Bad Pitch Contest

Dear Mr &/or Mrs who want to publish the next AWESOME book,

I know you want to make millions. We all want to make millions. I can make this easy for you. My book is the next Fifty shades of gray meet Twilite. You need to jump on board this express train to awesomeness cause there’s going to be hundreds of agents buying it soon.

I’m not kidding. I’m really good at writing and have spent the last month punching out this bad boy. I’ve shown it to my 3 best friends who also write good and they have told me over and over and over that it is the most awesome thing they’ve ever read. My mother said the same thing when I told her I’d written a book. She said she always new that I would be a New York Author 1 day. Even when I was like 3 she knew it. I even have like 12 followers on so you know that marketing for me is already like totally taken care of. All you got to do is buy this and then we will both be so rich no one will believe it.

So here’s the awesome pitch. Be ready to have your sock blown off.

My story is about this guy, Bromere, who is really tough and super awesome at everything. I mean everything. He can fight bears and sing and fix things and is totally awesome with the ladies. And there’s this other guy, Lousarius, who is super jealous of him and tries all these things to take his treasure and his girl. Oh yeah, they are pirates, you need to know that for the treasure to make sense. Well, No matter what this other dude does, my dude beats him and gets the girl and is awesome at everything. Oh and there’s Bromeres friends, Dudeacleese and Testacleese, who are there trying to do the stuff Bromere does, but they never can be as awesome as him. And there’s also stuff about explosions and aliens, but I couldn’t quite make that go anywhere, but it’s fun anyway. And in the end, Bromere saves the President from 2012 fires and acid rain, so there’s this whole environmental story in there as well.

So, yeah, that’s the story. Oh, it’s called Bromere of Flame and it’s a complete novel ready for you, with just an little bit more work needed (seriously just like a chapter or two more, I think I need to do something more with this aliens, at 29,366 words!!! This awesomeness’s genre is a greek, western, sci-fi, fantasy, horror, pirate, erotica, political thriller. I know that my pitch is over 35 words but it was too mind-blowing to put in only 35 words. I knew once you read it you wouldn’t mind. So send me back the contract and let’s get this money train rolling.

Awesomely yours,



This is a Blog Hop! So read everyone’s bad query’s and then go to between 6/2 and 6/5 to vote for your favorite.

I’m here to Break Rules and Chew Bubblegum

And I’m all out of bubblegum.

We’ve all been there. In fact we’ve done it all our lives. “No, mom, I can’t do my homework until I clean my room.” “Honey, there’s no way I can do the taxes until all these dishes are done.” “There is no way I can go out and save Gotham with this spot on my cape.” We’ve all be there.

Dun Dun Da-oops. I hate laundry day.

Dun Dun Da-oops. I hate laundry day.

That point where the mess we’ve been living in, no matter how small or great, suddenly become unbearable and we must remedy this situation NOW. Usually at that exact moment when something even more important comes along.

This phenomenon of distracted productivity has led to some of the best and most effective outcomes of my life. That guilty pleasure of breaking the rules of what I should be doing now with the rationalized justification of “but I’m doing something that just HAS to be done” mixes together to create a beautiful synergy. Without which we would never have the clean rooms our mothers loved so much.

Or the clean manuscripts. Yep you knew I was going to make this about writing somehow. In writing people are always setting up great lists of how to write and create the perfect manuscript. I read these and try to take the great advice to heart. One of the biggest and most often quoted of these tips of writing is don’t break your momentum. Save your editing and revising for where it belongs, after your first draft is completed. The concept is that the more we put on the brakes to read and re-read what we’ve already written in an attempt to make it perfect the first time around, the less likely we are to finish it. We get bogged down in the first fifty pages doing them over and over and thus lose motivation and momentum to ever finish the last fifty. Every stop, every backtrack makes every restart that much slower and harder to accomplish.

And I believe in this tip. I use it and even teach it to my students in class. I put up a big picture of the Nike swoop and tell them “Just do it.” Just write and get the draft out without censorship or revising. Don’t break the momentum and writing become a lot easier.

