Thursday, April 17, 2014

Easter Nest Pitch Hunt is now on!

Nest Pitch agent round is now on! 

The Slush Bilbies have sorted through the entries to help the Nest Bloggers whittle down the entries. Now the top seventy-two entries have made it through and are waiting for agents to hop on by to make requests.  

*Please remember that until the agents have finished making their selections, comments are for agents only. If you want to cheer on your favorite prior to then, you can do it in the comments of this post.  

Between now and 8am April 19th USA EST  

To find out more about the Nest Pitch Easter Pitch Hunt go here and the Rules and Conditions are here. You can find the full schedule here and the participating agents here

Dannie Morin
Sharon M. Johnson

Good luck to everyone who has made it here. May your nest be filled with lots of chocolaty requests!

*A note to #TeamCake--if we aren't buds on Twitter you can find me @TheCakeNovelist -- make sure I follow you back so I can root for you! You can also email me here for questions, comments, or if you want to send me a present or something.

NestPitch BP1: Barnabas and Bird

Category/Genre: Younger Middle Grade Fantasy

Word Count: 22,000

Pitch: When Barnabas said "my heart hurts," Bird knew something big was going to happen. Now they must build a flying raft and cross the country before Barnabas can discover Bird’s the one that needs healing.

If the MC was an Easter Egg, what flavor would they be and why? 
Barnabas believes his softness a liability, so he’d be a dark chocolate over marshmallow.

Excerpt: (300 words)

When Barnabas said, “my heart hurts,” Bird knew something big was going to happen.

Bird was right.

It happened on a full moon night when they should have already been dreaming. Restless, Barnabas paced inside his pen. Bird fluttered from her perch on the center pole to the edge of the red and white striped circus tent. A pacing elephant must always be avoided. Even a small one like Barnabas.

Had Barnabas known Bird’s thoughts, he might have protested. But he’d passed his third birthday. He would grow no more. He was the smallest elephant in the circus.

“It’s not fair,” he grumbled. “I hate being tiny.”

Bird, being the friend she was, wisely did not point out that even as the smallest elephant, Barnabas was larger than every other animal in the circus. Barnabas didn’t want to hear it. Barnabas’ large ears were closed to that truth.

Being the friend she was, Bird said, “When my heart hurts, I find it helpful to talk about it.”

“You’re a bird. A canary bird. A yellow canary bird.” Barnabas, fond of stating the obvious, stomped his foot. “What can you know about the hurt in a heart the size of mine? Why, my heart is a thousand times the size of yours.”

Barnabas didn’t understand that the size of the heart had nothing to do with the pain it could feel. But because she was a very good friend, Bird held her words.

“I must leave.” Barnabas paced as flowers swirled at his feet. “How do I heal my heart here, where no one understands? Yes, I will leave.”

“Where will you go?” Bird fluttered to the end of Barnabas’ great trunk and searched his eyes.

The elephant tossed his trunk to the east, flipping Bird into the air. “As far from California as I can.”

NestPitch BP2: Unsend

Category/Genre: YA Contemporary

Word Count: 64,000

Pitch: After a private sexting session goes viral, humiliated Mila turns to sexy, manipulative Rup to do damage control, unaware that every favor she accepts from him is another step into his twisted world.

If the MC was an Easter Egg, what flavor would they be and why?   
A flavor never tasted, something never hated, never loved ... but especially never talked about.

Excerpt: 300 words

Sitting on a toilet is the perfect vantage point from which to re-examine one’s life.  I mean, where are you going to go?  Shorts around your ankles and nothing but graffiti to read, it’s kind of the ideal spot for self-reflection.  Egos don’t follow you into a bathroom stall.  Pretentiousness has no useful application whilst perched on a porcelain throne.  It’s too bad you spend a relatively brief amount of time on the commode in the grand scheme of things.  Sometimes a little pause is all you need to avoid making a major mistake in your life.     

With my head cradled in my hands and my elbows on my knees, I hear the outer door swing open then slam against its jamb, rattling the metal grey walls around me.  A small herd approaches the wall of sinks, unzipping purses and clicking compacts. 

