Saturday, September 29, 2012

I have so many thoughts about Bitterblue

First off.

SPOILER ALERT!!

If you have not read this book, then don't read this blog post. And if you haven't read both Graceling and Fire, then this may or may not make a hill of beans worth of sense.

Secondly, this may be a rambling rapid fire pile of mosh as my brain has not stopped firing since I closed the book.

Okay, I'll be honest. I didn't love this book as I read it. I'm not left-brained so math and ciphers are not that interesting to me. I realize what a huge job this must have been for Cashore as she wrote this and hats off indeed, but, eh, not my thing.  And at first, I didn't love Bitterblue. I didn't dislike her, but I didn't feel the same kind of fiery intense character love I felt for both Katsa and Fire. I found her still young, a bit petulant, and her confusion sort of bugged me. At first. But I'll get to that later.

Monsea City wasn't as fully visualized for me as it could have been. The visuals of this city itself weren't clear. I didn't have a clear image in my head of castle to bridges to east city, even with the wood cut illustrated maps. And I wanted more of Teddy, his sister, and Saf's sister. I think there should be a companion book out of these three. (Are you listening Kristin Cashore?)

But where Kristin Cashore won me, hands down wrapped me in a blue ribbon and delivered me to reader heaven was her skillful characterization. I just kept stopping in awe of how fully she kept each of the other characters we'd learned to love, fully in character, but in a new place, a new novel. Katsa, Po, and Fire were still the characters I loved but they'd evolved. Older, different, with new things happening in their lives, but still essentially them. This is not easy as a writer. Word choice, actions, the ways characters react need to be integral to who they are. When it's done well it's a sign of a writer really knowing what she's created. And Cashore is a freakin' master.

Back to Bitterblue. So, as I said, I felt sort of lukewarm about her in comparison to strong-willed Katsa and beautiful, maternal Fire. But then Fire showed me Bitterblue through her eyes, and Bitterblue saw herself through Fire's guidance, and we all finally saw Bitterblue as queen. Truly a queen. It took the whole book for Cashore to get me to see her that way, but what I realized at the end is Kristin Cashore did that. I thought I was having my own opinions about this character but by the end I realized I'd been skillfully led through the entire trip.

Wow. Just wow.

Okay, so talk to me about this book! I can't find anyone at the conference who's finished it.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Winners of the GUTGAA Giveaway

Thanks to Ellie Heller's suggestion to use random.org to generate a list of winners. 
(there were 30 posts, but I eliminated one of Janallyne's because it was a misfire)

The 4th place winner (who got his 2nd choice) is:

2 David Harrison - Prize Pack B

The 3rd place winner (who got her 1st choice!) is:

26 Carey Torgeson - Prize Pack C

The 2nd place winner (who got her 2nd choice) is:

1 Catherine Scully - Prize Pack D

And the 1st place winner of a 25 page crit and query critique is:

12 Jessica Peterson - 25 page crit and query crit


I'll be e-mailing you each shortly to let you know! Congratulations and I hope GUTGAA was a positive experience for you. It really is a huge deal to put your work out there like that. 

Have a great start to October!




Thursday, September 20, 2012

GUTGAA Adult Entry Agent Round Winners and a Giveaway!

Stock Images: Leap. Image: 206414
© Photographer: Rolffimages | Agency: Dreamstime.com


Well, GUTGAA'ns. You did it. You jumped off into the beyond and came out on the other side.

For some of you it was extraordinary.
For some helpful.
For some, perhaps frustrating.
That's what putting yourself out there as a writer is all about.
And get this.
YOU ARE WRITERS!
Every try, every rejection, every atta girl or atta boy is a step on this journey and you've earned the right to self-identify.
And personally, I think you all are amazing and I'm filled with deep gratitude that I got to read your words.

And after I announce the adult entries that move on to the agent round - I'm going to announce a giveaway. Because I can. And GUTGAA has left me feeling all writer warm and fuzzy. 

So without further ado, our ten entries that move onto the next round:

#3 - The Lost Spitfire
#5 - I Spy
#18 - The Nameless Warrior
#19 - Remingtons Kill People
#20 - Death on the Cliffs
#22 - The Knock-Offs
#28 - Dark Bringer
#34 - With a Shake of Her Hair
#38 - Maybe I Do
#40 - The Princess Paradox

Congratulations, and I hope you each get tons of requests! See you next week on Deana Barnhart's blog.

And now for the Giveaway. There will be 4 prizes. To be eligible you need to A) be a follower of this blog or B) been involved in GUTGAA and C) leave me a comment with your order of prize choice and a contact e-mail. I will pick four winners out of a hat (low-tech here) - first pick will get their first choice and the following three will get the closest to their first choice I can get.  Now for the prizes.

