Friday, October 23, 2015


The professors will soon be busy making their selections from the Hogwarts House entries! 

Remember that contests are subjective. What one person might scream and yell accio for may do nothing for someone else. There were tons of excellent entries. Even with five people making selections, that's nothing compared to the number of literary agents out there. No matter what, keep querying! 

I hope this contest has helped everyone who entered. There's not too many contests that provide feedback and we did our best to help as many people as possible. The whole Hogwarts crew tried their best to share their experience and give solid advice.

If you've made friends and learned something to improve your first page or pitch, you've already won.

*ZING* *duck* STUPIFY!

*cough* Excuse me. I thought I saw some lights flashing overhead. It seems to be under control now. No cause for alarm. As I was saying,

Here is some important information from Luna before we announce the chosen entries for Team Ravenclaw:

There is no commenting in this round, except for professors. Sorry, but no cheerleading as this may lead to an unconscious bias. All the comments are hidden, anyway. No requests will be revealed until the end of the Hogwarts House round on October 26.

But we are happy to see and retweet your thoughts and cheers over on twitter under the #Pitchslam tag! That’s the place to hang out and have fun. I'll be announcing when professors have stopped by this blog and giving hints about requests. Some of those hints might even be mildly helpful.

I’d better be seeing my Ravenclaws there, or it's detention and minus 5 points for Ravenclaw. It takes guts and teamwork to make it to enter the House cup, and we want everyone to see that we're full of House spirit.

Agents will consider entries at all the Head of House blogs. If more than one critic has the highest level of request on an entry, there will be a showdown on twitter after the round ends. 

Here's what the professors will be requesting: 

10 Points – Query and first 10 pages = Petrificus Totalus
25 Points – Query and first 25 pages = Protego
50 Points – Query and first 50 pages = Stupefy
100 Points – Query and first 100 pages = Sectumsempra
200 Points – Query and full = Expelliarmus

If you haven't found your entry here, check out our other Heads of House blogs below for their students:

*zing!* OH, no! The Grey Ghost tells me that Hogwarts is under attack! I must get these entry links up quickly! So sorry I can't stay and chat. Here are the blogs. Go now, before it's too late!


Aaaaaaaaaaack! What's this? Lord Voldemort and the Death Eaters have used the Imperious Curse to steal entries from the Hogwarts Cup! If you feel like you're in a bit of a stupor, check to see if your entry has fallen into their nefarious hands! It's TEAM DEATH EATERS!

I must save those poor authors! I can see we've got a fight on our hands, so I've got to run. Good luck to everyone! Thanks for making Pitchslam such a fun experience!

If there are any issues with your entry, tweet me @LH_Writes and let me know. Scroll down to view the winners!

Professors: If you drop by and don't see anything that fits your wishlist, I'd love a note on this entry to let me know. (Those comments will not be published.)

1. Pitchslam: GRIFFIN/ÁNGEL


Genre: Adult Upmarket Contemporary

Word Count: 99,000

Hogwarts House: At the start of the book, Ángel's definitely Slytherin. He can be a bully, he's lying to everyone he knows, doing all sorts of bad things, and not getting in trouble for any of it.  But the arc of the book is about him changing himself into a person worthy of Gryffindor's legacy of heroism (and, appropriately enough, his heroic alter ego is named Griffin.)   


When Ángel leaves a fantasy roleplaying cult, he finds real life to be another lie. To succeed and move on, he must resist the lure of his former identity and the woman he left behind.

First 250:

When Ángel saw people with foam swords in the park, he knew he should keep driving. Stopping might undermine his new life, destroy five years of anonymity. Then again, live action roleplaying looked really stupid from the outside. Watching for five minutes might kill any remaining nostalgia he had for his old life. That would be a good thing.

He pulled a U-Turn and parked in the lot.

They were kids, probably late high school, all guys, all white. As they sparred, fighting in uncoordinated jerky bursts, attempting to mimic movie duels, Ángel winced in embarrassment for them.

This is why you quit LARPing.

And yet, he wanted to join them.  Swing a sword. God how he missed that.

Fighting wasn’t LARPing. Fighting was exercise. And he needed exercise. Almost as much as these kids needed a swordmaster. If they seemed okay with it, he’d spar with them for ten mutually beneficial minutes—helping the boys would put him in a better mood for the family reunion waiting for him at home.

