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Cover Reveal - Asleep from Day

TeaserI haven't posted twice in one week in a long time, but today is a special day. Another one of the writers in my amazing Pitch Wars '14 group is revealing her cover today. Besides having a fun name, Margarita is also a fabulous writer, so I'm thrilled to help show off her lovely cover.

First, here's a note from Margarita: 

Hi there! I’m super-excited to share the cover reveal of my debut novel, Asleep from Day. Before we get to the main event, I wanted to share a little about what inspired this book:
 
Back in the ‘90s, I came across this human interest news story that stuck with me ever since. A guy met a woman on a bus in Boston, they chatted for a few minutes, and the woman left before he could get her number. The guy was so taken with her and eager to find her, he plastered fliers all over the city with details of their brief chat (which, at one point, mentioned Kevin Bacon—insert Six Degrees joke here). Remember, this was in the 1990’s, back before Missed Connections and social media. He didn’t have online tools to help him find the woman. The fliers got so much attention, news outlets picked up the story and the guy ended up on TV talking about his search for this woman. I don’t remember if he ever tracked her down, but I was fascinated by the lengths this man went to for a woman he met for only a few minutes. It was romantic, sure, but also a little crazy and strange.
 
Many years later, the seeds of that story took root and grew into something different as I found my premise: What if a girl met a guy and spent a seemingly perfect day with him, then got hit by a car the next day and completely forgot him? What if, as she started to remember, she wondered if those memories were real? What if she had strange dreams and surreal experiences that made her worry she might be making him up and question her sense of reality? Add a 1990’s Boston setting and Asleep from Day was born.
 
It had to be the ‘90s, because technology makes it easier to find people and back then, it was easier to lose track of someone. It had to be Boston because I lived there during my college years and wanted this book to be my love poem to that city.
 
In terms of genre, here’s the thing: I like stories that aren’t one thing. I get more excited when a book or movie or show has layers of different genres. And I got more excited
 
about this story when adding layers to it; I wanted it to be realistic yet surreal, romantic but twisted, with darkness and uncertainty to balance out the sweetness. It’s not psychological suspense or romance or mystery, but it has elements of all of those.
 
For the cover of Asleep from Day, I was hoping for something dreamy and a little strange, but still beautiful. I love the final design Terry Montimore came up with.

About the Author

 Margarita Montimore
Margarita Montimore received a BFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College. She worked for over a decade in publishing and social media before deciding to focus on the writing dream full-time. She has blogged for Marvel, Google, Quirk Books, and XOJane.com. When not writing, she freelances as a book coach and editor. She grew up in Brooklyn but currently lives in a different part of the Northeast with her husband and dog.
 

And here's the cover!!

Asleep From Day cover

It's soooo pretty! I love the colors and how the whole thing conveys the merging of genres Margarita talked about.

About The Book

Astrid can’t remember the best day of her life: yesterday.
 
A traumatic car accident erases Astrid’s memories of September 9th, the day she spent with an oddly charming stranger named Theo. Ever since, she’s been haunted by surreal dreams and an urgent sense that she’s forgotten something important. One night, she gets a mysterious call from Oliver, who knows more about her than he should and claims he can help her remember. She accepts his help, even as she questions his motives and fights a strange attraction to him.
 
In order to find Theo and piece together that lost day in September, Astrid must navigate a maze of eccentric Boston nightlife, from the seedy corners of Chinatown to a drug-fueled Alice-in-Wonderland-themed party to a club where everyone dresses like the
 
dead. In between headaches and nightmares, she struggles to differentiate between memory, fantasy, and reality, and starts to wonder if Theo really exists. Eventually, she’ll need to choose between continuing her search for him or following her growing feelings for Oliver. Astrid might go to extreme lengths to find what she’s lost . . . or might lose even more in her pursuit to remember (like her sanity).
 
It sounds like a great read - I can't wait! Asleep from Day will be released in paperback and ebook on January 10, 2018. Pre-order it here and be sure to add it to Goodreads.

