Lisa Leoni

Romance writer and rad humanoid

Author: lisaleoni

Pitch Wars mentee giveaway

In honor of the conclusion of the agent showcase, and the upcoming season of gratitude, the 2017 Pitch Wars mentee class would like to thank our mentors and the Pitch Wars staff team for creating this incredible opportunity. Below you’ll find a list of giveaways, from Amazon gift cards in honor of the contest organizers, to mentors’ books, to favorite books of the mentors.

We encourage you to enter as many giveaways as you would like! And please spread the word with #pw17gives and #pitchwars.

Click on the mentee’s name to look for giveaway details on their Twitter account.


To recognize the Pitch Wars organizers, who selflessly dedicate enormous amounts of time to manage this massive contest, the following mentees are giving away Amazon gift cards of varying amounts. Click each mentee’s name to enter their giveaway.

In honor of Brenda Drake:

Audra Atoche
Carolyne Topdjian
Krista Riccioni
Mia Manansala
Neicole Crepeau
E. Chang-Gibson
Michelle Mason (giving away Thunderstruck)

In honor of Heather Cashman:

Julie Ditchburn Patton
Karah Sutton
Isaac Fitzsimons
Em Shotwell

In honor of Nikki Roberti:

Rajani LaRocca
Karen Chow
Vernon Hedrick
Kristy Gillespie

In honor of Monica Hoffman:

Christina Wise
Robin St. Clare
Colleen Bennett
Shelly Steig

In honor of Joy McCullough:

Andrea Contos
Valerie Pepper
Jennifer L. Brown
Remy Lai (giving away Blood Water Paint)

In honor of Yamile Saied Mendez:

Natalie Vanderheydt
Julia Christensen
Melissa Hed
Neicole Crepeau
E. Chang-Gibson

In honor of Leigh Mar:

Ipuna Black
Kimberly F.
Julie M. Mulligan


Mentee: Adelle Yeung
Mentor: Laurie Dennison
Giveaway: Amazon gift card

MenteeAdrianna Cuevas
MentorJessica Bayliss
Giveaway: Broken Chords

Mentee: Aishah Dawood
Mentor: Kip Wilson
Giveaway: One of Kip’s favorite books, Salt to the Seaand an Amazon gift card

MenteeAlexandria Bellefleur
MentorsLayla Reyne and Victoria De La O
GiveawaySingle Malt and Tell Me How This Ends

Mentee: Allison Dillon
Mentor: Nikki Roberti
Giveaway: Amazon gift card

MenteeAmelia Denyven Ross
Mentor: Amelinda Bérubé
GiveawayThe Dark Beneath the Ice

MenteeAnna Mercier
MentorLyndsay Ely
Giveaway: Gunslinger Girl

Mentee: Arianne Costner
Mentor: Shari Schwarz
Giveaway: Treasure at Lure Lake

Mentee: Aty Behsam
Mentor: Kelli Newby and Mary Anne Marlow
Giveaway: Cover art/character design (two winners)

MenteeAudra Atoche
MentorErin Latimer
GiveawayThe Strange and Deadly Portraits of Bryony Gray

Mentee: Bethany Hensel
Mentor: N.K. Traver
Giveaway: Duplicity and an Amazon gift card

Mentees: Brooke Salesky & Holly Rizzuto Palker
Mentor: Melissa Marino
GiveawaySo Twisted, So Screwed, and So Wicked.

Mentee: Caroline Flory
Mentor: Jenny Lundquist
Giveaway: Either The Charming Life of Izzy Malone or The Wondrous World of Violet Barnaby

MenteeCarolyne Topdjian
MentorDerek Chivers
GiveawayDarkness Shifting: Tides of Darkness Book One

MenteeCarrie Pulkinen
MentorCaitlin Sinead

MenteeChristina Wise
MentorMarie Meyer
GiveawayLive Out Loud

MenteeChristine Adler
MentorJenni L. Walsh
GiveawayBecoming Bonnie: A Novel or Side by Side (two winners)

MenteeColleen Bennett
Mentor: AEConran
GiveawayThe Lost Celt

MenteeCori Vella
MentorNatasha Neagle
Giveaway: Natash’d debut, The Body Paradox, is not yet available for pre-order, so Cori is giving away the first three Outlander books for Kindle (three of Nat’s favorite books!

Mentee: Dana Edwards
Mentor: Shanna Rogers
Giveaway: First five pages critique

Mentee: Daniel Best
Mentor: Kristen Lepionka
Giveaway: The Last Place You Look: A Mystery

MenteeDeanna Roy
Mentor: Emily Wibberly and Austin Siegemund-Broka
GiveawayAlways Never Yours

Mentee: Dianna DeBolt Johnson
Mentor: Kim Long
Giveaway: Amazon gift card

MenteesElizabeth Runnoe and Jade Hemming
Mentor: Cat Scully
GiveawayYou Can’t Play in Our Woods

Mentee: Ellie Firestone
Mentor: Laurie Dennison
Giveaway: Amazon gift card

MenteeEmily Thiede
MentorMolly E. Lee
GiveawayLove in the Friend Zone

Mentee: Em Shotwell
Mentor: Tracey Enerson Wood
Giveaway: Home Front Cooking: Recipes, Wit, and Wisdom from American Veterans and their Loved Ones

MenteeErica Waters
MentorLisa Amowitz
GiveawayUntil Beth

MenteeErin Cotter
MentorCarlie Sorosiak
GiveawayIf Birds Fly Back

Mentee: Gaye Sanders
Mentors: Shauna Holyoak and C.B. Catalano
Giveaway: Amazon gift card

Mentee: Geni Phipps
MentorCaitlin Sinead
GiveawayRed Blooded.

