Archive | October 2012

YA Misfits Halloween Blog Tour – Mariekeyn

My awesome pals at YA Misfits are having a Halloween Blog Hop to give you guys a chance to get to know them all a little better now thay their blog is up and running. I’m talking with Mariekeyn Nijkamp aka The Foreign Exchange Student aka Most Likely to Make You REVISE (if you don’t know what I’m talking about here, check out their year book) about VILLAINS. Mawhahaha!

Sharon: We’ll start off with the question that has to be asked. Who is your favourite villain of all time and why?

Mariekeyn: Hm… I think I will have to go for a classic villain here. Captain James Hook. And nowhere better described than in the play text of PETER PAN. ” Cruelest jewel in that dark setting is HOOK himself, cadaverous and blackavised, his hair dressed in long curls which look like black candles about to melt, his eyes blue as the forget-me-not and of a profound insensibility, save when he claws, at which time a red spot appears in them. He has an iron hook instead of a right hand, and it is with this he claws. He is never more sinister than when he is most polite, and the elegance of his diction, the distinction of his demeanour, show him one of a different class from his crew, a solitary among uncultured companions.” Can you imagine being the actor who reads this in his notes? How do you even go about playing a character who is profoundly insensible? At the same time though, it’s a fantastic bit of characterization–the educated, polite pirate captain–that made Captain Hook such a unforgettable villain.

On that note, that description above? There are countless gems like that in JM Barrie’s scripts. Definitely worth a read!

Sharon: Who is your favourite villain sidekick and why?
Mariekeyn: Not sure if you can call him a sidekick, but I *love* Caliel in Lynn Flewelling’s TAMIR TRIAD. He’s the best friend of the story’s antagonist and remains at his side throughout the story, despite everything that happens. It causes plenty of crises of consciousness, because he isn’t blind to what’s going on around him, but he sticks by his friends. It’s a fantastic insight in the ‘other side’. (Parts of the story are from antagonist’s point of view too, so.)
(The series–about a young princess magically disguised as a prince to keep her safe from her insane uncle’s murdering rampage–is pretty much awesome for a lot of other reasons too. It’s marketed at fantasy, but it definitely has crossover YA potential too, and the way it deals with gender is nothing short of amazing. Also, I kind of love all the characters.)

Sharon: Which villain would you liked to have seen win instead of being defeated?
Mariekeyn: There are usually two reasons for me to root for the villains. Either they’re incredibly well-written and well-motivated, or the hero annoys me. Unfortunately, more often than not, it’s the latter. For all that I *love* HARRY POTTER, I was a LOT more fussed about Snape, Sirius, Lupin… than I was about Harry. In fact, as a good little Slytherin, I wish Snape had won. Not Voldemort, I won’t go quite that far, but oh Severus…!
Of course, my next step would be to argue Snape was never a villain at all 😉 He was an antagonist to Harry’s story, sure, but never a villain.

Sharon: Which villain makes you want to hide under the bed sheets?
Mariekeyn: Can I go for a Doctor Who enemy here too? Because the original Weeping Angels, during 10’s reign, made me want to hide behind the couch. Statues STILL creep me out.
(Yeah, I totally used to hide behide the couch when the Darleks came out!)

Sharon: If you could be a villain for a day who would it be?
Mariekeyn: Captain Hook too? Dude, pirate in a magical land. WHAT MORE COULD YOU WANT?!
Sharon: If you could give YA villians a theme song, what would it be?

Mariekeyn: I had to think about this for a while… until the song came to me and it was suddenly GLARINGLY obvious. Lion King’s BE PREPARED. Because it’s such a perfect villain-y song all around. Especially the movie version, because Jeremy Irons’s voice makes it that much more epic. (You know, for the first 75% of the song 😉 Bonus points to anyone who knows who sings the last bit.)

Sharon: What story would you like to read from a villain’s POV?
Mariekeyn: Oh, quite a few actually! Antagonist PoVs intrigue me no end. When I was at college, I once wrote a paper on the ethics of Javert in Les Miserables and it was so interesting to crawl into the mind of this character who is set upon doing the right thing but can’t continue that when what he thinks is right conflicts with what he thinks is good.
Honestly, I don’t like the ultimate evil overlords, but I am all for villains or antagonist who are well-rounded, whose motivations make sense from their point of view. They don’t necessarily have to make sense to the hero, but they should make sense to them. It doesn’t have to be good, but it should be their right. Give me a villain like that and I will *always* be interested in their story, no matter how heinous.

Sharon: What villain cliches get up your nose?
Mariekeyn: ALL OF THEM. Okay, that’s not true, but have you ever read the Evil Overlord List? It’s a fantastic collection of villain cliches. There’s an even better version over here: and I LOVE it. Basically, keep away from ALL of them and you’d make me very happy. So no big, red, threatening buttons which should never be pressed under any circumstances. No keeping heroes alive simply to gloat. No shooting messengers. No walking around in ridiculously over-the-top costumes. And the five-year-old advisor really is a good idea.

