Mirror Mirror You’re the Best

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As part of the Pitch Wars experience, some mentors were able to give feedback on submitted manuscripts. I was fortunate to have received not one, but two edit letters. Both were long and detailed and very much appreciated.

I’ll be honest here. I’m no rhino-skinned teflon-coated snowflake. I am sensitive to criticism. Especially when I feel it is unwarranted. If someone speaks to me in a forceful, borderline unkind voice, my hands will shake and tears will threaten. It’s annoying, but I’m guessing a deeply ingrained trait because my daughter reacts the same way.

But critiques on my writing trigger a different response. Don’t get me wrong, I love compliments and praise as much as the next person. But in order to make my writing better, I want to be told where things don’t work for the reader. I need to be told since I can’t see my own writing through a reader’s eyes.

The best way to describe how I feel is to think of my manuscript as a dress. A dress I created from a made-up pattern. In my head, the dress has beautiful lines, nice drape, a good cut. I get out my fabric, scissors, needles, and get to work. I measure, cut, sew, fit, tweak and do my best to reflect the awesome dress in my dreams onto the fabric in my hands. The only thing is, I lack a mirror to see how it looks when worn. If I am unflinchingly honest with myself, I will have an idea of how it might look, but it’s only ball park. I can tell where it doesn’t quite fit, I can look down and see or feel where it bunches. I can do a fair bit of the fixing and picking and restitching etc from my own observations to make that thing as good as I can get it.

But if I want to make that dress amazing? I need to see the dress on me.

I need a mirror.

Critical feedback is that mirror. It offers me the chance to see my work with someone else’s eyes.

That is a gift.

With a mirror, I can decide where to adjust, recut, trim, tuck, re-stitch, reposition. I can make informed decisions. With enough effort, hopefully I’ll end up with something that looks as cool as I imagined. Maybe better.

So, to all my lovely mirrors who have spent time and effort and brain power to provide me a different perspective on my work. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU.

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Starting Wednesday I’ll loosely follow Janice Hardy’s Revise Your Novel workshop with fellow Pitch Wars contestants. I aim to finish a final edit on my manuscript by mid October. If you’re #amwriting on #pw16revclub, find us on Twitter with #ReYoNo31.

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FAITHFUL Cover Reveal


One of the awesome mentors in Pitch Wars is Michelle Hauck. Today Michelle Hauck and Rockstar Book Tours reveal the cover for FAITHFUL, book two in the Birth of Saints series which releases November 15, 2016. Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to win a SIGNED copy of book 1 GRUDGING!

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Title: FAITHFUL (Birth of Saints #2)

Author: Michelle Hauck

Pub. Date: November 15, 2016

Publisher: Harper Voyager Impulse

Formats: eBook

ISBN: 9780062447173

Find it: Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Goodreads


Following Grudging–and with a mix of Terry Goodkind and Bernard Cornwall–religion, witchcraft, and chivalry war in Faithful, the exciting next chapter in Michelle Hauck’s Birth of Saints series!
A world of Fear and death…and those trying to save it.

Colina Hermosa has burned to the ground. The Northern invaders continue their assault on the ciudades-estados. Terror has taken hold, and those that should be allies betray each other in hopes of their own survival. As the realities of this devastating and unprovoked war settles in, what can they do to fight back?


On a mission of hope, an unlikely group sets out to find a teacher for Claire, and a new weapon to use against the Northerners and their swelling army.


What they find instead is an old woman.


But she’s not a random crone—she’s Claire’s grandmother. She’s also a Woman of the Song, and her music is both strong and horrible. And while Claire has already seen the power of her own Song, she is scared of her inability to control it, having seen how her magic has brought evil to the world, killing without reason or remorse. To preserve a life of honor and light, Ramiro and Claire will need to convince the old woman to teach them a way so that the power of the Song can be used for good. Otherwise, they’ll just be destroyers themselves, no better than the Northerners and their false god, Dal. With the annihilation their enemy has planned, though, they may not have a choice.


A tale of fear and tragedy, hope and redemption, Faithful is the harrowing second entry in the Birth of Saints trilogy.

 
Especially for you, an exclusive excerpt…
 
Not for the first time, Claire reconsidered her decision to stay when Ramiro had asked her. She’d lingered out of curiosity—and truthfully because it felt good to be needed—but they didn’t need her now with the Northern army defeated. She could return to the swamp and away from so many people. Despite her hopes of friends and community, she felt awkward here. Reason said she’d get used to their ways, but being around so many folk made her want to hide. Everything pressed down. The walls of the tent shrunk, pinning her in, and smothering her. It became hard to breathe.
She reached for a fresh strip of cloth, only to have her hand shake. She snatched the material and began to roll it, trying to shut out everything else, including her own doubts.
Before she could find a semblance of peace, though, someone shouted. Ladies screamed. Claire looked over her shoulder at the noise. A brown-bearded man in a poncho and a floppy hat ran in her direction. “My family is dead, because of the evacuations. Because of you.”
Claire gasped. He seemed to be talking to Beatriz, then his gaze found Claire.
“Witch!” His outstretched hand suddenly held a long butcher knife. “Witch! Stay away from us! Murderer! Abomination! Die!”
Fronilde dropped to the ground, but Claire couldn’t move. Surprise robbed her brain of a Song to stop him. Even the words of the Hornet Tune, which she knew as well as her name, deserted her. The man closed as everyone scrambled out of his way. Then Beatriz sprang from her chair to stand over Claire, holding up her hand. The tall, black-lace mantilla atop her head waved like a flag. “Stop.”
Something about the authority in the First Wife’s voice—or maybe her simple resistance instead of cringing or scrambling away—brought the man up short, making him pause for a moment. Just the moment the bodyguard needed to crush the lunatic to the floor and overpower him, wrestling free the knife. More guards came running from outside.
Breath rushed back in Claire’s lungs. Beatriz sniffed and touched a spot on her chest over her heart and then her forehead and stomach areas. “Imbecile. He didn’t know who he was dealing with.”
 
 
About Michelle: 


Michelle Hauck lives in the bustling metropolis of northern Indiana with her hubby and two teenagers. Two papillons help balance out the teenage drama. Besides working with special needs children by day, she writes all sorts of fantasy, giving her imagination free range. A book worm, she passes up the darker vices in favor of chocolate and looks for any excuse to reward herself. Bio finished? Time for a sweet snack.

She is a co-host of the yearly contests Query Kombat and Nightmare on Query Street, and Sun versus Snow.

Her epic fantasy, Kindar’s Cure, is published by Divertir Publishing. Her short story, Frost and Fog, is published by The Elephant’s Bookshelf Press in their anthology, Summer’s Double Edge. She’s repped by Sarah Negovetich of Corvisiero Literary.

Giveaway Details:
2 winners will receive a signed  of GRUDGING, US Only.

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway.

#PitchWars #whataride

Earlier this summer I spent a frazzled two weeks putting together my submission for Pitch Wars, a contest where published/agented authors and editors (mentors) choose one writer each (mentees). Over the next two months, the mentors help their mentees polish their manuscripts in readiness for the agent round–each mentee’s pitch and first page is presented to a panel of participating agents. This year there are 125 mentors for 1957 hopefuls.

That’s a lot of hopefuls for not that many places. Even with 12 last minute bonus spots that’s 137 mentees out of 1957 entrants. A 7% chance of getting a spot. It’s not high, I’ll grant you. But when historically 50% of the mentees land agents, it puts that 7% in a much more flattering light.

Submissions closed on the 6th August, and the picks announced this morning at 2am London time. (I’m feeling a little gritty now since our little kraken is the household 7 am wake up call. Pass the coffee, please.)

That’s three weeks of waiting around between submitting and pick announcements. I think the most savvy and level headed among the hopefuls might have continued with revisions. I wasn’t one of those–all I could do was obsess over the #pitchwars feed on Twitter where all the conversations were happening between mentors and hopefuls. Lots of teasers, and the inevitable agony of wondering “Are they talking about me?” Pleasant enough torture, but torture none the less.

I lived with my phone stuck to my face.