Then we come to the rule breaking part. This last month I’ve been working on book 2, The Scions of Wrath, of the American Scion series. I have my beautiful research and outline to work from. I’m set and ready to just push through this manuscript. I’m even really excited because there’s so much happening in this book the readers can really sink their teeth into. But the first thirty pages were really bugging me. They came out far longer than I intended. They were pushing the inciting event way too late in the book. And as I kept sitting down to write the inciting event scene, one of the most important in any book, I would stare at the screen and worry and fret over those overly long first thirty pages. It was distracting to the point of debilitating.

And then I remembered cleaning my room before doing homework. It was a sneaky little trick to put off the inevitable, but it worked and in the end I had a clean room and completed homework. So yesterday I sat down and revised the first thirty pages making them much more concise and punchy. And it worked. I not only feel better about where they are but also feel great about writing the next scene and getting this bad boy rolling into hell, for my characters at least.

So there it is. I’m a teacher of rules and methods, and I’ve gone a broke a big one. And it felt great. As writers we need to listen to the rules and tips and trick to know not only when to follow them to make a great book, but also when to break them to make it all come together.

Image courtesy of  Jeroen van Oostrom at

Wife, Mother…Writer?

Yep, I’m all three. On a good day, the three meld into this gorgeous dance of inspiration and productivity. On a bad day, they crash into a glass of wine.

Here's to a more sane tomorrow or the apocalypse, either ends the hell that was today.

Here’s to a more sane tomorrow or the apocalypse, either ends the hell that was today.

Many friends and colleagues have asked me how I manage all three, and I wish there was some great sage wisdom I could impart to enlighten the masses and stamp on a tee-shirt. So far, the best I’ve got is “Hold on, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.” I make it work by sheer force of will and an unhealthy dose of insomnia. But that doesn’t get things done. To get things done, I’ve had to utilize some very unsexy skills like extreme time management and using my wait time. These two plans have given me far more writing time than I could otherwise get. Adding the fact that my husband J.P. Sloan is also a worker by day and writer by night, we have double trouble with time management allowing us time to write. We both have to schedule time to write, usually right after our 7 year old goes to bed around 8-8:30. It is even how I’m writing this blog post right now. Scheduling a “working writing time” not only makes sure we can get it done without trying to hit the “I’m too tired button” in our lives, but also helps train our brains that during this time our writing brain needs to be active. I’d heard that from authors before, but didn’t really believe it until I started using it. Our brains feel like they actively switch to a different mode and the words flow much easier. But that only gives an hour or so a day; far from the time needed to be a real writer on a large scale.

So in my busy wife, mother, teacher life, my writing time also has to use that under-utilized section of everyone’s schedule called “wait time”. Wait times are those points in our day when we know we can’t travel to do anything else and we know we are just going to have to sit there and do nothing. This could be in-between two meetings or classes. Or my personal favorite, the doctor/dentist office. As we all know, when we go to the doctor they always see us immediately. NOT. We have to wait and wait, often for much longer than we would like. Usually the only options during this wait time is to watch their interoffice TV, stare at the cracks in the wall or read three year old magazines, again. But we know this time is coming. If we plan for it we can use it to get stuff done and thus free up time for later. So, when I look at my schedule and realize there’s some wait time in my day, I make sure my book stuff is with me and bang out a word count. Now I’m less frustrated with the wait and have time to spend with my family later and not feel guilty.

But guilt and family time are two big obstacles in the busy writing momma’s life. I need to make sure my son is feeling loved and supported. I need to be there for his events and celebrate and grow with him. I am not willing to sacrifice my son and family to my writing, not very PC and Woman’s lib, but there it is. But I’m also finding a balance and a pride from my writing as well. Especially as I watch my son. My guilt has eased as I watch him take more and more interest in writing and writing well from watching his father and I work. He is only in second grade but has already won two writing contests for his age group and school. For his martial arts belt tests he has to write an essay at each level and each time his is singled out for praise. He sees our dedication and love of writing, and instead of resenting it, he wants to work on his writing as well. He is already hoping to be published one day and working to that end.

