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W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday with Sarah Guillory July 23, 2014





Passion. As a writer it’s what drives us. Passion for the written word. For building a story that transports readers to another place and time. It’s also passion that allows us to focus on our dream of being published. In today’s W.O.W., featured author, Sarah Guillory, talks about passion and how as a teacher she encourages her students to find their passion, whatever it may be, and turn it into something that drives them. Great advice for any of us navigating the crazy world of publishing.


Many thanks to Sarah for sharing her writing odyssey today…



Amy: When did you first begin seriously writing with the intent of wanting to be published?

Sarah: I began writing seriously in the fall of 2009, though I’m not so sure I really believed I would be published. “Seriously” to me meant writing every day. I wrote my first novel over three months that fall, and it was the most exciting and exhilarating experience, but, to be honest, I think I always knew that book wasn’t “the one.” It was my practice novel. It wasn’t until I began revising my first draft of RECLAIMED (summer of 2011) that I realized how badly I wanted it to be published.



Amy: You currently teach high school English. Do your students inspire your story ideas?

Sarah: I get asked this question a lot, but they really don’t. My characters and their stories come to me through dreams, songs, newspaper articles, etc, but I’ve never had an idea or character come from a student. I’ve stolen a last name and an allergy from a student, but I’ve never had one be an inspiration for a character or idea.



Amy: One of the things I loved about RECLAIMED was the distinctive voices. Do you find it hard to write male POV?

Sarah: Thank you! The easy answer would be to say yes, but it’s not really the truth. I didn’t really have to work much on Luke’s voice – it came to me fully-formed. I struggled a bit with Ian’s, but honestly, Jenna’s voice was much harder to get right. But my current project also has both male and female POVs, and her voice was easier than his this time around.



Amy: How many manuscripts had you written prior to RECLAIMED? Was the query process long for you or did it go smoothly?

Sarah: I’d only written one other manuscript prior to RECLAIMED, and I only sent a few queries out. As I mentioned before, it never felt like “the one.” With RECLAIMED, I queried on and off for about a year, but sent queries out only one or two at a time. I know most people advise against that, but I researched agents extensively before sending it out, and research takes time. So I would send it out, do more research, and send more out a few months later. My query letters are never good, so I put it up in the forums at WriteonCon, which is where my editor at Spencer Hill found it. I got my agent, Marcy Posner, with my newest project, about three months after I began querying it.



Amy: Do you use beta readers or critique partners? If so, how instrumental are they to your writing process?

Sarah: I have the most amazing critique partners, but I found them late in the revising process for RECLAIMED. I’d already done several rounds of revisions on my own, no beta readers (other than family). They really helped tighten it up. With my newest project, I had two beta readers as well as my two critique partners. I never send them rough drafts, because my rough drafts are exceptionally rough. I do at least one round of revisions before I send it to them. They leave detailed inline notes and don’t let me get away with being sloppy or lazy AT ALL. I love that about them.



Amy: What can you tell me about your “call” with your agent, Marcy Posner? How did you know she was the right fit for you?

Sarah: My call with my agent is probably a little different, since I was sitting in the National Gallery of Art. We both had crazy schedules prior to the call, and I was out of town the next time we were both available, so I spent the morning looking at paintings, had a nice lunch (including a glass of wine to calm me down), and went upstairs to chat with her. But the phone call was a formality at that point. I knew Marcy was the right fit for me when she sent me her edit letter. She sent it to me prior to our phone call so we could discuss it when she called. It was an amazing letter – the parts she loved were the parts I loved, and the areas where she suggested work were places I knew needed attention. She spent an entire paragraph talking about punctuation, and she referenced both Faulkner and John Donne. This English teacher swooned.



Amy: Was there ever a time you thought about giving up on your writing dream? If so, what motivated you to keep writing?

Sarah: There was never a moment when I gave up on my writing dream, although there were a few times when I was frustrated and wondered if pursuing publication was worth the stress. But I knew I would never give up writing, because I couldn’t. I’d tried. I’d told myself for years I wasn’t talented enough to be a writer, and yet, even when I tried to do other things, I found myself stopping and writing from time to time. I couldn’t keep myself from writing. Scenes and sentences would float through my mind and I would hurry to scribble them down. When you’re a writer, you’re a WRITER – it’s what you do even when you know it might break your heart. But I am also very stubborn, so I continued to pursue publication, even on the days when it was hard.



Amy: I’m sure your writing success has inspired your students. What do you tell them about the ups and downs of publishing and pursuing their dreams?

Sarah: The one thing I want for all of my students is for them to be able to pursue their passions – whatever form they take – and I tell them that the only person who can stop you from pursuing those passions is you. I stood in my own way for a long time. But if it’s something you are passionate about, that will sustain you through the inevitable ups and downs. I did well in school, and I run marathons, and now I write books, and sometimes I can tell my students think it is because I am “good” at these things. I let them know up front that my life has less to do with talent and much more to do with hard work. I did well in school because I studied. I finish marathons because I train. And I write books because I sit down and write almost every day. I’m stubborn. I love books and reading and words more than almost anything – I always have. Books are my passion, and I will spend my life pursuing that passion. Stubbornness and love – that’s really what it comes down to.












Jenna Oliver doesn’t have time to get involved with one boy, let alone two.


All Jenna wants is to escape her evaporating small town and her alcoholic mother. She’s determined she’ll go to college and find a life that is wholly hers—one that isn’t tainted by her family’s past. But when the McAlister twins move to town and Jenna gets involved with both of them, she learns the life she planned may not be the one she gets.


Ian McAlister doesn’t want to start over; he wants to remember.


Ian can’t recall a single thing from the last three months—and he seems to be losing more memories every day. His family knows the truth, but no one will tell him what really happened before he lost his memory. When he meets Jenna, Ian believes that he can be normal again because she makes not remembering something he can handle.