“Did you ever get to read the whole thing?” I don’t recognize the girl’s voice, but her tone is rushed and guilty.     

“I did,” someone else says.  “My mom walked into the room just as I was shutting it down.  Can you imagine if she’d seen me reading it?  I would have died.”

Oh, yeah, I know where this is going.

“I read it at a friend’s house,” a third says.  “I got to see it just before they figured out how to take it down.  I heard whoever posted it messed with the school’s security access to the Facebook site.  I think that’s why the cute I.T. guy is gone.  He tried to get it down for days before they called somebody else in.  Did you ever figure out how to print it?”

“I have a copy,” the first girl offers.  “Do you need one?”

NestPitch BP3: An Epic Journey of Love

Category/Genre: YA Contemporary

Word Count: 50,000

Pitch: The spring musical ended in bloodshed, but four theater kids in their senior year still hope their road trip will give them answers, and great selfie opportunities

If the MC was an Easter Egg, what flavor would they be and why?   
Swirled, because all four of them are a little confused right now.

Excerpt: (300 words)

It’s incredibly hard to take someone seriously when they’re wearing a toga. I guess it would have worked in ancient Rome, when all the cool Chariot racers were wearing them. But in the 21st century, especially in 3rd period Chemistry, it kind of undermines whatever you’re saying. Which is only one of the reasons I couldn’t take Rob’s profession of love too seriously.

“You don’t understand. We’re meant to be!” he whispered desperately across the table and his unlit Bunsen burner (while Mr. Lee conceded he hadn’t explicitly said no togas in his lab safety handout, he felt it fell in with baggy sweatshirts). “I just have to find the right way to tell him!”

“Have you thought about passing him a scroll?” asked Melanie. 

I elbowed her hard but Rob just continued to stare wistfully at the giant periodic table projected on the white board. Zack, who had been carving some kind of doodle into the desk with a safety pin, looked up at Rob, who now had his face on the desk and was rocking it slowly side to side.

“Dude, come in tomorrow wearing pants and a shirt, and go from there.”

 I wish I could say I’ve known Rob his entire life, because that seems to validate a friendship in a way nothing else can. Like having memories of someone’s play-dough creations gives you an unparalleled bond. I’ve actually only know Rob since 7th grade, when he transferred out of Mountain Woods Junior High to Red Brook Middle School; and almost as soon as we met we were dating, or going out, or whatever you call it when twelve-year-olds hold hands and have their parents drive them to the movies.

He came out to me the last day of school. 

NestPitch BP4: The Heart Song

Category/Genre: YA Fantasy

Word Count: 87,000

Pitch: After running from her past for 400 years, Golem Hania, must decide if she will open her heart to her Native American history and creation ceremony to defeat an oppressive leader and save her friends.

If the MC was an Easter Egg, what flavor would they be and why? 
 I am the flavors of my people: wild ginger and juniper berry chocolate.

Excerpt: (300 words)

I was breaking and entering, but I didn't care.  Listening closely for any sound or movement, I tried the knob to the back entrance of a barber shop.  It held fast. I removed a small metal knife from my front pocket and placed it quietly into the lock.  Moving slowly and precisely, sliding the pick up and down until it found the correct grooves and all the pins clicked into place, then turning the knob, I pressed on the door.  It squeaked as it slid inward.  Willing the sound to stop, I looked around once more, before stepping into the shop and closing the door behind me.  

Grabbing clippers form the desk I moved to the sink at the back of the shop away from the windows and leaned my head over.  The vibration of the blade as it slid across my scalp made goose bumps rise on my neck.   Shiny black hair was left covering the sink, counter and floor.  A man peered back at me in the mirror, but I could still feel the woman inside.  Missing her already, I ran my hands over the top of my newly-shorn hair, watching the loose pieces fall to the floor, I realized that I didn't even recognize myself anymore. Maybe this was for the best. I was lost on the inside anyway. 

Cleaning up my mess, I returned the clippers to the desk, and slipped out the back door to the alley.  The sun was coming up, anxiety returning to my chest with it, reminding me that I needed to go now and meet the dreaded ship. 

