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QUITE THE QUERY: Jennifer Blackwood’s UNETHICAL October 31, 2014

QuiteTheQuery

 

 

 

 

If you ask any writer about the process of connecting with their agent (or publisher), the majority will say the most difficult part was querying. Not only the actual process of sending out the letters/emails, but formulating the query itself. In fact, I’ve heard more than a few writers say writing their query took them almost as long as drafting their book!

 

Some people have the talent of being able to summarize their book in a few sentences. But for those who don’t, I wanted to provide a resource so writers could learn what works, and what doesn’t, in a query.

 

With that in mind, I’m pleased to share today’s successful query from Jennifer Blackwood. This great query connected her with her agent, Courtney Miller-Callihan of Greenburger Associates.

 

 

 

The last week of Payton Daniels’s senior year of high school her M.D. father did something unforgivable—he killed her mother—and created the biggest medical scandal of the decade. Fleeing to Florida State after graduation, she severed ties with everything from her past, including her long-term boyfriend. But when scholarship money runs out, twenty-year-old Payton has no choice but to go back to California and enroll at Drexler University to escape debt purgatory, and lay low until she applies to medical school in the spring.

 

As classes begin, Payton discovers her Medical Ethics teacher, who steers every class discussion to her father’s illegal use of assisted suicide, is on the medical admissions board. Worse, she runs into her ex-high school sweetheart, Blake Hiller, who also happens to be a med major and is enrolled in the same class.

 

Blake does everything in his power to make class as awkward as possible for Payton. As if being at the same university isn’t close enough, they both apply for a medical internship and both receive positions. Being forced together for hours each week is just what the soon-to-be doctor ordered. With their relationship burning hotter than an Erlenmeyer flask on a Bunsen burner, Payton feels her walls melting down. But when Payton is asked to testify in her father’s high-profile trial, she must decide if she is willing to help her father and risk her acceptance to medical school or discard her past—including the only guy she’s ever loved.

 

UNETHICAL is a 64,000 word dual narrative New Adult Contemporary Romance. It has a topical focus like Robin York’s Deeper, with a lighter, humorous voice reminiscent of Cora Carmack’s Faking It.

 

 

 

Query tidbit from Jennifer:

 

My agent was part of the first batch of queries I sent out in October, 2013. She offered representation in March, 2014! Don’t give up. Querying (for most people) takes a long time!

 

 

 

 

 

Unethical

 

Now available for purchase via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and iTunes.

 

 

 

Jen Blackwood author photoJennifer Blackwood is an English teacher and New Adult author. She lives in Oregon with her husband, son, and poorly behaved black lab puppy. When she isn’t writing or teaching, she’s binging on Veronica Mars episodes and white cheddar popcorn. Blackwood writes about gray area issues with steamy tension and sizzling romance. But don’t worry—her tortured heroes always get their happily ever after they deserve. She is represented by the fabulous Courtney Miller-Callihan from Greenburger Associates. Her debut novel, UNETHICAL, is now available from Entangled Embrace.

 

W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday with Jen McConnel October 29, 2014

WOW

 

 

 

Persistence. It is the driving force that pushes many writers on, urging them to send one more query or write that next manuscript. In today’s W.O.W., Jen McConnel talks about how each “no” she received drove her to work her harder and fight for the ever elusive “yes” in publishing. It is that persistence that has brought Jen success and allowed her to have three novels published in the last two years!

 

Many thanks to Jen for sharing her writing odyssey…

 

 

Amy: When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

 

Jen: I’ve been writing as long as I can remember! The first “novel” I remember attempting to write, however, was (get this!) a sequel to the sequel to GONE WITH THE WIND. I filled a lined notebook with my version of what happened next, and I had grand dreams of publication, even in middle school (yes, I read GWTW when I was way too young to understand it the first time!). It didn’t occur to me that I’d basically written fan fiction until years later.

 

 

Amy: You write both Young Adult and New Adult fiction. Do you prefer one over the other?

 

Jen: They’re both my babies, but there are things I enjoy about each. I love the YA voice, and maybe it’s just that I’m in touch with my inner teen, but I find YA characters easy to slip into. With NA, I enjoy the breadth of “what next” topics that exist in our twenties; I’ve written about love, travel, lies, betrayal, and work, and I’ve barely scratched the surface of what makes the New Adult experience so rich.

