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Pitch Your Book to Life Contest: A Surprise for our Friends in the Fiction World


Although the Pitch Your Book to Life Contest is for nonfiction book concepts only, we have had some great fiction entries submitted, and I have a special gift for those participants today. I’ve asked my colleague Stuart Horwitz, the genius behind, to comment and provide feedback on their entries. Here is some more information on Stuart:

Stuart Horwitz is the founder of Book Architecture, an independent editing firm which has helped bestselling authors of fiction and non-fiction through an innovative approach known as The Book Architecture Method®. His book, BLUEPRINT YOUR BESTSELLER: Organize and Revise Any Manuscript With The Book Architecture Method, comes out next year from Perigee/Penguin.

Here is Stuart’s feedback:

Entry 1

MOONCUSSERS by Barbara Eppich Struna

According to Cape Cod legend, Maria Hallett was branded a witch in the 1700s and yet, there is no documented proof of her existence.
When Nancy Caldwell and her husband, Paul, move their family east to Cape Cod, they unwittingly become involved in this dark tale of Maria and her lover, the infamous Black Sam Bellamy, featured on National Geographic’s: Real Pirates.
As Nancy explores their two acres, she stumbles upon an abandoned root cellar and at its bottom lay evidence connecting their property to the mythical Maria Hallett and the lost riches of Sam Bellamy.
In alternating chapters, my historical novel, MOONCUSSERS, takes you from the 18th to the 21st century and back discovering secrets and clues along the way on a Cape Cod treasure hunt.  As a comparison, people who have read William Martin’s CAPE COD and BACK BAY will enjoy MOONCUSSERS.
I live in an 1890 house on Cape Cod with my artist/husband and five children.

Barbara, this sounds like an intriguing set-up for historical fiction. You may want to decide how much research you will do vs. how much creative license you will take? And also, what will the parallel story in the present time consist of? In addition to the search itself what kind of impact will the discoveries have on Nancy’s family?

Entry 2

Sylvia’s Story by Nancy Mclendon

A mysterious poisoning in a small Alabama town leads to turmoil when a young black woman is arrested, and her white attorney, ‘Lige Glover, ignores the town’s animosity to plead for her life before an all-white jury. He loses the case; hope seems to disappear for the young woman who waits despondently for the hour of death in a cold, dark cell. At the appointed time, Sylvia Williams meets the noisy crowd and walks onto the gallows to stand on the spot marked X.  The countdown begins….ten, nine, eight, seven….the young woman stands quietly listening to the sobs of her mother just below the hangman’s noose. As the events of this true story unfold, the reader experiences life in the Alabama of 1912 as lived by the characters in Sylvia’s Story.

So amazing that this actually happened, Nancy. Have you thought about what the uplifting part of the message would be? It seems a little unremitting at present — what will the reader carry away with them besides dismay at this terrible injustice?

Entry 3

The GABI Life ~ You Too Can Have The Life of a Dog by Chris Alexandria

Gabi, Chris’ infamous Goldendoodle has taught her and her family the wisdom of being in the moment.  She has taught them to enjoy playing throughout each and every day. Gabi has taught them how to put self first in life which enables her to love the family with a bottomless fountain of love, joy and yes, even a bit of wisdom.

Go on a year’s journey with Gabi and Chris as they share stories, offer ‘people wisdom’ and even some homework that can be completed each month so you too can have a life of a dog!

This is certain to appeal to dog lovers and the child in all of us, Chris. It is a little unclear who the narrator is (dog, child, parent) and what age the audience is? That might help refine the theme a bit further.

Entry 4

Magic Blankie by Marguerite Bryant

Magic Blankie is a book for kids about time traveling in your imagination. It’s written in rhyme, and begins: “There once was a boy with a blankie that flew! (and flying was not all it could do!) When he went to sleep at night, his magic blankie would then take flight!” In the first book he goes under the sea and meets a mermaid named Zoe, then to the musical forest where he meets a forest gnome named Simon, and Murrey the talking tree, and finally, a leprechaun named Patrick who shares his gold. At the end they all get together for a birthday party at the beach.
The possibilities for future adventures are endless. The little boy I wrote this for has family roots in Greece, so the next book will be a magic blankie trip to the Greek Isles!

This seems like a quite entertaining premise for a younger audience, Marguerite. Will there be a lesson that pairs with the flight of the imagination? What will distinguish the various trips (besides locale)?

Entry 5

Elira by Brian Stapleton

When a young baby is born into the world of Naziuen, she is immediately made the target of an evil Sorceress who desires more than anything to become Queen of this fabled land.  Assassins walk in the shadows, blades drawn seeking to put an end to the life of the baby that will, one day, be the future Queen even as traitors hide amidst those believed to be the most trusted of the Royal Court.

Fearing for the baby’s life, the Midwife at the request of the Queen and King takes the baby and flees Naziuen through the use of enchanted Mirrors that enable one to travel to other lands.

In a small town in Iowa, the young baby named Elira is raised by the Midwife safe from her enemies but is she ?  Mirrors become twisted, distorted as a portal appears and those obedient to the evil Sorceress begin pouring in the small town in Iowa where Elira lives and her destiny begins to unfold.

A series of three books that tells the epic tale of a future Queen who, before birth, is hounded by an evil Sorceress who desires the Throne above all else and will stop at nothing to attain that Throne.

You have certainly put some thought into your trilogy, Brian! I think you are working with a solid theme for middle-grade readers (and adults reading along guiltily as well.) I would advocate you continue your reading in this genre as you write so you can always be sure you are breaking new ground with your characters and structure.

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Lisa Tener

Lisa Tener is an award-winning book writing coach who assists writers in all aspects of the writing process—from writing a book proposal and getting published to finding one’s creative voice. Her clients have appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, CBS Early Show, The Montel Williams Show, CNN, Fox News, New Morning and much more. They blog on sites like The Huffington Post, Psychology Today and WebMD.

Reader Interactions


  1. Lisa Tener says

    Nancy, it looks like we may have put this in the wrong post–fiction. Sorry about that. We’ll be sure to clarify it’s nonfiction for the contest!

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