Wednesday, March 25, 2015

#Nestpitch2015: Is Your Manuscript Ready to Rumble?

I'm excited to take part in this year's Nestpitch Contest, debuting April 1. I'll be a "slushie," which means I'll review entries as they come in.

In celebration of Nestpitch, I posted some contest tips on Operation Awesome, which I've reproduced below:

If you plan to enter a contest:

  • Make sure you have something ready and polished. Nothing like getting a request for half-done manuscript!
  • Make sure your pitch includes your protagonist, what they want/need more than anything, and what gets in their way
  • Make sure you follow all the contest specifications, especially submission guidelines, which can vary greatly

If you plan to be a contest judge:

  • Make sure you know the full extent of what's expected
  • Make sure the timetable fits into your schedule, and that you are clear on what is supposed to happen when
  • Make sure that you can glean/learn something from the experience

Here's the skinny for those interested in entering Nestpitch (you can also see the full list in the post linked above).


How does Nestpitch work?

This year we have changed things a bit, therefore even if you participated in Nestpitch 2014 you will still need to read the below.

This year we are NOT accepting Picture Books. We are accepting MG, YA, NA and Adult FICTION ONLY. I had someone ask if we are accepting memoirs or similar- the short answer is NO. This is a FICTION ONLY pitch + 1st 300 for manuscript length fiction only. We are accepting all genres within these categories. If your novel is either Erotica or Christian, please state this. For example: Adult Romance (Erotica) or YA Historical Romance (Christian).

We support diversity and strongly encourage authors with GLBT, geographic, cultural and/or social diversity within their manuscripts to submit. Having said this, we DO NOT support sexual violence, violence against children, bigotry and racism, paedophilia and/or animal cruelty. While it is true that violence and cruelty features within some genres, horror for example, or racism in a historical fiction set in the time of slavery, we will not accept manuscripts that support or promote, directly or indirectly, racism, misogyny, rape, sexual, physical or emotional violence.

One submission per author only please.

Teams: This year there are nine Teams made up of one Mentor & two Slushies. The Teams are listed here:


The Pitch window will be open for 48 hours, thereby allowing everyone, regardless of where you live in the world, to prepare and submit a pitch.

The Pitch will be made up of three parts.

(i)                 a 35-word pitch

(ii)               answer to a question (in your main character’s voice)*

(iii)             the first 300-words of their manuscript

*QUESTION: If your MC was an Easter Egg, what flavour would s/he be?  Keep your answer to NO MORE than 15-words.

happy easter animated gif funny Easter Bunny photo graphics Happy Easter ecards animations eaggs Easter fun hot cross bunny animations gif e-cardsHow to submit your Pitch:

On April 1st the submission window will open. Please follow the guidelines as set out below. Last year some people put their first 300 words at the top or mixed up the order. Please do not do this. There is a reason for the order and failure to follow the below will likely mean your submission will not pass Round#1 (refer below).

Send the following in your email:

In the Subject line: Nestpitch2015 Sub and your name/author name

In the body of the email type these words:

By submitting this pitch + first 300 words I agree to allow the Nestpitch blog and/or any other affiliated blogs to post my submission on an open forum for the purposes of critique and feedback.  I understand this can be for the life of the blog(s).


Category/ Genre:

Word Count:

35-word Pitch:

QU (in your MC’s voice), if your MC was an Easter Egg, what flavour would s/he be?:

*First 300-words of your MS:

*1st 300 = if your MS has a prologue, then your 1st 300 starts from your prologue. Also, finish at the end of a sentence. This is 300-word MAX, so your last word is 300-words. If your sentence finishes on 292-words, submit that. If your sentences run into 30 or more words, then you might want to rethink the length of your sentence(s). Broken sentences do no one favours.

Example of a Submission:

Subject line: Nestpitch2015 Sub – Nikola Vukoja

By submitting this pitch + first 300 words I agree to allow the Nestpitch blog and/or any other affiliated blogs to post my submission on an open forum for the purposes of critique and feedback.  I understand this can be for the life of the blog(s).