Sharon: What would you like to see more of from writers in regards to villains?

Mariekeyn: After my previous answers, this shouldn’t come as a surprise: I lovelovelove villains who are the heroes of their own story. That’s what, for me, it all boils down to. From their PoV, villains are the heroes of their story and they are just as well-rounded as the heroes. There is no black or white, but there’s an afwul lot of gray.
That doesn’t mean the other side doesn’t do unspeakable things. In Melina Marchetta’s LUMATERE CHRONICLES there is true evil–the days of the unspeakable in FINNIKIN OF THE ROCK are horrendous. In CODE NAME VERITY (*cry*) it would be so much easier to set apart Maddie’s interrogators as inhuman and monstrous. But for all that their acts are, the characters aren’t. In both cases, the villains do what they believe is right and in both those cases there’s more to it than meets the eye. Yes, they go to extreme measures… but don’t the heroes do the same sometimes? Where do we draw the line between what’s evil and what is right? And who decides?
It isn’t just evil, it’s human too. And perhaps that’s what makes it so impressive.

Rapid Fire Questions:

Voldermort or The White Witch: Voldemort!

Poison Apple or Spindle: Spindle.
Broom or Death Star? Death Star, no question.
Hydra or Medusa? Ooh, tricky… Hydra.

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Interview with Ampersand Project Editor Marisa Pintado

The Ampersand Project is a Hardie Grant Egmont program dedicated to finding amazing debut authors. They’re about to reopen to submissions so Ampersand editor, Marisa Pintado about what she’s looking for this year. Melissa Keil, the first writer signed up through the Ampersand Project. Her debut novel, Life in Outer Space, will be published in February 2013. Keep in touch with Melissa on Facebook, Twitter and her website. I’ll also being talking to Melissa about her experience on YAtopia (post goes live midnight 29 October U.S. E.S.T)

Sharon: What sparked the Ampersand Project?

Marisa: Since the beginning, the Ampersand Project has been about finding YA writers who are ready to become authors. Hardie Grant Egmont is passionate about launching new writers into the market, and so we decided to reserve a corner of our YA list for publishing debut novels. Perhaps we should have called it the First Book Project, but in the end we decided to call it Ampersand: we wanted to tap into the wonderful YA community, and make it clear that we were looking to work with authors to bring more diversity to the YA market.

There was originally a second reason behind the Ampersand Project, in that we also wanted to find more real-world, contemporary YA. A few years ago, there was a glut of paranormal romance and gritty dystopian fiction in the market. This went beyond mere trends, as far as we were concerned – there was simply very little available for readers who were into other kinds of fiction.

That glut feels like less of an issue these days – the market seems to have stabilised, and HGE’s YA list will be producing plenty of exciting real-world fiction in 2013. So as a result, in 2012 we’ve decided to open up the Ampersand Project to all YA genres. This means that we want to read everything from fantasy to mystery to romance to contemporary drama to horror. If your manuscript is brilliant, we want it!

Sharon: Tell us a bit about the short-listing process you went through.

Marisa: My colleagues and I weren’t prepared to receive as many submissions as we did, so the judging process took a long time. Our method was to sit around a big table for hours at a time, with an endless supply of coffee, and read through the submissions together. We sorted them into three piles as we read: ‘unfortunately not’, ‘maybe’ and ‘ooooh!’ piles. The ‘maybe’ pile was the largest, and these submissions were read and discussed by at least two editors before either being rejected, or vying for a place in our very small shortlist.

It’s worth noting that this process took a long time because the editors were maintaining full workloads during the reading; we all work full-time, and usually read manuscripts on weekends and in the evenings. The Ampersand Project reading was done on top of this, but we felt that it was an important and valuable part of our publishing program, so we kept working until it was done.

We gradually compiled a list of about thirty manuscripts that we felt were promising enough for the editors to then spend one or two hours giving feedback on them. Our hope was that these writers would re-submit their revised manuscripts after working through our feedback. And of course we found one truly amazing manuscript – Melissa’s Keil’s Life in Outer Space – that we fell in love with instantly.

Sharon: What were some common writer mistakes you saw in the Ampersand submissions?

Marisa: Most commonly, I saw manuscripts where either the concept or the execution was great, but not both – in other words, the ideas would be appealing but the writing was ho-hum, or vice-versa. Occasionally one or the other being good was enough to move a manuscript into our shortlist, but on the whole it was simply evidence that the writer was still too green to be published.

That was actually a key criteria as we read through the Ampersand submissions. We were looking for a sense that a writer had the self-confidence, skill and resilience to withstand the trauma and rigours of an editorial relationship. Being edited is a wonderful experience, but it can also break you – a writer needs to be sure enough in themselves and their abilities before someone can pull their work apart with the aim of making it better. Too often, we saw manuscripts that were still lacking in development on the writers’ part, which said to us that it was too early in their career for editorial intervention. Editors can help writers improve any grade of writing, but for a truly collaborative and meaningful relationship to blossom, there must be already be significant skill and investment made on the writers’ part.

