2017 PitchWars Wishlist for Heather Van Fleet and Jessica Calla

I am so pumped to be mentoring for a second year in PitchWars, and even MORE excited because this time around I’ll be co-mentoring with the amazingly talented, Jessica Calla!

Neither Jess nor I were ever picked for PitchWars as mentees, so it’s extra fabulous that we’re in this thing together now, both as agented and published authors. With that being said, the two of us will be mentoring Adult and New Adult.

#TEAMAWESOME For the win. 

(This is our official team name, By the way)  

About Heather:

Hey, I'm Heather!

I'm a stay-at-home mom of three crazy girls, that are basically little nut cases, (Ha, kidding. Sort of...) and two pups, one big, one tiny, both of which have officially turned me into a crazy dog lady.

I’m married to my high school sweetheart, Chris, and this year we'll be celebrating 15 years of marital bliss. I live in northwestern Illinois, less than a mile from the Mississippi river. 

I’m represented by Stacey Donaghy of Donaghy Literary, and my adult contemporary romance series, Reckless Hearts (A Three Men and a Baby retelling, Alpha Marines style) is published through Sourcebooks Casablanca. Book one (Reckless Hearts) is available in bookstores now, while book two, (The Right Kind of Reckless) releases in November.

I love, Love, LOVE to read romance. At the age of twelve, I would sneak into the romance section of the library and finger through the metal shelving units for all things Harlequin books featuring men wearing suits with babies in their arms on the covers. Now, I'm lucky enough to stay at home and write those types of romance books as a career.

My favorite book series as of right now are The Hangmen Hades Series by Tillie Cole and The Dartmoor MC series by Lauran Gilley. (I’m HUGE fan of Motorcycle Club romances, HINT-HINT) My favorite standalone novel will likely always be Beautiful Disaster by Jamie Mcguire (because HELLO, Travis, anyone?) and, as of recently, A Boy Like You by Ginger Scott. Yes, this is upper YA, but the swoons in it are EPIC. (It’s also kind of/sort of a superhero romance. HINT-HINT again.)

I also adore watching romance movies. Dirty Dancing (the eighties version, not that horrific remake) is my favorite. I’m also a sucker for The Notebook, non HEA and everything.

About Jess:                       

Hi, I’m Jess.

During the day, I’m a lawyer in New Jersey. At night, I write Adult and New Adult contemporary romance. My first book, The Love Square, was published by Limitless Publishing in January of 2016. My New Adult series, the Sheridan Hall series, is published by BookFish Books and consists of She Laughs in Pink, She Runs Away, and She Wants it All. Heather content edited all three books, so I know from first-hand experience that she’s an awesome mentor. I’m represented by Inklings Literary Agency.

I love romance, any steam level, open door or closed door. My favorite new adult book of all time is Easy, by Tammara Webber. I love anything and everything by Nora Roberts and I’ve never not cried at the end of a Nick Sparks book. I love to cry. It’s weird. I know.

I have a million favorite movies, but Overboard comes to mind now. So wrong, but so right. I can also recite every line of Grease (and maybe even Grease 2, don’t judge), and if you mention the word “Titanic,” my eyes start to tear up in an automatic response. I’ve also been singing the Beauty and the Beast songs pretty much nonstop since seeing the movie a few weeks ago. 

Heather’s Experience:

- I worked as a content/developmental editor for a little over a year at BookFish Books and fell head over heels with my job. (This is actually where I met Jess! I was her editor as mentioned above.) It was an incredibly rewarding job, and I met some of the most amazing people and authors during my time there. But things happened personally for me last year, and I had to move on.

- Currently, I work as an agent assistant/foreign rights manager at Inklings Literary. It's the best job ever, and my ultimate goal is to, someday, become an agent. There is something crazy amazing about helping other authors out with their dreams, which is one of the draws to PitchWars for me. I was never a mentee, even had my heart broken over it twice after not getting picked, but things happen for a reason, I'm a firm believer in that, and I am completely okay with the outcome. :)

Jess’ Experience:

- I’ve been mentoring new authors for about a year now, as a beta reader and as a mentor in Twitter contests. People say my comments are constructive and helpful!

