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Day 15 (Part 1) of the Pitch Wars Mentor Workshops with Jackson Ford

Sunday, 12 September 2021  |  Posted by Stephanie Scott

Welcome to the Pitch Wars Workshops with some of our amazing past and 2021 mentors. From a lottery drawing, we selected writers to receive a query and first page critique from one of our mentors. We’ll be posting some of the critiques leading up to the Pitch Wars submission window. Our hope is that these samples will help you in shining up your query and first page.

We appreciate our mentors for generously dedicating their time to do the critiques. If you have something encouraging to add, feel free to comment below. Please keep all comments tasteful. Our comments are set to moderate, and we will delete any inappropriate or hurtful ones before approving them.

Next up we have: 

Pitch Wars Mentor Jackson Ford

Jackson FordJackson Ford is the author of The Frost Files series, including The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t with Her Mind, Random Sh*t Flying Through the Air, and Eye of the Sh*t Storm. He may or may not be the alter ego of author Rob Boffard, but he is definitely 100% a jackass.

Website | Twitter | Instagram

Jackson’s recent release, Eye of the Sh*t Storm: A Frost Files novel

Full of imagination, wit and random sh*t flying through the air, this insane new Frost Files adventure will blow your tiny mind.

Eye of the Sh*t Storm: A Frost Files novel

Amazon | B&N | Indiebound | Goodreads

Jackson’s critique 

Category: Adult: Fantasy


Dear [Personalization],

[TITLE] is an adult fantasy complete at [135,000 or 119,000] words. It will appeal to readers of THE RAVEN TOWER by Ann Leckie and THE WITCH’S HEART by Genevieve Gornichec. In a similar vein as Mike Chen’s debut, HERE AND NOW AND THEN, it explores themes of motherhood, neurodiversity, and trauma through the lens of time travel and mythology. I’m querying you because [personalization].

After years of studying fate magic, Ylva looks forward to a dangerous initiation ritual that will elevate her to chief seeress of her country—if she lives through it. But before she takes the risk, political intrigue and a surprise attack from a rival kingdom block her aspirations. Everyone she loves dies—and so does she. (Damn. Dark. I like it.)

Instead of being greeted by Valkyrie in death, Ylva comes back to life with her own set of wings. (Why is this important? Why her?) While struggling to convince others she had nothing to do with the tragedy, she learns the attack triggered natural disasters that will culminate in Ragnarök. When an ancient being of folklore, offers to send her back in time to undo the damage, Ylva volunteers. She never imagines the years she’ll spend trying and failing to unravel fate’s snarl. After attempting hundreds of variations, reliving her life only to fail, Ylva decides her next attempt will be her last.

With time reset one last time, despair makes Ylva reckless, but motivation to succeed arrives as an image of her child thriving in a future she’s never seen. She may have already taken too many wrong turns for this new timeline to have a chance. Ylva must enlist help from old friends and once-husbands who don’t know her yet to try to find a way to save the world and bring her peace. (This summary is far too long. It’s clearly an interesting story but there are way too many details to digest at once, especially for a busy agent. I would distil it down to two paragraphs [excluding the intro/comparisons] giving only the details that matter the most. Really hook the reader!)

I am an autistic diagnosed with cPTSD, and my characters share these traits. This is my first novel, though I have published non-fiction in Sheltie Pacesetter, Sheltie International, and AKC Gazette. Before the internet, my folksy stories about dogs and kids were popular among non-profit newsletter editors with mentions in cover stories of TIME and DogWorld. (You probably don’t need this much info, although obviously keep the traits sentence. It’s clearly important!)

First page:

In Ymir’s (Should this be Ylva? Who is Ymir?) Time, Year 900.

A raven landed on the trail ahead of me, an omen among my people. The flash of dark wings skipped like a stone across my memory, and I pulled my cloak close with a shiver. The bird waited as I drew near, feathered head swiveling from me to the sky, like he had something to say before he moved on. (Good, but shorten—see comment below)

“Let me guess.” I shifted (in?) my seat, slowing my mount. “You think I should give up nine years of study and move back home, too.” (Ha! I really like this. It will hit harder if the para above is cut down a bit)

The raven’s solitary croak sounded like a welcome, but then he lifted into the air, scolding me with a string of rattling caws. (Lovely imagery)

“You could at least stay to hear my side,” I called, but he was even less interested than my parents. (This is great. I’ve really got a sense of her character from these few short lines) Sailing high, he hovered on the breeze, a blot in heaven.

Mackerel sky (That said, not feeling this one. It is too close to being unintentionally funny) loomed past the canopy of trees, and I touched the torc at my neck, appealing to the Goddess. Freya hold the rain a little longer.

I leaned my head back and bellowed. “Why can’t things be simple?”

A thunderous crash answered from up ahead, and Leith broke his gait, flicking his tail.

“Easy boy, it’s just a branch or a tree.” (Not following this? Why does she say this?) Perhaps announcing myself with caterwauling wasn’t the wisest choice for a woman riding alone. The Troldfjall ridge was wild country, outside the bounds of civilization, but our legends said Alfir used to live here in crystal spires spanning branches of giant red oaks. (Not sure who Alfir is or why this makes the land less intimidating?)

Thank you, Jackson, for the critique! We are showcasing three mentor critiques each day leading up to the Pitch Wars 2021 submission window, so make sure to read the other two critiques for today and come back tomorrow for more. 

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