Monday, April 15, 2019

Giveaway to celebrate launch of THE SHOW MUST GO ON

I'm running a special giveaway to celebrate the launch of The Show Must Go On and it's special limited time sales price of only $2.99 (it's also available for free through Kindle Unlimited).

One lucky person will win a $20 Amazon gift card, a signed paperback copy of The Show Must Go On, and a bookmark boyfriend.

25 newsletter subscribers will also win a bookmark boyfriend.

If you're wondering what exactly a bookmark boyfriend is - keep scrolling.

Hi. We're your bookmark boyfriends.

Do you like long walks on the beach?
Er, I hope not. This bookmark boyfriend likes to stay away from large bodies of water. Bathtubs are also not my favorite place to be - just a heads up on that one.

How about romantic candlelit dinners?
...Again, for me, that wouldn't be my first choice. I'm made of paper, so fire is a little dicey. 

How about instead we slip between the pages of a good book together? I'll hold the page when you need to go away. When you return we can make a sequel.

Or, if you don't read on paper, I'm also happy to coral the charging cord to your e-reader. Leave me on your bedside table and I won't be going anywhere - any room with you in it, is a room with a view.

So... who wants a bookmark boyfriend?

Thursday, March 21, 2019

The Show Must Go On Teaser and First Chapter

I am so excited to share THE SHOW MUST GO ON that I can't wait until April 16th for everyone to get a look at it. That's why I'm sharing the first chapter right here! If you want an even longer sneak peak (chapters 1-3!) then CLICK HERE to join my newsletter and get instant access to a download.