Ángel put on his Red Sox cap, got out of the car, and headed straight for the weapons pile where he crouched down and gauged his options.

“Are you here for the event?” a kid said.

Startled, Ángel turned, throwing himself off balance. He rolled with the momentum in a backward somersault and popped up next to the kid.

The kid gaped. “That was amazing.”

“I’m Mike,” Ángel offered his go-to fake name just in case the kid recognized him.


This entry is a horcrux!



Genre: Adult Fantasy

Word Count: 97,000. 

Hogwarts House: Lavie would be sorted into Gryffindor because she's strong, brave, and always loyal to her friend 


The Usurper's surrender should mean peace, but asexual swordswoman Lavie battles PTSD and can’t adjust to noble life. When assassins attack, she must discover who wants to undermine the new reign or watch it crumble.


Today, I kill a man. Today, I take back my home. Today, everything ends. 
The sea-warped gate in the bailey opens with a squeal, dusting me in flakes of rust. I cringe, hoping the keening seagulls cover the screech. Salt in the wind mixes with the scent of blood as I slip into the narrow space between the inner and outer wall, then signal my team to follow me.


I start at the sound of my name, and curse under my breath. One of my soldiers points past me to a dim entranceway. Footsteps echo from the stairs ahead.

“Sir,” I correct the man as I draw my sword. “Wait here.”

I press my back against the wall by the steps. The footsteps grow louder, and my fingers twitch on my hilt. As the figure emerges, I drive my sword into his gut.

Our eyes meet in the gloom and I taste bile in the back of my throat. He’s not a soldier, just a runner. He’s also barely more than a boy. His pale hands clutch at his stomach, as if trying to push the blood back, a gurgling cry spilling from his lips. I give him mercy and put my sword through his heart. He doesn’t even make a sigh as he falls, eyes glassy, to the ground.

I choke down fury. Another life destroyed by the Usurper. There’s no time to mourn or rage, and all we can do with the body is lay it out the way by the sea-gate.

3. PitchSlam: UNTIL THE END


Genre: Adult women’s fiction (with light sci-fi element)

Word Count: 93,000

Hogwarts House: Lilia is a kind, loyal Hufflepuff who loves her family and hates confrontation – but if she’s going to survive, she needs to channel her inner Slytherin.

35-word pitch: 

Lilia’s family is on the shuttle to Mars, but she’s given up her seat for an abandoned child. Now the young mom must brave an apocalyptic Midwest to find another launch – before the asteroid hits.

First 250 words:

I’d never deceived him until that day. It’s an accomplishment, in eight years of marriage, to be able to say that. And I didn’t even know I was going to do it until it happened. It was as if the decision wasn’t my own, as if it had been made for me eons ago, set in motion by all these events tumbling beyond my control.

To clarify, I didn’t lie to him. But I certainly sucked him into my deception. And there was nothing he could do about it once it was spoken.

Conveniently, he was already strapped into his seat, positioned protectively next to our little boy, on the way to the shuttle destined to remove us from this world. So I didn’t have to worry about him leaping up to argue with me, to beg me to change my mind, or to simply pick me up and force me into my own seat, if he were the kind of guy to do that sort of thing.

The seat, though, was no longer my own. That was the crux of the unplanned deception.

We planned for weeks to take our trip into the vast unknown. I’d obsessively made list after list of what we would bring in our allotted luggage – three bags, one for each of us. Our lives were meant to be crammed into three bags, and how on Earth can you do that?

How on Earth. What would the new expression be? “How on Mars” just didn’t sound right.



Genre: Adult Romance

Word Count: 83,000

Hogwarts House: Callie would be sorted into Gryffindor House because she's brash, outspoken, and fearless.

35 Word Pitch:

When her dad sells his failing renaissance faire, the future looks bleak for Callie's beloved summer retreat. Now she must help the sexy, silver-tongued new owner restore it to yesteryear's glory, or it'll close permanently.

First 250:
As I veered into the parking lot, a cell phone toting knight jaunted out in front of the dented bumper of my growling Chevy S-10. I stomped the brakes and finessed the clutch to keep my truck from stalling.

