Pitch Wars Mentor Wishlist 2017

It’s that time of year again, aren’t you excited? Team oMG is!

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You can find team oMG on Twitter at @C_B_Catalano and @shaunaholyoak

Before we dive into our wishlist *rubs hands together* we’d like to tell you a little about ourselves, and why we can’t wait to pay it forward, and help a fellow writer out.

So, I’m Cass *wave* and this is, oh, possibly my 4th time revising this bio post. Revisions are crucial in all aspects of life, and most definitely in this contest, keeping this in mind, if you’re willing to get down and dirty with us, like kill your darlings –even the one you swore you never would– read on!

This is my first year as a Pitch Wars mentor. I am thrilled to be entering this new world with the most amazing, absolutely awesome, co-mentor Shauna Holyoak! We met a few years ago during another Twitter pitch event, and joined a group of similar contest hopefuls. And thank the stars I did because they are some of the most supportive, caring writers and CPs I’ve ever met in this journey!

PCC for life!

Let me say, (and I cannot stress how important this is), the friends you find in the writing community, especially from events like Pitch Wars, are worth their weight in gold.

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If you manage to make even one friend during Pitch Wars, trust me when I say you are the ultimate winner already. Now, back to business 😉

Meet Shauna:

My name is Shauna Holyoak, and I expend roughly 25% of my energy writing and 50% of my energy resisting the urge to hunt down and consume all the frosted sugar cookies. I made a chart.

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Writing MG is my favorite. My debut novel MY PAPER ROUTE AND OTHER DEADLY THINGS will be published in spring 2019 by Disney-Hyperion. Half of my writing time is currently spent pinching myself about that last part (please don’t turn that into a story problem for me to solve—it will break my brain).

I live in Idaho Falls, Idaho with my game-board designing husband, six of our children and two naughty dogs. Amy Poehler makes me happy, and Leslie Knope makes me happier.

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I grew up on Ramona and Fudge books, which instilled a love for spunky, strong characters (also, see above).

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And then Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry taught me just how powerful middle-grade fiction could be. So I tend toward contemporary, but MG fiction with strong characters and all the feels is ultimately what gets me.

I am so excited to be co-mentoring with Cass (she is AWESOME!) for this year’s Pitch Wars. It was my entry last year to Brooks Benjamin and Caroline Thompson’s team (spoiler alert: I didn’t make it) that got me the feedback I needed to shine up my manuscript and win a slot in #PitchSlam. That led me to the best agent (shout out to CARRIE PESTRITTO!) and then a pinch-worthy two-book deal!

Pitch Wars is a tremendous opportunity, and I’m so grateful and excited to be a part of it. Also, I can’t wait to fight over entries!

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Hi y’all! I’m Cassandra Newbould aka C.B. Catalano, and I cannot wait to read all your words. And fight over entries with Shauna. We will duel to the death for a book we love!

Back in the day I was that girl who enjoyed being sent to their room, because hey! extra reading time! Anything from Little Women, to the Black Stallion. If I could hold it, I was reading it. My lust for all the words continued on through teenage-hood. That’s when I fell in love with all things fantasy, and would dive head-first into the lands of The Tortall Universe, Shannara, and Darkover to name a few. *Sometimes* when my sis and bff would sneak out to go party I’d stay home to read instead. They’d laugh, but there was nothing better than curling up with a good book, a good blanket, and a good dog in my opinion.

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*curling up with Jake Gyllenhaal wouldn’t be too shabby either 😉 *

When I had my kiddos, I would spend the evenings telling them the most outrageous stories I could make up in the hopes it would send them to sleep. Eventually, as they grew, they encouraged me to write them down and so my journey as a writer began.

Last year I entered another amazing Twitter pitch event called #DVpit and that is where I met my magnificent and stellar agent, Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary & Media inc.

She fell in love with my MG retelling of Treasure Island: THE MISADVENTURES OF JEM HAWKINS: staring Kick-butt hacker girls, and lady pirates, and all the adventure a girl could want.

