Monday, December 11, 2017

To The Future (a.k.a. How I Got My Agent)

So…I have an agent. (Insert insanely over-the-top cheering and celebration here.) How’s that for a beginning?

I know, right? Crazy. The past few months have been such a whirlwind that everything seems like some sort of fantastic dream. I honestly cannot believe this has happened. But it has. And here’s the story:

It started with Pitch Wars. Once I was accepted into the contest, my mentor (the fabulous Destiny Cole) and I went to work on my entry. There was a lot of back and forth and a ton of revision, more than I had anticipated. I knew the book needed help, but was surprised at how much character motivation and specific details it was lacking. Destiny pointed out the needs, made some suggestions, and gave me plenty to get the book polished and done. I wrote a lot then, some weekends spending almost 20 hours on my laptop to get it ready. The work was hard, but the final result was amazing.

Then came the agent round. If you are considering entering Pitch Wars, prepare your emotions for the fact that, if you get chosen, you will be on an intense roller coaster ride of feelings. I’m not kidding here. I stopped sleeping once my pitch went live and it has taken me about a month since to calm down. All the fears that I’d experienced prior to entering Pitch Wars were amplified 100 times while I waited to see what agents would think of my project. I knew the book was polished and in great shape, but getting only 300 words to ‘pitch’ that to an agent was agonizing. It was torture. I kept checking the site to see if anyone would post a reply to my submission and ask to see the manuscript.

And I waited.

Other entries started receiving interest. And more interest. And more. I kept staring at my page wondering what I had done wrong and if this had been some sort of massive mistake. Was the title a problem? The pitch? The page? I had no idea why agents where passing on my work—and that hurt the most. Then the first request came in and I breathed an enormous sigh of relief. More requests came in, and more. The roller coaster ride was taking another turn and it was incredibly exhilarating, a thrill I never imagined. Such a rush of love for my little book.

The rules of the contest directed everyone to wait a week before sending materials to agents. This allowed for everyone to read the entries and give them a chance at so many great manuscripts. And that’s another thing about Pitch Wars that I didn’t realize before entering. Everyone in the contest is super supportive and wonderful. You get to know all the mentees and realize how everybody is traveling on this journey together. You want others to do well. You love their books and you get this overwhelming sensation of imposter syndrome because people are fantastically gifted. I felt that way and as excited as I was to send off my work to agents, I wondered how they would possibly accept my book over another. It’s like choosing a flavor of ice-cream when everything presented is your favorite. I was one of many.

There was a lot of back and forth between me and Destiny the day I sent my requested material. One point of concern was my query letter. I’d spent so much time on the manuscript that the query needed help. Destiny was a champ and gave me the advice I needed to improve the letter. That night, I fired off a dozen emails and (again) didn’t sleep a wink. (I told you it was a wild ride!)

I thought life was grand as auto replies and small notes from agents reached my inbox. Some loved the title and had requested based on that. Others loved the comps. A few enjoyed the voice. I was living the dream and I was unprepared for the next step. Arriving home from my day job less than 24 hours after sending off my material, I received an email from an agent asking if they could call. OM Freakin’ G. I ran into the house and fired off an email. Sure, I said. I’m available. I was so excited that I forgot to send her my phone number. I had to reply again when she asked.

I knew a little bit about agent calls and mentees in the Pitch Wars group had shared a list of questions to ask, but I’d never studied them. I didn’t actually think I’d get to that point. I wanted to, I hoped to, but I was also realistic. I didn’t want to anticipate something happening and have it never transpire. And I certainly didn’t expect to hear from an agent so soon.

We spoke for over an hour, talking about the book, asking questions, and getting to know each other. Stacey was wonderfully kind and professional. I took notes during the call which is something I recommend since everything was such a blur that night. There’s protocol with an agent offer and having manuscripts out to other agents, something I won’t get into here, but let me say that the two-week wait was agonizing and frantic. (Roller coaster—remember?) I was so relieved when I could finally sign the agreement and call Stacey Donaghy my agent. That’s right, I’m now represented by Stacey Donagy of DonaghyLiterary Group. And she’s awesome!

