I know you’ve got a lot of blogs to hop to, so let’s get right to it!
Question 1: What are you mentoring?
I’m mentoring New Adult and Adult books.
Question 2: Are you going to like my book?
Probably if it is one (or more!) of the following:
Question 3: Why would I want to work with you?
Okay…so you’ve decided your novel is a good fit interest-wise. Yay! But there are other mentors too, so why would you want to work with me?
Well, I think I know how to write a good novel. But don’t take just my word for it. HEARTSICK and RED BLOODED, have received positive reviews from Library Journal, RT Book Reviews, and USA TODAY. My Wattpad novel, DENALI IN HIDING, has close to a quarter of a million views and is consistently on the list of top Science Fiction novels on the site.
I’ve been in the query trenches before, so I know what it’s like! I also successfully landed an agent—I am represented by Andrea Somberg. :)
I don’t just write novels. My short writing has also earned accolades from Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, Glimmer Train, and Writers & Artists, and my stories have appeared in multiple publications, including The Alarmist, The Binnacle, Crunchable, Jersey Devil Press, and Northern Virginia Magazine.
I also earned a master's degree in writing from Johns Hopkins University. While in the program I learned how to carefully and constructively offer feedback to other writers. I’ve continued to do that while CPing and offering critiques.
If you have any questions before you’d like to submit, just let me know. :)
Question 4: What is your letter for the scavenger hunt?
Mysteries: I love a good mystery, from cozies to gritty procedurals. I also define mystery loosely. If you’ve got a sleuth who’s solving a puzzle, send it to me. :)
Retellings: I love seeing how creative authors can get with these. Bonus...If you have a Jane Austen retelling, definitely send it to me! :)
Speculative/SFF: I love magical worlds, strange twists on the real world, and anything else that’s got some speculative elements to it. One caveat though: if your book is very high fantasy or really hard scifi, I might not be the best mentor for it. I’m into what you might call “pop” SFF. Think X-Files and Harry Potter, not Dune.
I realize that might be vague, so to give you a better feel for what I’m in to, here are a smattering of speculative books I like:
Anything political: I was born in DC. I work in DC (on a policy journal). I read the Washington Post and Politico on a daily basis. I’m a total political junkie, so if you’ve got something involving politics, send it to me! :)
And, if you also like political books, I recommend these!
Literary Fiction: While the novel-length writing I do is all genre, I’ve also published literary short fiction and my work has been recognized by Writers & Artists and Glimmer Train. I also have a highfalutin master’s degree in writing.
So if you have a literary novel, please send it my way.
A few recent literary books I’ve enjoyed:
Romances with a Fame element:
I’m a sucker for celebrity romances. A few I enjoyed...
A romance with a hero as "protector" (cop, bodyguard, etc.)
These heroes make me weak in the knees. :)
Books I may not be the best mentor for
Historical: I don’t read a lot of these, so I may not be the best person to mentor you if you have a historical novel.
That said, if you’d still like to give it a go, here are some historical novels I enjoyed
Books w/ no diversity, unless there is a darn good reason for it:
I grew up and live in a diverse community, so, basically, books that aren't diverse just..honestly...don't ring true to me. So, if your novel lacks diversity (aka an old, old wooden ship), there better be a really good reason for it. But that's hard to imagine. While there are certainly communities where almost everyone is of the same ethnicity, it would still be hard for me to buy a community/setting where EVERYONE was heterosexual, neurotypical, etc. etc. So, just something to keep in mind.
I recently published a collection of my short writing. Here is just one of the pieces included in YOUR ROOM.
A New Life™ at 30
You have no doubt been thinking about this for a while. Perhaps since the day after your 20th birthday, the first chance to transfer your mind. As you know, according to the Mind Transfer Act, which regulates corporations, such as New Life, Inc., and the technology associated with moving your consciousness into another body, you get a chance at a new life every ten years of your adult life. We hope you will find this pamphlet instructive. It is based on extensive research on the common thoughts and feelings that emerge during the first 30 days, the adjustment phase. We thank you for your business, and we hope you enjoy your New Life™!
