SALT+STILETTOS Interview & Giveaway


Today, I’m beyond excited to get to interview my two favorite South Beach residents, Miami’s chicest go-to image consultant, Brett Fontaine, and the hottest chef to hit the culinary scene, Will Te’o. I first met Brett and Will back in June 2017 and let me tell you, it was love at first paragraph. It’s been a privilege watching them grow and develop these last three years and I’m so excited the rest of the world finally gets to meet them.

Stay tuned for giveaways happening after the interview…


Pre-order graphic Brett 4

Welcome Brett and Will, stars of SALT + STILETTOS! Thank you both for inviting me into your beautiful home via video chat. And I’m especially happy to see The Hounds snoozing nearby. Now that we have coffee and Will’s freshly baked pani Popo is making me drool all over my keyboard, let’s begin with the inquisition—uh, I mean interview. I promise to go easier on you than a certain food critic.

Anne: “We’ll start off easy. Empty those pockets and purse and show me what you got!”

Will brings out his phone and key ring. “I’m kinda basic.”

Anne: “That’s…an actual metal car key? Do they still make cars that use those?”

Will: “Uhh, my truck is-“

Brett cuts in: “Vintage.”

Anne: “Ahh. Right. What is that on your key ring?”

Will holds up the photo-embossed ring: “My American Samoan family.” Turns it over. “My Miami family.”

Anne: “Brett, your turn.”

Brett: Opens this season’s Birkin bag, and begins lining up the contents. “The coordinating mini wallet, pen and card case. Phone, of course. My current favorite Chanel sunglasses. My—our keys.” Gives Will a small smile, and he drapes his arm along the back of her chair, returning the smile. Then pulls out another bag from within her bag and goes to town unloading bottles, brushes, and cases. “Concealer—because we’ve all had those dark undereye circle days. Refresher shadow and highlighter palettes. Refresher setting spray.  A lippie color for day and evening in a gloss, and another in a matte formula. Dry shampoo for touch ups—Miami humidity is killer on blowouts. I love these foldable flat sandals. Perfect for those events where you dance until dawn, but are tired of stilettos half-way through the night. Sewing and wipe kits, plus double-sided tape. We DO NOT allow our clients and friends to experience wardrobe malfunctions. This moisturizer and sunscreen combo is perfect for Summer, and has another formula for neck and cleavage and hands.” Quirks an eyebrow. “You’re from a sunny area. Obviously, you’re diligent about sunscreen—your complexion is luminous.”

Anne blushes because THE Brett Fontaine just gave her a compliment.

Brett: “Of course, this is just my pared-down personal kit. My client bags are in the car.”

Anne: “Pared down. Right. Brett, I see you’re not wearing your Pearl Jam tee. Tell us about that t-shirt collection hiding out behind the Jimmy Choos in your closet.”

Brett glares at Will, who busies himself looking anywhere else and petting the snoozing dogs. “I suppose I have a few.”

Will: “You have a whole color coordinated shelf. And they’re all ol—uh, vintage. And my favorites, because if you’re wearing one, that means we’re relaxing at home.”

Anne: “Vintage?”

Brett: “There were several concerts I would’ve enjoyed during my high school and college years. But my situation and maintaining scholarship requirements left no time. The shirts are stand-ins. Although there are several new shirts now.”

Will: “I asked her to do a concert bucket list, and now we’re working our way through it. Making new memories, yeah?”

Anne: “You’re both very ambitious and successful individuals, in your own fields. Do you have a motto or mantra that has helped you find success?”

Brett: “I suppose my motto is ‘work for it, don’t wish for it.’ No one has the right to tell you what you can or cannot achieve or your own worth. You get to decide that.”

Will: “Community and family are important. Those ties, they give you a reason to excel, and the support to carry through. You have good people in your life, then good things happen.” He looks at Brett, who seems to be blushing.

Anne: “Okay, now that I’ve grilled you on some serious questions, let’s get back to some fun ones. Name three things you CANNOT live without.”

Will answers almost before Anne finishes asking: “Brett says I’m too easy, but any tech that let’s me talk to my family, a kitchen, and Brett.”

Brett, linking her fingers with Will’s: “My circle—Will, Richard, Tara and CeCe and Annalise, coffee, so that my circle can tolerate me every day, and the freedom to be who I am.”

Anne: “What is in your pantry or refrigerator? Right now. Be honest, Will, we know there’s some Spam hiding out in that kitchen of yours. And don’t try to duck out of this, Brett. We all know your mac ‘n cheese secrets.”

Brett: “Fine. I’ll admit to a few comfort foods—which by definition contain sugar, salt, and possibly, preservatives. Although Will has been an excellent influence on my at-home pantry.”

Will winces and shakes his head. “Uh, let’s say her side of the fridge is a work in progress.”

Anne: “Will, you can turn the most humble of ingredients into a Michelin star worthy dish. Give us your favorite, quick and easy Spam recipe we can all try at home.”