Before that, I interned for a NY literary agency for 8 months. Also, I know the ways of middle graders well. My middle son is in the 8th grade this year and my daughter made it through without too many battle wounds a few years ago 🙂

Did I mention I love to write and critique queries? Yeah, I know. But I do, I swear, and I’m happy to say my #NoQS mentee went on to get an agent 🙂 GOOO VALARIE!! so, if you have any questions about how I work as a mentor ask @ValBodden on Twitter.

My husband, a computer engineer who has run the gamut: from MySpace and creating its Open Social platform to autonomous cars for Ford, and I met as teenagers, and had our daughter when I was 22. We have been married 17 years, moved over 21 times together in over 7 states, and have 3 lovely children, 2 awesome cats, and 2 Muppet puppies, otherwise known as Newfypoos.

Seriously, Muppets.

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When I’m not writing, I’m probably playing with my children, playing poker (I want to be a professional poker player when I grow up) cooking with the hubs, painting, drawing, and/or drinking wine. I love everything Baz Luhrmann (he can seriously do no wrong) and am a die-hard *end of world genre* movie buff. For TV, I adore Outlander, Black Sails, Shameless and any and every cooking/baking show known to man. Also, I cannot stop watching the tiny houses shows. I’d love to, but I can’t bring myself to.

Now to the exciting part. DUN  DUN DUNNNN

What we’re looking for in a nutshell.

Middle Grade.

Give us all the feels, all of them! While Shauna leans more towards contemporary and I, fantasy we both agree we’re down for either, and welcome them with open arms –with a few minor exceptions–

If your manuscript contains any of the following we’re probably not the best mentors for you:

Younger MG, sorry but upper MG is our jam

Sports

Horror

Hard Sci-fi

Novels in verse

Now, while we aren’t the best for these stories, as we wouldn’t be able to do them the justice they deserve, we are certain you and your amazing manuscript will be able to find another mentor who will help you achieve that next level of fantastic, and we wish you the best of luck!

So what else are we looking for? Well, if any of your books have the feel of these below send them our way. Please. Pretty please with a query on top?

A Snicker of Magic

The Girl Who Drank The Moon

A Wrinkle In Time

Monstrous

Counting By Sevens

The Thing About Jellyfish

When You Reach Me

Mockingbird

Holes

Percy Jackson

Wonder

Lemony Snicket’s A Series Of Unfortunate Events

The Gauntlet

Rules For Thieves

We joyously welcome diverse and own voices stories with open arms. *grabby hands*

Give us your girl mcs that aren’t afraid of what the world thinks of them. Both likable and unlikable. Give us Hermione Grangers stuck at sea, or Katniss with an obsession for oil painting. Give us your MG Inej Gahfas, Nina Zeniks, (and we can’t forget your Kaz Brekkers), all tied up in the ultimate group heist, if you please. Give us your STEM stories (please, pretty please?) Sibling stories or complex girl friendship stories are a quick way to our hearts! 🙂

We’re down for quiet stories that tug at your heart, or action packed fantasies where the world-building blows your mind. Re-tellings set in a modern world or contemporary dramas thrown back in time. Make us laugh. Or cry. Just make us feel like we never want to put your story down!

However, having said all that, if you have a story that doesn’t fit anything we’ve said above and you feel like you want us anyway, send your ms our way. We both love surprises and can’t wait to find out what we end up falling in love with!

What we can bring to the table for you:

Helping you find a killer voice, pointing out areas that could use work without taking over your story, tackling pacing issues, building complex and believable characters, DIALOGUE! and attention to detail, or lack thereof.

*warning* If you aren’t able to attack your ms with an open mind and willingness to rip it apart and build it back even stronger, perhaps we aren’t the right mentors for you. We will never demand that something be changed, it’s your story after all and you know it best, but you entered Pitch Wars for a reason and hopefully we can help you polish your shiny jewel even farther than it is now.

Good luck fellow writers, may the odds be ever in your favor!