The Writer's Voice Contest Entry

I was lucky enough to be randomly selected as one of the entries for The Writer's Voice contest, so I’m interrupting my regular blogging schedule to add my entry. Thank you to Krista Van Dolzer, Brenda Drake, Mónica Bustamante Wagner, Elizabeth Briggs, and their assistants for hosting such a fun contest! Here’s my entry:
 
QUERY
 
Dear Writer's Voice Judges,
 
When sixteen-year-old Brea stumbles upon a body in the woods, she can’t wait to tell the entire school – heck, the entire town – about her gruesome discovery. This time she has proof to back up one of her stories, so they can’t dismiss it as her overactive imagination. One problem: when she leads the police back to the body, it’s gone.
 
Now Brea’s reputation is completely destroyed, and the police refuse to believe there’s a killer on the loose. That’s okay, she’s watched a few CSI episodes, she'll just solve the murder herself. Decked out in yellow kitchen gloves, she searches the woods and finds evidence implicating Ryker, a classmate fresh out of juvie. The bad news? He now seems to be stalking her. Brea needs a way to investigate him with witnesses present, so she schemes to get him on her team for the annual video scavenger hunt.
 
Soon Brea, Ryker, and three other friends are performing cringeworthy tasks like modeling lingerie and juggling hemorrhoid cream. Despite her mission to expose a murderer, Brea starts to enjoy herself. After all, who would have guessed Ryker would look so adorable in a negligee? But when Brea and a teammate are almost killed, she realizes the murderer is using the hunt as a pretext to take out the entire team. With no idea who to trust, Brea must look past her embellished view of reality to uncover the truth that will save them all. 
 
THE DRAMA QUEEN WHO CRIED WOLF is a 77,000-word young adult mystery with series potential. The twists and turns pay homage to early Christopher Pike, while Brea's witty narration would make her fast friends with Veronica Mars.
 
THE DRAMA QUEEN WHO CRIED WOLF won the SCBWI 2013 Work-in-Progress Grant for Contemporary Novel for Young People. I am also one of the winners of the 2009 Highlights Fiction Contest and a 2008 South Carolina Fiction Project winner. Also, two of my screenplays won generous grants to produce them into award-winning short films. I’m also the Interview Coordinator for Adventures in YA Publishing, which has been a Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers for the past three years.
 
Thank you for your time,
Jocelyn Rish
 
 
FIRST 250
 
A white towel was a terrible outfit for trying to outrun a homicidal maniac. Although I had to admit, the woman racing through the dark forest made it look easy.
 
Until she tripped and crashed to the ground.
 
I leaned forward on the couch. “Get up! Get up!”
 
Instead of scrambling to her feet, she cowered in the leaves.
 
“Come on.” My fingers dug into the worn leather cushion. “At least grab a tree branch to defend yourself.”
 
But she only whimpered, “No, please, no,” while the killer stood over her adjusting his grip on the machete. Like begging was going to change his mind.
 
His blade whistled through the air. Thwack! Blood spurted. I grimaced and flopped back against my favorite seat in the house.
 
Something cold and wet touched my hand.
 
I yelped before my brain remembered the psycho couldn’t crawl through the TV screen to attack me. I glared at Maximus, my seventy-pound Frankenstein mutt taking up more than his fair share of the couch. “Holy crap, Max, are you trying to give me a heart attack?”
 
He chuffed in a way that sounded suspiciously like a yes and nosed my hand again.
 
“Really? You have to go out just when the movie’s getting exciting?”
 
Max blinked like he’d never do something so obnoxious. Then he barked at me.
 
I sighed, but before I could push myself off the couch, Max’s giant German Shepherd ears swiveled toward a sound that sent my heart into Riverdance mode: footsteps on the stairs.
 

DONE!