And that came from balancing being a wife, mother and writer. It is not only my manuscripts that benefit from my dedication, but my son as well. Keeping this going takes a lot of effort, but each smile and success keeps me going and keeps the fight worth it.

So no great sage advice here. Just a reminder that we influence those little ones. It is not just about giving or taking time, but also showing them when actions are worth more. For them we walk the tight rope every day. If we show them cord, they may just decide to walk it with us.

If you want to read from other authors on balancing parenthood and writing, find them on Sharon Bayliss’s Blog Hop below.


Sharon Bayliss


Balancing Act


James Wymore


Amy Bearce, On the Journey Blog


Clare Dugmore Writes


Missy Shelton Belote, Author


J. P. Sloan’s Fistful of Fiction


Black Cat Blog


Jessika Fleck, Writer


Courtney Sloan’s Dark Draftings


Julie Coulter Bellon


Katie’s Stories


Kids, Writing, and Why I Quit Sleeping


Eliza Tilton


Andrea Berthot, YA Author


Kate Foster, Writer


The Unspeakable Horror of the Literary Life


Kimberly Ito – Author of Fiction


Kristen Terrette, Smiling in the Chaos


Kimber Leigh Wheaton


Vicki Keire Writes


Jennifer Tressen


Live, Love, Laugh


Christine Rains


Shelli Proffitt Howells – A*Musings


Alex Taylor – Author


Treefall Writing

Spring has Sprung and other Clichés on Revising

Yes, it’s that time of year when the temperature is getting warmer, the ground is opening up with colorful treasures to entice the birds and the bees, and the internet is full of posts about the springing of spring making it a metaphor for everything from child-rearing to motocross. Spring cleaning, spring love, spring forward, spring break: almost everything we associate with spring is positive and growing. Harriet Ann Jacobs but it beautifully when she said “The beautiful spring came; and when Nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also. Many religions tie spiritual and natural growth together making spring the optimal time to create and begin new adventures.

Hence the onslaught of posts.

But there’s a reason it works. I fought and fought the urge to do this post, but the spring bug has won. And for once in my life it is because of the things growing out of the ground. I’ve never been a big plant person. If you wanted your plants to die, just bring them to me. My mother and sisters have been great at plants. Beautiful gardens hand done and planned by each of them. I had trouble with my cactus.

And then came moving to the semi-country and visiting the farms for produce and berries. I got excited learning how to use these new plants and creating jams from the fresh berries. Then last year we decided we could do some of that. Plants with a purpose I could get. So we composted and put in our bed with tomatoes and cucumbers and peppers, and I waited for them to die. But they didn’t. Working at them, they grew bigger than I imagined. We had enough that I could can for use during the winter. We decided to take out a bed, so we could plant fruit trees. I had never transplanted flowers before, but I tried. I put them in other beds hoping I wasn’t the gruesome executioner of the springtime beauty.

Jump to this spring, and after this winter decided to finally pull back its death grip on our area, the first of our garden poked out its head. And wouldn’t you know it, those transplanted flowers woke up and blossomed beautifully. So, now we are adding two new beds and three blueberry bushes and a pollinator garden. Even our apple trees already have blossoms. Who knew I could be a plant person?

It's alive! ALIVE!

It’s alive! ALIVE!

The whole spring metaphor thing seemed like less of a cliché and more of a truth. Okay, let’s be honest; it’s still a cliché, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work.

This spring timing worked in my favor. My editor, the wonderful and talented Vicki Leigh, sent back my manuscript for OF SCIONS AND MEN for my first round edits and revisions. I got to spend time taking this piece that I already had spent so much time on and make it stronger and better. It was exhilarating. Nurturing something into a beautiful success. I have to admit, I am one of those crazy people who loves revising.

A recent metaphor, non-spring related, I’ve heard recently for revising is that drafting is just putting sand in the book; revising is making the sandcastle. That’s true. Revising is where you take your original idea and shape it to be the true reflection of your soul. There are only so many story ideas in the world, but no matter how many people writes “boy-meets-girl” no one will ever write it just like you. Revising is where you make that piece of your soul shine. Just like building a sandcastle.

Just like you make small seeds become a delicious jam.

