Monday, September 3, 2018

I Never Could Play Ball, So How Will I Pitch? by Vonnie Davis

I have the grace of a goat and the athletic ability of a cement slab. I thank my lucky stars my three kids didn't inherit my "falling-up-the-steps" gene. I simply cannot compete in any athletic event. So I ask you, if I  can't play ball, how will I pitch?

Sure I pitch doggie toys to Evie for thirty minutes or so twice a day so she can rip and race through the house. But I'm talking about a different kind of pitching.
You see, in a moment of weakness, when I was filling out the form to attend the "Cleveland Rocks Romance" writers' conference, I checked the box to pitch to an editor and agent.

What in doggie snacks was I thinking?

I've never pitched before. Nor do I have anything ready to pitch except for a half-finished manuscript called "The Golden Charm." Something I envision as book one of a 3-book series about Men in Tool Belts.

I've talked about this story before and it seems like ages ago. While renovating a house for new owners, carpenter Eli Golden finds a tin box hidden in a hidey-hole. Inside are old love letters, a few pictures, and a chain with a golden heart charm attached. So begins two romances. A couple during the Vietnam War and a present day couple with the heroine being the granddaughter of the sixties heroine. Two romances, one with an HEA and the other one ending tragically.

Mercy, I don't even know how to classify it. Straight romance? Historical and Present-day romance? Each chapter is of alternating time periods. As an example, here are the begonning few paragraphs of the first 2 chapters.

Eli Golden swore and pulled the long wooden splinter from his finger, wiping the blood on his worn jeans. Minor hand injuries were part of the job as a carpenter or remodeling contractor. As owner of Golden Home Improvements, his absent carpenter’s helper was at the top of today’s list of annoyances. This inch-long splinter was merely a blip.

Eli snatched the crowbar and wrenched off the trim of the narrow built-in shelves the new owner wanted removed from the office. In its place, he’d ordered a wall-to-wall book shelves and a computer desk unit. Eli had to agree with the new owner—the placement of the narrow shelves was odd.

To his surprise, he found a latch hidden on the top one. When he moved it, the back swung open revealing a hiding spot. He peered inside. What was this?

In the secret compartment was an old advertising metal container, about the size of a hardback book. Eli removed it from the hidey-hole and examined its pristine condition. The tin was covered with pictures of lions from an old movie, “Born Free.” He checked again for more hidden items, but the small area was empty.

Turning the object over to examine it, something softly shifted inside. He pried off the lid and found old pictures, letters, and mementos. There was also something wrapped in a yellowed lace-edged handkerchief like his grandma used to use.

This hankie had a pink rose embroidered in the corner. Grandma loved violets and always placed them on hers. She had pots of them in her kitchen windows. He closed his eyes. For an instant a vision came forth of his grandmother humming as she kneaded her homemade bread. The sourdough rye bread she only made for him because he loved it so. He could smell it baking. He opened his eyes and smiled. Memories were so precious.

Now, he held in his hand a container of someone else’s memories.

Why would someone go to such trouble to hide them? Why not lock the tin in a drawer or a safe? He stepped off the ladder and sat on an upturned bucket to examine his discovery. Sherlock, his pale yellow Labrador, trotted over from his watching spot, tail wagging, hopeful for an ear scratching and maybe a treat.


 All the seniors were ecstatic when they burst through the school’s front doors. Excited chatter and boisterous laughter bounced off the hall walls behind them. Today was their last day of classes before graduation and they had an early dismissal. Mary Beth Kestler and her best friend Connie Massie rushed into the bright May sunshine and bounded down the wide steps.

Freedom! No more homework. No more gym class with those disgusting open showers afterward. No more teachers checking the length of your skirts. God forbid you should show your entire knee.

“Look, Mary Beth. There’s Jimmy flirting with Louisa and her platinum dyed hair. Her roots are showing and they ruin her Marilyn Monroe look. You know he lives on the corner of my street. His Harley Davidson makes so much racket when he comes home late at night, it gets all the neighborhood dogs barking. He must not have a curfew.”

Connie pulled her tube of white lipstick from her purse and applied another layer. “What’s he doing with her, anyhow? Didn’t he ask you to go to the movies?”

“Yes, but Father said I wasn’t allowed. He yelled for over an hour, claiming a boy like Jimmy Evans would be a bad influence. Looks like he’s moved on.” Mary Beth’s heart sank as Jimmy leaned over and whispered in the girl’s ear. Louisa had breasts like grapefruits and loved showing them off in tight sweaters. Mary Beth glanced at her lemons inside the starched pink blouse and sighed. God hadn’t been exactly fair.

Jimmy’s dark head rose and his blue eyes locked on hers. He patted Louisa’s arm and sauntered in Mary Beth’s direction.

Her heart rate sped up so fast, it must have laid a patch of rubber in her chest. Jimmy was the cutest boy to ever pay attention to her. All the other guys knew she was a preacher’s daughter and kept their distance, but not him.

He hooked his pinky finger with hers and her tummy did all kinds of twitchy things. “Hi, Mary Beth.” His deep blue gaze stayed on hers while he greeted her best friend. “How are you doing, Connie?”

She stuck a pencil in her teased hair to lift it a little higher. “Fine, Jimmy. Be good, you two, I’m going over to ask Judy if she’s coming to my pj party tonight.” Connie rushed off.

