Friday, August 4, 2017


I've just submitted to #PitchWars, a mentoring contest run by Brenda Drake and supported by many amazing authors in the writing community. I'm in the lovely "waiting to hear" phase (actually very short for the publishing industry, so it's not so bad!) and since I couldn't put *everything* I love about my book into my query, I decided to share here. 

The book I submitted (mentioned in my #PimpMyBio post) is called DAUGHTER OF NO TEMPLE. When I sat in the movie theater watching Wonder Woman I was excited (okay yes because it was freaking WONDER WOMAN but also) because these were the kinds of fights I was writing about (I watched so many hours of fight expert videos on YouTube!), with a woman kicking ass. And the costumes were very Guerran/Volieran. I had been worried some of my fights were too over the top (okay no one jumps as high as in WW) but everyone loved WW, SO. Confidence! BUT THEN I realized an even better comp for DONT might be She-Ra. For reasons. That I won't go into so I don't spoil the book. (Don't worry, she's not like secretly Lukas' sister, like He-Man. Or Star Wars. Not that they look anything alike.)

But I *can* share Random Facts About DAUGHTER OF NO TEMPLE:

~The working title (just so I could keep files easily searchable and refer to it when speaking with my family) was CLEAVE. Hahahahahayeah. It was this whole swords/cutting away/clinging to/falling in love idea. Contronyms are fun! But it was never going to be the real title.

~There are Easter eggs, some of which allude to Pride and Prejudice, Florence and the Machine, and Hilary Clinton.

~My critique partner asked if the male main character, Lukas, was intended to be autistic, because of things like how he hyperfocuses and fidgets (and he's brilliant). Honestly a lot of him came from myself (haha, not the brilliant part, the socially awkward part). I did shape it the way my CP wondered. I hope he is indeed the kind, positive rep my CP noted him to be.

Two words: Awkward Darcy <3

~Arina is plus size. So is Cal, the secondary female character. I left their descriptions somewhat vague so that readers can picture them how they want, but I picture Arina as a stout, curvy softball player or weight lifter, basically, with thighs that can break a man's neck. Arina is a warrior, Cal hikes through forests and climbs mountains, and both save the world.

~Arina was also partly inspired by this Chilean protester: 


~Petra was partly inspired by Natalie Dormer:

Those eyes.

~Lukas I figured out after getting a good sense for Arina--what his skills were, what he looked like, and what had wounded him, and how that informed who he had become. That in turn revealed to me why he feels how he does about Arina.

~Aja was inspired by two students of mine from years ago, down to looks and mannerisms. They didn't get into physical fights, but were passionate like Aja.

~Markos was inspired by a few different actors and ideas in my head, but one was Edward James Olmos. THAT VOICE.

~Cal took the longest to develop. I had ideas for her for throughout the book, but I only figured her out as I made my way through the whole draft. Even after revisions and CP input I might still be figuring her out, TBH. But I adore her. Everyone loves Cal!

That's all for now! You can also read more about my background in last year's #PimpMyBio. I'm going to try to dive back into planning my next book, which is still a secret but I'm super-excited about. You know how they say when you're terrified to write a book, when you think you can't handle it, that means it's the right book to write and will be amazing? Well, this book is apparently going to be really amazing. 
Maybe also how I'm feeling about the Pitch Wars wait.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

In Which I Present My #PitchWars #PimpMyBio

Welcome! I'm Leanne Schwartz (@LifeBreakingIn), a YA fantasy writer and #PitchWars hopeful. Much gratitude to Lana for putting on this blog hop. Thanks for reading mine, and have fun checking out the others! I love reading as many bios as possible each year, because finding others in the writing community is the best part of PitchWars.

Especially when we get exhausted and loopy.