Prize Pack A - A 25 page critique and query critique from me (can be different manuscripts). Any genre, though I don't read a ton of high fantasy and sometimes get distracted if the names are super odd. But I'll give it a shot. I'm a tell it like it is critiquer, though I look at both the positive as well as what I think needs work. I'm willing to tailor this to the type of reading you're looking for. In other words, we'll talk. (And you won't hurt my feelings if this isn't your first choice ;0))

Prize Pack B - Jodi Piccoult's SING YOU HOME and Sarah Dessen's DREAMLAND (paperbacks - one women's fiction, one YA)

Prize Pack C - Jennifer Smith's THE STATISTICAL PROBABILITY OF LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT and Alecia Whitaker's QUEEN OF KENTUCKY (hardbounds) (one YA, one upper MG/YA)

Prize Pack D - Kate Kae Myer's THE VANISHING GAME and Katie McGarry's PUSHING THE LIMITS (hardbounds) (both YA)

I will announce the winners next Wednesday, the 26th.


Monday, September 17, 2012

Welcome to the Party My GUTGAA Chickadees - 44 Stellar Adult Entries!

My hunch is some of you are going through some emotional turmoil about entering into GUTGAA. You might have a whole range of emotions that look something like this.


But don't get down chickadees!
You are writers.
You've got this thing!
And even if this contest, this moment, might not end up being the one.
One day, you're going to feel like this.


If you keep putting yourself out there, learning, taking feedback from incredible writers and mentors, and keep writing, one day you'll get that amazing face. Celebrate everything on this journey! Because it's awesome and so are you.

Now For the Brass Tacks:
On the left, about halfway down the page you will find my blog archive. Each of your entries is numbered and titled with its own separate post. You'll find a link to Tweet or Facebook about it should you choose to do so.
Note: If you need me to fix a formatting issue, please e-mail me at the address to the left in the Wonder About Me box. I am not supposed to access Twitter from work.

Your Judges Are:
Wallflower (The silent types always know what they're looking for)
Lumpy Space Princess (For Tang and Space Food Sticks, this judge might just pick you)
The Revisionist (This one wields a delete button but can spot diamonds)
Apple (This one is looking for something with that special sweet crunch and shine)

You can see Deana's post with all of the secret 1st round judges names: HERE

The Contest will run this Monday through Thursday and finalists for the agent round will be announced on Friday! Deana Barnhart will be tallying majority votes and choose ten to advance to the agent round. If a tie-breaker is necessary, GUTGAA judges from the other blogs will be called in to break the tie.

If you're reading this and don't have a clue what GUTGAA is, go: HERE

Anyone can comment, but please let's remember to keep it POSITIVE!
And don't forget to visit the other blogs hosting GUTGAA entries:


And Finally when you stop back in on Friday, there will be a contest! With Choices!
Good Luck Chickadees!

GUTGAA Pitch Contest #43 - Running Down the Dragon


Running Down the Dragon
Adult Urban Fantasy
103,000

Query:

Thalia Drake is the last dragon on earth. Her cover identity as an ass-kicking werewolf in the U.S. Military's elite shapeshifter ranks is in jeopardy. Not even her adopted shifter family know her true form. 

When human victims start turning up in the Everglades, Thalia alone recognizes the ancient dragon glyphs burned into their skin. The ritual markings suggest their killer has bigger, more reptilian game on the menu.

None of the shifter investigators suspect what she does: that their modern-day murderer might be capable of killing essentially immortal shifters. Thalia isn't eager to inform them and blow her cover. A thousand years of lies would be tough for her family to forgive, and other shifters wouldn't think twice about killing a recalcitrant dragon. But holding back what she knows will put every shifter in danger. 

Thalia and the FBI's shifter division track the killer to the heart of Washington, DC. Every clue seems to point to a U.S. Senator, despite his air-tight alibi. Whatever the senator's involvement may be, if they don't find the killer soon, one of his rituals is bound to succeed. One successful ritual could spell extinction for the shifters.

First 150 Words:

For the third time in as many weeks, someone cornered me in the Common. I have no idea why they kept trying, but I guess everyone needs a hobby. As hobbies go, they could have chosen better. It must be a sign. I should change my route. It probably won't stop the idiots, but I do get sick of fighting them off.

I don't actually enjoy hurting people. If they just asked nicely, I'd be happy to help a little. God knows I have more than I need. That's the beauty of compound interest when you have nineteen-hundred years' worth of investments.

Dragons used to hoard gold, gathering piles of it under drafty old mountains. But those were my grandparents. Now, I hoard savings bonds in safety deposit boxes. It's a much sounder investment strategy--a lot less likely to get you killed.

Unless you wander around Boston after dark.

GUTGAA Pitch Contest #42 - World of Shell and Bone


WORLD OF SHELL AND BONE
ADULT DYSTOPIAN 
60,000 WORDS

Query:

In a world ravaged by a nuclear holocaust, Vika Cannon knows there are no guarantees: no guarantees of safety, no guarantees that your neighbor is not actually a spy for the government, and no guarantees you’ll be allowed to emigrate to a new life in Asia.

New Amana (as the North and South American continents are now called) is dying. Food and water are scarce, and people suffering from radiation-caused mutations—the Nukeheads—are the new class of homeless. To control the conditions, the government operates under a totalitarian regime.

Every resident of New Amana has only one purpose. Females must produce healthy progeny using Husbands the Match Clinic assigns. Unhealthy children are carted away to Asylums to be experimented on. Parents incapable of producing healthy progeny are put to death in gas chambers.