Will: “Don’t hate on Spam—you gotta give it respect. Nobody can try a Spam musubi and not be a convert. Slice it about two inches thick, use a hot pan and good, homemade teriyaki or soy and fresh ginger marinade and do a quick sear. Put it on top of sticky rice, then wrap it with nori.”

Anne: “Brett, we know you got Will into watching Outlander, but what other binge-worthy shows have you guys been watching together?”

Brett just smiles, decidedly satisfied. “Our binge-watching has taken a hit recently, thanks to other extracurricular activities.”

Anne gives a sly look at her guests. “When did you have your first kiss? Will, no need to blush. Give us all the PG-rated details, both of you.”

Will: “I’ll let my image consultant field that question.”

Brett: “Our first kiss wasn’t planned, but was quite spectacular, as well as on a sound stage. Which reminds me—I have a styling appointment with Elias Cane tomorrow.”

Anne: “Since we’re all mostly stuck at home right now, indulge us with your travel plans. What destination would you love to visit and why?”

Will and Brett share another one of those looks, and Will answers. “We had tickets for home—Tutuila. My mom and sisters can’t wait to meet Brett in person, instead of Skype every week. As soon as it’s safe, we’re going. Richard, too.”

Anne: “As I’m sure you both know, Janet is my ride-or-die bestie. Who are yours? If you were to be arrested for some crazy criminal activity, who would be sitting next to you in the jail cell and who would you call to bail you out?”

Will: “I’m gonna say I’d need bail because of Richard.” Brett makes a sound of whole-hearted agreement and Will continues. “I’d call Javie for bail instead of Brett, but only cause Brett might end up in with us if she lights into Richard in front of police.”

Brett: “That is a valid concern. Were I to ever end up in police custody, undoubtedly it would be Richard’s fault. My first call would, of course, be to Tara. Along with a reminder for her to have Analise walk my hounds while we sorted out the problem.”

Anne: “If you were ever quarantined and confined to your house, who would you want to be stuck with? And, perhaps more importantly, what would you buy on the black market?”

Brett and Will answer at the same time. “Will” and “Brett.”

Brett: “Coffee. Definitely coffee. Although La Mer moisturizer is a close second.”

Will: “Produce. Any kind. I can make it work.”

While Brett and Will were distracted, I snuck in a quick bonus question for her Irish wolfhounds.

Anne: “Phoebe, Inari, what do you think of this new arrangement? How’s it been sharing Brett with Will?”

Inari, the kid, tail swishing and nearly knocking the laptop off the table: “Another people, another pet-er. More pets. More walkies!” Her ears come up. “Cat!” Bolts for the fence and the feline sauntering along the top, well out of dog reach.

Phoebe, the First Dog, sitting politely: “Pups. Bad manners.” Snort-sneezes. “Boss Lady brought Will-friend and new giant bed. Will friend-has ugly couch, good for napping too. Also Will-friend has better snacks. Better snacks accidentally fall into our mouths when Boss Lady isn’t looking.”

Luna, Anne’s Boerboel pup, sits up beside her: “Did Tall-woof say snacks?”

Anne: Laughs at the fur babies while Brett and Will return from sharing another of those looks.

Brett: “Anne, thank you so much for visiting with us today. Here’s my personal number—give me a call next week, and plan to block off a good bit of time. We’ll discuss my ideas for your new capsule wardrobe. I think you’re a Winter.”

Anne: Slightly intimidated, slants a look at Will and gets a nod of encouragement from the gentle giant. “You know me well. Winter is definitely my season.” Smiles brightly, though sad to say goodbye. “A huge thank you for joining me today. It was a blast catching up and we’ll have to do it again sometime.”


Keep reading for details on giveaways!

9 download

Sweet Home Alabama meets Top Chef when Miami’s most determined image consultant clashes with Samoa’s most uncooperative chef in a race to rebrand him as South Beach’s newest star.

Brett Fontaine learned early that appearance matters and not to count on anyone but yourself. Trading her red-dirt roots for the title of Miami’s go-to image consultant, she refuses to let anything jeopardize her new life.

Not an influential client-turned-stalker who’s up for parole.

Not post-kidnapping panic attacks.

Certainly not the stubborn, attention-phobic chef she’s challenged to transform into a celeb in ninety days.

Will Te’o can almost taste the dream he sacrificed American Samoa, culture, and cherished family ties for—opening a four star restaurant in the most cut-throat culinary location in North America.

Unfortunately, that requires navigating it’s equally cut-throat social scene. When his first public performance ends in a social media spectacle, his only option is turning to the stiletto-wearing nemesis who’s invaded his kitchen.

Neither expected to share anything but barbs, yet somewhere between accidentally bonding over comfort food and office-wrecking sex, they’re named South Beach’s hottest pairing. Until Brett’s stalker engineers a reputation-shattering reveal. She may be going down, but she’s not taking Will’s dreams with her. Now Will’s pulling out all his new skills and cooking up a last-ditch event. He’ll prove to Brett that relying on the right person makes for the perfect recipe—or be left heartbroken in the spotlight.

