Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Pitch Slam Support Group Blog Hop

If you're like me and have entered Pitch Slam, you are probably working furiously on your pitch, trying to improve it for the Vegas Round. 

One of the best things to come out of contests like this (apart from possible agent representation) is the networking with other authors. So here's a chance to do this by improving your pitch and others. 

Here's what to do.

Create a blog post that includes:

  1. Your full query.
  2. Your Pitch Slam Pitch
  3. Your Pitch Slam Feedback.
Tweet me the link to the post at @S_M_Johnston with the hashtag #PitchSlamSupport and I will add it into this post (Just remember I'm in Australia so I might be sleeping when you tweet me). Search the list on this post and the hashtag to find other writers to help with their pitch honing. The more you help, the more help you are likely to receive! 

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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 favourite 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 here. You can find the full schedule here and the participating agents here.   

Here are my gorgeous entries: 

You can find the rest of the entries snuggled safely in the other bloggers nests: 

Brooke Powell    
Tina Moss     

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

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Nest Pitch SJ1: The New Black

Category/Genre: YA Thriller
Word Count: 50,000
Pitch: The last place Antoine thought he'd take his final breath was face down in a white-trash trailer. But, gun to the back of his head, he knows it's the only way to save his sister.
If the MC was an Easter Egg he/she would be:  Velvety milk chocolate would be the easy answer, 'cause that's what my boyfriend calls me.
My foot lowers softly, lightly pressing down the ruffled edges of the ragged and stained K-mart clearance t-shirt that's laying on the floor of this busted-ass trailer.  The floor gives slightly under my weight, but there's no creak. 
Good. Ten feet in front of me a silver knob glows, the light coming in from the kitchen behind my shoulder, reflecting off the bedroom door. Behind it's the man with answers. Only he knows where my sister is and I don't care what I have to do to get that info. I'll beat him black and blue if I have to.
I tiptoe around the scattered garbage in this den of degradation. A greasy pizza box lays splayed open before me, and I take a measured step over the stale, nibbled crusts and plant my foot firmly on the other side. The carpet is worn in the middle from decades of use, with stained, cream curls on either side, blackened by mildew and disuse, and it reminds me of my seventh-grade teacher, Mr. Lederer. 
After his wife died he stopped taking care of himself, letting his patchy beard grow out and forgetting to shower for weeks at a time. The worst part was the bald mohawk stripe that lived in the middle of his head. Shiny in the fluorescent light of science class, both the back and sides eventually grew up around it, dirty gray with specks of black scattered throughout. It was a beacon that drew my attention every day at two. No matter what his flat voice droned on about all I could do was watch it as the light reflected off in various directions.
His oily head called to me then, just as the low hum of music from under the bedroom door calls to me now.
Six feet to go.

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Nest Pitch SJ 2: Blood Reign

Category/Genre: YA Fantasy
Word Count: 77, 000

Pitch: Seventeen-year-old Alice awakens on a medieval battlefield in another world. Forced to disguise as a man, she sets out to find home—even if it means killing people to survive and unleash her awakening bloodlust. 

If the MC was an Easter Egg he/she would be:  I would be dark-chocolate filled with coconut shards: Bitter with a heart of ice. 


I’ve been fighting with a sword since I was eight. It was the only way to feel alive; to feel the blood running in my veins. I stalked my prey, eyeing him from behind my mask. My ragged breathing was amplified inside this fencing suit, drowning the outside noise. The suit was supposed to protect me, yet it served to protect him from me.

Strike him. Make him bleed.

Ignoring the demon whispering inside my head, I lunged forward stabbing the blade toward his heart. The hall exploded with cheers as blood-rush sang wildly in my ears. Adrenaline slithered through my veins, echoing the sweet, sharp metallic twangs of clashing swords.

“15-8! Southampton college—champion of regional games!” the speakers blared into the screaming crowd. And just like that, it was over.

I pulled back, my jaw ticked with irritation. It was too quick. I should’ve stalled a bit more rather than lunging toward him like a homicidal maniac.
I clenched my fist on the sabre, curbing myself from giving in to the roaring hunger. My opponent grabbed his mask and yanked it off. Sweat streamed down his face, his skin flushed.

"Good game! Man, you're one tough badass." He saluted me with his sabre.

"Duh, our captain's the best!" My classmate Leona flanked me immediately, jumping with excitement, knowing she won the bet. I pulled my mask off, and my blond hair escaped from the hairband and tumbled down my back in long waves. My opponent gaped at me.

"You're a girl?" he spluttered.

I raised my eyebrow at his remark. He saw me earlier when we saluted just before the match started but my hair was tied into a tight bun so he must’ve assumed I was a man. The white jacket didn’t help much either. It covered my chest and any signs of femininity. 

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Nest Pitch SJ3: The Sandman's Apprentice

Category/Genre: MG Paranormal 
Word Count: 40,000

Pitch: Monsters took her brother; to get him back, twelve-year-old Taryn must become the first female Sandman; travel new realms; and, oh yeah, save the world.

