I’ve recently participated in a contest called Pitch Wars, which writers seeking agency representation submit their queries and first drafts to published/agented authors. I was so humbled to receive so many amazing submissions! The worst part of the contest was I could only pick two to work with. Two. I don’t have any kids, but my motherly instincts seem to scream the loudest in moshpits and Pitch Wars. I wanted to help everyone.
Since I can’t go through and line edit everyone’s manuscript, the next best thing is to share the most common feedback I gave on the submissions.
- Get in your character’s head. Any character can set things down, sigh, look at things. I want to know what makes your character special on every page. I want her thoughts, feelings, and opinions. Make sure only your characters can tell this story.
- Stay in the moment. If your character is under attack, she’s not going to notice how her clothes are wrinkling or minute details about her surroundings.
- Use description sparingly. Give us just enough to paint the picture, and then get back to the action.
- Read current titles in your genre. Pay special attention to the voice and the pace.
- We are an ADD culture. Even if I love something, chances are, I’m still somewhat distracted. It’s just how we roll now. You need to grab me immediately, and then keep that pace going.
- Read your work out loud. It seems horrifying, but it will help you get rid of clunky prose and bad dialog. We speak differently than we write.
- If you’re writing NA or YA, make sure your voice is appropriate for that age group! You need to think like a 16 or a 21 year old, even if you’re old enough to have a 16 or a 21 year old.
- Be open to feedback. Anyone who took the time to read your story and tell you their thoughts has your best interests in mind. This is how your characters are coming across on the page.
- Trust your gut. If your characters want to do something, let them. Also, once you reach the revision stage, if a change doesn’t feel right to you, don’t do it!
- There are many paths to publication. It’s not one size fits all. Do your research, talk to as many people as you can about the process. Don’t rush, make sure you have the best product you can possibly produce. And don’t give up. J
In The Night Songs Collection, the vampires enjoy an alcohol called Venom. It’s too strong for humans, but at The Sin City Vampire Club, the bartenders have created a knock-off cocktail that the fans can enjoy while they watch Immortal Dilemma on stage.
1 part Navan vanilla liquor (Venom is amber colored, Navan is made from black vanilla)
1 part vodka (the smoother the better)
• Pour into shaker over ice
• Shake well
• Pour into a sugar rimmed, chilled glass.
(Night Songs Collection #3)
Publication date: September 1st 2014
Genres: New Adult, Paranormal, Romance
Callie Chabot would stop at nothing to save her ex-boyfriend Blade Bennett from the clutches of vampire clan leader Talis de Rancourt, even if means becoming immortal herself. What she doesn’t know is that Blade has already defeated Talis, and he’s waiting for Callie in the afterlife.
Now Callie only has her creator, Tristan Trevosier, to turn to for guidance. But he’s too wrapped up in the debauchery of the Las Vegas rock scene to give a damn about the particulars of being undead. That’s enough to drive Callie crazy on its own, but female vampires are automatic clan leaders.
Not only does Callie have no idea how to wrangle a vampire clan, but her would-be followers have more to gain from her failure. They instead choose to follow Blade—and he’s hell-bent on making Callie pay for her bad decisions. Since he took out the existing clan leader, that automatically puts him at the helm of what should be Callie’s new clan.
That’s when seasoned rogue vampire, Cash Logan, shows up, shrouded in magic and mystery. No one is sure which side Cash is on, but Callie needs to take a chance on the one vampire who is willing to give her the answers she needs, no matter how dark and frightening they may be. Callie must trust her instincts and form alliances that may backfire. Cash shows Callie that playing nice is no longer an option, and that fixing her wrongs won’t always make everything right.
To take control of her clan, Callie must look to her rival to discover exactly what makes her a leader.
A red sports car almost ran me over. Jumping so high I landed on the hood, I had to hold on to the windshield wipers to not be thrown off.
Cash Logan got out of the car once he guided it into the spot with me still on it, shaking out his hair and pushing up his dark glasses. “Well hello, Mistress.” He laughed, offering me a hand. “Let me get you back on your feet.”
“You drive like a frigging maniac,” I spat as I took his hand to climb off the car. “And don’t call me that.”
Still holding my hand, he jerked my body close enough to his that his long hair tangled in mine. “If you want people to start treating you like the leader, you have to accept what you are.”
His words echoed in my head, slamming against the sides of my skull. How many times had I said those same words to Tristan? Yet I did the same exact thing. I swallowed hard and nodded, looking up at his light eyes. I could understand why Lennon had a thing for him. Something about him truly was magical.
“I can help you, Callie.”
“What do you want from me?” Why beat around the bush, right?
Cash burst out laughing. He ran his free hand through his beard and looked off towards the road. “I’m not sure yet, but when I have a favor to call in, I’ll know who to ask, won’t I?”
I needed allies, and I was starting to run short on options. “Okay.” I hardly could do more than mouth the word.
He looked towards the Viper, as Tristan revved the engine long and hard. “Your creator is waiting for you.”
“I like him,” Cash said. “This comes easy to him, and that’s why they all hate him, Callie. That’s why I’m helping you. You’re meant for this.”
I shook my head. “I’m not.”
“Nobody wants to help you, Callie, because they’re afraid of you. They know you have something they don’t. Focus on their energy. That’s why they’re trying to keep you down.”
I tried not to lose myself in Cash’s hazel eyes as I met his gaze. “But you’re not.”
“No.” He didn’t clarify if he meant he wasn’t afraid of me or not. I didn’t want the answer.
Tristan leaned on the horn of the Viper. I rolled my eyes and fought the urge to give him the finger.
“I have to go. He’s already pissed at me.”
Cash let go of me. It was harder than I thought to walk away from him. It didn’t take long to fall under his spell.
“Don’t let them hold you down, Callie.”
Kristen Strassel is the author of The Night Songs Collection, a paranormal romance series about vampire rock stars in Las Vegas. After all, they tell you to write what you know. She is a passionate music fan who also loves football games and diners. Kristen works as a makeup artist on film and TV shows when she's not writing, and loves being behind the scenes. A former resident of Las Vegas, Kristen now lives in the Boston area.