Pitchwars Bio

Hello, Pitchwars!

Welcome to my corner of the #pimpmybio Blog Hop! For those unfamiliar, Pitchwars is a Twitter contest for writers. Writers with a completed, polished manuscript can submit a query and sample pages to a select few potential mentors out of an impressive list of candidates – professionals in the writing world – and if chosen by one, will receive the benefit of their guidance through a process of revision. The goal is a polished-to-a-shine manuscript to put in front of the agents in the next round. It’s an amazing opportunity to make connections and friends in the writing community, and receive the benefit of top-notch counseling on your work! You can have a look at the other hopeful mentees on the blog hop here.

Last year was my first attempt, and I was not chosen as a mentee. I was disappointed, but I received some extremely beneficial feedback and advice, simply because I entered. It reignited my determination, and I wrote a new novel, and learned a lot about writing along the way. I’d be crazy to pass up the opportunity to unite with this amazing community, learn something new, and let it light a fire under me to keep going, keep writing, keep polishing.

Now, let’s get down to business. Allow me to introduce my YA Fantasy, Truth Cursed.

The Pitch:

When Cressida is given a potion by her aunts that compels her to always speak the truth, she is determined to overcome the curse at any cost. But she is forced to live with it in secret, even while being trained at boarding school to spy on her kingdom’s royal family. Her sword-fighting and combat skills make her a valuable member of the team of girls selected to embark on their first mission at the mountain castle, but as the court intrigue thickens and the danger closes in, she finds that her curse is an obstacle that cannot be ignored.

A little extra background, and a few things I love about Truth Cursed:

Cressida is orphaned at the age of eight, and sent to live with her two strict aunts. As a punishment, and crude form of rehabilitation after Cressida tells one lie too many, her aunts dose her with a truth powder. The effects of this powder compel her to tell the truth whenever she is asked a direct question. They do not fade or lessen with time, and she experiences life-threatening symptoms whenever she tries to resist.

As a teenager, Cressida fumbles with the often embarrassing and hurtful effects of the truth curse at boarding school. She does everything in her power to minimize it when she is given the opportunity to become a spy, and potentially avenge her family. In spite of her attempts to keep her acquaintances at arm’s length, she must learn to trust when they are sent to the palace of the royals on a mission.

Of course, hijinks ensue at the palace, and Cressida must work closely with a handsome and mysterious contact, who is a little too observant. Their romance is of the heart-squeezing, slow-burn variety, but not one that undermines the deep female friendships that run through the heart of the story.

The spies’ investigation is a dangerous game that leads Cressida to deeper questions and darker secrets, and an ever-increasing urgency to find the truth.

Throughout this story, I explore how Cressida’s resentful relationship with forced honesty has shaped her, and how she fights to become the truest version of herself in spite of it. She finds that the curse brings with it consequences far beyond physical pain. Despite the fact that she must guard herself against all possible vulnerability, Cressida’s resilience remains a force of light and optimism.

What sort of help am I seeking?

In general, I’m excited about the fresh perspective that a mentor could offer, but I have a few specific trouble spots as well.

World-building and Length: I’ve combined these points, because while I feel the need for richer world-building (not always my strong suit – Character and Plot steal my focus), I’m also struggling with a somewhat high word-count (103,000). Adding details would enrich my world, but it’s also a good way to make my word-count skyrocket even more. I’m hoping for a mentor who will help me see what scenes are trimmable darlings, and where I could add some world-immersing details.

Clarity: My mystery becomes a tad bit complicated as it unravels. This excites me as much as it unnerves me. I want the denouement to be as clear as possible to make way for the reader to enjoy the revelations as they unfold.

Characterization: I love my characters, and welcome every suggestion for a detail or moment that will add depth and growth to their journeys.

A little bit about me:

I’m a friendly, awkward nerd who graduated with a bachelor’s in English Literature. I met my wonderful husband/bestie in college (and he happens to be an expert on medieval history, warfare, and weaponry – a significant advantage for a writer!). I’m a stay-at-home mom to three small children, and, obviously, I write whenever possible. I recently had a short story published in a delightful online fairy tale magazine called Enchanted Conversation. I love fairy tales, and they often influence my work, whether directly or indirectly.