Sharon: What made submissions shine out from the crowd in the slush?

Marisa: Submissions shone because they combined a multitude of appealing elements, such as a beguiling voice, intriguing concepts, skilful writing, well-developed characters, an authentic teen-feel, an understanding of classic story design, and so on. It was rare to find these elements all in the one manuscript, but many writers came close.

What I really loved to see was evidence of hard work in the writing; I could tell when writers were sending in their first draft, and when they’d laboured over a story for months or even years, painstakingly threading through subplots and re-writing chapters and refining characters and so on.

Sharon: Tell us a bit about your first Ampersand author Melissa Keil’s novel and how she came to be the first acquisition?

Marisa: Life in Outer Space really took us by surprise. I must admit that when we launched the Ampersand Project, we’d expected to go for gritty, boundary-pushing fiction – essentially sex, drugs and rock’n’roll, with some cutting on the side. And then Melissa’s manuscript landed on my desk, and it was like having a warm bath in the sunshine. She’d written this gorgeously geeky romantic comedy that shredded a stack of awful YA clichés and pop-culture tropes, and it was just an incredible achievement.

At first we wanted to wait until we’d finished reading all the Ampersand submissions before signing Melissa up. I’m not ashamed to say that this decision lasted about two days, and then we caved and signed her up so that we could launch into the editorial process. We knew we didn’t want to let her go, and we were prepared to have more than one Ampersand author in a year, if it came to that. She’s an amazing talent, and we could tell that she’d been working really hard for a very long time. She was absolutely ready to enter the YA scene as a fully fledged author.

I’m so looking forward to introducing her to readers in March 2013. I’ve read Life in Outer Space about ten times now (we’re at copyedit stage), and it has made me cry with happiness. Every. Single. Time. I just love her writing.

Sharon: What are you hoping to find in the next round of submissions?

Marisa: As we’re opening up to all genres across YA, I’m really keeping an open mind. My reading tastes are pretty broad, so I want to be surprised! I’m hoping to find raw talent in writers who are hungry for development, and stories that I have to stay up late to finish because I’m so desperate to see how it all turns out.

This year we’ve changed our guidelines to accept full manuscripts only. We initially wanted to encourage writers who were just starting out, and potentially give them feedback on their early work – but when we were overwhelmed with submissions, we realised that it was important to focus the Ampersand Project on writers who were actually ready to become authors. Writers who were ready to publish their debut novels! A huge part of a writer’s commitment to their craft is about finishing and polishing a draft, so the editorial team felt that full manuscripts were important.

Everything you need to know if you want to submit (from Hardie Grant Egmont Website):

The Ampersand Project runs annually in spring/summer. This year, submissions will open on Thursday 1st November 2012, and close at midnight on Thursday 31st January 2013. We’re looking for YA manuscripts from unpublished writers across all genres. Please refer below for guidelines.

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for updates, or check back here. For regular writing tips and great industry links, check out our awesome tumblr.

Submission guidelines
The Ampersand Project is now open to YA manuscripts across all genres and word-counts. Manuscripts can be any length, though 50–80,000 words is a good fit for the YA market.
To be eligible for the Ampersand Project, writers should not have already published a YA novel under their own name with a mainstream trade publisher.

Writers should send their submissions to A complete submission must contain the following three items:

1. Your cover sheet, with the following information:

  • Author name
  • Project title
  • Genre(s)
  • Word count
  • Two-sentence pitch of your novel

2. A one-page synopsis, that gives a clear indication of plot and character development.

3. Your full manuscript, formatted as follows:

  • A4 page-size in a 10 to 12-point readable typeface (think Times New Roman, Arial, Calibri, Cambria, etc.) and double-spacing. No Comic Sans or Monotype Corsiva, please.
  • Include page numbers.
  • Include the title of your manuscript in the header or footer of your document.
  • Do not include your own name anywhere on the manuscript itself, as submissions are read blind.

Please note:

  • Announcements of signed authors will be made each year during the Emerging Writers Festival in Melbourne, and a notice will be put in the Weekly Book Newsletter.
  • Eligibility for this collection is at the editors’ discretion.
  • Due to the number of submissions, the Ampersand editors may be unable to give personalised feedback as to why a manuscript isn’t suitable for this collection.
  • Partial manuscripts will not be considered, nor will incomplete submissions.
  • If you are ineligible for the Ampersand Project, you are still welcome to query us via our unsolicited submissions page.

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Sweet Peril Cover Reveal and Giveaway!

My wonderful friend and critique parter, Wendy Higgins, has a new book coming out, Sweet Peril, and we’ve got the cover reveal going on! Isn’t it gorgeous!

To celebrate I’m holding a giveaway – yah! A preorder copy of Sweet Peril, a copy of Sweet Evil – for those of you who haven’t read this awesome book yet-, a Sweet Evil bookmark and, for the aspiring authors out there, a ten page critique.