THE SHOW MUST GO ON is also available for pre-order on Amazon


 “Let Me Entertain You” –Gypsy

It’s second nature to project my voice so that it fills every inch of the theater.
Admittedly, that’s a bit tricky in this space—a majestic old movie theater that was closed down and left to rot three decades ago. Now it’s an in-progress restoration project. Tarps cover chairs. Scaffolding climbs the walls. And a fine layer of sawdust coats every surface. Luckily, the construction crew gave us the space today, so we don’t have to battle the whir and clatter of saws and hammers. But even with those obstacles removed, the combination of soaring domed ceilings and touchy sound system presents a unique challenge.
Still, so long as I control my breath and keep my words crisp, I know that once people are in these empty seats, everyone will hear me just fine.
Being loud has never been a problem for me.
I do, however, occasionally, sporadically interspersed, without quite meaning too, overpower my fellow performers. Sometimes I just can’t help it. The joy of the music and the words and the movement all come together and burst out of me—with the same volume intensity as a foghorn.
Today though, that sense of joy eludes me. Or maybe it’s being sucked out of me by my apathetic castmates. It’s funny. We’re in the middle of a group number, but the only voice I hear is my own.
“Sing out, Louise!” I hiss from the side of my mouth as I chassé across the stage.
“Who’s Louise?” one of the girls asks, her face scrunched up in confusion.
That’s all I can take. There are some theater references that everyone should know. “Sing out, Louise!” from Gypsy is one of them.
“Cut the music! Cut, please, cut.”
After a moment the music stops. Silence fills the room. The cast stares at me in bewilderment. Taking a deep breath, I remind myself they’re theater newbies and I need to be gentle with them.
“Ladies, I hate to say this, but that wasn’t very good. We’re forgetting lines. We’re falling behind the music. We’re holding our voices in, when we need to be projecting them out to the audience.” I fling both arms wide, indicating the correct direction.
The girl playing Molly raises her hand. I can’t remember her actual name. Honestly, I can rarely remember anyone’s name. But for some reason character names tend to stick with me.
“Yes?” I nod at Molly, ready for a question about proper breathing techniques or what vocal warm-ups I’d recommend.
“Does this mean we have to do it again?”
I put a hand over my mouth, hoping they mistake my smothered moan for indigestion. “Yes. We’re gonna take it from the top and this time really give it our all. Okay?”
“Not againnnnn!”
My castmates, grown adults all of them, were in no way forced to be part of this community theater production of Annie. And yet they act like they’re doing hard time in a Russian gulag. Sadly, it’s the best acting on this stage so far.
“Yes, againnnn. And again and again and again until we all get it right.”
This does not go over well. A sea of sullen faces stare back at me.
Well, okay, I probably could’ve delivered that message in a better way. Tried to relate to them. “Hey, guys, I know it sucks spending your whole afternoon in a stuffy theater. I have other things I’d rather be doing too.” That’s not true though. The theater is my very most favorite place—even when I’m sharing it with castmates on the verge of mutiny. But maybe great leadership means occasionally lying your face off? I don’t know. I have no fucking clue at all. That’s the problem here. As co-director, I’m in charge, and my every decision is making everything that’s already bad, even worse.
And yet the show must go on.
“Mr. Conductor?” I force myself to look down into the nearly empty orchestra pit. Due to budget constraints, instead of musicians and their instruments packed tightly together, we have a dude in cargo shorts and a stained T-shirt. And his boom box. The last time I peered down there, he was clipping his toenails.
Now he gives me a lazy salute, which seems nice…until I notice his middle finger extended. Clearly he’s pissed this rehearsal has run two hours over schedule. No surprise there—everyone is pissed. Adding in an extra rehearsal had seemed like a no-brainer, especially considering how underprepared we are for an opening night that’s five days away.
Instead it was—cue the minor chord progression—yet another wrong decision.
Turning back to the cast, I clap my hands. “Places, everyone. And let’s remember, this is our big opening number. We need to grab the audience or risk losing them entirely. So let’s sing out and give it our all. Okay?”
Half-hearted nods and shrugs are all I get in response. After twelve weeks of rehearsal, excitement levels are supposed to be at a fever pitch. The “OMG this is it!” nerves should be spreading like a bad case of the flu. Instead, the prevailing sentiment seems to be a whole lot of meh with a side of the whatevers.
I don’t get their attitude. For me theater is more than a hobby. It’s more like my baby. I love it beyond reason. I can’t imagine life without it. I insist on bringing it up at all times, even when it’s unwelcome or inappropriate. Just ask the mechanic at Wally’s Auto Lube. Last week I spontaneously serenaded him with “Greased Lightning” while he rotated my tires.
I get that non-theater people, like the Wally’s Auto Lube mechanic who asked me to “please, knock it off already,” may not feel the same way about my baby. But theater people are supposed to get it. We share a secret language. And yeah, this is their first musical for most of them, so I get they’re not fluent yet, but every time I translate, they look at me in this sort of dead-eyed way. Which makes it pretty obvious.
They all think my baby is ugly, and they have no idea how to break it to me.
Yet somehow I keep hoping I might still win them over.
Holding in a sigh of despair, I glance back down to the pit.
“Okay, Conductor, hit it.”          
Frozen in our places, we wait out a long moment of silence. Or there should be silence—except someone’s phone goes off. Most people would quickly silence it and apologize. Instead I hear a soft, “Hey, I can’t really talk right now.”
“No phones on stage!” I screech the words like someone just barely holding on to the last shreds of their sanity.
“Wow. Lose it much?” someone whispers to my left. A chorus of giggles follow.
Here’s another problem. These people make me feel old. Old like my tenth-grade music teacher, Mrs. Phazo, who was only a few years away from retirement and used to constantly mutter, “I don’t understand any of you.”
Of course I’m not old. Yeah, I turned thirty a few months back. But thirty isn’t old. It’s not, because I’m not old. Old people have mortgages and children and other things I don’t even know enough about to list because of my extreme youthfulness.
But…the cast is exceptionally young. Twenty-two is the median age. Our Daddy Warbucks just turned twenty. At the little party we had for him, one of the girls pulled me aside to drunkenly whisper, “Not sure if you know, but he totally has a thing for older women.” It didn’t even occur to me that I was the older women, until she squealed, “He’s so into you!”
