, I’ve put a beloved project aside to collect dust. I’m also very willing to change and alter or remove parts. The first thing I always ask myself: does this change affect the overall plot? If the answer is no, bye-bye.

So take from this contest whatever you can. Last year I did. Last year I had no clue my writing life was about to change. I know there are potential mentees in the same boat. Be it through getting picked or not, many of you will look back a year from now and be amazed at how far you’ve come.

Need it spelled out more? Last year at this time I had one R&R I was working on, no other requests out. I had been collecting rejection after rejection. This year I have an agent and a publisher—not only a publisher, but a traditionally published book.

Where are you going to be next year?

PitchWars Mentor Bio

PitchWars logo 2016

I am SO excited to be a PitchWars Mentor this year! It has been a dream to be part of a contest that has helped so many and I can’t wait to create some magic!

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First, a little about me: If you know me at all, you’ll know I’m a bit of a contest junkie. I’ve participated in quite a few as a hopeful, and always walk away with new knowledge, new friends, or both! Two years ago I entered with only a honorable mention and making the semifinals in Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write. Last year I made it through to the agent round in three contests: NestPitch, Writer’s Voice, and Write Inclusively. This year I’ve been a reader for PitchMadness, a judge for QueryKombat, and a mentor for FicFest. So I know contests inside and out, and even wrote an article on it for #RWChat!

I’m a NA/A Contemporary Romance writer represented by Rachel Brooks of L. Perkins Agency. For how I landed my agent (I’m a slush success) check out this post. My debut NA came out in June with Avon books, SIGNS OF ATTRACTION. I’m Hard of Hearing and I write about hearing loss. I also have a degree in Deaf Studies from Boston University, which I used in my former career as a social worker, before burning out and turning to the family business (need window treatments? I’m your gal!). I’m a bit of a hopeless romantic: I married my high school sweetheart and we live with our son and three cats.

And if this doesn’t give you a hint about what I’m looking for…I want all the romance!

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Okay, not all, I can’t have them all. Specifically I’m mentoring NA/A and what I’m looking for is pretty universal across the two categories. Here are a few things high on my wish list:

  • Diversity. Whatever that means to you: race, sexuality, gender, religion, disability, etc. I especially would love some own voices as I’m super sensitive to authentic portrayals. Note that I’m white/cis/straight, so I’m counting on you to bring a respectful and accurate diverse element across. Also note that I want diversity to be an is, part of the make up of the character not a plot point (own voice issue books the exception). If a disabled character is “cured,” I’m not your mentor.
  • I’m a sucker for a second chance romance, or friends to lovers. Show me either of these and you’ll have my attention. Secret babies also strike a cord, but must stand out from the crowd.
  • I like a story with meat to the plot, that is more than the romance. A story that knows the rules and breaks them just enough to be unique.
  • I like characters who are real. Sure, we all love the tattooed bad boy, but the hot guy who reads a book at the coffee shop is just as hero worthy!
  • While I tend to fall in love with a little of everything, I’m a best match for contemporary stories.
  • For Adult I prefer deep third person, for New Adult I prefer first. In both cases I love dual. There are exceptions to this preference, and it boils down to voice.
  • I want amazing chemistry between the two main characters. That can be off the charts or a slow burn.
  • In regards to chemistry…I prefer my sex on page, please. You may able to tease me with no sex but good build up, however full on BDSM makes me blush far too much!
  • Ultimately, it’s voice that will seal the deal for me. And that’s not something I can explain beyond: I’ll know it when I see it.
  • Give me a ms that makes me go: gceg85qcd(Psst, scavenger hunters, here’s your letter!)

So why should you choose me? I intern for a publisher and have learned a lot from this experience. I’m a plot hunter. I love nothing more than to find plot issues and point them out. And I will go back and forth happily over issues until they shine! I love seeing how things can be made better and stronger. I’m a revision nut. Some of my best work has come from revisions and I’m not afraid to rip things apart and put them back together. And, thanks to my editor, I have a soft spot for kick-ass romance black moments. I may have also developed a fondness for torturing characters.

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As for grammar: if I had a time machine I would go back and re-assign my English teachers, as I got the easy one every year. It took until middle school Spanish for me to understand verbs enough to play MadLibs (hangs head in shame). I’ve come a long way, but after having commas added, removed, added, removed by my agent, editor, and copy editor, I’m not your gal if you need help placing them! That being said, I will hunt down all instances of tell, search for passive language, and absolutely mark up what I’m confident in.

I communicate mostly via email or messaging due to my hearing loss. However, I’m happy to work with what form is best for you!

I love to watch romantic comedies (::cough, cough:: points above ::cough, cough::) and a romantic plot or subplot has addicted me to more than one sitcom (Frasier, How I Met Your Mother). In books, I range from sweet to angsty. On the sweet side: I love me some steam. On the angsty side: too much can be too much, I like my happy moments! My favorite author list is seriously lacking in diversity, and I’ve been branching out over the last few years. But my tried and true authors include: Jennifer Crusie, Jill Shalvis, Nora Roberts, Elizabeth Briggs, and Colleen Hoover.

Any questions? Tweet me! @AuthorLBrown or comment below!

