Pitch Wars 2017 Mentor Blog Hop: Make Me a Match

It’s that time of year again, my friends. Pitch Wars. I was a mentee in 2014 (read my success story here) and a co-mentor in 2016 (read our mentee’s success story here), both with the amazing Karma Brown. Now I’m mentoring all on my own. But don’t let that scare you off. I’ve been through this on both sides of the fence so I promise I know what I’m doing.

So, if you have an Adult Contemporary Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Magical Realism or Light Sci-Fi/Fantasy book, and it’s fresh and shiny (by that I mean a fairly polished manuscript, not first draft) and you’re ready to do some major work on your manuscript, PRETTY PLEASE SEND IT TO ME.

I know you’re really here to see if your book matches up with the specific stories I’m looking for, but before you scroll down, please give me the chance to tell you what I can give you as an Adult mentor…

  1. A critical eye on character motivation, stakes, and consistency (and a whole mess of other topics!). I ask a lot (like hundreds) of questions in a manuscript I’m critiquing. I nickpick tiny details that can throw a reader and I also look at overall character arcs to ensure there is growth, both emotionally and story-wise. It will be intense. And it will mean cutting some darlings and writing whole new scenes and rethinking the core of your manuscript at times. If you’re open to that kind of whole-book makeover, it will be worth it. I’ll give in-documents comments and track changes as needed and I’ll also provide an edit letter of sorts early on with an outline of what I love and think is working well and a detailed discussion of what I think needs to be reworked. It will be lots of emails and phone/Skype calls (if needed/wanted) after that as we work through the manuscript. It’s a definite team effort. I have a day job and a husband that require my attention, but I will give you as much of my time as you need during our two months together.
  2. Brainstorming and discussion. I know writing can feel like something that’s done in a vacuum, but there are times when bouncing ideas off of someone is exactly what’s needed to get the creative juices flowing again. So if I comment on something you don’t agree with or aren’t sure how to tackle, we can talk about it and find a way to make it work. It’s not an all or nothing situation with me. This is your book, not mine, so we’ll work on issues together until you are satisfied with the end result.
  3. An insider’s perspective. As I mentioned above, I’ve been both a mentee and a mentor before. I cannot stress this enough, Pitch Wars will be HARD. And it will go by so fast you’ll wonder how you’ll ever get done in time. I know how that within two weeks of starting on your revision with me you might be cursing my name and wondering why you ever thought you could handle something as intense as Pitch Wars. Believe me, I’ve been there. And I got through it. I’ll make sure you do as well, with your sanity intact and (hopefully) with a manuscript you love even more than when we started.
  4. A cheerleader beyond Pitch Wars. I’m in this writing life for the long haul. And I fully believe that one of the best ways to continue to grow (and stay sane) is to have a community of writers who support and love you and buoy you when it all feels like too much. Once Pitch Wars is over, I will still be here cheering from the sidelines, offering advice (when asked, of course!) and celebrating the victories.

Here’s a little bit about me…

I live in Wilmington, North Carolina with my husband and our orange tabby cat, Pippin. Aside from writing, I obsess over swoony fictional boys and baked goods; spend all my spare money on books, art, and going to hard rock concerts; and fangirl over quirky TV shows, most of which got canceled way before their time (and I have a wax lion to prove it!). My drinks of choice–depending on the time of day–are coffee with cream and sugar, a good saison or other Belgian style beer, and bourbon on the rocks.

My debut women’s fiction novel THE SECRET INGREDIENT OF WISHES released Sept. 6, 2016 and DREAMING IN CHOCOLATE releases Feb. 6, 2018, both from Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press. I am represented by Patricia Nelson at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. I earned a BFA in creative writing from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and love that I can truthfully say I use my degree for my day job (I’m a proposal manager for a clinical research company) as well as being a published author.

