Pitch Wars wish list!

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Welcome to my Pitch Wars wish list! This is an awesome community, and I’m excited for the chance to give back this year as a mentor in the adult category.

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Obligatory Pitch Wars GIF 😉

My official bio: E.B. Wheeler grew up in Georgia and California. She majored in history with an English minor and earned graduate degrees in history and landscape architecture from Utah State University. She’s the award-winning author of The Haunting of Springett Hall, Born to Treason, and No Peace with the Dawn (November 2016), as well as several short stories, magazine articles, and scripts for educational software programs. She was a 2014 Pitch Wars alternate, and her work is represented by Abigail Samoun of Red Fox Literary. In addition to writing, she consults about historic preservation and teaches history at Utah State University.

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Look, it’s me

Like an agent, you want a mentor who clicks with you, so here’s a little more about me: I’m married with two kids, ages 4 and 7. We have a mini mini-farm with gardens, two woolly rabbits, four chickens, and a cat. I love Corgis, but I’ve promised my husband no more pets for the time being. 🙂 I love Indian food and cheesecake. I’m a Mormon. I have a rare neurological condition called Brown-Sequard syndrome from a spinal cord injury. My favorite color is burgundy. The most amazing places I’ve visited are the Pantheon in Rome, Charlemagne’s Palace in Aachen, Little Bighorn in Montana, and Wales–yeah, the whole country–I love it. 🙂

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“O” yes, I love history too 🙂

Books and shows I think are brilliant and can’t get enough of: Jane Eyre, Lord of the Rings, Northanger Abbey, Arabella, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, The Secret Garden, The King of Attolia, Calvin and Hobbes, most of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books, The Scarlet Pimpernel (the musical even more than the book), Les Mis (ditto), My Little Ponies: Friendship is Magic, Avatar: The Last Airbender, The West Wing, Stargate: SG-1, and the BBC’s Merlin.

My critiquing style: For the person I select, we’ll go through your manuscript at least a couple of times, first for plot and character arcs, and then for fine tuning to bring out the best in your book. I’m honest in my critiques, but not crushing. I expect you to be open to feedback, but, ultimately, it’s your vision, and we can brainstorm together on trouble spots.

My critiquing strengths: I’m good at spotting sagging plot and character arcs and eliminating inconsistencies in both, ratcheting up the tension and stakes. I’ll also help you tighten up your language–make every word matter and cut the stuff that doesn’t add anything. Not sure if you have enough historical detail, or too much? I’m your girl. I worked writing scripts, so I’m good with dialogue too.

Things I love in a book:

  • Interesting characters who feel like real people I want to spend more time with. I especially love a cast of great characters. Bonus points if one of them has a disability that affects them but doesn’t define them.
  • Realistic emotions–give me the whole range: laughing, crying, scared, excited–but I prefer an overall optimistic/hopeful tone, at least in the ending.
  • Strong voice and gorgeous (but not purple/distracting) writing
  • Wit and/or humor. I don’t expect to be laughing through the whole book, but I love clever dialogue and funny situations.
  • A good love story. That can mean romance, but also love between parent and child, siblings, friends, etc. Code Name Verity was gorgeous and broke my heart and I loved it, and it’s all about friendship.
  • At least a little bit of mystery (Gothic romances are my guilty pleasure)
  • New insights into the world or the human condition
  • A historical angle, especially about a lesser known person, place, or event

What I don’t love:

  • Books that put down or stereotype any ethnicity, religion, etc. Individual characters can have prejudices, but the general tone of the book should not be derogatory (To Kill a Mockingbird does this well).
  • On-screen rape or child abuse. If it’s a necessary part of the story and it happens off-stage or is not graphic, I can deal with it, but I just can’t “watch” it happen.
  • Ditto with extremely graphic violence. I can handle blood and death, but I can’t do detailed murder scenes, or battle scenes that get down to the nitty-gritty of individual organs. If you’re describing someone’s squishy entrails, I may barf on your manuscript. 🙂
  • Graphic sex. I like my romances on the “sweet” side (though kissing is great!), and if sex scenes are necessary, I prefer them closed door. I don’t expect a sexless world, I just don’t need to see it happen.
  • Historical settings or characters that aren’t really historical. If Wikipedia was your only research source, it’s probably not historical enough for my tastes. Likewise if your historical character is abnormally “enlightened” for his or her time period–really just a modern person stuck in a historical setting (unless they really ARE a modern person stuck in a historical setting 🙂 ). Obviously fantasy worlds are different, but they should still have strong world-building.

I’ll look at anything that fits my likes/dislikes, but to give you an idea what I prefer, here are some of my favorites genres:

  • Upmarket historical fiction–the kind of books you might read in book club–either set in the past, or moving back and forth between past and present (The Help, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, The Shape of Mercy, The Rent Collector, Lynn Austin’s Candle in the Darkness)
  • Fantasy, especially with a historical angle or feel (Tim Power’s The Anubis Gates, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Patricia’s Wrede’s A Matter of Magic)
  • Retellings of myths, legends, folktales, and classics–historical or modern setting (Tim Power’s The Drawing of the Dark, Steven Brust’s The Phoenix Guards)
  • Historical mystery–either set in the past or with modern people trying to solve a historical mystery (ranging from Anne Perry to Clive Cussler/Dan Brown-esque books)
  • Clean historical romance. I love a good love story, but I’m also kind of picky about them. There has to be more keeping the characters apart than a misunderstanding that could be cleared up with a five minute conversation, and I like to see both of the main characters grow. “Enemies-to-lovers” is my favorite romance trope–love that chemistry.

I’m not the greatest Tweeter, but I’ll try to hop on every evening to answer questions until the submission window closes. Also, I usually try to follow other writers back, but I’ll wait until after the mentees are announced to avoid any mixed messages. I will give feedback to everyone who queries to me, though it may take me a couple of weeks to get to them all.

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The Battle of the Somme, Summer 1916

We’re not thinking much about World War I this weekend in America as we watch fireworks and enjoy our barbecues, but July 1st marks the 100 year anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Somme in Europe. The U.S. didn’t know it in 1916, but they were less than a year away from being dragged into the horrors of the Great War themselves.

Over one million young men were killed or wounded in the summer of 1916 at the Somme. More than 19,000 British soldiers were killed on the first day alone. There were 25,000 British casualties on July 4th. These are such staggering numbers it might make us numb to the destruction, but each of those million men left behind love ones and hopes and dreams–one million homes in mourning, one million empty spots at dinner tables. The losses reached around the world, from Germany, France, and Britain, to South Africa, India, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.

The Battle of the Somme mixed primitive tanks and cavalry charges (while the Red Baron circled overhead), machine guns and gas, trench warfare and bloody charges over the top, all in a fifteen mile strip of land. Through all this, in 141 days, the British lines advanced only seven miles. German officer Friedrich Steinbrecher said: “Somme. The whole history of the world cannot contain a more ghastly word.”

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Westfront, deutscher Soldat
Photos courtesy of wikimedia