As the late and great Robin Williams said, “Spring is Nature’s way of saying ‘Let’s party’.”

Plotting Pantzer

“Cheat your landlord if you can and must, but do not try to shortchange the Muse.” -William S. Burroughs

This idea from Mr. Burroughs has been my creed in writing for a long time. Let the Muse be my guide. I had every faith she’d lead me to words and ideas needed to turn a single “what if” thought into a three dimensional world someone could eat, sleep and love in. This path of letting fate and my muse guide me to the best story possible sometimes classified me as a “Pantzer” in the writer’s world.

See, writers like to classify themselves into two categories, and like the Dr. Seuss story about the war over which way bread should be buttered, these classifications are the root of many great debates, perhaps even more so than the current war over the oxford comma. Many writers are how I described above. These “Pantzers”, so named for the way they write by the “seat of their pants”, claim that plans limit writing and the characters. Many also feel that the planning rarely stays constant from beginning to end, so why waste time on it?

Their points are vehemently countered by the opposite faction, the Plotters. These writers use programs and notes and charts to plan out their book from beginning to end. There are many choices of charts to follow. From the old reliable of Campbell’s Monomyth/Hero’s Journey to the 3 Act structure to the Working W to the 4 Act Progression, which is right to write, and which will ease the path of the young writer. Programs like Scrivener versus the ol’ word processor give different options to think through every nuance of the story and characters. It is also a great way to make sure continuity stays consistent and characters don’t change eye color from one scene to the next. An adage states to write well the two stages of writing someone should spend the most time in are prewriting/planning and revising. Plotters exemplify this to a T.

In my history, I’m the rebel neither group really likes. The Plotting Pantzer. I would plan the major plot turns and characters, then run with it. Normally, turns would change and the characters would lead me to new, most times better, places, I’d never considered before. It was a wild ride every time.

But now, as I am working on book two of the American Scions series, THE SCIONS OF WRATH, I have wadded through new waters.

Plotting, we got your plotting right here.

Plotting, we got your plotting right here.

Yes, dear friends, you are looking at a fully formed W plot structure for my next book. It goes through not just the major plot A, but also the B subplot. There may or may not be some romance (in the most twisted way possible) for our dear Rowan. And adding to the excitement, that is my series Bible there, full of character sheets, histories, emotion tells, maps, secrets, etc.

So, this is me voyaging over into the realm of organization and I feel excited to see it all there like that. I’ll report back on the success of this new approach, but for now Geronimo!

Updating the Character Worksheet: Emotions

Confession time: “Hello, my name is Courtney McIlwain Sloan and my writing Emotional Intelligence Quotient is low.”

“Hello, Courtney.”

There, it’s out there now. What a load off.

What I mean is in “real life” ® I can watch my friends, family, colleagues, etc and read their varied and personal expressions of emotion, interpret them and react accordingly. Non-verbal communication, folks, it’s where all the cool kids are at. Hell, I teach it in my communication classes. People trust non-verbal cues far more than their verbal counterparts. Why? We can’t shut them off and most of us don’t actively control them. If someone tells you something very sincere then rolls their eyes as they walk off, you’re going to believe the eye roll more than the controllable word choice. It’s human nature.

The same applies to our characters in writing. Their non-verbals have to express the underlying truth. As Mark Twain said, “All emotion is involuntary when genuine.” Very often it is the only way to express a character’s emotion and still show instead of tell.

“Jack gripped the wine bottle until his knuckles were white. I was worried the vein in his forehead would explode before he made it out the room.”


“I could see Jack was pissed.”

This hits a new level when writing in first person, as in my latest works.

“My stomach churned at her callused words. I turned away, willing the tears in my eyes not to fall.”


“She upset me.”

Both of these are identifying an emotional state without spelling it out. They also help guide the reader to feel the emotional reactions themselves rather than just stay a casual observer. And words should do that. Choosing the right word does more than paint the correct picture for the reader. It also paints the right emotion behind that word for the reader to experience.

Hence the different picture a someone paints when they describe the young under average weight heroine as “slender” or “bony” or “petite” or “gaunt” or “emaciated”. Each experience is different for the reader. This I get.