He was my first clue something wasn't right. Daddy didn't let anybody keep their phones on them while they were in costume, and I'd never seen him in my life. I definitely would have recognized him if I had. He had deep, brassy-beige skin, and his dark, curly hair fell all the way to his plate pauldrons.

I cranked my window down and shouted, "Watch it! You see those dents? They didn't get there by themselves, you know!" I doubt he heard me over my engine. Hell, I could barely hear me over my engine.

He clanked up the back office steps while his thumbs danced a samba across his phone. I squinted against the dust my truck was kicking up and hoped he'd make the mistake of trying to sit in one of the rickety wicker porch chairs while wearing a suit of armor. Still absorbed in his texts, he leaned a shoulder against the faux castle wall instead.   

Satisfied he wasn't going to be my entertainment for the afternoon, I threw my truck back into gear and eased forward to the chained gates leading out to the renaissance faire grounds. Sir Textsalot glanced between his phone, me, and the parking lot. As if I'd park in front like a plebe.


Title: Olives and Other Tests

Genre: YA Magical Realism

Word Count: 59,000

Hogwarts House:
Hufflepuff. Stacey’s an incredibly hard worker--working two jobs to
help pay for her mom’s specialty medical treatments--and she’d do
anything for the people she cares about, including taking a potion
that promises to swap her good health for her mother’s mysterious


Seventeen-year-old Stacey Cooper feels responsible for her
terminally-ill mother's mysterious ailment and after discovering a
magical cure on the Dark Web, Stacey must decide if her mother’s
health is worth sacrificing her own life.

First 250:

I was eight when I shaved my head.

My bangs itched my eyes and though I begged to grow them, Mom refused.
“Don't be silly, Stacey,” she said. “A forehead like yours requires

I planned to fix it with tweezers. Standing at the chipped bathroom
mirror, I pulled out one clump after another.

It hurt, but I didn't care. Victory urged me on as dark locks curled
around the edge of the porcelain sink, trailing down its edge and
flopping onto the peeling vinyl.

But when I stepped back to admire my progress and realized how much
was left, I switched tactics and grabbed Mom's fancy pink razor. The
blades kept clogging and I sliced open a finger yanking hair free, but
eventually most of my hair piled around my toes.

I still remember running my hands over my head for weeks after, the
regrowth prickly. The delicious tickle of freedom where hair used to

When I emerged from the bathroom, triumphant and bleeding, I thought
she'd be proud of the way I resolved our impasse.

Instead, she burst into tears. “I've missed all the warning signs,” she sobbed.

Seeking consolation in a parenting forum online, her first post poured
out her horror about what I'd done, her worry that I seemed not to
care about my hair. Readers soothed her with stories of their own
kids’ mishaps when scissors met hair.

Looking back now, the support of those online strangers was the thin

bright line.

6. PitchSlam: FOREST LAKE

Title: Forest Lake

Genre: YA Fantasy

Word Count: 69,000

Hogwarts House: Slytherin, because she aims for better than she has and is willing to be sneaky to get there!


In a land ruled by a sacred lake, where everyone dies at forty, fifteen-year-old Alysis must pick a life-partner among twelve boys she despises, or find a way out before the lake chooses for her.

First 250

The body sunk into the Pond's clear water. Alysis's gaze followed its slow downward path until it reached the deep bottom and joined the many down there. Men. Women. Next to each other, on top of each other, looking as the day they died, with their fine clothes and their arms crossed and their eyes closed.

And in twenty-five years, it would be her.

"Forty in the belly, forty in the air, forty forever in the bottom of the Lake," Alysis murmured, standing on the long floating platform crossing the center of the Pond. On the other end a small group of villagers sung in low voices, paying their respects to the dead bodies below them.

If they were really dead.

The longer she looked at the dead, the more alive they seemed. If she stared long enough, their arms would almost move, their mouths would almost part, and their eyelids would... She shuddered. She hated the dead and she hated the crisp clean water that made it possible to see them from so far away.

A shadow crossed the edge of her vision and she turned to watch one of the boys dig for mussels. Clad in a loincloth accentuating his thin body and amber-colored skin, Roderihk dove with ease before working on the shells attached to one of the many trees circling the Pond. The bodies didn't bother him. They didn't bother anyone but her.