When Vika Cannon is assigned a Husband shortly after her twentieth birthday, she expects him to be complacent and obedient. But Shale Underwood has a secret. He is a member of the Radicals, the terrorist group intent on overthrowing the government. And Shale has information about Vika’s baby sister, Ceres, long since banished to the Asylums.

As she learns more about the Rads’s plan, Vika finds herself drawn to Shale in ways she’d never imagined. When freedom calls, will she betray her government and risk death for Shale and Ceres? 

First 150 words:

I am baffled by mirrors.

When I look at my reflection, I see eyes I do not recognize, my mother's nose, my sister's mouth. It is my face, but the lines and curves of it do not resonate deep within me, do not inspire waves of feeling. I am nothing more than a collection of genetic puzzle pieces—I understand and accept this fully. I do not think myself beautiful, nor ugly. In any case, such labeling of oneself is against the law.

Dressing quickly in my uniform, I tie the scarf around my left arm. It weighs heavily on me today, heavier, perhaps, than it has in a long time. The large red zero flaunts my emptiness. I am devoid of an embryo. As of this moment, I am worth very little to my government and my people. But maybe today that will change.

GUTGAA Pitch Contest #41 - Life After Lilies


LIFE AFTER LILIES
WOMEN'S FICTION
70,000

Query:

“Dead is dead,” Dee Adam always used to say. But it turns out to only be the beginning, as death is about to send Dee on the trip of her lifetime.

Dee's surprise at being a ghostly guest at her own funeral turns to shock when she’s suddenly jolted back in time. As she travels aimlessly and undetected, she uncovers life-altering secrets in the pasts of her best friends and family. Secrets that make her question everything she thought she knew, and those she trusted.

Stuck between life and death, Dee is helpless to intervene and must finish the journey she never signed up for. But as her friends and family start to accept life without her, it’s ultimately Dee’s death that teaches her -- and those she loves -- the meaning of life.


First 150 words:

Lilies. I wasn’t sure I could forgive my mother for this.

I can’t believe she ordered the damn lilies.

The most unoriginal funeral flower and they were everywhere: on my coffin, in bouquets at each pew and in a giant wreath that encircled a practically life-sized photo of me with a closed-mouth smile. I didn’t remember the photo being taken and as I peered more closely, I had to admit it looked nothing like me. Aside from the crow’s feet that had appeared the day I turned thirty-five. Was that only five years ago? How depressing this was how I would be remembered: two-dimensional and toothless, immortalized in a lily life preserver.

As best as I could figure, I’d been dead about four days. Breast cancer. I’d been disappointed the grim reaper wasn’t arriving thanks to something more exotic, or at least harder to pronounce. Like lieyosarcoma or malignant meningioma.

GUTGAA Pitch Contest #40 - The Princess Paradox


THE PRINCESS PARADOX
Lighthearted Women's Fiction
90,000 words
Query:
Locked away in a self-imposed dungeon slogging through life in her coffee shop, twenty-five-year-old Nora Roseberry has written off the probability that Prince Charming will come rescue her. But fate is about to step in and offer this damsel in distress a chance at happy-ever-after.

When roguish Aidan O'Neill comes-a-courtin' in response to a “looking for love” ad Nora places in the newspaper, she's shocked (but a teensy bit flattered). Aidan's not the kind of prince who needs relationship help--evidenced by the sheer volume of maidens that cross his threshold. Besides, he doesn't go for women like her. He dates knockouts. Uncomfortable with his flirting and confused by her own foolish desire, Nora's almost relieved when Aidan reveals he answered the ad for his equally handsome brother Finn.

She quickly finds out Finn is everything fairy tales promised and more. Romantic, sincere, and ready to commit, he soon proposes--just when Aidan seems to have decided to change his ways and pursue Nora himself. But it's too late. Nora's the blissful princess being carried away by her handsome hero. With a wedding looming, a caustic-mother-to-be waiting to rip her to shreds, and a night with Aidan sprinkled with moonlight and magic, she needs to make a choice. And it will risk everything she's worked so hard to make fairy tale perfect.

First 150:
I wish I had the guts to tell my best friend I'd rather gouge out my eyes with a cocktail weenie than attend her wedding. Weddings, by nature, raise numerous questions if you’re single. People you don’t even know approach you as if it’s open season on any insensitive question they can muster. Are you involved? Did you just break up with someone? Are you a lesbian?

My answer to all of these is an emphatic "no." But explaining my feelings to Jillian, well, that just makes her hook me up with someone even more. Which is why I'm sitting here in dressing room I-lost-count, watching her zip up a beautiful Marchesa bridal gown, dreading this whole experience. I know exactly how today will end. 

"Ohmigod, Nora. Look at me."  

"You look…" I nodded, "breathtaking. Really." 

"I do, don’t I?" she tittered.

"You do." 

GUTGAA Pitch Contest #39 - The Keeper


The Keeper
Christmas Romance
48,200

Query:

Mark Shafer is about to become the next Keeper of the Christmas Trees but that isn’t what he wants. Unable to understand or sense the trees like his grandfather, Mark plans to sell his family’s picturesque, yet demanding, tree farm in Sutton, Massachusetts so he can be free to pursue a career in music. And propose to his city-loving girlfriend. His plans are coming together until he learns the trees might be miracle trees.