For those of you who regularly read my blog, you know I’ve been struggling to finish a major rewrite of my novel for almost two years. It’s been a tough road for a lot of reasons, but they mostly boil down to a serious procrastination problem coupled with a major fear of failure. But after yet another all-nighter, I am relieved and giddy to share that as of 11:03am this morning, my rewrite is done! Done-ditty done done DONE!
 
But as excited as I am to have finally pushed through that last wall, I’m also very nervous. While I know it’s not perfect, I’m hoping this was the last major rewrite (at least until I land an agent and publishing deal!). I’ve sent it off to my critique partners with equal parts hope and dread, my fingers crossed that the issues they find only need minor tweaking to fix and not a complete rebuild like I did for this last go round.  
 
While I wait for their feedback, I’m going to reward myself by attacking my TBR pile, especially books by YALLFest authors. I’ll probably also dive into Netflix to watch some odd indie movies. And of course there will be wine and chocolate.
 
I saw this on Facebook the other day and loved it:
Editing Face
Because, yeah. My face has spent some major time in that expression over the last few months. I’m just grateful the expression ‘your face will freeze that way’ isn’t actually based in fact because that’s not a great look on me.
 
Anyway, thank you to everyone who has given me encouragement and cheered me on, whether here, on Facebook, on Twitter, or even face-to-face. It kept me going even when it seemed like this rewrite was some Sisyphean task that would never be done. Now I’m off for a quick happy dance before collapsing into a nap. 
 
How do you celebrate finishing a major rewrite? How do you keep occupied while waiting for feedback?

Phone Calls Good, Emails Bad

During the first part of this year, I entered a bunch of contests covering the different types of storytelling I enjoy: film festivals, a script competition, short story contests, and various programs based on the first chapter of my novel. In some strange convergence of cosmic coincidence, all those contests notified their entrants this past week. Email after email landed in my inbox: We’re sorry to inform you, but . . . . It got to the point where I was doing a Pavlovian cringe each time my email dinged with a new message, dreading the next rejection.
 
But in the middle of all that, I got a phone call. An amazing phone call. The best phone call of my writing life to date. Possibly the best phone call of my life period (although some of those calls from boys in high school were pretty darn exciting).
 
It was SCBWI calling to tell me I’d won their Work-In-Progress Grant for Contemporary Novel for Young People.
 
Now that’s a mouthful to say, so let me break it down for you: SQUUUUUUUUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!
 
Ahem, what I actually meant to say is that SCBWI stands for Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and every year they award a number of grants to help writers and illustrators complete a specific project in order ‘to encourage continuing excellence in the creation of children’s literature.’ And based on the first chapter and synopsis of my WIP, they picked my novel!! It’s currently called The Drama Queen Who Cried Wolf, although its previous title was The Hunt.
 
I couldn’t believe it. I think I asked versions of “Are you serious?” and “Are you kidding me?” at least four times before it finally sunk in. And then this happened:
Kristen Bell's reaction to a sloth
I turned into a ridiculously happy, sobbing mess. I’m not even sure what happened during the rest of the phone call. Immediately afterwards I tried to tell my parents, but I was crying so hard they thought someone had died.
 
Pretty quickly, though, the tears turned into this:
Kermit the Frog flailing
It’s been over a week since I found out, and I still have to restrain myself from running around the house flailing my arms when I think about it. I couldn’t share the news publically until the official announcement from SCBWI, but it’s now officially official: click here to see that I didn’t imagine it.
 
I’m actually relieved to see it in black and white – a part of me was worried it was a fever dream or a trick of my overactive imagination brought on by too many rejections. Another thing that made it feel amazingly real? The check arriving in the mail:
Jocelyn with check from SCBWI
 
I can’t thank SCBWI enough for organizing such fantastic grant program – huge cheers to everyone involved. And I’m so grateful to the judges who saw promise in my project and selected me. It’s been a wonderful boost to my writing confidence at a point when I really needed it. Also, I’m sending giant-crushing-thank-you hugs to everyone who has advised and supported me through the endless honing, revising, and tweaking of my first chapter – it made all the difference. Thank you!
 