MenteeGia de Cadenet
MentorDiana A. Hicks
Giveaway: Diana’s upcoming release Love Over Lattes is not yet available, so Gia’s giving away Reckless Hearts by mentor Heather Van Fleet in honor of Diana.

MenteeGillian Berry
MentorsTomi Adeyemi and Kester Grant
GiveawayChildren of Blood and Bone. Kester’s book, A Court of Miracles, isn’t available for pre-order yet, but you can add it on Goodreads.

Mentee: Gina Urso
Mentor: JC Nelson
Giveaway: Four books in the A Grimm Agency series

MenteeIpuna Black
MentorJoy McCullough-Carranza
Giveaway: A pre-order of Blood Water Paint

MenteeIsaac Fitzsimons
MentorNatalka Burian
GiveawayWelcome to the Slipstream

MenteeJaime Formato
Mentor: Miriam Spitzer Franklin
GiveawayCall Me Sunflower

MenteeJanet Walden-West
MentorBrighton Walsh
GiveawayPaige in Progress

Mentee: Jason Hine
Mentor: Michelle Hauck
Giveaway: Grudging (to three winners)

MenteeJennifer L Brown
MentorJenna Lehne
GiveawayA Pizza My Heart

MenteeJessa Gwinn
Mentor: Brighton Walsh
GiveawayCaged in Winter: A Reluctant Hearts Novel

Mentee: Jessica Gorbet
Mentor: Emma Wicker
Giveaway: Fractured Immortal and Finding Immortal

MenteeJulia Miller
MentorKelly Siskind

MenteeJulie Christensen
MentorsKristin Bartley Lenz and Heather Smith Meloche
GiveawayThe Art of Holding On and Letting Go and Ripple 

MenteeJulie Ditchburn Patton
MentorsWade Albert White and Timanda Wertz
GiveawayThe Adventurer’s Guide to Dragons (and Why They Keep Biting Me)And winner’s choice of one of Timanda’s favorite books (either The Giver or A Wrinkle in Time).

MenteeJulie Mulligan
MentorLaura Heffernan
GiveawayAmerica’s Next Reality Star

MenteeJune Tan
Mentor: Akemi Dawn Bownman

MenteeKacey Vanderkarr
Mentor: Katherine Fleet
GiveawayThe Secret to Letting Go

MenteeKarah Sutton
Mentor: K.C. Held
GiveawayHolding Court

MenteeKimberly Fernando
MentorKate Foster
GiveawayWinell Road (paperback for US/Canada only)

Mentee: Kay McCray
Mentor: Kit Frick
Giveaway: Amazon gift card

MenteeKrista Riccioni
Mentor: Sandi Ward
GiveawayThe Astonishing Thing

MenteeKristin Walters
Mentors: McKelle George and Heather Cashman
GiveawaySpeak Easy, Speak Love and a query critique from Heather Cashman

MenteeKristy Gillespie
Mentor: Lindsey Frydman
GiveawayThe Heartbeat Hypothesis

Mentee: Kylie Schachte
Mentor: Amy Trueblood
Giveaway: Nothing But Sky

MenteeLana Pattinson
MentorsDiana Gallagher and Katrina Emmel
GiveawayLessons in Falling and choice of one of Katrina’s favorite books (Some Kind of Magic or America’s Next Reality Star).

MenteesLana Sloan and Allison Barnard
MentorsHeather Van Fleet and Jessica Calla
GiveawayReckless Hearts and The Love Square

Mentee: Laura Seabaugh
Mentor: K. Kazul Wolf
GiveawaySacrifices of Shadow

MenteeLisa Leoni
MentorJennifer Blackwood
GiveawayThe Rule Book and The Rule Maker

MenteeLorraine Goddard
MentorRhiannon Hart
GiveawayBlood Song

MenteeM.D. Thomas
MentorClarissa Goenawan

MenteeMarilyn Chin
MentorsJoanna Hathaway and Kristen Ciccarelli
GiveawayDark of the West and The Last Namsara

Mentee: Megan Starks
Mentor: Emily Colin
GiveawayThe Dream Keeper’s Daughter: A Novel

MenteeMelanie Pendleton
MentorK.A. Reynolds
Giveaway: Pre-order for The Land of Yesterday

MenteeMelissa Hed
MentorKelly DeVos
GiveawayFat Girl on a Plane

MenteeMia P. Manansala
MentorKellye Garrett
GiveawayHollywood Homicide

MenteeNatalie VanderHeydt
MentorAimee L Salter
GiveawayEvery Ugly Word

Mentee: Neicole Crepeau
Mentor: Erin Foster Hartley
Giveaway: Amazon gift card

MenteePeggy J. Sheridan
MentorShauna Holyoak and C.B. Catalano
Giveaway: The winner will get their choice of one of Shauna and C.B.’s favorite books: A Snicker of Magic, The Girl Who Drank the Moon, Counting by 7s, The Thing About Jellyfish, or When You Reach Me.

