Friday, September 22, 2017

Nightmare on Query Street is Back!

We're back with ?? agents and even more mentors!

It's Nightmare Time!

Don’t have a scary manuscript, DON'T WORRY. Just read on.

A brand new year, and unimaginable horrors to come.

This contest, as it runs in the Halloween time, is all about FEAR.

The Details:

The submission window opens at 4:00 pm (EST) on Friday, October 13th. Don't send too soon or your entry will be deleted. There will be email confirmation. Please don't resend an entry unless you check with us. Sometimes the confirmation process gets overwhelmed. The window will close when we receive 250 entries or in two hours, whichever is first. 

Michelle and Mike and Laura will make thirteen picks each, and those picks will go up on our blogs from October 30th through the 31st. Before the agent round, there will be a mentor round to whip your entries into shape. We've already got amazing mentors lined up, so know that your entries will be polished for the agents. 

We are accepting all age categories and genres, excluding picture books and erotica. But be sure to check our list of agents when it goes live to see if they represent your book's genre, or if you've queried them already. We ask that if you find that you've already queried a majority of participating agents for your potential submission, please refrain from participating in the contest.

If you plan on participating in the contest, you have to be following all our blogs (MichelleMike, Laura). If you can't get the blog follow to work, just follow on twitter. You'll want to be on twitter for the party anyway. 


It's pretty simple, actually.

But there's a catch. 

Along with your query and 250, you must write a SHORT paragraph (no more than 100 words) about your main character. This is the question you must answer: 

Your protagonist and antagonist bump into each other at a Halloween Party, only to discover their costumes are similarly themed. What/who are they dressed as?

The Format:

Send all your submission to nightmareonquerystreet (at) yahoo (dot) com. Only one submission per email address AND person is allowed. 

Here's how it should be formatted (yes, include the bolded and everything!). Please use Times New Roman (or equivalent), 12 pt font, and put spaces between paragraphs. No indents or tabs are needed. 

Subject Line: NoQS: TITLE, Age Category + Genre
(example: NoQS: GRUDGING, Adult Epic Fantasy)


Name: Michelle Hauck
Twitter Handle: @Michelle4Laughs (optional) 

Title: GRUDGING (yes, caps!)

Genre: Adult Epic Fantasy (Age category and genre. YA/MG is not a genre.)

Word Count: XX,XXX 

My MC and MP (main protagonist?) are dressed as:


Remember, keep this around 100 words. 




Here is my fantastic query! DO NOT INCLUDE BIO OR COMPS PARAGRAPH. Try to stay in the 250-300 word range. Please put spaces between paragraphs and don't indent.


First 250 words:


Here are the first 250 words of my manuscript, and I will not end in the middle of a sentence, even if I hit 255 words. Do not abuse and send 256. Keep it fair for all. Use Open Office/Word to determine your official word count. 

Entries will be disqualified at our discretion for rule violation.

And that's it! Send in that email during the submission window and you're ready to go. There will be a confirmation email.


We're Tweeting under the hashtag #NoQS. As before, we'll have a twitter party once submission starts. Mentor and agent posts will follow before October 13th.


Good luck! And sweet nightmares!

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Nightmare is Back

One...Two...We are coming for you.
Three...Four...There will be a slush war.
Five...Six...Get your query fixed.
Seven...Eight...Make your first page great.
Nine...Ten...Yes, we're at it again.

Nightmare on Query Street

The agents are ready.... Are you?

Face your Fear October 13, 2017

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

SWEET REALITY is now available!!

I'm so excited to be able to share the second book in the Reality Star series with you today. Check out SWEET REALITY! 

Release Date: September 5, 2017


Jen Reid's life after walking off a reality show has been great--she's gone from being a broke twenty-four-year-old Seattleite with no love life and no job to the twenty-five-year-old who got the guy, moved to Miami, and is starting a bakery with her best friend. She thinks her showmance love might be about to propose. And with mouthwatering goodies based on everyone's favorite shows, her business, Sweet Reality, is destined for success.