Slinging my pack over my shoulder I walked toward the dock.  There was a long wooden table near the ship walkway.  Behind the table sat two men in green uniforms.  

NestPitch BP5: Demons

Genre/Category: YA Paranormal

Word Count: 93,000

Pitch: Possessing a teenager was always risky. Matt expected the curfews, but didn’t count on developing morals or falling for a disabled atheist. And just wait until the peeps upstairs discover Matt wants to stay human.
If the MC was an Easter Egg, what flavor would they be and why?  
Matt would be a cheese-flavored egg because if weird tea-flavored chocolate exists, so should a flavor based on their dairy sibling. 
Excerpt: (300 words)
I had just broken one of Heaven's most sacred laws—and I didn't even do it on purpose this time.

Reaching into the bucket of glue, I tugged out a very soggy, very sticky library book. Ten thousand pages worth of holy data all completely wiped out. Thanks a lot, Elmer.

I tossed the ruined record aside and broke out my flash cards instead, using my gluey claws to stick them on the walls while I finished assembling my booby traps. They contained handy little snippets like: 'Matt Sherwood does not like green jelly beans', or 'Matt Sherwood always puts his right sock on first', or 'Matt Sherwood will die at 3pm sharp. DO NOT BE LATE.'

That last one was especially important. Possessing a human was like catching a train. You can memorize the schedule, but if you missed your ride, you had to wait until the next one. And I had no intention of spending another century stoking the fires of Hell until the next first-class carriage came along.

The boy was possession gold— I could barely believe my luck when I stumbled across his record in Heaven's library several months back. Matt Sherwood was healthy, had a fairly well-to-do family and best of all, would vacant his body at the ripe age of sixteen. Heck, he even had the same namesake as me! Now if that wasn't a blatant sign from the Universe, I didn't know what was.

Plus, I wanted something fun to do. 'Idle hands are the Devil's tools' after all.

After I had finished prankster-proofing my cave in anticipation of my extended absence (gluing furniture to the ceiling was big these days), I gathered up the book and cards and dumped them in the Lake of Fire in front of my cave. A small mushroom cloud bloomed out of its depths and the damned souls inside scattered like fish.


NestPitch BP6: The Changeling

Category/Genre: YA Paranormal Romance

Word Count: 52,000

Pitch: Amanda spent five years institutionalized after she claimed an evil creature killed her sister with just a look. Out of the hospital and in high school, she discovered she might not be crazy after all.

 If the MC were an Easter Egg, what flavor would they be and why?

Chocolate with a hint of cashew flavoring. Because they’re nuts, but only sort of.

Excerpt: (300 words)

I came home from the hospital on the fifth anniversary of my sister’s death. Mom chatted away with nervous energy, fingers tapping on the wheel of the car as she drove. I watched the trees go by, wondering what the new house was like. Mom brought pictures on a visit once, but pictures don’t always tell the truth.

“I got you registered for school last week,” she said.

I blinked. “What?”

“I got you registered for school.”

“Are you sure that’s a good idea?”

“You have another week before school starts, so you’ll have time to prepare.” She cast a quick glance my way. “Besides, Dr. Morris said you should get used to a normal routine and what’s more normal for a sixteen-year-old girl than high school?”

I shook my head and stared out the window again. Normal for me was different from most teenagers my age. As soon as I stepped foot in the school everyone would know me as the crazy girl who spent four-and-a-half years in the nut house.

“So you talked to Dr. Morris about this?”

“Of course I did, Amanda,” she said, exasperated. “I’m not going to do anything that would—”

“Send me to Nutsville again.”

“Hey, Dr. Morris has said time and time again the emotional trauma you went through would have left its mark on any child.” I heard the strain of tears in her voice, but I didn’t turn to look at her.

I thought about what a normal girl would be worried about when going to school when I remembered my clothes. The sweatpants and t-shirt ensemble might have worked at Clarkwood, but I doubted it would work for high school. “I don’t have anything to wear.”

Mom chuckled. “That can be fixed.”

She’d probably planned our shopping trip already.