Book Blurb:
Anna Whitt, daughter of a guardian angel and a demon, promised herself she’d never do the work of her father—polluting souls. She’d been naive to make such a claim. She’d been naive about a lot of things. Haunted by demon whisperers, Anna does whatever she can to survive, even if it means embracing her dark side and earning an unwanted reputation as her school’s party girl. Her life has never looked more bleak. And all the while there’s Kaidan Rowe, son of the Duke of Lust, plaguing her heart and mind.
When an unexpected lost message from the angels surfaces, Anna finds herself traveling the globe with Kopano, son of Wrath, in an attempt to gain support of fellow Nephilim and give them hope for the first time. It soon becomes clear that whatever freedoms Anna and the rest of the Neph are hoping to win will not be gained without a fight. Until then, Anna and Kaidan must put aside the issues between them, overcome the steamiest of temptations yet, and face the ultimate question: is loving someone worth risking their life?
Book 3 of The Sweet Trilogy, Sweet Reckoning, is slated for spring/summer 2014.

You can find Wendy on her website, on Facebook and on Twitter. You can also stalk the lush love interest Kaidan Rowe on Twitter (character account). You can fan the Sweet Evil trilogy on Facebook too.
Sweet Peril bookish locations:
Author Bio:
Wendy Higgins was born in Alaska, grew up an Army brat, and lived all over the United States before settling in the Washington, DC area. She attended George Mason University for her undergrad degree in creative writing, and Radford University for her masters in curriculum and instruction. Wendy taught 9th and 12th grade English in a rural school before becoming a mother and author. She now lives in Northern Virginia with her husband, daughter, and son. Sweet Peril is her second novel.

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Life and Times of Chester Lewis Blog Tour

Today I’m talking to Steve Rossiter, editor of the Australian Literary Review about the new integrated short story collection The Life and Times of Chester Lewis.

Sharon: How did you come up with the concept for The Life and Times of Chester Lewis?Steve: I came up with the initial concept of an integrated short story collection spanning the 100 year lifespan of the main character via a story leading up to the character’s birth then one story per decade in the character’s life.
I asked Michael White (internationally bestselling and major-award-winning author of thirty something books) to write the first story. Michael developed Chester’s parents, a British couple living in Beijing in 1931 for Chester’s father’s career with a multi-national company, and established the circumstances in which Chester would be born in Perth in 1932. Michael’s story was bookended a scene set in 2032 with Chester about to turn 100. This gave Bernadette Kelly (children’s fiction author who was awarded the May Gibbs Fellowship for Children’s Literature in 2010) a lot of material to draw from for her story about Chester at eight years of age in Perth in 1940. The characters and the life story of Chester Lewis evolved as Lia Weston (whose first novel was published by Simon & Schuster in 2010), Kerry Brown (author of three children’s picture books), and each subsequent author read the previous stories and added their own.

Sharon: Tell us a bit about the process of putting the integrated short story collection together?
Steve: My role was developing the initial concept for the book, selecting contributing authors (which involved reading each story as it came in and choosing an author who I would thought would do a good job of writing the following story), ensuring consistency from story to story, editing, and writing the final story.

Sharon: How did you choose the contributors?
Steve: I chose contributors whose fiction I had some familiarity with and who I thought would suit a particular part of the book. For example, I thought Michael White would bring his historical and scientific interests to create a starting point with a lot of interesting things subsequent authors could pick up and build on, I thought Bernadette Kelly would do a good job of writing an endearing childhood Chester in an original way, I thought Lia Weston would do good job of creating a lively adolescence for Chester and showing the emergence of strong personality heading toward adulthood, and so on.

I had also interviewed a number of the authors previously or had become familiar with their work through short story competitions I had run.

Sharon: What were your thoughts as you saw the story come to life with each author’s contribution?
Steve: From the first story, I saw a character and life story emerging which was original and epic-yet-personal. The contributing authors did a great job of building on what was there while also bringing their own style and unique contribution to the character and life story of Chester Lewis.
When I was recently interviewed by Kelly Inglis, she asked me what makes a compelling character and I responded that it is a combination of purpose and personality. This is what each contributing author brought to the characters in their story.

Sharon: Without giving too much away, tell us a bit about what readers can expect from The Life and Times of Chester Lewis?
Steve: Readers can expect a journey of just over 100 years through the life of Chester Lewis, from the 1930s to the 2030s, taking in locations including Perth, the Whitsunday islands, Prevelly Beach (near Margaret River in Western Australia), England and Shanghai.

When Chester’s mother flees Shanghai amidst the pre-WW2 Japanese invasion she makes a new start in Perth, where, from humble beginnings, she builds a business which will play a major role in the future of Chester, the Lewis family and humanity.

There is family, love, ambition, responsibility, betrayal, secrets, successes, great deeds and great misdeeds.



Sharon: Fan fiction is definitely a growing force in literature. Tell us a bit about the Chester Lewis fan fiction competition?
Steve: The fan fiction competition (and the book itself) is part of an effort to help fiction writers in Australia and beyond to develop their skills. Readers can enter their 2000-4000 word stories set in the story-world of The Life and Times of Chester Lewis for a chance at official recognition as a Top Ten or Top Three finalist and the 1st Prize of $2000.