Mentee: Piper Grayson
Mentor: Sarah Hawthorne
Giveaway: Enforcer’s Price and Rebel Custody

MenteeRajani LaRocca
MentorJoy McCullough-Carranza
Giveaway: A pre-order of Blood Water Paint

MenteeReese Eschmann
MentorsJulie Artz and Jessica Vitalis
Giveaway: A query critique and Story Genius

MenteesRemy Lai and Karen Chow Hsu
MentorsCindy Baldwin and Amanda Rawson Hill
GiveawayThe Three Rules of Everyday Magic (when it’s available for pre-order) and Where the Watermelons Grow

MenteeRheea Mukherjee
MentorKristen Lepionka
GiveawayThe Last Place You Look (open to contestants in India)

MenteeRobin Lemke
MentorRebecca Petruck
GiveawaySteering Toward Normal

Mentee: Robin St Clare
Mentor: Katrina Carrasco
Giveaway: When available, a pre-order of Cipher

MenteeSarah Kapit
MentorMike Grosso
Giveaway: I Am Drums

MenteeSasha Smith
MentorsMcKelle George and Heather Cashman
GiveawaySpeak Easy, Speak Love and a query critique

MenteeScott Rhoades
Mentor: Neal Chase
GiveawayWorthy of Song and Story

Mentee: Shelly Steig
Mentor: Niki Lenz
Giveaway: Thunderstruck by Pitch Wars creator Brenda Drake in honor of Niki

Mentee: Sofiya Pasternack
Mentor: Alexandra Ott
Giveaway: Rules for Thieves

Mentee: Stacey Goldstein
Mentor: Caela Carter
GiveawayForever, or a Long, Long Time

Mentee: Stephanie Willing
Mentor: Hannah Karena Jones
GiveawayByberry State Hospital

Mentee: Valerie Pepper
Mentor: Ashley Martin
Giveaway: Amazon gift card

Mentee: Victoria Lee
Mentor: Emily Martin
Giveaway: A signed copy of The Year We Fell Apart

The writing community got me through the worst year of my life

This past year was significantly shitty. On a scale of “I stubbed my toe” to “my nosehair is growing at lightning speed,” I’d say it was “I’ve had hiccups 24/7 for three months.”

The reason I’m here today with a smile on my face and joy in my heart is in large part to the writing community, and the friends I’ve made here. Starting with Pitch Wars.

Pull up a chair because I’m going to tell you a word vomitty story. May 2016, my uncle was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The same cancer that killed his (and my mom’s) mom. We don’t like that brand of cancer in our house one bit. I was in a rocky place, and I kept writing and writing until I finished my book. My parent’s pet died that month as well. Terrible month for our family.

Mid-July 2016, I learned of Pitch Wars. I had just finished my first complete book and some revisions. A social media manager by day, I took to Twitter to connect with other writers. And holy moly did I meet them. I met people to swap queries with, first chapters, brainstorm, commiserate, cheer each other up, talk about regular life stuff. This was ALL through #pitchwars and the #pitchwarriors Facebook group (and an adult romance group a few of us made). This community was EXACTLY what I needed to cope with caring for my terminally ill uncle (and my parents, who were also caring for him).

Meanwhile, my darling nugget of a dog took a turn for the worse and I realized I needed to put him down. I made the vet appointment for the day before I entered Pitch Wars. The community (and the contest) were the distraction I needed, and gave me focus instead of becoming a sobbing vegetable. The love, support and gifs got me through. Most of these folks didn’t know me, but they helped me more than I can ever explain.

I miss waking up to that face.

I didn’t get picked for Pitch Wars, but I got one hell of a community out of it. Sure, I was bummed, but that was just one bump on a long road. A road that also included my own three-year cancer remission scans (that ended up all clear, woop! My four-year scans are approaching as I write this. Gulp). Through Pitch Wars, Twitter, contests, CP matching events – I made more friends and CPs and built a network.

Labor Day 2016—my uncle died. I was devastated. My parents were devastated. My new writing friends (and CPs <3) were there for me. Strangers were there for me when I tweeted about my pain.

My uncle and I were adorbs a few decades ago.

In late October 2016, I realized an immediate family member was in the midst of a major manic episode due to bipolar disorder, which led to a psychotic break and hospitalization. Even as a writer, I don’t have the words to explain what last fall was like. I didn’t interact as much on Twitter because I was barely hanging on, but lurking gave me such an escape. To see people celebrating finishing books, signing with agents, publishing deals, new pets, getting out of bed in the morning—it helped so much. Seeing life continue as normal while mine felt like it was falling apart? Friends, it was amazing.

