JR Yates – Pitch Wars Mentor

I’m a Pitch Wars mentor!! Last year I was a mentee and received The Call (i.e., offer of representation) from the fabulous Stacey Donaghy the day after the agent round ended. My experience was so positive—the learning, the community and the opportunity beyond my wildest expectations—I am honoured to have the chance to give back.

Did you notice that I spelled “honoured” with a ‘U’? Don’t worry, that’s not because I suck at spelling. I’m Canadian and we like those extra letters to keep us warm at night. And yes, I know my US spelling conventions as well.


The boring stuff (Don’t skip it! If you have a story that involves communication or French, you’ll like this bit, I promise):


This is me:


Abby Yates


Oops. Wrong Yates.

This is me


I have degrees in psychology and linguistics. I’m a pediatric speech-language pathologist (SLP) in my day job and grew up in a French household in an English-dominant city. So yeah, I know some stuff about human behavior (see? US spelling. I’ve got it down.) and how we communicate.

I live near the Canadian Rocky Mountains, work in public health as an SLP, mother my three young children (in French), and act as best friend to my husband of 14 years (in English, except when we kiss ;)). I love to travel  and have visited every major Canadian city and many international destinations as well.

I write contemporary romance and romantic suspense. I love helping other writers and have worked as a critique partner and beta reader for many other authors (you may see me in an acknowledgment page or two.)


Now that we’ve got that out of the way. Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.




I am looking for ADULT or NA CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE (so please, no historical, western, gothic, etc.).

I want a love story with well-developed characters with real-life relatable struggles. I love angst and heart. I don’t want weak, overused tropes such as, “I have to pretend you’re my wife for X reason. Oh. Okay. Sex. Love. The end.” And, sorry, I don’t dig alpha males who treat women like garbage but the woman’s magical vagina fixes him. Please. Just…no.


I love a man who is sexy because of who he is at the core, not because he has a tattoo. I want dimension. Sell me the love. Give me a story I haven’t seen before. The overlooked guy. Something unique or diverse. If your manuscript has anything to do with communication disorders, I AM YOUR PERSON.


If it leans toward women’s fiction or chick lit, I’m grabby hands all over it, but there has to be a central love story for me to consider it. I want to laugh and/or cry. There has to be some fun in there. I love me a little sass and a kick-ass voice.

I’m also open to romantic suspense, magical realism, and M/M romance, but it has to be character driven, and must have some sexy times. I love a hot, heart crushing M/M.

I’ll summarize it in a few words: Hot. Heart. Voice. Inner struggle. Got it?


What I am NOT looking for: historical, inspirational/Christian, science fiction, gothic, horror, western. If I receive any of these, they will be put in my, “This person was not listening pile.”




I will provide you with a developmental edit letter as well as in-line notes for the entire manuscript. Once you’ve completed those, I will read a second time and help you brush it up. I have a knack for voice and dialogue which I attribute to analyzing how people speak for a living (don’t worry, I won’t judge how you speak in real life. Okay, well maybe just a little.)


If comma splices are your biggest hurdle, I may not be for you (though I know what they are). Be ready to work hard, and kill some darlings. Our goal will be to get the pacing, story, voice, and character development bang on. If you’re ready to put the work in, kill some scenes, take critiques like a champ, and do it while having fun, we’ll be great together.



But if  you’re like this?


My book is perfect!

Then, well, maybe Pitchwars isn’t for you.

Because I’m looking for this…



To get an idea of what I enjoy reading, here’s a list of some of my favorite books:

You by Caroline Kepnes

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Thoughtless by S.C. Stephens

Nuts by Alice Clayton

The Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

If any of this speaks to you, then I can’t wait to read your sub!! Looking forward to working with a fabulous mentee to help them develop their manuscript into something that they love and will capture the eyes of agents!

– JR Yates

p.s. This post was brought to you by Wall-E…(meaning ‘E’ is your scavenger hunt letter).


He needs to hide his eyes from all the sexy scenes you’ll be sending me.