So now the real work begins and it’s exciting. I’ve started writing another YA Mystery—of course—and we’ll see what the future brings. Until then,

Happy Reading!

~ Jamie

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Pitch Wars

While working full-steam ahead on my fantastic new project about a guy haunted by his ex-girlfriend, I had another book idea pop into my head. I shouldn't use the word pop. It exploded! The idea hit me with so much force that I had to begin right away. And I did. That day, I outlined the book and wrote the first chapter and the last chapter. The date was May 31, 2017.

And the book was enjoyable to write. I loved the characters and the story—and the twists. This was the type of book I’d been looking to read, so the words flowed and the story got better and better.

Then I remembered a contest I had entered last year. Pitch Wars. In the contest, you submit a query letter and the first chapter of your manuscript to four mentors who then pick a lucky winner from all their submissions and help get that manuscript shiny and magnificent. I didn’t get in to the contest last year. (Between you and me, not getting in motivated me like crazy. I started writing a new story the day the winners were announced and then rewrote the manuscript I entered in the months following the contest. The re-write is awesome and I’m certain it’ll draw interest once I start querying it.)

Now I’m rambling. So I remembered this contest and I didn’t want to enter the same novel as last year. I thought, perhaps, that I might get this book done in time to enter. And that’s what I did. I wrote non-stop to get the first draft done and managed to get some edits complete before the submission date arrived for the contest. Yay. At least I had an entry.

After failing last year, I learned how subjective contests can be, so I didn’t have high expectations for this book. While I loved the story, I wasn’t sure how other people would react. The book was dark at times, and twisted, and also contemporary. I had never written a Contemporary YA before. Would I pull of an authentic voice? Would people think I needed therapy? Would people scream at my title and ban me from the contest? These were real questions stirring in my mind as I researched authors participating in the contest as mentors.

I eventually made my choices and submitted my book, I KILLED BRENDA MORRIS, to Pitch Wars.

Fast forward to today.

I made it into the contest and I couldn't be happier. Destiny Cole took a chance on me and accepted me as her mentee. To say that I was shocked to get chosen is a huge understatement. I get emotional thinking about it. This contest was what I needed and it’s making me better every day. Destiny is a fantastic mentor and I’m lucky to have her cheering me on and helping mold this book into something that will surprise and delight a lot of readers. 

Pitch Wars is wonderful. If you entered and didn’t make it in to the contest, keep writing. Keep imagining. Keep entering. If you are a mentor, thank you for giving up your time to help people like me get better. If you are a mentee, hello again. I love our community of support.

Writing is an art, a skill that can be developed. We’re all improving and learning, and putting our dreams onto pages together. And that’s what I love about it.


Monday, August 7, 2017

Direction of Travel

One reason I love this writing journey is the new experiences I constantly discover and enjoy. It's as if I had jumped on a train without knowing its destination and shouted to the landscape, "Take me far away and change me!"
I have no idea where I'm going, and that mystery is so much fun.
Since 2009, I've written a handful of complete manuscripts and a few partials. That's not counting the dozen or so ideas I've outlined for the future. Here's the breakdown:

Completed Novels (In order of completion)
From Rising Flames ~ YA Fantasy
On Fallen Wings ~ YA Fantasy
From Darkened Skies ~ YA Fantasy
Dead and Beloved ~ YA Speculative
Bury Me First ~ YA Speculative
I Killed Brenda Morris ~ YA Contemporary Mystery

In Forgotten Dreams ~ YA Fantasy
Dead and Gone ~ YA Speculative
Sarah's Breath ~ YA Supernatural Mystery
Wedding Dresses ~ Contemporary Romance

As you can see, I lean towards YA a lot. Most are from a girl's POV; however, I have two versions of Bury Me First that feature the MC as male or female. Sarah's breath features 1st person past POV, but I'm playing with a close 3rd POV to see which I like best. Dead and Beloved & Dead and Gone are written in 1st person present, which is a tricky POV for me, but I found it enjoyable. Fantasy is fun-I like creating new worlds, but I don't read enough in the genre to ensure I get an original story. And Wedding Dresses? That's gonna take a while. I don't know anything about writing romance right now, so I'm slowly picking at this book while changing my outlines. I try to take romance classes every conference I attend so I can learn more, but I'm not quite ready to start reading romance yet.