NestPitch BP7: The Pact

Category/Genre: NA Science Fiction

Word Count: 80,000

Pitch: For 21-year old Scarlett Earle, being the President's daughter has its perks, like getting exempt from a worldwide alien slaughter that happens once every four years.

If the MC were an Easter Egg, what flavor would they be and why?
Milk chocolate with a dark center; sweet on the outside, but bitter on the inside.

Excerpt: (300 words)

There is a problem with the curtains in my room. The one hanging on the right is cut in diameter about an inch shorter than the one on the left and it causes the sunlight to laser beam right into my eyes every morning at exactly 7:13AM. No sleeping in for the heir to the Presidency. That is what my mother would say if I complained to her about it. I guess instead I will bring it to my dad who will have no choice but to help out his darling baby girl.

Normally I would slowly open one eyelid while the other remained closed, my face stuck in a permanent wink, but this morning I keep them both shut. I focus my breathing to a slow, rhythmic tempo, in through the nose and out through the mouth. Heat begins racing up my body like a thousand tiny fire ants making their way through my veins and letting me know that any attempt to calm myself down will fail. When the heat reaches my face the intense tingling sensation almost feels good for a minute and I scrunch my eyes closed even tighter and wish that the numbing would continue on into my brain. Today is the day, today is the day, today is the day… that is all my brain has been spitting out since the sun laser beamed me awake.

Today is the day that I turn twenty-one.

Most girls my age would be jumping out of bed, ready to shed that young kid skin and put on that shiny adulthood jacket, but not me. Well, under any other circumstances it probably would be me, but unfortunately I am not like most girls my age. I am the President’s daughter, which makes turning twenty-one a little bit more complicated. 

NestPitch BP8: Circle of Fur

Category/Genre: Adult Women's Fiction

Word Count: 77,000

Pitch: In each chapter a fur coat passes from hand to hand. Funny, sentimental, sometimes dark, each one contains a stand-alone story connected to the previous one, until the fur coat returns to its original owner. 

If the MC were an Easter Egg, what flavor would they be and why?

I am Molly Henderson, widow of Bill. If I were an Easter Egg, which is a daft idea if ever I heard one, I would be delivered in a plain box.

Excerpt: (300 words)

Going to the school dance had been a terrible idea, but Betty Herbert’s mother had insisted.

“You can’t miss your final year Prom,” she’d said, horrified. “It’s a memory you’ll always treasure.” 

Betty wondered which parallel universe her mother inhabited. It must have been one where her teenage daughter was popular and clever, the centre of a happy crowd of girlfriends who discussed clothes and make-up and boys. A daughter who’d recall her own schooldays as riotous fun, as her mother seemed to.

Mrs Herbert herself had a thick album of memories: concert programmes, restaurant menus and photographs all carefully stuck in a scrap book and she fully expected her daughter to have the same one day, if she’d only make the effort to smile a bit more. 

The thought of going to a dance, any dance, gave Betty a sick feeling of pure fear. Fat girls didn’t dance. 

“I don’t want to go, Mum, and anyway I haven’t anything to wear.”

“Ah, that’s where you’re wrong. I’ve made you a lovely little frock as a surprise.”

Her heart sank. Her mother was an ardent seamstress and loved making her daughter frocks. These were always totally unsuitable for a gloomy, overweight teenager with greasy hair, fighting a losing battle against bad skin.  Betty would have preferred a tent of inconspicuous beige, one with properties to render her invisible until she became thin as a stick and looked more like Kate Bush.

“Look, it’s hanging up in the spare room. I finished it just last night. Ta-da!”

Mrs Herbert stood aside and let her little surprise speak for itself.
It shouted. Suckered again, Betty!

Friday, April 11, 2014

#NestPost Picks! (No, not really)

*Update! One of my original picks (no, I will not say which ;) was traded to another team, and since I knew it was getting a good home I got to pick another pitch that I loved! I will say that it's fantasy, and the opening dynamic between the two characters we meet was absolutely precious, but not in an over-the-top cutesy way--I loved the author's restraint, considering the demographic--it would have been easy to tip too far in the wrong direction, but they got it just right. <end hint>

Original Post:

I've been reading NestPitch entries for a long time now--the minute that window opened I was at the ready, and I've been printing and highlighting and sobbing on piles of brilliant words for two weeks now. "However will I choose???" sobbed I. (I'm old and British in my head.) Last night was the start of the final selection process, and I stayed up until an ungodly hour making my final picks (then I overslept and now I'm at work looking completely hideous, but that's neither here nor there). Nevertheless, it was well worth the time.