Entry is $10. This also gains the entrant access to a private Chester Lewis Fan Fiction Group on Facebook, where they can meet like-minded fiction writers, discuss story ideas and their writing with other entrants, receive fiction writing tips and where contributing authors from the book and some of their publishing industry friends will drop by from time to time.

Sharon: What’s next for The Australian Literature Review?
Steve: More interviews with fiction authors, publishers, editors, etc; more articles on fiction writing; more short story competitions; and more initiatives to help fiction writers develop their skills and connect with readers.

I also have several novel writing sites which will be launching or getting a major make-over from Jan 1st. Writing Novels in Australia has an Australian focus, whereas Writing Teen Novels and Writing Historical Novels have a global focus (primarily North America, the UK/Europe, Australasia and India for 2013). This recent blog tour post on Jo Hart’s author site, The Graceful Doe, has more details on the novel writing sites.

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Contest and Shadow of The Mark Cover Reveal


Leigh Fallon on the new cover: I know, there’s no mistaking it. This is definitely a Carrier Series cover, but that was the intention. After the amazing reception to the cover of Carrier of the Mark, HarperCollins wanted Shadow’s cover to be instantly recognizable. And it is, but the new darker color palette reflects the darker tone that this installment brings, and the pink and purple really make it pop. I love it and think HarperCollins have done another amazing job. I hope you like it too.

Shadow of the Mark

Life for Megan Rosenberg just got a lot more complicated.

While she evoked the air element, and her feelings for Adam intensified, a web of lies, deceit, and betrayal has been spun around her. With the Order tightening its hold, and the reinstatement of the Mark Knights, Megan has more questions than answers as the Marked Ones grow in strength.

New people arouse suspicion, the DeRises start behaving strangely, and Megan begins to unravel a destiny shrouded in mystery. It’s a destiny the Order has struggled to hide, and a destiny someone from the past, far in the past, has already laid claim to.

Alliances will be made, and friends will be lost, as the Order’s dark secrets are revealed by the very thing they sought to destroy.

Like what you’ve read? You can pre-order Shadow of the Mark right now.
Leigh is also hosting a giveaway! Books and swag are up for grabs.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Possessing Freedom interview with Rhiannon Hart

Today I’m talking with the Australian author, and contributor to Possessing Freedom, RHIANNON HART.


As part of the Possessing Freedom launch, Australian Literary Review Editor, Steve Rossiter, is holding a Fan Fiction Competition where you could win $2,000! To enter you need to have read the book, so we’re giving away three copies over three interviews. There’s this interview, an interview with Steve Rossiter on YAtopia and an interview with Belinda Dorio on YAtopia on October 27.

Sharon: So
what attracted the team to a ghost story?

Rhiannon: I came aboard quite late in the process and the theme and plot had already been
decided. I’m a YA paranormal nut, thought, so as soon as I read the proposal I
had to be involved.

Sharon: What were some of the steps the team took to ensure consistency in

Rhiannon: We had several meetings and lots of discussion posts on Facebook. The main
character I write, Emma, appears first time in thread three, the thread that I
wrote with Beau. Beau had given her her basic voice, and I got to expand on
that. Emma’s 15, doesn’t like “weird” food and she’s got some stroppy
friends. It was easy to picture her from that.

Sharon: Who was your favourite character to write and why?

Rhiannon: I only write from Emma’s POV, but I loved writing the scenes with her and Mark.
I could picture him very clearly. He’s a calm, easy-going sort of guy who
doesn’t get ruffled when things get crazy. He will, however, admit when things
start to get weird. It’s a nice combo.

Sharon: If you were a paranormal being, what would you want to be?

Rhiannon: Probably a witch. They’re close enough to mortals to blend in but get to have
all these powers. Plus they read a tonne of books. I could get into that.

Sharon: During this process did you ever break out into the Ghostbusters song?

Rhiannon: I was getting a more Charmed and Buffy vibe actually! I busted out How Soon Is
Now a few times.

Sharon: Did you have an imaginary friend growing up (if so tell us about him/her):

Rhiannon: No, unfortunately, but I did have a vivid imagination. I liked to imagine there
were ghosts in my room. My friends and I even started a sort of paranormal club
when we were nine or so. We were convinced we all had ghosts in our houses.

Sharon: I believe Maria V Snyder workshopped the opening story, what was that like?

Rhiannon:I wish I’d been there to meet her! I hope she enjoys the final product and I
look forward to dropping her a line.

Sharon: What is the biggest learnings you’ve taken away from the process?

Rhiannon: It’s not as hard as you might think to manage a group project. You need the
right sort of people first, and be open to each other’s ideas. It’s also a lot
of fun. I don’t know of many group-written novels so I can’t wait to see how
this one will be received.

