*COVER REVEAL* Piecing Together Sydney

––––––  COVER REVEAL –––––– 

Coming August 30th from Fatebound Publishing

PIECING TOGETHER SYDNEY by Brittney Coon
A Sydney West Novel, Book 3
Cover Designer: Rock Your World Designs

–– SYNOPSIS ––

This year’s annual voyage to Malibu will be unlike any other… 

Sydney West is no longer a party girl looking for summer boys to occupy her nights. She has found love with Jason King and agreed to marry him. With wedding plans in full swing for the July deadline, everything seems to be perfect. 

Until someone from Jason’s past interrupts their summer getaway… 

When Jason turns cold and distant, the party scene beckons Sydney to return to her old drink-all-night ways. Only this time the guys at the bar don’t hold her attention, but when Sydney’s drink is drugged by a so-called friend—she kisses one of them. When Jason finds out, he leaves the beach house to clear his head, but a couple hours quickly turn into days. 

It’s hard to have a wedding without the groom… 

This summer is nothing like what Sydney had planned, and for the first time she’s afraid of the future. Sydney finally figured out what she wants and she isn’t willing to let Jason go without a fight. But is it already too late? Sydney will risk everything to… 

piece herself, and the life she wants, back together again.

–– PRE-ORDER ––






–– ABOUT THE AUTHOR ––
BRITTNEY COON

Brittney Coon graduated Magna Cum Laude from Arizona State University with a Bachelor of Science in Communication and a minor in Film and Media Production. Brittney has always been creative and turned to writing to share the stories playing through her head. In her spare time she reads, watches Friends, attends rock concerts, and hangs out with her cats. She currently lives in Arizona.

–– FOLLOW BRITTNEY ––



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Blog Tour: Timeless hope

A collection of Romantic and Inspirational short stories that will reach into your soul and deeply into your heart. Walk with the characters and see what they have to say.

Little Red Shoes…a young widowed mother who has an angel for a six year old daughter. Her father, who was killed in Iraq talks to her in her dreams and stays connected with her. A day comes when she sees an opportunity to do something good and she doesn’t pass it up.

A Fireside Request…a love story about an older man and woman who live in a retirement community. Both are alone and both are in love, but neither has had the courage to tell the other. Read what happens as love arrives again when you think you may be too old for it.

The Miracle…a touching story of hope and faith during a mans struggle with what life has thrown at him. He’s given an opportunity when he doesn’t even realize it. Does he make the right choice and what happens when he chooses. Take a moment and see what unfolds when a Higher Power steps in.

A Petal from a Rose…Can a dream really become a reality? When Steven dreams every single night of the woman he has always hoped for he thinks he is losing his mind. When she begins to leave him something on his pillow he’s almost convinced until something unimaginable happens.

Butterfly…a young woman struggles with pain and loss and lives within personal boundaries that hold her down. Can she overcome the pain, transform and find her true meaning in life?

Find Timeless Hope HERE.

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Son of a Pitch is Coming!

 

Hello, everyone! It’s almost that time again! I had so much fun being a critiquer/judge in the Son of a Pitch contest last time, and I can’t wait to participate again!

For those of you not familiar with Son of a Pitch, it’s a critique-based contest that allows entrants to get feedback on their query and first 250 words from published authors as well as from other writers. It’s a great way to hone your pitch and first page, and hopefully get them in front of agents and editors! More info is here.

This go-round we have a theme: Disney heroes and villains. I have chosen to be Ursula from The Little Mermaid. I know you want to be on my team because it’s the best one: Ursula kicks butt with her dark ocean-magic.ursula

A little about myself: my name is Elizabeth Roderick. I’m the author of Love or Money, a standalone LGBT romantic suspense novel (published through Limitless Publishing), and The Other Place Series, a new adult magical realism series (also through Limitless; the first two installments (The Hustle and The Other Place) are already out, and the last two will come out next year). I have several other books in various stages of editing, and am working on a few more. I write YA, NA, and Adult, and my genres range from contemporary to fantasy and all points beyond and in between. My books usually feature characters of the sort society tends to shun (addicts, convicts, the homeless, and the neurodiverse). I think if you get to know my characters, as well as people like them in real life, you might find they’re a lot more wonderful and interesting than you originally thought.

