Archive | September 2012

Get Your Pitch On Workshop submissions OPEN!

Workshops for Get Your Pitch On will start on October 1, but you can send your pitches through now to secure your spot with a host blog.

There is no date deadline for the workshops. Each blog has allocated a set number of pitches that they can host and once those spots are full then no more submissions will be taken.

Important Rule: If you want to participate in a workshop, you must be prepared to comment on at least one other pitch.

Also! For each critique you leave in the comments, you get an entry in the draw for one of eight 10-page critique from me and workshop hosts Larissa Hardesty, Stephanie Diaz, Catherine Scully, Jodie Andrefski, Paula Sangare, Talynn Lynn and Kaitlin Adams. Please use the exact same names for all of your critiques. Also Sarah Nicolas will be giving away three query critiques. The opportunity ends October 14.     

How to submit: Email your draft pitch to and include PitchOnWS and the title of the manuscript in the subject line. Pitches must follow the formatting as specified for the Get Your Pitch On contest. If you missed if before check out this post here and you can see the list of blogs participating here.

Draft pitches will be evenly distributed between host blogs.

And interview with Commissioning and Managing Editor of Hardie Grant Egmont, Marisa Pintado, will be coming up soon on my blog so that you have an idea what she’s looking for before she takes your pitches both here on Down Under Wonderings and on my group blog YAtopia on October 15th. The exact contest opening times will be included in that post.

Have fun honing your pitches!

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Great opportunity for bloggers!

I have some sad news, which actually equates to an opportunity for you bloggers out there.

YAtopia is changing. Wendy, Leigh, Kelley, Nyrae, and Chanelle are
stepping down from active duty at YAtopia. They’ve promised to come back to visit us on major
YAtopian holidays and to share their good news.

Even though some of the founding members are leaving, DJ, Sarah and I are keeping things going.

Three new bloggers have already signed up to take on the role of new YAtopians:

But we want a few more! Cause we’re greedy like that – we want ALL the bloggers. Well actually, we want another four so that we have ten members.

If you want to join me and the rest of the YAtopia team, check out the post on how to apply.

There’s really only one criteria – a love of YA! You can be:

  • An avid reader.
  • A blogger.
  • A writer (aspiring or published).
  • An editor
  • An intern
  • A publicity
  • Anyone in the YA publishing world!

And you can be from anywhere! We’ve got an American living in New Zealand, a Canadian, an Australian and a couple of Americans. So if you love YA and want to blog with us then join on up.

Oh – and there’s also a gift card up for grabs on the YAtopia post – so check it out.

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Cover reveal: Pantomime

Cover Art: Tom Bagshaw

Strange Chemistry’s got another great title on the way! Pantomime by Laura Lam. And here’s her gorgeous cover.

The Plot:

R.H. Ragona’s Circus of Magic is the greatest circus of Ellada. Nestled among the glowing blue Penglass – remnants of a mysterious civilisation long gone – are wonders beyond the wildest imagination. It’s a place where anything seems possible, where if you close your eyes you can believe that the magic and knowledge of the vanished Chimeras is still there. It’s a place where anyone can hide.

Iphigenia Laurus, or Gene, the daughter of a noble family, is uncomfortable in corsets and crinoline, and prefers climbing trees to debutante balls. Micah Grey, a runaway living on the streets, joins the circus as an aerialist’s apprentice and soon becomes the circus’s rising star. But Gene and Micah have balancing acts of their own to perform, and a secret in their blood that could unlock the mysteries of Ellada.
Like the sound of it? Then add it on Goodreads!

You can buy or preorder Pantomime in early February 2013:

UK Print & Ebook | Book Depository | Waterstones | WHSmith

US Print & Ebook | |

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Get Your Pitch On precompetition details

Here’s the details you’ve been waiting for!

Commissioning and Managing Editor of Hardie Grant Egmont, Marisa Pintado, will be poised and ready to take your pitches both here on Down Under Wonderings and on my group blog YAtopia on October 15th.