 

 

Amy: How many manuscripts had you completed prior to DAUGHTER OF CHAOS?

 

Jen: Let me see; there are three in a drawer that will never see the light of day, plus ISOBEL, so that makes DAUGHTER my fifth completed manuscript. I finished the first draft in 2011, and it came out this year. SO exciting to see this book on bookstore shelves!

 

 

Amy: You’ve had many jobs that involved books in one way or the other (middle school teacher, librarian, bookseller). How do you think those experiences affected your approach to writing?

 

Jen: I’m a writer because I’m a reader, and I think my reader-self has a lot of influence in my career choices. In one way or another, my work has revolved around promoting literacy and encouraging joy in reading, and I think that’s really what makes me want to write; I love getting lost in a good story, and I hope I can tell stories that someone can inhabit in the same way! I’d also say teaching both middle school and college have helped sharpen my narrative voice (and are probably why I gravitate toward either YA or NA, come to think of it!)

 

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Amy: As many writers know the publishing world is very hard to break into. What was the one thing you did to help garner attention for your books?

 

Jen: I think the biggest thing that’s helped me is persistence. Maybe it was my experience in retail in college, but I’m dogged in pursuit of the things I want, and I firmly believe that each “no” you hear brings you one step closer to “yes”; you won’t get your book accepted (or that review request acknowledged, or the blurb request completed, or invited to speak at a school, or…) if you aren’t willing to keep asking. Rejection happens at every level of the publishing process, but I try to remember that every time I hear “no”, it means I’m increasing my chances of hearing that magical “yes”. Persistence pays off!

 

 

Amy: What advice did you get early on in your writing career that you still use today?

 

Jen: Keep writing. I don’t remember which teacher first told me that, but it’s my mantra. I wrote all the time as a kid, but I stopped in high school and college; I missed it, but I didn’t think I was good enough to be a “real” writer. But here’s a secret: you are a writer as soon as you say you are, but you have to keep writing. Even if it’s only ten minutes every day, even if you get bogged down with rejections or negativity, keep writing. Writing is more than telling stories for me; it’s a source of sanity.

 

 

 

Daughter of Chaos

 

 

 

Witches must choose the path they will follow, and Darlena Agara is no exception. She’s been putting it off long enough, and in her case, ignoring it has not made it go away. In a moment of frustration, Darlena chooses to follow Red Magic, figuring she had outsmarted the powers that be, since there’s no such thing as Red Magic. But alas, Darlena’s wrong (again) and she becomes a newly declared Red Witch.

 

Her friends are shocked and her parents horrified by the choice Darlena has made. As a Red Witch, she now governs one third of the world’s chaos. She is the walking personification of pandemonium, turmoil, and bedlam, just as the patrons of Red Magic would have it to be.

 

But Darlena believes there must be more to Red Magic than chaos and destruction, and she sets out on a journey to achieve balance. Only doing so puts her at odds with the dark goddess Hecate, who simply will not allow Darlena to quit. She encourages Darlena to embrace who and what she is and to leave good magic to the good witches. If only Darlena could, life would be simple, and she would not be the Daughter of Chaos.

 

 

 

 

Iso Key

 

 

 

Lou is in the middle of a quarter-life crisis. Fresh out of college, she’s unemployed and unsure of herself. But when she gets the chance to escape to Scotland with her best friend, it could be the answer to her quest for self-discovery. The trip is not at all what she expected, especially when her tour guide turns out to be the dreamy historian Brian, and together they embark on a hunt for information about Isobel Key, a woman accused of witchcraft in the seventeenth century.

 

They set out to learn the truth of the condemned witch, but Lou isn’t prepared for the knowledge that awaits her. She must face her own demons if she has any hope of righting the wrongs of the past.

 

Flashing between seventeenth century Scotland and a contemporary romance, THE SECRET OF ISOBEL KEY is a mystery that will please readers of all ages.

 

 

 

 

 

Secret Inheritance

 

 

 

 

Five years ago, an impulsive trip to Scotland changed her life. Now Lou is back in the misty, magical country. But this time, she’s not on vacation.