Rapid fire questions:

Latte or cappuccino? Cappuccino. It’s all about the chocolate.
Note pad and pen or computer? Both. I work on the train.
Magic or fists? Ooh toughie. I have to say both again.
Blue or green? Blue.
Sixth Sense or Ghostbusters? Ghostbusters all the way, baby.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Get Your #PitchOn requests!

Thank you so much to all the people who entered Get Your Pitch On. Marisa has been through the entries and the requested manuscripts are below. These writers should have received an email with the instructions. If you’re on the list below and you haven’t received an email yet, please get in touch with Marisa at

For the Aussies, there will be an interview soon with Marisa for the AMPERSAND PROJECT, which is specifically for debut Australian YA authors. So keep watching the blog for that.

Here’s the pitches that caught Marisa’s eye:

Name: Helen Patrice
Country of Residence: Australia
Genre: Dark Urban Fantasy
Word count: 48,000 words
Pitch: Puff, an eighteen year old homeless girl, is hunted through Melbourne’s
parks and beaches. Night Things – their touch burns like freezing fire, rips
away skin, flesh, bone in an instant. She must find safety, all the while
doubting her sanity. Home – with a step-father willing to sacrifice her to them
in exchange for magical power – is no option. Will John, also homeless, offer
sanctuary, or even more complications?

Name: Fiona McLaren
Email: fionamarie1981 [ @ ]
Country of residence: UK
Genre: YA Contemporary
Word-count: 50,000
Pitch: Teenage Seth and his family are thrown into a media feeding frenzy when
his child-star sister is abducted from their grandiose family home. As the
investigation deepens and the time for finding his sister runs out, Seth must
decide if being the only person who knows where she is and why is worth the
price of the family secrets.

Leiann Bynum
Email: slbynum3 [@]
Country of residence: USA
Genre: Science-fiction
Word-count: 52,000
Pitch: Some people believed the world would end in 2012, and now the sun has
gone out, causing major weather disasters. Vanessa, an eighteen-year-old
African-American, has followed in her dad’s footsteps of being a firefighter,
and her skills are put to the test during this worldwide catastrophe. When
strange nocturnal carnivores also start emerging from the darkness, Vanessa
must unite with a group of survivors in a fight to stay alive.

Ellen Rozek
Country of Residence: USA
Genre: YA thriller
Word Count: 76,000
Convicted murderer Naomi expects a transfer to an adult prison for her
eighteenth birthday. Instead, she gets a job offer. Recruited by the government
to help fight domestic terrorists, Naomi learns quickly that trusting anyone
outside her organization is an easy way to die. But if that’s the case, why
can’t she keep from befriending an outsider—a boy with dangerous connections
who could either kill her, or help her?

David Purse
Email: pursedavid(at)
Country of residence: Scotland
Title: The Tainted Ones
Genre: Urban Fantasy (YA)
Word-count: 67,000
Pitch: Seventeen-year-old Connor expected to see a lot of things at his first
college party. A demon wasn’t one of them. After being saved from a vicious
attack by teenage demon hunters, he learns that he now carries the mark of a
demon, which basically puts him on special at the demon cafe. Connor has seven
days to kill the demon that marked him or he will transform into one himself.
And he thought high school was hell.


Name: Melissa Gorzelanczyk
Email: melissa [ @ ]
Country of residence: USA


Genre: YA Paranormal
Word-count: 62,000
Pitch: Sixteen-year-old Hannah Clare
can hear people’s thoughts, but a family history of mental illness creates a
fine line between what is delusion and what is paranormal. Only Colin’s touch
can make the voices melt away, but Hannah’s already heard the one secret she
can’t keep: Colin’s cousin is stalking his next prey.

 Name: Beck Nicholas
Email: beck.nicholas[ @ ]
Country of residence: Australia
Title: FAKE
Genre: Contemporary
Word-count: 73000
When 16-year-old Kath McKenny is publicly dumped, seducing the
boyfriend-stealing new girl with a fake online guy seems like the perfect
revenge. Until Kath falls for her victim’s brother. When the new girl goes
missing, Kath’s the only one with the answers, but the truth could cost her
both her new boyfriend and her deepest secret.

Name: Camilla Laurel
Email: camillalaurel(at)gmail(dot)com
Country of residence: Canada
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction
Word-count: 75,000
Pitch: Mia is the world’s most famous superhero but she’s hiding a secret—she’s
lost her powers. After an attempt on Mia’s life by deadly foe and first love,
Dr. Destroyer, she’s forced to seek protection from The Federation, a
secretive, underground superhero agency.The Federation’s offer isn’t all that
it seems. Mia becomes an unwilling pawn in a dark scheme which threatens to
destroy her and the superhero world forever.

Name: Alex Fox
Country of residence: Australia
Genre: YA – mystery/romance
Word count: 55,000
Pitch: Tormented by her sister’s horrific death, Riley Benjamin begins to
question everything she once wanted – hot boyfriend, killer style and the
worship of her peers. Then Dean Jagger shows up at her school; he understands
her like no one ever has. But he’s a boy with a mysterious past. If he’s the
murderer people say he is, Riley will face the toughest decision of her life.