The secret Ian can’t remember is the one Luke McAlister can’t forget.


Luke has always lived in the shadow of his twin brother until Jenna stumbles into his life. She sees past who he’s supposed to be, and her kiss brings back the spark that life stole. Even though Luke feels like his brother deserves her more, Luke can’t resist Jenna—which is the trigger that makes Ian’s memory return.


Jenna, Ian, & Luke are about to learn there are only so many secrets you can keep before the truth comes to reclaim you.



Available for purchase via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other book retailers.



SarahGSarah Guillory has always loved words and had a passion for literature.  When she’s not reading or writing, Sarah runs marathons, which she credits with keeping her at least partially sane.  Sarah teaches high school English and lives in Louisiana with her husband and their bloodhound, Gus. Her debut novel, Reclaimed, recently won a Silver Independent Publishers Award and is a finalist for the 2013 Foreword Book of the Year.



Twitter: @sguillory262




Chanel Cleeton on Creating Compelling NA Voice July 17, 2014

Recently my friend, and amazing author, Chanel Cleeton released LONDON FALLING, the follow-up to her debut, I SEE LONDON. This fun and flirty New Adult Contemporary is full of charm and swoony romance! In celebration of this release, I wanted to share again Chanel’s recent guest post on creating authentic NA voice. I think it touches on some important points, not only about the category, but writing in general.



Getting to a New Adult State of Mind

By Chanel Cleeton




Writing New Adult is all about capturing the spirit of being eighteen to twenty-six years old. This time in your life is a huge transitional period—you’re facing new adventures like finding your way in the world, starting a career, falling in love, and leaving home. New Adult is also about juggling the responsibilities of adulthood without having the experience or complete confidence you may need to face the challenges thrown your way. As a writer you want to convey this spirit to your readers—creating relatable characters and situations. I find that personal experience is one of the best tools you can utilize when writing New Adult.



For me, at twenty-eight, my New Adult years are a very recent memory. I draw a lot on personal experiences and my friends’ experiences. I find that this brings authenticity to my characters. For example, in one of the scenes in I SEE LONDON, my heroine talks about changing the assigned ringtone for a certain guy in her cell phone so she’ll know when he calls. It’s a little thing but something I totally did when I was single. I’ve had readers comment on it because they’ve done the same. Putting realistic details and emotions in your book goes a long way to connecting with your readers and making your characters authentic.



If you’re interested in writing New Adult, real life is a great source of inspiration. Even if your New Adult years were a while ago, still think back and remember how you felt during those years. Think about the challenges you faced, adventures you had, and changes you went through. Think of pieces of your past and experiences that you can put into your characters. If you’re around teens or twentysomethings, they are also a wonderful resource.



Another step to adopting a New Adult mindset is to read widely within the category. Books like Easy by Tammara Webber, Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire, Losing It by Cora Carmack, and Wait for You by Jennifer Armentrout, writing as J. Lynn, are all staples. Reading these books will give you a sense of the category’s origins. That said—New Adult isn’t just about contemporary romance. The category is developing and evolving over time and the New Adult spirit is prevalent whether you’re writing dystopian or contemporary.



Popular culture can also be an excellent inspiration for writing New Adult. Shows like Girls, Felicity, Vanderpump Rules, Ugly Betty, later seasons of Gossip Girl, Veronica Mars, and One Tree Hill, are all representative of the New Adult spirit. Movies like 21, Pitch Perfect, Legally Blonde, and The Social Network also depict the challenges and adventures of life as a twentysomething. Magazines like Cosmopolitan and Glamour are also great resources—especially the sections that include reader input.



Honestly, writing New Adult can be challenging and a little scary. As a writer, it can push you outside of your comfort zone. The current market is pretty sexy. That doesn’t mean you have to write steamy New Adult stories—I firmly believe that there is room for all heat levels. If you want to—great. If you’re uncomfortable—find what works for you. I wrote Young Adult before switching to New Adult and it was a challenge for me to feel comfortable writing sexy scenes that weren’t the fade-to-black that we so often see in younger stories. But in my case, an increased heat level fit my characters, and I went for it because it was the best thing for the story. That said, it’s still not as hot as some New Adult books and that’s okay.




London Falling




Maggie Carpenter walked away from the hottest encounter of her life when she left the seductive glitz of England for summer break in her South Carolina hometown. Now that she’s returned to the International School in London—and sexy, privileged Samir Khouri is once again close enough to touch—she can’t help but remember the attraction, the drama … the heartbreak.


She can’t help but want him even more.


Samir can’t afford to fall for someone so far removed from his world, not when his time in London is running out. It’s his senior year—his last chance at freedom before he returns home to Lebanon. There, he’ll be expected to follow in his father’s footsteps—not follow his heart to Maggie. But when a scorching secret hookup becomes a temptation neither can resist, they’ll both have to fight to survive the consequences … and find a future together.


Available now for purchase via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million and iBooks.



ChanelOriginally a Florida girl, CHANEL CLEETON moved to London where she received a bachelor’s degree from Richmond, The American International University in London and a master’s degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Chanel fell in love with London and planned to stay there forever, until fate intervened on a Caribbean cruise, and an American fighter pilot with smooth dance moves swept her off her feet. Now, a happily ever after later, Chanel is living her next adventure in South Korea.

Law school made Chanel realize she’d rather spend her days writing sexy stories than in a courtroom, and she hasn’t looked back since. An avid reader and hopeless romantic, she’s happiest curled up with a book. She has a weakness for handbags, her three pups, and her fighter pilot husband. Chanel writes New Adult contemporary romances and thrillers.


She is the author of I SEE LONDON and LONDON FALLING, published by Harlequin HQN, and FLIRTING WITH SCANDAL, the first book in a new NA series to be released by Berkley in 2015.