That is, until a killer competitor opens right across the street. If she's going to save Sweet Reality, Jen has to come up with a secret ingredient--like the recipe that won Totally 80s Bake-Off. Jen can get it--if she steps back into the spotlight. Soon she and her boyfriend are out to sea on a cruise ship full of reality stars, including her nemesis, Ariana; her lying, cheating ex; and some wicked producers looking to bring the drama. Separate cabins, "surprises" from her past, and scenarios tailor-made to spark fights are just the beginning. But with her self-respect, her business, and her future on the line, the fallout from this made-for-TV plotline will be all too real . . .




$20 Amazon Gift Card


About Me

Laura Heffernan is living proof that watching too much TV can pay off. When not watching total strangers get married, drag racing queens, or cooking competitions, Laura enjoys travel, baking, board games, helping with writing contests, and seeking new experiences. She lives in the Northeast with her amazing husband and two furry little beasts.

Connect with Me

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Friday, September 1, 2017

TELL ME THAT YOU'RE MINE review, excerpt, and giveaway!

In TELL ME THAT YOU'RE MINE Ryan McCallister and Eva Romero are two people trying to find a once-in-a-lifetime second chance at love. Fans of Tamarra Webber and Erin McCarthy will adore this emotional and heartfelt conclusion to Victoria De La O's RITA-nominated family drama.

Rafflecopter for Tell Me That You’re Mine Blitz Giveaway:

Victoria De La O is offering one (1) lucky Grand-Prize winner a $25 Amazon Gift Card and three (3) Runner-Up winners an eCopy of Tell Me How This Ends, book #1 in Victoria’s Tell Me series! To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below:

About Tell Me That You’re Mine:
Title: Tell Me That You’re Mine
Author: Victorial De La O
Publisher: SMP Swerve
Release Date: August 29, 2017
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Series: Tell Me #3
Format: Digital
ISBN: 9781250122100


Ryan McCallister is ready to come home and put the heartbreak of his first love behind him. But when he returns after teaching abroad, the home he once knew isn’t quite ready for him. The woman Ryan once loved is living with his brother; his friends have moved on; and his new landlady, Eva Romero, seems determined not to like him.

But Ryan likes Eva. A lot.

It doesn’t matter that Eva has a six-year-old son and a troubled ex-husband; when Ryan’s with her, everything makes sense. Eva isn’t convinced she’s ready to take another chance on love, but Ryan’s determined to show her he’s worth the risk.

Add to your “Want to Read” shelf:  Goodreads

Available at:  Amazon  |  Barnes and Noble  |  Kobo  |  iTunes  |  Google Play

I've been a big fan of this series since the beginning. Ryan was such a sweet character, and watching his girlfriend fall for his brother in TELL ME HOW THIS ENDS was absolutely gut-wrenching. When I found out that the third book would finally give Ryan the happy ending he deserved, I got very exciting.

For some reason, I thought Ryan was going to fall in love in Japan and bring his new girlfriend home to rub in Lizzie's face (wishful thinking, maybe?). But Eva is such a great character. While reading TELL ME NOT TO GO, I kept going back and forth between worrying she would try to steal Jeff and hoping she got her own book. Seeing the latter made me happy.

Eva's not your typical romance heroine. She's divorced with a kid, which I like. She's more or less financially stable, largely thanks to having an in-law suite behind her house to rent out. She's also a few years older than Ryan, which I also like. 

Meanwhile, Ryan's studying to be a teacher. He's great with kids. And that makes him an excellent match for Eva. I liked the chemistry between the characters from the beginning, but the subplot with Ryan's dad added a layer to his character which really took the book from good to excellent in my opinion. 

Once again, De La O does a great job creating real people with real problems and putting them in situations where it's impossible not to root for them. The emotion leaps off the page, the writing is beautiful, and the sex scenes are sizzling. I enjoyed every minute of this book, and I'm sorry to see the series end. Can't wait to see what De La O writes next. Five stars.

If you haven't already clicked away to buy it (which you should), read on for an excerpt.