Damn it. Why is there no music?
Pop. Crackle.
“It’s the Hard Knock Life” begins to play.
What happens next is ugly. Like the opening sequence to Saving Private Ryan, it’s horrifying and disorientating. The choreography seems to have been taken more as a general suggestion of how one might wish to move their body. I have to dodge and weave like a prize fighter just to keep from getting knocked out by one girl’s unpredictable twirling broom and another’s series of kickboxing moves.
As the last note fades, it’s all I can do not to throw my head back and howl. Unclenching my jaw, I force a smile onto my face instead. A smile full of warmth and genuine affection.
It’s fake. Of course it’s fake.
But it looks real, and that’s because I am a professional actress. Well, a professional amateur. As professional as someone who never gets paid can be.
Not many people can claim to have performed in community theater shows in seventeen of the fifty states and in forty-one cities. Okay, cities may be generous. Towns. Villages. Once I was Fannie Brice in a production put on by the County Line Theater Company. So I’ve run the gamut.
Some of those shows were bad. None were as awful as this. Somehow I landed myself in an actual shit show. But when you’re sorta the director, you can’t say that. So I turn the smile up a few notches instead.
“Great job, everyone. Let’s take five.”
Retreating backstage, I pull two ibuprofen and my cell phone from the back pocket of my jeans. Almost immediately the phone rumbles. Two more missed calls from my mom since the last time I checked, and one text message delivered in her usual low-key way:
My mother’s idea of important is debatable. As just a recent example: JENNA! WE GOTTA TALK ASAP ABOUT THIS NEW SEXTING THING THE KIDS ARE DOING. SPOILER ALERT. US OLD PEOPLE CAN DO IT TOO! ;)
I stash my phone away again. Whatever Mom wants, it can wait.
If only this day was so easily dismissed.
I jerk my wig off and massage my aching scalp, my fingertips searching out the spaces between the bobby pins, trying to convince the headache that started behind my eyes to, if not retreat, then at least slow its advance. I’m tempted to find a corner and grab a three-minute standing nap. Years of chronic sleep problems have made me a pioneer in a field I’ve dubbed extreme catnapping.
Instead I step off the stage and stride up the aisle, past the empty rows of plush red seats. I glance up at the curving edge of the balcony, struck anew by the size and grandeur of this place. It’s not often I get to play a house this big.
Reaching the back, I turn around. There’s that classic proscenium arch framing the empty stage, all lit up and waiting for someone—me—to walk across it, find their mark, and sing.
Even after years and years of doing this, my chest goes tight. The dopamine hit fades quickly though, leaving behind a bone-deep weariness. And with it the question that won’t leave me alone.
Is the show shit because of me? Have I lost it? Did I ever even have it?
Trying to shake it off, I push open the double doors that lead to the lobby.
Stella, the producer and other half of our co-directing team, is pacing back and forth on the black-and-white tiled floor, cell phone pressed to her ear as she hollers into it. “I’m gonna call the ACLU. Have you ever heard of freedom of speech? Have you, huh? What about artistic expression? Is that a new one for you too? Well, you better look ’em up, because we’re not going down without a fight.”
Seeing me, Stella puts her hand over the mouthpiece of the phone. “I got ’em on the ropes here. How’s it going on your end?”
“Great!” I lie. What else can I say to the person who considers this show her grand musical theater vision? I can’t say, “Why did you ever drag me into this mess?”
Although she did.
Eight months ago I was in Mississippi finishing up a run of The Sound of Music, when Stella called.
“Aren’t you sick of the same old, same old?” she’d asked. “I mean, how many times now have you done good old Sound of Music?”
Seven times playing Maria and singing “Do Re Mi.” That’s how many. Of course, every production was different. In theory. In reality, some directors played things so straight and by the book that it felt less like art and more like completing a paint-by-numbers set.
Then Stella said the magic words. “Annie meets Fifty Shades of Grey.”
It was so wrong. And ridiculous. I couldn’t help but be intrigued. In retrospect, I should’ve immediately said no. Instead, I heard the word “maybe” come out of my mouth.
Truthfully, my big 3-0 milestone had a part in it. Aging out of my twenties made me want…something. I wasn’t sure what.
That “maybe” was all the opening Stella needed. “Oh, Jenna, please say yes. I didn’t want to get into this, but things with Brian aren’t going great. Also, the theater group is trying to force me out, and well, I could really use an ally. Someone who’s on my side one hundred percent.” Her voice cracked on that last word.
Due to my nomadic existence, I don’t have a lot of close friends…or really any besides Stella. Still, you don’t need twenty BFFs to know the rules, the simplest of which is when a friend asks for a favor, you better have a good reason to say no.
“When do you need me there?” I’d asked.
It was only after I’d arrived and unpacked that Stella informed me (in the same tone you might use to tell someone they’d won the lottery) that she’d not only given me the lead part but made me her co-director as well.
I’d never directed anything before. Never wanted to either. But Stella gave me the big boo-boo eyes as she reminded me, “Jenna, I really need you. Puh-puh-please.”
I caved.
And now it’s tech week, a.k.a. the week before the show opens, when you practice with lights and sound cues and costumes, and all the five hundred things that can go wrong, do go wrong. But instead of five hundred things going wrong, we’re closer to five million, and the whole damn production is balancing on the brink of disaster.
“Goddamn it, don’t you dare put me on hold again!” Stella returns to her phone conversation, which doesn’t seem to be going well.
She’s chatting with the fine folks at Musical Theater USA, the company we paid for the rights to put Annie on stage. Somehow they got wind of all the shades of gray Stella added to the show, and they are not happy. In fact, they’re demanding we close it down. Immediately.
As Stella starts to threaten once more, I decide to get some fresh air. Head pounding more insistently than ever, I step outside, desperate for some sun on my face—and nearly walk right into a sign reading, SAY NO TO ONSTAGE PORN.
Ah hell. I’d forgotten about the protestors. They’ve been coming round ever since an anonymous editorial accusing the show of “sexualizing girlhood” came out in the local paper. The next day a dozen people were out front chanting “Keep Annie clean!” Now as they catch sight of me, several rush over waving bars of soap.
Keeping my head down, I push past them and then, as they refuse to give way, start to run. Luckily, no one follows when I duck into the side alley, and I’m able to lean against the stage door at the back of the building, catching my breath and letting my heartbeat slow before finally heading inside.