Check out my social media to get a better idea of what I’m like in real life:
WebsiteTwitter | FacebookPinterest

If you stuck with me through all of that, thank you! If you skipped the getting to know me stuff, that’s okay. I totally get it. (We can still be friends, right?) So, here’s where I tell you what specific kinds of stories I’m interested in for Pitch Wars. As it turns out, I like a lot of things…

Contemporary Fiction/Women’s Fiction: Give me relatable characters in difficult emotional situations. Especially when in combination with small towns. If the stories are offbeat, whimsical, quirky, magical, fairytale-esque, that’s even better! In books, this means anything similar to Sarah Addison Allen, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, Close Enough to Touch by Colleen Oakley, April & Oliver by Tess Callahan, Attachments and Landline by Rainbow Rowell, Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan, and The Weight of Feathers by Anna Marie McLemore (but for adults!) If you have something like the movie Penelope, I need it yesterday. Also, Gilmore Girls, Everwood, Hart of Dixie, and Pushing Daisies are high on my TV fangirl list so anything in the same vein will make me swoon.

This Is Us: The TV show This Is Us gets its own category because it is my everything lately and I would kill for a book like it. Emotional family drama with killer dialogue and intricate plot twists, yes, please!

Light Sci-Fi/Fantasy: I’m also very open to fringe-y sci-fi stories like Fringe, Orphan Black, Doctor Who, and Lost. But make sure the focus of the story is on the characters–how they relate to each other and how the weird brings them together. I read a lot of YA fantasy but not as much in the adult arena. When it comes to my strengths in these areas, I’m more of a weird science in our reality or an alternate universe kinda girl rather than a high/epic fantasy kinda girl. (Think V.E. Schwab rather than George R.R. Martin–though I love GoT!) Other mentors are much better suited to those epic worlds than I am. (But I would still LOVE to see them!)

Romantic Storylines: I’m a sucker for love stories and HEAs (or at least happy for now). It’s not a deal breaker, but for me there’s not much better than wanting to hug a book when I’m through with it because I loved it so much. Bonus points if you can make me cry from the epicness of the love story! 

Random Things I Love: stories that feed my love of food, music (hard rock is my genre of choice, but music of any kind in stories steals my heart), sisters (or sibling) stories, life in the South, the beach, and fandoms (I’m a Marshmallow, a Ravenclaw, a Pie-holer, a Whovian, a Browncoat, and too many more to name) will probably grab my attention even if they don’t fit neatly into one of the categories above.

But if it helps clarify things a little more, I’m NOT looking for thrillers, suspense, mysteries, horror, historical (unless there’s a magical/fantasy twist to it) or erotica. I’m just not a good fit for those types of stories as I don’t read much in those genres. I am however ALL FOR diverse books and #ownvoices stories. Stories featuring diverse cultures, LBGTQ, disabilities? Yes, please!

To sum it all up, the books I’m most drawn to have a voice that jumps off the page, complicated relationships, big hearts, and stunning words. Give me layered friendships and family drama and characters I can root for, flaws and all. I particularly love stories that include food, magical realism, and strong women. Most of all, I want to be awed by your book.

If you’re not sure, give me a try. I’m open to having my mind changed by spectacular writing and unforgettable characters.

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Pre-order Dreaming in Chocolate

I’ve been pretty quiet on my blog since the release of THE SECRET INGREDIENT OF WISHES because I’ve been busy writing up a storm. My next book, DREAMING IN CHOCOLATE, is now up for pre-order. It will release on February 6, 2018, but you can pre-order now it at these stores: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indie Bound | Powells

You can also add it to your To Read list on Goodreads. If you’re interested in knowing a little more about it, here’s the official description:

“Come for the life-changing chocolates and opinionated apothecary table, stay for the enchanting eight-year old and complicated secrets.” ―Amy Reichert, author of The Coincidence of Coconut Cake

At twenty-seven, Penelope Dalton is quickly ticking off items on a bucket list. Only the list isn’t hers. After her eight year-old daughter Ella is given just six months to live, Penelope is determined to fill Ella’s remaining days with as many new experiences as she can.

With an endless supply of magical gifts and recipes from the hot chocolate café Penelope runs alongside her mother in a small town nestled in the Appalachian Mountains, she is able to give her daughter almost everything she wants. The one sticking point is Ella’s latest addition to her list: get a dad. And not just any dad. Ella has her sights set on Noah Gregory, her biological father and the only person Penelope knows to have proved her true love hot chocolate wrong.