And now I’m off to plan my Caribbean vacation. I’m kidding! Maybe. 
 

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

The WoodsThe sweet and talented Adriana Ryan tagged me in The Next Big Thing Blog Hop, which is a fun way for writers to wax poetic about our books without seeming completely narcissistic. I’m not being a crowing parent, you see, I have to talk about my baby because I was tagged. So brace yourself as I get my brag on.

What is the working title of your book?

Ha, starting with an unexpectedly tough one. For the longest time, the title has been The Hunt because it works on many different levels, but I got feedback that it was too generic. So I’ve been floating The Drama Queen Who Cried Wolf for about a year with mixed results – some people love it, others say it has to go. Since most of the docs still have The Hunt, I guess I’m sticking with that until something brilliant hits me in the shower.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Three of my high school friends were also ‘Christmas babies’ like me, so for our 18th birthdays, we had a joint video scavenger hunt party where all of our friends divided into teams and filmed ourselves completing silly tasks my dad had concocted from his warped mind.  It was a blast and one of my most vivid high school memories, so I thought it would make a fun story – but with murder and mayhem thrown in to spice things up, of course.

What genre does your book fall under?

YA Thriller/Mystery

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

The actors I originally pictured as my characters have aged out in the time I’ve been dawdling with the rewrite, so I hit up IMDB to see if I could find some new candidates.

Brea (the protagonist) would be played by Allie Grant (Lisa on Suburgatory).

Tegan (Brea’s nemesis) would be played by Kat Graham (Bonnie on The Vampire Diaries).

Kylie (Brea’s best friend) would be played by Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss from The Hunger Games).

Caleb (Brea's crush) would be played by Jeremy Sumpter (J.D. from Friday Night Lights).

Ryker (Brea's main suspect) would be played by Steven R. McQueen (Jeremy form The Vampire Diaries).

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

After the body she discovers in the woods disappears, sixteen-year-old Breanna must prove it was not the product of her overactive imagination, but rather the handiwork of a killer who plans to silence her.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I hope to be represented by an agency, but I'll self-publish if that doesn't work out.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

It was my 2007 NaNoWriMo novel, so it took me a month.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I have to admit I've been slack for a while about reading in my genre, so I don't really have any current titles for comparison. But the dark twists and turns are influenced by all the Christopher Pike novels I read growing up.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

This was my second NaNoWriMo, and I found it much tougher the second time, so my local NaNo group kept me going when I really wanted to quit.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Even though searching for a killer is a dark subject, I approach it with a light tone and lots of humor. Plus, there's romance. There's always gotta be romance. :-)

Thank you for making it this far in reading about my WIP. Now I need to go get crackin' on finishing the rewrite so there is an actual book for people to read!

And I never tag other people in these things, so if you haven't had a chance to brag about your baby yet and want to, then consider yourself tagged!

ETA: By special request I'm tagging Yve at Lazidaisical - I can't wait to find out what she's working on!

Did you (or are you going to) participate in The Next Big Thing Blog Hop? If so, leave me the link to the post so I can find out more about your book.

Dark Forest photo credit to topfer.

July's #writemotivation

#writemotivationUh, could someone please tell me where the heck June went?  I couldn’t believe it when I saw it was time for another one of K.T. Hanna’s #writemotivation goal check-in months – since they only happen every other month that means it’s now JULY.  Seriously?!?  I never even got around to posting my wrap up for May’s goals!  Although I guess that’s probably because I was a little embarrassed. 

My goal in May was to make serious progress on rewriting my WIP.  And I really did… as long as it counts as serious progress even if I didn’t rewrite a single word.  I spent May doing in-depth thinking about my five main characters, figuring out a new approach for the tone, and working out plot issues that were tripping me up.  I feel like I finally have a deep understanding of my characters and story, but by the time that last minute of May rolled around, I still had not cracked open my manuscript.