Have you been sitting here wondering where you can find out more about Shauna? Well, here is the link to Shauna’s blog

Shauna’s amazingly awesome blog

Shout out to Brenda Drake for this opportunity for all of us, may your reign be long and fruitful!

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Main Blog Link

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The Day The Laundry Won. A Poem (of sorts)

As daylight broke across the sky, in the laundry room there was a cry.

For the basket had spent its night alone, without a friend to call its own.

Bereft of companionship, it sobbed and sighed.

I want a friend, the basket cried.

And as the sun reached for the clouds, the door opened.

And one single, mismatched, little sock claimed the basket for a home.

The lonely basket cheered with glee. Than one friend turned into two.

Than three.

And as the day progressed, the pile grew.

from thirteen-and-a-half garments to twenty-two.

A ketchup-stained blouse from Sunday brunch.

Some ripped up jeans, nice and scrunched.

A soccer jersey followed next, a romper, and some grass-stained pants.

With ants.

Five dresses wrinkled, but not stained.

Some sweats that had seen better days.

Bathing suits, sizes 10 and 16, warmed by the sun

and some underclothes came in.

One by one.

As the day progressed, the pile grew.

In twos, and threes, until twenty-two became forty-five-and-3/4s.

So many friends did the basket make.

It cheered inside. Life was great!

Until the door opened once more.

A hand reached in and grabbed one of its pals.

Than four.

Five, six, seven and eight.

Some overalls, a polka-dot dress for an evening date.

A peas-and-carrots-stained bib.

Some trousers, inside the pockets-a pencil with a chewed up nib.

And as the pile decreased in size, the basket once again did cry.

It knew soon it would be alone again.

Without so much as a single friend.

But, for as quickly as the hand did work, taking away each friend- denim jacket and checkered shirt.

Smaller hands did slip inside, adding to the pile so fast it multiplied.

Until the basket was fully stocked again.

Plus some for good measure.

It held them close, its own dear treasure.

The night fell across the room.

To the basket’s surprise, the human did not come back.

And so the basket thanked the stars and the sky for hearing its dear wish and cry.

And in days to come when it was empty in the light of the shining sun.

It would never forget the day the laundry won.

So next time you’re fed up with washing clothes and would like to burn them all.

Consider the lonely basket.

And then burn the clothes anyway.

You’ll feel better.

I swear.

Once upon a time a single sock made its way into a lonely basket.

 

Signal Loss (or, my apocalypse now! flash fiction entry for terribleminds.com)

My finger ached from pressing the refresh button so often.

It was a sickness, I was sure of it, but I couldn’t keep away from watching the President’s newest word vomit as it projectiled across my screen. For the last 3 days I’d been glued to my computer. Every single post killing me a little more inside.

Who would have thought 140 characters would have such devastating impact on humanity? I held my breath with the rest of the world as we waited. It’d been half an hour since his last post. We all knew a new one was coming any second.

5. 4. 3. 2. 1.

Refresh!

:The dishonest media claims I’m poisoning the ocean with nuclear waste from my latest attack on the bigly continent of my Yuge Kingdom. LIES!

Bile burned my throat. I choked on it’s bitterness as I wiped away tears free-falling from my eyes. I couldn’t stop my hands from shaking when I stood. A silent scream filled the air with its empty voice when I crossed the living room to pull back the curtains.

For the first time in my life I wished I didn’t live on the coast. Having the ocean as your backyard had always felt like a gift. I was special. Any day I could look outside and bam. Paradise, there for my taking.

But today it would be different. And I didn’t know if I possessed the power to face what was out there now.

The scream that managed to evade my voicebox for so long finally made its way out in full force as I took in the catastrophe before me now.

The ocean, once so eloquent in its opulent hues of blue, was now  a sickly, toxic neon green.

I fell to my knees. Not to pray, I’d given up on that concept from day one. No, I fell because I didn’t have the strength to stand anymore.

Somehow, the President had been granted the power to voice his wishes and turn them into reality. Any time he posted, within moments, his words changed the world.

