Pitch Wars 2018 Mentor Wishlist

Welcome to our 2018 Pitch Wars Wishlist! We are Team Mischief Managed!


(This list is the same as our post on Sam’s blog at


See the full Pitch Wars 2018 Mentor Blog hop here: https://pitchwars.org/pitch-wars-2018-mentor-blog-hop/.)

About us:

From Samantha:

I’m a YA/NA writer, hailing from Toronto, Canada. I was a Pitch Wars mentee in 2014, and a mentor in 2015 & 2017. When I’m not writing or day-jobbing, I can usually be found baking all the things or performing on a stage somewhere. I’m a musical theatre nerd who thrives on all things Broadway. I’m a proud geek who loves all things Harry Potter (I’m a Slytherin), Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Doctor Who.

Some random facts about me are I have some big collections (consisting of Funko Pops, The Wicked Witch from Wizard of Oz, and Behemoth from The Nightmare Before Christmas), I have four tattoos (with more on the way), and I have the most irrational fear of dinosaurs—hey, Jurassic Park could happen!


I’m represented by Kathleen Rushall from ABLA, and my books, FLIRTING WITH FAME and DEALING IN DECEPTION were published by Pocket Star/Simon & Schuster.

From Laurie:

I’m a YA writer, editor, web coordinator, and former English teacher. I joined the Pitch Wars community as a mentee in 2013 and mentored for the first time in 2017. I love reading, listening to alternative music, and my house full of animals! Of all the fandoms I adore, Harry Potter is my favorite; I’m a proud Gryffindor. A few random facts about me…I don’t eat mammals, I’ve lived on both US coasts, in California and Florida, and I’ve played eight musical instruments over the years.


I’m represented by Danielle Burby and Nelson Literary Agency, and I’m currently working on a YA contemporary novel.


How We Mentor:

When we found out about our similar taste in books and how perfectly our mentoring strengths compliment each other, we knew our we’d make a great team! We both believe in honest feedback and positive reinforcement. We know how scary it can be to have your work critiqued, and we’re grateful when anyone trusts us with their words. We want to work with you as a team to achieve your vision for the manuscript.


We’ll both read your full manuscript and combine our notes into one initial edit letter, with Sam focusing on plot and Laurie focusing on character development. We’ll help you develop a plan for revision, and we’re both available for our mentee’s questions through email, DM, etc.


For the second round of revision, we’ll address any lingering concerns with document notes and a second combined edit letter. We’ll also work though the pitch, query letter, and synopsis so you’ll be ready to submit to agents, and we both want to share our industry experience to help you move forward on your writing path.


Our Wish List:

In no particular order:


Send us all the contemporary! Make us laugh, cry, or swoon–we want funny, sad, romantic, or all of the above. We also want troubled characters and unreliable narrators in gritty, boundary-pushing stories.Give us stories like Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn, The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis, or You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone by Rachel Lynn Solomon.



We want all the dark, twisty stories to keep us up reading all night! Make us keep guessing till the very end!


Light Fantasy.

We aren’t the mentors for full-on fantasy stories, but we will gladly take your contemporary stories with fantastical elements.


Magical Realism.

We love magical realism! If your manuscript has an immersive magical element like Bone Gap by Laura Ruby, send it our way!


Light Sci-Fi.

Send us your near-future stories or a world like ours with a sci-fi twist. Something like Warcross by Marie Lu or a YA Black Mirror would be right up our alley.


Paranormal – Including Vampires!

We’re excited to see paranormal make a comeback! We would love a fresh, new twist in this genre. We both adored The Coldest Girl from Coldtown, which was such a cool take on vamps! This is what we’re looking for here—not another Coldest Girl exactly, but an entirely new take on the vampire theme.


Give us mysteries with a unique spin like People Like Us by Dana Mele or One of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus.



We’re both fans of all kinds of retellings, from fairy tales to classics. Re-telling have become popular lately, so we want to see something different here, like maybe a gender-swapped story, or the tale of a character we’re not used to hearing about.


Some things we’d love to see in our subs:

Diversity and #ownvoices.

We’d love to see any of these in our subs, plain and simple. Send us your diverse stories!


Kick-ass girls.