Manuscript Title:      Easter Bunny goes to Vegas

Category/ Genre:      MG/ Fantasy

Word Count:             26,000

35-word Pitch:        After losing all his eggs in a card game to March Hare, the Easter Bunny heads for Las Vegas where he plans to win enough money to buy back the world’s Easter Eggs.

If your MC was an Easter Egg, what flavour would s/he be?  I’d be every flavour, colour, shape and size imaginable; I’m the Easter Bunny… geez!

First 300-words of your MS:

Easer Bunny Blah Blah…

Send your submission to: (please note the submission window below, submissions sent prior or post those times/dates will not be accepted)

Formatting: Either Times Roman or Arial (we are aware that there may be issues with some email account regarding font, please do your best to use either Times Roman or Arial, or something as close as possible to these two)

No indentions. Single spacing. One space between each Paragraph.

Prologues: Your prologue is where your first 300 words begin.

Word Count: Rounded to nearest 1000. For example, 86,000 not 85,798

Process: Last year we contacted all submissions that had made a mistake or left something out (listing only category or genre for example). This year we will not be so lenient. Aside from formatting issues, authors will be expected to follow the above. All submissions will be read by me (Nikola) first to ensure each submission has followed the above rules/guidelines.

There will be three rounds before final selection.

a.       Round #1: To get past #1 the authors must be able to follow guidelines.

b.      Round #2: This year each Team will select an initial 5-8 submissions and then request more pages/material. Based on the additional pages/material, each Team will drill their selection down to between 4-5 to go to the next round. Note: authors may receive more than one request from more than one Team.

c.       Round #3: On having picked their final 4-5, each Team will then critique the first 2,500-words and ‘get to know’ the author(s). This is a 3-fold process. Being selected does not necessarily mean being featured. Teams will want to know the author(s) are willing to accept feedback etc.  The Teams will work with their authors for 3 weeks, offering feedback, sharpening pitches, & suggesting improvements. After this, the authors have a full week to re-read their MS in full & make any final changes; before the agent round.

From the Slush-pile Picks. My Team #Team2Beat, will be hunting through the slush-pile and the reserves, looking for gems that have been missed. We will have the option of selecting between 1-5 pitches (at our discretion) to feature. This is basically a bonus-pick so, you may just get an email after the date, but if you do, you’ll be expected to work twice as hard as the other author’s as you’ll have less time – so be ready!

Additional Rules:

a.       Only manuscripts which HAVE NOT been featured in another online competition are eligible to enter. This DOES NOT include workshops, critique groups or similar. It also DOES NOT include twitter or any other tag-line style pitches either. Please feel free to ask if you’re in any doubt.

            (i)      If you have submitted the same manuscript to #Pitchslam, due to the time-line cross-over, we are accepting these submissions. However, if your submission goes to the final stage of either or both competitions, please advice us and the host of #Pitchslam.

b.      Submissions MUST follow the submission format. We accept that sometimes emails de-format fonts and tabs, what we don’t want is people forgetting to put CATEGORY & GENRE (for example) or not answering the question; that sort of thing.

All pitches that have followed the rules (round#1) will then be forwarded to each Team. After the internal cat-fight, erh discussions will take place and each Team will select their top 4-5 author submissions (round#3). Expect to also see teasers and cryptic clues via Twitter & Facebook (*don’t forget to follow the Mentors and Slushies, lots of fun to be had!)

My Team #Team2Beat will be the Bandit Team. I bet all of you have a brother or sister who always stole your favourite Easter Eggs – well that’s what we’ll be doing – sort of. We will be looking for hidden or missed gems. They could be from the slush-pile or from #round2 & we’ll feature them. #Team2Beatmay have as few as one submission featured or as many as five – it all depends on how many diamonds in the rough we believe have been missed.

This year there will again be an Amazon Gift voucher Prize for the submission with the highest number of requests and another for matching the Agents with their Masks (more on that at agent reveal).