So far, the world had lost half its population. Of course, that was just hearsay due to the fact that with his very first decree, a 700,000 foot wall magically appeared around our country, so it was hard to know for sure. But after what else had come to pass, I believed it heart and soul.

I was one of the lucky ones, as least I liked to tell myself that. At least there was still half a mile’s worth of the sea before the monolith came into view. Not that that mattered anymore.

Wonder what kinda dress matched radiation green? Mom always told me to dress for the occasion. To be honest, I think I’m screwed.

The ringing of the phone pulled me out of my breakdown. With trepidation I answered.

“Yeah?”

“Dude, what in the fuck of fucks?” Sammy never bothered with small talk. I loved her for it.

“I know, I’m staring at it right now. I can’t believe this is happening.”

“Oh, come the fuck on, Leena, seriously? I mean seriously. You can’t believe this after what happened 2 hours ago?” She paused, letting me remember. As if anyone could ever forget.

At 8:56 am on Jan 23rd (only two hours ago, even though it felt like a lifetime) Mr. Prez made the impossible, possible.

:The dishonest media are ZOMBIES. Brain-sucking, Life-taking ZOMBIES. LIARS. The lot of them.

At 8:57 a new breed of monster was set upon the world. Hordes of brain-sucking zombie journalists roamed the streets. Thank fuck I’d gone grocery shopping yesterday when our Ruler Supreme only wished the world into a tropical heatwave with his proclamation that global warming was a hoax.

Note to self, never use the words, if global warming is real than show me. Prove me wrong. Thanks, universe, we really appreciate it. I mean, 123 degrees in winter, in the Pacific Northwest, in winter, is like totally normal. Right?

Sammy’s voice as she cleared her throat in satisfaction grated on my very last nerve.

I answered, wondering when she’d make it home from work. Hopefully she watched the How To Kill A Zombie In 5 Easy Steps tutorial I’d sent her earlier. Who could work in this mess of a life? “Okay. I get your point. But still, this. I can’t . . . I can’t even right now.”

I’d never ever been one of those people unable to finish a sentence before, but I finally understood the meaning behind the phrase, and for the life of me, I don’t think there’s anything more succinct.

“Oh, hun. I know. At least we have each other right. I mean nothing will be able to tear that apart. Our love can overc–”

A sharp beeping noise replaced Sammy’s voice and my body stiffened. No. No!

The phone fell from my hand as I raced to my laptop  and hit refresh again.

My stomach made a home somewhere around my ankles as I scrolled, hoping and praying I was wrong.

:As of now, only the sanctity of marriage as between a man and woman will be acknowledged. Those of same-sex will be as if they never were.

Never were.

Sammy.

No . . .

This was the last straw. I clicked on a link, knowing once I hit enter there was no turning back. The time had come. I’d never been a revolutionary before. But my life, my love, my reason for being were all now a thing of the past.

A large ad glared at me, bright, screaming. I inhaled. The air hit my taste buds with a staleness I would never be able to swallow. So this is what freedom smelled like?

Do You Want To Join The Resistance?

With lightning-fast fingers I typed three simple words that would forever change my life.

Oh, Fuck Yes!

The End

 

 

 

 

 

7x7x7 challenge

Ms. @mmhoffman14 tagged me for the 7x7x7 challenge which is to go to your wip and go to page 7, go down to line 7 and paste the next 7 lines. Here is my sample from one of my wips- BAD BEAT

(It’s a YA Contemporary Thriller about a Las Vegas native teen, Sonja, who grows up hustling the casino poker rooms with the help of her fake ID, and her best friend, Kai. Until she wins a little too much, and happens to fall for the mob boss’s son– the same one who happens to be the one assigned to take her out… except this date doesn’t involve dinner.)

 

 

“Fine, fine, there’s a pinot noir in your parents liquor cabinet with my name written all over it anyway.” Silence follows, and I’m not sure if he’s joking or not. Please don’t let it be one of mom and dad’s special reserve.

The door opens a crack to reveal Kai’s brilliant blue hair and sugar-coated smile. A bottle appears. Good, not one they’ll miss.