We love strong girls who get things done. While we love physically strong girls, there’s something to be said for the emotionally strong ladies. A girl doesn’t have to beat someone up to prove her strength, and she doesn’t have to be mean to be tough.



Does the unique setting stand out in your manuscript? We would love to see a YA setting with the time-suspended feel of a Wes Anderson movie, Bates Motel, or Legion.  


Villains/Anti-heroes/Heroes disguised as villains.

We love a good villain/anti-hero! Give us villains we’re not sure of we should cheer for, but do anyway. Give us the baddies with hearts. There’s nothing better than watching a so-called villain grow, and prove they were the hero all along.


Dual or Multiple POV.

We love all kinds of POV! Single POV is great, too, but we included this in our list as we definitely aren’t against dual/multiple POV ending up in our inbox!



We love all the cute floofs and the loyal doggos. Animal companions tend to find their way into our hearts.


Food stuffs.

Who doesn’t love a good foodie story? If your character loves to cook or bake, we’d love to see it in our inbox!



We love all the swoons! Feel free to send us all the angst, but we’d also love to see a funny, fun romance story that makes us laugh and gives us all the happy feels.

On the “probably not for us” side:


Neither of us are huge fans of this genre, which means you’ll probably have better luck with a different mentor.


Excessive Gore.

We both get grossed out fairly easily. A little blood is fine (after all, we did ask for vampires above), but too much description of blood and guts might eek us out a little bit.



Neither of us love these eight-legged terrors. A small spider on the wall is a-ok, but a scene where someone gets covered in them might freak us out and make us stop reading.


Violence against animals.

We are both huge animal lovers and can’t read about animals being tortured or killed without getting upset. Note that an animal getting hurt in an accident is very different from an animal that is harmed on purpose. The first will make us sad, but isn’t a dealbreaker. The second is something our poor hearts can’t bear.


Heavy Sci-fi or Heavy Fantasy.

While be both enjoy some light sci-fi and fantasy, we aren’t the mentors for the really heavy stuff in these genres.


*If you know either of us personally, or if we’ve previously worked together professionally or as critique partners, beta readers, or writing group members, please do not submit to us for Pitch Wars. We want to be completely fair when making our decision, and there many other amazing mentors who would love your submission!


*We are not accepting New Adult (NA) this year.


That’s it! We can’t wait to see what you guys send this year! We know how hard it is to choose a mentor to sub to, and we promise to treat each sub we receive with the same care and attention. All subs will be read for consideration. We can be found on Twitter @SamJoyceBooks and @LaurieDennison if you have any questions about our wishlist. Please don’t pitch to us there, but feel free to clarify anything you might be confused by on our list. We promise we don’t bite!


Good luck in your Pitch Wars journey!


3 Updates Your Author Website Needs Now

I was thrilled to be a guest blogger on Janice Hardy’s Fiction University last week with 3 Updates Your Author Website Needs Now! As a web coordinator, I’m able to share my internet experience with authors to help them make the most of their online presence. In this article, I discuss the Chrome 68 update, the changes affecting SSL encryption, GDPR, and what these tech issues mean for your author website. Click the banner below to learn more.

Fiction University


Book Review: You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone

I am so thrilled today to review You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone by Rachel Lynn Solomon. I received an ARC a few weeks back, and I am so glad I did!

Order on Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Add on Goodreads


The summary from Goodreads:


Eighteen-year-old twins Adina and Tovah have little in common besides their ambitious nature. Viola prodigy Adina yearns to become a soloist—and to convince her music teacher he wants her the way she wants him. Overachiever Tovah awaits her acceptance to Johns Hopkins, the first step on her path toward med school and a career as a surgeon.

But one thing could wreck their carefully planned futures: a genetic test for Huntington’s, a rare degenerative disease that slowly steals control of the body and mind. It’s turned their Israeli mother into a near stranger and fractured the sisters’ own bond in ways they’ll never admit. While Tovah finds comfort in their Jewish religion, Adina rebels against its rules.

When the results come in, one twin tests negative for Huntington’s. The other tests positive.

These opposite outcomes push them farther apart as they wrestle with guilt, betrayal, and the unexpected thrill of first love. How can they repair their relationship, and is it even worth saving?