Now Noah’s back in town for a few months―and as charming as ever―and the part of her that dreamed he was her fate in the first place wonders if she made the right decision to keep the truth of their daughter from him. The other, more practical part, is determined to keep him from breaking Ella’s heart too.

But as Ella’s health declines, Penelope must give in to her fate or face a future of regrets.

Friday Pieday: Raspberry Sour Cream Pie

Friday Pieday Graphic

The Secret Ingredient of Wishes came out this week and I could not be more excited! Shameless “buy the book” plug: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indie Bound

So to celebrate the release, I made a raspberry version of what has turned into my “good luck” pie. The original pie is a Blackberry Sour Cream Pie and I made it for the first time with two of my critique partners the weekend I found out I was going to have “the call” with my now agent. We were celebrating and being ever-so-hopeful and having a damn good time together. See? (There may have been a Manhattan or two and some Gilmore Girls watching involved too.)

Since then, I’ve made a few different versions of this pie, and while blackberry is still the usual favorite in my household (when I suggest pie, M always votes for it!) I decided to go with raspberry for this celebratory pie. The recipe I love is from Let’s Dish and it is amazing. I also used the remaining dough from the strawberry pie that I made a few weeks ago and had stored in the freezer.

ras-pie

Ingredients

  • 1 recipe for a single crust pie, or 1 rolled refrigerated unbaked pie crust
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups fresh blackberries or 1 (16-oz.) package frozen blackberries

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  • Let frozen berries stand at room temperature for 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, prepare pastry and line 9-inch pie plate. Bake 8 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on wire rack.

ras-pie-crust

  • Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.
  • In a large bowl combine sour cream, sugar, flour, and salt.
  • Add the raspberries (or blackberries) and stir gently to combine.

ras-pie-filling

  • Spoon filling into pre-baked crust. To prevent over-browning, cover edge of pie with foil.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes if using fresh berries, or 50 minutes if using frozen berries. Remove foil.
  • Bake 15-20 minutes more or until filling is bubbly and appears set.

rasp-pie-bake

Launch Day: The Secret Ingredient of Wishes

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Y’all, today is finally here. The Secret Ingredient of Wishes is officially out in the world. I am beyond excited to share this story with you. It’s full of magic and pie and wishes coming true. If that sounds like your kind of thing, you can find it online and in stores: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indie Bound

Friday Pieday: Peach Raspberry Pie

Friday Pieday Graphic

The final pie in THE SECRET INGREDIENT OF WISHES is probably the most important one of the book. For most of the pies in that come out of Catch’s kitchen, the magic imbued into the crusts with bubbly, melted butter binds secrets from getting out. But this last one—one that Rachel makes before she can change her mind—is made with a wish. And since she makes this wish with her whole heart—no doubts, no second guessing if it’s the right thing to do—I thought it was only fitting to use the pie I love the most: Peach Raspberry Pie. (I love it so much that it actually shows up in the book twice! It first appears in Chapter 20 and then again in Chapter 36.) The recipe I use is from That Skinny Chick Can Bake and it is so darn tasty!

Final Peach Ras

Ingredients
Crust:
  • 12 tablespoons cold butter
  • 1½ cups flour
  • ¾ cup cake flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon cold cream cheese
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
Filling:
  • 2-3/4 pounds ripe peaches (about 8 medium)
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch
Glaze:
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 Tbs. turbinado sugar or granulated sugar
Instructions
  • Cut the butter into ¾-inch cubes. Add flour, cake flour, salt, and baking powder to food processor and process for a few seconds to combine.
  • Cut the cold cream cheese into three or four pieces and add it to the flour mixture. Process for 20 seconds till mixture resembles corn meal. Add the butter cubes and pulse until none of the butter pieces is larger than a pea, about five 3-second pulses.
  • Add the cream and vinegar and pulse in short bursts until the dough starts to come together; the dough will still look crumbly but if you press it between your fingers, it should become smooth. Turn it out onto a clean work surface. Press the dough together to form a mass.
  • Cut the dough in half. Shape one-half of the dough into a flat disk and the other into a flat rectangle. Wrap each tightly in the plastic and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes.
  • Remove the disk of dough from the fridge (keep the rectangle refrigerated); if it’s very firm, let it sit at room temperature until it’s soft enough to roll, 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Roll it out to a 13-inch round of ⅛ inch thickness.
  • Carefully place the dough into a 9-inch pie pan. Fit the dough into the pan. Trim the dough so there is about a ¾-inch overhang. Fold the overhang underneath itself to create an edge. Cover the dough-lined pie plate with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Peach Ras crust