Fortunately, all that prep work went to good use in June, and I actually, finally, I know it's hard to believe, started rewriting.  Progress has been slow as I’ve settled into a new voice for my protagonist, and after I finished chapter one I had a crisis of confidence and had to be talked off a ledge by some truly awesome critique partners, but I’m now getting into a rhythm.  I was the speedy hare when I wrote the rough draft several years ago during NaNo, but for the rewrites I’ve turned into the slow tortoise, possibly the slowest tortoise on the planet.  However, progress of any kind puts me in a much better place than I’ve been in years.  

I have scenes that need to be added, other places that need to be completely rewritten, and some places that just need a bit of tweaking, so my pace will vary throughout the month, but I don’t want to settle for the vague goal of “progress” this time.  Therefore, I’m keeping my goal for July tangible yet realistic: edit, rewrite, or add three pages a day on my WIP.  I’ll push to do more, but I won’t feel bad if I don’t.

Best of luck to all of us this month as we work towards our goals!

Are you participating in #writemotivation this month?  Are your goals aggressive or comfortable?  Are they concrete or more general?
 
Photo credit to Hugh Lee and licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Young Adult Yearning

Bailey with the letter YHere we are, almost at the end of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge!  It’s Short Story Saturday and the letter Y, so my plan was to write a Young Adult short story. Since YA is my favorite genre, I thought it would be a snap.  But I have to admit, I’m pretty drained at this point, and my muse is whimpering in a corner and refusing to cooperate.

I’ve been going through old files lately and ran across my first NaNoWriMo novel AKA my first novel ever.  It has so many of the beginning writer mistakes in it that it makes me cringe. But in a way, isn’t that what good YA fiction is supposed to do? Make us cringe at those feelings of being a teen when we’re so uncertain about everything and what people think of us is the most important thing in the whole wide world?  

So I decided for my YA post I’d use an excerpt from this first uncertain effort.  It’s when the main character Yvonne runs into the four guys she’ll be hanging out with for the rest of the novel.  She’s a super shy gal who loves horror movies (hmmm . . . now who could my first novel protagonist be based on, I wonder?), and talking to guys makes her an awkward mess:

I knew I had to get their attention at some point, but my stomach churned.  I wanted to turn around and run home.  I didn’t think I could do this.  How was I supposed to talk to four guys? But I really wanted to see Murder Mansion and going with them was the only way.  Besides, Hayden looked so yummy in his red plaid shirt, I’d never forgive myself for running like a chicken.  I had to follow Sara’s advice.    

I squeezed my nails into my palms and said, “Hi.”  It came out a dry whisper that didn’t get their attention.  I felt hopeless.  I took a step backwards.  I’d just go home before I made a fool of myself.  I could see Murder Mansion some other time.  No!  I could do this.  I would force myself to be foolishly brave like one of the heroines from my slasher flicks.  I gathered up my courage to try again.  

A voice said, “Hello.”  I briefly thought I was having an out-of-body experience, since I hadn’t moved my lips yet.  Then I realized it was Hayden’s voice.  He’d finally noticed me!  The other guys turned around to look at me.  Rider glared while the other three stared in open curiosity.  I didn’t know how to react, so I stood there stupidly as the blood rushed to my cheeks.

Jeff recovered first, “Hey, Yvonne, you look… really nice.  What are you doing here?”

I looked at Rider.  He hadn’t told them?  “I, well, uh, I’m-”

Rider sighed with hurricane strength.  “Sorry guys, I forgot to tell you.  We’re babysitting Yvonne tonight.  She doesn’t have real friends, so she’s tagging along with us.”

My cheeks were so hot with anger and embarrassment I could have fried eggs on them.

Jeff came to my rescue again, “That sounds like a good idea with those stories on the news. We’d be honored to be your bodyguards.”

Bodie gave a wolf whistle.  “Yeah, I’d be happy to guard your body any day of the week.”  

Startled, I rocked back a half step, but when I looked at him, he gave me a small wink.  I swallowed hard.