In the other free time that I manage to snatch, I love to read, watch tv shows (historicals like Turn, Downton Abbey, Poldark, and any old period drama the BBC comes up with, comedies such as The Office, Parks and Rec, New Girl will never get old, and random yet lovable stuff like Doctor Who, The Vampire Diaries, The Flash, Firefly, Merlin, and Once Upon a Time, to name a handful). I love Jane Austen, and my favorite film adaptations are the BBC (Colin Firth!!) Pride and Prejudice, and the Emma Thompson Sense and Sensibility. ❤

In no particular order, books that I love are the Harry Potter series and the Cormoran Strike Series by J.K. Rowling, most books by Neil Gaiman (but especially Stardust), The Chronicles of Narnia and other books of C.S. Lewis, The Princess Bride by William Goldman, stories of J.R.R. Tolkien, Ella Enchanted and other fairy tale renderings by Gail Carson Levine, His Fair Assassins trilogy by Robin LaFevers, The Goose Girl and Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale, Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow, and Princess of the Midnight Ball (and sequels) by Jessica Day George, The Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy by Rae Carson, Beauty by Robin McKinley,  The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss – to name a handful.

If you’ve read this far, I’m grateful and amazed!!

Thank you for dropping by and getting to know me and my writing a little bit. ❤ Angie

One Word at a Time

I love to examine all the ways my writing has grown over the years. So, I’m going to share just a little bit about my writing journey, the methods that I’ve been developing over time, and how I’d like to improve upon them.

Book 1: Huntress

When I began my first manuscript in earnest, I was a new mom. As my son happily rolled and gurgled about on my living room floor, I sat next to him in front of my old laptop with a broken keyboard, and a MacGyver set-up of an even older desktop-keyboard and mouse set in front of it, and I wrote. It was painfully slow going (and the baby liked to bang on the keyboard, probably because it made his mom shriek), but I was doing it. Being the technological genius that I am, I lost about half of that manuscript, and spent a few painful months wallowing and wondering if I could ever pick up the pieces of my story again.

Long story short, I did, (and I tattooed “BACK UP YOUR WORK” on the inside of my eyelids) but by the time I was ready to commit to it again, I’d had another baby and was a busy mom to two young children. I needed to be more disciplined, and I found that the unearthly ruckus that a toddler and a baby can make are entirely unconducive to creative thinking. So, I carved out quiet time to write during naps and after the babies were asleep for the night. Finally, I finished the book.

It took a painfully long time, and afterwards, I figured out why.

I’d felt that so much was at stake in writing my first novel (primarily this question – could I even do it?), that I desperately wanted to get that first draft right. I needed everything to fall into place as I wrote it – a ridiculous expectation of a first draft. Of course, it didn’t work that way, but I was compelled to learn a lot about editing a manuscript.

Book 2: Truth Cursed

One more baby, several in-depth revisions, and a couple of short stories later, and I was ready to write another novel. It was different this time because I knew I could do it. This time, I knew that I was willing to make the inevitable mistakes, and plan for those subsequent drafts. I put that first draft in its proper place – as the draft that doesn’t need to be perfect, it needs to be written – and I had a lot more fun.

I had three children by this point, so nap-time and nighttime was when I wrote. My word-count goal for each week-day was an extremely attainable 1,000 words, and it was enough to get me through the draft in four months.

One of my goals is to become a better plotter. However, the method of light plotting at the beginning (a general outline containing the conflict, character goals, and desired resolution), followed by jumping into the writing and working out the rest as I went along, worked exceptionally well for this novel. The plot came together as I wrote, and even though my first draft was chock-full of contradictions and plot holes, I never turned back during that draft to correct them, but kept moving forward as if I already had. I kept a document full of notes of what needed to be corrected, changed, and figured out in the second draft.

