Some Pitch Wars Stats

Pitch Wars is in full swing and many of us mentors are knee deep in glorious words, crying over the fact that we can only choose one! I’ve always found the behind the scenes stuff fascinating so I’m going to let you into a small look at what I’ve been working with.

I received 89 subs this year! That’s almost double from last year. Part of that is due to expanding my wish list, part of that is due to the sheer jump in numbers the overall contest received.

Here’s how those 89 subs broke down:

  • 16% were New Adult, the rest Adult with one YA I had to automatically remove.
  • 21% did not follow my wish list. (Sad panda)
  • Highest word count: 141K
  • Lowest word count: 45K
  • My genre breakdown. Note that I simplified some genres to make the chart less crazy. Also note that some marked Contemporary were really Contemporary Romance and I spotted them easily. Some of the Women’s Fiction did not appear to match my wish list (if you read my wish list, this isn’t you, don’t worry!)

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To date I’ve read 827 pages and can usually tell within the first 2-3 if a story is right for me or not. That number read is actually higher since I read fulls on my kindle and don’t have all of those updated yet. And no, I do not read every full in complete. I read until I have enough to make my decision.

I did not get nearly as much diverse stories as I did last year, less for disabled characters. Makes me sad but could mean there weren’t as many participating. (more sad panda)

I’ve made requests (currently at 12%), founds some I’ve loved, some I’ve passed on to others (no stats, sorry, I’d have to sort through all I’ve mentioned and compare that with all I’ve sent, it’s not easy!), and some that I’m not the right person for. I am not done requesting. I’ve also received some subs from others that were not subbed to me.

Here’s a look into my actual notes in my spreadsheet. I write these for my own eyes only, not intending to share, so there’s no filter here. I’ve blanked out any areas too telling. These are also random places in my inbox. No, I will not share what the colors indicate.

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I’ve found a lot of high quality stories in my inbox, so you should all pat yourselves on the back. I hope you all have been making connections with your fellow potential mentees. My core group of CPs (Critique Partners) have all come from contests, either directly or indirectly and I would be nothing without them.

In regards to feedback: I’m a feedback junkie. Love it, and when I was in the trenches I always craved it to help point me in the right direction (news flash, one opinion from one person is just that, one opinion, it might not be right for you, but three similar opinions require some consideration). Last year I sent out feedback to everyone who subbed to me. This year I am not going to have the time. If you are interested in feedback, please comment below or on twitter with your title and I will add you to my list. I cannot promise how prompt I will be, and for most of you it will only be a few lines, but I will get to it.

And that’s your tiny insight into what’s going on in my inbox.

Is This Manuscript Ready? Some Pitch Wars Thoughts

I’ve been seeing this question pop up on the hashtag, with hopefuls pondering if they are ready and if they will be ready in time. I have thoughts on this so I decided to dedicate a blog post to it.

First and foremost: you can’t win if you don’t try. Yes, the mentors do not want a first draft—and we can spot a first draft, we’ve written enough of them! But if you are wondering if you need yet another round of edits first or not? Stop. Pitch Wars is a mentor contest. We’re not looking for perfect. If you are chosen you’ve got a LOT of work ahead of you. Take a few deep breaths, do what you can, and enter.

If you are not sure if a part of your novel is working, then you are a prime candidate for this contest. Mentors are looking for something to love, yes, but we are equally looking for something we can fix. We want to fall in love with your stories and see its weaknesses. More importantly, we want to have the inspiration on how to fix said weaknesses.

Now, story time. In 2015 I entered for the second year as a hopeful. I was working hard at finishing up a major revision. I didn’t know if it worked. I felt like there was still some major flaw left in it. I’d lost my way in the revision process and was floundering, as many of us do during the course of writing a novel.

I ended up with requests from all but one of the mentors I subbed to, which was thrilling! I wasn’t chosen to be a mentee. And let me tell you something, even though I still worried there were major flaws, the manuscript didn’t need the contest. A month later I signed with my agent and did minor alterations before going on sub. That book sold not too long after that and my editor’s edits were not the rip it apart kind.