Eventually, my loved one got better (so much better!!!!!!!). I returned to the land of writing and Twitter early this year. I did further revisions on my book thanks to my incredible CPs and beta readers. I strengthened friendships and met new people. I made it back to an RWA national conference after a decade away. I made it through losing a job and a home to finding a better place to live (still working on that replacement second job).

I’m stronger and happier thanks to the people I’ve met through writing and the Pitch Wars community.

Part of why I wrote this way-too-long blog post is to encourage others to engage with the writing commmunity (whatever form that means for you). Right now, for many, that’s the Pitch Wars community on social media. Make friends, find CPs, use the amazing new Pitch Wars forum. Put yourself out there and remind yourself this doesn’t have to be a solitary journey. In fact, it shouldn’t be.

I also wanted to write this as a thank you to all the people (whether you realize it or not) who got me through this past year. Massive hugs to you!! Yes, you!

Here’s hoping this next year is better (and my cancer scans come back clear in a couple of weeks, eek!). If I can gather the funds, you’ll find me celebrating my five-year remission (the year they deem you cured) in Scotland.

Me at my favorite place in Scotland – Bostadh Beach.

Text to speech: your new editing bestie

One of my critique partners talked about how she uses text to speech software to read her book back to her. Always looking for new productivity and efficiency tools, I decided to give it a go and it’s AMAZING. I catch some things when I read something aloud, but my eyes/brain will often fix some mistakes.

There’s something about hearing another voice read your words while following along on screen/paper that helps to catch issues. It helps to notice repetitive words, odd sounding sentences, awkward cadence, etc. I want my books to eventually make it to audiobook form so this will prove to be a worthwhile exercise.

The best part? You can select accents. ACCENTS. Scottish (obviously I selected that), Southern U.S., English, and more!

Free services lets you paste in text and create an audio file. It’s a great option if you want to load an audio file for each scene or chapter to your favorite music listening device. Want to get fancy? Choose a different voice for each POV character.

Have a Mac? There’s actually built-in text to speech functionality.

  • Open “System Preferences”
  • Select “Dictation & Speech”
  • Select “text to speech” tab
  • Click on the drop-down menu next to “System Voice” and test out the voices. Don’t like any of those? Choose “Customize” at the bottom. There are numerous accents and speakers of other languages under that option for free download. Plus, if you’re looking for US English variations, the downloadable ones in that menu have a more natural speaking pattern than the default ones selected. I currently have Fiona for Scottish-Standard. For UK-female I have Kate & Serena. For UK-male I have Daniel & Oliver.  For US I have Susan & Tom.
  • Select the “speak selected text when the key is pressed” box. Click on “change key” and decide what keyboard combination you want to assign the text to speech feature. I chose opt-esc.
  • Whether you’re in Microsoft Word, Google Docs or Scrivener (this one has it’s own text to speech offerings) you can highlight text and use your keyboard shortcut to initiate the reading.

Don’t have a Mac? This will help you.

(but really, I have no idea what to do. Maybe someone who uses Windows can post in the comments?)

Paid voices
I discovered, and subsequently fell in love with, Scottish Stuart on Cereporc.  I’m writing contemporary romance set in Scotland with a Scottish hero and I wanted a level of authenticity in my text-to-speech experiences. *cough* Or something like that. After purchasing the voice it was super easy to install it to my machine.

If you decide to buy one of the voices, go to the steps I listed under “free services” on your Mac to install and select it within the “customize” area.

How I use the voices
The ones on the computer, not in my head, silly. I open the text to speech section of the Mac System Preferences. Next to that I my book open. I assign a voice for each POV character. I change POV each scene so it feels as close to an audiobook as I can get it.

I just highlight the scene, click on my System Preferences dialogue box and choose the voice. Then when I need to change the voice I pop back over to System Preferences and select a different one. It’s super easy! Stuart and Susan are my POV readers.

I follow along reading on my document as the voice speaks. If I notice odd words or funky sentences, I just make those changes as the voice continues.

There’s no way to stop the reading (that I’ve found, anyway) once you start it so if you have long scenes or think you may need to make more involved changes as you go, try selecting just a paragraph or two at a time.

Time for an exercise
I want you to head to Cereproc. At the very top of the browser you’ll see a text box. Paste the following sentences: “You’re beautiful, smart and wonderful. I adore you.” Then change the voice in the drop-down menu to the right to “Stuart (English, Scotland).” Hit the “play” button and enjoy.

I’m only a few chapters into text to speech’ing my MS. I’m not sure how I’ll handle the schmexy scenes…but so far I’m loving it!

Check out this post by Sara Letourneau on Writers Helping Writers to learn more about text to speech.

Do you use text to speech to help with your editing? Or even use it for beta reading?

p.s. fun fact: Stuart read this blog post to me to try and catch errors. Blame Stuart, not me, if we missed some.