So I'm at a crossroads. I could start a new project or work on one my partials. I could also query one or two of my latest novels and see if an agent will bite. It's been so long since I've sent a query, I'm out of practice and would need to study up to get that skill up to par. Whatever I choose, whichever direction I travel, it's another leg of the journey and I love new adventures.

Thanks for visiting.

Happy Reading.

~ Jamie

***UPDATE*** I've started a new YA Contemporary Mystery that I'm calling Let's Be Friends. More to come on that later.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Words From Long Ago

I’ve been nostalgic this morning, thinking about the first novel I wrote and one of the characters, Rhiannon. I remember how sad she seemed and how much I was inspired by her mysterious strength. She was so compelling that I rewrote the whole story from her point of view and then added a couple books about her. One scene in particular has been recurring over and over in my mind, so I’ve decided to share it. I hope you enjoy my words from so long ago.

~ O ~

The warm morning of the Sun Season Ceremony complemented the bright display at Stone Meadow; tall colorful banners flapped on long poles and thin trails of white smoke lifted to the cloudless sky, announcing their host camps and seasoned offerings. Bards in purple tunics, tooling their whistles and drums, mingled in the growing crowd. It was a celebration, and it was summer at its peak. The solstice. I must have been grinning—I could feel my cheeks stretch as we rolled the handcart to our familiar camping spot at the southern edge of the field.

Leila was enchanting. She wore her golden shawl of the Fae with its hood pulled back behind her shoulders. The shawl covered a white gown that trailed to thin leather sandals on her feet. Small white flowers decorated tight braids in her dark hair. Leila swung her arms out and danced in place—the golden shawl draped to the ground like wings—and announced her arrival to anyone watching, showering the air with sparkling gold. “This is wonderful!” she sang, while skipping steps and dancing in circles. Her movement matched the mood of the meadow, and she wasn’t the only one dancing in the tall grass.

When we reached our site, Mother and I began unloading the cart. I piled blankets, and pillows, and bowls, and goblets onto small piles around our camp. Then I went into the forest that bordered the meadow and collected an armful of dry branches from the undergrowth. When I returned, Leila was still dancing.

“Do you know the steps?” she asked. She tiptoed for a moment and sprung into a leap forward. “I’ll wager you can guess.”

I emptied my arms and brushed my hands clean on my apron. I watched my sister move; her dance was familiar. I caught myself swaying to the delicate tune inside my thoughts. “You know that’s my favorite,” I told her. “You make me want to join you.”

Mother turned to watch us, but kept arranging sliced vegetables into piles on a blanket.

Leila grabbed my hands and pulled me toward her. “Step forward, sister. I want to see you dance.”

I couldn’t help myself. I slipped out of my sandals and joined her. Then we danced in the grass. A faerie and her Giver, we wove a circle of crimson and gold. I inhaled the fresh air—it carried a hint of hickory smoke—and whispered the words that I had often sung to myself at the celebrations. The songs we danced had no lyrics, but I had created my own verses, as many faeries did, and many would continue to imagine.

“You’re wonderful!” said Leila, amid the swirling flashes. “You miss it, don’t you?”
I allowed my motion to carry me to a place on the grass away from her, and then collapsed on the ground. “I miss dancing,” I admitted to her.

She raised her sleeves above her head like a bird’s wings and brought them down in front of me.
I winced at the striking breeze that followed.

“I’m sorry; I didn’t intend to do that.” Leila covered her mouth.

“That’s okay,” I said, smiling. “I enjoyed the moment. Thank you.” I fell back and stared at the sky. “Good memories always come with dancing. They carry me to fantastic places and wonderful dreams.”

~ O ~

Happy Reading!

~ Jamie

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Happy Valentine's Day

To celebrate Valentine's Day, I'm sharing a scene from one of my earlier books, FROM RISING FLAMES. Happy Reading!