Marisa is looking for YA in any genre and is accepting submissions from any where in the world. It’s your chance to skip the slush pile and put your pitch right under the nose of a fantastic editor. There’s even better news – there is no limit on how many requests Marisa will make from the contest.

EDIT: Submission window details can be found HERE as well as an interview with Marisa.

Here’s the rules:

  • Your manuscript must be complete, polished and ready to query – this means no first drafts or almost finished manuscripts.
  • It must be YA.
  • When the contest goes live on October 15th, post your entry details in the comments section of either YAtopia or Down Under Wonderings – each blog is accepting 100 entries only.
  • Your entry detail needs to include a 50 – 70 word pitch.
  • You can enter more than once if you have more than one complete, polished, ready to query manuscript.

Your contest details should be formatted like this:

Name: Sharon Johnston

Email: smjohnston [ @ ]

Country of residence: Australia


Genre: Speculative Fiction

Word-count: 58,000

Pitch: Seventeen-year-old Mishca Richardson is a sleeper soldier with a weak heart. She has no idea that a life saving heart transplant has accidentally triggered her programming. In the search for answers, she discovers the truth and that her creator, Wirth, has classified her remaining “sisters” from her experiment group as defective, scheduling them for termination. Mishca sets out to save them before they’re eliminated.

Just as it’s important to get someone else to look over your manuscript before you query, it’s a good idea to get feedback on your pitch before you post. We have about twenty blogs who are ready to help you hone your pitch. These workshops start on October 1 and you can find the list of blogs participating here.

I’m so excited to bring this competition. So now it’s time for you to Get Your Pitch On!


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Want to host a Get Your Pitch On Workshop?

It’s not long to go now until Get Your Pitch On details are revealed. Yah!

Get Your Pitch On is a chance for YA writers to pitch to an editor! She has told me that she’s looking for YA in any genre and the writer can be based anywhere in the world.

Right now I’m looking for more bloggers to host workshops prior to the contest opening. Here’s what’s involved:

  • Workshops run from October 1 until the contest opens 15 October.
  • Take on 5 to 10 pitches on your blog – pitches are to be between 50 – 70 words.
  • Each pitch needs to be a separate post to allow for feedback in the comments.
  • Provide feedback on improving the pitch and encourage other people to provide feedback.

It’s up to the host blogs if they want additional requirements, such as writers much be a follower of the host blog to be part of the workshop.

The blogs that have signed up so far include:

The competition will have a maximum for 100 entries per blog over Down Under Wonderings and YAtopia – so 200 in total. Which means we need lots of blogs to be involved to help writers hone their entries.

You can host a workshop and still enter the competition. So if you’re interested, go to the contacts page on my website and shoot me an email or add your details in the comments (blog and email).

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My #PitchMadness Final Selections

So now the actually entries have all been revealed, I can talk about the entries I chose, and why, a bit more candidly.

I do want to say first that I loved more than 15, but unfortunately I couldn’t chose anymore. Hopefully all entries will join in the Twitter Pitch Party #PitMad on 13 September and that YA (and possibly MG – waiting to confirm) entries will post in the Get Your Pitch On (#PitchOn) contest in October.

Y1: PRIME GRADE –  YA Speculative Fiction
First off, I love SpecFic. I was searching for a great entry in this genre and did with this one. It was a late swap in because it ended up in a weird folder and was discovered just before we were due to post.

I noticed there was a lack of Dystopian feel stories (not that I wanted them specifically) and I felt this one had a shot of standing out. A strained relationship with the father, a government initiating population control and a group of teenage rebels all intrigued me.

Y2: Mirror of Sand and Flame – MG adventure with fantasy elements
This was one I’d love to read with my seven-year-old. The MC is definitely no Gary Stu, having destroyed his hometown. I like rooting for the underdog. Then having to go into a fantasy novel – like a reverse Inkheart – I loved the whole concept. Then the writing was so outstanding, I just couldn’t pass this one up.

Y3: Thunderbird Dreams – Middle Grade Historical Fantasy

I know that agents have MG and historical high on their lists, which made me really look at this one. I can’t help imaging a stiff moving puppet trapped in the mountain (Thunderbirds are GO). This is another one I’d love to read with my youngest and the writing was just gorgeous.