The Review:


I really loved this book. I loved the complicated sister relationship. I loved reading about a practicing Jewish family. But the story really hit home for me as someone who has been through the difficult choice of having genetic testing done related to my own mother’s illness. The situation is one that can’t be resolved simply or with a completely happy ending, so I was fascinated to see how the story would unfold.

Solomon gives both sisters distinct and intriguing voices and paths, and I really enjoyed the contrast of their development. Adina’s relationship with her tutor was was handled so well, both realistically and with depth. My favorite part about Tovah’s story was seeing how her faith related to her thoughts and choices. This is such a rich, layered story of family and what motivates us to do the things we do, and it was such a pleasure to read.

5 out of 5 stars.


Music for today: Unsteady by X Ambassadors

Release Day: Thunderstruck

I am thrilled to say Happy Book Birthday to Brenda Drake! Brenda is such an amazing author and an all-around fantastic person. I cannot wait to read her latest book Thunderstruck! I am a huge fan of all things Thor, from the Marvel movies to Rick Riordan’s Magnus Chase series, and I am so excited to see a new perspective on this mythology. Check out the summary, a sneak peek, and an awesome Rafflecopter giveaway for a swag pack and a $25 Amazon gift card! Congratulations, Brenda!!!



Brenda Drake

Published by: Entangled Crave

Publication date: September 11th 2017

Genres: Mystery, Mythology, Romance

Stevie Moon is famous…at least to the subscribers on her comic review vlog. At school, she’s as plain as the gray painted walls in the cafeteria. So when Blake, the hot new guy at school, shows an interest in her, she knows trouble when she sees it. Been there. And never doing it again.

As the son of the god Thor, Blake Foster’s been given an important mission—to recover the Norse god Heimdall’s sacred and powerful horn before someone uses it to herald in the destruction of the entire universe. But while Blake is great in a fight, the battlefield that is a high school’s social scene is another matter.

Blake knows his only choice is to team up with the adorable Stevie, but she’s not willing to give him even the time of day. He’ll need to woo the girl and find the horn if he hopes to win this war. Who better to tackle Stevie’s defenses than the demi-god of thunder?

“Every page brims with captivating Norse mythology and deliciously creative worldbuilding.” Pintip Dunn, New York Times bestselling author.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Kobo


After disposing of the troll, Blake rushed to May’s house and showered. His thoughts kept going to Stevie. After hearing what Jörd said to him, he wanted to see her. The pull to go to her was too strong. He had no choice but to give in to it.

He climbed the tree outside Stevie’s room and sat on the branch. A blue light blinked on and off inside the room. He lightly tapped on the window. Muffled voices from within the room hummed against the glassed pane.

The curtain pushed aside. Amira was close to Stevie’s back when the curtain slid to the side. Stevie said something to Amira that Blake couldn’t hear through the thick glass. Amira turned away and dropped onto the bed. Stevie flipped the locks and opened the window.

“You scared the shit out of us,” Stevie snapped.

Amira crossed her arms. “Yeah, we’re watching scary movies here.”

Blake tried not to laugh, but he couldn’t hold it in. “My apologies. Can I have a moment alone with you, Stevie?”

“With me?” She glanced back.

“No.” Amira heaved a sigh. “With the other Stevie in the room.”

“Where do you want to go?”

He reached his hand out to her. “Out here is fine.”

She narrowed her gaze on him. “I don’t think so.”

“Come on,” he said. “It’s perfectly safe. This branch is thick. Trust me.”

“Stop being a chicken and go already. I have to pee.” Amira shuffled off.

Stevie hesitated before grabbing his hand and letting him guide her out the window and onto the branch. “This is crazy, you know that?”

“If you never throw caution to the wind, you’ll never be rewarded.” He sat on the branch and held her hand as she came down beside him. Her hand was warm and soft in his, and he wanted to hold it forever.

The loose pajama bottoms she wore had cats on them. Her pink tank top rode up a little and exposed a bit of her midriff. Her light-brown hair, the color of the acorns he’d gathered with his grandmother when he was a boy, rose in the wind behind her. Wide, dark eyes met his, her full lips parted in a smile.

“What did you want?” She glanced at the ground. “Wow, this is pretty high.”