Social media tips for authors: Twitter

Authors are often thrown in to this social media thing. You are trying to get published or score that shiny contract and think – crap! I need to get on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and Snapchat and OH MY GOD WHEN WILL I FIND TIME TO WRITE??? With that in mind, I see lots of authors search for time saving measures and not spending time researching social media best practices.

I can help with that! Why the hell should you listen to me? *clears throat and sits up straighter* My day job is working as a university public relations person. Social media is my area of expertise. I’ve done oodles of research in the area, have mega oodles of training, and have presented at higher education conferences and writing groups.

Ok, enough about me. Let’s talk about Twitter. Social media is not black and white – there is gray area. What I talk about below are best practices and suggestions, not strict rules. They are proven strategies to improve the experience for your user. Much like head-hopping isn’t outlawed in fiction and can be seen in books by proven authors, it’s strongly discouraged (especially among the newly published and pre-published). Yes, I’m going to use a lot of writing similes and I apologize in advance.

Twitter tip: Don’t sync Facebook to Twitter

I can hear folks now. “But whyyyyy? It’s so fast and easy! What’s the harm?”

Twitter and Facebook were created with different purposes in mind. Twitter has a short character limit (for the time being, anyway…) because it is meant for quick and succinct updates. Plus, people like Facebook and Twitter for different reasons. Some may follow you on all of your platforms. Don’t you think they may get bored if they see the exact same thing on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram? Mix it up a bit! Others are adamantly opposed to certain platforms. If someone hates Facebook and refuses to use it, having your tweets direct that person to Facebook won’t make them a happy camper.

In writing terms, syncing Facebook to Twitter is the social media equivalent of telling instead of showing. Take a look at these blurred-to-be-anonymous examples of synced posts.


What’s the issue here? This tweet doesn’t tell you anything. Unless you’re the type of person who must solve absolutely EVERY MYSTERY you have no reason to click on this.  When I clicked that link, it took me to a photo the author had shared from another page. Alternative suggestion: Save the photo you want to share and upload it into Twitter and paste the link to the source’s Facebook page in the Tweet to cite it. This way the image will appear in someone’s Twitter feed instead of making it one click away.


What’s the issue here? It has engaging language and looks enticing, right? The problem is this is saying you want all of your interaction to happen on Facebook. Why have a Twitter account at all? Someone has to go to Facebook to read the rest of it and then comment on the Facebook post. Or, you’re asking them to see this tweet, go to Facebook and read the rest, then come back to Twitter and reply? Alternative suggestion: Summarize what you’re saying in a tweet then put a link for more information. This way you’re giving the full nugget on Twitter for those who don’t want to click to Facebook, but giving them the option to read more (thus avoiding the dreaded ellipses). If it’s too long to be summarized in one tweet, see my suggestion below for making tweet threads (or write a blog post and tweet the link).

Twitter tip: Don’t DM new followers

Do you ever follow someone on Twitter then you get a direct message from them thanking you for the follow or trying to sell you something? Whenever I do I automatically unfollow that person.

Ok, maybe my response is a bit harsh. I would much rather see a more personalized response via a tweet instead of a direct message. If you get a new follower, instead of spamming their inbox with a thank you – take a moment to check out their profile and tweet them about something you found interesting. Or better yet, just don’t send anything at all. People don’t expect to be thanked for following you. Instead, focus your energy on crafting interesting tweets that your followers would be interested in.

As for the auto-DMs with sales links or links to info about unpublished books? That can come across a bit on the pushy side. A link in your Twitter bio is enough.

Twitter tip: Reply to your own tweet to create a thread

Do you ever see someone post multiple tweets and they show up in a nice linked thread? It’s such a neat way to get around the Twitter character limit if you’re talking about something more in-depth. I see a lot of people doing that with writing tips or addressing serious issues.

The best way to do that is post your first tweet then reply to that tweet. Erase the “@(your username)” (Twitter will remember it’s a reply to you, it’s already in the back-end code) and write your next tweet. Want a third? Reply again, erase your username and tweet. Just keep going as long as you want. If someone clicks on your first tweet all of the replies will show up chronologically. If someone clicks on a later tweet, they can see the previous replies. It’s also nice to put a number at the beginning or end so people know right away they are part of a series. For example: “1) blah blah blah blah” or “blah blah blah 2/?”

What happens if you tweet a series of things without using the reply function? Someone may see one of the tweets and not realize it’s part of a series. If they wanted to read more they’d have to go to your profile and scroll down to find the tweet series they’re looking for. It’s clunkier and takes more effort on your audience’s part.


Next time I’ll share some tips for using Facebook.


Round-up: Pitch Wars mentor blog posts

Anyone familiar with Pitch Wars certainly knows by now how incredible this community is. One of the reasons can be credited to the mentors who give of their time and knowledge. This post is a round-up of craft/advice/cheerleading blog posts by the 2016 mentors. If I’ve missed one – please post a link in the comments or let me know on Twitter.