I was delighted with the way the plot unfurled before me during that draft. The choice to keep it organized in my notes and in my head, but continue to charge ahead, was very freeing. Although challenging in the way that writing undoubtedly is, it was nothing like my first novel. I’d sweated over and struggled through Huntress, always doubling back to fix something, unaware of the knots I was creating for future pages.

I have a very helpful beta-reader (an excellent and exciting writer, herself) who read the first draft of this manuscript as a serial. She was always confident that I was working out the kinks, and was able to look ahead with me. Her suggestions were invaluable and joined my extensive document of notes for Draft #2.

My second draft was all about going back through and creating continuity, and making sense of the plot that had taken shape in the first draft. I handed it over to a second faithful reader, who helped me see it through fresh eyes. Mine were getting a bit blurry.

I made multiple revisions, and each time I read through Truth Cursed, it was with a different, very full checklist. Plot, character, continuity, line edits, world-building, trimming, etc., etc.

The organization that I’m able to control in my writing helps me balance the frustration that can grow when I can’t keep a lid on every disaster my three riotous children might conjure.

I left as much world-building as possible for later drafts. Another of my goals, for when I’m writing fantasy, is to be better at world-building at the beginning of the first draft, because this occasionally could be a set-back that affected the plot when I tried to fit it in later. However, I struggle to envision an environment until I know what my plot and characters will require from it. (In this way, writing historical-fiction gives me a lot to work with in the plotting stages in terms of researching the environment, which is something I appreciated about Huntress.)

So, those are just a few thoughts on my novel-writing journey and how my methods have evolved. I hope as I keep writing, I’ll keep growing and learning. I’ve been working on a short story this week, which in some ways is a very different ballpark, but similar in other unexpected ways. More on that another time.

I’d love to hear about the different journeys and methods that others have developed along the way. Thank you for reading!

The Useful Myth

Fairy tales shaped my early love of story, and as my interest in literature and history deepened in my teen years, I began to develop a love of ancient mythology as well. It took off, and was fed, in a college course dedicated to studying the works of C.S. Lewis. I loved seeing the connections to mythology in The Chronicles of Narnia, which had shaped so much of my early growth as a reader. The idea of using aspects of myths as a starting point in my writing has been around since the early days of my appreciation of mythology, but I became quickly overwhelmed by the vast, deep well, and felt that I could only ever skim the surface.

Till We Have Faces, by C.S. Lewis, an allegorical novelization of the myth of Cupid and Psyche, and American Gods by Neil Gaiman, with its web of ancient and modern mythology, were two (very different) books that both inspired and scared me off. They were so richly imagined and researched, and I was thoroughly daunted, but hungry to read more.

It wasn’t until a few years after a college trip to Ireland, that I couldn’t help but give it a try. I was experiencing a hot-blooded, desperate sort of nostalgia that pushed me to research Ireland and its history, which often seems inextricably entwined with its layers of legend. I wanted so badly to inhabit not only that beautiful, physical place, but the magic and robust life contained in its stories.

I also wanted to write a story about a young girl (for young girls), fighting for her place and purpose in a changing land that is being overtaken by ruthless men, who would use a girl like her for their own gain. I wanted to write a story of adventure and sisterhood, and a magic that is as much part of the very fabric of a beautiful land as its deeply-felt history. I couldn’t stop thinking about Ireland and this girl, so I wrote Huntress.

It was an intensely emotional endeavor, fraught with mistakes, but I believe that story taught me how to write. Writing a novel, your first novel, is a little bit like going on an epic journey, then returning home again and realizing that it’s changed you. Your life won’t be the same again, you must keep ever onward, ever seeking. It’s a feeling that I wouldn’t change for anything. My writing might never find its place among the works that inspire me and the rest of the world, but I won’t let that stop me from trying any longer. Right now, it’s enough that some of my stories exist outside of my own head.

And for the record, I did only skim the surface. I used a teaspoon of myth and a bit more of history as my jumping off point, but it was enough to set me on my way. 🙂