The novel was ready. Some of you out there are biting your nails, fighting this gut deep feeling that there is something wrong with your novels. Some of you don’t have major problems left to address. Some of you are there. You are ready. You just don’t know it yet. Because this business is subjective. It drags you down, knocks you out, and forces you to pull yourself back up again. If I hadn’t subbed to my agent, if my agent hadn’t subbed to my editor, I might still be in the trenches with all of you. It’s part talent, part luck, and a whole hell lot of perseverance.

But back to the contest: Do you have a finished novel? Does it have a beginning, middle, and end? Have you edited it, hunting for easy fixes? Have you had other eyes providing feedback? (If not, reach out on the hashtag or join the Facebook group!) Have you done what you think you can for the novel? If you are at least close, enter. The only thing you have to lose is a quick pass (not a rejection, it’s not a rejection when we can only pick one) with potential feedback (some of us do, some of us don’t, check with your mentors). And in the meanwhile you’ll make friends and learn from others. Which is a win-win.

As for me, do I still bite my nails and wonder if my work is ready or not? Yes and no. I have my close CP (Critique Partner) cheerleaders who talk me off ledges constantly, but a perk to being published, and having reviews, is learning my own weaknesses. I spot them in my own work, I self edit with my agent and editor in my head. I’ve seen my work go from creation to completion. It helps let me know when I’m ready and when I’m not. It comes from experience and not giving up. We are all always learning and we will all always have edits to do.

The real question isn’t if your manuscript is ready. The question is: are you ready to work?

Pitch Wars Mentor Bio

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I’m back for a second year as a Pitch Wars Mentor and I could not be more excited! Many of my wish list items are the same, but there are a few notable changes, so read on to find out more!

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 walked away with new knowledge, new friends, or both! I’ve entered and not gotten picked, I’ve been picked, and I’ve been on the other side helping out. Since you’re reading this you probably already know, but I’m going mention it anyways: all sides have been super valuable! So pat yourself on the back for looking into Pitch Wars, you’ll find a lot more than a potential mentor with this contest.

At any given moment my writing/editing process looks an awful lot like this (note the messy desk and wrist braces for carpal tunnel). The cat, Oreo, recently passed away, but her fur can still be found keeping my laptop warm:

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I’m a NA/A Contemporary Romance writer represented by Rachel Brooks of BookEnds Literary Agency. For how I landed my agent (I’m a slush success) check out this post. I have two NA romances out with Avon books, SIGNS OF ATTRACTION and FRIEND (WITH BENEFITS) ZONE. 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 two 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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NA-A Mentor MugOkay, 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 (or babies/kids/pregnancy) also strike a cord, but must stand out from the crowd.
  • I dig unrequited love finally getting their chance.
  • I’m also a big fan of the underdog.
  • 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.
  • One of my favorite parts to a story (or movie or television series) is the interpersonal relationships. I love to see those relationships grow and change over the course of a novel.
  • 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.
  • That said, I’m game for some light fantasy, thanks to an overwhelming obsession with Once Upon A Time (did you catch the gif above? *swoon*). Got some fairy tale lore or True Love, gimme! Just keep in mind that another mentor is your best bet for full on fantasy novels.
  • Got a Women’s Fiction novel with a strong romantic component or RomCom? Send it my way!
  • A few other sub genres I’m open to: Romantic Suspense and some Paranormal (I had a ghost story high on my list last year but I’m not a big vampire/werewolf gal).
  • 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 be 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.

Things I am not a good match for:

  • Historical
  • Science Fiction
  • Heavy Fantasy
  • Non HEA or HFN, I need my happy endings!
  • Spiritual
  • Many instances of rape. It’s a gray area for me, but I’m getting a lot of questions on it so I’m adding it in here: if you have a good reason for it being in a romance, I’m okay with it. But if it’s heavy on the rape or a lot on page, I’m not your mentor.

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. 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 (While You Were Sleeping, Stardust, Penelope, Sweet Home Alabama) and a romantic plot or subplot has addicted me to more than one television series (Frasier, How I Met Your Mother, Coupling (British version, American doesn’t exist), Once Upon A Time). 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 Tracey Livesay.

Any questions? Tweet me! @AuthorLBrown or comment below! And be sure to check out the other mentors posts! *note, the scavenger hunt word is a red “That’s”*

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Hearing Loss Terminology

There are lot of different terms used to describe a person with a hearing loss, and a lot of acceptable and not acceptable terms are widely misunderstood. As a writer of books regarding hearing loss, I often have to bite my tongue when the wrong term is used. I know the terms are not being used with any negative intent. I’ve experienced the wrong terms being used my entire life (try being in the hospital and having your own preferred terms ignored and not feeling good enough to correct the nurses).