It’s feels like an eternity since I’ve been home. In reality, it’s only been a year.
My slow walk to the house is surreal. The lawn is as pristine as ever, each blade of grass shorn the same height by Jude’s meticulous mowing. The red geraniums I planted years ago are thriving. And the dent in the porch rail, caused by my foot accidentally connecting with the wood, is still visible. But I don’t remember the house being this uninspiring shade of blue, or the crack on the front stoop being this wide. This house, this city, used to be my whole world. It seemed a lot bigger then.
Discordance skitters over my spine: what should be familiar is foreign, relief mingles with anxiety. Time snaps and contracts as I knock on the front door, and suddenly it seems like an hour since I left. A nanosecond.
The door swings open, and the reason for my hasty departure is staring at me. She’s as pretty as I remember—maybe more, damn her. Green eyes that used to flutter when I kissed her, full lips that whispered confidences in my ear.
Now, her face is frozen in a hostess’ smile. Her fingers worry the bottom button of her pink cardigan and the threads begin to loosen. She doesn’t know what to do because she wasn’t expecting me. I guess it wasn’t nice showing up a day early.
“Ryan. You’re home.”
Home. Does she mean mine or hers?
I had almost forgotten what Lizzie’s voice sounded like, but its husky depth brings the memories of the six months we spent loving each other rushing back.
Well, I had been loving her. She’d been falling in love with my brother.
I wait for my heart to ache, but there’s only a small twinge. That’s a surprise. In my mind, this was all so much more dramatic and intense. Hard stares and pinched lips. A little social awkwardness seems so mundane by comparison.
And then the door swings open wider and Jude is there. My pulse stops—doesn’t slow, just ceases to exist for a second. Leave it to him to bring the fireworks.
Like the house, Jude seems smaller than I remember. Or maybe that’s because he has gone expressionless, his discomfort hard-crashing him. His hands dig into his pockets, searching for an anchor, pulling his shoulders into a hunch. It takes a lot to knock Jude off his game. Glad to see I can still have that effect on him.
When he opens his mouth, no sound comes out. It’s unusual for me to have to step up and be the better man when I’m around my big brother. But today is that day.

Copyright © 2017 Tell Me That You’re Mine by Victoria De La O

About Victoria De La O:
Victoria De La O is the award-winning and RITA®-nominated author of the Tell Me romance trilogy, including Tell Me How This Ends. A native of California’s Silicon Valley, she spends time hanging out with her family, arguing about films, and practicing Wonder Woman spins, She loves talking to readers, so find her at

Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads  |  Amazon  |  BookBub

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

A Guide to Interacting with PitchWars Mentors, Part 3: After the Announcement

 Pitchwars is one of the most exciting contests of the year, both for mentors and prospective mentees. It’s a huge contest, and everyone wants to be a part of it. In this three part blog series, I’m going to take a look at ways that you can benefit from the contest through your interactions with mentors, whether you’re chosen or not.

Here are Parts One and Two of this series.
  • DON’T insist that mentors provide you with feedback on your entry. Some mentors give feedback, some don’t. Some give it only on certain entries or do a drawing. We’re donating our time, and sending useful feedback to more than a hundred people takes a lot of time.
  • DO thank any mentors who take the time to send feedback. It’s not required. We do it because we want to help.
  • DON’T feel like you have to accept all feedback given as gospel, especially if more than one mentor gives you conflicting advice.
  • DO reflect on feedback to determine what’s best for you and your manuscript before starting revisions.
  • DON'T argue about feedback or send a rude response. We take extra time away from our friends and families because we want to help. You can ignore it, but if people respond rudely, we're all less likely to send feedback in the future.
  • DO congratulate the winners, even if you don’t mean it. Graciousness is free. It’s OK to want to crawl into bed and wallow. It’s OK to even do it. But online paste a virtual smile on your face. If you can’t do it, sign off until you feel better. Then hold your head high and talk about other things.
  • DON’T post online about how the mentors are idiots for not picking you. Save it for a private group, or better yet a verbal conversation with your best friends/your mom. Nothing posted online is sacred, and all it takes is one screen shot for your rant to get back to the wrong person.
  • DO keep polishing and working on your manuscripts. Pitchslam is coming up, followed by Nightmare on Query Street, PitchMas, and other contests. Not getting into PitchWars is not a reflection of you or your work. It just means the mentor was more strongly pulled toward someone else. Think of a book you picked up in a bookstore, but ultimately decided not to buy. It’s the same thing.
  • DON’T give up. Somewhere out there is an agent or editor and readers who will love your book. You owe it to yourself to find them. This isn’t the end.
  • DO be proud of yourself. You wrote a book, you put yourself out there, and that’s huge. :-)
Keep watching my blog for more information on Nightmare on Query Street, coming in October, and PitchSlam, tentatively scheduled for early 2018. PitchWars is brutal for the mentors, because we’re only allowed to pick one of the dozens of excellent entries we get. Contests where each blog host picks multiple entries to spotlight are another great way to get your work before agents. I hope to see everyone there. We’ll be accepting all genres of adult, YA, and MG manuscripts.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Pick me! Pick Me! PitchWars 2017