“Don’t worry. I won’t let you fall.” He slid his hand across her lower back and held her waist. She shivered. “Are you cold?”

“A little,” she said.

“Hold on.” He let her go, shrugged off his hoodie, and draped it around her shoulders.

“Thank you.”

She held it closed at the zipper. He returned his arm around her, grasping her waist. She shuddered, and he smiled at her response to his touch.

“You didn’t answer me,” she said. “What did you want to talk to me about?”

“Actually, I’m not here to talk,” he said. “Have you ever had an urge to do something, and once it’s in your head, you can’t sleep or think until you do the thing?”

“I guess.” When she looked over at him, they locked eyes and an intensity passed between them like the energy he felt in the handle of his hammer after catching lightning with it. He noticed a faint scar just above her cupid’s bow.

“How did you get the scar?” he asked.

“Scar?” She glanced down at her chest.

“Not there,” he whispered, lifting her chin to look into her eyes. “On your lip.”

She touched it. “Oh this? It’s an embarrassing story. Let’s just say, I learned to watch where I’m walking, especially when poles are around.”

He chuckled. “I can imagine what happened.”

She lowered her head again, her feet kicking back and forth.

He decided to take his chance and cupped her face in his hands, bringing her face to his and kissing her. It was a gentle, wanting kiss. Her lips were soft and warm against his. She tasted like May’s brownies. When Stevie hadn’t responded to his kiss, he was about to release her, but then her lips began moving with his. He cradled her in his arms and they balanced together on the branch.


Author Bio:

Brenda Drake is a New York Times bestselling author of young adult fiction. She grew up the youngest of three children, an Air Force brat, and the continual new kid at school. Her fondest memories growing up is of her eccentric, Irish grandmother’s animated tales, which gave her a strong love for storytelling. So it was only fitting that she would choose to write stories with a bend toward the fantastical. When she’s not writing or hanging out with her family, she haunts libraries, bookstores, and coffee shops, or reads someplace quiet and not at all exotic (much to her disappointment).

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter



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Pitch Wars 2017 Mentor Bio

Welcome, Pitch Wars hopefuls! My name is Laurie Dennison, and I am thrilled to be a 2017 Pitch Wars Mentor! I am a TeenPit mentor for Pitch Wars. TeenPit is a writing contest created by Michael Mammay and Kelly Ann Hopkins designed specifically for teen writers. (Click here for more info about TeenPit.) This year the top five finalists all earned a spot in the 2017 Pitch Wars agent round.

This means I already have a fabulous mentee, Ellie Firestone!

I am so privileged to be working with Ellie! Ellie writes YA and MG, and I am consistently impressed by her talent, her voice, her self-awareness, and her willingness to challenge herself. She is the best mentee I could have ever hoped for. Ellie is busy revising now, and you are all going to adore her amazing MG contemporary fantasy, The Dreamon!

I am not open to submissions this year, but there is a plot twist…I will also be taking the YA blog hop scavenger hunt winner as my mentee!

Some interesting things about me:

  1. I’ve lived on opposite sides of the US, in Jacksonville, Florida, on the Atlantic Coast and Monterey, California, on the Pacific.
  2. I’ve always loved books, and I still think of myself as a reader first and a writer second. I read and write YA, and I am a huge fan of Harry Potter, big, twisty paranormal like Cassandra Clare’s novels, fantasy like Graceling by Kristin Cashore or anything by Rae Carson, anything by Holly Black, contemporary like John Green, only more like Paper Towns than TFIOS, lighter fare like Stephanie Perkins or Jennifer E. Smith, and darker things like The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin or The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.
  3. I’ve had a long writing journey, and I’m no stranger to online contests. I was a Pitch Wars mentee with a YA fantasy in 2012. That manuscript had tons of positive feedback, but I finally put it away for something new. My second, a YA magical realism, was a finalist in too many contests—The Writer’s Voice, Pitch Slam, Pitch Plus Five, PitchMas, An Agent’s Inbox. My current manuscript, a YA contemporary, landed me an agent the old-fashioned way: through the query slush. I am repped by the amazing Danielle Burby at Nelson Literary.
  4. The most important thing I gained on the contest circuit was a community of writers who have helped me, supported me, laughed, cried and celebrated with me. The people are the real prize, and I am so grateful to Brenda and all the others who volunteer their time so generously to help fellow writers. I have gained lifelong friendships and been rewarded with access to so many beautiful manuscripts before they’ve hit the shelves. I was also an SCBWI critique group leader for three years. If you write YA or MG, I highly recommend connecting with SCBWI.  I’ve looked forward to being a Pitch Wars mentor since I was chosen as a mentee, and I can’t wait to celebrate my TeenPit mentee’s amazing journey with her! And I hope I get the chance to work with YOU, too! So hurry up and complete the scavenger hunt!