Monday Musings: Blogging – Helping or Hurting Your Writing? July 14, 2014

Filed under: Blog,Publishing,writing craft — chasingthecrazies @ 6:56 am
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Over two and a half years ago I wrote my first entry for this blog, and last Friday I published my 350th post! I’ve said this before, but I had no idea what I was doing when I first started. I’d read somewhere that as a writer you needed to build a social media platform, so I googled blogs, WordPress came up, and I dove in.


When I look back on those first posts, I cringe (I really was clueless about blogging), but with every new entry my confidence grew and my writing improved. Yet when I started on my third manuscript, took on an editorial internship, and agreed to beta read for several writers, I found myself regretting my commitment to blogging three days a week. How could I fit it all in? Out of all my commitments, which was most important?


The truth is you have to decide what you want to get out of blogging. If you only write posts because you want to build your exposure, then in my opinion, it’s not worth it. Coming up with solid content, and sharing new ideas every week, takes a lot of work. Struggling to post something new is not only a waste of your time, but eventually your lackluster love for your blog will show in what you publish.


For me, I continue to blog because I feel it improves my writing. Each week I tackle new topics and try to push myself to find something important to say about writing and/or publishing. When I share a new Writer Odyssey Wednesday or First Five Frenzy, I’m not only providing information I hope will help writers, but I’m learning something new too. In August I’m starting a new series called, QUITE THE QUERY, posting successful queries from writers. My hope is this new series will inspire writers to create a successful query of their own, but I know by sharing each of the entries, I’ll also learn something valuable.


In the end, you need to decide how much of your time you want to commit to your overall writing. If you can’t write a new manuscript, revise, and CP, all while maintaining a healthy blog that is okay. The important thing to remember is blogging is a commitment, but it shouldn’t be something that overtakes your writing life. It’s all about balance and finding the right path for you.


In order to celebrate surpassing 350th blog posts, I’m giving away a copy of Leigh Bardugo’s RUIN and RISING and Maggie Stiefvater’s latest, SINNER!










To qualify for the drawing, share with me one of the most important lessons you’ve learned about writing in the last year. After leaving your comment, please include contact info (either email or Twitter handle).


Entry window will close at 12pm EST on Wednesday, July 16. Open to U.S. residents only.


Thank you for reading my blog! I appreciate each and every one of you!









W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday with A.L. Sonnichsen July 9, 2014



When you first start writing a manuscript I think one of the hardest thing to do is find the character’s voice. From the first page it has to be strong and distinctive, and as a writer you may have to get several pages, or chapters, into a first draft before you discover if it’s working or not. In today’s W.O.W., A.L. Sonnichsen shares how her debut, RED BUTTERFLY, started as Young Adult book, but along the way she discovered the story was much better suited to a Middle Grade voice. While it meant rewriting the entire book, it also meant she found the proper voice for her protagonist. A daring and brave choice that eventually paid off!


Many thanks to A.L. for sharing her writing odyssey today…



Amy: When did you first begin seriously writing with the intent of wanting to be published?


A.L.: I grew up writing books and even majored in writing in college, but it wasn’t until I was turning thirty that I decided to get serious. That was seven years ago now, so it took some time. I’ve learned a lot and I’m so grateful for those years of growth.



Amy: When did you complete your first Middle Grade manuscript?


A.L.: I wrote young adult novels for years. In fact, I was sure my passion was young adult. What I couldn’t understand, though, was why all my favorite books to read were middle grade, and yet, I couldn’t come up with a middle grade plot to save my life! One of my critique partners, in reading a young adult manuscript of mine, told me something that would change my life. She said, “I know this might be devastating to you, but the voice in this manuscript feels wrong. She seems way younger than a teenager!” So, I went back to the drawing board and completely rewrote the book as a middle grade novel. That was a couple years ago and the book turned out to be RED BUTTERFLY, my debut novel. The moral of this story is: listen to your critique partners. Another moral might be: if you’re hitting a brick wall with one genre, try another. Now that I’ve written one middle grade, all my ideas are middle grade and I can’t imagine writing anything else. Weird, huh?



Amy: I love that you’ve spent a good deal of your life living in Hong Kong. How has that experience influenced your writing?


A.L.: Growing up in Hong Kong has influenced my writing so much. When I was a kid I kind of hated that I lived there. Not that life was bad—I had a great childhood—but I felt so different from a “real” American kid and I didn’t understand why I couldn’t be normal (whatever that is). Now I’m so grateful for my upbringing. My novel, RED BUTTERFLY, is set in mainland China and I’m working on another manuscript that’s set in Hong Kong. My settings aren’t the only aspects effected. Because I grew up in Hong Kong, I was inspired to go back to Asia as an adult, and that’s where I gained the experiences and inspiration I needed to write RED BUTTERFLY.



Amy: When you were writing RED BUTTERFLY did you share it with beta readers and/or critique partners? If so, how did they influence your process?


A.L.: Yes, I have a trusted group of critique partners. I know everyone has a different system when it comes to polishing their work. For me, I finish a draft, hand it off to a critique partner, receive feedback, and then usually rewrite (or make changes if I’ve already written several drafts). If it’s later in the process, I might have several critique partners read at the same time, just to measure their reaction to see if I’m getting close to sending it out into the big world. With these last readers (who I realize are more like beta readers than critique partners), I gauge how long it takes them to get back to me. If it takes a month or more, I figure I need to tighten up the book and make it more interesting before sending it out. If I’m getting feedback that they can’t put it down, that’s a good sign.



Amy: How laborious/frustrating was the query process for you?


A.L.: Querying before I had an agent wasn’t so bad. I was able to develop a tough skin over time. My attitude was that if I was getting a lot of rejections it was because my book (or my query) weren’t ready yet; I tried not to blame the system. This attitude always kept me working hard on my craft and trying to improve. I also queried widely, but not desperately. I didn’t dredge the bottom of the barrel. I always forced myself to shelve the book that wasn’t going anywhere and write something new. In fact, while I was querying, I made it a point to work on something new. This gave me a forward momentum that helped preserve my sanity.