Thanks for checking out my bio. I can’t wait to read your awesome words when the submission round starts. My wish list has changed, so please review carefully, even if you submitted to me last year.

Here's the basic bio: 

Laura Heffernan is living proof that watching too much TV can pay off. When not watching total strangers participate in arranged marriages, drag racing queens, or cooking competitions, Laura enjoys travel, baking, board games, helping with writing contests, and seeking new experiences. She’s ecstatic to be mentoring PitchWars this year for the third time. 

AMERICA'S NEXT REALITY STAR is now available. SWEET REALITY will be released Sept. 5. The series concludes with a third book on March 6, 2018

Laura is represented by Michelle Richter at Fuse Literary


This is my third year mentoring Pitch Wars. I’m a hardcore contest junkie. I help host PitchSlam, QueryKombat, and Nightmare on Query Street, and I mentor Sun vs. Snow. I’ve also helped with NestPitch and New Agent. That’s a lot  of contests. I have read a couple thousand queries and first pages. Plus, I interned for an agent who represents women’s fiction.

I have a good idea of what works, what doesn't work, and what agents are looking for. I'm also an excellent editor and will put tons of comments all over your manuscript. As far as feedback style goes, I’m a big fan of the compliment sandwich. I’ll tell you what doesn’t work, but also what does. I try not to be mean. And I’ll help you brainstorm ways to fix things (I won’t fix it for you).

All of my prior mentees are still speaking to me after I made them remove the to be verbs from their manuscripts! (Well, I let them keep a few. But not many.) My 2016 mentee, the amazing Tobey Forney is represented by Liz Parker at Inkwell Management, and I can't wait for the world to read this gorgeous manuscript. 

I'm a published author. If you take a look at my books, you get a pretty good indicator of one type of thing I like to read.

  • Finding where your story begins.
  • Big picture issues. Plot holes, pacing, avoiding the saggy middle.
  • Finding the genre that best fits your story.
  • Crafting a pitch to get agent attention.
  • Tightening language. Reducing unnecessary words and filtering. Finding your filler words. If your writing style is more wordy, we may not be the best fit. 
  • Commas. Finding typos. 

  • Adult/NA. Anything else will be deleted unread.
  • Romantic comedies (formerly known as "chick lit"). Life is short, I like to read things that make me laugh. Send me your light/funny stories.
    • All types of consensual relationships are welcome. M/M, F/F, M/F, genderqueer, polyamorous, etc. Whatever you've got with consenting adults works for me.
  • Women's fiction. This means that the primary focus of the story is on the main character’s emotional journey. WF can have a romantic subplot (and many do), but the book should be about the female main character. 
    • My preference is for light, fun stories. Help me escape into your words. But it's a big genre, and I read widely within it. Just check my do not want list.
    • The term "women's fiction" is not limited to those assigned as female at birth.
    • Upmarket is fine, but if it's super literary, another mentor might be a better fit. 
    • No historical this year.
  • Contemporary Romance. This year, I'm keeping it light and fluffy. There are a ton of romance mentors, but I very much prefer to laugh rather than to cry. No tear jerkers. Contemporary only. I'm afraid I'm not taking historical romance. I tend to prefer women's fiction over romance, which means I'm more likely to pick a romance if it has a WF-type feel to it.
    • Single or dual POV is fine. Past or present tense. (I've never seen a book written in future tense, and that feels like it would be weird, but if you wrote it, I'm curious.)
    • LGBT+ pairings are welcome. 
    • Erotic Romance is generally okay, but with the above caveats.
    • BDSM and Polyamory are also fine. Just make sure it's a positive, functional relationship. BDSM is not abuse. Abuse is not sexy. 
  • Genre-straddlers: Don't know if your book is WF, romance, or rom com? No problem! Send it to me and we'll work out the best fit for the story.
    • For all of the above genres:
      • Diversity! A book full of people just like me isn’t all that realistic, and since I’m not looking for SF/F, that’s a problem. Not that I’m not awesome. All types of diversity are welcome: people of color, physically and mentally disabled characters, LGBT+ characters, religious minorities, etc. 
      • Books with elements of SF/F are fine. Think The Time Traveller's Wife or The Status of All Things. I adore contemporary books with magical elements. But keep it light.
      • A mysterious subplot within a WF or romance is fine.
      • If your book has any sort of a board game or convention or LARP or other geeky thing as a plot, I wants to read it. Rom com, romance, WF, gimmee gimmee gimmee. I am the mentor you're looking for.
      • Do your characters do pole fitness or aerial yoga? There's only one adult/NA mentor who publicly admits to these things, and you're already reading her blog. 
      • If your book is similar to Kristen Rockaway's The Wild Woman's Guide to Traveling the World or Ricki Schultz's Mr. Right-Swipe, I want to read it.
      • Give me strong women! This damsel is not in distress (or when she is, she can save herself).
      • Women in STEM are my bag.
      • My husband is Canadian. Send me your men with accents, foreign men, books set in countries other than the U.S. 
      • Send me your beta heroes. Alphas are fine, but I tend much more toward the sweet, sensitive guy than the military man or cop.
      • I love The West Wing and The Newsroom. Do with that information what you will.
      • I'd love to read an updated twist on Pygmalion, especially if it's gender-swapped. This is one of my favorite old stories. (Heck, I'd probably read an updated twist on Medea, too, but am not sure how anyone would pull that off for a 2017 audience.)
      • Healthy relationships, please. If your love interest's defining characteristic is that he refuses to take no for an answer and keeps coming back when the main character tells him no, I'm not the mentor for you. (Unless you revise this before the sub window opens.) (See also: why I will never like the Buffy/Spike episodes.)
      • Enthusiastic consent is a big plus if you're writing sexy scenes.
      • If you have a dystopian WF or romcom, that would make me unbelievably happy.
      • I like smart characters in interesting professions. I won't pass on something because the MC is a lawyer, a chef, or a party planner, but those things come up a lot in romance/women's fiction. Think outside the box.
      • As a card-carrying Mensa member, when you tell me your character is a genius, that means something very specific. Your character has to live up to my expectations. But I do love books that show me an intelligent main character.  (I also love Shopaholic, though, so don't think you have to write a smarty pants to hook me.)
      • Edited, polished manuscripts. I've posted many blogs with writing tips. Read through them with an eye toward how to improve your manuscript before submitting. 
      • Appropriate word counts. If your manuscript is under 60,000 words or over 100,000, seriously consider doing another editing pass before the submission period starts. 
      • Make sure you've done your research. If your main character is a lawyer or a cop, and the legal stuff is wrong, I won't be able to read it. (And if you have a background relevant to your MS, make sure your query tells me.)
      • I am ALSO looking for people who are easy to work with, positive, upbeat and who genuinely want help improving. If you want someone to tell you the book is perfect, call your best friend or your mom. That's not what this contest is about.
      • Any genre not listed above. That includes, fantasy, sci-fi, thrillers, horror, mysteries, literary fiction, westerns, and historical. 
      • YA, MG, chapter, or picture books. 
      • Non-fiction.
      • Please do not send me books about abortion, miscarriage, stillbirth, infertility, IVF, characters trying to get pregnant, etc. Even if it’s not a major plot point. These are important topics, and there are some excellent books about them, but I am not the target audience.
      • I’m honestly not the best fit for books about motherhood. It’s fine if your characters are parents, but when the plot revolves around the children or what it’s like to have kids or the funny things about pregnancy–I have no frame of reference. I won’t get your jokes.
      • If your ultimate goal is to make readers cry, I'm not your target audience.
      • I'm not really into family sagas or multi-generational stories. Family secrets revealed when a family member died or dark pasts might be more suited to another mentor. 
      • NO books about cancer, please. I'd prefer to avoid terminal illness.
      • If your main character is a proud pothead or struggling with addiction, I'm not the best fit.
      • I'm only looking for books with human POV characters (well, okay, I might consider a robot if it were like Small Wonder). No vampires, werecreatures of any kind, pets, zoo animals, aliens, unicorns, zombies.... I want adult humans. 
      • If your only POV character is a child/teen or male, I may not be the best fit. I want my women's fiction to be about adult women. And I'm not a big fan of books that start when the MC is young and span decades. 
      • NO rape or abused women. Even if the book is about escaping the abuse and starting over. Even if the book is uplifting. It's just not something I personally want to read.
      • Do not send me anything that portrays being LGBT+ as a bad thing. 
      • NO inspirational or religious-themed manuscripts.
      • NO cliffhangers. When I got to the end of Lord of the Rings after three hours in the theatre only to find that NOTHING HAPPENED, I was pissed. I'm still annoyed. You can leave threads open for a sequel, but I want a complete story. If your main character walks around for 300 pages and then stops at the top of a hill and goes, "Oh, hey! More walking!", I will drive to your house and hit you with your manuscript. (© Michael Mammay) (See also: why I will ask you for a synopsis.)
      • NO slave/master or Nazi/Jew romances. All characters must be able to consent. In fact, I don't want any slave owner or Nazi heroes, period. Since I'm not accepting historical, this shouldn't be an issue, but the world is a flaming dumpster, so I want to be clear.
      • Anything that's already been published. A self-published book is published. Agents won't take these books, which means they're not right for this contest. (But good luck, because self-publishing is hard work.)
      • I'm not interested in writers who bash traditional publishing on Twitter, who vent negativity toward the process or complain about contests/mentors. There's a time and a place to let off some steam, and that's in private.
      • If I've critiqued/read your manuscript before, you're better off getting a new set of eyes and choosing other mentors. You're welcome to submit a different manuscript to me. It's OK if I've done a free query or first chapter critique, but I prefer you submit to someone else if I did a paid critique for you or if we're friends.
      • If you support Trump, we're not a good match. Also, if you voted for McConnell or Ryan, you can't sit with us.