Grab your copy now!

Amazon GlobalB&NKoboiBooks

Pre-order graphic Will 4


Want to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway? Stand a chance to win these awesome, SALT+STILETTOS-themed swag items. Janet *may* also be throwing some more fun stuff into the mix, so keep an eye out on her Twitter for details. Winner will be announced at the end of Janet’s blog tour–May 5.

US Residents only.

S+S Blog Tour Plus Graphic[24301]


I’m also doing a giveaway over on Twitter. Winner will receive a free eBook copy of SALT+STILETTOS. Head on over and reply to this tweet with your favorite Jason Momoa or Dwayne Johnson gif (yes, in Will’s honor) and I’ll pick a winner on Friday!


Have you met the author of SALT+STILETTOS?


Janet Walden-West lives in the southeast with a pack of show dogs, a couple of kids, and a husband who didn’t read the fine print. A member of the East Tennessee Creative Writers Alliance, she is also a founding member of The Million Words craft blog. She pens diverse Urban Fantasy and inclusive Romantic Suspense and Contemporary Romance.
A 2X PitchWars alum, 2019 Pitch Wars Mentor, and Golden Heart® finalist, her debut multicultural Contemporary Romance, SALT+STILETTOS, is due out April 21st 2020 from City Owl Press. She is represented by Eva Scalzo of Speilburg Literary Agency.

Janet Pic

Find her at:
Website  | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | BookBub | Amazon

Embracing the unexpected…

Okay, I realise that sounds a little fortune-teller-ish. But bear with me.


I recently took part in a mini-blog tour with three other wonderful writers, called “Two questions with…” where each week we’d answer two questions. One particular question has stuck with me.


“If you could give Past You one piece of advice, what would it be?”


I answered this with “embrace the writing community”, and I believe that 100%, but this question has still been bouncing around in my head. More than that, I’ve thought of another answer. This one isn’t just for “Past Me” though, so I’m sharing it in the hopes other writers will see it.


And the new answer, you ask?


Embrace the unexpected!


Hokey though it may sound, I’ve really had to embrace this over the last year. Things in my writing life have changed drastically during the course of the past 18 months. In January 2017, I had one critique partner. I was furiously revising my romantic suspense, IN THE NAME OF THE MOTHER, but I was largely isolated from the writing community. I used Twitter, but I hadn’t discovered the amazing writers lurking on certain hashtags.


Around April 2017, I stumbled onto a writing contest and found two new critique partners who just happened to be planning to enter Pitch Wars. I was reluctant at first because I’d only tried the one contest before that and it was a complete bust. At the same time I’d signed up for Wendy Heard’s CPMatchmaking, which is awesome if you’re looking for critique partners., and I highly recommend signing up on her site. It’s a bit of a gamble. You fill out a form and then wait for Wendy to match you up with another writer. I got insanely lucky when she matched me with a writer who is like my second half. Janet and I are writing soul mates, and she is the writer I now trust the most for whatever is going on—ideas, edits, or pulling me back off the edge of “OMG, what am I doing?”. And if I hadn’t taken that gamble when I signed up for Wendy’s matching, I likely would have never met Janet.


Then came Pitch Wars, where I was chosen by a mentor I hadn’t actually submitted to. This was really unexpected. My entry did a little travelling behind the scenes, from one mentor, to another, and finally found its way to the awesome Marty Mayberry. Now, when this happens, the mentors generally ask if you’d be happy to work with them. There are two sides to this argument, so I do understand the reason behind the question. For me, the answer was immediate, especially since Marty was on my “almost” list of mentors to submit to, but choosing turned out to be a lot more difficult than I expected.


The story takes an even crazier turn. Marty was one of a few mentors who were given “Wildcards” which meant they could choose an extra mentee, and that’s how she was able to take me on. If she hadn’t received a Wildcard, I wouldn’t have been picked for Pitch Wars. It was by pure luck that she was offered the chance to take on another mentee, and happened to pick a writer who hadn’t actually submitted to her.


I’m so happy I did say yes. I love Marty. She was an incredibly amazing mentor, and I’m proud to call her a dear friend. But imagine if she hadn’t been given a Wildcard. Imagine if I’d said no. I would have missed out on Pitch Wars, and the chance to work with Marty.


Then, in November, we had the Pitch Wars agent showcase. I admit, I didn’t get many requests in the showcase—a grand total of four. But one of those came from the awesome Amanda Jain, who quite quickly after receiving my materials, offered representation. Of course I accepted (more on that here)! I believe Amanda was closed to queries at the time, so if she hadn’t requested through Pitch Wars, I wouldn’t have been able to query her.


Seeing a pattern here?


By happenstance I met lovely new critique partners who introduced me to Pitch Wars.

I signed up to Wendy’s #CPmatchmaking on a bit of a whim and scored the best critique partner who also got into Pitch Wars with me.

Amazingly, Marty was able to take on an extra mentee and picked someone who hadn’t submitted to her.