After the procedure you will feel as though you just finished riding a mechanical bull after hours of swigging skunked beer and fresh fruit punch. This feeling will soon pass as you reflect on the joy of having left all the cares, worries, and concerns of your past life and immerse yourself in the wonder of entering into a new body, a new family, a new job, and a New Life™. The excitement may feel intolerable, but don’t worry, everyone tolerates it.
Pumpkin seeds may seem very attractive to eat today. Feel free to indulge, but be careful of overloading with sodium.
To tame your new tongue, speak sad soliloquies about seashores with shimmering seashells and shady sharks.
It will be difficult to keep names and faces straight, but remember that everyone, from your boss to your friendly neighbor to your new two-year-old daughter, has been briefed on the situation. Many of them have already or will eventually mind transfer themselves. Also, you will remember that you were not that good with faces before.
Don’t look directly at the sun. This is always true.
You may find yourself stretching out your leg, pointing the toe tip, like a ballerina, and feeling that the heel, the bump on an otherwise long stem of a leg, gets in the way. But remember you had heels in your former body as well.
You will wonder if the universe has a color. It does: Cosmic Latte.
It is on this day, as you may feel a strong desire to contact the person who has been transferred into your old life, we must remind you that every mind transfer is a move up in the world. This move up is based on multiple categories, such as relationship, career, bank account, ability to whistle, and other things too cumbersome to mention. Knowing that, the person who transferred into your old life is not only thrilled to be there, they are probably better suited to live it than you were. And you, better suited to live your current life.
If this explanation does not placate you, we suggest walking in grass blades barefoot. That usually does it.
You will begin to realize that activities you avoided before, like walking in the rain and long lines at grocery stores, suddenly seem okay, even desirable. You will wonder at the wasted enjoyment of all the times you did those things before and were annoyed.
You may realize you are allergic to new things, like cats, peanut butter, or cucumbers. You may also hear odd noises emitting from body parts when doing otherwise normal things, like bending down to arrange miniature civil war figurines in a reenactment of the battle of Chattanooga, while Glenn Miller is blaring of course. We suggest you consult your New Body Manual before doing anything.
You will watch your old favorite movies out of a sense of nostalgia and need for familiarity, but will notice, clear as day, all the plot holes that eluded you before. The small inconsistencies from shot to shot, evidence that people on the set buttoned previously unbuttoned shirts or pulled back a formerly unruly strand of hair, will be blatantly obvious. Instead of being in despair, you will be proud you have come to know these movies so well. Then you will try out your new life’s movie collection, and despite the well-executed plots and unnoticeable inconsistencies, you will feel despair.
You will hate waiting in any lines today, especially grocery store lines. Also, avoid rain.
You will wonder if the moon ever wanted more out of life than to just revolve around the earth. You’ll find out that it is actually moving away from our planet, and you will smile at its small steps toward independence.
Nothing much happens on this day.
Teeth feel especially volatile, as though they are tingling, itching to get out of the gums holding them in place, keeping them from freedom.
Go ahead and submit to your urge to try a brand new beverage, like a cappuccino.
The tingling sensation in the pads of your fingers, your ability to eat habaneros, and the way you can now clearly discern the difference between an extremely dark navy blue and a faded black will make you think you have sprouted superhero powers. You have not.
A cupcake, preferably chocolate, will help today. This is always true.
You will probably pause and think about all the genes and cells you left behind, in your arms, in your heart, in your eyes, and in your nose. But, consider that there are ten times more bacterial cells in a human body than there are human cells, or you cells. So, really, you just left a bunch of bacteria for a new, better, batch of bacteria.
You will get excited when your cell phone rings, but be disappointed each time you realize it’s not a telemarketer.
Day 30 and on
You awake. The tingling in your fingers has stopped, mostly, and you are almost used to the new smells, sensations, and noises. You may see your old college friend or mother on the street. Remember, they don’t know you anymore. You may even see your old self, in your old favorite pair of jeans, ordering a Diet Coke. Remember that you don’t know yourself anymore. Finish your cappuccino, get the check, and leave.