This entry is a horcrux!

7. PitchSlam: AS SEEN ON EVIE

Title: As Seen on Evie

Genre: YA Contemporary

Word Count: 81,000

Hogwarts House: Brave and chivalrous? He wishes. Put Justin with the ambitious and cunning Slytherins, except winning the girl (sorry, Snape!).


Kicked off the reality show chronicling Evie’s life for threatening to clue her in, teen actor Justin vows to win her love and forgiveness. Except … Evie believes he’s her brother. And dead. Bygones. Hopefully.

First 250:

The guys on set would rate me a five-star fool for staying in to watch reality TV instead of jumping all over Abby Desher’s offer to hang tonight. But I’d choose Evie over my admittedly hot co-star any day.

Even if I could only see her now in pixilated form on my flat screen.

After locking my bedroom door, I wasted seven seconds bypassing the TV’s parental controls. “Nice try, Mom.”

Evie’s face filled the screen, the dimples I’d so often teased out of her noticeably absent. Her dark hair was twisted up in a messy bun, like the day we met. If only I’d been straight with her then instead of following the role the producers had planned for Justin Fisher.

The camera panned out, and I mentally translated the scene into a script. Close enough to the truth for everyone but Evie.

Year 17, Day 96, Hour 21

[Lifeguard camera 2.]

Evie stands at the edge of the water with Brant (her boyfriend) and Cecily (her best friend). Waves lap toward their feet as the sun sets in the distance.

Come on, Evie, it’ll be fun!

Evie crosses her arms over her chest and shakes her head like a stubborn two-year-old, causing the sun to catch on the diamond at the center of the heart necklace she only removes to sleep or shower.

Absolutely not.

Cecily casts a pointed stare at Brant, who turns his million-dollar grin on Evie.



Genre: MG Fantasy/Adventure

Word Count: 39,000 words

Hogwarts House: Jeremiah would be sorted into Slytherin for his ambition and resourcefulness. Though his goofy personality might be deceiving, Jeremiah would stop at nothing to save and protect those he loves.

35 Word Pitch: 

Twelve-year-old Jeremiah discovers striking the strings of a harp unleashes a modern-day Clash of Clans. When the Clan kidnap his Mom, Jeremiah must save her, and the town, before they burn it to the ground.

First 250 Words

Flyerton was exactly what I expected. You couldn’t even call it a town. It was one street about three city blocks long with a church on one end and a tiny grocery store on the other…you get the picture, right? And I’m sure you’re thinking exactly what I was thinking: boring.

Even the sign going into the town looked bored--Welcome to Flyerton, Population 101. With the last number one hanging on for dear life.

But I swallowed my groan when I saw the smile on Mom's face. I hadn't seen that in a while. Not since the divorce.

"Hmm, I'm not exactly sure where the house is..." Mom slowed the car and looked at the map in her hand before she came to a complete stop.

Right then, like seriously at that exact moment, an old guy came out of the church. He had a dog with him. I think it might have been a Border Collie but it was kind of hard to tell because it looked like it had been dipped in cooking oil.

Mom pulled the car along to meet him. "Let's ask this man. Maybe he could help us."

"Mom," I whispered. "What are you doing? He could be a psycho..."

"Jeremiah," she hissed, "behave yourself."

I read a story once, where this guy pulled his car up next to a stranger who then pulled off his mask to reveal an alien head with eyeballs dangling from tentacles. 

Actually I think that was an episode of Gravity Falls, so never mind. 



Genre: Middle-Grade fantasy

Word count: 79,000

Hogwarts House: Gryffindor! Maris is a girl of action. While others dither and delay, she seizes the ostrich and rides out to save her father. Fantasy quest with an magic ostrich. What could go wrong?


When a cranky sorcerer turns Maris’ father into a button, she must take an enchanted ostrich to save him by infiltrating the sorcerers’ desert fortress—without collapsing the land’s crumbling magic, and ending the world. 

First 250:

Half the day went by before I managed to escape the whirlwind of last-minute packing in the house and slip outside to say good-bye to our best ostrich. Ducking my head so Aunt Sophronia wouldn’t see me out the window and find me another chore, I darted across the dusty dooryard.