And by a stroke of luck, I got an offer from Amanda, whom I hadn’t yet even had a chance to query.


So, let’s go back to 18 months ago—where I was writing in near-isolation and had never entered a writing contest. Or a year ago, when I’d only just heard about Pitch Wars. I would never have expected that a few short months later, I’d have a bunch of amazing critique partners and writing friends. I especially wouldn’t have expected to be picked for Pitch Wars, let alone by the best mentor I could have asked for. And I definitely wouldn’t have expected to score a wonderful agent through the contest.


Embrace the unexpected!


Sometimes things don’t go according to plan. Sometimes they take you on an adventure, through sharp turns you don’t see coming. And that’s okay. If you’re lucky, it’s way better than okay. I’m not saying it’s easy, and I can assure you the road ahead of me is going to be one hell of a bumpy one. I’m still miles away from my goal. But after the past year, I’m all for welcoming those unexpected twists.



Pitch Wars from a 2017 mentee perspective…

I recently got a question about Pitch Wars, and how to enter/how it works, so I thought I’d do a blog post about it—from a mentee perspective. Now, I’m not an official part of Pitch Wars, so this information comes purely from my experience as a mentee in 2017, but I will include the 2018/2019 dates to help with clarification for the coming year.


The 2018 Pitch Wars schedule from the official website:

July 15, 2018: Mentors Announced

August 14 – 27, 2018: Pitch Wars Mentor Blog Hop

August 27, 2018 (midnight EDT): Mentee Submission Window Opens

August 29, 2018 (10PM EDT): Mentee Submission Window Closes

October 12, 2018: Pitch Wars Mentees Announced

February 6 – 11, 2019: Agent Showcase

February 6: Adult entries are live on the Pitch Wars site

February 7: MG entries are live on the Pitch Wars site

February 8: YA entries are live on the Pitch Wars site


Note: #PitMad is a separate pitch party hosted on Twitter and run by the same committee as Pitch Wars, but they are not directly linked.


Okay, so let’s take a closer look at exactly how each of these dates will work.


July 15, 2018: Mentors Announced //

August 14 – 27, 2018: Pitch Wars Mentor Blog Hop

This is what it looked like back in 2017!

Last year, the entire list of mentors was released on the Pitch Wars (well, at the time it was still on Brenda Drake’s) website, with links to their blogs. They listed their writing/critiquing style and what they were interested in, their “wish list” projects and genres. This is important for Hopefuls! I spent a LOT of time analysing the mentor options, trying to figure out exactly which mentors would be the perfect fit for me. Read the posts carefully and make absolutely sure the mentors you pick are open to your genre/category. There are sometimes swaps behind the scenes, but it’s best if you can choose the right mentor—the same way you would research an agent before querying them. Stalk—uh, research them on Twitter to see if you’re likely to get along. Also, last year the mentors were open to questions on Twitter, so if this is the case, don’t be shy to straight up ask them if there’s something in your manuscript you’re worried might be an issue. I have a series of flashbacks in mine, which can sometimes be a problem, so I made sure to ask my shortlist of mentors if this was a deal breaker.


August 27, 2018 (midnight EDT): Mentee Submission Window Opens

Check out the official Pitch Wars submission FAQ page for details!

Exciting! Now you can submit your query letter, synopsis, and sample material. It’s probably going to be the first chapter (up to ten pages) of your manuscript, and this should be formatted in the standard style—size 12 font (preferably something like Times New Roman) and double-spaced. Don’t try to trick the system and submit your pages single spaced so that you can send more. Likewise, be mindful about where your sample pages end. A good hint is to make sure you end at a strong point, a hook of some kind that makes the reader (mentor) HAVE to request more! If that means ending at nine and a half pages instead of ten, do it. Or if you have to sneak in one extra paragraph, that should be fine. But I suggest you do NOT go crazy and add two extra pages. A little wiggle room is okay, but try to keep it as close to the requested page amount as possible.


So, how do you enter? On 27 August, the Pitch Wars website will open its entry doors. There’ll be an online form for you to fill out and then hit submit, probably attaching your query letter and sample material in Word.doc / Word.docx (again, I’m going by last year’s format here). The site gets insanely busy when it first opens. If it crashes DO NOT PANIC! I’m sure there’ll be ways you can check to make sure your entry went through, etc. Frankly, I wouldn’t rush to the site the moment it opens. This is not going to better your chances, especially at midnight when you’re hyped up and/or tired. Rather, do it when you’re calm and can make sure you don’t make mistakes. It will also help for site traffic. Every entry will have equal chances, so whether you’re first or last, your materials will be read and considered. Take a moment to screenshot the confirmation of your entry going through—whatever it may be. This is what mine looked like last year. No email, no giant flashing lights, just a short line of text, so pay close attention after you hit submit.