 

When Brian, her old Highland fling, turns up at the scene of some depressing family business, tension mounts between the former lovers. But dealing with him is only part of the problem; something wicked is stirring in Scotland. Lou must use all her strength to handle the increasingly desperate situation, but will she be strong enough to battle both a vengeful ghost and her heart?

 

Lou may have thought that she was finished with the witch Isobel Key, but some secrets can’t stay buried forever.

 

 

 

Jen McConnel

Jen McConnel first began writing poetry as a child. A Michigander by birth, she now lives and writes in the beautiful state of North Carolina. A graduate of Western Michigan University, she also holds a MS in Library Science from Clarion University of Pennsylvania. When she isn’t crafting worlds of fiction, she teaches college writing composition and yoga. Once upon a time, she was a middle school teacher, a librarian, and a bookseller, but those are stories for another time. Her fiction titles include DAUGHTER OF CHAOS (YA), THE SECRET OF ISOBEL KEY (NA), and the recently released sequel, HER SECRET INHERITANCE. Visit http://www.jenmcconnel.com  to learn more or connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest.

 

MONDAY MUSINGS: WHERE’S THE MAGIC? October 27, 2014

Filed under: Blog,Inspiration,Publishing,writing craft — chasingthecrazies @ 9:38 am
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Sherlock gif

 

 

 

There’s nothing like the exhilaration of typing “The End” on your story. It’s an incredible feeling of accomplishment that makes you want to shout from the rooftops, “I wrote an entire book!!” That elation can put you in a powerful place for a while but then the inevitable happens – you have to start a new book.

 

For most people, opening a Word document is not a terrifying act. But for writers it can be a heart-pounding, nausea-inducing event. Why? Because there’s nothing more frightening than looking at a blank document and wondering if the writing “magic” will return. If your muse will  grant you the grace to craft another manuscript, or if the evil turd known as “writer’s block” will take hold and make the process grueling.

 

A couple of weeks ago I let that little devil known as doubt sink into my head. The black cursor blinked at me from the top of the page one, mocking me to try again. See if I could make the “magic” of creating a story happen for another time. For an hour I paced around my office looking at my notes plastered all over the wall, wondering whether this new idea was solid enough to work.

 

If you’ve experienced any of this, you’re not alone. I believe everyone has serious misgivings when they start a new story. If they didn’t, I’d wonder where they got their confidence and beg them to send some my way. The key for me is to channel that doubt and fear and use them to drive me to put words on the page. Stand up to the worry that this manuscript won’t be as solid as the last, and type one word after the other until I feel things flow.

 

What I’ve learned over time is there will always be the fear your next story won’t be as good as the last, but you’ll never know if you don’t try. So write one sentence, and then another. Don’t look back. Don’t fret. Simply tell the tale inside you. It may not be pretty at first, but they are words on the page and that puts you one step closer to feeling that magic again.

 

What about you? Do you have ways to pump yourself up before you write a new story? Do you build a Pinterest board or create a playlist? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

 

 

 

Cover Reveal: Dahlia Adler’s LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT October 22, 2014

Filed under: Blog,Cover reveal,New Adult,Publishing — chasingthecrazies @ 6:42 am
Tags: , , ,

There are many intelligent writers on Twitter who offer up common sense advice on the publishing business as a whole, but none of them are as funny and insightful as the Recing-Ball herself, Dahlia Adler. Now, I’m not going to mince words here, I SIMPLY LOVE DAHLIA. When I was a writer first starting out, she answered my questions, agreed to guest post on this blog, and has always been very encouraging.

 

I knew Dahlia was an amazing writer, but it wasn’t until I read her debut, BEHIND THE SCENES (BTS), that I came to realize her extraordinary talent.  While I was thrilled to hear there will be a companion novel to BTS, UNDER THE LIGHTS, I was even more excited when Dahlia announced she was self-publishing her New Adult novel, LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT.

 

Here is the blurb:

 

Lizzie Brandt was valedictorian of her high school class, but at Radleigh University, all she’s acing are partying and hooking up with the wrong guys. But all that changes when her parents are killed in a tragic accident, making her guardian to her two younger brothers. To keep them out of foster care, she’ll have to fix up her image, her life, and her GPA—fast. Too bad the only person on campus she can go to for help is her humorless, pedantic Byzantine History TA, Connor Lawson, who isn’t exactly Lizzie’s biggest fan.