So, here’s a rundown of some of the terms:

Hearing Loss: Blanket term that covers all forms of hearing loss, from mild to profound.

Deaf: This term implies that a person’s hearing is in the profound range, meaning they have “absence of useful hearing.” Some deaf people can still hear sounds, some hear nothing at all. Some speak. Some do not.

D/deaf: In the Deaf Community there is a thing called “little d” and “big d.” Simply put, someone who identifies as Deaf (big d) is a culturally deaf person. They are a part of the Deaf Community. Someone who identifies as deaf (little d) is just that, deaf. They are probably in the hearing community and might not know ASL, prefer speaking to the best of their ability. There is no right or wrong here, but with every book I write I am explaining my usage of D/deaf. Because when discussing deafness as a disability, there is no “big d,” that term is reserved for statements involving identity.

Hard of Hearing: This is a term for someone with some hearing loss. This person is not deaf, this person is not hearing. Often times they will wear hearing aids to help boost their hearing abilities. Like the D/deaf above, a person can capitalize to denote identity and being part of the Deaf Community. As a whole, being hard of hearing is a very vast term. We range from an older person with a little late onset hearing loss, to a person who has significant loss and has worn hearing aids most of their lives, to many variations in between.

Late Deafened: This is a person who normally is born hearing and loses their hearing later on in life. Could be they started losing their hearing as a child, or a teenager, or in their forties. Regardless of when they started losing their hearing, they are now deaf.

Hearing Impaired: Uh uh. No, just no. Unless you use this term to self-identify—and rock on with your bad self if you do—please do not use this term. We are not impaired. There is nothing wrong with us. And many of us feel our ears make us part of a linguistic community. This term does not encompass all forms of hearing loss. This term is hurtful to most of us. If you pay attention to my writing, I only use this term in the negative sense. And even when I have a character who would self-identify this way, I opt not to.

Mute: Another term to avoid, especially when using a combination of deaf mute. Many deaf people opt not to use their voice. Many have also been forced to speak and go through hours upon hours of speech therapy. Like “impaired” it is often frowned upon.

Deaf-Blind: This is a person with a hearing loss and vision loss. Like the hearing spectrum, this person could still have usable vision, but often times meets the legally blind criteria.

As for me, I was born hard of hearing. My identity wavers between Hard of Hearing and Deaf, and in ASL I often use both signs simultaneously. For one main reason: my right ear is considered deaf. Now, I still wear a hearing aid in that ear. I still hear with that ear. But I also don’t listen with that ear. If someone is talking to my right ear, I have to move them to my left ear in order to comprehend. Yet that ear does okay in speech recognition tests, mainly due to my hearing loss being moderate in speech areas of sound. Another big thing about me: I grew up without the community. It wasn’t until college that I sought out an ASL class that changed my life and brought me home.

Any terms I’ve skipped over that you want an answer to? Comment on it below. I love questions and am happy to discuss. Just please don’t assume what terms I prefer.

Release Day for FRIEND (WITH BENEFITS) ZONE!

Hard to believe my second book with Avon releases today! Birthing a book takes a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, but couldn’t be more worth it!

A few fun facts about this novel:

  • Both main characters are Deaf, though they have different hearing levels. Both use ASL as their primary language.
  • Devon has Deaf parents, making him a special member of the Deaf Community. Only 10% of deaf kids are born to deaf parents.
  • Jasmine is Jewish, more reformed than me, but still like me!
  • The novel is set just outside of Boston, on the North Shore. I’ve lived my whole life in Massachusetts, so it’s natural to set my stories here.
  • Devon has aspirations of being a social worker, a former career of mine. In fact, Dev volunteers at a place inspired by my first job outside of college!
  • A character from SIGNS OF ATTRACTION has a cameo!

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Grab your copy now! Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo | More!

FRIEND (WITH BENEFITS) ZONE Excerpt!

With one week to go until FRIEND (WITH BENEFITS) ZONE releases, I thought I’d have a little fun and share an excerpt! Before you get a first look at Jasmine and Devon, be sure to check out the rafflecopter for some cool prizes from yours truly! Rafflecopter ends on June 20, 2017.