Hayden’s forehead wrinkled.  “Yvonne, Yvonne… do I know you from somewhere?”

Oh, God, Hayden was talking to me.  I had to make myself respond.  Just force the words out. “Uh, yes, um, classes, I mean, we have three, uh, classes together.” 

Rider barked out a laugh.  “Talk about not making an impression.”

I glared at him, but Hayden said, “Guess I should have been paying less attention to the teachers and more attention to the people around me.  Glad to have you along, Yvonne.” When I peeked over at him, his whole face lit up with his beautiful smile.  My stupid cheeks got hot again.

Who knows if I’ll ever return to this first novel to try and salvage it, but it’s fun to revisit it.  Hope you enjoyed the excerpt!

Was your first novel a practice novel?  Or have you done something more with it than hide it in a drawer/folder on your hard drive?  How Yippy is Bailey with her letter Y?

Vulnerable, Vexed, and Vitalized

Lily with the letter VOn this Willy-nilly Wednesday for the letter V, I had a completely different post planned for today.  But then yesterday happened – pretty much the worst day so far in my life as a writer. Yesterday was the day Amazon announced the people moving on to the semi-finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA). This is my fourth year with this contest, and if you’re interested, you can read about my previous experiences here and here.  Since this is the exact same version of the novel that got me booted at this point two years ago, I was disappointed, but not at all surprised when my name was not listed among the semi-finalists.  

The real shocker came a few hours later when we got our Publishers Weekly reviews.  Mine was devastating.  Two years ago, I got a glowing PW review.  It was so positive I actually went back and double-checked to make sure my name wasn’t on the semi-final list.  It only had one minor negative thing to say, and I completely agreed with the reviewer that it was a weakness.  This year was the exact opposite.  The reviewer shredded my novel.  There was only one slightly positive thing, “To be fair, some of it is actually funny, though…” followed by more brutalization of my story and main character.  I know this business is extremely subjective, but it’s hard to believe these two people read the exact same manuscript.

My body actually went cold as I read it.  I sat there a few minutes in shock unable to move.  Then I read it again, thinking it was one of those things where my mind interpreted it as much worse than it actually was.  Nope, it was terrible.  I actually held up pretty well for about ten minutes.  Then I decided to email the review to my family members, and as I pressed send, I completely fell apart.

I enter a lot of contests where feedback is part of the package, so it’s not like all I’ve ever heard are reviews from loved ones telling me my writing is so wonderful rainbow-colored butterflies fly out of my butt.  I’ve had critiques that made me nod my head in agreement about my missteps, I’ve had critiques that made me defensive, I’ve had critiques where I thought the reviewer was an idiot, I’ve had critiques that opened my eyes to new ways of looking at my writing.  I’ve never before had a critique that made me cry.  Until now.  And not just teary eyes.  Full on ugly crying. It’s been hours since it happened, but I’m still tearing up as I write this post.

I thought about pasting the review here, but 1. It gives away plot points that are spoilers.  2. I never posted my positive one from two years ago either: since neither one will be based on the final version I submit to agents/editors, I don’t think I want them floating around on the interwebs.  3. It still hurts too much.

But having a supportive family is awesome.  Here’s what my dad sent back to me after he read it: “Well, what F*ck Knuckle wrote that piece of sh*t” except he didn’t use asterisks (although he did use bold plus a giant font for the... uh, important words). My mom wrote back, “What an A-hole.” But she doesn’t curse, so she did use the dash.  My brother and sister were similarly supportive about not letting one person get to me.  And I know they’re right - it’s part of the business, and a thick skin is required.  

ABNA

However, this guy wasn’t constructive in his review, he was just mean.  It was like he fancied himself the Simon Cowell of novels.  But there was just enough in his pithy insults that resonated with the feedback I’ve gotten from some awesome critique partners (who have been honest, yet supportive – you know who you are, and I adore you!) that made it all the more devastating.  If his comments had been off the wall, I could have easily dismissed him, but there were enough nuggets of truth in the review to jab straight at the heart of my writerly ego.  I’ve felt vulnerable and emotional all day, and a big part of me wants to curl into a ball and never write again.  It’s hard and it hurts.  