Y4: MIRE – YA paranormal mystery
This one called and called to me, even though it took me until after the last round to move it into my list. Firstly, I’m a HUGE believer that teens are thinking more globally and they want to have MCs that aren’t always American white girls. I took a guess that the MC was of Indian descent given the pitch. Then there was the intrigued – why was she kidnapped? It made me think of TANGLED.

Y5: PALADIN – YA Fantasy
YA Game of Thrones anyone? I believe Fantasy will be making a comeback, thanks to the success of GoT. I love it in YA. Australian Author, Rhiannon Hart, has a YA fantasy Blood Song and this one reminded me of it. Again, an imperfect and conflicted MC with stakes so high. And then there was that writing – wow!

Y6: CHILDREN OF THE GODS – YA Steampunk/Mythology (Mythpunk) Romance

Why isn’t there more Steampunk in the world? There should be. But then to add in Greek mythology – I’m ready to explode. I love the idea of the old and new gods set as real people (something I’ve done myself)  Then add in the Romeo and Juliet factor at it’s a winner.

Y7: AN UNCOMMON BLUE – YA Sci-fi w/ fantasy elements
I went through the entries with my fourteen-year-old-son and I knew he would love this one. And, as I predicted, he thought this one was the coolest of them all, which may have something to do with him being a rugby player. I really struggle to find books that he likes to read (a lot of stories he would like are told from girl POVs). Even though he’s a very advanced reader for his age, he’s very fussy on storylines. Finding a story that gets his interest is hard. But this one combines two of his loves – rugby and SciFi.

Y8: Beneath the City of Lights – Forensic Mystery/Suspense

A forensic archaeologist – how cool is that! Adult fiction has to be brilliant to catch my eye (for some reason I’m more YA orientated). I loved the conflict possibilities with the death of her ex’s brother. The writing really grabbed me in – I wanted to know more, more, MORE!

Y9: Jo – New Adult Sci-fi/Horror

None of the agents had New Adult on their wish list, but a couple had horror. I know that agents can pitch this as either adult or YA, depending on the MC. I love the idea of an MC that’s a monster. And the stakes are great. The opening line was fantastic. I just wanted to read this.

Y10: UNDERCOVER – Young Adult Thriller

As I said above, I’m a strongly against white washing the publishing industry. My MC in my manuscript that’s out on sub is an Australian of African-American descent. So the MC in this one caught my eye. It still took me a bit to put it in my ‘yes’ pile as I just wasn’t sure if it was my own personal biased. But I know agents have been looking for YA mysteries that aren’t cosy mysteries – something along the lines of Veronica Mars. This storyline fits perfectly.

Y11: Singularity – YA sci-fi
Did someone say Cyborgs? Woo Hoo. I nicked this one before the slushies even put it in the ‘yes’ pile for the host bloggers to look at. I have a soft spot for cyborgs, and then add in an alien invasion and I’m sold. I love out-of-the-square storylines, and this one has it.

Y12: Charley Cross and the London Dead – YA historical thriller

This is one that I’d classify as Speculative Fiction. The historical aspect was a huge hook for me and I think it will be for agents too. Then add in the undead (zombies?) and it kicks it up a notch. The pitch made me think of The Infernal Instruments series. Very cool.

Y13: Stealing the Sun – (New) Adult Sci-Fi

Starships! Space Opera SciFis are so cool. Yes, the agents didn’t ask for New Adult, but I am so confident this will still get splattered with paint. As I said in my last post, I did a lot of Star Wars make-believe play as a child, which might explain my love of SciFi. The pitch for this was was solid and add in the high concept of a ship that ‘thinks’ and I’m just about drooling.

Y14: Jack and the Bones – YA paranormal
I love retellings, and so do agents and publishers. I think this one should be YA Speculative Fiction. Paranormal is a bit out of favour in some circles.Short, sharp, but such a strong pitch, Having your soul fused to a harp!