You guys are good. Like, really good.

So first, a rousing round of applause and lots of chocolate for everyone that entered. It takes a lot to put your work in front of so many eyes at once, and I am honored to have had the opportunity to read it. I read all of the pitches, and a lot of them I read many times, because this was a hard choice. The slush bilbies (more applause!) made it a lot easier on all of us, and I spent all of last night going over their thoughts and notes before I arrived at my final list. I did make a few changes based on things they caught and I didn't, so a huge note of thanks to them for helping me build a strong team.

In anticipation of the big reveal on April 16th, I thought it would be fun to be sadistic and do some blind item teasers about my picks. I am thrilled with my group, which will be known from this point on as Team Cake (#TeamCake!) This post is not intended to indicate a firm yes or no for any particular pitch or pitchee, it's merely a chance for me to be intentionally vague and generate some buzz for Team Cake (#TeamCake!)

Yes, this is a cake. I didn't make it.

Here we go!
Blind Item #1-MG-Urban Fantasy

I pulled this from the slush, rinsed it off, and oh, the majesty within! This was my first official pick, and what really grabbed me was the intro. It falls well on the sophisticated side, which I LOVE. Kids are smarter than we give them credit for and this author knows it. Totally bizarre and unexpected opening POV? Count me in.

Now for a visual clue!

Blind Item #2-YA Contemporary

Expect to see this one on shelves. The voice is sharp and funny, the premise is terrifying, and I wanted to read the rest of the 60K+ words immediately after devouring the first 300. The enormity of the MC's problem is illustrated perfectly in a single line of dialogue uttered by an unseen character, and the whole thing gave me chills.

Now for a visual clue!

Blind Item #3-YA Paranormal
Hi-larious. I love seeing a male MC in YA, and the premise of this was so light and clever that I had to have it. The visual I got of the narrator slayed me, even though I knew he's not going to stay, ahem, exactly the same.

Now for a visual clue!

Blind Item #4-YA Paranormal Romance

I fell hard for the narrator of this one. She was blunt and unapologetic during a pretty awkward situation in the opening lines, and that made her feel very strong. Plus she has the same first name as my sister. (Let's see how sleuth-y you guys are willing to get :)

Now for a visual clue!

Blind Item #5-YA Fantasy

The opening of this one was really intriguing, and it reminded me of a scene from one of my all-time favorite novels, which is a massive compliment. I like being dropped into a book, and the odd and abrupt beginning really hooked me. 

Now for a visual clue!

Blind Item #6-YA Contemporary

Another one that had me cracking up--the dialogue, setting, everything; it felt like I was watching a movie. The writing was charming, the characters were quirky, and I wasn't expecting to be so moved by the last of the three hundred words. But I was--and it was a very pleasant surprise.

Now for a visual clue!

Blind Item #7-NA Sci-Fi

The pitch made me do a double take, and the first 300 came to a really nice slow boil. The whole thing felt like the epitome of NA, with the MC seeming both innocent and aware in her internal dialogue. That, and the premise felt just a wee bit tongue in cheek ;)

Now for a visual clue!

Blind Item #8-Adult-Women's Fiction

Straight up bizarre idea. I love bizarre. I loved the voice in this so much I wanted to eat it, and the hint that there would be multiple voices to look forward to made it all the better. The pitch was among the more unusual that I saw, but the writing was too good to pass up. I would read this, and I would read it many times.

Now for a visual clue!

And that's Team Cake (#TeamCake!)  I hope I was properly vague, because I really don't want to give up the ghost before reveal time. That said, if you DO recognize yourself, or your friend, or your ninth grade English teacher, shhhhhh......celebrate in silence, brilliant one.

Good luck, everyone! Be sure to check in with all the Nest Bloggers for more clues and I'll see you on April 16th!