        My favorite authors in genres I'm accepting include: Sophie Kinsella, Emily Giffin, Ayisha Malik, early Jane Green (think Mr. Maybe or Babyville), Mary Ann Marlowe, K.M. Jackson, Leah Marie Brown, Amy Reichert, Terry McMillan, Allison Winn Scotch, A.J. Pine, and Brighton Walsh.

        Shows I never miss include Married at First Sight, UnREAL, RuPaul’s Drag Race, Are You the One?, and Scandal. Yes, that's a lot of reality shows (This should not surprise anyone who has heard of my book). I'll watch almost any superhero movie (old or new), I saw Rent! live seven times, I like Playstation Lego games, board games, yoga, spinning, pole fitness, chocolate chip cookie dough, and traveling with my husband. There are more gay romances than straight on my DVD rack. I never got used to saying Blu-ray instead of DVD (and have stopped trying).

        If you have questions about whether something falls into my wish list, feel free to leave me a comment or ask me on Twitter. No pre-pitching! 

        A legitimate question is, "Would you maybe be interested in a romance that takes place on a camping trip?" A pre-pitch would be, "When Wilma agreed to go camping with Fred, she never dreamed he'd make her heart Bam-Bam and ultimately smash it into Pebbles."

        Good luck with your submissions! Now head on back to the blog hop.

        Mister Linky's Magical Widgets -- Thumb-Linky widget will appear right here!
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        * For the colorblind: the word "because " appears in red above.