As the door clunks shut behind me, I take a deep breath in. Slowly exhaling, I try to let go of all the things going wrong and focus on what’s going right.
I get to play Annie, a part I’d thought my advanced age made impossible for me to cross off my bucket list. And while the show is a mess, it’s definitely not boring. Finally…
I search for a third good thing as I pull my wig back on and return to the stage. Carefully, I step over my castmates littered across the floor until finding center stage, I plant myself there.
This space right here. This is my third thing. My home. My safe space. My own personal center that only needs a spotlight to complete it.
Getting to stand up here is the reward.
But first I have to earn it.
“Hey.” I clap my hands to get everyone’s attention. A few wan nods and rolled eyes are all the encouragement I get. “Let’s work out the curtain call. Once that’s solid, everyone can take a break until we meet again tonight for the dress rehearsal.”
Actual groans meet this announcement.
“What’s the point?” Molly asks. “They wanna shut the show down. I don’t care what Stella says about refusing to wave the white flag—whatever that even means. They don’t want us to add flags to the show, do they?”
“No, they are not asking for white flags,” I patiently explain. “They don’t like that Annie and Daddy Warbucks have a sloppy kiss at the end of the show. They also want us to stop stripping during ‘You’re Never Fully Dressed without a Smile.’”
“Oh, c’mon.” The flexible blond girl playing Pepper joins in the discussion. “That is definitely a stripper song. Maybe in a more wink wink sort of way than we do it, but still, it’s clearly about getting naked. Am I right or am I right?”
The other girls hoot and holler in agreement. And they’d know. Most of them work at Topaz, the strip club out by the interstate. After we lost half the original cast at the first table read, Stella was desperate for anyone with stage experience. So she went out to Topaz and sold being part of our musical as a mix between a blowout party with top-shelf liquor and a day at Disneyland.
Frankly, I was tempted to drop out too. Once Stella fully articulated her vision, I couldn’t help but think it sounded more crass than clever.
“Girls kissing girls kissing boys kissing girls! It’s the Great Depression and everyone wants to get laid!”
The words “I quit” were on the tip of my tongue, but remembering I was there to support Stella, I swallowed them down and replaced them with “The show must go on.”
Those five words have a near mystical quality to motivate me. I’ve gone on with bronchitis. Sunburn so bad it left blisters up and down my arms. And even a broken foot. That last was during My Fair Lady. With the long dress (mostly) covering the big clunky cast, I didn’t just go on, I convinced everyone looking at me that I really could’ve danced all night.
Now I search for some way to transfer even a bit of that never-say-die feeling to this group of people who are mostly here for fun. As a way to pass the time.
I close my eyes. My head pounds even louder. And then—at last—inspiration strikes.
“Happy hour at the Wishing Well before the next rehearsal! First round of drinks on me!” I announce.
And finally I’m greeted with cheers instead of jeers. Making a mental note to remember my credit card, I circulate around the stage as everyone peels themselves off the floor.
“Great job on that final number.”
“Loved your energy in the first act.”
“Good recovery after losing your line.”
I drop words of encouragement here and there, hoping between that and the promise of free booze we can pull this thing across the line.
 As the three stripper poles are moved downstage, I explain how immediately following the final number, everyone needs to gather in the wings. At that point the music for “Tomorrow” will start. I organize the cast in the order they’ll come out, in threes, with each swinging round the stripper poles before taking their bow.
“All right, let’s do it!”
Everyone stares at me until I clap my hands, and then they scatter into the wings. Again, I point to our conductor. He sighs loudly before pressing Play.
The opening notes to “Tomorrow” begin, and I join the cast backstage. As the lead, my bow is last. Right before me, Mrs. Hannigan and Daddy Warbucks will come out and do their spins round the pole, and then the whole cast will turn upstage and I’ll enter stage center.
In theory this should be easy.
But first they forget the order. Then one girl takes too long on the pole, launching into her whole routine from Topaz. The guy playing President Roosevelt stops the whole thing to argue that his character would not use a stripper pole, seeing as how he’s in a wheelchair. I explain it’s okay to break character for the bows, and he goes off on a ten-minute rant about kids today not respecting history, while I struggle not to roll my eyes because this is already our third Roosevelt and I doubt we’ll be able to dig up another. Finally, we compromise. The Boylan sisters will help him out of his wheelchair, and then he’ll take a go on the pole.
We run through it six times and not once do we make it to my bow.
As “Tomorrow” starts up again, I can’t stand to watch. Hating myself for doing it—
especially after my earlier freak-out—I pull out my cell phone.
There are several more texts from my mom, mostly consisting of scared cat emojis and exclamation marks. I can’t even begin to guess what they might mean. Below those is a short text from my niece, Maxi. As a teenager she instinctively knows how to compose an attention-grabbing text without resorting to all caps.
Grams really wants to talk with you. I think somebody died or something.
My heart stutters and then stops. Somebody died or something.
I peek between the curtains and see Mrs. Hannigan and Daddy Warbucks preparing to step onstage. Mind racing, I watch as Mrs. Hannigan completes her rotation round the stripper pole. Daddy Warbucks follows. It’s my turn to step onstage, but instead my thumbs are rapidly typing out a text to my mother.
I need to move. They finally did the curtain call perfectly, and I’m screwing it up. But I can’t go on, and neither can the show—not until I get an answer.
It comes at last.
My phone slips from my hand. I don’t bother to pick it up as I step onstage, singing along with the rest of the cast, the words coming automatically.
Danny. Dead.
Oh, Danny.
Suddenly my throat is too tight to sing.
I reach the stripper pole and wrap both hands around it. Instinctually I turn my smile up a notch, sending it out to the empty seats as my legs bend, prepping for my turn. There’s someone out there at the back of the theater, half in shadow.
I recognize him instantly despite all the years that have gone by.
Danny. It’s Danny. Or his ghost.
I am spinning while also twisting awkwardly to look over my shoulder, to see him again. My hands, suddenly clammy, slip. Then I’m flying. And falling. As my head thumps against the hard boards of the stage, I am not thinking about how no one is singing or that we’ll have to do the curtain call again or any of the things that have been tying me into knots today.
There’s only one thought in my mind. And it’s this:
Danny is dead, and it’s all my fault.

