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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!


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

Book Review: How We Fall

Today I’m reviewing How We Fall by Kate Brauning. This book has been on my TBR list since its release, and I was lucky enough to win a copy at the SCBWI mid-year workshops in Orlando this month.

Buy it here

The summary, adapted from Goodreads:
Ever since Jackie moved to her uncle’s sleepy farming town, she’s been flirting way too much–and with her own cousin, Marcus. Their friendship has turned into something she can’t control, and he’s the reason Jackie lost track of her best friend, Ellie. Ellie has been missing for months, and the police, fearing the worst, are searching for her body. Swamped with guilt and the knowledge that acting on her love for Marcus would tear their families apart, Jackie pushes her cousin away.
The plan is to fall out of love, and, just as she hoped he would, Marcus falls for the new girl in town. But something isn’t right about this stranger, and Jackie’s suspicions about the new girl’s secrets drive the wedge deeper between Jackie and Marcus. Then Marcus pays the price for someone else’s lies as the mystery around Ellie’s disappearance becomes horribly clear. Can Jackie leave her first love behind, and can she go on living with the fact that she failed her best friend?
The review:
I really enjoyed How We Fall. The relationship between two cousins, Jackie and Marcus, is steamy, intriguing, and uncomfortable in a way that amps up the tension from the opening chapter. The family dynamics, including both sets of parents and many siblings, also give the story depth and authenticity. I was skeptical at first to see how the mystery of Ellie’s disappearance would play out with the complexity of the love story, and while I would’ve liked a bit more of that plot line developed in the first half of the book, Brauning did pull it all together in the end. My favorite secondary character was Will, a fantastic alternative love interest. I would recommend this book to fans of YA contemporary romance and suspense.
5 out of 5 stars.


Music for today: 15 Step by Radiohead

Cover Reveal: Library Jumpers

Brenda Drake has done more to support other authors than just about anyone I know on the Internet. Thank you so much, Brenda, for all the time, love, and support for the YA community and beyond. I am so thrilled today to be able to share in the cover reveal for her book Library Jumpers! Isn’t it gorgeous?

Library Jumpers
Release Date: January 2016
Entangled Teen
Summary from Goodreads:
Gia Kearns would rather fight with boys than kiss them. That is, until Arik, a leather clad hottie in the Boston Athenaeum, suddenly disappears. While examining the book of world libraries he abandoned, Gia unwittingly speaks the key that sucks her and her friends into a photograph and transports them into a Paris library, where Arik and his Sentinels—magical knights charged with protecting humans from the creatures traveling across the gateway books—rescue them from a demonic hound.

Jumping into some of the world’s most beautiful libraries would be a dream come true for Gia, if she weren’t busy resisting her heart or dodging an exiled wizard seeking revenge on both the Mystik and human worlds. Add a French flirt obsessed with Arik and a fling with a young wizard, and Gia must choose between her heart and her head, between Arik’s world and her own, before both are destroyed.

Pre-Order Links:



About the Author
Brenda Drake, the youngest of three children, grew up an Air Force brat and the continual new kid at school until her family settled in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Brenda’s fondest memories growing up is of hereccentric, Irish grandmother’s animated tales, which gave her a strong love for storytelling. So it was only fitting that she would choose to write young adult and middle grade novels with a bend toward the fantastical.

When Brenda’s not writing or doing the social media thing, she’s haunting libraries, bookstores, and coffee shops or reading someplace quiet and not at all exotic (much to her disappointment).

Crow’s Rest

I have followed the publication journey of the YA urban fantasy Crow’s Rest for a while now. I am so excited to share the book trailer today!

The summary:

Avery Flynn arrives for a visit at her Uncle Tam’s, eager to rekindle her summertime romance with her crush-next-door, Daniel.

But Daniel’s not the sweet, neurotic guy she remembers–and she wonders if this is her Daniel at all. Or if someone–or something–has taken his place.

Her quest to find the real Daniel–and get him back–plunges Avery into a world of Fae and changelings, where creatures swap bodies like humans change their socks, and magic lives much closer to home than she ever imagined.