        Summer Escape Scavenger Hunt

        Looking for something new to read? Join our scavenger hunt enter to win one of multiple prizes:

        • A $15 gift card to the ebook retailer of your choice
        • The Winemakers by Jan Moran (print)
        • Signed copy of Rush by Megan Matthews (print)
        • America's Next Reality Star by Laura Heffernan (ebook)
        • How Beauty Saved the Beast by Belle Maurice (ebook)
        • $5 Amazon gift card and a copy of Mikolaus by Margo Bond Collins 
        • Playing with Fire by Emily Robinson (print)
        • Vampire Encouter by Alix Adale (ebook)
        • Between Love And Loyalty by Shannyn Schroeder (ebook)

        Discover new (to you) authors! There are plenty of ways to enter. 

        a Rafflecopter giveaway

        If you can't see the giveaway, above, click below to enter:

        Monday, July 17, 2017

        NoQS Success: Ash Van Otterloo

        My favorite type of success story--one that came from our contests! Let this bit of inspiration follow you into Pitchwars and the fall contests. Here's the story from Ash.

        I put the finishing touches on my MG fantasy manuscript CATTYWAMPUS in late May of 2016, spent July-Sept in rounds of revisions with notes from my beta readers and critique partners. Right before I started my first round of queries, on a whim, I noticed a blog schedule for #NoQS and entered the story. Having entered contests a few times before, I knew it would be a fun experience and hoped to snag helpful feedback before I leapt into the query trenches.

        When my name popped up on Mike’s team list, I promptly exploded with excitement. My second stroke of luck was being paired with the clever Kate Foster as my mentor, who I’d received a bit of constructive feedback from in a past contest with a shorter project. (A good reminder to us all to receive constructive criticism gracefully, even in rejection!) We polished my query and pages, and it got a significant amount of requests.

        By the end of October, I found myself on the phone chatting with the incomparable Lauren Spieller. I’ll admit it: I had instant agent-crush. Besides being fun to chat with, she asked all the clarity-bringing questions about plot development, was enthusiastic and straightforward (swoon), and asked for an R&R, along with suggestions for sensitivity reads. Why, hello, sweaty palms. Obviously, I was eager to give it a whack.

        I worked hard on revisions, found some amazing sensitivity readers, and resubmitted in March. Another R&R. And y’all. I am so grateful for last round of revisions, too, because that’s where I truly found my protagonists (and discovered an underground bunker of feelings to pour into the manuscript.) I re-submitted and got a phone call. THE phone call. (Dun, dun, dunnnnn!)

        When I answered my cellphone, Lauren offered me representation with Triada Us. Only barely did I manage to refrain from shrieking directly into the receiver. As before, Lauren was supportive and excited about the story, and had great thoughts for final revision notes. After recovering from a round of omygodomygodomygod, I was eager to accept. I’d researched agencies and MG agents thoroughly, and this was indeed my dream representation. A couple of days later, I officially accepted the offer and went out with my family to celebrate with pizza.

        My final thoughts: Writing can be lonely, sometimes. There are moments (months) when you have to be the one who believes in your work, even though part of you worries you might be wasting your time. And when the opportunity to make a helpful connection comes, even in the form of a constructive “no”, tackle it and suck every bit of wisdom from it. Learn, and be kind to yourself. And don’t give up.


        Ash Van Otterloo lives just outside of Chattanooga with her long time best friend and four wild forest-children. She's regarded fondly by her two cats, and, like a cat, she enjoys people who offer her good food regularly. Whether or not she's a witch is a topic for gossip among her neighbors. The ones, at least, that she's not yet turned into newts.

        Wednesday, July 12, 2017

        A #PitchWars Guide to Interacting with Mentors, Part 2

        Pitchwars is one of the most exciting contests of the year, both for mentors and prospective mentees. It’s a huge contest, and everyone wants to be a part of it. In this three part blog series, I’m going to take a look at ways that you can benefit from the contest through your interactions with mentors, whether you’re chosen or not.

        Part one of this series can be found here.