August 29, 2018 (10PM EDT): Mentee Submission Window Closes

Once you’ve submitted, you’ll wait. And wait. The window will close, and you’ll wait some more. Interact with other Hopefuls and mentors on #PitchWars—the community is a wonderful thing. Keep an eye on your email, and try not to obsessively refresh it the way I did, but also make sure you don’t miss an important email. If mentors like your premise and sample pages, they MAY be in touch. I got several emails during the waiting period, but I’ve also heard of mentees being picked who never got a single email from their mentor prior to the announcements.


Have your full manuscript ready to send if a mentor requests it and label requested docs clearly. Mentors will probably be reading these on e-readers etc, so don’t label them “50 pages” or “full manuscript” because then they’ll have several docs with the same name. Try something like “Author Name TITLE full”, example “Raven IN THE NAME OF THE MOTHER full”. This way, the docs will be listed with your name and your manuscript title for easy reference. It’s probably wise to have a partial file as well, but these can vary widely, so it’s not essential. I prepped several versions to make it easier for myself, just in case, so you’re not scrambling and making mistakes when you get requests.


Some mentors also like to send a list of questions with their requests, so be prepared to answer these. This also varies widely, and is really up to the individual mentors, but think about things like, “why did you pick the mentor”, “what are your strengths/weaknesses”, “would you be open to making extensive changes to your manuscript”. You might also hear from mentors you did not submit to—as I did. This happens when a mentor sees potential in your work, but for whatever reason might not be willing/able to take you on as a mentee. They might send it to another mentor they think will be interested or a better fit, and that mentor is likely to contact you to find out if you’d be willing to partner with them.


October 12, 2018: Pitch Wars Mentees Announced

This is what it looked like back in 2017!

Honestly, this is a stressful and exhilarating day! The announcements go live, likely up on the website, listed with the chosen mentees and their mentors by age categories. The website has been known to crash due to the intense site traffic. Again, DO NOT PANIC! Last year, they released screenshots of the selected mentees via Twitter.


If you miss the announcement, it’s also okay because your mentor will probably send you an email to congratulate you and get in touch if you haven’t already chatted. Enjoy the moment if you are chosen. This is the time to celebrate before the work begins. Revel in it. If you’re not chosen, that’s okay, too. Allow yourself time to heal, and then get back to work, either by sending queries or re-evaluating your query/sample pages. And continue to chat to people on the #PitchWars hashtag. Many believe that the best part of this contest is the community, so meet those other lovely writers.


And if you’re chosen, the real work will begin October 13, 2018 or shortly thereafter. You and your mentor will decide how this works. Every pairing is different. But the basics are that you will probably get an edit letter after your mentor has had a chance to fully evaluate your full manuscript, or even in-line comments on your manuscript. Some mentors work in Google Docs, others via email. No matter what, this is where you’ll get stuck into those revisions, big or small, for the next couple of months. This year, they’ve changed the timeline, so you’ll have even more time to dig into your manuscript. You are likely to do more than one round of edits, so be prepared to work HARD! Pitch Wars is not known for being easy. It’s tough, but it will make you a better writer, especially if you get an extra special mentor.


Once you’re done with your revisions, or when you get closer to the agent showcase, you’ll also put together a pitch, along with a short excerpt taken from the first page of your manuscript. Most mentors help their mentees with the pitch and query letter. If you’re lucky, your mentor will also help you perfect your synopsis. Your pitch and excerpt will be sent to the Pitch Wars officials, who will then put it up on the website for the Agent Showcase. Here’s a look at mine from last year… and the link so you can see how this is set out/what is included…



February 6 – 11, 2019: Agent Showcase

February 6: Adult entries are live on the Pitch Wars site

February 7: MG entries are live on the Pitch Wars site

February 8: YA entries are live on the Pitch Wars site


Right, you’ve done all you can do. Depending on your age categories, your entry will go live. Again, the site will get a lot of traffic, and you’ll probably be advised to stay off it as much as possible, so that agents can access the entries. They’ll leave comments, requesting materials, which you will be able to send after the showcase. This can be a very, very stressful day. I’d suggest you either find a way to distract yourself, or take the day off so you can stress in peace (ha!) without worry about all the things you’re NOT doing.


If you’re lucky, that will not be the end of your Pitch Wars journey. I was incredibly fortunate. One of my requests from the Agent Showcase turned into an offer. My awesome mentor was there for me the entire way, and she helped me prep for The Call, and even now, almost a year later, I can still depend on her for any and all support. More than that, you will gain an amazing community of writers, friends, and critique partners.


So, that’s my take on the Pitch Wars schedule, and what is involved during each stage. If you want more details, one of the 2017 mentees created a Pitch Wars Survival Guide, and you can download that here.


Good luck! Interact with fellow writers, and don’t be shy to ask questions.



How I got my agent…

DISCLAIMER: This post is long and rambling. I considered making it short and concise, but I also want any querying writers who might stumble upon it to know the full story.