I will say, the toughest querying process I faced was after I signed with one agent and then had to part ways with her. I felt like I was back at square one and that was debilitating. But more on that in the next question….



Amy: How many agents did you query for RED BUTTERFLY?


A.L.: I did not query very many (maybe, five?) because, like I said in my answer to the last question, I was debilitated. I queried a few, received rejections or silence, and was about ready to give up and shelve the book prematurely. I almost made the mistake of listening to my first agent who told me she didn’t think RED BUTTERFLY had a chance. Usually I’m adamant that writers listen to critique (especially from agents!), but in this case, my gut told me she hadn’t actually given my book a good read because she was disappointed my first book hadn’t sold.


Thankfully, one of my critique partners came to my rescue and talked to her agent about me. I had received a previous offer from that agent, and my critique partner asked her if she might be interested in reading my newest books. That agent was willing, and, after reading, enthusiastic about my work. Her confidence in my books helped restore my mojo after that first-agent experience.



Amy: Did you receive instantaneous response or did you have to wait for requests/rejections?


A.L.: Querying is such a roller coaster, such a hurry-up-and-wait game! You can wait for weeks, then be scrambling to send someone a partial or a full that meet their specifications. My experience with RED BUTTERFLY was a little different because I already had my foot in the door, so to speak. But even with a foot in the door, the waiting seemed endless. I tried to fill my waiting time with as much writing as possible!



Amy: What was your call like with your agent, Kate Schafer Testerman? How did you know she was the right fit for you?


A.L.: That call was wonderful! *happy sigh* I felt very comfortable with Kate and was so happy that she loved my books. I also needed the assurance that she was going to stick with me whether my books sold or not. With my past agent experience, that was very important to me.



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


A.L.: The first time I heard about Kate, my agent, was when I entered a Miss Snark’s First Victim contest with my very, very first book. Kate was the Secret Agent and liked my writing and wanted to see a partial. This was a book that was getting nothing but rejections from EVERYBODY (because the plot stunk). Of course, she gently rejected me after the partial, but her interest kept me going, and it’s an awesome and ironic thing that she’s now my agent!



Amy: If you were giving a keynote speech at a writers conference, what would be the most important piece of writing advice you would share?


A.L.: Persevere! That means, finish the book you’re in the middle of writing. It also means, when querying, keep querying. And if it’s time to move on, get that new idea down on paper. Keep moving forward. Focus on improvement. You can’t control trends or agent/editor interest, but you can perfect your craft and develop good work habits that will help you so much when you do land a contract.





Front Cover - Red Butterfly




Kara never met her birth mother. Abandoned as an infant, she was taken in by an elderly American woman living in China. Now eleven, Kara spends most of her time in their apartment, wondering why she and Mama cannot leave the city of Tianjin and go live with Daddy in Montana. Mama tells Kara to be content with what she has … but what if Kara secretly wants more?


Told in lyrical, moving verse, Kara’s story is one of a girl learning to trust her own voice, discovering that love and family are limitless, and finding the wings she needs to reach new heights.



A.L.SonnichsenA.L. Sonnichsen is a Hong Kong-raised mom of five, football coach’s wife, and Brussels sprouts-addicted middle grade writer represented by Kate Schafer Testerman of kt literary. Her middle grade verse novel, RED BUTTERFLY (Simon & Schuster BFYR), will be out in February, 2015. You can find her at her blog, The Green Bathtub ( ), on facebook as A.L. Sonnichsen ( ), and on twitter at @alsonnichsen.


“Behind The Scenes” of a W.O.W. with Dahlia Adler June 25, 2014


When I first started my W.O.W. series in 2012 one of the first people who agreed to, and was very supportive of, the series was Dahlia Adler. But I’ll admit something to you all, I was terrified to reach out to her. Looking back now I laugh because Dahlia is the kindest and sweetest person, but I was afraid to approach her because she knew SO MUCH about publishing and I knew VERY LITTLE. Would she think I was some sort of newbie goof trying to pass myself off as a real blogger when I sent my request? Would she respond at all? If you know Dahlia, then you know my worries were completely unfounded. She was incredibly kind and very generous in offering up the story behind her writing odyssey.


Now, with the release of her book, BEHIND THE SCENES, I thought it would be fun to share her W.O.W. again. I hope it inspires you as much as it did me!






Social media is a crazy thing.  It let’s us promote our work to others.  It allows us to learn about images and ideas worlds away. But one of the most amazing things about Facebook, Instagram and Twitter is the ability to connect with like-minded people who share the same goals, ideas and dreams, especially when it comes to writing.


I first connected with today’s featured author, Dahlia Adler, via Twitter.  I loved her honest advice about writing and publishing, but also her keen insight into what it takes to perfect your craft.  If you haven’t read her blog already, The Daily Dahlia, you should.  She is always sharing tips on how to improve your work and  providing valuable information on the publishing world.  Just recently she posted a gem about what life is like after getting an agent. It’s a great and eye-opening read.


Many thanks to Dahlia for sharing her writing journey…



Amy: I know you’re a freelance editor, reading several manuscripts a week. How do you make time to write?


Dahlia: With great difficulty! Honestly, it’s a huge challenge, especially on top of having a full-time job, but I respond really well to goals and deadlines and that helps me a lot in terms of prioritizing and forcing myself to get things done. Also, my husband gets a huge shout-out here for being wonderfully supportive. There are days he gets me for maybe an hour at dinner and then I disappear into my office and he is never anything short of wonderful about it.



Amy: What drew you to write YA fiction?