But then there’s the part of me that’s vexed that I’ve let this one person have this much power over me.  So what if this one guy didn’t get it?  Plenty of other people have and loved it.  And I know there are weaknesses, but I’m planning to fix them. And now, I’m feeling the life come back to me.  I’ve needed to do this rewrite since I got to this point with ABNA two years ago.  I have a few really exciting opportunities I might miss if I don’t get on the ball.  And yet, I’ve still been procrastinating.  But this one negative, hurtful person has lit a fire under me in a way none of the other positive possibilities have done so far.  I won’t let him be right.  I won’t let him win.

I am reVitalized.  

How do you deal with mean-spirited feedback, especially when it has a ring of truth? Any advice as I prepare to get back up on the horse?  How Vivacious is Lily with her letter V?

ABNA Excitement

Amazon Breakthrough Novel AwardIt seems that ABNA only likes me on even-numbered years, so thank goodness it’s 2012!  If you’re interested, you can read about my roller-caster ride with the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) in this post.  Suffice it to say, I’ve already passed “third time’s a charm” with this contest.  But it’s a great opportunity for feedback, so I entered again.  

I was especially nervous about the pitch round this year, since I’d modified my old query with some “quirky” changes.  Last month when they announced the writers who were advancing to the next round based on the pitches, I was so relieved and excited to find my name on the list.  It gives me a boost of confidence in the new version of my query.  

Since I’ve been testing out a new “chill” attitude this go round (ha – yeah, right!), I tried not to think about the contest until the next round results were announced.  When the email popped into my inbox on Tuesday saying the results were posted, my stomach danced a fancy little jig despite my determination to stay calm.  So with a trembling hand, I clicked on the list and scrolled down... and there was my name!  Hooray, I’m a quarterfinalist again!  The two reviews from the Vine Reviewers (the judges for this excerpt stage) had some really happy-grin-inducing things to say about my first two chapters.  One even compared it to Christopher Pike, which had me doing backflips.    

Now the wait is on while people from Publishers Weekly read and review the entire novel.  SCARY!  This is where I was cut two years ago, and since I haven’t changed the manuscript, I’m not expecting to progress any further.  But you never know, so I will be biting my fingernails to nubs while I pretend I’m totally calm.  

In the meantime, Amazon has made the excerpts of all the quarterfinalists available for reading, rating, and reviewing.  It’s only the first two chapters of my novel, but if you’ve wanted a sneak peek at what I’m working on, it’s there for you to read.  The ratings and reviews don’t affect the judging or impact the contest in any way, but it’s always nice to hear what people think – what works and what doesn’t work.  

So if you’re interested in reading my excerpt for The Drama Queen Who Cried Wolf (previously known as The Hunt), click here.  ABNA had some ugly formatting issues when they first posted everything.  I think they’ve now fixed everyone’s excerpts, but most of the pitches still have problems (missing paragraph breaks, dashes, and apostrophes), so don’t worry about my Product Description/pitch seeming off – I promise I usually punctuate correctly.  To read the excerpt, you can use a Kindle, or if you don't have one then either use one of the Kindle apps for your computer or phone (which are free downloads) or the Kindle Cloud Reader option which works through you browser.  To download it, click the Buy now with 1-Click button (don’t worry, it’s FREE!)  It will ask which reader option you use, so pick the one you want and start reading.  

Like I mentioned, at this point reviews and ratings don’t help or hurt me, so I’m not launching a campaign begging people to read and review.  I just wanted to let anyone who might be interested know it’s available.  And if you do decide to leave a review – I really appreciate your time and effort!  

Do you have any experience with the ABNA competition?  Do you think you might enter in the future?  Is it okay to look like a silly fool while doing my happy dance?