Y15: Sylvan Legacy – Historical Romance with Paranormal Elements

This was actually the first one I picked. I think this genre will be a big trend, although I think it’s more like a Historical Fantasy as elves are fantasy beings, not paranormal beings. It could come under the Speculative Fiction umbrella (yes, I know, I love SpecFic). It reminds me a lot of the pitch for The Falconer by Elizabeth May (not yet released). I think the agents are going to love this one.

These fifteen, along with some on the blogs and some that didn’t get picked, are ones that caught my eye and held my attention. If I were an agent I would ask to see more of these. I would read them with my children or read them myself. I would love to see these on bookshelves. That’s why I picked them.

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#PitchMadness selection summary

Congratulations to everyone who submitted to Pitch Madness. There were some outstanding entries and I know there were a lot of entries I was sad to not be able to include in my final selection. I actually let a couple go after the new window. Thankfully at least one was picked up by another host blog.

A lot of these pitches I think actually are Speculative Fiction. But people don’t seem to know what that is so here’s an article on it.

My biggest turn offs when going through subs were:

  • Word count – 75K is not MG. Nor is 100K. There were the reverse problems too. YA should be 50K minimum (except countries like Australia who accept 45K) [edit: For MG I’m talking straight MG here. Upper MG is more towards the YA word count. Yes, there are exceptions like Harry Potter. But for the purpose of this contest I was going by industry standards. There’s links in the comments at the bottom, which include posts by people in the industry, on the word counts.]
  • MC age wrong for genre – Generally 13 – 17 MCs are YA, 13 and younger is MG.
  • Vague pitch – Some pitches didn’t make sense to me and I can’t champion something I don’t understand.
  • Connection – I’m naughty and I don’t have any contemporaries. I really wanted one, but none connected with me.

So here’s my final list:

#1 YA Sci-Fi – this one I stole from the maybe pile because I loved what the MC was so much!

#2 MG Historical Fantasy – Something that repeatedly came up in the agent wish list was Historical and MG, not necessarily together though, but I still thought this one would catch an agent’s eye. It’s got links to my day job, but it’s not the same one I original picked.

#3 YA SciFi – Looks like it deals with another SciFi concept I love (even though my husband tells me that a story line based on that concept almost killed Spiderman).

#4 YA Paranormal – I’m not convinced the author has this genre right. Personally, I would class it as Speculative Fiction based on the pitch. I snavelled this one before the others even got a chance to look at it, it’s that good.

#5 New Adult SciFi – If you can’t tell by now, I have a thing for SciFi and I think it’s making a comeback. And this one has starships! (Guess who did a lot of Star Wars make-believe as a kid. I made my sister be an Ewok so I could be Leia).

#6 YA Historical Thriller – Again I think this is actually Speculative Fiction (my first genre love!) because of the cross genre components. But I know not a lot of people know or understand the genre. However, this pitch and concept totally sold me.

#7 MG Adventure – What every child needs – a fantasy adventure book that also has elements of my day job. Lets see if anyone can figure out what industry I work in.

#8 Adult Mystery – I kept coming back to this one, drawn in by the MC’s occupation.

#9 YA Thriller – I loved the pitch and the concept, but the MC sold it for me. No white wash here!

#10 New Adult SciFi/Horror – Mixing genres can mean Speculative Fiction, but I’d have to read more of this one to know for sure. I really wanted a horror and the MC concept rocked.

#11 YA Fantasy – YA Game of thrones anyone? Great stakes and fantastic opening.

#12 YA Steampunk – Do I need to say anymore?

#13 YA Paranormal – This was one I saw earlier on and it kept calling to me “pick me, pick me.” Again, a multicultural feel to the pitch. Excited about this one.

#14 Historical Romance – Another one that’s potentially classified incorrectly. But the historical/fantasy mix reminds me of The Falconer (not released yet people) and I think these novels will be one of the next trends.

#15 YA SciFi – This could be Speculative Fiction too! I think SciFi authors need to double check their genres.