        During the Selection Period:
        • DON’T tweet mentors to ask if they’re going to ask to read your manuscript. It's awkward, and it puts on us the spot. If I'm on the fence about whether I want to work with someone, making me uncomfortable on Twitter is likely to push me more towards no than yes. It's fine to tweet with other questions.
        • DO read the hashtag to get teasers and writing tips. Even mentors who aren’t in your category or genre will be tweeting general information that you might find helpful.
        • DON’T assume that all constructive tweets are about your manuscript. Usually, when I tweet about a mistake in someone’s work, it’s because I’ve seen it in at least 5 entries. We’re here to help, not make you fee bad. Also, many mentors don’t always read entries in order, so a tweet that occurs 40 seconds after you hit send likely has nothing to do with you.
        • DO talk to your friends, swap work, try to get outside during this time. Waiting can be stressful. All mentors know and understand this. You don't have to sit by the inbox waiting for requests.
          This doesn't have to be you.
        • DON’T panic if you tweet or email a mentor and they don’t reply right away. We may be reading. Even if you see tweets, some of us use apps like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite to schedule tweets when we’re away. Don’t assume a mentor is online, and don’t take it personally if it takes time to reply to you. We’re doing the best we can.
        • DO be honest. Mentors frequently ask questions to find out if we’re the best fit for your work and if our styles are a match. If I ask if you’re willing to add a gay vampire to your Regency Romance, don’t say yes because you think that’s what I want to hear. Some mentors may ask questions like, “Are you willing to change the main character into a purple unicorn?” simply because we want to hear you give a thoughtful response. If you swear up and down that you’ll make any change, do anything, that’s not helpful.
        • DON’T tell a mentor they’re your #1 pick. If I’m considering your manuscript, and I find out you told Molly Mentor you’d do anything to work with her, that might leave me feeling less graciously inclined toward your work. Like with agents, you can’t really know who you’re going to want to work with until you start talking revisions. Wait to find out if my ideas for your work resonate before you tell someone else you’d rather work with them. Worse, don’t tell me and Molly both that we’re your #1 pick. Mentors talk.
        • DO be discrete. It’s OK to celebrate privately when a mentor asks to read more of your work. It’s not OK to post it on Twitter. Be mindful of other prospective mentees who may not have gotten requests yet (especially ones who subbed to the same mentor). At the same time, we love to see you all cheering each other on when you check your Twitter profiles. So stay positive, just mindful of others.
        • DON’T use an auto-DM. If I go to follow you and find out you’ve got an auto-DM, I’ll unfollow faster than you can say “Follow my Facebook page.” In fact, don't DM mentors at all unless they DM you first or say it's OK. There are few reasons for this:
          1. It's intrusive. Typically, I only DM with friends. So seeing someone I don't know pop up in there always initially makes feel a bit hesitant.
          2. It takes time away from reading subs. Last year, I read approximately 4,000 pages during the submission period. Pages, not words. Four thousand of them. That's 80-90 first chapters (which run anywhere from 10-20 pages for adult works), plus the first 50-100 pages of 10-15 more, and multiple full manuscripts. While working my day job and writing Sweet Reality. I didn't have a lot of time for DMs, so each one frustrated me more than they normally would have. When you ask questions on the hashtag or @ someone, we can respond on their own time.
          3. Whatever your question, chances are someone else has the same one. Sending a public tweet makes it more likely other people can benefit from the answer, and it saves mentors from having to type the same information over and over (see #2).
          4. With that said, if you need to drop out of the contest because you got an offer, PLEASE DON'T HESITATE to message one of the mentors you subbed to or the contest hosts. We'll all be very excited for you. (And it's polite to let us know not to spend time reading your manuscript.)
        • DO thank the mentors. We’re working hard. If you have the means, buying our books is a great way to say thanks. If you don’t, ask your library to buy it. If you read and enjoyed a mentor’s book, leave an honest review on, Barnes and Noble, and Goodreads. And of course, “thank you” is always nice to hear. J

        Stay tuned. A couple of days before the winners are announced, I’ll post Part 3: How to Interact with Mentors After the Contest.

        Monday, July 10, 2017

        Meet Query Kombat Grand Champion Erin King

        Query Kombat Grand Champion
        Erin King

        Erin King hails from the deserts of Las Vegas, where she was a serious high school choir nerd (no, really, we won a Grammy), turned songwriter, turned novelist. These days,
        she lives in Manhattan with her designer husband, where they pretend “creatives” can afford the city. She writes Young Adult fiction while her three native New Yorkers attend elementary school, and takes her life in her hands every time she goes for a run in Central Park. She’s anaphylactically allergic to exercise. Yes, it’s a thing. However, she hopes to survive to write many more fantastical tales about fictional teenagers.

        Erin lives on Twitter @erinkingwrites, or online at