- I coordinate the New Jersey Romance Writers Put Your Heart in a Book Contest for unpublished writers. I’m active in NJRW, as well as in the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. I’ve had a lot of exposure to unpublished manuscripts, as well as to agents, editors, and successful authors.

- As an intern, I’ve read submissions for a small publisher, recommending whether to sign authors. I have experience with good and bad queries and pages, and know how to gain an agent or editor’s attention.

- I’m a lawyer and have been writing in that capacity for almost twenty years.

- I’m the mother of two special needs boys: Patience and encouragement are my specialties! Let me help you motivate and improve!

 What to expect if we pick you as our mentee:

- As your mentors, we will most definitely work with you on the big picture as far as your manuscript goes. This includes fixing plot holes, beefing up characters and their development throughout your manuscript, cutting the dreaded telling versus showing, pacing, and all the stuff that goes along with content/developmental edits. We will be your best friends, standing by you long after the contest is over, BUT we will also be the two people who push you the hardest.

- If we think your book needs an overhaul, we’re going to need a mentee who is not afraid to tackle that. You only get two months to make this baby shine, you must be willing to work hard and fast. If you're not willing to possibly kill your darlings, change your love interest, remove a point of view, or change an entire book from first person to third, or vise versa, then you might not want us as your mentors. We’re not saying this is something that HAS to happen, of course, but we will most definitely suggest it if need be. In the end, though, this is YOUR baby. We're only here to make it pretty, and guide you along the way with our knowledge.

- We will give you a lovely gushing editorial note with all our big thoughts and plans, then we will each go through your book (twice) doing both content/developmental edits and line edits.

- It will be hard. Grueling, even. Like we mentioned before, we’ll push you to your breaking point. You may think it's not possible, but it is. If you have the drive and time to make it happen, then we will do whatever we can to help you along the way. More than anything, we want you to walk away from this contest with a top-notch manuscript that’s ready to land you that dream agent.

What we want to see in ADULT and NEW ADULT submissions:

This is the part we’re most excited about. (And what you're probably most interested in knowing too, we're guessing.)

So without further ado, our wish list:

The bottom line is? We love all things romance and kissing. Unfortunately, we can't read manuscripts without it. Therefore any subs we receive MUST have romance of some sort in them.

Now, I'm sure some of you say: "Oh, but Heather and Jess, you two are missing out on so much by only wanting books with romance." No doubt we are. You're right. BUT, the truth of the matter is, we WRITE romance, we READ romance, it's only appropriate that we MENTOR books with romance, don't you think?

With that being said, we’re totally not picky about subgenre. (YAY!) Just as long as there is kissing. Some sexy stuff would be fan-tabulous too. Sex isn't necessary, BUT it will make us happy campers.

 Some specifics that we'd love to see are below.

Contemporary Romance: 

- Give us ALL the tropes in both NA and A.

1. Best friend's older brother

2. Brother's best friend

3. Friends to lovers

4. Next door neighbor

5. Enemies to lovers

6. Childhood friends to adult lovers

7.  Single dads or moms

8. Secret Babies

- Roommates turned lovers. (Heather's 2016 mentee had a roomate book and OMG. So much love for the roomie trope)


- We'll take superhero stories with elements of romance too. (A Wonder Woman retelling, perhaps?)

- We’re also HUGE suckers for sports romances. Think Sawyer Bennett's Cold Fury series or Elle Kennedy's The Deal. Not just hockey, of course. Send us your FOOTBALL players, BASEBALL players, SOCCER players, RUGBY players, ULTIMATE FIGHTERS, etc. Grabby hands for all the NA or ADULT sports romance.

- We love alphas, especially the dirty talking kind. 

- If your hero is broody, grumpy, but has a heart of gold for his woman, then that is the book for us. 

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- Bring on the sweet/beta boys too, the kind that make us swoon and want to curl into ourselves with giddy smiles and happy hearts. You know the kind, right? The ones that turn us into to absolute mush.

- We want rockers and we want country boys. 

- We LOVE tattooed and non-tattooed bad boys. And boys with beards and scruff? YES. Bring it on. 