For those of you who didn’t make it, don’t despair as there’s a #PitMad Twitter pitch party on September 13 from 8am to 8pm EST. And I’ll be announcing a new pitch contest on September 20. All YA genres will be accepted, possibly MG. Look out for the #PitchOn and follow here for more details.
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You want to get shot by these agent snipers

While we’re busy reading the slush and waiting for game day, we thought we’d take this opportunity to introduce the wicked awesome, crazy talented, good looking (I think that’s enough adjectives. Yeah, agents love adjectives, right? Oh? More?) badalious gamers, sneaky competitors, and on any day but game day, extremely kind and generous agents.
So, in no particular order and because they just landed that way, here are the freakintabulous agents…
Molly Ker Hawn
Molly, aka Sharp-shooter, will need to use her accurate shot if she wants to defeat her opponents from across the pond in London.
Molly’s looking for young adult and middle grade fiction that’s inventive, well-crafted, and rich with emotion, whether contemporary, historical, fantasy, sf, thriller, romance, or mystery. Her favorite books have characters she wishes she could talk to in worlds she wishes she could visit, and she loves stories that grab hold of her and keep her up reading long into the night.


Judith Engracia
Judith, aka Spider Ninja, will use her speed and martial art skills to outrun her opponents and capture the flag.
Judith is currently building her client list and looking for all types of fiction, particularly literary fiction, middle grade, young adult, urban fantasy, steampunk, paranormal romance and light science fiction.


Louise Fury

Louise, aka AgentFury, will blaze across the arena leaving mayhem and the paint riddled bodies of her opponents in her wake.
Louise is seeking well written, teen Sci-Fi and Young Adult horror. She is also on the hunt for deep, dark contemporary YA and select Middle Grade fiction with a literary feel–it must be realistic and thought provoking and the characters must be authentic and original. Louise loves horror and romance, especially Regency & Victorian.

John M. Cusick
John, aka The Jester, must use his wit and skill of balancing his martini while yielding his paintball gun to distract his opponents.
John’s specialty is middle-grade and young adult fiction. He is the author of the young adult novel GIRL PARTS (Candlewick Press, 2010) and the forthcoming CHERRY MONEY BABY. He is a founder and managing editor of the literary magazine Armchair/Shotgun. And you can read an interview with The Jester on Down Under Wonderings.


Dawn Frederick
Dawn, aka Red Dawn, will take aim at her opponents from the comfort of her sofa.
Dawn carries a B.S. in Human Ecology, and a M.S. in Information Sciences from an ALA accredited institution. “Not only do I know what people like to read and are currently reading; I also have the experience of working one-on-one with authors, book distribution centers, and literary organizations.”



Brittany Howard
Brittany, aka The Mask, will use her acting talent to trick her opponents into trusting her before clobbering them with a rainbow of paint.
Brittany’s first love is YA–from High Fantasy to Paranormal to soft Sci-fi to Contemporary–she loves it all. She also likes high concept, adventure themed, and funny MG, but a strong voice is MUST for her in MG. For adult fiction, she prefers stories that are a romance at heart–Contemporary, Paranormal, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, and Historical are all genres she enjoys. Anything with theatrical or artistic or historical elements will probably catch her eye, too.


Brooks Sherman
Brooks, aka Otter Agent, will use his sleek body to slither past his opponents and his tattoo fists to wallop any agents aiming for pitches he has his eyes on.
Brooks is on the lookout for adult fiction that runs the gamut from contemporary (with an eye toward multicultural or satirical) to speculative (particularly urban/contemporary fantasy, horror/dark fantasy, and slipstream). He also has a weakness for historical fiction and a burgeoning interest in crime fiction. On the children’s side, he is looking to build a list of boy-focused Middle Grade novels (all subgenres, but particularly fantasy adventure and contemporary), and is open to YA fiction of all types except paranormal romance.


Sarah LaPolla
Sarah, aka The Bomber, don’t let the name fool you, she can move silently around glass cases to avoid her opponents’ shots, but she must be careful not to let the The Jester or Otter Agent distract her with Reece’s peanut butter cups.
Sarah represents both adult and YA fiction. For adult books, she is looking for literary fiction, urban fantasy, magical realism, dark/psychological mystery, and literary horror. On the YA side, she welcomes all genres and is drawn to unique voices and strong, complex characters.