Bring this pamphlet in in 3,622 days, when you are eligible for another New Life™, and get 3.5% off!
This story was a finalist in Glimmer Train’s Very Short Fiction Award - July 2014. It was also shortlisted in the 2012 Writers & Artists Arvon Short Story Competition. It is also included in my short writing collection: YOUR ROOM.
Guys, SPIN THE LOVE is out now!!! Lisa Terry is one of my critique partners and she writes very fun, twisty books! Be sure to check out this YA Romantic Psychological Thriller! :)
Sixteen-year-old Whispy Callahan lands in trouble thicker than Florida’s humidity when she plays a twisted game of Dare. Everything would have been fine if she hadn’t fallen for one of the player’s “targets” along with dredging up buried murderous tendencies. Forget the game—now Whispy needs to find her boyfriend’s murderer, but that might prove difficult since everyone thinks she’s insane. They could be right.
Note: Unfortunately the document view doesn't render well in mobile versions, so it's best to view this on a laptop. I know, that's annoying... sorry :(. If I can figure out a way to fix it I will!
You wrote a book. Awesome! In fact, you’re so proud of it, you might even let other people give you feedback on it so that you can make it even better. Awesome again!
But, your book is really great as is. So, you won’t need to make that many changes in order to get a book deal and send it out into the world. Right?
Well, maybe not. But it’s more likely that, yeah, there probably will be some changes along the way. While I can’t say exactly what is best for you and your book, I can show you the changes that the first chapter of my book HEARTSICK went through along that bumpy road to publication.
A couple things to consider before we get started.
So, first, let’s just see how many overall changes we’re talking about here. What’s the difference between the version I shared with my writers’ group when this books was just getting going and the final, published version…
Egad that’s a lot of red! Okay, let’s step back a little bit. How many changes did I make after I talked to my writers’ group, posted the first page in forums to get more feedback, and thought over things a little more? What was the difference between that first submission to my writers' group and the version I sent to critique partners once the entire book was “done.”
Okay, still a lot of red. As you can see I also took out a whole person (Jake really wasn’t pulling his weight in the book) and changed David’s name to Conrad. I also changed things that no longer made sense in the grand scheme of the story. (When I submitted the chapter to my group, I only had about 25% of the book written. I sent the entire, completed novel to my CPs).
My critique partners are amazing and they pointed out several things I should change in the book overall. Some of those things affected the first chapter. This shows the changes between the version I sent to my CPs and the version I sent to agents!
Yeah, lots of changes. You'll notice I changed up characters and had Danny as the center of the action instead of Mei. Danny plays a greater role in the book and it made sense to make him more prominent in this first scene. Honestly, most of the really big changes in the revision don't happen until after the midpoint of the novel. But, as you can see, that doesn't mean the first chapter didn't need a lot of work.
And what happened with this version? I got an offer of representation from Andrea Somberg!!! This, of course, was fantastic news, but it in no way meant that my work was done. Far from it. Andrea worked with me on some major revisions that would make the book more marketable. I also sent the revision to two new critique partners to get additional feedback. These are the changes between the version I originally sent to agents and the version my agent sent to editors. :)
And, you know what? I was lucky enough to sign with Carina Press for a two-book deal! Kerri Buckley, my brilliant editor, worked with me on developmental and line edits to really whip the story into shape. Those changes are shown here:
And, finally, a copyeditor and a proofreader gave everything one final polish and ensured that it followed Carina Press style (which, as you can see, for some strange reason prefers you don’t negatively portray real-life products…whoops…).
And, that’s it! it’s out in the world now!
If you have any questions about this, feel free to add them in the comments below or shoot me an email. :)
I'm very happy to share the cool cover of Keith W. Willis's book, TRAITOR KNIGHT.
Morgan McRobbie will do anything to protect the kingdom of Kilbourne.
Even betray it.
When Morgan rescues a damsel-in-distress from an errant dragon, he expects she’ll swoon, murmuring “My hero!” Instead, Marissa has only loathing for the man everyone believes will betray Kilbourne. That’s fine with Morgan. A woman in his life would just complicate things.