 

But Connor surprises her. Not only is he a great tutor, but he’s also a pretty great babysitter. And chauffeur. And listener. And he understands exactly what it’s like to be on your own before you’re ready. Before long, Lizzie realizes having a responsible-adult type around has its perks… and that she’d like to do some rather irresponsible (but considerably adult) things with him as well. Good thing he’s not the kind of guy who’d ever reciprocate.

 

Until he does.

 

Until they turn into far more than teacher and student.

 

Until the relationship that helped put their lives back together threatens everything they both have left.

 

 

And here is the beautiful cover…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LastWillandTestamentCoverHighRes

 

 

I can’t tell you how excited I am to get my hands on this book which will be available December 9, 2014!

 

 

 

DahliaAdler

Dahlia Adler is an Assistant Editor of Mathematics by day, a Copy Editor by night, and a YA/NA author and blogger at every spare moment in between. More often than not, you can find her on Twitter as @MissDahlELama, and if you tweet her pictures of macarons, she just might fall in love with you. She lives in New York City with her husband and their overstuffed bookshelves.

 

 

QUITE THE QUERY with Mary Elizabeth Summer and TRUST ME, I’M LYING October 17, 2014

QuiteTheQuery

 

 

If you ask any writer about the process of connecting with their agent (or publisher), the majority will say the most difficult part was querying. Not only the actual process of sending out the letters/emails, but formulating the query itself. In fact, I’ve heard more than a few writers say writing their query took them almost as long as drafting their book!

 

Some people have the talent of being able to summarize their book in a few sentences. But for those who don’t, I wanted to provide a resource so writers could learn what works, and what doesn’t, in a query.

 

With that in mind, I’m pleased to share today’s successful query from Mary Elizabeth Summer. This great query connected her with her agent, Laura Bradford of Bradford Literary Agency.

 

 

Julep Dupree is not a real person. In fact, Julep isn’t even her real name. She’s a grifter, a con artist, a master of disguise, and a sophomore at St. Agatha High. The downside of St. Agatha’s is that its private-school price tag is a bit higher than Julep’s father, an old-school grifter with a weakness for the ponies, can afford. So Julep makes up the difference by running petty scams for her classmates, while dodging the dean of students and maintaining an A+ (okay, A-) average.

 

But when she comes home one day to a ransacked apartment and a missing dad, Julep’s carefully laid plans for an expenses-paid golden ticket to Yale start to unravel. Even with help from St. Agatha’s resident Prince Charming, Tyler Richland, Julep struggles to trace her dad’s trail of clues through a maze of creepy stalkers, hit attempts, family secrets, and worse, the threat of foster care. With everything she has left at stake, Julep must tap all her resources and use every grift in the book to find her dad before his mark finds her.

 

 

Query tidbit from Mary Elizabeth:

 

After I wrote my query, I entered a weekly blog post query-critique contest and won the query critique! The author who hosted the contest and critiqued my query offered some suggestions for wording changes to my query’s plot summary that ultimately made the whole query sing. Her tweaked version became my final query. The author who critiqued my query was Michelle Krys, author of HEXED and CHARMED. And, as it turned out, we ended up landing the same editor from the same publishing house and debuting the same year. Though we’re now editor sisters and good buddies, with a lot of shared experiences, I will always remember that the first time I met Michelle was when she very graciously (and effectively!) critiqued my query.

 

 

 

 

TrustMe

 

 

 

Now available via Powell’s, Barnes and Noble, and IndieBound.