 

  • Peel the peaches. Halve each peach, remove the pit, and slice each half into eight thin wedges; you should have 6 cups.
  • Put the peaches in a large bowl and sprinkle the lemon juice over them. Sprinkle on the sugar and salt and toss gently to mix. Let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes and up to 12 hours. Transfer them to a colander; place the colander over a bowl to collect the juices; you should have almost 1 cup of liquid.

Peaches

  • Pour the juices into a small saucepan set over medium heat. Boil down the liquid, swirling but not stirring, until it’s syrupy, about 10 minutes; it should reduce to about a ½ cup, depending on how much liquid you started with. Set aside to cool for 1 or 2 minutes.
  • Transfer the peaches to a bowl and toss them with the cornstarch until all traces of cornstarch have disappeared. Pour the reduced peach juices over the peaches, tossing gently.

Peach ras Syrup

  • Remove the rectangle of dough from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature until it’s pliable enough to roll, 10 to 15 minutes. Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface to an 11×14-inch or larger rectangle. It should be no more than ⅛ inch thick.
  • Cut ten ¾-inch-wide strips lengthwise down the rectangle, using a ruler to measure and mark ¾-inch intervals and to cut a straight edge. If you want a crimped edge on the strips, use a fluted pastry wheel.
  • Stir the peach filling a few times, then carefully fold in the fresh raspberries and pour it into the pie shell. Arrange five strips of dough evenly over the filling, starting with a long strip for the center. Gently fold back every other strip (the second and the fourth) to a little past the center. Choose another long strip of dough, hold it perpendicular to the other strips, and set it across the center of the pie.
  • Unfold the two folded strips so they lie flat on top of the perpendicular strip. Now fold back the strips that weren’t folded back last time (the first, third, and fifth ones).
  • Lay a second perpendicular strip of dough about ¾-inch away from the last one. Unfold the three folded strips. Fold back the original two strips, set a third perpendicular strip of dough ¾ inch from the last one, and unfold the two strips.
  • Repeat on the other side with the two remaining strips: fold back alternating strips, lay a strip of dough on top, and unfold. Remember to alternate the strips that are folded back to create a woven effect. Trim the strips. Flute the edges if desired.

Peach Ras Lattice

  • Lightly cover the assembled pie with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. Heat the oven to 425°.
  • When the pie has chilled , brush the lattice with the milk and sprinkle on the sugar.
  • Set the pie directly on foil-lined baking sheet. Bake until the juices are bubbling all over (the bubbles should be thick and slow near the pan edges), 40 to 50 minutes. After the first 15 minutes, cover the rim with foil to avoid over-browning.
  • Let the pie cool on a rack until the juices have thickened, 3 hours.

Friday Pieday: Salted Chocolate Tart

Friday Pieday Graphic

In THE SECRET INGREDIENT OF WISHES, the first pie Rachel makes with Catch is forced on her. She’s a convenient pair of hands. But more than that, Catch uses pie as a form of therapy for herself and others. So when Rachel shows up on her doorstep, a “stray” as Catch calls her, Catch does everything she can to keep Rachel in the kitchen, talking about her life, her fears, and eventually her ability, all the while pushing Rachel out of her comfort zone and into real life.