Harel watched as I hitched up my skirts and climbed onto the bottom fence rail. When I stretched out a hand filled with grain, he sauntered up to me and pecked at the food. It hurt a bit, but I held my hand still.

"Hey,” I murmured, “it's me, Maris.” Harel stiffened as I ran my free hand down his leathery neck, but I could see a few shining threads connecting us, like strands of spiderweb. Father insisted the threads were a trick of the mind. I’d learned not to mention them.

As I stroked Harel’s neck, I imagined the thin threads growing thicker and brighter, sewing us up tight together. The trick worked best on cranky things—Snake the barn cat, grumpy farm hands, ostriches. Friendly, agreeable creatures had too many threads waving around to keep track of.

Harel didn’t exactly nuzzle me, but he didn’t bite my ear, and he let me nuzzle him. I’d just sighed in contentment when someone bellowed out in the road.

I groaned when I saw a spindly figure in a red robe drumming his fingers on our fence. A Brother of the Symmetrars had come calling, just in time to ruin my last day at home.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Pitches from the Pensieve

Hey Pitchslam peeps, We thought you'd like a laugh so the Heads of House, head boys and girls, and prefects are putting up our entries for your viewing pleasure.  Last spring, I posted the first page and pitch that helped me land my agent, along with a first draft of what I was currently working on. So, here is my (incomplete) entry for the not-yet-edited rough draft I'm currently working on. 

I don't expect you to rave over it (far from it). More, I offer this so you can see some of the things we see when people submit entries that aren't quite there yet. 

Please note: This pitch is an example of what NOT TO DO.

Name: Laura Heffernan

Genre: Women's fiction

Title: Not Sure Yet

Word Count: 50,087 words and counting!!

Hogwarts House: Jess is Hufflepuff all the way, loyal to a fault, even when her loyalty overwhelms all common sense. 

Pitch:  When Jess's husband died, the world crumbled around her. Fifteen years later, she discovers that nothing is at it seemed. Can she recover from the realization that her entire adult life has been a lie?

First 250:

Sweat poured down my forehead. I gripped the armrests and squeezed my eyes shut, trying to remember the mantra I’d been taught. Serenity now. Serenity now. Serenity now. In my imagination, my seat rocked and tilted, any moment prepared to plummet out from under me.

Repeating it in my head didn’t help much, so I said, "Serenity now," to see if the chant did anything to lessen my utter dread.

"Excuse me?"

I cracked one eyelid. Beside me sat a young woman, probably in her late twenties. 

"Sorry, ma’am. I have a slight… paralyzing fear of flying." 

Her brow wrinkled, crackling the edges of her foundation and suggesting she’d actually lived a few more years than I originally guessed. "But we’re not even on the plane yet." 

I nodded. "Yup. I’m so afraid, it starts in the waiting area. I’m sorry. I’ll try to be quiet."

With effort, I sat up and undid my death grip on the arm rests. At this hour, the terminal was slowly coming to life. Kiosks were opening, people starting to arrive. The hushed atmosphere that permeated the air when I’d arrived at seven, as if no one wanted to dispel the early morning air by speaking, mostly dissipated. In a few hours, it would be nearly impossible to remember this Logan from the bustling hub it would turn into. 

Few people sat by our gate. A group of businessmen in one corner. A family with a toddler sat against the far wall, reading. A few single travelers scattered throughout the seating area. 

Don't forget to check out the first pages on the other Head of House, head boy and girl, and prefect blogs. Check out #PitcheFromThePensieve on Twitter.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

GRUDGING Cover Reveal!!! - and Giveway!

Michelle Hauck is one of my favorite people. No, really. When I was querying, she picked me as an alternate for Sun vs. Snow and hosted a critiquing workshop, which really helped me improve my first page and query. Then she picked me in QueryKombat later that year, and the feedback I got directly lead to me getting an agent. But more importantly, after that, she invited me to help in some of the contests, and we became friends. Michelle is a talented writer, a great friend, and an amazing human being. I couldn't be more excited to help reveal the cover for her new book, GRUDGING, out soon.