 

 

MESummers

Mary Elizabeth Summer contributes to the delinquency of minors by writing books about unruly teenagers with criminal leanings. She has a BA in creative writing from Wells College, and her philosophy on life is “you can never go wrong with sriracha sauce.” She lives in Portland with her partner, their daughter, and their evil overlor-er, cat. TRUST ME, I’M LYING is her debut novel. For more on Mary Elizabeth, check out her website or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or Pinterest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday with Kate Karyus Quinn October 15, 2014

WOW

 

 

One of the things I love most about this blog is getting to interview authors.  Nine times out of ten, I send them questions thinking I’ll know what their answers are going to be, but the authors always surprise me with their responses. Today’s W.O.W. with Kate Karyus Quinn is a perfect example. Both of her Young Adult novels take on dark and gritty themes, and I thought of course she must have some reasoning behind her ideas – but surprise, surprise that could not be further from the truth. Read question number five below to see what I mean. And huge kudos to Kate for being so honest in this interview!

 

 

Amy: At what age did you truly know you wanted to be a writer?

 

Kate: In second grade my best friend and I decided that we were going to live in a gigantic mansion in California when we grew up and write books for a living. I got a little distracted from that goal in high school when the theatre bug bit me. So it was only after getting a BFA in theatre and an MFA in film and television production (which I moved to California to pursue, so check on that part of my second grade goal), that I got around to realizing what I really wanted to do with my life was pretty much the thing I thought I wanted to do when I was just a dumb kid who didn’t know anything.

 

 

 

Amy: When did you complete your first manuscript?

 

Kate: In December of 2007. That was the same year my first child was born. These two events happening together is not a coincidence. I was home with my son and he was a really great napper, so I had some time on my hands. Prior to this I had many many many beginnings of novels, but never got much further than that. Taking what I knew from having completed several screenplays from start to finish, I sat down and for the first time wrote a complete book.

 

 

 

Amy: How many completed manuscripts did you query before one garnered agent interest?

 

Kate: Three. My first book was a romance novel. It wasn’t the worst thing ever written, but it was a little too derivative to stand out. Strike one. My second book was an urban fantasy. It was way more original. Unfortunately, the plot was a disaster that no amount of rewriting could fix. Finally, my third book was a young adult novel. It was weird and I struggled to keep the plot from going off the rails, but in the end it all came together. This was, ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE, the book that got me an agent and a two book with HarperTeen.

 

 

 

Amy: Are you one of those people who has an easy time writing a query or does it take several tries before you land on the one you want to send?

 

Kate: I am terrible at writing queries, and even worse when it comes to the disgusting thing known as a synopsis. However, there are lots of people who are good at them and who after you struggle to write them, will help you make it better. Find those people. Make friends with those people. Bribe them if need be. And in the meantime, keep working on writing queries. It does get a bit easier over time.

 

 

 

Amy: You seem to have an amazing knack for writing dark, gritty stories. Where did the inspiration for ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE come from?

 

Kate: I have no idea. I honestly don’t set out to write dark or scary stories, but somehow my stories just tend to drift in that direction. The funny thing is that I am a total weenie. I’m afraid of the dark and I don’t watch horror movies because I get too scared and I just can’t handle it. Really, the way ALP came together was I just kept asking myself, “What would be interesting to have happen here?” Then I’d think of something like, my main character telling another girl to cut her heart out of her chest. That passed ‘is it interesting’ test, so it was in.

 

 

 

Amy: Can you give us a short summary of your call with your agent, Alexandra Machinist? How did you know she was the right fit for you?

 

Kate: This is such a hard thing to know, and you really just have to go with your gut. I really felt like I clicked with Alexandra on the phone and I also really liked how she was willing to fight for her clients when necessary. Since I am a huge weenie (see above) this was something I found super appealing and reassuring.

 

 

 

Amy: The writing process is grueling and querying even more difficult. What one piece of advice can you impart to aspiring writers to encourage them to keep working towards their dream?

 

 

Kate: It is so grueling. I know, I have been there. And so many of my friends who have also been published, were also there. I know people who spent ten years or more writing and querying before getting an agent and a book deal. You just can’t give up. Keep working on your craft. Connect with other writers. And go forward. You’ll get there eventually.

 

 

 

 

 

Another Little Piece

 

 

The spine-tingling horror of Stephen King meets an eerie mystery worthy of Sara Shepard’s Pretty Little Liars series.

 

On a cool autumn night, Annaliese Rose Gordon stumbled out of the woods and into a high school party. She was screaming. Drenched in blood. Then she vanished.