So when Rachel starts making pies all on her own, she doesn’t hold back. She starts experimenting with different flavor combinations like raspberry and peaches or a salted chocolate tart with a kettle chip crust. The chocolate tart (from What’s Gabby Cooking) first caught my eye on Pinterest and I knew this decadent (and delicious) dessert had to be in the book. So I worked it into a pivotal scene between Rachel and Ashe’s little brother Scott. (Chapter 34, if you’re interested!) In this scene, Rachel and Scott talk about their families and how Catch has become that for both of them.

Tart Final

Ingredients

For the Kettle Chip Crust
    • 1 “Sharing Size” (or 8.5 ounces in the US) bag Kettle Chips, Sea Salt flavor
    • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
    • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
For the Chocolate Filling
    • 1/4 cups heavy cream
    • 10 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1/8 teaspoon salt
For the Chocolate Ganache topping
  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup heavy cream

Instructions

For the Kettle Chip Crust
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    2. In a food processor, pulse the potato chips until they are finely ground. Add the melted butter and flour and pulse for 30 seconds to combine.
    3. Press the potato chip crust into the bottom and sides of a 9-inch tart pan.
    4. Transfer to the pre-heated oven and bake for 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Tart1

For the Chocolate Filling
    1. Combine the cream and chocolate chips in a medium pot over medium heat and warm the cream until the chocolate starts to melt. Whisk these 2 ingredients together until completely smooth. Add the eggs, vanilla and salt and continue to whisk until smooth over medium heat.
    2. Once smooth, remove the pot from the heat and pour the Chocolate Filling mixture into the cooled tart shell and place it back into the oven and bake for 22-25 minutes. Remove it from the oven and let cool for 30 minutes.

Tart2

For the Chocolate Ganache topping
  1. Heat the cream in a small saucepan and add the chocolate. Whisk together over medium heat until the mixture is smooth and all the chocolate has melted.
  2. Pour this mixture over the middle of the chocolate tart and use an offset spatula to spread it around evenly.
  3. Let the entire tart chill overnight in the refrigerator.
  4. Dust with flaky sea salt before slicing and serving.

Tart3

Friday Pieday: Strawberry Pie

Friday Pieday Graphic

The Secret Ingredient of Wishes is set during the summer in a fictional North Carolina town. And for me, nothing says summer like juicy, sweet strawberries. And the only thing that could make strawberries better is to bake them into a butter, flaky crust and top it off with a good dollop of whipped cream.

So when I needed a pie for a scene that marked a key turning point in Rachel and Ashe’s relationship, sun-warmed strawberry pie seemed like the perfect choice.  The pie starts as a peace offering of sorts, but winds up helping these two finally start to open up to each other. Because when you eat pie right from the pan with someone else, it’s hard to keep up emotional walls. (Chapter 12, if you’re interested!)

There are a ton of recipes out there (I have lots on my WISHES Pinterest board), but the one I’m fond of comes from The Little Epicurean. It is amazing. It’s also super simple to make.

Final Pie

Ingredients
• 5 cups fresh strawberries, rinsed, hulled and sliced in half/quartered
• 1/2 cup granulated sugar, or more depending on sweetness of berries
• 3 Tbsp cornstarch
• 1/2 tsp sea salt
• two pie crusts
• milk, as needed
• turbinado sugar, as needed

Ingredients1

  • For the crust, I used my go-to butter crust recipe, but The Little Epicurean has a recipe included with her strawberry pie too. (Or you can use a store-bought crust, but it’s so easy to make on your own, why would you buy one?)

Crust

  • Once you’ve prepared your crust and have lined the pie pan with the bottom layer, stick it in the fridge to chill. Then it’s onto the filling…
  • Combine strawberries, sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a large bowl. And mix together.
  • Pour strawberry mixture into the chilled pie crust. Cover with top crust and crimp the edges in whatever fashion works best for you. (You’ll see below that mine is a clumsy mess!)
  • IngredientsChill pie and preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
  • Place chilled pie on baking sheet. Brush top of the pie lightly with whole milk and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Then cut vent holes in the top crust to let the steam escape.
  • Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for 15 minutes. Then rotate the pie and continue baking for another 20-30 minutes until pie is golden brown. Let it cool on a rack before serving.

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