If the MC was an Easter Egg he/she would be: As an egg, Taryn would be filled with eye-twitchingly sour candy to match her personality.


Taryn Jacobson sat on her bed attempting to watch TV through the growing cluster of spit wads clinging to the screen. For a seven-year-old, her little brother Luke had good aim. The air hissed, and another wet ball of slobbery paper hit the TV. It slid down the screen leaving a trail of drool as it landed on the floor. She clenched her jaw and tightened her grip on the bedpost, glad that it provided a barrier between her and her brother. 

“Luke, if you don’t cut that out, I’ll never let you in here again,” Taryn said. The television flickered behind the cloud of paper and saliva, forcing Taryn to lean forward and wipe the screen clean. “I told Dad I’d let you stay in here and watch—” Shloop! A large slobbery wad splattered against her cheek cutting her off mid-sentence. “Gah!” 

A high pitched giggle let her know that it hadn’t been an accident. Taryn turned and stepped closer to Luke. The light from her bedside lamp cast a shadow over him as Taryn towered over her brother. Occasionally, being five and a half years Luke’s senior came in handy, particularly when it came to height.

“Get. Out.” One hand balled into a fist at her left side while the other pointed at the door. Luke rolled onto his back and laughed, kicking his legs in the air in glee. “Mom!” Taryn shrieked, not taking her eyes from her personal tormentor.

“Luke, be nice to your sister!” Her mom’s voice rang out from the kitchen.

Like her usual response was going to help. Taryn rolled her eyes and dropped her right arm, balling it into a matching fist at her side. Beaming at her, Luke sat back up; his face promised good behavior, but the twinkle in his eye said otherwise. 

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Nest Pitch SJ4: Through The Wood

Genre: Adult Speculative Romance
Word Count: 100,000

PITCH: While investigating hiker disappearances, journalist Olivia unearths a realm from Cherokee folklore. Nik, a seductive guardian, must erase her memory to keep it from press. Only problem? Falling in love breaks laws from both worlds.

If the MC was an Easter Egg he/she would be:  Olivia would be a Cadbury Orange Crème egg, the perfect combination of sweet and acidic.


I could think of a lot of things I’d rather do than spend a weekend in the woods with Chad Ferguson. Like get a Pap Smear from Edward Scissorhands.

Gregory Whitaker, my editor-in-chief, flashed me a grin through cigar-stained teeth. Sinking further into the leather wingback facing his desk, I stared a hole into the brick wall behind him. I was an investigative journalist, not a dessert reviewer or pet expert. The slice-of-life bullshit was getting old.

Ever since Greg promoted his idiot nephew, Chad, to associate editor, my assignments were about as investigative as an episode of Jersey Shore. I’d been brainstorming a real story for weeks.

Four hikers went missing from trails in nearby Linville Gorge over a two-month span. No leads or evidence. As someone familiar with that wilderness, I wanted to go see through the eyes of the missing. Greg’s blue irises sparkled with enthusiasm as I sold my idea. But then he threw an unbearable caveat into the mix.

“Look, Olivia. I know you aren’t afraid to go alone,” Greg said in his fatherly tone. “But it’d be irresponsible for me to send a woman to a dangerous area of the backcountry without some sort of protection.”

His idea of protection? Chad.

“If it makes you feel better, I’ll take a gun.” My vagina does not render me incapable of common sense. I bit my peppermint tongue to keep from saying it out loud.  Three years at the Brevard Herald gave us rapport and I respected him, nephew nepotism notwithstanding.

“This is a sweet gig for both of us, Olivia,” Chad said to my boobs from the chair next to me. “Besides, whatever’s happening out there is serious. There’s strength in numbers, and Greg’s just saying we’ll make a great team.” He trained his sleazy grin on his uncle.

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Nest Pitch SJ5: The Duchess Quest

Category/Genre: New Adult Adventure/Romance
Word Count: 100,000

PITCH: A botched execution. A feisty former Duchess who doesn't know she's royalty. Three hard-headed men on a swashbuckling, perilous quest to seek her, only to fall for her...

If the MC was an Easter Egg he/she would be: Spicy chili pepper chocolate-flavored egg, because you'll get a kick out of him. 


They were condemned to die. Their heads hooded in sacks of black burlap, each pair of hands bound with rope, the royal family of Jordinia bobbed soundlessly, unseeing in the wooden wagons that carried them into the mouth of the Knights’ Forest.
Side-to-side they were lined against a row of pines as the Revolutionary soldiers drew their rebel swords. The Emperor of Jordinia, Dane Ducelle, was the first to be run through, followed by his wife, the Empress Néandra, weeping wildly for her children. Next to be struck down were the three young dukes, who fought valiantly despite their bound wrists. The soldiers were now bellowing to them and to one another, their orders contradictory, their sword-work inaccurate, their actions disorganized.