BUT this is where my trouble starts. I often go to the same areas of the body for each emotion. One BETA reader a book back actually asked me, “What’s your obsession with backs?” I didn’t know what she meant until I looked back and realized half of all my emotional descriptions were happening with everyone’s back. Boring and inaccurate to human experience. It needed more dimension.

Enter my emotional savior: Vicki Leigh. She saw my conundrum and came to my rescue with the suggestion of one book. That book is Emotional Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman.

"See it, Smell it, Touch it, Kiss it!"

“See it, Smell it, Touch it, Kiss it!”

This book is amazing. 75 major emotions are each broken down in helpful suggestions in the categories of definition, physical signals, internal sensations, metal responses, cues of acute or long-term, and cues of suppressed. So no matter if characters are experiencing emotions personally or observing it in others, this book has great and varied examples of each.

More than giving my books more variety, this is allowing me to personalize each character even deeper than I have before. I am so impressed that I am now also adding a section to my character sheets where I can ID each major characters major tells of different emotions. Thus from the start I can make each characters reaction distinct based on their background, and allow others to learn and respond to emotional cues with a more grown up emotional intelligence.

So, thank you, Vicki, you have helped far more already than you know.

Melting the Teacher

Today I’m going to keep this one short. Since I’ve been picked up by Curiosity Quills, I have had a number of my teaching colleagues ask me, “If you become the next big thing, are you going to give up teaching?”

First, I’d like to say, thank you for you faith in me, but that probably won’t happen. Lightning striking is wonderful and beautiful and very, very rare. So, as much as I love my work getting out there and hope everyone reads it, I’m not holding my breath to have the J.K. Rowling life.

Second, the answer is easy, No. No, I love teaching and would not give it up. I love the power and world I help students achieve through communication and writing. I love how they keep me on my toes with their insight and new world views. I love learning from them as I teach them (today I learned that GPS on planes is not a thing and by God it should be). I love how teaching makes me happy everyday. So, no I would never give it up as long as someone has a class for me to teach.

Also, teaching gives me days like today. Today was the last day of a J-Term course. During J-Term we do the entire semester in 10 days. It’s intense and asks a tremendous amount from the students, especially as this is a group class. They have to do projects and tests and activities with a group of students and learn to communicate and perform well with this group of people they didn’t know before class. Sometimes it can get stressful, especially in such a short class. But today, after their final was done and their grades were in, I had a group come up to me and give me this.

*cues sappy music swell*

*cues sappy music swell*

It is filled with personal notes from each of them expressing their thanks and excitement about the class. I had another student come and tell me it not only helped him already at work, but also in his communication with his fiancee. These students and the ones that will come after them are the reasons I would never give this up. They give me hope that the future will have people who can communicate and solve problems, not get stuck on positions. They are the ones building what others can’t see yet today.

To each of them, I want to say, “Thank you” right back.They are the reasons.

Writing Resolution Return

In my last update, I vague posted all of you.

“Make significant progress professionally on my writing. Result: OF SCIONS AND MEN was completed, revised from BETA readers, and completed fully. More on this on another post.”

I’m sorry. I know this is a horrible way to leave things. But I had to wait until everything was certain. Well, now it’s time to stop being vague.

Tell me now or the computer gets it!

Tell me now or the computer gets it!

OF SCIONS AND MEN, the distopian paranormal I’ve been working on for a while, has been picked up by the ever growing and innovating people at Curiosity Quills through the amazing Vicki Leigh. That means this series has a home to grow and evolve.

So, my immediate future will be full of work for these marvelous people. I can’t wait to share the next steps of this adventure, cover reveals, release dates, and the like, with all of you. In the meantime, I am also working on Book 2, THE SCIONS OF WRATH, to keep this coaster going.

Oh, and don’t mind me as I break out into the snoopy happy dance at random times. Just a bit excited.

That's right. We celebrate in costumes around here.

That’s right. We celebrate in costume around here.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

To Resolve or Not to Resolve

Yes, I know. Bastardizing Shakespeare is a poor man’s wit. Or maybe that was something about Shakespearean punneries. But the question still stands.