Jimmy tugged Mary Beth closer. “A pajama party and I wasn’t invited?” He leaned down, his black hair nearly hanging over an eye and lowered his voice. “Maybe my brother told her I don’t have any. I sleep in the nude.”

Mary Beth gasped and he chuckled. She’d never heard him laugh before. He was more the brooding type. But the smile that ignited the twinkle in his blue eyes touched something her heart lacked—a yearning for someone special in her life.

The conference runs from Sept. 14th through the 15th. I'm to pitch to an editor from Sourcebooks. I'm doomed already. Then I pitch to an agent from a hot shot agency. Do I even want an agent? Think I could cancel my flight reservations?????

Before I sign-off, Happy Labor Day to you all.


Angela Adams said...

"Think I could cancel my flight reservations?????" No, go to Cleveland -- this is an awesome premise, and you'll be fabulous!

Jannine Gallant said...

I think it's a terrific concept! Much luck with the pitches. Hey, if the Sourcebooks editor signs you on the spot, you won't need to pitch to the agent!

Leah St. James said...

I love, love, love this story idea, Vonnie. Maybe it's the nostalgia effect for me, but I'm sure I wouldn't be alone. There are plenty of Baby Boomers buying books today. I love the secret hiding place angle. TPM (hubby) had an uncle who spent his retirement years reselling furniture from people's homes. He always checked out the furniture (and house) for those before letting them go. From time to time he'd find wads of cash or jewels. Remember these were the people who lived through the Great Depression and lost everything in banks. Anyway, love the angle.

In my one-and-only pitch session, I had signed up for an editor with Harlequin and one with Sourcebooks to pitch my first book. The Harlequin editor asked for a partial but after six months of hearing nothing, I submitted to TWRP. The Sourebooks editor told me the story would be too hard to market because it was about BDSM but wasn't written in the style of erotica. I appreciated what she had to say far more than the editor who asked for the chapters but never looked at it. She was far easier to speak to as well, really down to earth and seemed genuinely interested in the story.

I say go for it for the experience if nothing else. It doesn't commit you to anything. And finish the story! I want to read it! :-)

Rolynn Anderson said...

I've pitched 'til I was bitchy...oh, yeah! Early on when I thought pitching and grabbing a publisher or agent was vital, I lined up to pitch at every conference...and I attended a couple conferences a year. I even jumped in to pitch when nervous people dropped out and left pitching opportunities open. No results from any pitch...but it taught me how to hone my story's highlights and 'sell' the novel's concept.

Do not sweat it. Your books are proud when you speak of them, and energetic/funny as you always are! The agent/pub person WANTS you to do well, remember that...they are looking for your idea for the series...they are! Good luck, Vonnie. Your series sounds great!

Margo Hoornstra said...

Yes, Ma’am, you are definitely going for this! You already have your pitch. (Paragraph 6, I believe it is) “I’ve talked about this story before....” Love it! Especially as a Vietnam era Army wife. (I was 18 at the time.) Who does that these days? Eli already has my heart, too. Who doesn’t love a guy with a big dog? A writer friend from my local RWA, Rosanne Bittner (western historical) writes for Sourcebooks and dearly loves them. Wishing you much success. Definitely let us know how it goes.

Vonnie Davis said...

Angela, you are always full of support and encouragement. Thank you for being you.

Vonnie Davis said...

Oh Jannine, if the Sourcebooks lady signs me on the spot I'll need CPR and dry panties.

Vonnie Davis said...

Leah, my brother-in-law dealt in antiques. He fixed his barn up with that old green indoor-outdoor carpeting to create a path through the gems he found. He especially loved old wood stoves, mantle clocks, and heavy dining room furniture.

I've heard that Harlequin is quick to ask for partials and revisions with little or no response. I've always found that rather heartless. I'm hoping Sourcebooks is more truthful.

Vonnie Davis said...

Rolynn, I've got the first 2 sentences of my pitch down. I'll hand the lady my business card and say, "Hello, my name is Vonnie Davis and I'm a pitching virgin. Be gentle with me." Bwahahaha...think that will make an impression? I am proud of my books. I put a snippet of Calvin's personality in each one of my heroes. Thanks for the encouragement.

Vonnie Davis said...

Thanks, Margo. I just needed a verbal kick in the pants, I guess. Calvin was always my cheerleader. I tend to doubt my writing as so many of us do. I graduated from high school in '66, the year part of this book takes place. So writing Mary Beth's story is a trip down memory lane. I became a Navy wife two months after graduating.

Alison Henderson said...

That's a fascinating concept--definitely not another run-of-the-mill romance. Pitching is nerve-wracking (I've done it several times), but you've got a great track record and a novel idea. Best of luck!

Vonnie Davis said...

If I can just express its novelty in a comprehensive, understandable way...and not trip over my own tongue, Alison.

Brenda Whiteside said...

I really hate pitching so I wish you luck and of course want your report back. Your story sounds a little like what I'm writing right now. It's like two books in one. One is contemporary and the other is 1969 about the parents of the contemporary heroine. There is a mystery in each one and of course romance. Don't forget...a report is expected, Vonnie.

Diane Burton said...

The last time I pitched I had note cards so I'd remember everything. I talked real fast until she said I should let her ask some questions. LOL Now I know. Your concept of Men in Tool Belts will make her ask questions. Keep the pitch simple and short and you'll do fine. BTW, I love the concept and the blurb. Hang in there. And DO NOT cancel your flight. Have fun.