“Honey, don’t you think I know by now what they’ll notice and what they won’t?” Kai unscrews the top and takes a swig. “Sip?”

“Nope. Gotta keep my mind in the game.” The idea of getting wasted before I’ve even played my first hand makes me wrinkle my nose. “Day drinking’s lame. Who wants to sport a hangover by two in the afternoon?”

“See, there is where you’re going wrong. The trick to avoiding that is to just keep drinking. Daddy always said he wasn’t raising a quitter. If he only knew how well I listened. Maybe he would’ve stuck around longer.” As he holds up the bottle, Kai swallows with vigor. “Probably should have followed his own advice.”

To see his shoulders droop in resignation breaks my heart. “You know he loves you. It’s not your fault. Sometimes people can’t make relationships work. Ya know?”

“But, if I’d been more manly . . . maybe.”

I reach out, grab him, and turn him until we’re eye to eye.

“You’ve got to be kidding me. You’re quarterback of our fucking football team. You’ve known how to change a tire on a car since you were thirteen, and you could probably handyman my entire house if it started falling apart. You’ve got to be one of the manliest boys I know. And if you think for one second the reason your dad left is because you happen to like guys, well . . . I don’t know what to say. Except you’re wrong.”

“Guess we’ll never know, will we?”

 

(I went over the 7 lines, whoops!)

What being an intern has taught me so far

So, back in October I stumbled upon an open call for interns/readers for an agency I adore. I think their whole group of agents are pretty spectacular. Now, I haven’t personally gotten to have conversations with all of them. But over the last year or so of seeing exchanges on Twitter, plus all the fantastic words of fellow writers as they mention the agents or the agency, well, it’s really made me think well of them as a whole.

And then this opportunity comes up, and I’m thinking no fucking way would they ever consider me. I’m a stay-at-home mom and have been for over 16 yrs. My work experience is as dusty as a New Mexican arroyo, (an arroyo is a dry creek not slang for something weird) and what do I know about this industry I’m just starting to cut my teeth on anyway?

Nope, no way do I have a chance.

But, because I’m me, and my aspirations run the gamut from trying to become an alpaca farm owner to, oh I dunno, turning a few acres into a community where all my wayward friends can come and lay their head… well, applying to be an intern didn’t seem as unreachable as it could have. If you’ve ever seen the movie Wanderlust, I’m pretty much a real-life, occasional cafe kinda girl.

No has never really been part of my vocab.

So, I applied. Annnd I was denied. But the whole process was so exhilarating.  Reading the sample manuscripts made me feel alive. I was doing something for me, to better myself.

It felt fucking fantastic!

So, I wrote a thank you letter to let the agent know how much the opportunity meant to me. I don’t know if she’ll ever really know how much, but I can only hope. Books have been my escape since I could read. As a child, and then a teen, there were times when life waved at me from the windows, and I would be so caught up in whatever story I was reading at the time that I just waved right back and continued on reading. As a new mom, books got me through a lot of lonely and tired days.

As a stay-at-home mom you tend to lose yourself sometimes. There’s a million and 3 things about it that I’m thankful for every day. But in learning to be selfless it’s easy to lose oneself. And it takes a moment like this to wake up, and say oh yeah, I’m more than a mom.

That was my moment.

Sooo, another intern/reading position came up for the same agent, at the same agency, and I grabbed the bull by the horns, threw caution to the wind, (and a few other cliches) and tried out again.

I made it! I squealed. I shrieked. I did a little victory dance. I probably cried a bit.

Since then, I wake up with a purpose. When I see that email with said agent(angel)’s name, my heart speeds up– cause I know I’m about to take another amazing journey and it fills me with joy.

 

Fellow writers, I admire you so much… Your words inspire me to become that much more in my writing. Every time I finish reading one of your manuscripts it motivates me to push myself that much further. I know your pain and your fear in letting your babies out into the world and having someone judge them. That’s the hardest part. Measuring my truth, my personal taste, and how I feel it will do in a market is so difficult. Every word I write in my report I want to erase. What if that one sentence dooms someone? Alternatively, what if another is the exact sentence needed to realize this ms could be the one?