Pitch Wars

#Pitchwars: Quick thoughts before you submit (Jami Nord)
Cheat Sheet for my Future PitchWars Mentee (Michelle Hazen)
Answer to Random PW Questions (Michael Mammay)
#PitchWars Submission Window Advice (Mary Ann Marlowe)
How Does #PitchWars Work Exactly? (Mary Ann Marlowe)
How to Increase Your Odds of Getting into Pitch Wars (Leigh Mar)

#Pitchwars: What I saw in the submissions (Jami Nord)
It’s Almost #PitchWars Decision Time (Brighton Walsh)
Good News & Bad News: Trends in Pitch Wars submissions (Michelle Hazen)
Stats on Pitch Wars Submissions & Requests (Michelle Hazen)
Notes from the PitchWars Slush (Michelle Hauck)
The Awful Truth About Being A Mentor (Mary Ann Marlowe)
Pitch Wars Update (Michael Mammay)
Pitch Wars Questions & Answers Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 (Michael Mammay)
More About that #PitchWars Spreadsheet (Mary Ann Marlowe)
Thoughts (and some stats) from a PitchWars Mentor (Laura Brown)
Pitch Wars Pep Talk (E.B. Wheeler)
Etiquette and Survival in Pitch Wars (Amanda Hill)
Pitch Wars Mentor Musing (Sharon Johnston)
Confessions of a PitchWars Mentor (Carrie Callaghan)
PitchWars: Behind the Scenes (Judi Lauren)
More PitchWars Stuff (Judi Lauren)


Polishing & critiquing

Is This Any Good? (Michael Mammay)
How to Find a Critique Partner (CP) (Michael Mammay)
Critiques and Cultivating Self-Awareness (MK England)
The Importance of Critique Partners (Kelly Siskind)

Your 8-Step Plan Before Diving Into Edits (Kate Foster)
Final Editing Checklist (Kim Long)
F Words and Other Writing Mishaps (Jeanmarie Anaya)
Self-Editing Checklist (Brighton Walsh)

A Behind the Scenes Look at Pitch Wars (Michael Mammay)
More Pitch Wars Behind the Scenes Truth (Michael Mammay)
Pitch Wars Behind The Scenes Part 2: The Mentors Strike Back (Michael Mammay)


The business side

Writing a Synopsis with Voice (Laura Brown)
Pitch Wars: The Query…Simplified (Brenda Drake)
Pitch Wars: The Synopsis…Simplified (Brenda Drake)
Pitch Wars: The 35-Word and Twitter Pitch…Simplified (Brenda Drake)
Taking Your Query from Good to Great Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 (Amanda Hill)
Synopses are Actually Awesome (MK England)
Pitch Wars query critiques Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 (Kim Graff)

Being a Prolific Writer Part 1 | Part 2 (Lynnette Labelle)
Do you Want to Become a Prolific Writer? (Lynnette Labelle)

An Agent’s Perspective on Pitch Wars and Other Contests (Laura Heffernan)



Characterization-More than Paper Dolls+A peptalk for #pitchwars (Jami Nord)

Make Me FEEL It: Internalization (Amanda Hill)

Writing Sex and Violence: What your action scenes can teach your “getting action” scenes (Michelle Hazen)

Once Upon a Time…Opening with a BANG! #Pitchwars (Jami Nord)
Middles-Or how Point A gets to Point Z #Pitchwars (Jami Nord)
#pitchwars – THE END! (Jami Nord)
Tips on Strong Endings (Laura Brown)


Perseverance & inspiration

The Power of Perseverance (Brighton Walsh)
In Publishing, No News is Good News (Dan Koboldt)
What to Do if You Don’t Get Selected for Pitch Wars (Michael Mammay)
10 Things About Pitch Wars You May Not Know (Michael Mammy)
Why Pitch Wars? (Laura Brown)
On Rejection and Time Spent (Machinations) (Hayley Stone)
Hope in Careful Doses: Or (What I Didn’t Expect on the Path to Getting an Agent) (Margarita Montimore)
How to Deal with Frustrated Writers (1, Stop Saying “It Only Takes One Yes”) (Margarita Montimore)
A Message to the Incoming Pitch Wars Mentees (Michael Mammay)
Pitch Wars: What will you give up? (Elizabeth Leis-Newman)
Pep Talk: You Are More Than This Moment (Cindy Baldwin)
The Truth about #PitchWars Slush (Kim Graff)
Monday Musings: On #PitchWars and Why You Should Always Keep Writing (Amy Trueblood)
#PitchWars: The Window Closes PSA #1 All My Dirty Secrets Revealed… (Lisa Amowitz)



Writing Tips & Tricks Catch-All (Brighton Walsh)
How to Turn a Partial MS Request into a Full (Michelle Hazen)
Assortment of #PitchWars and Writing Advice (Mary Ann Marlowe)
Pitch Wars Homework Assignments (MK England)


I <3 Pitch Wars

On July 19 I was just living my life. Doing my thang. Went to bed not realizing my life would change for the better the next day.