Here’s a list of the other mentors and their links:

































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The Darkest Lie

The Darkest Lie Release Blitz | Pintip Dunn | JenHalliganPR.com

I’m so excited to be part of the Release Blitz for Pintip Dunn’s THE DARKEST LIE! Check out the book’s details and teaser, and be sure to enter the giveaway below!

The Darkest LieThe Darkest Lie by Pintip Dunn | A Book and a Latte | bookandlatte.com

Publisher: Kensington YA

Publication: June 28, 2016


“The mother I knew would never do those things.

But maybe I never knew her after all.”

Clothes, jokes, coded messages…Cecilia Brooks and her mom shared everything. At least, CeCe thought they did. Six months ago, her mom killed herself after accusations of having sex with a student, and CeCe’s been the subject of whispers and taunts ever since. Now, at the start of her high school senior year, between dealing with her grieving, distracted father, and the social nightmare that has become her life, CeCe just wants to fly under the radar. Instead, she’s volunteering at the school’s crisis hotline—the same place her mother worked.

As she counsels troubled strangers, CeCe’s lingering suspicions about her mom’s death surface. With the help of Sam, a new student and newspaper intern, she starts to piece together fragmented clues that point to a twisted secret at the heart of her community. Soon, finding the truth isn’t just a matter of restoring her mother’s reputation, it’s about saving lives—including CeCe’s own…

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Excerpt from The Darkest Lie

“I’ve been researching the story of her suicide,” Sam says. “And I came across something in my research that nobody could explain.”

“What is it?” I say dully, even though I can probably guess. I mean, there’s lots that’s inexplicable about my mom’s behavior. Tons.

Like: How could a grown woman be sexually attracted to a boy? Or more importantly: Why would she act on it? And my personal favorite: Did she have any kind of moral fiber—even a few lost threads—at all?

But Sam bypasses all the obvious questions and picks up a lock of my hair. I feel the slight tug all the way to my roots.

“Her hair.” He rubs my strands between his fingers, and I suppress a shiver. “It was chopped off, jagged. One article said it looked like it was lopped off with a butcher knife.”

I shrug, but even that simple movement is infused with the awareness of his touch. Still, he doesn’t let go.

“They said she was crazy,” I say. “Out of her mind. Maybe she was disfiguring herself as a sign of her shame. Who knows what motivated her actions?”

But even as I repeat the explanation the detectives gave for just about everything, my dad’s words echo in my mind: I knew your mother. She wasn’t capable of those things. I don’t believe she did any of it.

All of a sudden, my excuses sound exactly like what they are—easy, surface-level assumptions designed to make it easier for the detectives to close the case.

Sam frowns. “I guess I could buy that if I hadn’t seen the interview with her hair stylist in one of the local papers.”

Oh. One of those. Every newspaper in a fifty-mile radius went berserk when my mom committed suicide. Every day, there was a new article, featuring interviews with her fellow teachers, former students, even our lawn guy, for god’s sake. If there was a story on her hair salon, I must’ve missed it.

“The stylist kept saying your mom’s haircut was inconceivable, and I couldn’t understand why. So when I was scooting past Cut & Dry the other day, I stopped to talk to her.”

“Did she confirm my mom was a natural redhead?” I raise my eyebrows. “Reveal the exact color of dye she used to cover her silver sparkles?”

“Not at all,” he says, and something about his tone stops me. The chill begins at the base of my spine and crawls its way up, one long spider leg at a time. “The stylist said she’s been cutting your mom’s hair for two decades. And in all that time, your mother never let her cut more than half an inch. In fact, she came into the salon two days before she died, and they had the exact same argument. The stylist tried to talk her into a bob, and your mom adamantly refused.”

Abruptly, he lets go of my hair, and the strands swing back over my shoulder, loose, unencumbered, and very, very cold.

Sam’s eyes pierce right into me. “So what I want to know is: What could’ve happened in two days that made her change her mind? Unless . . . she didn’t.”

Pintip DunnAbout Pintip Dunn

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Pintip Dunn graduated from Harvard University, magna cum laude, with an A.B. in English Literature and Language. She received her J.D. at Yale Law School, where she was an editor of the YALE LAW JOURNAL. She also published an article in the YALE LAW JOURNAL, entitled, “How Judges Overrule: Speech Act Theory and the Doctrine of Stare Decisis,”

Pintip is represented by literary agent Beth Miller of Writers House. Her debut novel, FORGET TOMORROW, is a finalist in the Best First Book category of RWA’s RITA® contest. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, Washington Romance Writers, YARWA, and The Golden Network.

She lives with her husband and children in Maryland. You can learn more about Pintip and her books at www.pintipdunn.com.


There are 2 prizes! One winner will win a signed copy of THE DARKEST LIE (US only), and another winner will receive a $50 gift card to Amazon or Book Depository (international)!

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On Sex and Writing: An Interview with Brighton Walsh

I’m thrilled to bring you this interview with the incredibly talented, Brighton Walsh. In addition to writing sexy romances, Brighton is a Pitchwars mentor. She mentored Kelly Siskind in 2014, who then mentored me in 2015. So that makes Brighton my grand-mentor. Through her and Kelly, I’ve learned a wealth of things as they relate to writing and all things sexy (if you don’t follow Brighton on Twitter, you’re missing out. She has considerably broadened my scope of “peen” knowledge and makes me laugh every day.)

PIP_final cover_800px

  1. During Pitchwars you Tweeted and encouraged Pitchwars Mentees to use beat sheets. Does this mean that you’re a plotter?

Yes, I’m an extensive plotter. I tend to freeze up and not be able to produce if I fly by the seat of my pants (which I’ve tried exactly once). Outlining, doing character questionnaires, and planning all my scenes makes it so I can draft in about 5-6 weeks.


  1. Tell us about your writing process from outlining to drafting.

I usually get an idea for two characters and I figure out how I’m going to get those characters together. I brainstorm with my Plot Whisperer, then I start on the character questionnaires (this consists of, I think, about 200 questions for the hero and heroine to give me a better idea of who they are and their history). Once that’s done, I figure out my pinch points—meet cute, inciting incident, turning point, the beginning of the end, the black moment, and the resolution. Then I can fill in the remaining parts between each of those. I do everything in Scrivener, so my outline is right with my character questionnaires and both of those are right by my chapters. Once I have everything outlined, I start drafting. Best case scenario, I draft in 4 weeks. Worst case is about a year, but remember that one book I told you I tried to pants? Yeah. Generally, though, I average about 6 weeks with a draft.


  1. How long does it take you to complete a manuscript to the point where you give it to CPs for feedback?

I’m a clean writer, so if I draft in 6 weeks, I’d probably take a week to edit, then hand off to CPs.


  1. Paige in Progress is your third stand-alone novel in the Reluctant Heart series. The first two were published by Berkley, but you’re self-publishing this one. Can you tell us what led to that decision?

I was excited to get this story out there. It was my favorite one of the bunch, and one readers were asking for, and I wanted to give it to them! Being a hybrid author has always been in my game plan, because I think it’s important to see all sides of the equation so you can make better, more informed decisions with your career moving forward.


  1. You write some of the hottest sex scenes I’ve ever read. What are common pitfalls in writing sex scenes and how do you avoid them? Do you find it challenging to keep each sex scene fresh?

Well, thank you! I find writing sex scenes to be the easiest ones to write. I always joke that if I’m stuck on something, I just need to toss in a sex scene to get over it. As for common pitfalls—I’d say probably awkward movements or cringe-worthy dialogue. For me, avoiding them means being realistic in my writing. And, yes, I find it difficult to keep them fresh, because there are only so many ways to write Peg A Goes Into Slot B, but I think the characters help with that. They sort of take the scene where they need it to go based on their journey.


  1. With the introduction of Paige’s brothers in this book, I wonder, are there plans for more books in this series?

Hmmm…I wonder! LOL I will say I would love to write both Tanner and Dillon, and I may or may not have started character questionnaires…


Brighton Walsh



Brighton Walsh spent nearly a decade as a professional photographer before deciding to take her storytelling in a different direction and reconnect with her first love: writing. When she’s not pounding away at the keyboard, she’s probably either reading or shopping—maybe even both at once. She lives in the Midwest with her husband and two children, and, yes, she considers forty degrees to be hoodie weather. Her home is the setting for frequent dance parties, Lego battles, and more laughter than she thought possible. Visit her online at brightonwalsh.com.

Young couple during romantic evening

Paige in Progress:

She wanted a one-night stand…and then he moved in next door.


Paige Bennett is more than content with her life and what she does—and does not—have in it. She’s got a supportive family, a great apartment, and the best friend a girl could ask for; so what if her relationships expire faster than a carton of milk? After a disastrous detour courtesy of poor judgment in the boyfriend department, her plan is back on track and her dream job is finally within her grasp. Nothing can make her lose focus now. Well, nothing except the one-night stand she had with her best friend’s surrogate brother. The one-night stand she can’t stop thinking about.


Adam Reid has always been reliable…the responsible son, the loyal friend, the steady boyfriend. Two years ago, he graduated Magna Cum Laude and is well on his way to making a name for himself at an accounting firm in Denver—a far cry from working as a helper in the Mom and Pop store his parents own in Michigan. But when said store starts failing, he’s the only one who can step in and help. So reliable Adam does what he always does, and he comes to the rescue.


Paige thought Adam was a safe bet because he lives halfway across the country. But then suddenly he’s moving back to their town, and then into her apartment building, and soon he’s worming his way right into her life. If she’s not careful, he might sneak his way into her heart, too…

Sexy young couple kissing and playing in bed.








#Pitchwars Success Interview


As many of you may (0r may not) know, I have signed with the incomparable Stacey Donaghy with Donaghy Literary Group. That’s right, I have a literary agent!!

Brenda Drake posted a #Pitchwars Success Interview with me and Kelly Siskind, my fab mentor.

Check it out here!

“Unspeakable” Confessions of a #Pitchwars Mentee

It’s finally happened. My amazing mentor Kelly Siskind has handed in my submission for the agent round of Pitchwars. After 55 days of multiple emails, instant messages, and two intense revisions, UNSPEAKABLE has come through on the other side of #Pitchwars, 5,000 words lighter, several scenes and chapters added and axed, and ultimately sexier as WITHOUT A WORD. Above all, it’s emerged a better book.

Regardless of what happens during the agent round, I am so extremely grateful for the #Pitchwars Mentee experience, and honestly it is impossible to quantify everything I have come away with (aside from Without a Word in its current form). Kelly’s guidance was beyond insightful and amazing. But here are the salient “take-aways” for me at the moment:


  1. I’ve gained community.

Prior to entering #Pitchwars I had a few friends in the writing community in Calgary, but none in the same genre as me. Online, I had found one very knowledgeable critique partner, Kelly DeVos, whom I met through a Michelle4Laughs Query Blog Hop last year, and another in the most recent one. But you need a village in this industry, and I found it through Pitchwars.

Pitchwars has allowed me to connect with writers in the UK, US, Canada, and weirdly, TWO who live on my street. That’s correct, two other Pitchwars Mentees who were selected this year, LIVE ON MY STREET! As far as I know they are also the only two other Calgarians selected in Pitchwars, and we are 3 of 6 Canadians selected overall (as far as I’m aware). So, even if you suck at math, you probably grasping that half of the Canadians in Pitchwars live on the same street. (So, don’t roll your eyes next time someone asks you if you know another Canadian—crazy sh!% happens.) If that isn’t strange enough, we all submitted to several of the same mentors, and write the same genre.

But I digress. I’ve come away with friends, critique partners (many in my genre now, which I was lacking before), and hopefully a community of writers that will hopefully be able to continue to offer support to each other on our respective writing journeys for years to come.