Part of the reason I write “unlikeable” characters that is because I myself am a neurodiverse person, along with all the baggage that can come with that (I’m a recovering addict, for instance). I’ve recently “come out” about the fact that I have bipolar disorder with episodes of psychosis. This profession is one of the few where this might actually be an asset: my experiences I think lend a lot of insight to my writing and my characters. A lot of things people only know about from television, I’ve lived through, for better or worse. Believe it or not, it’s not all dark!

I use my stories as a way to explore the different ways in which people’s minds work, and the many ways in which they learn to live and love in this crazy world. It’s my strange and convoluted way of trying to find out how I fit into this society. I think a lot of writers write for the same or similar reasons.

Enough about me. I’m really excited to be part of Son of a Pitch again. I love reading everyone’s entries. The only problem is I’m always left wanting to read the entire manuscript.

Critique contests like these are so important. I would never have gotten published if it weren’t for the advice I got from other writers, authors, and industry professionals along the way. Writing is a subjective business, and we all know that sometimes the advice we get from critiquers can be contradictory. But it is always a learning experience. It’s sometimes difficult to see how our stories will be perceived by others. Readers won’t always walk away with the same perceptions, but knowing what those perceptions are gives us incredible insight into our own work, and helps us to make it stronger, even if we end up not taking the exact advice our critiquers gave us.

The support of other writers and professionals in the community is also incredibly important. My hope is to see each and every entrant published. My first job in that regard is to make sure that no one gives up. The only thing that separates writers from authors is the refusal to throw in the towel, even when it gets hard. There will always be days when you think you can’t go on, when you’re angry, when you’re sure you “suck”. Ask anyone who is published, even people who are mega-famous bestsellers. They’ve felt the same way. I want you all to love writing, and to believe in your own voice, enough that you’ll never give up.

As for what kind of stories will be my favorites, I’m constantly surprised by what I like best. Any of you who know me know that I am a huge fan of diverse stories, especially #ownvoices. That isn’t limited to stories about and by neurodiverse people—I’m massively excited to see stories from authentic points of view that I’ve never read about before. In fact, I would be so honored if you would comment on this blog post, or in a private message if you prefer, and tell me the inspiration for your diverse and/or #ownvoices story. I love hearing people’s personal stories as much as I like reading their fiction.

That said, I’m a huge fan of any sort of story that’s well-told, even if it can’t possibly be #ownvoices because it’s about a being that is a near-sentient wisp of memory contained in the scent of jasmine in a young woman’s garden. (That one sounds like a tweet from Magical Realism Bot.) I love crazy stories, and more traditional stories; quiet stories and high-action stories; stories about love and hate and everything in between. I want to read them all, and I can’t wait to!

The Process of Critique and Revision of #OwnVoices Stories

I decided to submit to the Pitch Wars writing contest this year. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, this isn’t the usual sort of writing contest, where you submit a “perfect” polished story and the “best” one wins. Pitch Wars contestants submit the query and first chapter of a book that has been edited and revised, but which might benefit from some revision before being pitched. The contestants chosen then spend several short weeks working with a mentor—a professional author—in order to rework and polish their manuscript and query. The resulting queries and books are then showcased in an agent round, where agents request to see more pages of the books that catch their eye. A large percentage of the writers chosen for this contest end up signing with agents.

The question came up during this contest, as it always does: how willing are potential mentees to do complete rewrites of their books based on mentor suggestions?

Because of the nature of this contest, everyone’s answer should be “extremely willing!” However, when this question was posed, my answer was somewhat more hesitant. “Yes, but…” I have a good reason for this hesitation, though. I’ll surely do myself no further damage by discussing why, in further detail.