On July 20 I saw several people I follow on Twitter talking about something called #PitchWars. I started creeping on the hashtag as curiosity got the better of me. I went to Brenda Drake’s website and began reading about it. Then my face did this:

I read some more and then I was like:


I quickly learned the appeal is more than the chance to work closely with a mentor (although that is freaking awesome) – it’s the community as a whole. It’s the giving and receiving of support and encouragement.

For those who are thinking “dafuq is Pitch Wars?” It’s a contest where you select a certain number of agented/published writers to submit your completed manuscript to in the hopes they will choose you as their mentee. Then over the course of two months they will work with you to polish your manuscript before a chance to pitch it to agents.

TL;DR version: Work closely with a rad person who will give you the feedback you need, and get ahead of the agent slush pile.

Back to the topic of the Pitch Wars community. Holy hell these people are amazing. On the mentor side, these are people who have their own deadlines and careers to worry about (plus personal lives) and they dedicate a massive amount of time to help out unpublished authors. WTAF. It’s amazing. They treat your writing with such care and respect. I adore them all.

On the potential mentee side of things, you have the chance to e-meet a ton of people in about the same stage as you in your writing career. Most are unpublished and all have at least one completed book. The writers represent a wide variety of genres. Folks are beyond supportive and kind. It’s easy to find people who write the same genre and age group as you to make deeper connections.

Over the past two weeks I’ve made incredible new friends, critique partners, been a cheerleader, been cheered for, gotten to know mentors and potential mentees. In other words…

I’ve found my tribe.

This has been an intense two weeks for me outside of writing. I have to put my beloved dog, Rufus, down and I’ve had my three-year cancer remission scans (still waiting for results as I write this). The Pitch Wars community has staggered me with their support and love. Perfect strangers who care. I’m in awe.

Rufus <3

Rufus <3

There have been innumerable benefits to jumping in (albeit way late) to the Pitch Wars community, including:

  1. Finding people who empathize with you on your writing journey. These people *get* what you’re going through and how you feel. They want to give you nothing but love and support.
  2. Having a generous and massive community to ask questions or advice. While everyone is at a similar stage in their journey, we all have different experience and expertise. For example, I asked a question on the hashtag about resources for learning how to represent diversity better in my writing and bam! People sent me lots of amazing resources.
  3. Identifying potential critique partners and beta readers. Some folks created a Facebook group for any potential mentee to join. I met some other adult/new adult romance writers in there and swapped first chapters and queries. It was so helpful to have feedback from other people! I made a Facebook group specifically for adult/new adult romance writer 2016 Pitch Wars mentees and it’s been great already. I look forward to getting to know these people better, sharing our work, brainstorming, cheerleading, and being better writers. Somehow swapping with Pitch Wars folks feels a little less cold call-y than other CP searching methods.
  4. Making new friends who you can support (and who will support you) on your writing journey. I know this post is basically a gush about this point, but it’s true. Until you’ve participated in the Pitch Wars community, it’s difficult to understand how incredible these people are and how much support you get.

Everyone has the goal of being chosen as a mentee, but that is the cherry on top of an already delicious cake. It’s like a rainbow vanilla cake with cherry frosting. Oh and a slice of German chocolate cake. Ooh and coconut cake. Wait! Can’t forget the yellow cake with chocolate frosting. MMM CAKE.

If you are considering Pitch Wars for next year, please give it a try. In two weeks it has made a huge difference in my life. I have new friends. I have writers at a similar career and skill level stage to share work with (and get feedback from). I am more confident in my writing. I’m more comfortable in giving and receiving feedback. I’ve had more practice in revising. I’ve learned I can write and revise as a quick speed.  I’ve sent a book to a stranger. That latter feels like a hella huge step to me! My first real query. *g*

To members of the Pitch Wars community, thank you! I adore you all and best of luck in your writing journey!

To those considering trying Pitch Wars next time, DO IT. DOOOO IIIIIIIT.

Pitch Wars: #pimpmybio

Oh hey. ‘Sup. I see you checkin’ me out. How you doin’?

I’m Lisa, a hopeful mentee for the 2016 #pitchwars. I write contemporary adult romance set in Scotland, peppered with some lolz.

*wipes drool*

Still reading? Sweet. Let me tell you a bit more about myself, what I write, what I’m looking for, and what you can expect from me as a mentee.

About me (stuff fit for public consumption…)

Personality: Humor is the key to my heart. I like to laugh. I like to make others laugh. I’m loyal and dedicated.

Day job: I work as the PR person for a mid-sized university (social media and media relations). I do a lot of non-fiction writing through that. I’m also working on a master’s degree in archaeology. I’m sure that’ll become part of my fiction repertoire at some point.

Likes: I adore unicorns, rainbows, Justin Trudeau, and traveling. The Olympic Peninsula in Washington is my favorite place to go when I can’t get to Scotland. C’mon, when is someone going to invent teleportation?! I’m a sucker for crime dramas like Law & Order SVU and any UK ones.

^ Yup.

I was recently sorted into Slytherin via Pottermore. I’m now in therapy – questioning my entire life.

