I’m a mentor in the Adult category looking for most genre fiction with an emphasis on science fiction and fantasy. I will also consider horror, steampunk, alternate history, historical, and the NA category.
Please do not apply if your manuscript is: Romance (The genre, that is. Romantic subplots are fine!), contemporary, thriller, mystery, epistolary, in-verse, gothic, memoir, a graphic novel, literary, YA, or MG.
The Long Version
What is Pitch Wars?
Pitch Wars is a mentoring program where published/agented authors, editors, and industry interns each choose a writer to coach on revising their manuscript over a course of three months. It ends with an Agent Showcase in February, where agents will read the pitches and first pages of chosen mentees and can request to read more.
Who Am I?
- I’m an epic fantasy/speculative writer. My debut, FLAMES OF MIRA, releases April of next year in hardcover through Solaris Books (consider adding it on Goodreads!).
- I’m represented by Joshua Bilmes of JABberwocky Literary Agency.
- This is my second year mentoring and I was a mentee in 2016, so I know the process well and how to ensure you get the best experience out of Pitch Wars.
- When I’m not reading or writing, I’m spending my day gaming, lifting weights, and/or vetting my meme collection. I have three cats and I spend way too much time talking to myself in front of them with the voices I imagine each of them having. I work at a tech company for my day job and I’m a California native living in Utah. Most of my family lives on Vancouver Island.
Fantasy and science fiction are the genres I’m most comfortable working with, but that is far from the deciding factor in who I’ll end up choosing. Last year my mentee’s manuscript was a humorous alternate history set during Bobby Kennedy’s presidential bid in the ’60s, despite historical fiction being low on the list of what I was looking for and the fact I warned people away from sending me humorous novels (I have a particular sense of humor). Like I mentioned in my wish list last year, good stories often transcend my genre preferences, so if you’re worried that your weird little book doesn’t fit firmly on someone’s wish list, feel free to submit to me so long as it belongs to one of the genres I’m accepting.
My Primary Genres
Fantasy: My debut novel is epic fantasy, so this is definitely the genre I’m *most* comfortable working with. I’m accepting all subgenres, from the most far-fetched high fantasy to urban/contemporary fantasies set on Earth. Interesting characters are what I care about, so don’t worry about your setting coming off as too strange.
Other favorite fantasy novels not mentioned on my mentor profile are: SIX OF CROWS by Leigh Bardugo, THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA by Scott Lynch, KINGS OF THE WYLD by Nicholas Eames, and anything by Andrzej Sapkowski. I love gritty books that don’t shy away from violence, so long as that violence isn’t over the top like an ‘80s horror flick.
If you can give me a sci-fi fantasy hybrid like HEROES DIE by Matthew Woodring Stover or ASHES OF THE SUN by Django Wexler, I’d love to see that too.
Science Fiction: I’m accepting all subgenres of science fiction; near-future and space opera especially. I’m a sucker for “grounded” science fiction, which I define as consisting of technology that “could” exist in the next 100 years. After finishing high school, I desperately wanted to become an astrophysicist like Brian Greene, Brian Cox, or Neil DeGrasse Tyson. I was obsessed with space and the regular existential crises that followed. I love thinking about humanity’s place among the stars (i.e. THE EXPANSE series by James S.A. Corey or THE MARTIAN and PROJECT HAIL MARY by Andy Weir scratches this itch very well), and that’s because it makes me optimistic about where we as a species might go. If you have a story like this, I’m all for it. I’ll absolutely still accept other subgenres of science fiction, though. RED RISING by Pierce Brown and THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS by Ursula Le Guin are two of my favorite books and they’re far from grounded.
Other Genres I Accept
Horror: I think many fledgling horror writers succumb to the same pitfalls seen in horror movies; as in, the writers become too focused on the scares to the point where characters and story development fall to the way side. I’m accepting horror, but I’m going to be picky. Send me horror with an honest effort in character development and story. I’m partial to psychological horror over body horror, a la HOUSE OF LEAVES by Mark Z. Danielewski or THE SHINING by Stephen King.
Historical: I loved THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak and THE KITE RUNNER by Khaled Hosseini. I’m also a big fan of the show The Last Kingdom (and I consider it a travesty that I haven’t gotten to the book series this show was adapted from!). I’m contradicting myself considering I just mentioned The Book Thief, but I would prefer not to receive any historical fiction set during WW2, as it’s the most popular and explored era for this genre.