Friday, March 15, 2019

The Show Must Go On Cover Reveal!

THE SHOW MUST GO ON will be available for purchase April 16th, 2019. This is my first adult (ie: not YA novel) and I am so excited to share it with everyone. 

Subscribers to my newsletter can check out the first three chapters - click here to get started.

I also have to give a special shout-out to @VC_BookCovers who designed my cover and did an amazing job. 

You can also add The Show Must Go On to Goodreads or Pre-order on Amazon.

After a freak accident changed her whole life, a guilt-stricken girl put as much distance as she could between her hometown and herself. Now, over a decade later, she must find the courage to return home and face the music.

Ever since her thirtieth birthday, Jenna’s been battling a bad case of the blahs. Hoping to shake up her life, she agrees to take the lead role in a theatrical production pitched as Annie meets Fifty Shades of Grey. However, by the time tech week rolls around, it’s clear that “dirty Annie” is a disaster.

Then, Jenna receives life-changing news . . .

Everyone has that one ex they can’t forget. But for Jenna it’s different. Her ex, Danny, has been in a coma for twelve years. Now he’s awake—and asking for her. The only problem is, the thought of seeing Danny again gives her a panic attack.

Jenna’s determined to ignore her conscience—until Danny’s younger brother, Will, arrives on her doorstep. He insists on escorting her across the country, back to Buffalo, New York—and Danny’s bedside. Even as Jenna and Will heatedly debate if she’ll stay or if she’ll go, an inconvenient attraction sparks between them.

As her life further unravels and opening night rapidly approaches, Jenna will have to learn that “the show must go on” is a phrase that applies to more than just the stage.

For fans of Sally Thorne, Penny Reid, and Lucy Parker, this hilarious romantic comedy will give you all the feels. 

Thursday, January 24, 2019


I have lots of exciting writing news and several new books coming up this year and the best way to stay up-to-date (while also qualifying for exclusive giveaways and receiving subscriber only extras!) is to sign up NOW! 