And don’t forget to pre-order! FRIEND (WITH BENEFITS) ZONE goes on sale June 27, 2017! Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | and more

Chapter One

Jasmine

Chilly midnight wind blew my trench coat up as I stared at the fluttering note taped to my basement apartment door. I needed to get out of the freaking cold air, but I stood rooted to the spot by a sloppy handwritten letter that didn’t even mention my name.

 

To Whom It May Concern,

Your residency is terminated. Please collect your belongings and move out ASAP.

 

I’d seen one too many letters like this in my twenty-one years. Some taped to doors, others shoved underneath them, and still more sent certified mail. All back when I lived with my mother. This was the first I had managed to collect on my own.

I shouldered the door open, then used my hip to force it closed. The letter—now crumpled in my hand—landed on my wobbly kitchen table. I still hadn’t found the right combination of books to keep it level. Not that I had many books to begin with.

The wind outside stopped, but my postage-stamp-sized studio didn’t exactly come with heat. I flicked on the tiny portable heater and sat on my bed, waiting to thaw out.

I never wanted to be in this situation. Not again. Served me right for accepting a cheap Craigslist apartment. I paid my rent on time, in cash. I kept to myself. If I’d somehow created too much noise, then they needed to tell me. Deaf ears couldn’t tell.

I took in a deep breath of questionable moldy air. Thirty days. That was standard for evictions. I could work out something in thirty days.

I had to.

With a bit of warmth finally reaching my skin, I changed out of my clothes and into a baggy tee shirt, then added sweats and a sweatshirt. I had to tighten the drawstring to keep the pants up, but the extra fabric helped keep me warm. Clothes stolen from Dev, my BFF. Perks to having a guy friend. I had no clue if he knew I’d stolen his clothes or not. I didn’t care. He’d give me the shirt off his back if I asked; nothing wrong with skipping a step.

From my bed, the entire studio apartment stretched before me. Okay, so cramped was a better word than stretched. A half kitchen that consisted of a mini fridge, a sink, and a microwave, a small table, one lousy tiny window, and the bathroom that held a stall shower and just as much water pressure as heat: almost nonexistent. The only positive thing about this place was the rent, cheap enough that I could save as much money as possible. My phone vibrated, and I picked it up, welcoming the distraction.

Dev: How did the date go?

Considering I sat on my bed wearing his clothes instead of being warmed up without any clothes on at all? I sent back a thumbs-down image.

Dev: That bad?

Me: Greg was disappointed I wasn’t in my bar clothes.

Served me right for picking up a guy at the bar I worked at. He had seemed to be nice and far more of a gentleman than most of my customers. He even knew a few signs. I had hoped for a little fun, a departure from my daily life. In the end, we had nothing in common. He wanted the shot-girl image, not a real person.

Dev: That asshole. Want me to beat him up?

Me: I know you have a love affair with your punching bag, but this one requires no fists. Sorry.

Dev: You OK?

I stared up at my ceiling. The man always managed to read between the lines.

Me: I’m fine.

Dev: Liar.

I scrunched my nose and tapped at my phone until his image appeared on-screen, too-long hair included. “I just had a bad date. Are you done picking on me?” I signed.

He tried to keep a straight face, but his eyes laughed at me. “I wanted to make sure you were OK.”

I held the phone farther back and let him see I was ready for bed. How much more fine could I get?

“So that’s what happened to my college sweatshirt.”

I angled the phone to the emblem on my leg. “Pants too.”

Dev laughed and shook his head. “Come over. You don’t have to stay at your crappy apartment tonight.”

“I happen to like my crappy apartment.” Okay, that was a lie. I hated this place. But I liked my privacy. And even if I stayed at Dev’s a few times a month, that didn’t mean I needed to right this second. Not when I’d be losing this place soon.

I didn’t sign that. My problem. I’d handle it. I’d learned a long time ago to never let a wannabe social worker get involved unless I wanted to give up control. Dev had no boundaries when it came to helping others.

“Please?”

“Are you seriously begging me to come over at midnight?”

Dev had the decency to shrug.

“Tomorrow. Come to the bar. For now, I have a date with my pillow.” Sure, the pillow was flat as a pancake, but I wanted alone time.