Steampunk: Give me steampunk with a strong sense of setting and plenty of grit like PERDIDO STREET STATION by China Miéville, or give me something well-paced and set in alternate history like THE MECHANICAL by Ian Tregillis.
The Fated Category: NA
I am accepting NA. However, I will, in all likelihood, request that you re-categorize it to Adult. This is because when you’re submitting to agents and editors, often times (note that I didn’t say every time) you can call a novel NA or Adult and have it be the same story. You’re shooting yourself in the foot by labeling it NA.
Feel free to submit your NA story to me, and despite my words of warning above, be comforted in knowing that although I’ll ask you to re-categorize, there isn’t a high chance I’ll request any in-manuscript changes predicated solely on its NA elements. I do realize there are certain story elements common in NA, such as heavy romance, but since I’m not accepting novels with heavy romance, I doubt I’ll see submissions labeled NA with stronger arguments for keeping it NA.
Story Elements I Can Never Get Enough Of
Story elements I like to see often transcend my genre preferences, so if your manuscript sits in one of the genres I’m accepting but isn’t SF/F (my bread and butter), but contains one or more of the below, you have a higher chance of catching my interest.
Protagonists who earn their power. You’ll see in my “What I Don’t Want” section below that I don’t like Chosen One stories; give me the inverse of that. Give me someone who uses their intelligence, perseverance, ingenuity, or strength of character to gain all their power.
Stories that mask thought experiments with entertainment. There’s a reason DARK MATTER by Blake Crouch is one of my favorite novels (I almost included RECURSION by Blake Crouch as well, but left it off my Favorite Books list for the sake of variety). I love stories that entertain the shit out of me, but I will never forget a book that thoroughly explores a “What If” scenario and makes me look at reality a little differently. SPIN by Robert Charles Wilson is a great example, as it explores how life might develop on Mars, or how humanity might deal with the death of the solar system. THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS is a great example too, as it provides an anthropological look at what a society of hermaphroditic humans would look like.
Writers who use their day-job expertise to tell a story. It’s why I loved Michael Crichton, Ursula Le Guin, and John Grisham; they were a biological anthropologist, a cultural anthropologist, and a lawyer, respectively. Don’t have formal education? That’s okay. Andy Weir studies science and engineering as a hobby, but his knowledge really showed in THE MARTIAN. If you can give me insight into a subject while telling a strong story, I will fight whoever I have to so I can become your mentor. Bonus points if your expertise is in STEM.
(For fantasy submissions only) Unique magic systems. I’m a big fan of this. While many story elements should remain mostly the same (like including rising action, a climax, a relatable protagonist, etc.), magic systems are one of those things in fantasy where the sky is the limit. All that matters is that you’re consistent. While I don’t require an entire rule book for your magic system (in fact, I prefer mystique and don’t like overly developed systems that turn into a numbers game), you’ll have my attention if it’s unique.
What I Don’t Want
- Anything outside the genres listed above, obviously.
- Anything that was previously self-published. This is stated in the Pitch Wars submission guidelines, but I’m reiterating here.
- Submissions from anyone I’ve traded work with or who was a mentee in 2016. I want this process to be as unbiased as possible.
- High word counts. This might be hard to hear for some of you considering I specialize in a genre known for high word counts, and up until this point I might have sounded like the perfect fantasy mentor for you, but the sad reality is that Pitch Wars does not mix with big, chonky novels. This is a 3-month mentorship program and I’ll be reading through your novel at least twice. 150k is the soft cap; the further you stray above this line, the less likely I am to consider it.
- Chosen One stories. If your protagonist comes of age and finds out they have a hidden power that was passed down from their parents (who are either dead or believed to be dead), then I’m not the mentor for you. I won’t call Chosen One stories a deal breaker, but it has to feel truly fresh for me to find it interesting.
- Gratuitous tragedy or misery porn. Don’t mistake this with violence, though; I love dark and gritty. I just don’t want to see 400 pages of the main character being tortured by tragic life event after tragic life event, only to end with them in a worse spot than where they were when the book began. Give me tragedy, but give me characters who are capable of overcoming it.
- Stories with faeries or angels/demons.
- Biblical retellings or faith-based fiction. I’m definitely not the right person for this.