All you have to do is click the link and then enter your name and email to be added to the list.  

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

PitchWars Critique - SHADOWS OF OBLIVION

I LOVE being a mentor for PitchWars. BUT there is one bad part - having to choose just one manuscript to mentor when there are so many with so much potential.

And so, wanting to give something back to those who chose Mindy McGinnis and myself as one of the mentor teams to submit to, we decided to offer first page and query critiques on our blogs. Our decision to do this via our blogs, rather than a private email, is so that (hopefully!) everyone can learn a little bit from this feedback.

And for anyone out there looking for personalized feedback, I also offer manuscript critique services which you can find more out about here.  

Dear Mentor, 
Kelsi is looking for a purpose, something bigger than herself, but she never expected that wish to come true. Blackmailed into kidnapping a student from Earth, Nero is faced with the unlikely decision of revenge or humanity while hunting a mysterious organization that kidnaps people and vanishes without a trace. You've lost me. Kelsi wants what specifically? And then what happens to her? Establish that before moving onto Nero. You also need to be more clear about how and why and where these two people (beings?) intersect.
Justifying his decision to hide Kelsi onboard his spaceship Nemesis, how is she onboard his ship? When is this taking place? Nero’s gray morals are brought into question by his crew and himself. specifically what morals and brought into question specifically how? He’s always done the wrong things for the right reason in this pursuit, but now the Grey Men who are the gray men? have taken it a step further, taken what specifically one step further? comprising the one thing Nero swore he’d never do; what is the one thing he swore he'd never do?!?!? it’s time to pay them back in kind. Pay who back how? I am so lost here.

Paragraph break here. Faced with the reality of never returning to Earth, Kelsi must choose between hopelessness and accepting what fate has dealt her. Together, they she and Nero? delve into the mystery of the Grey Men, who they are and what they are after, but there are consequences for such actions. what consequences? As the Nemesis crew struggles to overcome the obstacle what obstacle? set forth by the Grey Men, Kelsi is forced to question if all of this If all of what is a misunderstanding? I am still not clear on what exactly happened to her. is a misunderstanding, or if she was meant to be there all along.

Camille is a Magna Cum Laude graduate of the University of Southern California with a B.A. in English: Creative Writing.
Combining action/adventure and heart  I'd cut this, unless you mean to say romance in which cause say that with light science fiction, The Shadows of Oblivion title should be in caps, a young adult science fiction is complete at 120,000 words. WOH! That is on the long side for ya fiction - even SFF. I'd see about cutting that word count down. 
Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best Wishes,

The Shadows of Oblivion
Chapter 1
Paradise; whoever named the grimy, enclosed, shadow of a city didn’t think it would end up like this. Not that Nero minded. He slid from the corner of the adobe structure back into the dirt street. Despite the violence and the deadbeats, the constant state of upheaval Paradise could never seem to shake, he still preferred this city to the ceaseless clamor of Henrik or gilded cosmopolitan of Mojo. It'd be nice to get a bit better sense of Paradise before you move onto naming other cities. The comparison doesn't really help define what/where/when Paradise is
The warehouse that enclosed Paradise, protecting it from the relentless winds and sand of the planet, was crumbling at the rafters. Spots of sun and windblown sand eddied through the openings, falling in the air around Nero as he walked towards the main artery of the city. Turning up the collar of his trench coat and ducking his chin inside, he avoided the blast of hot dirt that came at him, the hungry sand eager to find a resting place. This is nice description. I can "see" this. 
Nero shook the sand off his coat as he walked down the main thoroughfare, cautiously avoiding the children who scurried in and out of the shadows. The unseasoned wannabes trying their luck on Vurrik didn’t stand a chance against the ravaging pickpockets who ruled this city of villains and scum. villains and scum seems a little overly harsh when talking about children - even if they are pickpockets.
Ev’s sat on the corner of the central crossroad, along with many other cantinas and gambling houses. Nero didn’t slow as he crossed the intersection, weaving his way through Paradise’s congestion with ease. Many of the traders stepped out of his way. Towering above the bulk of the crowd, his battered trench coat nipping at his heels, Nero cut an intimidating figure. The writing here is good, although there are definitely places where I think you could cut a sentence here or there and not loose anything. Basically we have a lot of description of Nero walking and the city. You mention Nero's trench coat twice - once when he turns up the collar and then again here in this last paragraph. Does it need two mentions? Considering the word count on your full MS, I'd recommend having a critique partner help you find places to cut.