“Fine. If you change your mind, come on over.”

I nodded and ended the call. I had his spare key, but we both knew I wouldn’t use it.

My eyes traveled over the room once again. The cracks in the walls, the cracks in the cement floor. I had snagged the place for one reason and one reason only: to save money and buy my own bar.

Like my father had. I wondered if he’d recommend it or if he’d try to convince me to choose a different career. Maybe we would have worked side by side, handling customers and drinks. In truth, I’d never know what might have been.

I pulled out my notebook, the one with the pale blue cover on which I had penned Jas’s Bar. Here I planned out everything I could for owning my own bar. From rules and regulations, to which brands I wanted, to recipes and other ideas. I mapped out my finances, what I’d need to make this a reality.

I wasn’t there yet. Hence the cheap apartment and meager living.

Maybe I should have crashed at Dev’s. A little comfort went a long way when life spiraled out of control. I knew I was young and I had time. But I wanted my happy. I’d paid my dues; I deserved my dream.

I was still staring at my notebook when a light flashed by my tiny window. Outside someone stood with a flashlight, shining it into my apartment. I didn’t need to adjust to the light to know who that someone was with the one, two, three blinking pattern.

It took five steps to stomp over to the door. Dev came in once I wedged it open. He pushed the door closed.

“You can’t have your clothes back,” I signed, even as I was grateful to see him. When Dev was around, even this place sorta felt like a home.

“I don’t want my clothes back. Not now, at least. I wanted to make sure you were OK.”

I held out my hands, showing that I was fine. Even if I did scan my coffee table and breathe in relief that the eviction letter was facedown in a crumpled mess.

He studied me, searching for all my little tics that spelled I was in trouble, tics only he knew. I blanked my face; otherwise he would latch onto there being a problem. A big one. Dev shoved a hand through his hair, those wavy locks rioting into one massive sexy-as-hell bedhead. I missed the days when he was a spindly little thing, before he grew into this hunk I could never unfriendzone. He meant too much to rock the boat, and I didn’t dare risk losing him. He scratched at a day’s worth of scruff, the black stubble contrasting with his pale skin. Then he kicked off his shoes, tossed his coat on the back of a chair, and plopped down on my bed in a way that had to have a spring or two digging into his back.

He didn’t budge.

I wanted to laugh. Forget me time—neither one of us had given the other the right to be alone since we first met. Still, I couldn’t let go of our usual bickering match. “Go home.”

He folded his hands behind his head, not moving. I crossed my arms. A few seconds later he sat up, grabbed my laptop off the floor, and flipped it open. “We’ll watch a movie.”

“My laptop can’t handle Netflix. You know that.”

He closed the laptop. “Right. Forgot.” He unlocked his phone and placed it on the bed.

“Tiny viewing tonight?”

“You refused to come to my place.” Underlining meaning: we could have watched on a large flat-screen TV.

Since there was no budging him now that he had settled in, I climbed onto the bed with him. He picked up the phone so we could watch, and I settled my head on his chest.

I didn’t pay much attention to the action flick he put on. Most days I loved the intensity of those movies. Tonight, those explosions felt too close for comfort. Instead I made a mental list of my options. Had to before Dev found out. He’d want me to stay with him. And being cuddled up with him, I had to admit, had potential. More so when I placed my hand on his firm stomach and took in a deep breath of the ocean scent of his soap. Problem was, I needed to be on my own two feet. The last person to take care of me—my mother—had failed. I couldn’t trust anyone else.

Not even Dev.

SIGNS OF ATTRACTION First Birthday and Giveaway!

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a whole year since SIGNS OF ATTRACTION released! I’m still so excited I’ve had the pleasure of sharing Carli and Reed’s story with the world!

In honor of SoA’s first birthday, I thought a giveaway was called for! Check out the rafflecopter below for your chance to win a SIGNED paperback of SIGNS OF ATTRACTION!

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And that’s not all, I’m also giving away a book charm pendant of SIGNS!

AND, since it’s less than two weeks to my next book’s release, how about a pre-order eBook of FRIEND (WITH BENEFITS) ZONE?!

I’ll also give away bookmarks of both books.

This contest is open internationally. Click on the link below to go to the giveaway (since I unfortunately can’t have it loaded directly.) Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway