18
JUL
2017

Pitch Wars 2017 is Here!

Hello, all you amazingly awesome people! Did you do something new with your hair? It’s absolutely lovely and makes you look super fine.

(It should shock exactly no one that I’m recycling my wishlist format from previous years. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it…)

I am ready and super pumped to be back for my fourth year mentoring in Pitch Wars. (Four years, whaaaaaa??) I can’t believe it’s been that long already, but I’m so excited to be back for another year!

IMG_2303About me:

My official bio can be found on my website, or the back of my books, or Amazon, or Goodreads, or…well, you get the picture. But I had so much fun creating my unofficial bio last year that I wanted to—you guessed it!—recycle it for this year since no one will let me use it on my books.

Aficionado of smut, tiaras, and tutus, Brighton Walsh has spent her last *coughmumble* years searching for the perfect dessert, finding any excuse to wear a dress, and swearing as much as humanly possible while not around her children. Fortunately, she can now make her characters do the latter for her, sometimes in extremely satisfying ways. She does not enjoy walks on the beach (sand gets everywhere, and if she wanted a workout, she’d go to the gym), but she does enjoy walking on the nice trail near her home that surrounds the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan. A big lover of romance—both writing and reading—she takes her HEA very seriously, and if you mess with that in any way, you are dead to her. She lives in an average home in an average neighborhood with two (above-average) kids she loves dearly but who drive her crazy and a(n also above average) husband who puts up with her bullshit.

***

Okay, so that was fun, but probably not exactly what you’re looking for as you choose the mentors to submit to. In that case, let me point you to 2014, 2015, and 2016‘s posts, as well as my legitimate bio, so you can get a better idea of me. Annnnnnd now’s the time I get serious and whip out my virtual resume to tell you all I’ve accomplished in hopes of swaying you to PICK ME. *cough*

I’ve been published since 2013 and have had the opportunity to work with several publishers (digital first, as well as big five), including Harlequin’s Carina Press, Penguin Random House’s Berkley, and Macmillan’s St. Martin’s Press. I also incorporated my own publishing company in 2016 for my independent publishing adventures. What’s that mean for you? No matter the path your career takes you—be it Big 5, small press, digital only, or independent—I’ll have a pretty good idea of how to advise you. 🙂

In 2015, Caged in Winter was named one of the top 10 best romances of 2015 as well as one of the 101 best romances of the past decade (!!!), and Exposed was named one of the best romances of 2015. My work has also garnered starred reviews (also this one!) as well as top picks from industry review outlets. I’m repped by the super fabulous, gif-wielding agent extraordinaire Mandy Hubbard of Emerald City Literary Agency, and one of the amazing agents who will be participating in Pitch Wars. Most recently, I started a brand new pen name with my writing bestie, and we’ve published five (six by the time the submission window goes live!) books so far, with several more on the docket, including one with Harlequin’s Carina Press.

Still on the fence about me? *cracks knuckles* Time to get serious.

I’ve picked some amazing mentees the past several years, and now I get to brag about all their successes like the proud mama bear I am. Kelly Siskind, my mentee from 2014, became agented and snagged several book deals shortly after Pitch Wars 2014 ended. Her Pitch Wars novel also garnered her a Golden Heart nomination (RITAs are the Oscars for published romance novels and the Golden Heart award is for their unpublished counterparts). Suzanne Marie, from Pitch Wars 2015, is agented and just sold a book series to Pocket. Both my mentees in 2016 received multiple offers of representation and accepted rep shortly after Pitch Wars. I warred for a chance to mentor Jen DeLuca (and won, whoop whoop!), who’s now on submission with her Pitch Wars novel. And Helen Hoang, also my 2016 mentee, just announced a three book series that sold to Berkley in a good deal. (I mean, seriously, are my mentees freakin’ amazing or what?!)

In addition to Pitch Wars, I’ve been beta’ing and critique-partnering (yeah, I just made up a verb) for nine years, for both agented and unagented, published and unpublished writers, not to mention the hundreds upon hundreds of romance novels I’ve read (staying current with the trends…this job is super rough, you guys). What I’m saying is, I love romance and I know what makes one good.

 

Last year, I asked hopefuls what they wanted to see on mentors’ wishlists and bios. Because it gives a lot of good info that you’ll (hopefully) find informative, I’m…yes, recycling it.

Why do I mentor?

For me, the why of becoming a Pitch Wars mentor is an utterly selfish reason. It makes me feel good. That’s it. It makes me feel good to be able to share whatever knowledge I’ve gleamed in my time as an agented and published author with someone who’s feeling as terrified, anxious, and uncertain as I was in the beginning. It makes me feel good to be able to help my mentee work and mold and polish their manuscript until it shines. And then I love seeing that mentee go on to do amazing things.

Bottom line: It makes me feel good to watch my past mentees succeed in this very fickle industry, in part because of the help I gave.

My strengths:

Pacing
Plotting
Characterization
Deep POV
Realistic dialogue and plot
Plot holes
Bringing out visceral emotion
Sex scenes (I’m totes the reigning Smut Queen of 2015-2016)
Sexual tension

If any of those are a concern for you, I’m your girl. If, on the other hand, you’re worried about world building? You should probably cross me off your list.

Communication style:

While I prefer e-mail, gchat, and/or text for ease and efficiency, I’m pretty open here. If phone calls do it for you, I have no problem doing that (though finding a time to be able to sit uninterrupted for a phone call may take a bit longer). Same for Skype. Basically whatever flips your pancakes will work for me.

My plan for my mentee:

As much of a planner as I am, I hate setting down specifics here, because situations can change (and because I don’t want to dissuade anyone from submitting to me because I didn’t say I’d read your book fourteen times, and that was your magic number). Plus, not everyone’s book will need the same level of work. However, going by what I’ve done in past years, I’ll read over your manuscript (several times—pre-selection, post-selection, and additional times if necessary and if time allows) and give it back to you with an edit letter as well as developmental edits. This is where we’ll focus on characterization, pacing, arc, plot holes, etc. Once that’s done, we’ll delve into the nitty gritty. You’ll get homework (yes, I said homework. I’m fond of the teach a person to fish philosophy) to do on your own so you can learn the parts of your writing that need work, what crutches you use, etc. Doing this will help you with each and every future book you write. Because while I’m here for the long haul, I also want you to be competent on your own so you’re not relying on me forevermore. Then we’ll polish that baby and get it prepped and shiny for the agent round. We’ll also get your query in tip-top shape.

What I’m looking for in a mentee:

First and foremost, I’m only interested in working with those who are accepting of everyone, regardless of gender, race, religion, sexuality, disability, ethnicity, etc. Xenophobic, homophobic, racist, sexist or otherwise intolerant people need not apply, please and thank you. Which is to say, if you’re a supporter of the current administration, we wouldn’t be a good match. Still with me? Great! Since this isn’t just a two month process for me, I’ll be looking for someone I think I’ll click with for the long haul. Bonus points for a great sense of humor.

What I expect out of my mentee:

You must be willing to put in the work. A lot of work. You must also be open to feedback and be able to take critique and suggestions. I think this is a no-brainer if you’re entering a contest like this, but it’s super important to come into these things with an open mind. If you’re looking for a quick fix, I’m not the mentor for you. I want someone who wants this bad enough to bust their ass for it without complaint. The publishing industry is hard. Trust me when I say this is nowhere near the hardest.

What you can expect from me as a mentor:

In addition to all the sparkly edits I’ll be doing, I’m also on tap to offer advice, encouragement, snarky e-mails, therapy sessions, hand-holding (but not too much hand-holding…I’ll shove you when needed), cheerleading, and inappropriate jokes to cheer you up or just for the hell of it. One of the things I love most about Pitch Wars is the community. There are life-long friends, critique partners, and relationships to be made.