ABNA Loves Me, ABNA Loves Me Not

Amazon Breakthrough Novel AwardSince today is January 23rd, according to my original resolutions I should be done rewriting my WIP in order to submit it to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) competition.  But since I wised up (or depending on how you look at it, sunk to new depths of procrastination) last week, I decided not to rush the rewrite.  However, that doesn’t mean I decided not to enter.  So I gathered together my pitch, excerpt, and manuscript, and I’m now officially submitted to the 2012 ABNA.  

This is the fourth time I’ve entered this novel, and it’s a true testament to my powers of procrastination that the last three times have been with the exact same manuscript.  The first year, I didn’t make it past the pitch round, which was like a punch to the gut of my writerly ego; but I didn’t know much about writing query letters back then, which is what the first round (i.e. the pitch round) is all about.  And it was probably a blessing I didn’t advance any further, since my manuscript was very rough, and I’d have ended up embarrassed that anyone (not related to me) read it.
 
By the time the second year rolled around, I’d rewritten my manuscript and learned more about the fine art of pitching.  I waited on pins and needle until the first round results were released, and I was so excited when I made it past the pitch round – whoo hoo!  So then there was more waiting while the excerpts (first 3000-5000 words of the novel) of the advancing pitches were evaluated.  When the list was released, I whooped and screamed and even cried a little to see that my novel was advancing to the quarterfinals.  That meant it was time for the scary part – someone from Publishers Weekly was going to read and review my entire manuscript.  Gulp!  So I fretted through more agonizing waiting until the day the list of semi-finalists came out.  Sadly, I couldn’t find my name on that list, no matter how many times I looked or used Ctrl+F on various spelling of my name ‘just in case.’  I was bummed, although not really surprised because deep down, I knew it wasn’t truly ready.  
 
As the ‘prize’ for being quarterfinalists, we got our manuscript reviews from Publishers Weekly whether we were moving on or not.  Since I didn’t advance, I was sure my review was scathing, so I didn’t want to read it when it came, but I put on my big girl panties and read it anyway.  Then came more whooping and dancing around the room because it was a great review - one I’d be darn proud to have if it were the real thing.  The only negative thing the reviewer said was that my supporting characters were too stereotypical, which is true, since I wrote them that way on purpose.  And that has been what’s been giving me so much trouble with the rewrite.  The supporting characters are stereotypical because the story is written from the first person POV of a shallow teen who sees people that way.  So my challenge is to give them depth that’s obvious to the reader even if it’s not to the narrator.  I’m still struggling with the best way to do that.
 
Anyway, fast forward a year to my third attempt at ABNA.  I’d been so busy with Saying Goodbye, I hadn’t rewritten anything, but I decided to enter again anyway thinking different judges would mean a different outcome, and boy was I right!  Since my pitch worked so well the previous year, I didn’t change a word; and to my utter shock and dismay, I didn’t make it past the pitch round this time.  I was definitely taken aback by that, but it really does show how subjective this business is.  
 
So that brings me to this year.  While I’m entering the same manuscript as the previous two years, I’m going with a different pitch.  During WriteOnCon this year, I participated in their critique forums, and I got a lot of very helpful feedback on my query.  I’m using the final version of that query as the basis for my pitch.  I really hope to make it past the pitch stage this year to give me confidence in my query, but I’m taking a much more relaxed approach to it this time.  I didn’t get all spun up about formatting or enter the second the clock ticked over to midnight like I have in previous years.  And while I’m hoping for the best, in the meantime, I’ll be working on the rewrite so I can get started querying agents.
 

As for the rest of my #writemotivation goals, I’ve been keeping up with my 15 Minute Tweet Tales and blog posts, so a tiny victory first pump on that front.  And after four different horrible false starts trying to make a story about a squirrel work for my Highlights fiction contest entry, I’ve now moved on to a story about an elephant, so at least there’s forward momentum there.
 
How are you doing with your writing goals?  Have you entered or thought about entering ABNA?