Dahlia: I’m the youngest by a considerable gap so I started reading YA from an extremely young age because that’s what was around. I grew up with a somewhat unusual background, being Modern Orthodox Jewish and attending yeshiva for elementary and high school, so for me, it was a fascinating insight into the world at large that I never really felt a part of but loved watching on TV. Then I realized I could insert myself into that world in a way by writing. I was about eight years old when I started writing YA, and I’ve never looked back.



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


Dahlia: I queried two manuscripts before the one that got me my agent. Both actually got a lot of requests but ultimately both now live solely on my hard drive.



Amy: If one manuscript was continuing to get rejected, how did you know it was time to move on to a new project?


Dahlia: I stopped querying my first one fairly quickly, because it was set in college and those were almost impossible to sell at the time. When you’re getting rejections that aren’t so much about the content of your manuscript but about the fact that they don’t fit into the market, it’s a pretty good clue that it’s just not the right time. I queried the other one for a lot longer, but some of the critique I got from agents on the full made me realize that it needed an overhaul I wasn’t quite sure how to do yet. Honestly, I’m still not, though I’d love to figure it out so I can revive it one day. I love that manuscript, deep flaws and all!



Amy: From reading your blog, I know you have a great circle of critique partners. How do they affect your writing process?


Dahlia: The wonderfulness of my critique partners cannot be overstated. They’re amazing about letting me talk things out and use them as a sounding board, and just at giving critique in general. They make my books better, period, and their wide variety of knowledge is super helpful, especially when it comes to those “normal” things I didn’t experience, like what high school football games are actually supposed to look like!



Amy: Did your query for BEHIND THE SCENES come easily or did it go through many drafts?


Dahlia: My query for BEHIND THE SCENES came incredibly easy to me, which has never, ever been the case for me with any other query letter. I wrote it before I wrote the actual book. After realizing how much trouble I was having with my previous manuscript being so character driven, I really wanted to write something with a strong, linear plot driving the manuscript forward, and BTS was my brain’s response to that desire. I wrote a really early draft on Evernote on my phone, long before I ever planned to start writing the manuscript itself, and then one night I was struck by the entire text of it while lying in bed. I got up, took my husband’s iPad, wrote it in an e-mail to myself, and went back to bed. Voila. It changed slightly during The Writer’s Voice contest thanks to critique from my team, but very, very slightly.



Amy: How many agents did you query for BEHIND THE SCENES? Did you receive immediate responses or did you have to wait a while for replies?


Dahlia: I actually only queried five agents for BEHIND THE SCENES, because its first entry into the world was in The Writer’s Voice contest, and that’s where my agent found it and requested on it, so it had an offer in its first two weeks. I got form rejections from two agents really, really quickly, and then two of the other three – plus one who had a full of my previous ms, and one who’d also requested from The Writer’s Voice – responded to my “I have an offer” nudge within the week, so all in all it was a very fast process.


Amy: Was there ever a time you thought about giving up on your writing dream? If so, what motivated you to keep writing?


Dahlia: I’ve always, always loved writing, and to me, the act of writing and the dream of getting published are very separate things. Are there times I think I’ll never sell? Yes, definitely. But selling isn’t why I write, so not selling will never be why I don’t!








High school senior Ally Duncan’s best friend may be the Vanessa Park – star of TV’s hottest new teen drama – but Ally’s not interested in following in her BFF’s Hollywood footsteps. In fact, the only thing Ally’s ever really wanted is to go to Columbia and study abroad in Paris. But when her father’s mounting medical bills threaten to stop her dream in its tracks, Ally nabs a position as Van’s on-set assistant to get the cash she needs.


Spending the extra time with Van turns out to be fun, and getting to know her sexy co-star Liam is an added bonus. But when the actors’ publicist arranges for Van and Liam to “date” for the tabloids just after he and Ally share their first kiss, Ally will have to decide exactly what role she’s capable of playing in their world of make believe. If she can’t play by Hollywood’s rules, she may lose her best friend, her dream future, and her first shot at love.



BEHIND THE SCENES is now available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes & Noble & Indiebound.



dahliaDahlia Adler is an Assistant Editor of Mathematics at an academic publisher, Copy Editor, and blogger @BNBuzz and YA Misfits. She is represented by Lana Popovic. You can find her on Twitter as @MissDahlELama and on her blog, The Daily Dahlia. It’s not really daily but it’s definitely her!



Query 101 Series: Handling Requests & Manuscript Formatting June 6, 2014

Query 101B



Being in the query trenches can sometimes be a long and tedious process. You write those letters, press “send” and then wait, jumping every time your email alert goes off. Yes, in this case patience can be a virtue (albeit a painful one). But then that day comes, you see, or hear, you have something in your inbox and there it is: A REQUEST!! Give yourself a minute to revel in it – enjoy it! After that, it’s time to focus on your next steps.


In most cases, the requesting agent will give you specific directions on how to submit. I can’t stress this enough – FOLLOW DIRECTIONS. If they ask you to make your query the first page, DO IT! If they ask for the first 50 pages, be honest and send 50 pages (not 75 or 100). Most agents say it’s okay to go over a little to get to the end of a scene or  chapter, but don’t push the limit.



Sending your request:



- Be sure your manuscript is formatted correctly (see details below)


- Send as soon as possible. If the agent is requesting your manuscript, it’s still fresh in his/her mind. You want to capitalize on this!


- Reply within the email chain. This way the agent has a frame of reference for your work. If it’s a request from a contest or conference, make sure you write in the subject line: REQUESTED MATERIALS (with some reference point i.e. from XX contest or XX conference).




Now with requests several issues may come up:




1) You’re in the middle of more revisions, or you’ve gotten specific feedback from a contest or agent that you’d like to make.


Many agent interviews I’ve read recommend making the changes and then sending. It’s okay to send a short note to the agent acknowledging their request and letting them know you are making changes.