Monday, October 16, 2017

PitchWars Critique - ACHERON CROSSING

I LOVE being a mentor for PitchWars. BUT there is one bad part - having to choose just one manuscript to mentor when there are so many with so much potential.

And so, wanting to give something back to those who chose Mindy McGinnis and myself as one of the mentor teams to submit to, we decided to offer first page and query critiques on our blogs. Our decision to do this via our blogs, rather than a private email, is so that (hopefully!) everyone can learn a little bit from this feedback.

And for anyone out there looking for personalized feedback, I also offer manuscript critique services which you can find more out about here.  

Dear Mentors,

Natalie commits suicide to escape bullying for her weight, WOH! There's a lot going on here and we're not even through the whole sentence. Maybe break this up a bit and bring us a bit into Natalie's world. She's being bullied for being overweight, I assume? Can you go into more detail than that even? Give some specific details to bring her to life. and ends up in Acheron Crossing, a destroyed city whose feral inhabitants menace her from the shadows. But she's dead, right? This needs to be clear. Dante rescues her, from what? And who is Dante anyway? then tasks her with meeting new arrivals and taking them where they belong. In exchange, he magically makes her thin. She agrees, party out of gratitude, and partly because she wants him to like her. Dante can magically make her thin, why doesn't he magically make her do the meeting new arrivals thing?

Dante warns her to stay away from Ben, another relatively “normal” resident of the town. He’s her opponent it isn't clear whether the 'he' you're referring to is Ben or Dante in a game she doesn’t understand, trying to get to the new arrivals before she does. As time goes on, and she develops feelings for both men, Men? Isn't this YA? So aren't they boys? it becomes clear that they’re hiding things, and one of those secrets might be that they’re not all as trapped as they seem. One of them is using her feelings against her, using what feelings? and she has to face her past and insecurities if she wants to find the truth. Find the truth doesn't feel like very high stakes. Or all that compelling. If she doesn't face her past and insecurities than... can you give a bigger more gulp inducing consequence here?

ACHERON CROSSING is a 69,000 word YA horror novel. I have a Master’s Degree in mental health counseling, and worked as a crisis counselor with teens struggling with suicidal ideation. I have been published online and in several small anthologies under my pseudonym, Doree Weller, and am active on social media. Very nice bio! No comps though for your book?

Thank you for your time and consideration. 


Acheron Crossing
by Doree Weller
Chapter 1       
           I didn’t know the last day I was alive would be the last day. Well most people don't. This is not a great first line. You want a first line to GRAB your reader. Even the construction isn't great. You repeat last day. And it's vague. Think of all the different ways you could say this same thing. I didn't know my last day alive would be meatloaf Monday. I didn't know when I woke up to the rain pouring down that I'd be dead before the basement would flood. 
           Maybe I should have, but I’d been thinking about suicide for so long that it was just background noise in my head. Like the little mental voice that sounded just like me and hated me, reminding me whenever I did anything stupid or weird, or just plain wrong. Watch our for word echoes like the ones I highlighted here.
           It started off like an ordinary school day. I got up, had a rushed breakfast, said goodbye to my parents, rode the bus to school. Can you color these moments in a bit more. Give them some shading. What is the rushed breakfast? Where are mom and dad when she says goodbye? What is the bus like? Crowded? loud? Maybe it's a generic day for her, but it shouldn't feel that way for the reader. Got to school and spent the first hour trying to stay awake while my teachers droned on.
           At lunch, I got a salad. I debated between Ranch dressing or fat free Italian, which I hated. I finally settled on a tiny bit of Ranch, figuring just a little bit wouldn’t have too many calories. If she's worrying about this I think she'd know the exact number of calories. Show us those calculations. Really get us into her head.
           Betsy, Lexie, and Lexie’s boyfriend Ray were already sitting when I joined them. They were deep in conversation about some movie they’d seen the week before. I hadn’t gone because there’d be popcorn there. Popcorn and candy and wonderful smells. And I was on a diet. Again, more here. Give us more sensory food details - show us why it would be impossible for her to sit there and not have the popcorn and candy and whatever else.
           “You should have come with us,” Betsy said. “It was so good.”
           “We can go again this weekend, if you want to go with us,” Lexie said.
           I wasn’t going to go, but I couldn’t just say that. They wouldn’t understand. “Maybe,” I said.
           I ate my salad and was still hungry, so I took my sketchpad out of my backpack to distract me. I worked in pencils, sketching Venice from the memory of a picture on Pinterest.
Overall, the writing here is fine, but it needs to be sharper. Right now my image of this girl is hazy and unfocused. I want her to be so clear that I could pick her out of a lineup and you get that with specific details that bring her and her world to life.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

PitchWars Critique - BONDED BY LIES

I LOVE being a mentor for PitchWars. BUT there is one bad part - having to choose just one manuscript to mentor when there are so many with so much potential.