I don’t see this as a two month job. My previous mentees all know I’m here as a sounding board, critique partner, or idea bouncer, forever. If I choose you, I have to like you–and vice versa!–because I plan to be with you for a while. If that sounds good, and you want to grow your writing and are willing to strip down your manuscript and rebuild it if necessary, then I think we’d be a good fit!

Say hello to my tribe. Aren’t my bitches lovely? And you see those arrows? Three of my past mentees. Told you I was here for the long haul!

What I’m looking for:

GIMME ALL YOUR NEW ADULT AND ADULT ROMANCES! GIVE. THEM. TO. MEEEEEEEEE.

 

*cough* *smooths hair*

Sorry, I get a little excited when we start talking wishlists. So what do I want? Adult and/or new adult romances of the contemporary, paranormal or suspense variety. I love character driven stories, and while high concept are always a bonus, I won’t turn my nose up at quiet books. Things I’m not looking for? High fantasy, magic realism, historical romances (unless by historical you mean set in the 80s or 90s, in which case *grabby hands*), sci-fi romance, or inspirational romance. I’d also say no to horror (egads!), crime, thriller, non-fiction, mystery, fantasy, memoirs, and women’s fiction (<—-this is important! Don’t waste your mentor pick on me if your manuscript is solidly in the WF genre. Not sure if it is? Hop over to Twitter and we’ll chat.).

PLEASE NOTE: I AM ONLY ONLY ONLY ONLY ONLYYYYYYYYY INTERESTED IN ROMANCE. R. O. M. A. N. C. E. If romance isn’t included in your genre designation, do not sub to me. The only exception to this is Urban Fantasy, and that must have a heavy romantic arc. For more info, continue reading.  

Let’s narrow down those very broad contemporary / paranormal / suspense genres, shall we? Here’s more of what I’m looking/not looking for from you:

1. I only do HEAs. HFNs (happy for now, i.e. there doesn’t have to be a wedding and babies) are also acceptable. That should be pretty self explanatory in the romance category, but I just want to be clear. If your “romance” doesn’t have a HEA/HFN, it is not a romance“But what if—” No. “Okay, but how about—” Still no. “All right, but see what I did—” Nope. There is one rule in romance and one rule only: HEA/HFN.

2. If you have a cheater, mosey on out of here. I don’t care the circumstances. This is a hard limit for me and will never not be. Please note: This only applies to the h/h. I don’t care if anyone else in your story cheats. And because there are always extenuating circumstances, feel free to clarify with me on Twitter.

3. I love tropes done well–brother’s best friend/best friend’s brother, marriage of convenience, enemies to lovers, BFFs to lovers, second chance romances, and on and on and on. I love almost all of them, and if you execute them properly, you’ll have me eating out of your hand.

4. Writing trumps everything. I love purple prose as much as the next guy, but it can’t overwhelm your manuscript. I want to read something that stands out, something that makes me anxious to turn the pages. I want your query to leave me having to read the rest. Also, because I will do copy as well as content edits on my mentee’s manuscript (seriously, I can’t just leave an error if I see it), you must must must have a decent grasp of grammar to help me stay sane.

5. Humor is always welcome. I knew I’d pick 2014’s mentee’s manuscript because I laughed out loud three times in the opening paragraph. If you can do that to me, you’ve got a fan for life. I love a fresh story that will make me laugh. While the entire MS doesn’t have to be a romantic comedy, a few well placed lines are fabulous. My favorite author example of this is Jill Shalvis. Light-hearted and funny.

6. If your goal is to rip the reader’s heart out, I’m probably not the mentor for you. I like my heart just where it is, thank you very much.

7. Sex is my favorite. You can take that however you want, but right now I’m talking specifically in books. If your characters are doin’ it, I want to read about it. Fade-to-blacks are my nemesis. Romance and erotic romance are both welcome. Dirty talkers are my jam. Erotica? Not for me. Also not for me? BDSM (in any variation, even light).

8. I have absolutely no preference on POV or tense. Whether it’s first or third, present or past, your story should transport me. I expect to get lost in it. That’s the bottom line. You can do that with any of the above. I read and love all variations (though I’m not a fan of omniscient), and I’ve written in first/present, first/past, and third/past. To check out samples of any of my books, you can download them from Amazon.

9. Things I’d love to see (include but are definitely not limited to): 

  • BFFs turned lovers (triple bonus points if they’re roommates)
  • Non-BFF roommates (for the love of Pete, someone give me roommates already)
  • rom-com
  • banter
  • snarky heroines with backbones
  • bromances
  • Jordan Catalano in book form
  • sexy camp counselor NA
  • blue collar heroes
  • traditional gender roles reversed (in occupations, life, everything)
  • dirty talking alphas
  • Buffy or Angel comp titles
  • super sexy stuff (still no BDSM)
  • bad boys gone good (or plain old bad boys)
  • romances set in another country (bonus points for a study abroad NA or a finding her/himself adult CR)
  • pierced heroes…*cough* pierced. Yes, I mean there. (Is this my lucky year?!) And tattooed. Gimme
  • a spin of basically any 90s cult classic movie
  • fun, quirky romance set in the 80s or 90s
  • any romances set in the 80s or 90s
  • small town romances
  • “unlikeable” (blech, I hate that term) heroines
  • nice guys (I like alpha heroes, but I also like beta heroes, and gamma are my absolute favorite)
  • nerds
  • NA a la Gilmore Girls when Rory goes off to college (gimme Logan!)
  • heroes who wear scrubs
  • hot single dads
  • h/h forced together through extenuating circumstances
  • PNR including witches, made up creatures, or shifters (bonus points for dragons)
  • An amazing mashup of CharmedPractical Magic + hot guys & hot sex.
  • Urban Fantasy if it is heavy on the romance and follows a romance arc
  • romantic suspense with an uber alpha man who’s gaga over the heroine
  • gritty, emotional romance that will stay with me long after reading
  • contemporary fairy tale retellings (would love a Beauty & the Beast remix)
  • sports romance–pretty much any sport, but bonus points for hockey, MMA, football or baseball
  • firefighters (bonus points for lady firefighters!)
  • band of brotherhood
  • diversity of any kind is welcome and encouraged, especially #ownvoices
  • LGBTQ+ welcome

 

10. Things that aren’t for me (i.e. DO NOT SEND ME THESE THINGS. YOU WILL WASTE YOUR SUB.):

  • super dark romances
  • cliffhangers
  • love triangles
  • abuse disguised as romance
  • graphic or over the top child abuse or rape (used as a backstory or character history is fine)
  • non-consent or dubious consent
  • everyone dies
  • closed door (aka sweet) romances
  • BDSM
  • Erotica (aren’t sure if your book is erotica, erotic romance, or steamy romance? Go here.)
  • Former fanfiction. (This is nothing against fanfic—my writing roots are in the fandom and I owe my career to what I learned there. I love fanfic (both reading and writing)! That said, I’m not interested in reworked fic.)
  • previously mentioned: historical (unless 80s-90s), inspirational, any/all fantasy, sci-fi, horror, crime, thriller, non-fiction, mystery, memoirs, magic realism, upmarket, women’s fiction, and any other genre I’ve forgotten that isn’t contemporary romance, paranormal romance, romantic suspense, or urban fantasy with heavy romantic elements

Some of my favorite books in the genres I’m seeking:

Time Served by Julianna Keyes
Jill Shalvis’s Lucky Harbor series (or all her books, tbh).
Elle Kennedy’s Off-Campus series (specifically The Deal and The Score)
Taking the Heat by Victoria Dahl
Make Me by Tessa Bailey
Sustained by Emma Chase
Elle Kennedy’s Killer Instincts series (specifically Midnight Captive)
Tessa Bailey’s Crossing the Line series
Mia Thorne’s Protecting Their Mate serial
Kiss of Snow by Nalini Singh
The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
Undecided by Julianna Keyes

Also, this isn’t the genre that I’m seeking, but my favorite book of all time is How to Kill a Rock Star by Tiffanie Debartolo

Still unsure?

Head over to Twitter and chat with me. If you’re unsure if your book is something I’d like, please swing by and chat. I’m always available to answer (vague) questions regarding if your book would be a good fit for me, so hit me up! Too shy to start talking? Hit me with a joke. My favorite are that’s what she SAID. You can fit one in anywhere. (see what I did there?) Also, have you checked out my FAQ? I answer lots of burning questions, including my feedback style.

For more information on how to submit, go to Brenda Drake’s site!

So now I think there’s only one thing left to say…

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To see what the other mentors are looking for, here’s a comprehensive list! (But still submit to me…)

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17
APR
2017

Daddy’s Best Friend Cover Reveal

If you’ve been following me anywhere on social media, you’ve no doubt see me tease about a project I’ve been working on with my writing bestie, Ellis Leigh. We are launching a brand new pen name on May 2nd, and today is the cover reveal for our debut! WHEEEEEE! Daddy’s Best Friend is the first in the Temperance Falls series and launches a world of naughty fantasies and taboo romances set on a small island in one of the Great Lakes.

She’s temptation personified

Nathan had always been more than just my dad’s friend. I never thought he’d see me as an adult, especially not after avoiding me for so long. But one hug, one moment feeling every inch of him against me, shattered that illusion. Consequences no longer mattered—I was eighteen, and I was willing to risk everything for my shot with him.

He’s not going to resist anymore

I never should’ve seen Eve as more than my best friend’s daughter. As a cop, I knew it was wrong. It was my job to protect her from guys like me. Chasing her could cost me my career—not to mention the only family I’d ever known—but I couldn’t hold back another second. One taste, and I wanted her. To hell with the fallout.

Amazon USAmazon CA | Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Goodreads

In celebration of our upcoming release, we’re doing a giveaway for a $25 Amazon gift card! Go HERE to enter. 

London Hale is the combined pen name of writing besties Ellis Leigh and Brighton Walsh. Between them, they’ve published more than thirty books in the contemporary romance, paranormal romance, and romantic suspense genres. Ellis is a USA Today bestselling author who loves coffee, thinks green Skittles are the best, and prefers to stay in every weekend. Brighton is multi-published with Berkley, St. Martin’s Press, and Carina Press. She hates coffee, thinks green Skittles are the work of the devil, and has never heard of a party she didn’t want to attend. Don’t ask how they became such good friends or work so well together—they still haven’t figured it out themselves.

Sign up for the Temperance Falls Gazette to get up to date information on all things happening on the island!

More London: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Reader Group | Pinterest | Instagram

04
NOV
2016

Win an Annotated Copy of Caged in Winter!

fullsizerender-2A one-of-a-kind annotated copy? THAT’S RIGHT! I know how to party.

It’s hard to believe it’s already been two years since Caged in Winter was released into the wild. While I’d had work published prior, this was my print and full length novel debut. It was exhilarating and terrifying at once, and even though I’ve since published six books—three of which in the Reluctant Hearts series—I still get that same terrifying exhilaration every release day.

For quite some time, I’ve had this annotated copy of Caged in Winter just chillin’ on my bookshelf. I’ve been waiting for a great time to do a giveaway. I thought about doing it during the release of Our Love Unhinged as Cade and Winter completed their journey together, but release weeks are crazy, and yeah. That wasn’t happening. So here we are!

img_9776This paperback copy is filled with random notes and tidbits, details that pretty much only me and my Plot Whisperer know. Lots of goodies inside—and, okay, some completely useless information, too. Plus some random drawings my kid could’ve probably done a better job with, but what’re ya gonna do?