A high-level informer threatens the kingdom’s security, and Morgan is out to stop him. Posing as a turncoat himself, he walks a fine line between honor and betrayal. A single misstep could result in disaster, and his mission is fraught with distractions: the pesky dragon, a pair of conniving courtiers, a surfeit of spies, and the disillusioned damsel who’s certain Morgan can’t be trusted.
If Morgan’s going to save the kingdom, win the girl, and manage to stay alive, he’ll need to step up his game. Because the traitor is lurking in the shadows, and his scheme calls not just for the betrayal of Kilbourne, but also the destruction of Morgan McRobbie.
About the author: Keith W. Willis graduated (a long time ago) from Berry College with a BA in English Literature and a desire to tell stories. He lives with his amazingly patient, loving, and supportive wife Patty in the upper Hudson Valley region of New York. Keith believes that those rumbling noises long attributed to Henry Hudson’s crew bowling are in actuality dragons grumbling. When Keith isn’t writing down fantastical tales from the land of Kilbourne, he manages a group of database content editors for a global information technology firm. TRAITOR KNIGHT is his first published novel. Check out Keith’s website Writing@Knight or the TRAITOR KNIGHT Facebook page. And be sure to follow @kilbourneknight on Twitter.
Enter below to win a copy!
My critique partner, Lisa Terry, has an amazing new book coming out soon. TRICOLOR has lots of interesting characters and twists, and, now, a beautiful cover! I asked Lisa a bit about her books and writing in general.
This is a cover reveal so, first, tell us more about the cover! What are your favorite parts?
I think the blood drop is my favorite, but the heart with my characters in it is my second favorite because the two go hand in hand.
There are a few twists in TRICOLOR. Did you have these planned out or did they come up as you wrote?
I had that planned out. I'm a planner :) The idea of one of the twists came to me when I asked myself: What would you do if you feared for your life and the only way to get help was to out yourself as a criminal.
O'Ryan is a tough and interesting character. What inspired you write her?
At first O'Ryan came to me because I wanted a tough female character who you could never see staying in a bad relationship - except she does - and then we figure out why. There's a lot of tension in that dynamic. But that's only on a smaller level. When that same dynamic is forced upon her in a broader sense, her life and other's depend on her keeping a level head, and she's scared.
Do you have a favorite piece of dialogue from TRICOLOR?
Oh, that's tough. So many of my favorites are spoilers, but I'll give it a go.There's this ironic bit:"So we're the bad guys now?" Jamie shakes his head."No, we're the bad guys too."
And this one that tore at my tear ducts:I roll away from the guy with Peter in my arms, and the little boy comes easily with me. “Get up,” I whisper into his hair. “Go. Run as fast as you can.”“Love you,” he says. There’s extra pressure on my stomach, then he’s off. Gone.
What projects are you working on now?
I'm working on a semi-epistolary novel called THE TROUBLE WITH YOU IS THE TROUBLE WITH ME, a YA contemporary novel
You've been busy this year, with two other published books, MOMENTS and WHITE STAR. Are you planning to publish anything else this year?
Yes, TRICOLOR will be out this month, and I have a book I co-wrote with Ashley Chegwyn, 17 PROMISES, that we'll publish in August. My next novel, SPIN THE LOVE, a romantic psychological thriller will also come out later this year.
What advice do you have for other writers?
Keep writing (I'm talking to myself also). Don't stop just because you need to edit the novel you finished a month ago. Write, edit, and write some more.
What's the best piece of advice you've received?
Don't stop reading. You need to know what's out there, understand your craft, what's working, what isn't.
#SFFPit is this Thursday, June 18!!! My friend Dan Koboldt does a great job of running this hashtag and it's an awesome opportunity to get your speculative ideas in front of agents and editors. Read all the details here.
If you would like feedback on your pitch, please post it below sometime today or tonight and I will respond to all pitches tonight. And if you have thoughts on other pitches, feel free to weigh in! :)
You can check out some of my previous rounds of pitch critiques if you're looking for inspiration/thoughts.