First thing I did on waking was check the #pitchwars feed AND my spam folder, just in case I missed a request for more pages from a mentor. I did have two emails end up in there–neither were requests (more on that later) though. They were emails from fellow pitchwars participants. I stayed up late reading the feed hunting for clues as to how I might fare, but as a bonus I got to know a lot of the writers hanging out on the thread. It was amazing to be able to reach out through Twitter and connect with writers from all over the world. Mauritius, Scotland, Indonesia, Singapore, Canada, US, England…(*cue music to ‘It’s a Small World’).

Writers tend to be loners. We spend our time in heads, pouring out thoughts and feelings and actions into our keyboards. Writing is, by necessity, a solitary activity. It’s also sometimes difficult for non-writers to understand the whole process. It isn’t a case of banging out a story and then submitting it to an agent. A manuscript goes through several iterations–think first draft as lump of clay, then each iteration a gradual sculpting of the work into its final form. There’s the macro stuff–making sure the plot works and the character arcs are there, streamlining the cast so each character has its purpose, making sure the setting is pulling its weight, then the micro stuff–dialogue, language, flow, cadence. Once that’s done, beta readers and critique partners go over the work and highlight stuff that doesn’t make sense, falls flat, is unbelievable. Then more revision and polishing. Rinse, repeat.

Lest you think that’s the end, once the manuscript is as polished as can be the next step is submission to agents, hoping and wishing someone loves your story enough to take it on. If that happens, more revisions from the agent. And if the agent is successful in selling your story to a publisher? You guessed it. More revisions. A few rounds of developmental edits (macro) followed by line edits (micro) then copy edits (what’s smaller than micro? Nano? Anyways, spelling, punctuation, grammar etc).

All that work happens in the company of your own thoughts and not much more. So to have found a 400+strong tribe is damned fine. A tribe of people who understand the thrill of cutting 108 ‘just’s from a manuscript, or the frustration of needing to cut 10 more words from an already bare-boned pitch or synopsis.

I lost 3 weeks of revision time while I behaved like a social media obsessed squirrel jumped up on caffeine, but the tribe I gained in exchange was so worth it. I had my first introduction to the writing world and I was floored by the generosity and willingness to reach out TO TOTAL STRANGERS. A friend of a friend introduced me to a client who then introduced me to an author friend who was super helpful in honing my query letter. Lyla Lawless was one of the editors offering free query reviews for Pitch Wars participants and she gave me some really helpful tips to whip my query in shape. Not to mention the valuable feedback from my fellow hopefuls. Everyone pulling together to help everyone else. And the craft tips and encouragement gained through Pitch Wars is like an Aladdin’s cave of wonders. Intrepid fellow hopeful Lisa Leoni compiled the most amazing list here of mentor’s posts, and I discovered new mentee Tomi Adeyemi’s writing website. So many shared stories of perseverance, to keep trying, to not give up. Ah it makes me teary just thinking about kindness and cupcake deserving goodness of the Pitch Wars peeps. 🙂

I wasn’t picked, but I’m okay with that. I got enough requests to tell me my MS was at least interesting to some people. That’s a nice boost. My plan whether I was picked or not remained the same–ready my manuscript for querying agents, and then send it out and start work on the next one. And that’s what I’m going to do.

And about the generosity I mentioned earlier–well Pitch Wars itself is run on feel-good fuel and a pay-it-forward ethos. Brenda Drake, the PW team, and the mentors all donate their time and expertise. The only way to come close to paying back what they put into the contest and give to the community is to buy their books as a thank you and pay-it-forward whenever I can myself. My kindle is now bursting with Pitch Wars mentors’ books, and I have a ton more books-to-come on my wishlist (here’s the whole list; go forth and feed your kindle). I’m cheering on the new mentees, excited to see their careers unfold.

Pitch Wars was a fantastic ride. Now I’m on another one–in a boat full of writers riding the white water rapids of their dreams. There will be ups and downs and people falling out of the boat, and getting hauled back in. It’ll be scary and wonderful and heart stopping and exhilarating. I’m excited for this journey and glad for the company because we’ll have the best things on tap: Encouragement. Writer friends. CPs. Tribe. I couldn’t ask for anything better.