Sound unlikely? Mark thinks so too, until Angela, a single mom, and her daughter visit the farm. They meet Papa Shafer and when he shares a secret about the trees, Angela has to grapple with her daughter’s expectation for a miracle. A tall order when Angela is jobless and facing eviction. An anonymous gift begins a series of events that threaten Mark’s ability to sell the farm and Angela's opportunity to find work. Both struggle to learn the truth about the trees and must decide what, and who, is most important.

First 150 Words:

The Nor’easter brought the snow, but that didn’t start it. The radio station began playing carols around the clock, but that didn’t start it. Main Street wrapped the lamp posts in candy-cane striped garland, but even that wasn’t enough. Not until the decorated tree stood in the front window with soft lights glowing around the angel’s contented face did Christmas officially begin in the Donovan family. This year, Angela promised her daughter she could have the honor of choosing the tree.

“Is this the one?” Angela asked as she held her daughter’s hand and stared at the four- foot pine tree.

Caroline leaned closer to it. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “Do you feel that?”

“Feel what?” Angela asked.

“The tree, she’s beautiful,” Caroline answered.

Angela bit her lip and glanced at her watch. “Is this the tree you want?”

GUTGAA Pitch Contest #38 - Maybe I Do


MAYBE I DO
Romantic Comedy
110,000 words

Query:
Danielle Sutton has no intention of getting married. Yet when Dani’s boyfriend, Matt, proposes to her on live television, she can’t bear to publicly humiliate him by saying no. And when the TV producers offer to put on her dream wedding in only four weeks, she can’t turn them down without giving away her secret. Dani loves Matt, but she is not going to be anyone’s wife.

The last time Dani was engaged, Trevor MacWilliam broke her heart in a spectacular disappearing act. He strolls back into town just in time to watch the engagement take place and knows Dani well enough to recognize that she was lying when she said yes. As far as Trevor is concerned, it’s the prime time to beg for forgiveness and persuade Dani that he can help her escape the wedding juggernaut and start again.

Now Dani has a month to extricate herself from the perfect wedding she agreed to and convince Matt to stay with her without the ceremony, or decide if her unresolved feelings for Trevor are the reason she doesn’t want to get married in the first place.


First 150 words:
   For someone with no intention of ever getting married, I had been engaged an alarming number of times.
    The first time didn't really count. I was only six, after all, and the engagement was ended abruptly when my mother discovered that in addition to showing me his fascinating ability to pee on a floating Cheerio, my seven-year old fiancĂ© had also taught me the finer points of cursing to get attention.
    Little shit got me grounded for the rest of the summer.
    The memory of my mother dragging the shaggy blond-haired boy by the scruff of the neck back home for punishment still played in Technicolor whenever I thought of that afternoon. Sighing, I gave my wet hair a shake, squishing up the ends with mousse in a futile attempt to give it some body. I could not dwell on the past. The past was not the problem. 

GUTGAA Pitch Contest #37 - Try Me On For Size


TRY ME ON FOR SIZE
CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
81,000

QUERY:


In an attempt to save her floundering lingerie business, Mia
suggests a radical idea: a custom-designed sex toy. She just didn’t expect to
be the one to test out the prototypes, or find love in the process.

When her widowed business partner is emotionally unable to
help with the hands on research this venture requires, it’s up to Mia to have
sex with the potential “Spokespenises,” whose presence in the store will be
just as important as their toys on the shelf. But once the first bedroom interview
is complete, she realizes it’s not as easy as she thought to keep these trysts
all business and no pleasure. With her overbearing family scrutizing her every move, and
none of them wishing for her success, her sanity is in as much risk as the shop
is.
 
Oliver thought he was talking to a random stood-up woman at
a bar, but when she mistakes him for her interviewee, he can’t resist going
along with the charade. The business proposition is too enticing to pass up.
For once in his life, he’s doing something that makes him happy, reputation be
damned. And maybe it will also rid him of his evil, lying fiancé.


FIRST 150 WORDS:

Mia Montanari had never been on an actual blind date before,
and knowing her first would end in pre-planned sex didn’t ease her anxiety at
all. What the hell did I get myself into? And this wasn’t even sex for
pleasure. It was a job requirement and she’d yet to decide if it was a perk or
not.

Not a perk. Definitely not a perk.

Though Mia enjoyed sex with hot guys, she normally liked to
get to know them first. She was old fashioned like that.

The bar was kind of dead for a Friday night. She’d chosen
this particular place for its proximity to her apartment. The closer her place,
the less chance she’d chicken out. She couldn’t chicken out. Too much rode on
this. She’d have to suck up her anxiety and just do it. Like a machine. A
sexual robot.

Mia knew the bouncer at The Red Brick Inn pretty
well. 

GUTGAA Pitch Contest #36 - Going Home Again

Going Home Again
Women's Fiction with romance elements
91,000
Query:


Alyssa Jones, a thirty-something magazine editor, thought her unrequited crush was like the big hair and fluorescent clothing from high school— a relic of the ancient past. Until an out-of-the-blue phone call brings the untouchable guy back into her life.