15 Dates:

Agent Reveal: 27th March

Submission Window Opens April Fools Day (Wednesday 1st April 2015)

10pm Aust. Eastern Standard Time

7am USA New York Time

12 noon London UK Time

Submission Window Closes Good Friday (Friday 3rd April 2015)

10pm Aust. Eastern Standard Time

7am USA New York Time

12 noon London UK Time

Secret Agent Bunny Mask Reveal: April 9th

Teams send out requests for 1st 2,500 words Sunday 12th April

Authors reply by Tuesday 14th April

Final Selection Sunday 10th May (Mother’s Day)

Agent Request open Monday 11th May to Tuesday 12th May 2015

Unmask the Agent: Wednesday 13th May 2015 (Amazon Voucher)

Agent Request(s) sent out to authors Wednesday 13th May 2015

Authors to send requested pages to Agents by Friday 15th May 2015

Winner of Most Requests: 20th or 21st May

Stats: 28th or 29th May

Nestpitch2015 Close: 31st May (follow up blog with success stories as they come)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


While writing with other authors in last month's Winter Writing Festival run by the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood, I was lucky enough to do some writing sprints with Liz Talley. When I found out more about her books, I couldn't wait to feature them. Her next book, SWEET TALKING MAN, sounds exquisite:

Leif Lively is the hottest thing to happen to Magnolia Bend. But single mother Abigail Orgeron figures he's another heartbreaker and does her best to ignore the steamy glances he tosses her way. When he speaks, though, her resistance crumbles! His sweet words, humor and laid-back ways captivate buttoned-up Abigail.

For once, losing control feels so good, and this no-strings arrangement is getting serious. What will she do when Leif solves the family mystery that brought him to town and decides to leave? Because she's learning that the biggest love means taking the biggest risk.

Liz also answered some interview questions:

According to your website bio, The Thornbirds was the first romance you read. What, if any, influence did it have on you, and can you tell us more about your journey toward writing and publication?

 As a preteen I found solace in reading. Something about being in those middling years either pushes a girl away from books or toward them. They were a magnet for me, and romance was a whole new world. I picked up The Thornbirds after seeing an episode on TV and that was it. The angst, the passion, the YEARNING. Oh, I loved every word of it. So romance became my go-to genre.

I agree--I read some of The Thornbirds in high school and loved it (and the TV series was amazing too). I love the premise of SWEET TALKING MAN. Where did the idea come from, and what do you want readers to take away after reading the story? 

SWEET TALKING MAN is the second in my Superromance series, “Home in Magnolia Bend”. The first book, The Sweetest September (Aug ‘14) was born with the idea to do a secret baby book…but a baby that was not so secret. I borrowed a character from another series (Shelby Mackey) and reprised her for the role of my heroine. I loved her character so much and was glad to give her a happily ever after. SWEET TALKING MAN is the story of Abigail, one of the Beauchamp family siblings. The theme for this story was easy for me. Abigail had to learn to let go a little and Leif had to learn how to hold on for once. “Hotter in Atlanta” was a short story I did in early 2014. I also had His Forever Girl following (Feb ‘14)  and Cowboys for Christmas (November ’14). Until this moment, I hadn’t realized that in a 13 month period I had three books out and two novellas release. Huh. No wonder I’m fighting all those white hairs in my head.

And you've had a good reason to be busy! As part of the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood group of bloggers, you help with and participate in the Winter Writing Festival. How did the festival come about, and what, in your opinion, is the best thing it offers writers? 

The festival was birthed from a comment about NaNoWriMo. So many of us are busy mothers and the timing for that wonderful event is tough for most women. Because our blog focused on helping writers on their journey to publication, we hit on the idea to do something similar but at the beginning of the year when everyone was rearing to put pen to paper and accomplish those resolutions. Thus the festival was born. We wanted it to be flexible so that it wasn’t just about writing new word, but rather fitting for each author’s individual journey. Best thing to me is the encouragement and the chat room sprints. Nothing makes you more productive like people who are timing you and expecting you to actually work.