Whether you end up with a mentor or not, reach out. Make connections. Take advantage of this opportunity to come together with other writers who share your passion.

One place to start is on social media! I'd love to connect with you, and I tweet @lauriedennison and Instagram @laurie.a.dennison. My mentee Ellie tweets @EllieFirestone1, and you can check out her website www.elliefirestone.com.

Click here to go back to the blog hop central. Continue on with the YA mentor blog hop below:

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Swoon Reads – Dangerous Play

Sometimes I have trouble keeping my book budget under control. Social media in the writing community doesn’t help matters; I see so many books that interest me, and before I know it, my nightstand and my Nook overflow.

I recently found a bookish alternative that keeps me reading for free and helps other writers: Swoon Reads! Writers can submit manuscripts, readers get to read and comment for free, and Swoon chooses the top performers to publish! It really is a win-win. My first Swoon Read was Dangerous Play by Alison Miller.

The brief summary:

Best friends and soccer all-stars Jesse, Ashton, and JD are on opposite sides of a prank text that leaves Jesse girlfriend-less and spirals into a vicious social war. When a common rival pits them against each other, threatening to destroy their friendship and futures, they must take him down—together.

I love YA from a boy’s point of view, so I was really excited to see the sides of all three main characters. The close friendships, complicated family situations, and careful reveals of misunderstandings keep the tension high as the story unfolds. I highly recommend reading and rating Dangerous Play, and I’m looking forward to finding more new voices at Swoon Reads!

How I Got My Agent

It feels like I’ve been waiting forever to write this post.

I could tell the version where I write a manuscript, polish it up, and send 30 query letters. The one where 15 full requests flood my inbox. In that version, I sign with an agent in less than six weeks. That story is true, and it’s not.

I think I wrote my first novel to prove to myself that I could do it. I had no idea how long the journey would be or where it would take me. I sent that manuscript to friends to read, because I didn’t know any writers. I revised. I went to a conference. I learned about the industry and sent a few queries. One agent requested, but it was a quick pass.

Fast-forward a few years, through an unfinished second manuscript. By the time I wrote my third, a YA fantasy, I had a better handle on things. I researched. I went to another conference and met my first real critique partners. I joined the SCBWI and found my tribe. I started querying and had a respectable number of requests, but no offers.

Then I found the contest circuit. I was so fortunate to be chosen as a Pitch Wars mentee, not because of the exposure to agents, but because of the community. I really connected with other writers and got meaningful critiques. I ended up with R&Rs from two small press editors, but I wanted an agent. So I started a local critique group through SCBWI and moved on to a new story.

When this manuscript was ready, I started with contests. This story was a finalist in The Writer’s Voice, PitchMas, An Agent’s Inbox, Pitch Plus Five, and possibly some I don’t remember. I sent queries, too. I was sure this was the one. I had an even more respectable number of requests, tons of positive feedback, and one R&R that led to scrapping more than half of the book. I was willing to put in the work. Six months later, the agent still passed.

How much longer would I keep pouring my time and energy into this writing thing? My freelance work had led to a job offer that meant going back into an office, doing the perfect combination of media, branding, editing, design, and web coordination. But I couldn’t stop writing. On my lunch breaks. At night after my kids were in bed. I decided that even if I never landed an agent or a book deal, I loved writing, I loved books, and I loved the amazing community that had become so important to me.

I could not give up.

I moved across the state, readjusted to working from home again, and kept writing. When my fifth manuscript was finished and in the hands of my amazing CPs, I entered a contest. To my surprise, it won the 2017 SCBWI Rising Kite Award for the state of Florida. After a few more months of polish and revision, I dove back into the query trenches.