Accepting hard critique and doing major revisions of your manuscript is never easy. At times, it can be excruciating and brutal. Stories about the revisions Pitch Wars contestants have done based on mentor suggestions are often tales of terror: “I had a few weeks to change the main character, their goals, the stakes, and the main love interest.” (That might be slightly exaggerated, but really not much.)

Most writers would balk at this level of rewriting, it’s true: our stories are our babies. However, we did enter this contest. It’s what we signed up for. And if we’re not willing to make revisions and go the extra mile to make our stories better, we may be in the wrong business altogether.

Don’t get me wrong: it may be hard for me to take critique sometimes, but I take it. I’ve ended up making major revisions based on critique that at first blush had me howling, because once it had sunk in I’d seen its validity. And, though I do believe an artist’s vision is something to be treasured, I’m not one of those jerkoffs that thinks tampering with it in any way is “selling out”. In my experience, the phrase “selling out” is only used by people who have never seriously tried to be artists. Critique and revision is an intrinsic part of the artistic process. Even songwriters (of which I’m one) work with other musicians, band members, producers, and engineers in order to hone and polish their work. Not all changes will be met with universal approval, but it’s still part of the process.

My reason for hesitation with regard to unconditional acceptance of critique with my Pitch Wars manuscript in particular is because the book I submitted to Pitch Wars this year is an #ownvocies book, and I’ve had some really bad experiences in the past with critique of my #ownvocies writing.

The Pitch Wars mentors are top notch. They are seasoned professionals with an excellent grasp of what makes a great story, and also of what makes a story marketable. I do trust them. I trust my CPs and betas, as well. I think they all have my best interests at heart. The root of the problem in an #ownvoices situation is that, sometimes, what makes a “great” and “marketable” story isn’t always compatible with an #ownvocies writer telling their story “how it is”. This is the whole reason for the need for diverse books and #ownvoices writers to begin with: we’re telling the story the way you haven’t heard it before, from our point of view. That isn’t always the story readers want to hear, or the one the market wants, because it’s not always comfortable. But there needs to be room for #ownvocies writers to tell the stories they need to tell without outsiders changing them to be more in line with what people expect.

I do know that I need to work hard to make my characters and my stories appealing and relatable for readers and agents. I DO work hard to do this. With characters like mine, not to toot my own horn, but I really have learned to bend over backwards to make them resonate with readers, in a way a lot of writers don’t have to do. That’s how I’ve gotten my books published so far, even though they’re written from the points of view of some pretty traditionally “unlikable” characters: characters that readers generally have a hard time identifying with. But if I had taken all the well-meaning suggestions of CPs/Betas/Agents/Editors, my stories would not have been #ownvoices any longer.

The first book of mine that could be called #ownvocies is The Hustle. When I first started putting the book out with critique groups in late 2014, #ownvoices wasn’t a thing yet. There was a call for diversity, and of course the idea of #ownvocies was there, but a real push for members of diverse groups to tell their own stories in their own way is startlingly new, and still developing. So, when I put The Hustle in front of critiquers, I knew that I felt differently about their advice, but I didn’t have the umbrella of the #ownvoices hashtag, as it were, under which to discuss the reason for that different feeling in a safe place where I might be understood.

The main character in The Hustle, Liria, had a pretty rough childhood. She has  some mental health and addiction issues resulting from that, and when the book opens she’s homeless and addicted to heroin, with only the beginnings of realization that she won’t live much longer if she doesn’t make some changes. Liria, however, is in a position where she doesn’t have a lot of real options, and she has to do a lot of stuff she isn’t exactly proud of in order to get by and try to get ahead.

Critiquers said things about The Hustle like, “You need to give us something to like about your main character. Is she at least pretty?” (Direct quote there.)  They were frustrated with Liria for her continued relapses and bad choices. “It’s like she doesn’t even want a better life.” As examples of compelling stories of people like Liria that I could integrate into my narrative to make it more compelling, critiquers would cite tales of homeless addicts they’d seen in the media: stories of beautiful blonde girls who had fallen into meth addiction because of some terrible tragedy outside their control, and ended up murdered.