Seriously, I've yet to get in, but participating in the PW community has changed me as a writer. I've found my amazing CPs (Sierra and Sarah) and soaked up tons of writing advice. This past year I've improved my writing, working on plotting, pacing, tension, and character arcs. I read recommended writing books and tons of YA fantasy, studied the chapters shared with me for feedback during PW (especially from those writers who were selected as mentees), and applied what I learned in my latest WIP.

My book, DAUGHTER OF NO TEMPLE, is WONDER WOMAN meets GRACELING. I've drawn on my partial Italian Catholic heritage and smashed it against my fierce feminism. We've got city-states patronized by different gods, female friendships, and hate-to-love. Also, an "unlikable" protagonist (though I hope people love her like I do), magical baptism, and young people figuring out who they really are versus the communities where they've been raised. Oh, and non-skinny heroines, insulting/endearing nicknames, and bickering. So much bickering. All in a word count that hits the sweet spot for YA fantasy.

Yup, I cried.

What kind of mentee would I be? Well, this year I taught an entirely new course load full-time, homeschooled two kids part-time, outlined, wrote, and revised a book, blogged for an educational tech group, CPed, directed a Shakespeare performance with 6th and 7th graders, and called my reps on the reg. I know how to get it done.

And I'll only be substitute teaching this upcoming school year, so I'll have, like, OODLES of time now. I am an English teacher, so while of course I have typos and occasional mistakes (I'm a terrible speller!), my writing doesn't suffer from an overload of grammatical issues, I hope. But I know how much work a stellar book takes. I'd love a mentor's critique to guide me in making my book as powerful as possible. I am ready to take feedback, ready to work hard, ready to rewrite as much as needed.

I really wanted to use this GIF, because AMY! But the "alot" bugs me. A lot.

As a teacher I talk to my students a lot about having a growth mindset, and the importance of revision. The day the draft for our first major writing assignment is due, I ask the kids, "Did anyone write theirs in blood? No? Carve it in stone? Ok, good. Time to REVISE." And the first thing we do is peer-read, to develop our critical eye but also to get a fresh perspective and input on our writing.

Instead of resorting to this.

So, want to get to know me a little better? Here are some faves and facts:

Selections from my writing playlist for this book: Florence and the Machine (Kiss With a Fist, Howl, Rabbit Heart, pretty much everything really), Sarah Bareilles (In Your Eyes cover, Brave, Hercules), Thea Gilmore (Even Gods Do), Natalie Merchant (the Ophelia album, Wonder), Kelly Clarkson (whom I hadn't really listened to, but I needed some power songs: Stronger, Beautiful Disaster)

Some books I've enjoyed recently: As I Darken, The Hate U Give, The Star-Touched Queen, Stalking Jack the Ripper, The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You, The Ship Beyond Time, Caraval

Fun fact: I met Tom Stoppard when I was nineteen and baby-me FANGIRLED SO HARD. I was writing my thesis on his Arcadia and I have a few Regency YA fantasy plots brewing thanks to all that Neoclassical/Romantic research.

Fact #2: Students and other teachers tell me how organized I am. It's allll a coping mechanism. It does not come naturally. Same with handling scary situations: I once drove to an teaching demo interview belting along with "I Have Confidence" to make my voice stop shaking. (I got the job.)

Fact #3: I can never remember exactly the difference between apricots, peaches, and nectarines.

Some parts I've played (because theatre was My Thing growing up): Rosalind, Lady Macbeth, Lady Capulet, Clytemnestra, the Blue Fairy, the Evil Fairy, a Spoon, Mrs. Beaver, and Kili (yes, from The Hobbit. The Musical.)

And finally, if you've made it this far, I want to share something special a few of my students made for me as school ended. It's a book cover, with room to write in the title of my book when it gets published someday.

We're still working on spelling.
YOU GUYS. My scholars are the sweetest (well, they've mostly nagged me to finish; it's only fair considering how I hound them for their homework). A few are writing novels of their own, and we commiserate over our progress and plot holes. Several have asked to read my book this summer, which makes me happy, because writing YA is all about the kids. I hope you get a chance to read it, too.