2) You already have an offer.


Let the agent know right away. Give them a chance to either bow out or offer to read within an allotted time (some recommend one to two weeks based on the conversation you’ve already had with offering agent).




If this is the first time you’ve gotten a request, again be sure to follow the directions dictated by the agent. They may have specific ways they want you to format your manuscript. If they don’t, and you have questions about how to indicate scene breaks, or what font to use, I recommend using the outline below from The Editor’s Blog:



  • Twelve point, Times New Roman (or Courier New, if you insist), black font


  • One-inch margins on all four sides


  • Half-inch paragraph indentations (five spaces) (this tab is pre-set in MS Word) for the first line of each paragraph


  • Double space; no extra spaces between paragraphs


  • Align left (not justified). The right edges will not be uniform or even


  • Number pages beginning with the actual story (don’t count or put page numbers on the title page)


  • Indicate scene breaks by inserting a blank line and centering the number sign # in the center of the line


  • Include your last name, your title (or keywords from the title), and the page number in the page header of every page except for the title page. Align the header to the right, so the information doesn’t interfere with the text of the manuscript. (Jones/Taming the Monster/1)


  • Begin chapters on new pages (insert a page break). Center the chapter title, even if it’s only Chapter One (or Chapter 1), about 1/3 of the way down the page. Skip a couple of spaces and begin the text of the chapter.


  • Center a number sign # one double-spaced blank line down at the end of the manuscript. Or simply write The End. You want agents and editors to know they’ve reached the end.


  • Use italics for italicized words. (Former practice was to underline to show italicized words, but that’s no longer necessary unless an agent or publisher requests underlining.)


  • Single space rather than two spaces after periods between sentences. If you forget this one, nobody’s going to turn down your manuscript because of it. It’s just a good habit to get into, especially for those of us who learned on typewriters and always added two spaces between sentences.



Include a title page



  • Aligned left and single spaced, near the top of the page, include contact information: Your real/legal name, address, phone number, e-mail address. Follow with the word count. Alternatively, you can set word count apart by listing it at the top of the right side of the title page.


  • About 1/2 the way down the page, centered, enter the full manuscript title (all caps or mixed caps); on the next double-spaced line, type by or a novel by or a story by; on the next double-spaced line, add your pen name or your real name plus your pen name—Alexis Chesterfield writing as Billie Thomas.


  • Header information is not included on the title page. The title page is not included in page numbering.



Again, it is very important to make sure you follow specific formatting guidelines for two reasons:


First, you want to present yourself as being professional. A manuscript that is not formatted correctly can look sloppy, plus it shows you haven’t done your research.


Second, there are specific reasons the agent may have gone out of their way to give you directions. Perhaps they want to read your manuscript on an e-reader, and only by following their directive can they do this.


Overall, remember to celebrate this victory. You’ve worked tirelessly to write a great manuscript and an equally compelling query. A request is a great accomplishment, and you need to approach it with the same focus you would any other major project in your life.




W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday with Becky Wallace June 4, 2014




For some writers I think there’s a belief that when you sign with an agent you’ve finally made it. Sure, there is still work involved, but once you polish your manuscript it’s going to hit editors desks and sell right away. As today’s W.O.W. with Becky Wallace illustrates, that is not always the case. Sometimes it may take several manuscripts before the right one makes a splash with editors, and as a writer you need to be prepared for that reality. I’m grateful to Becky for sharing this part of her writing journey. It serves as another reminder that publishing can be a rough business, but if you believe in your work, and hold tight to your dreams, you can be a success!


Many thanks to Becky for sharing her writing journey today…



Amy: When did you complete your first Young Adult manuscript?


Becky: Oh…I don’t know.  Like a thousand, or maybe three-ish, years ago.  My first ms was a Nanowrimo success story (though I wasn’t a winner, per se).  I started it in August. Finished in December, and edited through February.



Amy: Did you have critique partners or beta readers that helped you polish THE STORYSPINNER?  If so, how critical were they to the process of completing the manuscript?


Becky: I do have a handful of critique partners who looked at THE STORYSPINNER at a variety of stages.  I have one alpha-reader–someone who reads every chapter as I write them–and provides feedback as the story develops. I have one CP who reads my mss when they’ve reached the mid-point.  She helps me make sure the story is on track, that my characters are growing, and that the pace is good.  Then I have two or three other people who read my ms when it’s finished.  They give me overall feedback for the book, point out plot holes, and areas where the writing can be tightened. They are all critical to the development of the story.



Amy: How laborious/frustrating was the query process for you?


Becky: I felt very lucky with my querying process.  I queried nearly fifty agents, but had a lot of positive response right away.  I ended up with multiple offers to chose from. My frustration came later (see the next question).



Amy: How many agents did you query for THE STORYSPINNER?


Becky: So…remember that frustration I mentioned in the previous question?  THE STORYSPINNER was my fourth manuscript after I got my agent.  That’s right, ladies and gents, I shelved three manuscripts (one paranormal and two contemporary thrillers) before I started writing fantasy.  If you think querying is hell, can I just say that knowing your book is on an editor’s desk, sitting, gathering dust, waiting to be accepted or rejected, is a gazillion times worse?  It’s worse than hot pokers and brimstone.  Being on sub is like standing in a pool of water with your hair continuously on fire and an unquenchable thirst. And I went through it. Four times.



Amy: Did you receive instantaneous response or did you have to wait for the requests/rejections?


Becky: For my query I did receive an immediate response. Start to finish (from first email to contract), the process was less than a month. Submission, as I said before, was a much more painful process. Sometimes it was six months before I got a response and sometimes no response ever came.



Amy: What was your call like with your agent, Jennifer Laughran?  How did you know she was the right fit for you?