Thank you, Agent, for trusting me with all the words. Thank you, writers, for making my life that much more. Between you both I have a reason, a reason for myself. Every day that I’m learning something new, honing my craft, and walking this path I send out a silent thanks that she decided to take a chance on me.

I don’t know how much time I have left. I’m not exactly sure of the lifespan of an intern. But I will make the most of every moment I’m given.

Holy shit, I’m one step closer to my dream y’all. One day I’m gonna get somewhere, and be someone, and now I know what I really want to be. I love writing sooo damn much. I’m in love with reading. Author, or agent, or intern for life– I’ve found my home and I don’t ever wanna go back. ❤

Thank you, secret angel agent. 🙂 (I wish I could give her a true shoutout but I’m sworn to secrecy 🙂

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Cass

Ode to the querying writer

As a child, a teen, adult, or crone

you’ve decided to give your daydreams a home

Each day you struggled, laughed, and cried

as your lyrical journey took you for a ride

Through heartache and joy, interweaving a story for your eyes alone

and then to share with friends, and family,

the ones who always throw you a bone

holding your breath, hands balled up tight, hoping and wishing with all of your might that they LOVE IT

and they do. So you think I’ve a bestseller… or two.

Then you spread your wings and find others like you.

Writing, revising, downing a cup or four. Trying to turn your draft into something much more.

You let go your chains, fears, and shakes

and share the words you held deep in your core

and finally

FINALLY you hear the words needed. The ones your family forgot to tell you.

Edits begin with a ravenous rush

for now is not the time to be a lush

a tweak here

delete there.

Sprucing and pruning without care

it’s true.

Wait? My 200,000 word draft is too long? chop, snip 70,000 gone over night

another 20,000?

yes, that will make it tight.

Kill who?  Seriously you want him to go? But,

but I thought he was the star of the show.

and then it all makes sense.

This dream, this story came together again. Thanks you your new circle of writerly friends.

 

Until

 

the moment came to set it free

And you write your first fucking query

That awful, soul-sucking, mind number page.

the one, you know, that fills you with rage

because no one said when you started your dream

that you’d be judge by 3 little paragraphs.

and perhaps

they forgot to mention you’ll end up growing scales of titanium before your done

 

did not connect

your voice? well it sucks

subjectively, of course

keep looking, bubye, sayonara my friend.

Adios, till next time, please, let’s not meet again.

and then

you revise, resub, brush it off. Chug a bottle or two

secretly tell everyone off.

your crit friends hold your hand while you blubber and cry

One day, they’ll see, you say with a sigh

and they do

because you do not give up

you power through, dust yourself off and move the fuck on

you write a new manuscript, or two, or four

you go through the struggle again and again, knocking on their door

because you’re a writer.

you’re a fucking amazing, daydreaming, word-slinging, make-believing, world-building, murdering, fucking freak.

and those words you’ve written are fucking unique.

and you deserve to be heard.

so don’t give up.

because one day I’ll need you. One day i’ll pick you up. I’ll open your pages and you’ll take me away and you’ll break my heart over the course of the day.

I’ll cheer for your protagonist while creating ways to kill your antagonist. I’ll boo, hiss and cheer in all the right places

I’ll cringe in fear at your scary blood-mangled faces

I’ll try to pronounce each word of your world (and then secretly make up nicknames when I can’t)

But never once will I rant, because you’re story is still fucking awesome

without you, dear writer, our world can be gray. Full of dreaded real life. monotonous day by slogging damn day.

You are my rock, my soultrip, my escape.

carry on my friends, you unbelievable strong people. Please do not crack.

Forget the rejections, your words are not wack.

You’ve already won the moment you began

you created something from nothing and that deserves the ultimate hand.

and when your dear words finally come home

remember to cheer on another who’s still in the zone.

pick them up, raise their head and remind them it’s time

for their words to fly free, for they are sublime.