As I write this, I received a notification from the Pitchwars Mentee Facebook page. Ashley Martin posted this, and I think she captures the experience perfectly:

Can I just say how incredible this group is? We come from all different walks of life, we live in different places (around the globe!), we’re all in different stages of our lives and writing careers. But we have this amazing connection: We all WROTE A BOOK. So many stories, with unique voices…funny, sad, romantic, courageous, broken, searching…
It’s seriously beautiful, you guys. And I’m so thankful I get to be part of it.

2. I have a new understanding of commas. 

Prior to this, I thought I understood the humble comma. But alas, I had much to learn. Overuse, underuse, misuse, before conjunctions, after them…bah! Mary Ann Marlow has a great post on the subject here.

3. You need to let go of your darlings.

Writers often quote this line from Stephen King’s On Writing for good reason. When you spend months imagining a pivotal scene and pivotal line, and write thousands of words in anticipation that everything you put your characters through will lead them to that moment, to that line, until you finally get to write it. It comes out better than you imagined, and you sit back in your chair and heave a sigh of satisfaction.

But then your mentor says, “Cut it”. You may say, “What?! But that line is amazeballs. It’s my favourite line in the book.”

Your mentor reminds you about character arc, etc. You have to reflect on your book as a whole. Kelly Siskind helped me see the forest beyond my pretty little trees, and some of those suckers had to be ground down to sawdust.

Sigh. Maybe I can find another project to use it in.

3. Sex is Good Great, don’t pass it up.

200-13I left a lot of the sexy moments to the readers’ imaginations in my previous version of UNSPEAKABLE/WITHOUT A WORD. Kelly reminded me to think about what the reader really wants, and how sex develops relationships. It’s undeniable. So I may have popped my sex scene cherry in rewrites. And I liked it.

These acts are (sometimes) UNSPEAKABLE at grandma’s dinner table. *winks at Kelly Siskind* ( See, Unspeakably sexy…) But as one fellow mentee said, “You have to write like your momma’s not going to read it.”

Sometimes sex is “unspeakable” at grandma’s dinner table, but not if you’re Brighton Walsh

Kelly Siskind was beyond amazing as a mentor. I have taken away the above things and so much more. I am forever changed as a writer. I had said in our interview with Brenda Drake that that was what I was most excited for—that which I could take with me forever. And I got that in spades. An absolutely invaluable experience. So thank you to Brenda Drake, Kelly Siskind, and to the many fellow Pitchwars Mentees. Hopefully, this is just the beginning.

Top 5 Reasons My #Pitchwars Mentor is the Best Mentor For Me

I had writer’s remorse when I read the amazing interviews with fellow Pitchwars mentees and their mentors on Brenda Drake‘s blog. When asked about what they are looking forward to the most, many of them gushed about their mentors.

Me? I answered that one like I was doing a job interview. I still stand by my answer, but feel sad that people may not know how amazing my mentor, Kelly Siskind, is. But then I thought, Ha! I can tell the world! (or at least my blog followers).

So here it is, my Top 5 Reasons Kelly Siskind is the Right Mentor for Me (and amazeballs):

5. I got a Peen Tiara just for being her mentee. It keeps you warmer at night than diamonds.

4. She loves my main male character (MC) as much as I do. She makes comments like, “he tears my heart out. Shreds it.” She’s even virtually licked his face (and he liked it).

Can you see her saliva?

3. We speak the same language, and I’m not talking about French. We use and understand words and terms like, “lurve”, “that’s what she said”, “amazeballs”, and when we hear the word “open”, our first thought is not about a door.


2. She gets my manuscript. Like really gets it. She shares the same vision I have for my story, but my glasses are blurry and hers are so clean, you could light a fire with them. Her recommendations all make sense and I already can see how much better Unspeakable will be.

1.When I told her a critique partner thought my MC was too hot, her response was, “FUCK THAT NOISE UP THE ASS.” Sigh. She gets me. She really gets me.