Indeed. I got a ton of word counts and editing done, all while being a part of a great community of writers. Finally, what are some of your current projects? 

Currently I’m writing a 2-in-1 book with the talented Kimberly Van Meter which will come out for Harlequin Blaze in Nov/Dec 2015. I’m also working on a new book for the Blaze line, a new direction for me but one I’m very excited about. My final Superromance (for the time being) Sweet Southern Nights comes out in August 2015. And I’m also working on a new anthology with Kim Law and Terri Osburn and a two book contract with Amazon Montlake which I’m VERY excited about. All in all, I’m a busy gal and I like it that way.

To snag SWEET TALKING MAN for yourself, feel free to click the link below:

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Dangers of Quantification

This week on Operation Awesome, I posted about how quantification-only thinking impacts writers, and how it can sometimes limit possibilities.

And, because it rocked my world, I have to share this great Neil Gaiman video (it's long, but worth it).

Next week, stay tuned for an interview with romance author Liz Talley!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

THE SIN EATER'S DAUGHTER by Melinda Salisbury

I stumbled upon THE SIN EATER'S DAUGHTER on Amazon one day. The premise blew me away--and the cover's pretty snazzy too. See for yourself:

Seventeen-year-old Twylla lives in the castle. But although she’s engaged to the prince, Twylla isn’t exactly a member of the court.

She’s the executioner.

As the Goddess embodied, Twylla instantly kills anyone she touches. Each month she’s taken to the prison and forced to lay her hands on those accused of treason. No one will ever love a girl with murder in her veins. Even the prince, whose royal blood supposedly makes him immune to Twylla’s fatal touch, avoids her company.

But then a new guard arrives, a boy whose easy smile belies his deadly swordsmanship. And unlike the others, he’s able to look past Twylla’s executioner robes and see the girl, not the Goddess. Yet Twylla’s been promised to the prince, and knows what happens to people who cross the queen.

However, a treasonous secret is the least of Twylla’s problems. The queen has a plan to destroy her enemies, a plan that requires a stomach-churning, unthinkable sacrifice. Will Twylla do what it takes to protect her kingdom? Or will she abandon her duty in favor of a doomed love?

Melinda also answered some interview questions:

According to your website bio, Matilda by Roald Dahl was a big influence. What else inspired your writing journey and paths toward publication?

I'm sure almost every writer who's new to the game right now is citing J.K Rowling as an influence, and I'm more than happy to jump on that bandwagon. As a child, I wanted to be a writer, but I didn't think I could be. I'd got it into my head that only people with rich families, or those with industry connections, or top-tier educations, could become writers. And I had none of those things. My background is very working class; state school, free school meals, plastic bag for my PE kit. So, whilst I wanted it, I thought it was impossible, and that trying would just lead to heartache and bitterness. Until J.K Rowling came along...

I kept hearing about Harry Potter everywhere I went, at school, on telly, in the papers - this story about a boy wizard that everyone, not just children, wanted to be part of. I asked for the first book for my birthday and fell in immediately in love, taking my birthday money to the shops to buy the next two books. And two t-shirts. And some Chocolate Frogs.

After that, my Nan would save me everything she found in her papers about Harry Potter, and J.K. Rowling and the one thing that kept coming up was the way she had written the first book as a single mum, in a council flat, whilst receiving benefits. Though it's horrible to me now that this, rather than the books, was what the media focused on, at the time these were things I could identify with. It rekindled a hope in me. and knowing that is wasn't impossible became the wake-up call that maybe, if I tried, and if I worked hard, and if I didn't give up, I might do it too.

So I started writing again, first to see if I still could, and then with the serious intention of trying to get published. So it's really (like with a lot of things in my life) all thanks to J.K Rowling, and the Harry Potter books. They've had such an impact on so many lives, made so many lives better, saved so many lives, and I'm proud to be one of them.