In the midst of the wailing and bloody turmoil around him, rebel soldier Francosto Eco found himself face-to-face with the youngest royal, wee Eludaine, the little Duchess of but three years old. There she stood on the frigid, dormant winter’s grass, her head enshrouded, chubby wrists bound before her.

Squinting, Eco slowly raised his sword, then exhaled, unable to summon the will to lower it. He watched the child, his breast heaving. She was now whimpering with terror and shivering fervidly.

The soldier glanced about at the surrounding chaos. His comrades were shouting at one another and at their victims, wrestling their swords through the bodies of those not perishing swiftly enough. Blood pulsing in his ears, Eco looked again to the tiny Duchess. His heart ached in his breast. This was not possible. He could not murder the child.

His opportunity was imminent. He had to act now, lest her innocent blood stain his hands, and that of his comrades, forevermore. With one last surreptitious glance about him, Eco finally made up his mind. Up he snatched the child into his arms before hurrying into the brush and breaking into a run.

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Nest Pitch SJ6: The Love Spell

Category/Genre: YA Magical Realism/Romance 
Word-Count: 71,000

PITCH: At a witch shop in modern-day Salem, sixteen-year-old Ivy becomes entangled in a love spell gone horribly wrong. Broken hearts and black magic revenge ensue, along with the threat of losing her one true love.

If the MC was an Easter Egg he/she would be: I’m a mocha egg because chocolate muffins and coffee from Adam’s café are my favorite!


A fleeting glimpse was all I caught through the falling snow as he positioned the sandwich board outside the new café across the street. My heart quickened, and I turned just as he looked my way. Not wanting to look back in his direction, I hung the flag and stepped inside. I peered out the frost-covered window, but he’d disappeared.

I sat behind the counter and grabbed my sketchpad when the front door flew open. A girl with hot pink streaks in her hair walked up to me, tears leaving a roadmap of mascara down her cheeks.

 “I have a reading … with Luna,” she said, wiping her eyes with a gloved hand.

 “Are you okay?” I handed her a tissue.

 She nodded and blew her nose as her friend, who’d walked in behind her, looked at me and mouthed, She’s fine.

“Come on back,” Luna said, popping her head into the doorway. Her long braids dangled in the entryway, the little bells she weaved into them tinkling softly as the pink-haired girl walked up to her. “Now, what’s the matter, love?” I heard her say, as she led the girl to her reading room. I sat back down behind the counter as her friend meandered through the store.

“Her boyfriend dumped her,” the friend said after a long while, as she flipped through the intention herbs.

“Whose boyfriend?” I said, looking up at the girl. She had a stud in each cheek and a star tattoo near her right eye and seemed like she’d rather be anywhere but a witch shop on a Saturday morning.

 “My friend. That’s why she’s here. She wanted a reading to see if they’re going to get back together.”

 “Oh,” I said, not sure what else to say. Luna’s clients often came in crying and if things went well, they’d leave happy … or at least happier.

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Nest Pitch SJ7: The Sweetest Sorrow of Ava Hale

Category/Genre: YA Thriller
Word Count: 60,000

Pitch: After sixteen-year-old Ava Hale’s older sister is murdered, she must shed her outer layers of vulnerability and find the killer — even if it means befriending people with secrets of their own.

If the MC was an Easter Egg he/she would be: I'd be a generic-flavoured Easter egg — I look solid on the outside, but hollow inside. 


Dear Kesley,

My therapist tells me I should write you a letter. Every time I see her, she asks whether I’ve started, and every session I say: No, I haven’t; it’s a stupid idea.

But alas, here I am, writing a letter to a dead girl. I tried the argument of saying it’s morbid, but that ran dry when she said it could be therapeutic. Like flushing all my thoughts and feelings out of my system and onto paper.

I pondered over where I should start the letter. Where, after all, did our story begin? From the moment you were born…or died? I chose the latter, thinking that at least the letter would be done quicker that way. So here goes nothing, Kesley, because it begins, and ends, with you.

The first thing I did every day, after fixing a pale pink bow in my hair, dressing, and consuming my mandatory cup of coffee, was stare at your photo. Stupid, don’t you think? But I sat at the side of the road with a framed image of your face, waiting, waiting, waiting. For what? Well, that was beyond me. Maybe I hoped you’d leap out and become real again, or maybe I just read too many fantasy novels. Either way, I’d stare at your photo.

Starting this letter is one of the hardest things I’ve done, Kesley. I read somewhere that beginnings are always the hardest to write — there are so many places I could start, yet I chose this place. I think I started it here because today is the day that Rafe Lawrence came back to Circling Pines. Remember him, Kesley?

I tucked the framed photo of you back into my bag, staring at the snow-capped mountains gleaming in the distance. A breeze lifted the hair away from my face, and leaves scuttled like little spiders along the pavement, bringing a discarded newspaper with them. 

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