She’s no longer the invisible girl, but Michael Day’s no longer the dreamiest boy in school either. He’s even better. Not only is he one of the hottest pop superstars of the past few decades, he’s a doting husband and father. When Alyssa interviews Michael for her magazine, the chemistry between them ignites.

Alyssa must decide if what she feels for Michael is worth the risk of becoming “the other woman,” and testing the boundaries of her journalistic ethics. Michael has to face the music as well— he’s been going through the safe marriage motions for so long, this former shy girl he never noticed rattles his world like an earthquake.
With alternating points-of-view, my women’s fiction manuscript, GOING HOME AGAIN, is the story of what could happen if a teenage dream comes true. 

First 150 Words:
One Tuesday morning, I got a call I never expected. A call that, for the past twenty years, I may have secretly hoped for. 

A familiar voice buzzed over the loudspeaker on my phone. “Alyssa?” 

“Yes?” I replied, not looking away from my computer screen. Had Rebecca even started this piece about beach erosion? She usually procrastinated. I scribbled a note to myself to light a fire under her ass.

“There’s a Mr. Johnson on line two for you. Says he has a great story for the magazine. He’s a talent agent from New York.”

An annoyed sigh escaped my lips. “Thanks, Mary.”

There was always an agent or producer trying to get us excited about some low-budget cheese ball TV series or movie being filmed down here in Wilmington, North Carolina. Ever since Dawson’s Creek, the floodgates had been opened. Thanks, Van Der Beek.

I picked up my phone. "Alyssa Jones speaking."  

GUTGAA Pitch Contest #35 - Dark Sand


DARK SAND
WOMEN'S FICTION/SUSPENSE
96,146

Query:
 
ALEXA UNDERWOOD’S near-perfect life has just been rudely interrupted. Abducted by her mentally unstable brother, the pampered college student is being taken to a remote commune in the Arizona desert.  The self-appointed ruler of the compound is a maniacal man whose singular goal is to repopulate the new world following the Apocalypse. Or so he claims.
 
Brilliant and beautiful, Alexa is told that she has been chosen, along with other young women, to bear exceptional children. She is told it is a place of redemption for the worthy. But what Alexa finds at the compound is a rag-tag group of apprehensive people living in deplorable conditions under Thomas’s strict rule. She immediately suspects that they are hiding something in their blank-faced, hushed exchanges.
 
The reason they are there has nothing to do with the end of days. It has to do with the greed of three men who lack compunction. Men who do the unthinkable to women; they use them for monetary gain. 
 
Alexa is out of her element in this harsh place. Yet she can’t sit idle while a malevolent man crushes lives, knowing she is next in line. Determined to find a way out for herself and the other hostages of the compound, she embarks on a quest to reveal Oceania’s dark secrets. What she uncovers shakes her to her core, and she finds in order to save her own life she must do the unthinkable herself.

First 150:
  
CHAPTER ONE
 
Stinging, bitter smoke clawed at my nostrils, dragging me from a sleep so deep I could have been in a coma. My mouth was dry and full of cobwebs, and my tongue felt like an Eggo waffle that had been forgotten in the freezer sometime last year. At first I thought my lips had bits of paper glued to them. Then I realized it was just my skin, as it peeled away in curly little shreds from the tender tissue underneath. As the smoke seeped into my lungs, some corner of my groggy brain realized that whatever was burning smelled like rubber, or maybe plastic with just a hint of kerosene. And it stank.
 
Very slowly I cracked my eyes open. Suspended above my head was a arched ceiling of bright blue. Dark, looming shapes reached across ominously, grasping for something unseeen. I felt oddly numb and more than a little disoriented. 

GUTGAA Pitch Contest #34 - With a Shake of Her Hair


WITH A SHAKE OF HER HAIR

Women's Fiction/Contemporary Romance
81,000

QUERY

Ellie Donahue is drowning in Suburbia. She's driving a beige mini-van and wondering where the twenty-year-old version of herself disappeared to. The version that didn’t give a crap about high-fructose corn syrup and thought ramen noodles and beer was a balanced dinner. 

Stuck in a predictable rut of routine Sunday night sex and Thursday night chicken, Ellie’s biggest concerns are running into meddlesome Sancti-mommies at the grocery store, or being forced by her nudist mother-in-law to listen to an AC/DC cover by her band, ‘The Noody Blues’ and trying to ignore the fact that they are indeed naked while singing it.

When confronted by her husband's infidelity with a coworker, Ellie is forced out of her rut and into a reality where she is torn between the temptation of an affair of her own with her daughter's delicious soccer coach or fighting for her rapidly crumbling marriage. With her life upside down, Ellie struggles to determine her next step, and finds herself longing for the predictability of Thursday night chicken.

FIRST 150 WORDS

Chapter 1

I am still picking crumbs out of my hair.

I cannot believe that just happened.

I had completely forgotten I was supposed to go into Abigail’s class this morning to pick up our “Summer Activities” packets. I mean, how many summer activities can a Kindergartener have that we need actual packets? Of course, as I had spaced this requirement, when Crystal Brubaker flagged me down as I was pulling away from the drop off, the image of a reminder printed on frighteningly bright green paper flashed into my brain.

Looking down at the stained sweatpants I had thrown on in a rush to get both kids to school on time, my first instinct was to pretend I hadn’t seen her and run like the coward I am. Just as I was about to lay some serious rubber, I heard the memory of Abby’s enthusiastic little voice squealing about soccer camp starting soon after the school year ended. 

GUTGAA Pitch Contest #33 - Transcend



TRANSCEND
Women's Lit
100,000 words

Query:

Nora Clark's sudden arrival into heaven is a turbulent hell. All she wants is to check in on her husband, Charlie, and their sons, but she isn’t allowed until she has completely transitioned, and she can’t seem to figure out how.  

Nora believes unfinished work with organ recipients at her foundation is keeping her between lives, and that she can fix it, despite being dead. But discovering a way to interact with strangers still on earth tempts her to break the rules of heaven to stay close to her family. 

A best friend confessing love for Charlie, and complications in her sons’ lives forces Nora to decide if her wants in life after life are greater than her hopes for loved ones still living. 

First 150 words:

The day before I died, Charlie and I danced to B.B. King. I saw the smiles on the faces of our family and friends, many who had been at our wedding 30 years ago. For me and Charlie, it was always that song.  

My sons were mimicking us, alternating which one was a woman with pouty lips and batting eyelashes. I saw my mom slip behind them, place a hand on each of their shoulders and give them her patented “don’t-try-it-again” look. 

I sighed.  “I thought we were past that phase.  Maybe when they are all in their thirties?”  

Charlie just shook his head. “They’ll figure it out someday.”  He put his hand on the small of my back and pulled me closer. “I love you Nora,” he whispered.  As the song ended, Charlie took my face in both his hands and kissed me amid the applause. 

GUTGAA Pitch Contest #32 - The Key To Life


THE KEY TO LIFE
ROMANCE
110,000


Query:

When Anna Wilson took on the daunting task of restoring Matt to a state of sobriety and happiness, she never expected to fall in love; and she certainly wouldn’t have guessed the object of her desire would be Matt's father.
 
Before falling to the floor passed out drunk, Matt Hayes declares his love for Anna. Wishing she could tell him she loves him back, she just can’t do it. Instead, she decides to search for someone who can. 
 
When she discovers a journal that Matt’s father Tom had kept, she believes she has found a way to save Matt from his downward spiral of depression. Despite the fact that everyone believes Tom is dead, this journal gives her reason to believe otherwise. Embarking on a search through shark infested waters, to a hellish island in the middle of nowhere, she discovers that the man she is looking for is indeed alive. 
 
However, a wrench is thrown into her plans when she finds herself falling for him. Now the man who is supposed to be Matt’s saviour, could be the man who ends up bringing him more pain and heartbreak. 
 
When she discovers that Tom isn’t Matt’s real father, she only finds herself lost in more confusion. Sure this would make it more acceptable for her to feel the way she feels about him, but if she is even going to consider pursuing the flutterings of love that are developing between them, she has to find a way out of the spotlight of Matt’s desires. 
 
This time in search of a solution, perhaps Anna has discovered the key to allowing herself to follow her heart and begin a relationship with Tom, without leaving Matt in the dust festering in a cloud of hurt and betrayal. 
 
 
First 150 Words:
 
"The truth of the matter is….. I think you’re amazing!"  Matt stammered as he stood there
on uneasy legs, the effects of half a bottle of rum finally becoming visible. 
"Did you hear me? I think you’re amazing and… I’m in love with you.”  These last five 
words were barely audible as he uttered them with a great sigh, just before passing out. 
Matt was a tall man, nearly 6 foot 9, and like a big boulder being tossed from a rooftop 
onto the pavement, he didn’t land quietly. 
 
In any other circumstance Anna would have tried to cushion his fall by attempting to catch 
him, but being completely shocked by Matt’s words, Anna had remained frozen to the 
spot, unable to react. Still stunned, she just stood there with one hand gripping her slender 
waist and the other hand twirling that stubborn piece of hair back behind her ear while 
Matt’s words echoed in her head. 

GUTGAA Pitch Contest #31 - Nefertiti's Heart

NEFERTITI'S HEART
Steampunk romance
80,000

QUERY:

London, 1860. Twenty one year old Cara Devon can fight, shoot and lose a tail. Skills necessary to survive Victorian high society and protect her heart - it’s going to be a killer season.

 After the strange death of her father, Cara returns to London with a simple mission - sell off his damned collection of priceless artefacts. Her plan goes awry when she shoots two intruders, attracting the attention of a notorious crime lord. He wants to get his hands on the priceless objects d'art, and Cara.

Worse trouble erupts when aristocratic beauties start dying of broken hearts. Literally. An eight inch long brass key hammered through their chests and turned. 3,000 years ago Nefertiti turned an Egyptian man into a god. Now a killer stalks the ballrooms, searching for his own regal beauty and an ancient relic, rumoured to hold the key to immortality.

Self-preservation fuels Cara’s hunt for a particular artefact, somewhere in London her father hid Nefertiti’s Heart, if only she can find it before the killer turns his attention to her. Or has she already made a fatal mistake, by giving her heart to the number one suspect?