And so, wanting to give something back to those who chose Mindy McGinnis and myself as one of the mentor teams to submit to, we decided to offer first page and query critiques on our blogs. Our decision to do this via our blogs, rather than a private email, is so that (hopefully!) everyone can learn a little bit from this feedback.

And for anyone out there looking for personalized feedback, I also offer manuscript critique services which you can find more out about here.  

Dear Mentor,

Lina was all set to spend her spring break training to finally beating her mentor in a sparring match., Instead she found herself not fighting demons and chasing down her mom’s kidnappers! There's a lot in this first sentence. I'd maybe break it up and make it two. Also it's a little overly wordy. 

New paragraph just to give a break after the big set-up above. When horn-headed, foul-smelling demons invade Lina’s suburban Georgia life, her nemesis, nemesis why? Also maybe mention he's her fellow classmate or whatever else he is. Dray, goes after them for the same reason she does- they took his mom, too. Lina knows that he’s just as likely to turn her over to the demons himself, but he’s still her best shot, if she can prove that she’s worth more to him as an ally than as a bargaining chip. This sentence is too wordy. Also why would he turn her over to the demons? It'd be nice to know why they hate each other so much that she thinks he'd do that.

Dray and Lina share more than open animosity for each other; they’re also angels- Oh! The angel thing is a surprise and changes so many of my assumptions. You need to have that detail right in there from the beginning, not coming out of nowhere in the third paragraph. which is next to useless when she didn’t even get a pair of wings out of the deal. Her lack of faith leaves her powers unreliable, but she’s still ready to take down any demon that gets in the way of saving her mom. As a four-thousand-year-old war drags Lina in, demons prove more reliant than her fellow angels. Meanwhile, her increasingly conflicted feelings about Dray and the role her own mother played in his painful past complicate the choice Lina is faced with.

She has to choose between the angels who can save her mother but will kill Dray for the sin of being born half-demon, or the demons who will help them both. But the demons’ aid would comes at a price- Lina would will have to betray her own kind. get her hands dirty  to further their cause against her own kind. Much less wordy this way.  Otherwise, this is a good summation of what's at stake here.

BONDED BY LIES is a young adult contemporary fantasy complete at 104,000 words that would appeal to fans of DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE and THRONE OF GLASS.

I am a college instructor who spends 8 hours a day trying to motivate young adults. I was inspired to write about a martial arts-savvy heroine through my own experience of earning my black belt in Taekwondo as a teenager. Good bio paragraph!

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best Regards,

The way Lina saw it, there were two ways to come back from a sucker punch. Cower in the shadows with a scrape on your cheek and mud drying on your knees, or come back up swinging harder than that bastard could’ve ever seen coming. this second sentence feels overly wordy and reads a bit awkwardly. Maybe break into two sentences?
Lina slammed the metal door of her locker shut, smiling at the way the bang echoed down the hallway. Andy sighed and shook his head, leaning against the row of lockers beside her. Why does this have to do with the above sucker punch opening? Seems unrelated? Why not just start with this paragraph instead?  
“Bonus points. You flinched.” Lina smirked at him.
“Don’t take it out on the poor locker, Freshie. Your grade in calc is your own fault.”
“What’s the point of getting good grades if my mom is going to make me go to community college, anyway?” Lina scowled at the textbook in her hands. She had to prove, somehow, that she was strong enough to leave her mother’s protective nest. Then maybe a university that was two hours away wouldn’t be so out of the question. 
“Hey, it feeds into Georgia tech. Do your homework- for once- and in two years, you can come beg me to show you how to find your classes.” He lifted his sandy-blond eyebrows and leaned over, adding, “Freshie.”
Lina reached out to pinch him, but he leapt out of the way with those annoying reflexes that came from years of martial arts training. He laughed and stepped back to her, and she was forced to crane her neck to glare up at him.
“Damn you for getting so much taller than me!” Sophomore trig class felt like decades ago, not just three years, when Andy had insisted that she looked too young, and must’ve been a freshman. Thus, the nickname.
He continued to laugh and her cheeks warmed. 
Overall the writing here is good, but it doesn't jump off the page. You may be starting the story in the wrong place as nothing is happening here and there's no tension to draw me in and make me want to keep reading and turning the pages.