Dear perfect writer

It’s some hard fucking shit, yes it’s true.

never give up

if not for me, than… for you. ❤

 

 

 

 

Bad Beat

So I have a few WIPs I’ve been working on. And tonight I’ve decided to work on BAD BEAT. It’s been a few weeks since I touched it last, but I just booked a trip to Las Vegas, a place I’ve lived over 7 times in my life, and even confirming my trip had me wishing I was already there.

Anyway, BAD BEAT is a YA Thriller about a girl who’s a poker shark and get’s caught up in the high life when she wins way too much money at the casinos with her fake ID. I grew up playing poker. My granddad’s Sicilian blood runs through me strongly, and by age 5 I could play most card games.

I love it. It makes me feel alive when I’m at the card table. Anyway, since it’s Friday, and I’m missing cards, my grandparents, and my youth I decided to post the first 5 pages of my WIP. Feel free to lemme know what you think 🙂

Chapter 1

 

I hate people who say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. I bet you any amount of money the people who say that don’t live here. They weren’t born here. And sure as shit, they don’t keep whatever extreme moment that called for such a dumb saying here.

My fingers tap a rhythm on the cool metal table. The clink of my handcuffs keep time with my digits. It soothes me. I’m getting used to it.

“Could you tell me why you started playing poker, Ms. De Spirito?” The Las Vegas juvenile correction officer asking me questions tries to pull off looking like she cares. She’s horrible at it, but I’ll humor her. Every minute spent out of my cell is one less minute spent in it. I’ll take as many seconds as they’ll give me.

“Why do we breathe? Why is the sky blue?” I shake my head. They’ll never understand. “I can’t tell you why I started, or even when. I could probably play cards before I could fully walk. My dad always called me a natural. Said I had a talent for reading people. You see, a lot of people play statistics, numbers. They are very methodical about pot odds and how that determines what hand they’re playing and why.” My fingers speed up, building to a crescendo. With a final tap I bring my hands away and gently place them on my lap.

“And?”

“And I’m not that kind of a person. I couldn’t tell you the first thing about pot odds. What I could tell you is how Big Bucks sitting to the left of me is holding a pocket pair of aces because his eye twitched when the board hit two kings and a five. He overbet to protect his hand and wouldn’t you know it, the little fella sitting next to him called it in about two seconds flat. That’s how I knew Shorty was holding the third king. The way he fingered his chips spoke louder than any pot odds could ever do. Made it pretty easy to throw down my jacks. Never was the kinda girl who liked two boys at once anyway.”

Officer Dean clears her throat. It looks like she’s trying to hide a smile, but I play nice and pretend I don’t see it.

“So, you don’t see anything wrong with the fact that you cheated multiple casinos out of one point four million dollars?”

Before I can stop myself, my hands shoot out of my lap and slap the table. I stand and look Officer Dean in the eye.

“I won that money fair and square.” I’m seething on the inside. It’s pointless, but I still try to calm myself by breathing slowly.

“Well, yes. You could say that under normal circumstances. But the fact remains. To gamble legally in the state of Nevada you must be twenty one or older. And you, my dear, are only seventeen.”

I sit down. The air rushes out of me until I’m deflated. Only seventeen.

“Thanks for the reminder.”

“Now, enough of the games. We both know underage gambling isn’t the main reason you’re sitting with me. Why don’t you start at the beginning? And tell me how you got to be here. I’ve got all the time in the world so there’s no point in stalling.”

“Stalling. Stalling? You think I’m stalling?” I wait for her to laugh, something. Anything. But she doesn’t even grin. Must not be a fan of Spongebob. Her loss.

“Fine. Well, it all started on the last week of school. You could say I was a fashion victim. Guess being overweight is a crime after all.”…

…The sound of my jeans ripping as I bend over should embarrass me. The fact that it’s happening in first period, only five minutes after the bell has rung, should probably have me melting in shame—wishing I was part of the horrid, orange and brown paisley carpet. I squeeze my legs together in the hopes that my white, “grandma” undies might have less of a chance to peek through. Carefully, I stand, and penguin-walk to the door.