Becky: I was a basket case when Jenn called, pacing around my house and sweating profusely.  I’m so grateful no one could see me because it would be the epitome of all things embarrassing. Yet Jenn was so, so nice.  She has such a dynamic personality.  She’s funny and upbeat and honest.  I love those things about her!



Amy: If you were speaking at a conference and an aspiring writer told you they were thinking about giving up on their publishing dream, what would you say to them?


Becky: I would say, “I’ve been there.” When no one picked up my third manuscript and I knew my fourth would be going out soon, I said to one of my critique partners, “If this one doesn’t sell, then I’m giving up.  It’s not fair to myself and my family to put so much time and effort into writing, if it’s just going to be a time and energy void.”  But I pushed through and edited the heck out of THE STORYSPINNER. If I was going to give up, I needed to know that I gave writing my best effort before I walked away.  And that’s the best advice I can give to anyone, at any stage in publishing cycle. Don’t quit until you know, for sure, that you can walk away without any regrets. 







In a world where dukes plot their way to the throne, a Performer’s life can get tricky.


All Johanna Von Arlo wants to do is become a Storyspinner. But her options are so limited that she is forced to work for the aggravating and handsome Lord Rafael DeSilva. While in his employ, Johanna is exposed to a dangerous game of thrones, a game where she will discover that the magically inclined Keepers from her stories might be real after all.


The Keepers are searching for an heir to a great power and the key to saving their land. They aren’t alone in their hunt. Girls matching the heir’s description are turning up dead all over the kingdom. Girls who look exactly like Johanna.



View More: second grade, Becky Wallace had to sit in the corner because she refused to write anything except princess stories and fairy tales (and because she talked too much). Her time in isolation gave her plenty of opportunities to dream up the fantasy worlds she’s been dabbling with ever since. She was lucky enough to find her own real-life Prince Charming. They have four munchkins and live in happy little town near Houston, Texas. For more on Becky, check out her website or follow her on Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest.



40th First Five Frenzy with Lana Popovic of ZSH Literary!! May 30, 2014

FFF SideWords



If you’re like me, you toil for hours editing and fine-tuning the first pages of your manuscript. You look at the first lines to make sure they are compelling and tight.  You examine the next few paragraphs, hoping your MC’s voice is already taking hold of the reader.


The First Five Frenzy is all about getting an agent’s perspective on what works, and what fails, in those first pages of a manuscript. By reading each agent’s comments, I hope you’ll learn how to make your manuscript a shining gem that will be requested time and time again.


Today, I am proud to share Literary Agent, Lana Popovic’s perspective on what’s important in those critical first pages.




Amy: Many writers have the impression that a great first line is imperative to drawing in the reader. How important is a first line to you as an agent?


Lana: While it’s not a deal-breaker by any means if the first line is not astonishing, it should at least be solid—and at best, it should be as spectacular as the writer can make it. This is the first real opportunity to showcase voice, and I put a lot of stock in the power of a beautifully crafted first line. It conveys to me that the writer has both the literary goods and the savvy when it comes to knowing how to draw the reader in. That said, I will always read the first five pages, so it’s definitely not a death knell if that first line isn’t blazingly brilliant. (I’m cool with alliteration, too.)




Amy: Many times a writer is told to stay away from common openings like dreams, eating breakfast, riding in a car, etc. What are some common openings you recommend writers stay away from?


Lana: Those are definitely my top three to avoid! I also don’t love bait-and-switch openings, where the reader is thrown into an action sequence that is presented as something with mortally dangerous consequences—but is in fact the protagonist playing a video game or hide-and-seek or imagining something while in class. Those always make me roll my eyes a bit. It’s like the opposite of the “gasp!” reaction that we want.


Also, it being someone’s birthday. Especially the seventeenth.




Amy: When you’ve responded to a writer to request a partial or full manuscript, what was it about their first pages that piqued your interest?


Lana: I actually don’t ask for sample pages, so I judge by query alone. I’ll request anything with a fresh, intriguing premise and a voice that shines through even in the query itself. Beautiful or punchy titles always help, too.




Amy: What are some common mistakes writers make in their first five pages?


Lana: Because they know their own protagonist so well, writers often assume that the reader will automatically care about her or him as well, and hurl us into action before we’ve developed any emotional connection, thereby lowering the stakes for us. If I don’t know the first thing about Deliria Twist (please don’t name your character that—another common mistake. Overly whimsical names make us cringe unless they dovetail immaculately with a generally outlandish but well-executed concept), I don’t care that she’s sprinting out of a burning building while demons rain hellfire at her. I know I should care, but I don’t. I’m just cold like that.


On the other side of the spectrum is opening with pages and pages of backstory. This bogs me down because again, I don’t know the character well enough to want to delve into the context of their life. Striking the perfect balance between exposition and action in those first pages is key.




Amy: What resonates with you most in those first pages? Voice? Pacing? Unique concept?


Lana: Oh, definitely voice! If I see that glimmer—my fellow agent and wonderful human Taylor Haggerty calls it “sparkle,” which is right on point—of a unique voice, it can cover a multitude of sins. I love unusual, distinctive, and/or edgy voices.




Many thanks to Lana for sharing her thoughts on what is critical in those first five pages. In celebration of this being the 40th post in the First Five Frenzy series, Lana has graciously offered to do a query critique for one lucky writer! If you’re interested in the query critique, please comment below with your contact info!





W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday with David Arnold May 28, 2014




What struck me most about today’s W.O.W. with David Arnold was his comments about taking your time. In this fast-paced world we seem to want it all NOW, but in writing nothing ever comes quickly. You must draft, write and then revise (sometimes over and over) in order to get the best possible manuscript. I love that he shared he went through 9 drafts of his novel, MOSQUITOLAND, before finally querying. It proves if you take your time, and really hone your manuscript, you can have eventual success.