 

A year later, Annaliese is found wandering down a road hundreds of miles away. She doesn’t know who she is. She doesn’t know how she got there. She only knows one thing: She is not the real Annaliese Rose Gordon.

 

Now Annaliese is haunted by strange visions and broken memories. Memories of a reckless, desperate wish . . . a bloody razor . . . and the faces of other girls who disappeared. Piece by piece, Annaliese’s fractured memories come together to reveal a violent, endless cycle that she will never escape—unless she can unlock the twisted secrets of her past.

 

 

 

 

(Don't You) Forget About Me final cover

 

 

 

Welcome to Gardnerville.

 

A place where no one gets sick. And almost no one ever dies.

 

Except…

 

There’s a price to pay for paradise. Every fourth year, the strange power that fuels the town exacts its payment by infecting teens with deadly urges. In a normal year in Gardnerville, teens might stop talking to their best friends. In a fourth year, they’d kill them.

 

Four years ago, Skylar’s sister, Piper, was locked away after leading sixteen of her classmates to a watery grave. Since then, Skylar has lived in a numb haze, struggling to forget her past and dull the pain of losing her sister. But the secrets and memories Piper left behind keep taunting Skylar—whispering that the only way to get her sister back is to stop Gardnerville’s murderous cycle once and for all.

 

 

 

 

KKQuinnKate Karyus Quinn has a BFA in Theatre from Niagara University and an MFA in Film and Television Production from Chapman University.

After growing up in the suburbs of Buffalo, NY, Kate left her hometown for Southern California and film school. After finishing her degree, she moved with her husband to Knoxville, Tennessee. However, just recently she made the move back home, with her husband and two children in tow. She promised them wonderful people, amazing food, and weather that would… build character.

Kate is first and foremost an avid reader and unapologetic booknerd. Although, she mostly reads YA and romance, she often samples different genres in her constant search for the next great read.

Kate is represented by Alexandra Machinist of ICM. Her young adult novels, ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE and (DON’T YOU) FORGET ABOUT ME, both from HarperTeen, are now available wherever books are sold.

 

 

 

MONDAY MUSINGS: How Much Do You Want It? October 13, 2014

Over the last two years I ‘ve sent over a hundred requests to writers asking if they would participate in my Writer Odyssey Wednesday series. Out of those hundred, I have only had five people say “no” to me. Many of those were because people were on tight deadlines. But one “no” in particular stands out, and I want to share that story today.

 

When I approached the writer to participate in the series, she was very gracious and explained that I didn’t want her story. Why? Because it did not follow the norm. She wrote one manuscript, queried two agents, and received two offers of representation. She admitted she wasn’t a great example of what really happens in the publishing world. I appreciated the writer’s honesty and it started me thinking about each individual’s commitment to the process.

 

If you’re on Twitter, you see the announcements every day. Someone signed with an agent or got a book deal. But what you don’t know is how long it took them to get there. Yes, I’ve interviewed some who have had a very easy road, but others have written up to five manuscripts and queried for years before they got those bites.

 

Which brings me to my thought for today: If you’re struggling, have you ever questioned how much you really want this publishing dream? Have you given yourself a deadline, or a number of books to write before you give up? Or do you never intend to give up? Keep writing until something sparks no matter how long it takes.

 

I’m in the latter group. Never once did I think I was going to give myself three tries and then I’m out. Maybe it’s because I’m ultra competitive, or because I’ve made my goals known on this blog and I knew you guys would never let me give up. No matter, I think it’s an honest question every writer asks themself at one time or another because it’s easy to get down when things aren’t going well.

 

In fact, in many of my W.O.W. interviews I have asked, “Did you ever think about giving up on writing dream?” Many have admitted they have been down, and perhaps taken a break, but never entirely given up. Others have flat-out said, “no” because writing is in their blood, and they can’t ever imagine stopping whether they find success or not.

 

The key thing for me is to think about all the possibilities. There are so many paths available to writers these days. Traditional presses, small presses, digital-first, as well as self-publishing. With all of these options, I think the best thing to wonder is not, “How much do I want it?” but “What am I going to do to make it happen?”

 

What about you fellow writers? Have you ever stopped and questioned how much you really want that publishing dream? Have you considered each and every avenue to achieve your goal? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

 

 

 
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