As excited as I’ve been to write this, I’ve also been procrastinating. Why? I guess part of me still feels like it’s a dream and will all disappear if I blink too hard. 2017 was a whirlwind of major ups and downs. It was a complete rollercoaster from one end to the other, both personally, professionally, and writerly! I started writing back in 2010, and it quickly became an obsession for me. Seriously, I couldn’t stop, but I also knew very little since I wasn’t much of a reader until a couple years before that. I know, you can all throw your virtual tomatoes, I’ll wait.


Okay, that’s enough. Really.


I loved stories growing up, but I was usually playing pretend in the garden instead of curled up with my nose buried in a book. When I discovered my love of reading—extremely late, I admit—it was love at first book. Pride and Prejudice, to be exact. Perhaps cliché, but there it is. Fast forward a few years, and I began writing my own. Ah, sheer bliss. I loved it from the very first line I penned. I learnt a lot from those first few books, but that’s a whole different post, complete with querying WAY too soon and nearly getting scammed into a publishing deal from a company on Writers Beware before I was saved by my very first CP. Lessons learnt, I moved on to research as much as I could and gained a lot of knowledge, while reading and writing even more.


Fast forward a couple more years and a MS I loved and queried widely. It was a paranormal romance, and any writer in that genre will tell you how difficult it is to find a home for it. I spent two years querying my PNR, trying as hard as I could to make it work, but eventually falling into a writing rut. I didn’t know which way to turn, and then an idea hit me. I plotted for the first time in my panster life, then wrote the first draft in about a month, and edited my first ever romantic suspense. 2016 ended with a new CP (Amy), and a decent draft of IN THE NAME OF THE MOTHER, the book of my heart. I loved it and had a great deal of faith that it was the one. I felt like it was my best piece of writing/storytelling to date.


30 January 2017, I sent a bunch of queries—21, to be exact—and crossed my fingers. Of course the rejections rolled in, but this time with a smattering of requests. In March, I found another wonderful CP (Livi), which was quickly followed by a third amazing CP (Lucy), and more editing. We entered a Twitter contest together in April, #RevPit, but any hopes of getting in were soon dashed. I was pretty disappointed and still dealing with rejections from queries and full requests. The last rejection rolled in late June, but while the rejections stung, I’d also gotten some really helpful feedback from a few generous agents. While I was hacking at my manuscript, ripping chapters out and adding new ones, my lovely CPs mentioned another Twitter contest—#PitchWars.


I admit, I’d never heard of it. Yes, gasp! I mean, this is the big one, right? The contest writers drool over. Not that I knew that at the time. To me, it was another opportunity for rejection. Around this time, I found another incredible CP (Janet), number FOUR! I never dreamed of having four CPs I’d adore, but I was so lucky to have found them. Coincidently, Janet was prepping for—yip, you guessed it—Pitch Wars. I went back and forth about entering, one of the reasons being I’d just moved into a new house, and we were surrounded by renovations. The day job was already taking strain. I didn’t know if I’d even have the time, but after much encouragement from my mom and CPs, I decided to enter.


Choosing a short list of mentors to submit to was TOUGH! There were several I could have happily chosen, but I had to whittle it down to four. After reading bios and wish lists far too many times to count, I had my four. The submission window opened 2 August 2017 and, truth be told, I had very little faith I’d get in. Mentors were tweeting about how the quality of the entries was so high, and I thought I’d never make it. Then, a day later, I got a request for my full MS. Insert bouncing and screaming. I calmed enough to send my MS, along with answers to a list of questions. Six hours later, I had another request, this time a partial, from a different mentor team. Then I waited. And waited. 15 August came around, and I got another request, a partial again. I was super excited because hope had begun to dwindle. A few hours later, the same mentor team requested the full, along with some questions. *Tip for aspiring Pitch Wars mentees—be prepared to answer questions!*


Then something unexpected happened. 21 August, I got an email from a mentor I hadn’t submitted to, though she was definitely on my original list of potentials. I was thrilled she was interested in my MS, but a part of me was nervous because she’d also requested from a beloved CP—Janet. I didn’t want to “steal” her mentor (spoiler—this mentor totally picked Janet, and they had an awesome partnership and a happily ever after). At the same time, I was a little disappointed because I knew it meant one of my mentor picks had passed on my MS. The next day—yes, 22 August, literally TWO days before the picks were set to be announced—I got an email from Marty Mayberry, my future mentor and all around wonderful person! She’d received my MS from another mentor and was frantically trying to read it before the mentees had to be chosen.


As you can imagine, I had my doubts. It was SO CLOSE to the deadline. I was humbled by all the interest, excited I’d had more than one mentor even take a look at my MS, but I really didn’t expect to make it into the contest. 24 August, I waited for the picks to go live. I typed out thank you emails to all the mentors I’d chatted with, wishing them the best with their chosen mentees. I thanked them publicly on Twitter because they’d all been so lovely. And then the picks were announced.