John Back
Email: mrjohnaback [@]
Country of residence: Australia (Brisbane)
Title: One Hundred Moments of Beautiful Doubt
Genre: YA Contemporary
Word-count: 51,000
Pitch: On Pluto Greene’s fourteenth birthday, colour disappears from his life:
not from the world itself, only from the skins of other people. His father has
run away and his mother is unable to cope, leaving only Pluto’s two sisters –
also colourless – for support. These so-called Blanks now surround him. A year
and a half later, a girl with violet eyes becomes the subject of his
attraction, and surely enough he becomes obsessed with the possibilities of
change. If only he can find the courage to say hello.

Will Klein
Country of residence: US
Genre: contemporary fantasy
Word-count: 70,000
Pitch: When Nick Syn meets the devil on his fifteenth birthday, he expects
things will get interesting. He doesn’t know he could become the bad guy.
Thrust sideways into a mystical world he’d only hoped existed, whispered
folklore and superstition come to life and Nick discovers the world is darker
than he had any reason to think.

Tlotlo Tsamaase
Email: rosewentberg [@]
Country of Residence: Botswana
Genre: YA Fantasy
Word-count: 90,000
Pitch: Sixteen-year-old Emma Blekbyrd has twenty-two days to live. Every
winter, winged men in the skies hunt humans. Emma knows this because she has a
scar from an attack that’s slowly killing her. She realizes that people in her
town are being kidnapped to be body donors for a possession scheme, and the
winged men intend to have her body for someone else . . . without her in it.

Candice Montgomery
Email: candicemontgomery2 [ @ ]
Country of residence: America
Title: BREAK
Genre: YA Epic Fantasy
Word-count: 96,000
Pitch: Sixteen-year-old Karsten Summers discovers her ability to Break into and
manipulate the dreams of others in any way she chooses, in addition to learning
her father’s kept this a secret from her all her life. While simultaneously
managing the normal aspect of her life (social cliques; the dark secret of her
high school crush, Noah; the death of her parents; recovering from self-harm habits)
Karsten must learn the ins-and-outs of her power and choose how she’ll use
it—for the people who are like her, the society of Breakers, or for the
Aphotix, a team of nightmare-inducing scum, who promise to show Karsten what
real power is like.


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Get Your #PitchOn Submission Window 1


This is the first submission window for GET YOUR PITCH ON with Commissioning and Managing Editor of Hardie Grant Egmont, Marisa Pintado.

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. Marisa will contact writers directly if she wants to see more and we will aim to have a summary post as well once Marisa has been through all the entries.

Only 100 entries will be taken via comments.  Any after the 100 entries will be deleted.

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.
  • 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.

The second window will open up on YAtopia today:

New York: 8 am
London: 1pm
Brisbane: 10pm
Sydney: 11pm

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

Today I’m talking to 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. Submission window times are at the bottom of this interview.

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.

Sharon: What did you want to be when
you were young?

Marisa: Definitely either a teacher or a
journalist or a world-famous scientist or a writer. I feel like my job now as
an editor borrows a little from all these professions.

Sharon: How did you get into

Marisa: I got very lucky. I knew that I
wanted to be an editor, and also that my chances of finding work were limited without
any experience. So I started off as a volunteer proofreader for publications
like Voiceworks, and that gave me
enough experience to land a job as an editorial assistant/dogsbody at a
religious magazines publisher.

I hated that
job, except for the proofreading and copyediting bit – it allowed me to start
developing my editorial eye and pick up some other technical skills. Then when
Hardie Grant Egmont advertised for a junior editor, I had just enough
experience to land a job with my now-publisher (and editor extraordinaire) Hilary
Rogers. She trained me beautifully from the ground up.

Sharon: You wear a couple of hats at
the moment with editorial duties and working with festivals. How do you balance
your workload?

Marisa: I think every editor struggles
sometimes to manage their time and balance their workload. On a typical day you
might be working on the structural edit for a seventy-thousand-word manuscript,
drafting a ten-page editorial letter, checking endless printer proofs, trying
to squeeze the publishing schedule, stalking interesting writers online, worrying
about your colleagues’ workloads, proofreading final pages or wondering who the
hell stole your hole-puncher – all the while eyeing the ever-growing pile
of manuscripts on your desk. Most of the editors I know simply work incredibly
hard to make sure everything urgent and important gets done, and try not to let
the other stuff slide too long.
writers’ and literary festivals is a really fun and rare privilege, though – a
nice break from ‘real’ work. It’s a great opportunity to step back and observe
how the children’s publishing world looks on the outside, and review the work
that other houses are doing with their authors. And if you crash the schools’
program, it’s also fun to eavesdrop on kids and teenagers and remind yourself
of how they experience the world.
Sharon: I know you loved that Family
Circle childhood ailment guide when you were young, but what fiction did you
enjoy reading?
Marisa: Ha! I loved the What Katy Did books, The Secret Garden and Little
Women –
although now that I think of it, these books also involved sick
children. As a kid, I thought the notion of bed-rest was so romantic. Just imagine
all the reading time you’d get! (I was obviously pretty healthy and robust,
despite being so silly.)