To enter to win this one-of-a-kind copy of Caged in Winter, mosey on down to the Rafflecopter and go to town on as many or as few options as you’d like. This contest is open for a week. Winner will be announced 11/12!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

27
AUG
2016

Assignment #4: GMC

Your next assignment goes hand in hand with assignment 3. GMC (goal, motivation, conflict) is another peek at into the mind of your character. It’s also a great reference point to make sure each scene is moving the story forward based on these things.

I’m going to be honest and say I have a really hard time wrapping my brain around GMC before I write. I can tell you the GMC of any of my characters in books I’ve already written, but when it comes to characters I haven’t written yet or am writing now, I just can’t get GMC to work for me. That’s not to say I don’t know them in some roundabout way, because I do and it’s what I work toward while writing. But condensing it into three key pieces before the book is done is really difficult for me. If this is you, too, that’s okay! I’m a firm believer in trying new crafting tools, but not forcing anything that’s obviously not working for you.

That said, I have a lot of friends for whom this works fantastically, and you might be one of those. If that’s the case, let’s get down to it.

GMC is really very simple at its base. It consists of:

S/he wants X (goal) because Y (motivation) but Z (conflict).

My friend, Ellis Leigh, likes to use this very basic example:

He wants to get laid (goal) because it feels good (motivation) but his pants are in the way (conflict).

She also says, “But that example is super shallow. Some GMCs should be deep. Like, if a character wants to be married, the writer needs to unpack that. What does marriage represent to them? What is it that fuels that need? There’s a base desire at hand, more than love. Usually it’s something like security (physical, emotional, financial).”

I have smart friends.

So delving deeper into your characters’ goals and motivations could come directly from the character questionnaire you filled out, or vice versa. See how all this stuff works together?

For a more in depth look at GMC, check out Debra Dixon’s book. It’s something I own and a book that comes highly recommended. This blog post also goes much more in depth on GMC and may be helpful to some of you!

If you have a favorite GMC reference, don’t be shy! Share it in the comments.

26
AUG
2016

Assignment #3: Character Questionnaires

In case you missed the first two assignments I posted last year, you can find them on my blog. Assignment 1 is on beat sheets (super important for everyone, as I’ve yet to have a mentee who didn’t need help in some form with pacing. It’s a very common problem.) and assignment 2 is on finding a CP (also super important so you can find your tribe). For this assignment, we’re going to talk a little bit about character questionnaires. What they are, how they work, and why you need them.

character questionnaireWhat are they?

They’re pretty simple. It’s a list of questions you answer as your character. If you google character questionnaires, you’ll find loads of examples on questions you can use. I have a total of 300+ questions covering almost twenty pages. Yes, it’s a lot, but it has always helped me get in the mind of my characters. I use Scrivener and a couple years ago tackled the project to break them down into categories for ease of finding the answers I need at a later time.

How do they work?

The idea is to answer the questions rapid style (remember playing the word association game by saying the first thing that came to mind? That’s exactly what you’re doing here.). You don’t want to think about how your character would answer it; you just want to answer it. Another cool tidbit: the questions you leave unanswered sometimes tell as much about the characters as their actual answers do.

Why do you need them?

For one major reason: deeper and more consistent POV. If you know your character inside and out (which you will by the time you’re done answering these), you’ll have an easier time portraying that on the page and you won’t get as easily stuck when you come to a part in the book in which you’re not sure how your character would react.

I fill this out for my hero and my heroine in every single book I write. It’s a lifesaver for me and allows me to fast draft novels because I’m so in tune with how my characters think and act.

Any questions? Leave me a comment or head over to Twitter and fire away. And if any of you are super hardcore, Type A writers and want my ridiculously long character questionnaire, leave me a comment with your email and I’ll send it along. For the rest of you, just google “character questionnaires” and combine/cut/edit till your heart’s content to get something that works for you.