We are only ten days into 2015, and I have read post after post about what a crock New Year’s Resolutions are, while the other side is posting promise after promise. Even Forbes had a list of resolutions that will change your life FOREVER! And it leaves a girl wondering what to do.

Resolutions are supposed to be positive affirmations we pledge to ourselves, the universe, God, the dark forces, whatever gets us going. Most people know that they are not going to follow through when they just tell themselves in the dark corners of their mind on New Year’s Day, so they have traditions to make these affirmations more real and boast about them in person and online in the hopes that others will make them more accountable than their own willpower can deliver. And thus are most gyms filled to capacity in January.

And back to business as usual by March. Sigh. So do they work at all?

To decide, I go as my mother has taught me to my elders for guidance. The man of writing and wit himself, Oscar Wilde has a strong opinion on the matter. He said, “Good resolutions are useless attempts to interfere with scientific laws. Their origin is pure vanity. Their result is absolutely nil. They give us, now and then, some of those luxurious sterile emotions that have a certain charm for the weak…. They are simply cheques that men draw on a bank where they have no account.”

Well, there you go. Wilde has spoken, the answer given. Case Closed. End of post. Break the set and see you at the afterparty, folks.

But only a fool would ignore their own experiences in life for the comfort of words from a source who’s never walked a day in their shoes. Crap, okay, time to examine.

Last Year’s Resolutions:

Become healthier & stick with the gym. Result: I have become a regular at the gym so much so that people I still don’t know the name of comment on my progress. I have also lost over 10% body fat.

Finish my current crafting projects & learn a new craft. Result: I am current on my cross-stitching projects from last year and I’ve learned to crochet. Working on my first blanket.

Check off something from my bucket list: I flew a plane for the first time.

Make significant progress professionally on my writing. Result: OF SCIONS AND MEN was completed, revised from BETA readers, and completed fully. More on this on another post.

Action speaks louder than words. (Sorry, Mr. Wilde. I still love you.) Yes, resolutions can make a difference. I felt each of these check marks, and they drove me to do even more than I set out to do. So I’m a girl convinced and will dedicate myself even more this year.

That's my promise to each of you.

That’s my promise to each of you.

Child’s Play

As adults we’re told so many times that games are for children. People roll their eyes and talk of people wasting their lives in fantasy worlds that accomplish nothing. But as writers, that’s exactly what we do. And now we don’t do it alone.

Science has come along and proven there are real benefits found inside the childhood antics of playing games and playacting. This is described in

“Play is often described as a time when we feel most alive, yet we often take it for granted and may completely forget about it. But play isn’t a luxury – it’s a necessity. Play is as important to our physical and mental health as getting enough sleep, eating well, and exercising. Play teaches us how to manage and transform our ‘negative’ emotions and experiences. It supercharges learning, helps us relieve stress, and connects us to others and the world around us. Play can also make work more productive and pleasurable.”

For me as a writer and character creator, this is so important. My characters get to do so much more than my mild mannered teacher self could. By turning character creation and writing into a game, rather than just a check list of to do’s and don’ts, I am able to make myself accomplish things I thought impossible. My willpower in writing skyrockets.

Antagonist in the corner pocket.

Antagonist in the corner pocket.

You know why? Glasses off and cowl down…My character’s persona would have done those things. The gaming aspect of writing allows me to step away from a Mary Sue and picture scenarios not because I want to, but because my hero/heroine would not take no for an answer.

Also I get much more enjoyment from the process when I change it into a game as it becomes so much more. It becomes something to immerse in. I can’t let my character down, because she wouldn’t let anyone down. When a battle is lost in my writing (hate those blocks), I know the war still continues for her, so how could I abandon her? I can more easily pick myself up and continue.

This is a part of transforming our negatives. I will try again and beat my enemy (the block) the next day because it was a part of the game, not just something inside me that I could never get away from. So with this transformation, from reality to game, from me to hero, I am able to move into the next benefit of learning from it and relieving stress. And boy, we can all use that.

Now, if you believe me, let’s get ready to create, grow, learn and relax…and write.

“Image courtesy of pal2iyawit/”.


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