Many thanks to David for sharing his journey today…



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


David: I’m not really sure how to answer that question, except to say that I’ve ALWAYS wanted to be a reader. I discovered The Hardy Boys when I was seven and from that point on, I’ve never not been reading something. So it was a logical next step for me, I think – to go from story input to story output.



Amy: What inspires you to write Young Adult Fiction?


David: Why I write about young adults: I think there’s something special about the 15-17 year-old age range. You’re old enough to think you know everything, but too young to know you don’t. This sort of blind naivety lends itself to great characters in unique, and oftentimes broken, situations. Why I write for young adults: I vividly remember my own young adulthood, so for me, it’s the nearest well to draw from. Whatever “voice” is, mine naturally comes from this place.



Amy: I love the premise behind MOSQUITOLAND. Was there anything specific that inspired the story?


David: Thank you! I’m not sure it was any one incident that inspired me to tell this particular story, so much as a million tiny incidents joining forces to push me into it. Many of the settings in the book are places I’ve lived, but very little of what happens to Mim (the main character) ever happened to me. But for me, story begins with character. Keeping with the “well” analogy from earlier, I’ve found that my writing tends to follow these steps: Find the well from which my character drinks. Drink from that well. Let them tell the story.



Amy: How many manuscripts had you completed prior to MOSQUITOLAND?


David: Completed is a funny word. The short answer is… one? For years, I wrote middle grade, but there was no sense of urgency and it showed in the work. Then my wife and I found out we were (surprise!) pregnant, and I was faced with serious decisions. The next day, I shelved all those middle grade projects, and decided to start a book I’d been too scared to try. That book is Mosquitoland, and while I won’t say I wrote it for my son, I will say much of it is written to him. (Sorry. Tangent. Yes, only one finished manuscript prior to ML.)



Amy: If you had preliminary rejections, how did you deal with that process and continue to write?


David: If you think about writing as a sidecar, rather than the actual motorcycle, it becomes a lot easier. Don’t worry about making it the MAIN thing. Just make it a thing. As the pressure diminshes, so too will the weight of rejection.



Amy: How long did it take you to write the query for MOSQUITOLAND? Did it go through many drafts?


David: I probably spent close to two months on the query alone. And that was just on the front end (drafting, critiquing, revising, rinse, repeat). After that, the real work began: researching agents and tailoring your query to each of their specific guidelines and needs. I spent countless hours on twitter, Writers Digest, and Querytracker looking for agents that would be right for me.



Amy: How many agents did you query for MOSQUITOLAND?


David: Six



Amy: Did you receive instantaneous response or did you have to wait for requests/rejections?


David: It varied. Dan’s assistant (Torie) responded immediately, requesting a full. But Dan was on vacation in Europe, so she said it would probably be a while before he got back with me. And so began the twiddling of thumbs, the maniacal giggling, and the rousing rounds of Kumbayah. :/




Amy: What can you tell us about your “call” with your agent, Dan Lazar?  How did you know he was a good fit for you?


David: When you query an agent, you’re looking for certain qualities: track record, current clientele, what agency they’re with, etc. All of those qualities were important to me, but they were things I could find online. So when I got to speak to an agent on the phone, I set new parameters. The two most important qualities I looked for were enthusiasm and kindness. Dan proved he got my work by asking the right questions and making incredibly insightful comments (one of which, was in reference to a WIP, now my book 2). Before I ever signed with Dan, I knew he had an inherent understanding of my work, and of my career as an author. And of course, he was exceedingly kind.




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


David: I took my time. Not just in querying and researching agents, but in writing the manuscript. Above, I mentioned that I spent some time writing middle grade. The thing is, I never queried those manuscripts because I knew they weren’t my best foot forward. Even with Mosquitoland, every time I thought I was done (9 times, to be exact), I took at least 3 weeks away from the pages. And every time I came back, I found ways to make it better. All in all, I spent two years writing/critiquing/revising before sending it out; had I queried it the first time I thought it was done, I would have gotten a stack of rejections (and rightly so). It’s true that writers will be rejected. But I think the amount of rejections can be reduced by simply… taking your time.




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


David: COMMUNITY! Find one. I dove into the SCBWI MidSouth region and honestly don’t know where I’d be without them. (Lost. Completely lost.) Through SCBWI, I also found my brilliant critique group. Those guys save my life one manuscript at a time.





David ArnoldDavid Arnold is the author of MOSQUITOLAND (Viking/Penguin, 2015). Previous “jobs” include freelance film composer, stay-at-home dad, and preschool teacher. He is a fierce believer in the power of kindness and community. And chips. He believes fiercely in chips. David is represented by Dan Lazar at Writers House. You can find him at and on Twitter (@roofbeam).




Filed under: Blog,Publishing,YA Contemporary — chasingthecrazies @ 6:53 am
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A rare Tuesday post from me to celebrate two amazing events!


First, Happy Book Birthday to PLAYED by the incredibly talented Liz Fichera!







This Game Is Getting All Too Real



He said: I like to keep under the radar and mostly hang out with my friends from the rez. But when I saved Riley Berenger from falling off a mountain, that rich suburban princess decided to try to save me.


She said: If I can help Sam Tracy win the heart of the girl he can’t get over, I’ll pay him back for helping me. I promised him I would, no matter what it takes.


A companion novel to HOOKED, this fun read had me quickly turning the pages and rooting for Sam & Riley. If you’re looking for a great YA Contemporary novel, be sure to pick this one up!


Now available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks and many more retail outlets!



Second, and this is a little odd, but THANK YOU to the kind soul(s) who nominated this website for a YA Highway Web Award! I’m grateful you would think enough of the information provided on this website to nominate me for such an amazing honor! I get so much joy from bringing content to writers every week, and it is a privilege to share my thoughts and interviews with readers no matter where they are on the path to publication. I promise the writer and agents interviews, as well as the insightful guest posts, will keep on coming!





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