FIRST 150:

There was something cathartic about wielding a crowbar. Cara used one end to loosen the tacks, before ripping up the expensive patterned carpets. She tossed the strip in a growing pile by the wall. Pushing a deep auburn spike of hair from her forehead, she took a moment’s break from the dusty work. She flung open the second story window and took a large breath of London air. And coughed. Coal smoke and steam spiralled past her window, forced skywards by the combination of the narrow street and tall buildings. She blinked the stinging smog from her eyes and looked up. An airship glided by like a giant floating dodo, its tiny props spinning frantically to manoeuvre its bulk on the air currents.

Turning, Cara leaned on the casement, surveying her work. She had taken up most of the library carpet, the wooden floor boards dull in the morning light.

GUTGAA Pitch Contest #30 - The Treasure of a Dragon's Heart

The Treasure of a Dragon’s Heart
Paranormal Romance
87,000

Query:


A shapeshifting dragon must choose between love and survival when she falls for a modern-day knight.

Elaina Drake is facing death on two fronts. Her murderous father keeps her on the run, and her refusal to attack humans for their gold and other treasures has left her starving for energy. Desperate to gain strength, she sneaks into the fundraising party of the year to steal—er, acquire a priceless necklace.

Alexander Wyatt stands alone as Chicago’s biggest corporate titan, and as the guilt-ridden son of an abuser, he remains equally alone in his personal life. After he catches Elaina with the stolen necklace, his fears of becoming like his father intensify when her presence triggers aggressive urges he doesn’t understand.

This exotic beauty also stirs something else, desire he can’t ignore. He manipulates her into anonymously returning the necklace so she can stay—and be his date—at his party. Unaware of his latent dragon-killing abilities, they can’t resist the thrill of danger in their connection when his game of seduction and control ignites their passion.

But after a paparazzi story about Alex exposes Elaina too, her father escalates his deadly hunt. Should she run again, or should she risk her heart—and possibly her life?

First 150 Words:

Jewelry trickled through Elaina Drake’s fingers, scattering reflections across the peeling linoleum of her bathroom floor. Each piece hinted at how it had ended up in her possession—a broken clasp on a gold chain, earrings missing their backs, an eager-to-snag bent prong on a ring. Blue flashed when a loose sapphire she’d rescued from a sink drain rolled off her thumb.

But the precious ornaments lacked the satisfying clink of gold coins when they landed in her safe-box. Humans didn’t make treasure like they used to. Such a shame.

Her fist curled around the last trophy: a brilliant ruby, almost the size of her palm. A weak dribble of energy flowed into her arm. She squeezed the gem harder. It didn’t help.

An erratic rhythm still beat in her chest and desperate starvation still chilled her limbs.

Her hand dropped to her lap. Damn it. The recharge from her collection was nowhere close to enough.

GUTGAA Pitch Contest #29 - Sylvan Legacy


Sylvan Legacy
Historical Romance w/ Paranormal Elements
76,000

Query:


In Regency era London, where the smallest faux pas can cause irreparable scandal, half-elven Katherine Sinclair has more to hide than anyone else; especially when drawing notice by the wrong people can get her killed.

With the ability to harness the power of nature and even heal others, ruining her family’s good name isn’t the only thing she must guard against. According to her late mother’s enchanted journal, a secret brotherhood exists amongst members of elite society, some who even feed on the magic energy of others. When two suitors present themselves, Katherine is understandably suspicious. The Duke of Thornewood is as arrogant as he is darkly handsome, and the Earl of Byron is charming and the clear choice of her society-savvy grandmother, but Katherine fears her attraction and prejudice will lead her astray.

But Society intrigue can be just as threatening. Her grandmother has secrets of her own and is willing to force Katherine into an arrangement with a dangerous man to keep them hidden. Katherine never believes she’ll succeed—until Katherine heals one of her fellow debutantes after a riding accident, with the Duke of Thornewood as a witness. After such a catastrophic mistake, Katherine believes her reputation—and any chance at love—has been ruined for good. Such a misstep puts her at the mercy of not only her grandmother’s machinations, but the brotherhood who could drain her magic. Since Katherine's magic is irrevocably tied to the energy which keeps her heart beating, she risks death if caught.

First 150:
The horse's hooves thunder across the hillside, and my heart pounds with each bunching of his muscles. My hair breaks free of its pins, pale strands sweeping across my cheek. Though the wind breaks through the thin barrier of the breeches and tall boots borrowed from my brother’s wardrobe, the wide smile never leaves my face. Mild discomfort is a small price to pay for a ride unhindered by the thick skirts of my riding habit.

I glance at Robert, who is keeping easy pace with me.

"Careful, dear sister," Robert calls out, the wind snatching at his words, "I'm gaining on you."

I laugh. "Serenity will refuse to jump this next bank, just as she always does."

I press my booted heels to Orion’s sides, and a little thrill jolts through me as he charges forward. His excitement bubbles over my skin, making it hard to distinguish from my own.

GUTGAA Pitch Contest #28 - Dark Bringer



DARK BRINGER
ADULT PARANORMAL ROMANCE/ DYSTOPIA
107,000 words

Query:
Sometimes it makes sense to fear the dark.
 