Written by the fabulous Angelica R. Jackson, Crow’s Rest will be available in May of 2015. Angelica made the trailer herself on a tight budget. You can learn more about the author on her website here. And for more information on how she put this awesome trailer together, click here.

Crow’s Rest is up on Goodreads and available for pre-order here and here.

Book Reviews: A Double-edged Sword

Recently a writer I know and respect sent out a message asking readers and friends to please review her new book on the various sites. (Goodreads, Amazon, etc.) It was all completely on the up-and-up. She didn’t ask for positive reviews, just honesty from those who’d read it, in the hopes that they might balance out some harsh ones. I haven’t read her book yet, but of course this piqued my interest to see what prompted her request.

She had a few of those scathing, rambling reviews that tell you far more about the general unhappiness of the person writing them than the actual book. Who has time to write this stuff? I mean, why not spend that time writing their own masterpieces of fiction? As a reader, those reviews mean nothing to me.

But the rest of the reviews were of the helpful variety. They gave short summaries and highlights of what they liked and what they didn’t. The points were all very similar, with above-average ratings. My problem is this: the issues they mentioned were all things that really bug me in other books. They’re things related to character development that cause me to put a book down.

I wanted to buy this book, both for my own enjoyment and to support a fellow writer. But with so many awesome releases coming out every week, what I read on these sites was enough keep my money in my pocket. The key point is that it wasn’t the terrible reviews that held me back, but the good ones. The worst thing is, at least from her perspective, that I would have bought her book if I’d never gotten that message.

Music for today: Lovesong by The Cure

Writers on Writing: The Writer’s Process

Last week Alison Miller tagged me in the Writer’s on Writing blog hop, and today’s my day! You can check out her blog here. Thanks, Alison!

1. What are you working on?

My work-in-progress is a YA contemporary about a girl with a disabled father and a mother in prison. She’s done a fine job taking care of herself and her dad, thank you very much, until the uncle she blames for her mom’s conviction shows up to ruin everything. Again. The writing is going slow, with end of the school year activities on top of work-type editing responsibilities. But I am in love with this character. She’s brave and strong and loyal, with a questionable moral compass. The family relationships are complex, and it’s exciting to see how their interactions play out. I’ve readjusted my goal of finishing the first draft from a certain date to sometime this summer.

2. What makes your work different?

Every piece of long fiction I’ve written takes place mostly in the South. This didn’t begin as an intentional choice, yet most pieces take place in north or central Florida, in areas where I’ve lived for many years. North Florida has a unique flavor, somehow both deep South and lassez-faire, diverse in culture and beliefs, and both literally and figuratively hot and steamy. I hate seeing Southerners depicted as dim-witted and close-minded on television and in movies, and though less often, also in books. I try to bring a different touch of the South to my work, something that enhances the characters without drawing too much attention to itself.

3. Why do you write what you do?

I fell in love with YA while teaching middle school. It started out as a way to stay tuned to what my students were reading. I read everything they recommended, alongside my Anita Shreve and Stephen King. One day, a student came to me and said, “Mrs. D, you have to read this! It’s about a boy, and he finds out he’s a wizard, and…” Suddenly I wasn’t just reading children’s books for them anymore. I was one of those people waiting to pick up the next Harry Potter at midnight when it came out. When I started seeking out YA books that were beyond my sixth graders for my personal reading, I knew I was hooked.

Still, when I started writing, my first novel was in the “women’s” fiction camp. It took place over twenty plus years, but it began when the main character was a freshman in college. But she didn’t act that way. She acted like someone in high school. And it hit me that tapping in to the potential for a life full of wonders and firsts and mistakes, was the sweet spot. The place where I wanted to write. I started reading YA almost exclusively, and writing it, and I haven’t looked back since.

4. What is your writing process?

Everything starts with a character. I think about him or her for a while, and I start with jotting down everything. Likes and dislikes, quirks, family background, friends, everything. Once I have a general idea of what the problem will be, I write a rough idea of what the climax will be, usually not knowing how it will end. Next I write more back stories for more characters, and then I just dig in and let those characters take me where they will. So, in short, I’m a pantser.