~ O ~

The water was cold; I had forgotten how much when I removed my sandals and stepped to my waist. It was refreshing, though. My feet hurt at first as I stepped on the gravel, but then I enjoyed the feel as I rubbed my feet over and over the rounded pebbles. I removed my dress and dove headfirst into the lake. My body sighed with thanks.
I swam for a moment before returning to the shore to grab my dress and the soap. Darian sat on the shore, watching the sky.
“Aren't you coming in?” I asked. “The water feels wonderful.”
“I didn’t think you’d do that,” he said, darting me a glance. In the dark, I couldn’t see his face, but I was sure from his voice that he was blushing.
“What?” I scooped a handful of soap from the kettle and rubbed it onto my dress. I lowered it into the water and started scrubbing with a flat stone. “Do you want to get clean, or not?”
The man was shy, which made me smile. Men in Aisling were as rough as porcupines. Perhaps that’s why I was becoming comfortable with Darian. He had never threatened me like I had imagined he would. I found his embarrassment charming.
“Come into the water,” I laughed. “I won’t hurt you.” As he inched toward the lake, I tugged at the cuffs of his clothing. “Take off your pants.”
Darian’s voice came out in a squeak. “What?”
I pulled on his leg. “Do you want clean clothes? Give me your pants, I’ll wash them.”
He didn’t argue, but closed his eyes as he removed his leather shoes—and his pants. Then he tossed me his shirt; the blue was fading, but it still sparkled where the blood hadn’t stained. He dove into the lake to hide under the reflection of the stars.
It wasn’t much, but I did my best to scrub our clothes with the soap I had made. I tossed them onto the shore and then covered myself with the white cream. The smell was fabulous. I could feel the smoke pry from my skin as I rubbed everywhere I could reach. Wanting more, but needing to share, I left the last bits of soap for Darian and dove back into the lake to rinse myself.
“Your turn,” I told him, chasing after him in the shallow water. “You’ll smell like a flower afterward, but it will definitely be an improvement.”
He was still shy, setting himself waist deep in the water and scrubbing from head to toe. I had never seen a man bathe before, and watched every moment while wading. Darian was perfect. His dark muscles covered in soap made me want to swim closer. His hair covered his eyes until he wet it and pulled it back with his fingers, allowing it to hang back toward his shoulders.
My stomach twisted and my breath stopped filling my lungs. I suddenly felt distant and alone. I closed my eyes and turned toward Morgan.
“I’m dressed now,” he told me. “You can turn around.” He stood on the shore, the water dripping from his clothes and his hair sparkled from the stars. He looked taller than a moment ago—and handsome.
The feeling in my stomach returned and my boldness left me. I didn’t want Darian to see me—not like this, unkempt and bedraggled. Something—pride, or something more intimate that I hesitated to name—left me wishing that he could see me like I had once looked when I was a faerie. “Please don’t turn around,” I said, dropping low in the water. “I’ll only be a moment.”
I stumbled on the rocks, twisting into my dress, franticly trying to cover myself before he turned to steal a look. But Darian never did. He watched the stars until I touched his arm.
“That feels nice,” he said, his voice melting me as his fingers caressed mine.

I smiled back. The spinning in my stomach and the tingling in my heart reminded me of innocent days and nights like this so long ago. The feeling was the same. Darian was becoming something more than a friend.

~ O ~

Thursday, February 9, 2017


I'm happy to say that my latest project is almost ready to send off to agents. Yay!
This book is nothing like I've done before. It's not fantasy, it's not YA Horror, and it's not MG. It's a YA with a taste of supernatural and a lot of thrills. There's love, murder, high school tension, and a villain I love to hate.
About a year into the project, I decided on the perfect title and went with it. I loved that title. It matched the tone of the book perfectly until...
Until someone critiquing the book asked me if I was against changing the title.
What? I was floored.
Although I told the person I wasn't against changing the title, in my mind I fought the question. No way. No how. This was my baby and changing the title was impossible. Finally, after a few more rounds of edits, I came to realize that the title was holding back the book. Yep, the title was the problem.
So I changed the title and it completely changed the book and potentially the series. It allowed me to massage little details into the manuscript that added depth and character to certain scenes. Changing the title helped me to better understand the main character's motivation and define what he was fighting for.
I loved the old title, but adore the new one. Can't wait to share it.

Happy Reading

~ Jamie