Today Michelle Hauck and Rockstar Book Tours are revealing the cover for GRUDGING, Birth of Saints Book One series which releases November 17, 2015! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to win a copy if the eBook!

On to the reveal! 

Author: Michelle Hauck
Pub. Date: November 17, 2015
Publisher: Harper Voyager Impulse
Format: eBook
A world of chivalry and witchcraft…and the invaders who would destroy everything.

The North has invaded, bringing a cruel religion and no mercy. The ciudades-estados who have stood in their way have been razed to nothing, and now the horde is before the gates of Colina Hermosa…demanding blood.

On a mission of desperation, a small group escapes the besieged city in search of the one thing that might stem the tide of Northerners: the witches of the southern swamps.

The Women of the Song.

But when tragedy strikes their negotiations, all that is left is a single untried knight and a witch who has never given voice to her power.  And time is running out.

A lyrical tale of honor and magic, Grudging is the opening salvo in the Book of Saints trilogy.

About Michelle: 
Michelle Hauck lives in the bustling metropolis of northern Indiana with her hubby and two teenagers. Two papillons help balance out the teenage drama. Besides working with special needs children by day, she writes all sorts of fantasy, giving her imagination free range. A book worm, she passes up the darker vices in favor of chocolate and looks for any excuse to reward herself. Bio finished? Time for a sweet snack.

She is a co-host of the yearly contests Query Kombat and Nightmare on Query Street, and Sun versus Snow.

Her epic fantasy, Kindar's Cure, is published by Divertir Publishing. Her short story, Frost and Fog, is published by The Elephant's Bookshelf Press in their anthology, Summer's Double Edge. She's repped by Sarah Negovetich of Corvisiero Literary.

Giveaway Details:
3 winners will receive an eBook of GRUDGING. 

Rafflecopter Embed Code: a Rafflecopter giveaway Rafflecopter Link:

Thursday, October 1, 2015

PITCHSLAM - Introducing Team Ravenclaw!

"Wit Beyond Measure is Man's Greatest Treasure"
The theme for this fall's PitchSlam competition is the Hogwarts House Cup, and I couldn't possibly be more excited to be Head of Ravenclaw. (Seriously. I may have cried.) Never fear: we're not looking for the smartest authors out there. I really don't have a way of judging your intelligence from a first page and pitch as long as you follow the rules of spelling and grammar, and I'm certainly not going to be tracking anyone down on Twitter to see if they come across as wise in 140 characters. But I do enjoy clever and witty writing, I love concepts that make people think, I appreciate stories that teach me something new, and you will, of course, get bonus points for correct spelling and grammar.

The head of a house is only as good as the people standing behind her. I'm delighted to introduce you to my Head Girl, Carey O'Connor and Prefect, Kimberly Ito.

Carey O'Connor is one of the wittiest people I know, so it's no surprise that I asked her to join me on Team Ravenclaw as Head Girl. My first manuscript was a hot mess before she helped me whip it into shape, and I'm eternally grateful for all the hard work she put in to help me get an agent (and still puts into the drafts I send her for every manuscript).

Carey is a writer of MG stories, advertising copy, and (ambitious, always unfinished) to-do lists. Originally from Madison, Wisconsin, she has a wanderlust that’s led her to explore five continents (and temporarily settle in Texas). Carey loves stories that allow her to explore interesting places with fascinating people and voices with a hint of poetry. For #PitchSlam, you can count on a star from Carey if you make her laugh, check under the bed, or want to research some element of your manuscript. Follow Carey on Twitter @OConnorCarey.

I read Kimberly Ito's manuscript at the beginning of January, and it's still the best thing I've read all year. She's also smart, an awesome person and a good friend. I'm thrilled to have someone so talented as a prefect to help me choose the wittiest and most clever entries for the agent round. 

Kimberly Ito writes realistic contemporary fiction for teens and adults, and reads just about anything, from steamy romance to hard sci-fi. Her favorite stories are character-driven, with unforgettable voices and settings—bonus points if you can make her cry. She lives outside of Tokyo with her family and in addition to writing, works as a freelance editor, proofreader, translator, and part-time EFL teacher. She blogs occasionally at, and is always fangirling on Twitter as @KimberlyIto.

For more information on PitchSlam, click here. We look forward to reading your entries starting October 17!