Which finally brings me back to thirty queries. Fifteen requests. More than one offer. A difficult decision. And finally a signed contract.

I am absolutely thrilled to say that I am now repped by Danielle Burby of Nelson Literary Agency.



Book Review: The Thing About Jellyfish

Buy it through Barnes and Noble or Amazon

The summary (adapted from Goodreads):

After her best friend dies in a drowning accident, Suzy is convinced that the true cause of the tragedy must have been a rare jellyfish sting. Retreating into a silent world of imagination, she crafts a plan to prove her theory–even if it means traveling the globe, alone. Suzy’s journey explores life, death, the astonishing wonder of the universe…and the potential for love and hope right next door.

The review:

The Thing About Jellyfish is exceptionally well-written. Informative without being preachy and realistic but also timeless, Jellyfish covers quite a bit of ground in what it means to journey from childhood to adolescence. That aching realism, and the interesting facts, were my favorite parts of the novel. It’s the kind of book with a cross-over appeal that adults will love. The question I kept asking, though, was how will the target audience feel? Even with the first person narration, I felt a distance from Suzy, as if the reader is seeing an adult tell the story instead of a twelve-year-old. Even with that distance, I still appreciate the layered nuance of Benjamin’s writing.

4 out of 5 stars.

Music for today: Take It All Back by Judah & the Lion

Release Day: The Island Deception

The Island Deception is finally here! Ever since I finished The Rogue Retrieval by Dan Koboldt, I’ve eagerly anticipated the next installment in the Gateways to Alissia series. Today is the day!

The Summary:

For stage magician Quinn Bradley, he thought his time in Alissia was over. He’d done his job for the mysterious CASE Global Enterprises, and now his name is finally on the marquee of one of the biggest Vegas casinos. And yet, for all the accolades, he definitely feels something is missing. He can create the most amazing illusions on Earth, but he’s also tasted true power. Real magic.

He misses it.

Luckily–or not–CASE Global is not done with him, and they want him to go back. The first time he was tasked with finding a missing researcher. Now, though, he has another task: Help take Richard Hold down.

It’s impossible to be in Vegas and not be a gambler. And while Quinn might not like his odds–a wyvern nearly ate him the last time he was in Alissia–if he plays his cards right, he might be able to aid his friends.

He also might learn how to use real magic himself.

I can’t wait dive in! Click here for more info or to buy your copy today!

About the author:

Dan Koboldt is a genetics researcher and fantasy/science fiction author. He has co-authored more than 70 publications in Nature, Science, The New England Journal of Medicine, and other scientific journals. Dan is also an avid deer hunter and outdoorsman. He lives with his wife and children in Ohio, where the deer take their revenge by eating the flowers in his backyard.

Dan’s WebsiteTwitter, and Facebook

Book Review: The Shadows We Know by Heart

I am thrilled to be back with a new book review. I just finished Jennifer Park’s The Shadows We Know by Heart, and I can’t wait to write about it.

Get your copy through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Indiebound.

The summary (adapted from Goodreads):

Leah Roberts’s has a secret she’s told no one: Sasquatch are real, and she’s been watching a trio of them in the woods behind her house for years. Leah discovers that among the Sasquatch lives a teenager. This alluring, enigmatic boy has no memory of his past and can barely speak, but Leah can’t shake his magnetic pull. Gradually, Leah’s life entwines with his, providing her the escape from reality she never knew she needed. When Leah’s two worlds suddenly collide in a deadly showdown, she uncovers a shocking truth as big and extraordinary as the legends themselves, one that could change her life forever.

The review:

I’ve read many, many books in the past year. But it took this one to get me back online to write a review. I immediately related to Leah and her struggles, even in this fantastical world of Bigfoot. The family dynamic was incredibly well-drawn, examining what it means to be the child of a pastor in the South, and how faith can be tested in devastating circumstances. The contemporary elements of the novel work so well that I never found myself questioning the fantasy elements. Park also manages to create a believable, dynamic love triangle. She kept me guessing as to how this situation could possibly be resolved in a satisfying way, keeping me turning the pages until late at night, and she managed to pull it all off perfectly in the end.

Rating: Five out of five stars!

Music for today: On Hold by The XX