In the enclosed city of New Theta, where imagination can string particles of darkness together to form monsters, people fear the shadow fiends just an unguarded thought away. Imaginatives--those who fantasize--are criminals. Lights blaze 24 hours a day. Electricity is king.

The dark doesn't bother Jenvee Cohan, an electrical linesperson who maintains cables in shadowy tunnels. Ever since she inadvertently summoned the darkness that spirited her grandfather into the Void, the netherworld outside the city, she's sworn off imagination.

That is, until a conjured nightmare throttles Agent Reese Bannon, the Bureau of Light Enforcement’s chief dark-buster in Jenvee’s sector. She breaks her vow by saving the agent’s life. He should be grateful Jenvee’s selfless act keeps him alive. Instead he tags her as his number one person of interest.

And the trouble only begins there. Jenvee’s rekindled imagination refuses to return to sleep mode. The specks of darkness won’t leave her alone. Always capering about, they cajole and needle her to give them form. As persistent as the specks and as famous thanks to news videos, Reese, the guy she’s secretly had a crush on, investigates her, further illuminating her guilt.

Reese has his own problems--starting with an extreme attraction to Ms. Cohan he just can’t shut down. He’s falling for her against his better judgment, his professional ethics and the fact that she’s an Imaginative like his brother Patrick.

Years ago, Patrick messed with the dark and died in the Void, an event that cleaved Reese’s life in two: the brief happy before and the grief-stricken crusade after. Determined to keep the dark from claiming Jenvee, Reese plans to dog her every action—to do whatever it takes to save her.

First 150 words:

Nobody said as much, but Jenvee assumed her fatal flaw--her affinity with the night particles--made her first choice for the tunnel crawl when the lights in New Theta’s Third Ward flickered and went out.

She wouldn’t ask. Not in the middle of a crisis. Not ever, really.

Although she was the newest linesperson, having only received her electrical engineering certificate last May, she strapped on her tool belt and rushed to the maintenance access to repair the faulty wiring.

Hand over hand, she scrambled down the aluminum rungs set into concrete. The illumination from above dwindled steadily until her steel-toed boots left the last rung and clicked on the access tunnel’s poured stone. Her fellow workers closed the hatch, cutting her off from the now-distant patch of battery-powered daylight and from their immediate help. She had to go alone. More people meant more minds for the night particles to play with.

GUTGAA Pitch Contest #27 - For Better Or Worse


For Better or Worse
Adult Paranormal Romance
 65,000
Query:
How far would you go for love?
In the midst of a girl’s night out, three friends search for a way to change their lives so they head out to get a tarot card reading that will change their destiny. They all get a reading that mimics their live and the witch tells them to hold onto to certain items during the reading or the reading will be not work. The witch cast a spell to send all three girls into different worlds.
Rosabla Pike is a feisty woman that has a successful life, but lack the love of a great man that would give her what she secretly wants- a baby. The witch cast Rosabla to an isolated Castle with a monstrous King that holds her prisoner so she can become his wife.
Later she must make a decision on her wedding day to escape or to stay to get the love she has been searching for. But, Isabella, the King’s lover, will stop at nothing to get him back.  Will she escape or will she be forced to kill Isabella to stay with the King? 
Tara Baron is a lively creative ad designer that loves to be in the spotlight, but secretly wants to be an artist in Paris. Her family has taught her that power is money and to do what makes money. The witch cast Tara into the future of a fortune 500 advertising agency that has her competing with her best friend, Amy, and boyfriend, Brad, for a promotion to be the next CEO of the advertising company in Paris.
But, destiny has a different plan for her. She meets Chad that steals her attention; especial since he has a sick child, Kevin, which wants to be an artist in Paris, too. She struggles between being that cut throat businessperson and the love of this man and child. Will she toss it all out, to race to Chad’s side when Kevin dies?
Chrissy Bell is a sassy dancer that teaches kids ballet, but loves a romantic adventure at any cost. The witch cast Chrissy into the middle of her future loves funeral. Chrissy finds out that her new love Jonathon has been killed over a battle about inheritance. Jonathon comes back to her as a ghost. He tries to convince her to fall in love. Chrissy is faced with a choice to take a pill to end her human life and go over to the ghost side to be with Jonathon. Will she take the ultimate faith and take the pill or will she use the object to go back to her life; to stop him from being murdered.
Find out how far they will have to go for love .
 First 150-words
She had no fear of what was to come.  
 
Visions of her beloved Jason, heaved up from her heart and her eyes pooled with tears. As she was instructed to do, after two years of his death, she opened the card. Her heartbeat rapid, her knees buckled, she grasped the window edge for support anticipation the message from beyond. She was determined to honor his last wish for them to find love again.
 
Her chin dropped to her pulsating chest, drew in a long, deep breath, then slowly released it. “Let’s find out our destiny with a Tarot card reading.”
Rosabla stared at the beautiful view of New York at night time waiting for their response. The tall buildings saluting through the dark skyline like soldiers to their leader.  The windows illuminated a sense that life goes on at night time just as it does in the daytime. Rosabla face glowed with admiration.
 
 She whispered to herself. “I am going to miss this place.”