I’m a cancer survivor and that seems to keep cropping up in my books. But in the inspirational “kick cancer’s ass” sort of way – not the “oh my god this is too sad, why am I reading something so sad when real life is awful enough” sort of way. Coming up on my three year remission anniversary assuming my tests come back clear next month *crosses fingers, toes, eyes and legs* *falls over* Don’t try that while standing.


Oh hey, that’s me as a chemo baldie. Obligatory photo of my soft coated wheaten terrier, Rufus.

902444_700999150438_1361101694_o (1)

^ Before I lost my hair I had my long hair cut into a mullet. This may help you understand my sense of humor. Not pictured: pack of cigs rolled up in my Bob Seger t-shirt sleeve.


What I write

Novel-length contemporary romance of about 90,000 words with an HEA. I’m also testing the waters of writing romance short stories. Hoping that will help me learn to write tighter. I’ve completed the first book in a series set in Scotland and am nearly done with the second. Book one is what I’m submitting to this amazing contest.

BEST LAID PLANS IN SCOTLAND: An American woman leaves her cheating boyfriend behind to serve as maid of honor for her oldest friend. Destination wedding in Scotland, holla! Guests of the intimate wedding spend a week on a private tour of Western Scotland before the festivities. Cue: sexy Scottish tour guide hero. One week. Small bus. Beautiful landscapes. Meow.

Basically, I’m writing the books I want to live, err, read. The ones that let me explore fantasies of traveling to Scotland and meeting a hunky, wonderful man. With a panty dropping accent, of course. I want my books to pack an emotional punch while being humorous. I want ya to laugh, cry, laugh again then go out and book airfare to Scotland because you *absolutely* have to see it for yourself. I mean, c’mon, look at this place:


*No filter. Photo I snapped in Ullapool last September. The header of my website is also a pic I took. THIS IS A REAL PLACE PEOPLE. NOT PHOTOSHOPPED.


What I’m looking for in a mentor

Someone who will be straight with me. I want to make this romance publishing career dream a reality. I’m comfortable with direct feedback, in fact, I embrace it. I know I have a lot to learn and I’m desperate for a fresh perspective and guidance. I want someone to be friends with as much as to be mentored by. This seems like an incredible community and I’m in it for the long-haul. I’d love to make some lasting relationships and build a support network.

I’m currently working with a mentor over the summer on a variety of things related to my fiction writing (through Savvy Author’s mentor program). See? I’m serious about this stuff, yo. The mentor-mentee relationship works well for me. I’m ready to take this book to the next level with the Pitch Wars mentor of my dreams to get this MS ready for prime time. Halp pweeeeez!

Specific areas I’d love extra support in: pacing, characterization, deep POV, sexual tension, realistic dialogue (especially of male characters), better incorporation of diversity (of any form).


What you can expect from me as a mentee

I’ll work hard. I’ll put in the time and effort. I’ll listen to what you have to say and take your ideas and feedback seriously. I’ll bust my ass. I’ll be a good friend and support for you too! I’ll send you gifs and try to make you laugh.

Let’s do this.

* * *

Pssst, hey mentors I submit to (or submitted if you’re reading this after Aug. 3), I have a special message for you.

BEST LAID PLANS IN SCOTLAND is the first book I finished. And by finished I mean took it beyond a dialogue heavy draft, pushed through the sagging middle, really dove head first in to revisions. I’ve been writing off and on for a while, but life experience has led me to this point. I have the drive and desire to do this. I’m there. I understand it’s going to be brutal. It won’t be easy. I will likely cry regularly throughout my career.

I’m still game.

My polish of this MS is no where near perfect. I’ve gone through and color coded the whole thing for dialogue, narrative, internal dialogue, action, and visceral action/emotion. This helped me trim down areas that were overwhelming and beef up parts that were scarce. I did a find-replace to change all kinds of weak words (felt, seemed, was, just), -ing words, and -ly words to caps so I could spot them (and cry over how much I rely on them). I have gone line-by-line through it to try and tighten, show more than tell, clean up those lazy words, and more. I say this to tell you that while revision is hard and scares me, I put the sweat in.

With that said, I still need help. In many ways I know where I need help and I am desperate for someone with more experience to help me see how things can be fixed. I’ve been so far in the weeds that I can’t see the forest (did I use that metaphor right?). I’m a fast learner and when someone points things out I am good about remembering and improving. For example, the mentor I mentioned above taught me about deep POV. She showed me a few places where I could use it – I learned it – then incorporated it in the rest of the book (still could be better though).

I would love your opinions and suggestions to help me improve areas like:
-picking up the pace
-upping the stakes
-improving GMC to boost tension
-torturing my characters more
-increasing sexual tension
-identifying my crutches (my characters nod, grin and smile too much and I start too many sentences with “he” or “she”)

The list continues. What I’m getting at is – I know I need help. I want your help. I have the attitude, dedication and heart to take this seriously. I have the time to dedicate to revisions during the contest period. I’ve made timelines, done character worksheets, created beat sheets – but it’s so in my head I’m not sure what’s coming across the page well. That’s where you come in with your smexy brain and good ideas.

I want this. I’m ready.

^ My game face.



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