 

Giveaway Time!

Just one week until the paperback of SIGNS OF ATTRACTION is released! There’s nothing quite like the smell and feel of a printed book, right? And, bonus, no charging required!

In honor of the release, how about a giveaway? Enter below for a chance to win one SIGNED copy of SIGNS OF ATTRACTION!

Already pre-ordered? As a thank you, send me a screen shot of your proof of purchase and I’ll mail you a signed bookmark! This offer is open until July 25th, so hurry and send me those pictures: LauraBrownAuthor (at) gmail (dot) com.

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway

Captions at the Movie Theater

I’ve blogged in the past about captions for movies, and how disappointing it is when the captions are not available, or not covering the entire movie (i.e. when music is ignored). But what about movies shown in the theater?

Some theaters use open captions, and it’s usually a specific, limited showing where the captions are offered, often in off peak hours that can be difficult for those of us with regular 9-5 jobs. These captions are shown on the screen, just like watching captions at home.

But there’s another option—at least in my area—a personal captioning device. Simply put, this is a device that displays the captions on a small box only the person requesting it can see. When I first started using these devices they reflected a scrolling marque in the back of the theater. Now it’s an internal device, with the captions pre-programmed.

I’ve only used them a handful of times, because I don’t go to the theater often. And that’s due to these devices having a pretty bad track record: I tend to get free tickets when my captioning doesn’t work—because what’s more disappointing than not being able to see a movie once you’re already watching the start of the film, only there’s no captioning—and I’ve had about a 50-50 success rate.

The above picture is from this weekend’s attempt to watch a movie. First time I was able to bring my son to the theater and had captioning for myself. My husband and I had free tickets since, surprise surprise, the last movie we saw (Deadpool) had a captioning issue and I missed half the film. And if you think Deadpool is an easy character to lipread, as nice as Ryan Reynolds’ voice is…

So, there I am, in the theater, wayyy up close, with my captions set up and my fingers crossed.

And the best thing happened: even though previews are usually not captioned, three of ours were! Not only was it awesome to get the full impact of the previews, but this also told me ahead of time that everything was going to be okay. I was not going to have to leave my son and husband behind to get my captions fixed as the movie began (as I’ve done far too often). I was not going to have to sit outside while they watched, or watch something I couldn’t fully understand. This was going to work!

Then, the movie started. I held my breath. And you know what the very first thing I saw was? Music being captioned!

So this is how I watch movies in the theater. Now, my hearing means that sometimes I can hear enough. But it’s really a hit or miss: I have no way of knowing ahead of time how the acoustics will work. It does take some adjusting, since the captions are right up close, and the screen is far away. When it works, it’s a great experience.

Cover Reveal: SHATTERED by Sharon M. Johnston

Shattered: An Open Heart Novel Book 2

SHATTERED digital

Book Blurb:

Mishca needs to save her sisters, but only Ryder can save her.

The truth about Mishca’s past shattered her heart. She deals with the pain by focusing on a new mission: saving her newfound family from their creator. With her sisters scheduled for termination, Mishca and her friends set out on a journey up the North Queensland Coast to save them before someone else dies.

Ryder understands the need driving Mischa. It’s in her DNA. But he’s not giving up on the chance they can still be together. She’s the only one to have seen him levitate. The only one to watch the sparks dance across his skin. The only one he trusts enough to know what is in his heart. And now, he might be the only one who can stop Mishca from losing her humanity.

Driven apart by secrets, will they come together in time?

Book Extract:

My hands grip the steering wheel so tight my knuckles resemble mini snow capped mountains. I could drive under the truck 200 metres ahead in the opposite lane and end it all. It would be so easily. Accelerate; yank the wheel, and then nothingness. The scenario plays through my mind so vividly I actual wince.

Suck it up, soldier. This pity party is over.

I shake my head as though that will make the intrusive thoughts dissipate. The best thing might be to think of nothing at all. Thinking about the fact people want to kill my sisters, thinking about how I stuffed everything with Ryder, thinking about Isobel and how I’m her incarnate, thinking about Colin… Ah crap, now I’m thinking about Colin.

I want to travel back in time and bitch-slap past-me forever believing that Imogene’s love for Colin was my own. Part of me is furious with my original for passing on her insanely passionate feelings for my former university professor. The other part of me is furious with Colin with not realising that I was his soul mate’s duplicate. Being a clone sucks ass.

Release: September/October 2016

Goodreads

Like the sound of SHATTERED, but haven’t read An Open Heart Novel Book 1:DIVIDED yet? City Owl Press has lots of purchase options on their website.

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Giveaway: Sharon is giving away three handmade bookmarks that all feature purple to match the cover and a heart for the book series. See the Rafflecopter for details on how to enter.

Rafflecopter Giveaway

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About the Author

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Sharon is an author and public relations professional from Mackay in Australia. She writes across Young Adult, New Adult and Adult categories in a variety of genres. Her novel Divided is published with City Owl Press.

Sharon is also a regular mentor for the pitch contest Pitch Wars. When she’s not writing or working in PR, Sharon is gaming with her hottie hubby and kids, binging on Netflix, or playing with her fur babies.

Find her on her website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.