I read up
and down a lot, and didn’t feel too restricted by recommended reading ages. I moved
between Aussie classics like Seven Little
Australians, Playing Beattie Bow,
and Cuddlepie
and Blinky Bill, and
modern American series like The
Babysitters Club
, Animorphs, Sweet
Valley High,
as well as anything by R.L. Stine and Judy Blume.

Part II of this interview is on YAtopia.

Window submission times for October 15

Submission Window 1
Down Under Wonderings:
New York: 12 am
London: 5am
Brisbane: 2pm
Sydney: 3pm

Submission Window 2
October 15:
New York: 8 am
London: 1pm
Brisbane: 10pm
Sydney: 11pm

Remember – there will only be 100 entries per blog.

If you want to enter your own pitch to the workshops then this post will tell you all about how to submit your pitch. It’s a good idea to do this if you’re planning to enter the competition.


Jeyn Roberts Rages On: Win a copy of RAGE WITHIN

My good friend and amazing author, Jeyn Roberts, has stopped by to talk to us about her latest novel RAGE WITHIN and some other things she’s been up to. Check out the bottom of the interview for how you can win a copy of her latest book.

A lot of writers talk about how hard it is to write that second novel after
their first one has been published. Did you experience this issue at all for
Rage Within?

Jeyn: I think every novel is hard, no
matter how many you write. I’ll admit, I had a few nervous breakdowns while
writing Rage Within. I was so worried that everyone would hate it. I worried
that it would suck and that Dark Inside was a fluke (and I’d never compare to
it), and I worried that I wouldn’t be able to make it better than the first
one. As I said, lots of breakdowns. There were tears and rants to friends and

Funny enough, the actual book didn’t feel
that hard to write. It took me about five months (DI took me three) so I felt I
was moving slow. It was really great getting back into my characters and I
fully understand why so many authors write trilogy’s and sequels. Some stories
just can’t be told in a single book.

Sharon:  Tell us a bit about what’s in store for readers with Rage Within?

Jeyn: The story focuses on a few months
after Mason, Michael, Clementine and Aries join forces. They’re hiding out in a
safe house in Vancouver. The Baggers are getting more organized. They’ve
started searching for survivors and they’re rounding them up and putting them
into work camps. Clementine is still searching for her brother, Heath and
Michael is helping. Aries is still trying to be the leader but it’s harder when
she’s constantly afraid of making a bad mistake. And Mason and Daniel have
joined forces (which I thought was hilarious since they really don’t like each
other) and are fighting for a certain someone’s affection. 

Sharon:  There’s been a lot of buzz about Aries and
Clementine being such strong female characters for a YA book. How did you
ensure they were?

Jeyn: Simply put, I like strong female
characters. Wimpy girls are so last century’s fairy tales.  And I think girls are way tougher than people
give them credit for. Being that I’m a bit of a strong force myself, I think I
find it easy to create girls who are independent and willing to do whatever it
takes to survive.

 Sharon: You said Rage Within took a bit
longer. Tell us a bit about your writing process for the sequel?

Jeyn: Writing the sequel was a bit more
difficult because I was still doing edits for Dark Inside. So every now and
then I kept having to drop the book and go back and fix problems from DI. But
my process didn’t change much. Everyone has their own ways of writing. I tend
to start from the beginning without an outline and just write straight through.
It works well for me.

Who would be in your dream cast if Rage Within was made into a movie (not sure
if you have put this out there already?

Jeyn: Yes, I’ve been asked this before and
these were my answers.   Mason
– Jeremy Irvine. Aries -Hailee Steinfeld. Michael – Douglas Booth. Clementine
-Ella Purnell.

Sharon:  What can readers expect from you after Rage

Jeyn: No idea. haha I’m currently working
with my editor on a few new ideas. So hopefully something new will emerge soon.

What are you hoping to see come out in YA over the next 12 months?

I’d like to see more horror, mostly because I’m such a big fan myself. Also
some realistic ghost stories would be cool.

 Sharon: You’ve started a new Forum, the YA
Book Club, what prompted you to start it?

Jeyn: It was a friend who convinced me to
do it. We sat down and started talking about whether or not I wanted to do one.
And I did but as we talked, we started talking about how cool it would be to
have other authors involved. We liked the idea of having a Q&A section
where readers could come in and discuss the books and ask authors questions.
It’s just kind of grown from there.

Sharon:  What can YA lovers find in the forums?

Jeyn:  It’s great. We’ve got a lot of authors now who
have joined the mix. There is a large variety from well known to up and
newcomers. We’ve even got a self-published author now who is willing to discuss
alternative choices. There is also a section where we discuss publishing and
querying for aspiring authors. And there’s also places to post your own work
for bragging rights or critiques. So far it’s been great. Still a bit quiet but
new people are signing up every day. And we’re having some great giveaways
right now.

One lucky blog follower will win a copy of RAGE WITHIN!

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