Victoria Marini
Victoria, aka Neo-Agent, may be newer to the game, but her tenacity and vigor will make her a force the other agents won’t see coming until they get a paintball shot to the head.
Victoria represents ADULT – Literary Fiction, Commercial Fiction (suspense, thriller, mystery) Women’s Commercial Fiction (suspense, light romance and romantic suspense, thriller, mystery, urban fantasy and light sci-fi). YOUNG ADULT – pretty much everything! Literary, contemporary, heartwarming and funny YA, as well as dark, edgy and commercial YA (thriller, noir, horror, light sci-fi/ fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, urban fantasy, suspense, mystery). MIDDLE GRADE – Boys Middle Grade Fantasy novels, Girls Fantasy Middle Grade, and coming-of-age humorous middle grade.
Come back tomorrow for the rules of the game post.
And don’t forget to check out my partners in crime on their sites:


Shelley Watters




Erica M. Chapman

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Winners are Grinners!

Thanks so much everyone for entering the Chapter Critique competition.

And the winners are (drum roll):

First chapter critique: Kelly Allan Maddux

$15 B&N E-gift card: David Harrison

Soon after I’ve recovered from Pitch Madness I will be doing a 200 follower giveaway. So stay tuned for that.
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Pitch Madness: The entries in my crosshairs


I’m so excited to be part of the Pitch Madness. Last year I was a contestant and had a lot of fun. I got a full request from Judith Engracia, and while she didn’t offer me rep, she did give me valuable feedback that helped me make my manuscript so much stronger.

This year I’m on the other end, trawling through the entries that got the nod from our slush readers and I’ve peeked at the ones that our slushies passed on too. They’ve down a fantastic job of whittling down the entries.

I thought it would be good to provide some general feedback on my decision making process to help people for future pitches. So once I got the entries in my sights here’s what I did:

The first thing I do is check out the genre. Anything that’s MG gets me excited, along with Steampunk, Speculative Fiction and SciFi. Then I check out the word count. I’ve come across a few with excessive word counts and that’s an immediate no from me because I interpret that as they writer doesn’t understand their genre (which is a same as some of the pitches and openings were good).

Next I read the pitch and look for any red flags. One that jumped out was an MC being the wrong age for the genre. MG and YA is strongly defined by the age of their MC. I look at the hook – anything high concept stands out. If the pitch is weak and vague then it loses my interest quickly.

After that I look at the words. There was one that had fantastic premise, but the writing was weak so I didn’t – though I wanted to so bad. It was in the maybe pile, so the slushies had gotten it right.

Finally, I look it over and think to myself, would either of my sons (they’re 14 and 7) or I would read this, and if the answer is  a definite ‘yes’ then it gets added to my pile. If it’s a ‘no’ but I think it’s too amazing to pass on and that the agents would scramble over it then it will still go in my list. Two of the five are like that so far.

I’ve been through the first window of submissions, but am still working through the second window. So far I have:

#1 MG Adventure: I was immediately drawn in as this one’s premise is actually linked to my day job, but it was the hook that sold me. It has a kick-arse title too.

#2 Adult Mystery/Suspense: I don’t read a whole lot of adult anymore with YA dominating my reading. The MCs job had me intrigued. The pitch was so strong that it won me over.

#3 MG Contemporary: Normally I don’t read a lot of contemporary, but this one had scifi potential to me when I read it. I’d love to read this one to my youngest son.

#4 YA Fantasy: YA Game of Thrones – squee! How could I not pick it?

#5 YA Steampunk: *hyperventilates* This one combines my two loves…I won’t say what the second one is cause it will totally give it away, but STEAMPUNK! And I think my 14yo would love this. I wasn’t sold of the title, but STEAMPUNK. Um, you get the picture.

#6 YA SciFi: When I saw the sport in this one I went YES! Then I saw the hook and  swiftly moved it into my folder. I don’t get the title, but it wasn’t a deal breaker.

#7 MG Fantasy: I loved the concept of this one. Even though it’s a girlie MG that I probably wouldn’t read to my son, I couldn’t pass it up.
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