I remember seeing Janet’s name right at the top, and freaking out for her. I was shaking as I scrolled through the list, almost in tears because she’d made it in, and I was soooo happy for her. Then, near the bottom, I saw my name. I couldn’t believe it. To make it crazier, Marty and her co-mentor Leonie Kelsall, had chosen FOUR mentees between the two of them—one they chose together, the adult scavenger hunt winner, and then two wild cards they each chose to mentor individually. I still think they’re crazy to take on so many, but I’m sure they’re very proud. Our little team of SIX people—#TeamFineWine—is doing rather well.


I instantly sent a message to Janet to get her attention because she hadn’t seen the list yet. And then the site crashed due to the thousands of hopefuls trying access it, which meant she couldn’t get on. When she asked who’d made it, I practically yelled “YOU” at my phone, and I may have omitted that I’d gotten in, too. Needless to say she eventually discovered it on her own, and we celebrated like only internet friends can—with an exchange of GIFs. That same day, I got a very sweet congratulatory email from Janet’s mentor. I learnt how my MS had been passed around behind the scenes, and I was even more humbled that these wonderful mentors had cared enough to try and find me a mentor. I’m still really grateful to all of them. But I couldn’t be happier with Marty. We worked extremely well together through the entire process. I was hoping for a partnership, and that’s exactly what I got, and I’m happy to call her a dear friend.


The actual two months of Pitch Wars was crazy. Everyone worked unbelievably hard. The ups and downs were extreme. The mentees were really supportive, and I was incredibly lucky to have Janet along for the ride with me. I leaned on her heavily, even if it was just a message to say, “hey, you still editing?”, it felt good knowing someone else was right there with me. I was also super lucky to have unwavering support from Livi and Lucy. Through September and October we revised, polished, and perfected our MSs and our queries. I was fortunate Marty helped me with everything, including a rewrite of my synopsis. She was an absolute pillar of strength and knowledge, her generosity made even more incredible by the fact I was one of FOUR mentees she was helping.


1 November 2017, the agent showcase went live. *Another piece of advice for future Pitch Wars mentees, take that first day off work if you can!* I got nothing done all day. Our #TeamFineWine connected in a group Twitter chat, watching the site and waiting for requests together. I must say, being part of a big group was so much fun. I got to celebrate an insane number of agent requests. Two out of our four mentees got A LOT of agent interest. The downside, however, was that by the end of the day, my fellow teammates had up to 12 requests, and I had 1. It was tough. Full disclosure, I cried myself to sleep, feeling like a failure and a fraud. I thought my poor mentor must be so disappointed. And I didn’t tell a soul. I wallowed in my misery all by myself. Nope, didn’t even tell my CPs. *More advice, don’t do that.* I thought maybe it was time to put aside those dreams of being a real life writer. Maybe this was all a sign to say, and I quote Babe, “that’ll do, Pig”, and finally focus on something plausible.


By the next day, I felt brighter, and I got a few more requests, though still only a total of four. We had to wait until the close of the showcase before we could send our requested materials. While I waited, I made a list of agents I wanted to query and prepped to within an inch of my life. The showcase ended, and I sent off requests, soon followed by those shiny new query letters. And, you guessed it, the rejections rolled in once again. But then, one shining Thursday evening, 16 November, I got an email from one of the agents who’d requested my full during the Pitch Wars showcase. In total honesty, I read the opening of the email quickly—because I’ve discovered after many rejections to instantly find those little words that say pass so you can mourn and move on—except, this one didn’t.


In fact, this email said that the agent would like to chat with me. Around this time, I had a minor melt down. I could barely read the rest. I took a walk through the garden to calm down—yes, in the dark. Then I returned to my computer, and typed a response with shaking fingers. The agent in question, the wonderful Amanda Jain, was so lovely, and even realised that I was in South Africa and she was in the U.S., so we arranged a time to suit both of us for the following Monday—the week of U.S. Thanksgiving. That was the longest weekend of my life, but it gave me a lot of time to calm the hell down, because I was a wreck. Not even two weeks earlier, I was bracing myself to give up on the whole writing dream, and now I had my very first call with a REAL LITERARY AGENT!


I freaked out all of Monday, 20 November—one exact month, to the day, before my 30th birthday. I was a mess. And then when the time came, Amanda and I had some technical difficulties thanks to my lack of skills with technology, but we finally connected about an hour after our scheduled call. Clicking that answer button was the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I had no clue what was coming. I didn’t know if it was an offer or a R&R, or nothing. I’d heard horror stories of agents calling to reject an author. While the odds were unlikely, it still played through my subconscious. But the call went so well. Amanda was so sweet, and she made me feel a lot calmer. The line was clear—which had been a concern because I was in SA and so far away. She could understand my silly South African accent, and didn’t even comment when I kept saying, “ja” (Afrikaans for “yes”), which I just knew was going to happen. But best of all, she answered all my questions before I even had to ask. I had my list all prepared in front of me—thanks to my amazing Pitch Wars mentor—but I didn’t need it.