And, as a friendly reminder, I also offer free query and first page critiques to my subscribers.
I'm looking forward to reading your pitches! :)
I'm really excited to chat with S. Usher Evans today about her Razia series! :) Be sure to read more about her books here and follow her on Twitter.
What inspired you to write the Razia series?
In 2001, I saw the Tomb Raider movie with Angelina Jolie. At the time I'd been writing for a few years, and I thought, "Hey, she's pretty badass. I want to write a character that badass." Razia started out as very sure of herself, very calm, cool, and collected. As I grew up and experienced the world and a career where I seemed to get a lot of "You're too young, there's no way you know what you're talking about" and I wrote that frustration into the book.
What I didn't anticipate was finding huge pieces of my own journey of self-discovery in the book. While the books are science fiction, they really have a lovely message about self-worth and self-discovery.
Aside from the MC, who is your favorite character and why?
I really love the non-MCs in all of the books - Sage, Vel, Harms, and now Lizbeth, but I worry that because Lyssa is so short-sighted, we don't get to know the full scope of their character. That's why I wrote the Sage Teon short stories, and why I'm writing short stories between each novel. Between Alliances and Conviction (Book 3), I'm hoping to write two about Lizbeth's exploits external to Lyssa.
If I had to pick one, it's definitely Sage. He's such a deep and layered character and we haven't even scratched the surface of what drives him. Books 3 and 4 of the series definitely fill in more blanks in that area.
What's your favorite thing about writing?
I love daydreaming, actually. When I have a moment where I'm just off in my own world and playing with these friends that I've known forever. There's something also pretty magical about seeing my words in print.
What's your least favorite thing about writing?
I hate the last quality assurance edit of the process. I put so much pressure on myself to make it perfect, and I've read the book so many times that it's just gotten old at that point.
What projects do you have in the works?
Besides Book 3 of the series, and my forthcoming fantasy novel Empath, I'm working on this romance (I think). Basically Romeo, a prince-turned-military-pilot, and Juliet, a orphan pilot loyal to her country, crash on a deserted island. It's so much fun because it's a multi-POV (him and her) and you have two very different voices telling two very different stories about this war. I'm hoping to get the first book out in January or February of 2016 (trying to squeeze it between Razia books).
What would you say to aspiring authors who are unsure of what route (traditional, small press, indie) to take?
Start with understanding what your intention is. At the end of the day, are you trying to make enough money to quit your job? Are you trying to see your name added to the authors' list on one of the Big 5? Are you hoping to have someone else handle major decisions about your book - cover, plot, etc. - or do you want to have complete control?
Once you know your intention, you can make decisions toward achieving it.
What are the differences between releasing your first book and releasing a later part in the series?
I know so much more this go-round. I have so many more contacts and have built so many more relationships. When I released Double Life, I had less than 100 followers on Twitter and just about 100 likes on Facebook. Now, I'm pushing 1k and 600 respectively. I was able to schedule content for nine weeks (which I now think was a little long), so the actual release was a little bit of a let-down. I went to work and was like, "Oh....yeah... I published a book today..."
How did you celebrate the release?
I had a really big release at a convention in my home town 10 days before the book actually came out. It was pretty fun, but totally busy and so it wasn't so much a celebration. I'm planning on throwing a huge party in June 12, 2016, when Book 5 comes out (and my 30th birthday). Big band, catered, all that fun stuff.
If you follow me on twitter or follow this blog, you may have noticed that I really enjoy critiquing! :) You can check out some of my previous rounds of pitch critiques here and here if you're looking for inspiration/thoughts. There were some really great pitches!
If you're gearing up for #adpit and/or #pitmad and/or another twitter pitch contest I'm not cool enough to know about, feel free to share your pitch in the comments below and I'll reply with my thoughts. If you're so inclined, feel free to also offer feedback on other pitches. The more the merrier!
And, as a friendly reminder, I also offer free query and first page critiques to my subscribers.
Let the critiquing begin!!! =D
For more blog posts on writing, visit Trouble the Write Way.