Amidst the peals of laughter from my fellow oh-so-compassionate classmates I sketch a solute, and quickly hightail it out of class—Mr. Baldwin’s theory of the melting ice caps be damned. At least one good thing has come from this. The rip up my backside provides a much needed loosening along the whole waist area. Might as well go for glory. A sigh comes out of me as I give in, and undo the button to my jeans. It borderlines erotic. Yeah, soooo much better. I’m so busy looking down at the roll of fat now hanging slightly over my undone jeans it takes me a second to comprehend someone is talking.

“Hey, Sonja, you getting ready to enter a strip contest or what?”

Great. Not just someone.

“Oh. Hey there, Kai. How’d ya guess?” Without thinking, my fingers grasp the zipper and I begin to pull it down. A few flutters of my eyelashes, and a kiss blown in his direction, and we both break into laughter. I spin in a circle ballet dancers would be envious of—happily showing off my predicament.

“Ah, nice one. How in the world did you do that?” Kai raises his eyebrow.

“Well, I was trying to pull off this new parkour move. You know, show off for Billy. He’s really into girls that leap tall buildings and shit.” Silence greets me, so I continue on with my explanation. This time a measure of heat crosses my cheeks. “Or actually… I accidentally dropped my pencil when I got into class, and when I bent over to pick it up my jeans decided they were tired of being together. Think they wanted a break.”

Even though embarrassment courses through me I hold my head high, stare Kai straight in the eye, and dare him to laugh. To his credit he doesn’t even grin.

“Damn, Sonja, that’s booty.” The previously missing smile breaks through. “Haha. Get it? Booty?”

“Ugh. You so suck.” I shake my head.

“What are best friends for?” Kai wraps one wiry, muscled arm around my waist. As it touches each hill and valley that my body is comprised of I want to suck in my breath. Will his arm get stuck between the rolls? No such luck. Thank God for small favors.

His hand comes to a rest right on my hip. It’s in the place where a hipbone should be, but isn’t. Due to the extra padding my lovely body provides me any and all hints of bone structure are hidden. It’s like I’m supplying a pillow for his hand instead.

“Come on, songbird, let’s get you home.” Kai hooks a finger through my belt loop, and drags me down the hall.

Thankful for my Pitch Crit Crew

So a few months ago I entered a writing contest. Alas, I didn’t proceed to go, however, I received something waaay more valuable in return. A real writing group. A gaggle of writerly friends who are in the trenches along with me, and I am so very happy to have them around.

It makes it a million times more bearable to share joy and pain with people who have felt what you are feeling. While your loved ones might feel bad with you, they don’t know *exactly* ya know? But the crew does. Their empathy is real. Their happiness at a request is your happiness. Their elation at a signing with an agent is your elation.Their sadness at your pain in a rejection is what build your heart up that much stronger.

As a stay-at-home mom, over the years I’ve lost contact with a lot of my “real” friends. I used to be a social butterfly, but except on the odd occasion rarely do I get out anymore, and when I do with my friends it’s not spent talking about writing hehe or if I do it’s for a coveted date with my mister. And while he supports my writing 100% I see his eyes glaze and that’s totally cool too 🙂

Because of this writer group I really feel like I have a connection again. I’ve even had the chance to meet one of the badasses in person at a writing conference so far and that was beyond awesomeness. From the moment I sat down at the bar it felt like I had known her for years. There was no awkward silences, and we laughed into the wee hours of the night.

The best part is, the crew gets it. All of it. And we don’t judge.

The worst part is we all live so far away, cause dang it, it would be beyond fantastic to have a weekly coffee and writing get together with them. But I’ll take what I can get, and be thankful every day for the bonds we are all  building.

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and I’ll share a drink with ya anytime 😉giphy (7)

Thanks you guys.  You keep me motivated and I’m so happy to be one of you!

You down with PCC? Yeah you know me!