We chatted about my MS—what she liked and what we could potentially make better. I jotted down notes, still unsure if it was an offer or a R&R. And then, about 20 minutes into our call, she said, “so, of course I’m calling to offer representation,” and I almost fell off my chair. “Of course,” I thought, giggling like a kid because, what was happening? I had an offer! When you’ve been querying for so long, and you finally hear those words—there is no way to describe it. Words fail, which is ridiculous for a writer. And then—this was what sealed the deal for me—she talked about a potential sequel for my MS, with a character I wanted to explore, and I knew she got me.


We ended the call, and the first thing I did was talk to my mom. I remember telling her that I already adored Amanda and that I wanted to just sign with her right then. But that’s not how it works. To make matters more complicated, it was the week of Thanksgiving in the U.S., so we arranged a two week deadline, giving other agents a chance to either offer or step aside. That was a long wait, especially when I was so excited. I didn’t get another offer, and while some might be disappointed, I was happy to have the choice simple. I knew Amanda was the right one for me straight away, so sending that acceptance email was such a relief.


4 December 2017, I accepted my offer of representation! Ahhhhhh!! Insert much screaming and excitement.


You’d think that would be the happily ever after, wouldn’t you? I sure did. I made my announcements, celebrated and chatted with Amanda. Early January 2018, I got to work on my first ever agent edits. It was terrifying and exciting. Then, something else unexpected happened. My agent decided to move to a different agency. Which meant that two months after I signed with her, we terminated our contract. Of course, agents move around pretty often, so it’s far from uncommon. But the last thing I thought might happen two months after signing, was to be technically agent-less again.


It was a mere week later when I got another email from her to let me know where we’d be moving—BookEnds Literary Agency. I was over the moon! I’ve had a little crush on their agency for a few years, so moving with my already beloved agent felt like the true fairy tale ending befitting a romance author.


There’s a lesson here, right from Pitch Wars to agent, which is why I included the whole long story in this post—expect the unexpected. It may be a cliché, but it’s true. Every writer’s journey is different, but allow yourself to be open to all types of possibilities. Without Pitch Wars and the wonderful mentors, I might never have found my agent. I couldn’t be happier, and I can’t wait to see where this journey takes us!


I’d also just like to add how much effort all the Pitch Wars mentors put into this contest. They give so much in exchange for nothing. More than that, Brenda Drake and her entire team deserve a million thank yous for all the hard work they put in. I’m eternally grateful!


Stats, because I believe writers want to know the stats. First, let’s do a *total for ALL queried manuscripts, and then I’ll do those specific to the manuscript that won over my agent.


Years spent writing pre-agent: 7

Completed manuscripts, excluding abandoned partials: 8

Queried manuscripts: 4

*Total queries sent: 126

*Total rejections: 125

*Total full\partial requests: 15


And the winning manuscript…

Queries sent: 53

Rejections\step asides (yes, they feel very different): 52

Full\partial requests (excluding Pitch Wars): 7

Pitch Wars requests: 4


Timeline: Note, this was a lot faster thanks to Pitch Wars…

Agent showcase: 1 November 2017

Requested materials sent: 11 November 2017

Request for call: 16 November 2017

Call/offer: 20 November 2017

Acceptance of offer: 4 December 2017

Signed with agent first time: 11 December 2017

Left first agency: 11 February 2018

Signed with same agent at new agency: 14 February 2018


I hope this gives some interesting insight to querying writers. It’s a long and often slow journey. Some authors get lucky and find their agent quickly and easily, but that’s the exception. And while Pitch Wars is an awesome opportunity—it has the power to completely change a writer’s life—it’s not the only path. Every journey is unique. Good luck with yours!



Pitch Wars 2017 continued…

After posting about the excitement of entering Pitch Wars, I went silent. There’s a reason for that—I got in!


This came as a huge surprise and with great excitement. Almost 3,000 entries were whittled down to about 180 mentees. Those are incredible odds, and I’m still shocked I was one of those picks. On top of that, one of my critique partners also made the cut. So began two months of rollercoaster fun and editing. There were highs and lows felt by all, but the amount of support between mentees and their mentors was amazing.


As we approached the big agent showcase, the mentees took to Twitter (using the #PW17Countdown hashtag) with a daily prompt regarding their manuscripts. Okay… I confess. I created the prompts. Why? Because with the excitement came a whole lot of anxiety, and I thought we could all do with a little distraction. It was great fun and really encouraged mentees to share the love of their books with the world.


I loved all the aesthetics I created so much I wanted to share them here… This is for a romantic suspense about a woman who sets out to avenge her mother’s murder. And the man who’s willing to do anything to protect her.

3 Opening scene
Opening Scene…
6 Character aesthetics
Character aesthetics…
7 Inspirational tunes
Inspirational tunes…
8 Symbols & Objects
Symbolism & important objects…
9 Favourite line
Favourite line…
Bonus favourite line…


11 Closing scene
Closing scene…


Pitch Wars came to an official end this week, after a whirlwind agent showcase, but a lot of writing journeys are only just beginning! I can’t wait to see all these wonderful books get snatched up.