For my fantasy Trespassers, I have composition books filled with the “rules” of the world, drawings, maps, sticky notes for errant thoughts, the arch of the would-be trilogy, and extensive research of the history on which my magic was based. For my magical realism Perception, everything is cataloged in Word and Excel. (I think for me, the method changes to fit the story.) I do listen to music while drafting, and when I wrote Perception, my playlists included music my MC Evan loved. I edit and revise in quiet, and now that I’m drafting again, I’m having to find new music to suit my girl.

This has been so much fun! Alison also tagged Melanie Stanford today, so please check out her answers. And I’m tagging fellow Florida girl Missy LaRae, so please stop by her blog here for her answers on Thursday, May 29th.

It’s been forever since I checked in with YA Highway’s Road Trip Wednesday. This week the topic is simple and perfect for what’s been on my mind:

What are you reading right now?

I’m still reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. At about halfway through, that’s slow reading for me.

I’ve been itching to talk about it, though, because I think Ms. Tartt has a secret. On top of being a best-selling, Pulitzer-winning literary powerhouse, she may secretly be a YA writer in disguise. Let’s start with the premise of The Goldfinch, according to Goodreads:

Buy it here

Theo Decker, a thirteen-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don’t know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his unbearable longing for his mother, he clings to one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.

I realize that in the course of the narrative, Theo will grow up, and I’ll learn how the trials of his youth shaped him and the circumstances he faces as an adult. But for the first half of this book, Tartt creates a raw, honest picture of a teenager’s life in America. Theo deals with tragedy and loss, guilt and confusion. My heart aches for him and for my real-life sons, who are edging too close for comfort to his age.

The “youth” portion of this novel may not form a complete story on it’s own, but even with plot elements aside, it would hold up as a coming of age tale. My question is, then, which defines a book as YA more, the age and circumstances of the main character, or the intention of the author to write for young people? If the answer is the former, then Ms. Tartt is definitely a YA writer in addition to her other talents.

Happy reading and happy Wednesday, everyone!

Music for today: Bad Blood by Bastille

Manuscript Music

This week the lovely Leatrice McKinney at Info Dump a la El is hosting Pitch Slam: Battle of the Bands!  In addition to pitching novels, each day this week we’re rocking Pitch Slam Twitter Parties. Today we’re sharing our writing playlists. 

My YA novel PERCEPTION is about a boy with a rare liver disorder who spends one wild night trying to forget his disease and exposes disturbing new neurological symptoms instead. Grounded, wanted by experimenting doctors and government informants, and falling for the girl who snitched on him, he faces treatment as a lab rat or freedom while sacrificing recovery. 

Here are some of the songs on my Perception Playlist!  

For a while now, I’ve thought that the greatest secondary benefit of being a writer was fulfilling my fan-girl fantasies of meeting the authors of books that I love. At my first writing conference, I had lunch with Charlaine Harris. (Well, we sat at the same table, and I was so tongue-tied that I barely said two words to her, but it still counts, right?) At  my second conference, I had an intensive workshop with the lovely Kristin Harmel. (Her amazing new book The Sweetness of Forgetting is an international best seller.) And don’t get me started on SCBWI. Jay Asher. Ruta Sepetys. Sara Shepard. Patricia MacLachlan. Tony DiTerlizzi. I could fill up a whole post with all that awesome.

But, you know what? I’ve decided there’s an even better writerly by-product.

I knew I’d struck gold with my critique partner Kip Taylor. I was so happy when my her first book was finally released, and you can read my review here But I had no idea then that I would keep hitting the writer-friend jackpot.

You guys, I am reading some amazing books. Books that I can’t wait to review and share with you, so that you can see how awesome they are. But I can’t do it yet, because they haven’t been delivered into the world yet. These manuscripts belong to my beta/critique partners.

And just like I felt when I first read Kip’s book Finn Flanagan, I cannot believe how lucky I am to get to read these novels before the rest of the world. But that’s all I can say for now.

How about you? I’d love to see some CP love shared in the comments below!

Music for today: Chained by the XX. (I get to see them in 4 days!)