I love Roald Dahl (Matilda especially) and all the Harry Potter books too, for similar reasons. And I especially love the premise of THE SIN EATER'S DAUGHTER! How did the idea come to you and what do you want readers to take away when they're finished reading?

It started innocently enough, I was singing away in the shower and idly wondered what it would be like to have to sing on demand, instead of just for fun. My brain started to play with that idea - why would anyone have to sing on demand, because they were famous, were contracted to do it? Or was it because they were a prisoner, and had to do it? Suddenly there was a girl in my head, red haired,  alone and scared, miles from anyone who cared about her, a pawn in a game she couldn't comprehend. She had to sing for a king, her one joy become her prison, her solace now a cage. That girl was Twylla, and I couldn't shake the idea of her story from my mind. It grew from there, became darker as more elements that fascinate me became involved; food, death, trust, choices... All weaving together until the story of The Sin Eater's Daughter was there.

I didn't write it with the intention of anyone taking anything from it, other than a few hours of entertainment, but I think one thing I'd like for people to see in it is that there are many types of bravery, and ways to fight, and that you don't have to be a feisty, ass-kicking, sassy sort of girl to be able to save yourself in the end.

Twylla isn't like a lot of typical fantasy heroines, she's not physically trained to, or really capable of, wielding a weapon or fighting, she doesn't have friends and allies to help her. She's spent her whole life being told who she is and what she'll be, her window on the world is so small to start with, there's so much she doesn't know because her life has been orchestrated for her from her birth. As the story progresses, her world expands and opens up, and she does with it. Her victories are small ones, her rebellions often go unnoticed by anyone but her, but she's immensely strong, to survive as long as she has without going mad, she's had to be. That kind of strength doesn't get enough airtime, in my opinion. I wanted her to be exceptional, but in an accessible, real, and identifiable way.

So I think that's what I'd like people to take away, if anything. That you can be quiet, but that doesn't mean you're not strong. That you can be oppressed, but that means bending, not breaking. Twylla is a heroine for all of those young women who are figuring out who they are, and what they want. Twylla is a heroine for the quiet ones.

Sounds like great character development--and it's nice to see Twylla transcending fantasy tropes! 
You've seen The Grand Budapest Hotel 11 times. What do you love most about it, and in what ways (if any) has it informed your creative process?

It hasn't informed my creative process at all, in fact it's probably hindered it due to spending so much time watching it! I love the aesthetic of it, like all Wes Anderson films it's full of gorgeous colour palettes, and symmetry, and subtle, beautiful, detail. It's just a joy to watch, though I have to confess seeing it so many times in the cinema was a kind of joke. I saw it once at home, then went again with a friend who hadn't seen it. A couple of weeks later, me and the same friend went to Paris for a few days and, at a loss for something to do, but not wanting to go back to the hotel yet, we decided to go and see it again. Then I went to Amsterdam, decided to go to the cinema and thought it would be funny to see it there, to be able to say I'd seen it in three countries. But it happened again in Copenhagen, and then in Bergen, and it sort of took on a life of its own, became a bit of a hobby, almost, to watch it in the cinema. But I never got bored of it, and I love to pop it on in the background when I'm making jewellery at home. It was never supposed to be a serious thing, more an in-joke that got very out of hand!

What a great story! And I agree--it's a wonderful movie, and a great example of comedic timing. What are some of your current projects?

I've just sent the first draft of Book 2 of the The Sin Eater's Daughter trilogy to my editors, so once I have their feedback I'll begin working on a final version of that. I'm plotting Book 3, and also writing 2 companion stories that people may or may not get to see one day. I wrote them for me, because I need to know that backstory, but I guess if people were interested we could see about making them available. I'm also working on a secret project, which had nothing to do with The Sin Eater's Daughter, but it giving me some much-needed respite from such a violent and dark world!

Sounds exciting! Thanks, Melinda, for such great answers!

To grab THE SIN EATER'S DAUGHTER FOR YOURSELF, feel free to click below: