Pitch Wars 2018: #BOOSTMYBIO

My WIP: THE KEEPER OF THE KEY, YA Horror/Dark Fantasy

This is my entry for #BoostMyBio for Pitch Wars 2018. Thanks so much to Auggie for hosting this year. 

Thanks also to Kellye Garrett, the Pitch Wars mentors, and everyone else who’s providing all of us with this amazing opportunity. I am particularly appreciative of the hard work done this year to streamline the program and open it up to more diverse voices.

Finally, GOOD LUCK to everyone hoping to become a Pitch Wars mentee this year! My email and Twitter are always open to you if you’ve got questions for someone who’s been there, and I’ll be around on social media to offer support, advice, and humorous GIFs even if I’m not chosen this year. (But I hope I am.)

About my WIP:

I love horror. I love dark fantasy. I love retelling old fairy tales and giving their female characters way more agency than they had in the originals. At some point I started musing about the Bluebeard story. What would have happened if the woman in that story hadn’t had to wait for her brothers to rescue her? How might she have gotten herself away from Bluebeard if the cavalry wasn’t coming?

Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House is another favorite tale of mine, and slowly, the two stories started forming a new narrative in my head. And so THE KEEPER OF THE KEY was born. Even if you know the Bluebeard story and Hill House, I hope you’ll be surprised by what happens in the book. 

I also snagged a secondary character from an early and unsuccessful YA manuscript of mine and gave her the starring role in this novel. Rachel is awesome and I’m hoping more people will get to meet her in her new life. 

And so:

Sixteen-year-old Rachel Morley still isn’t over her parents’ divorce and her father’s sudden death two years earlier, and she’s far from thrilled when her mom falls in love with Geoff Barber. Mom drags Rachel to the small Virginia town of St. Mary to live with Geoff in his creepy old mansion, known to the locals as Morgan House. 

Geoff’s an annoying dork with a mile-long list of rules, and Rachel’s particularly baffled by Geoff’s insistence that she stay out of the basement. But drafty, creaky Morgan House has other ideas; night after night, something pulls Rachel down to the forbidden basement to show her terrifying visions of a shadowy man and murdered women. Geoff claims Rachel’s faking these incidents to cause tension between him and her mother, but when Rachel discovers Geoff had a previous marriage he never got around to mentioning to Mom, she wonders what else he’s hiding. 

The only good thing about St. Mary is Nick Alexander, a local boy who Rachel knows is a keeper when he takes her to an old cemetery on their first date. But after tragedy shakes her world yet again, Rachel learns a devastating truth about her family and finds out that even Nick has been keeping secrets from her. She doesn’t know who she can trust as the not-so-living inhabitants of Morgan House get louder and more threatening. Rachel wants to repair her relationships with her mother and Nick and regain something approaching a normal life. But if she won’t heed the warnings of the dead and see things as they really are, she’ll become part of Morgan House forever.

Why I’d Be A Good Mentee: I’ve done this before. I was mentored by the amazing Peter McLean in Pitch Wars 2017, and I know the drill. This is going to be a lot of hard work (I literally fell asleep in front of my computer in the wee hours of the morning during PW revisions last year), and I’m going to hear some hard truths about this manuscript. But I take criticism well and I’m ready to work. As with last year, I love this book. I want other people to love it too, but it’s going to need help. 

I also have realistic expectations. You win in Pitch Wars by making your MS the best it can be and gaining a whole new slew of writing friendships. Anything else — agent requests during the showcase, and agent and publisher offers after that — is gravy. 

About Me:

I’m Nicole. Hi there! I live in Virginia with my husband, two cats, and a rotating cast of backyard wildlife. 


There are two things you should know about me right off the bat: I love to write, and I love horror and dark fantasy. When I was eight, I wrote Star Wars fanfic, even though the Internet didn’t exist back then and I had no clue that what I wrote was called “fanfic.”

One summer, I read a cousin’s battered copy of Dracula. I fell hard for Christopher Lee and Bela Lugosi when I saw the film adaptations of the novel. And when I stumbled across my first Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe stories, that was it. I will read fiction in almost all genres, but nothing gets me more excited than discovering a new (to me) and wonderfully spooky horror novel.

I’m a regular contributor to the Weekly Knob, which is a prompt-based weekly writing challenge. The Knob featured me in their Author’s Gold series, so if you’d like to see a sampler of my short fiction, check it out.  I also spent a year writing 50 Word Horror Stories for the Writing Cooperative’s 52-Week Writing Challenge.

Nicole with her close personal friend Alex Trebek in 2011.

My work has been featured in Pitch Wars 2017 and was also chosen for Query Kombat 2018 and Pitch Madness 2017. I will be attending the Borderlands Press Writers Boot Camp in 2019. 

Although my to-be-read pile is always high enough to be life-threatening, I will add to it with anything from Cherie Priest, Neil Gaiman, Joe Hill, Erin Morgenstern, or J.K. Rowling.

In my non-writing life, I’ve been a web editor, an editorial assistant, and a Jeopardy contestant. I would love to add “published novelist” to that list.



6 thoughts on “Pitch Wars 2018: #BOOSTMYBIO”

  1. Hi Nicole,
    I live in VA, too, not too far from St. Mary in your story! Small world. Your story sounds scary and fascinating. That’s awesome you’re back to do Pitch Wars again as it shows the hard work and experience is so worth it!

  2. I love retellings! And this retelling of Bluebeard sounds A+! That story is soooooo crazy/haunting/terrifying to being with. I can’t wait to see what twists you’ve put on it! Good luck!

    1. Thanks so much! Good luck to you too, and thanks again for hosting the blog hop this year. I’d forgotten how much fun that was.

  3. Wow, your book sounds creepy! I think that’s perfect for what you’re trying to achieve though – so great job! 😀 I would get the shivers reading it. Thanks for being willing to give advice! I’d love to hear more about your PW experience via Twitter if you have time! I’m @JessPetree on there.

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