The reason for these well-meaning suggestions is that Liria’s situation is something most people in the literary world truly have no concept of. They sometimes think they do, but they don’t. If you haven’t been an addict on the streets, you really can’t understand what it’s like. You can’t understand that sometimes you make bad decisions because there are no good decisions left to you. Even if by some miracle there are, you have no idea what they are or how to make them, because you’ve no experience with how to make good decisions, and/or you’ve no confidence in yourself to make them. Most of my critiquers had no insight into Liria’s hopes and fears and, despite it all, her joys and loves: because a lot of folks miss that there is good in even the most destitute and desperate of people, and that they have inner lives every bit as rich as their own. With The Hustle, the critiquers wanted me to use pity to hook the audience, instead of helping me to hone my own voice in order to draw readers in with the dark (but compelling) beauty and nuance of what life on the streets can actually be like. If I’d taken their suggestions, I might have had an easier road to publication; I might have better sales now. However, I wouldn’t have been adding my own voice to the literary world.

My voice has value. It’s all I have to offer, and I have to offer it, even if it hurts my career J

I faced similar problems with my book The Other Place (which isn’t an #ownvoices book, but it is extremely close) and with the #ownvoices book I submitted to Pitch Wars, True Story. Both of those books have neurodiverse main characters: Justin from The Other Place has schizophrenia, and Mike from True Story has bipolar psychosis, like me. Critiquers asked me to make Justin and Mike “less crazy”. They said it seemed at times like they were “acting out for attention” and like they were “bad news”: in short, all the things people sometimes say about me in real life.

People tended, also, to be disbelieving about the treatment my neurodiverse characters receive from the community, the police, and mental health professionals in these books. If you haven’t experienced this discrimination first-hand, it might seem outlandish and unrealistic, but unfortunately it’s not.

I also had one very nice, very professional, and very insightful agent tell me, after reading the full manuscript of The Other Place, that she would have rather the story had been about Justin coming to terms with his toxic mother and others in his environment that misunderstood him; learning to control his schizophrenia (with the help of his well-meaning girlfriend, of course); then getting his GED and becoming a successful, somewhat stable artist. That’s a beautiful narrative. It’s also one we’ve all heard before. My experience as a neurodiverse person is not so simple, nor is it for many of the neurodiverse people I’m close to and care about. That narrative is a good narrative, but it’s not really an #ownvoices narrative. The lives of people like me tend to be messy—even rather messier than the average person’s. We tend to alienate a lot of good, well-intentioned people because they don’t know what to do for us or with us. We tend to fail at a lot of things we try to do, because our mental illness causes us to behave in a certain way and/or people in our chosen profession see us as a liability and aren’t willing to give us a chance. We tend to be exploited, hurt, disenfranchised, discriminated against, and downtrodden more than people in the general population.

A lot of folks think neurodiverse people need to be “saved” and shown how to live a “normal” life, and so these are the stories they want to see written about neurodiverse people. But I want to tell stories about people like me who save themselves and people who make good lives out of the supposedly “flawed” materials they are given. Those lives may not always look the way most people want their lives to look, but that doesn’t mean they’re not good lives.

The thing that may surprise SOME of you is that I did, indeed, take all the critiques I’ve described above into consideration. After all, this is my audience. I need to make my characters as accessible as I can, or no one will read the book in the first place. Learning to work with these critiques has been a really excruciating process, and one that has really helped me to grow as a writer: I’ve had to find ways to make my characters and stories more compelling without sacrificing their authenticity.

I still have plenty of room to grow in my craft, of course. I would really love a mentor and/or agent to fall in love with my stories, and to help me to take my writing to the next level. The best thing for me and my writing, however, would be if that person understood me and my characters, so they could help me to hone my own voice so that I can use it to the best of my ability. No matter how wonderful, talented, savvy, and well-intentioned potential mentors and agents are, this job is more difficult and nuanced when you’re working with someone’s #ownvoices story. Not everyone will be right for the job. The Pitch Wars mentors (as well as literary agents) know this, of course.

This is the reasoning behind any hesitation I’ve expressed with regard to arbitrarily accepting all revision suggestions.