- We love a HEA most of the time, BUT if you have a woman’s fiction with VERY STRONG romantic elements in it, and the ending holds a sobby Nicholas Spark's book vibe, then we’ll read that baby. (Even if we hate you in the end for it.)  Basically, we're a sucker for angst, heartbreak, and books that make us ugly cry. In other words, we love to be torn into pieces. WRECK US!  

- Bring on the diverse women, especially! The ones who are not typically size six's. The type of women who don't feel as though they have to change to find the right man in their lives. All shapes, sizes, walks of life. BRING IT. We love our ladies as much (if not more) than our men.

- We want your dark romances. The kind that make us question our sanity for loving them. Dark thrillers, dark romantic suspense, dark romance in general.

- Your forbidden romances? GIVE US THOSE. ASAP.

- Give us your retellings! Beauty and the Beast, Robin Hood, the likes of any retelling, as long as there is romance between those pages somewhere.

- We’ll read and swoon and get all sorts of giddy over BDSM and erotica romance too, but the characters HAVE to fall in love in the end.

- Give us your diverse love stories. PLEEEEEASE. (Think anything Megan Erickson.)

- And finally, if you make us laugh with your words, we will love you forever.


Fantasy with VERY strong romantic elements

- We love fantasy. Think, A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet. It’s swoony with a kick butt heroine and one sexy hero. We loved it. 

- We'd totally be down for a unique time travel romance. Vikings/Outlanders all that good stuff, just as long as it doesn't completely take place in history. We're not huge history buffs. (Though there is a first time for everything.)  


Paranormal Romance & Urban fantasy romance

- Who says these are dead? Not Jess and I. GIVE us your shifters, especially. Your alpha or beta wolf, bear, tiger, etc. Think Patricia Brigg's Mercy Thompson series or Molly Harpers Naked Werewolf series.


♥ Sci-Fi with VERY strong romantic elements ♥

- Sexy alien guys are HOT. Seriously. Think an Adult or NA-aged Daemon Black from Jennifer Armentrout's Obsidian. 

- Anything that has a Laurann Dohner or Eve Langlais. (Sexy Cyborgs, alien mates? Yes, please)      

- You got a romance that takes place in space or on a spaceship or on another planet? Sure, we’ll give it a try, just as long as it’s romance based in the end.


♥ Apocalyptic/Post-apocalyptic/Futuristic/Dystopian with VERY strong romantic elements ♥


The two of us have an unhealthy obsession with The Walking Dead. So beware, future mentee. You MUST be ready to deal with our TWD fan-girling.

Don't worry though. If you hate this show, or have never watched it, or cared to watch it, we'll still love you. xoxo

#Richonne Forever 

#Richonne Forever 



Here's the thing about this genre... we believe there is a place out there for every book, as long as it's well written with a good voice and an equally intriguing and unique plot.

So, if you have an Adult or NA dystopian, post-apocalyptic, or apocalyptic story that is romance centric then send it to us. We adore these types of stories. Like, an adult or NA version of The Arcana Chronicles by Kresley Cole, perhaps, or a very sexy TWD like story that blows us away.

Things we DON'T want to see in our submissions:

- No vampires, please. There is absolutely nothing wrong with them, other than the fact that we’ve read too many and got majorly burned out.

- We're not into Regency Romances, sadly.

- If we have to wait until the very end of your book for the kissing to happen, it might not be our thing. 


If you send us something that has no romance in it at all, then we likely won't even read it. So PLEASE do yourself a favor and don't send us something non-romance related because you think it will change our minds. We'd hate for you to miss out on an opportunity to be picked by a mentor that does want to read books with no romance.

So, there you have it, our wants for a dream mentee's book, all wrapped up into one long post.

In the end, like agents, us mentors look for voice first and for most. Something we can connect to. Something that makes us want to weep with joy and hug and kiss (and from what I remember) even lick the pages of your manuscript. When it's all said and done, we will pick the manuscript we fall in love with and can feel ourselves helping the most. In fact, it may have nothing to do with the things we mentioned above. 

If you want to chat more with us, or have questions, or just want to find out how awesome we are (HA) then follow us on Twitter.  @HLVanFleet  @Jess_Calla


To view the other mentors for NA and/or A, hop on over to their links below.

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