My Ideal Mentee Is:
- Someone who can take feedback. When I pick a mentee, it is with the intention that I give their story that extra oomph it needs to grab agent attention. If the story was ready to be published, I would tell that person their story is amazing and they don’t need to wait months for the agent showcase! They need to be querying ASAP! It’s a 1-in-a-1000 case this would happen, but my point is that feedback is an integral part of the story development process. However, this does not mean you can’t push back on feedback. In fact, I’m expecting it. I’m just not interested in a mentee who only sees me as a stepping stone to the agent showcase and not as someone who can help them improve their story.
- Someone who isn’t racist or intolerant of LGBTQ+/marginalized/disabled communities.
- Someone who is completely honest with me (I’m reiterating part of the first bullet here). If I give feedback or any writing/publishing-related advice that you disagree with, don’t be afraid to offer your opinion. I want us to have an open dialogue on writing craft if you have any questions.
- Someone who doesn’t mind me giving them all the support and cheer leading. I desperately want you to succeed the way I wanted to as a mentee. Pitch Wars will be one of the most emotionally taxing experiences you’ll deal with, and I want to provide whatever support I can to help you get through it.
My Mentor Style
Methods of communication will entirely depend on your preference. Do you prefer Skype, with or without video? Do you prefer email? I’m open to whatever makes you feel most comfortable. I will, however, in all likelihood ask that we speak during the initial meeting since there will be a lot of ground to cover.
When it comes to my editorial style, I’m all about economy of words. I’m going to push that you say as much as possible in as few words as possible. You should expect to hear me constantly asking, “Does this word/sentence/paragraph/scene need to be here?” At the same time, it’s not unusual for me to highlight a word or sentence and add a note about my thoughts that spans multiple paragraphs. You’ll never wonder why I’m giving a particular piece of feedback, I can promise you that.
You Made It To The End!
If you read everything and still consider me a great fit for your manuscript, I look forward to seeing your submission. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to tweet or DM me on Twitter: @ClayHarmonII. And if you’d like to check out the other wonderful Adult mentors, continue below.
Pitch Wars 2021 Adult Mentors’ Wish Lists
- Anna Kaling (Accepts NA)
- Ian Barnes (Accepts NA)
- Jackson Ford
- Jake Nicholls (Accepts NA)
- Jesse Q. Sutanto and Grace Shim
- Charish Reid and Denise Williams
- Saara El-Arifi (Accepts NA)
- Rosie Danan and Ruby Barrett (Accepts NA)
- Carolyne Topdjian
- Falon Ballard and Brooke Abrams
- Mary Keliikoa (Accepts NA)
- E.A. Aymar
- Amanda Elliot (Accepts NA)
- Kelly Siskind
- Vaishnavi Patel and Sarah Mughal (Accepts NA)
- Mary Ann Marlowe and Laura Elizabeth (Accepts NA)
- Mia P. Manansala (Accepts NA)
- Peggy Rothschild (Accepts NA)
- Natalka Burian
- Courtney Kae and Jenny L. Howe (Accepts NA)
- Rochelle Karina (Accepts NA)
- Swati Hegde (Accepts NA)
- Nanci Schwartz and LL Montez
- Paris Wynters
- Hudson Lin
- Sarah Remy (Accepts NA)
- AM Kvita (Accepts NA)
- Heather Van Fleet and Jessica Calla (Accepts NA)
- Melissa Colasanti (Accepts NA)
- J.A. Crawford (Accepts NA)
- Michella S. Domenici
- Yvette Yun and Marith Zoli (Accepts NA)
- Sari Coritz and Rosalie M Lin (Accepts NA)
- Stephenie Magister and Noreen (Accepts NA)
- Regina Black and Nikki Payne (Accepts NA)
- Farah Heron and Namrata Patel
- Alicia Thompson and Amy Lea (Accepts NA)
- Lyn Liao Butler
- Preslaysa Williams (Accepts NA)
- Keena Roberts and Molly Steen (Accepts NA)
- Alexandria Bellefleur (Accepts NA)
- Samantha Rajaram
- Ashley Winstead
- Clay Harmon (Accepts NA)
- Rob Hart
- Cole Nagamatsu and Sequoia Nagamatsu
- N.E. Davenport (Accepts NA)
- Katherine Lim
- Alexia Gordon
- Cynthia Pelayo (Accepts NA)
Click here to view all Pitch Wars 2021 Mentors’ Wish Lists. To view the wish lists by genre, visit this link.