I am thrilled to say that I’m now a member of the Pitch Wars class of 2019 and will be mentored by the amazing Maxym Martineau! If you’re unfamiliar with Pitch Wars you can learn more about it on their website.
This was not my first time entering Pitch Wars. I entered last year, and while I did receive a request from one mentor, I was not chosen to be a mentee. I’m not going to lie, it was disappointing not to get selected, but getting a request at all was thrilling.
After that rejection, I set that novel aside and started on something brand new for Nanowrimo 2018. I named the project Ilya’s Gambit (before I ever began the first draft), and it still holds that title today. While I didn’t quite finish the first draft during Nano, I made significant progress and then finished it up in the following month. But it wasn’t right… and I knew that. You see, I wrote it in single POV, but it really needed dual POV to tell the full story. So I spent the next few months revising it into a dual POV novel AND changing a significant portion of it from third to first person (since silly me had written the first draft in two different styles to decide which I liked better… Not one of my better ideas). I also made other significant revisions: cutting scenes and chapters, adding others, weaving in new sub plots, etc. My first draft was over 120k, but through all the changes and revisions I whittled it down to 98k.
After months of revisions, feedback, and more revisions, I submitted the manuscript to PitchWars 2019. I had high hopes. This manuscript was better than the one I’d submitted the year before. I knew I’d grown significantly as a writer, so I felt like that gave me a better shot. However, so many people enter PitchWars! The odds of getting chosen are, well, not good! So, I tried my best to ignore the fact that I’d submitted and work on other things.
And the I got a request! And another!
Once again, my hopes went soaring despite how I tried to keep them down. As time went on, things got quiet. Really quiet. I dove into a new WIP. I made plans to do Nanowrimo 2019 and draft the sequel to the Blood Song (the novel I queried during 2019 but never entered into PitchWars). Those characters called to me, and it was lovely stepping back into their world and focus on the story of Bronwyn Kinsley, the sister of my heroine Ceridwen from Blood Song.
But then the impossible happened: Pitch Wars results were posted and my name was on the list! I literally stared at my phone for a good ten minutes in a state of complete shock and elation. There it was, my name! Not only that, but I’d been chosen by my top mentor pick! I’d waffled back and forth about whether I should submit to Pitch Wars or not, but the fact that Maxym was mentoring was literally the deciding factor for me submitting this year. And she picked me! Even as I write this, I still can’t quite believe it’s true.
Ilya’s Gambit is a book of my heart. It’s lived there ever since it first sprang into being almost a decade ago. Yes, that’s right, a decade! I outlined the major plot points of this story years ago. But it wasn’t time to write it. Not yet. I didn’t have the skills I needed and other stories called to me more strongly, so I kept the idea in my heart until Nanowrimo 2018. Somehow, I knew it was finally time to get this story down on paper. Now, I’d lost that outline I’d written years ago, but the story never left me, so I plotted out a new outline, character arcs, etc. before I dove into the first draft. Ironically, I found that old outline this summer after I’d finished another significant revision of the story. While all the character names had changed, much of what I envisioned for the plot remained consistent over the years.
I absolutely love Ilya and Lucien’s story, and I can’t wait to work with Maxym to make it even better.
Here’s a quick blurb for Ilya’s Gambit:
Born to rule the city of Sorrena in her mother’s footsteps, Ilya Valerius spent her entire life preparing for that destiny—until Emperor Cassius Ryszard conquered her city. As a hostage under the watch of Captain Lucien, first in command of the emperor, she develops a gambit to free her people: seduce the captain, learn the empire’s secrets, take them all down from within.
A swordsman and powerful wielder of illusion magic, Lucien lives a life of organized discipline, following the tenants of Emperor Ryszard. He never questioned his role in the empire or the man who saved him from starvation as an orphan, until he met Ilya. She rouses his desire and distracts his thoughts more than he dares admit. When Ilya reveals that he may have been kidnapped by the emperor, not orphaned, he begins to question which side of the war he truly belongs on.
Ilya didn’t expect to lose her heart in her quest to free her people. Especially to one of the emperor’s magically gifted captains. Destroying the empire means betraying Lucien. For Lucien, loving and protecting Ilya is treason. Each will have to determine where their heart and loyalties lie to forge a future together—if the emperor doesn’t kill them first.