Chasing my crazy dream in the writing world…

Wanted: An Original Idea July 30, 2012

This summer two blockbuster movies have taken over the theaters: The Amazing Spiderman and The Dark Knight. They are both tearing up the box office and people are flocking to see their favorite super hero.  What’s even more astounding is that during previews for the films another super hero movie is now being marketed. A new Superman film is supposed to arrive in theaters in 2013.



While I love superheroes as much as the next person, it makes me wonder if there is an original idea left in the world.  Are we going to keep regenerating the same themes and characters over and over?



When I read agent blogs the same topic comes up over and over again. They want an MS with a unique idea, strong voice and fast pacing.  As a writer I understand voice, and pacing, but I wonder about the unique idea.  So much of what is on the shelves now seems to be a retelling of a familiar tale.  Writers are putting new spins on fairy tales, greek myths, and of course, as mentioned above, superhero tales – but there seems to be an overall lack of anything wholly and entirely original.



Even when I read fellow author blogs, I hear stories over and over about a finished MS that goes to pot because the writer just learned a book deal has been inked for an idea very similar to theirs.



As I write a new MS, I wonder how unique my ideas are.  I can’t know about every book that has been written in the YA market in the past several years.  I can do the research, but I can’t know what is already in the hopper with an agent or a publishing house.  So, I just continue to write, hoping my ideas have the magical three: voice, pacing and originality.



How about you fellow writers?  Are you frustrated by what seems to be a lack of originality in current books, movies and television shows?  Is there a place in the market now for something unusual and unseen? Or will we have to continue to slog through the continuous retelling of a very familiar plot?



I’d love to hear your thoughts.



Oh, and just one more thing I have to add.  In the past year, there have been small shimmers of originality in a few books I’ve read. ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD, SHADOW AND BONE and UNRAVELING to name a few.  I hope these authors, as well as those currently in the trenches, will continue to write these new, inspiring tales. Creating their own ingenious paths.  Their ideas are a breath of fresh air in a marketplace flooded with unoriginal themes.


W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday – Precy Larkins July 25, 2012



It’s my pleasure to feature Precy Larkins on today’s installment of W.O.W.  I first got to know Precy  (a.k.a Cherie) through Agent Query Connect when I read her good news about becoming agented.  Shortly thereafter, I sent her a message asking her to critique my query.  Her response was kind and the feedback extremely helpful.  After pestering her about my query, I then bothered her again to ask for this interview.  Again, she was VERY gracious and agreed to share her amazing journey.



Amy: How long have you been writing young adult fiction?


Precy: Let’s see… I started writing the concept for HIDDEN, which was called BEDFORD’S SECRETS back then, about 4 years ago. That was my first attempt at novel writing, so as you can imagine, it was total crap. I was then pregnant with my second child, and maybe it was the hormones egging me to do something I’ve never done before, or maybe I was just antsy and needed something to distract me from the common pregnancy aches and pains. Anyway, I wrote 122K words in about 3-4 months. Being a newbie, I sent a total of 3 query letters—2 rejections and 1 no response. I knew my ms wasn’t ready so I trashed it soon after.


But I didn’t stop writing. Instead, I decided to learn all I could about the craft, and also about the publishing business. I frequented Agent Query Connect, where I made friends with aspiring writers like me. I rewrote HIDDEN from scratch maybe 4 more times, only to discard them without finishing. I struggled to find my “voice”. At the same time, I started other writing projects—an MG Fantasy and several short story pieces. Let’s just say they were practice pieces. A prelude for the book I would have the heart to write and query someday.



Amy: When did you complete your first manuscript?


Precy: As I’ve mentioned, my first [terribly written] manuscript took me about 4 months.  HIDDEN, my current ms, was written in two phases. By late 2010, I decided to revisit the original concept and turn it upside down. Then I began writing the first half of the book. Personal life got in the way so I put writing on hold. Until I started blogging in April 2011.


Now the thing about blogging is that you are certainly going to meet excellent people and make new friends. When my blogging friends decided to create a challenge, to accomplish whatever it is that we need to accomplish by a certain date, I jumped on the opportunity. I needed the motivation to finish HIDDEN. I finally finished it on October of 2011. Then I let it stew while I geared myself up for NaNoWriMo that next month.



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


Precy: HIDDEN is my first completed manuscript to query. I didn’t count its earlier version since I never really pursued querying it—I guess I was smart enough to recognize it didn’t stand a chance. At all.



Amy: If you had bites on previous manuscripts, and then was ultimately turned down by agents, what kept you pressing forward?


Precy: Like I said, HIDDEN’s my first ms to query. It took me 6 weeks of intermittent querying to land my agent. I had 2 other full requests before I queried my agent. But since the publishing business is slow, I wasn’t expecting any responses from those bites…at least not right away. My agent, Ms. Julia A. Weber, was really fast with her turnaround. It only took her less than a week to offer me representation. I queried her on a Thursday, and two hours later she asked for the partial. The next day, Friday, she asked me for the full. By Tuesday, she offered me representation.


Prior to querying Ms. Weber, I had queried at least 30 agents with different versions of my query (I was still working on my query so I sent them in batches. Maybe 3 out with version #1, 5 out with version #3, etc.) The responses were slow because agents were just coming back from the Bologna Book Fair and other local writing conferences. I also encountered problems with the spam filter (I knew this because sometimes, I wouldn’t get an auto-response when there was supposed to be one). All in all, it was very trying on my patience…the waiting part was hard, though it wasn’t particularly terrible. I just kept my focus on getting my query right. Plus, being pregnant kept me distracted from checking my email every five seconds.

The thing is, you have to accept early on that this business really requires a lot of patience and waiting. Once you’ve accepted that, it’s easier to go through the motions and not go psycho. If you really believe in your book, your story, your writing, and yourself, then by all means, do not give up after a few rejections or inactivity in your email inbox. Just keep on going, but be productive at the same time.



Amy: Did you have critique partners or beta readers that helped you polish HIDDEN? What did they add to the process?


Precy: A BIG YES! My critique partner, A. M. Supinger, helped me spot typos, grammar issues, and inconsistencies in my manuscript. She was also a very tough critiquer, but in a good, positive way. She asked me questions I would never have thought of as the writer, so her feedback was invaluable to me. I also had a few beta readers (Bethany Crandell, Angela V. Cook, T.S. Welti, Suzanne F. Payne) who gave me their thoughts upon reading my work. Their suggestions let me look at my manuscript in a different angle. I’m very grateful to these amazing people. But ultimately, the decision to what stays and what goes was mine. This is something we all need to remember when we receive feedback. Don’t ever get your walls up if there’s a comment you don’t agree with—remember, your crit partners and beta readers are taking the time to read your work. This business is highly subjective too, so opinions can be based on personal preferences.


The same concept goes for querying agents. Just because you get rejections doesn’t mean you should stop (unless if your query is awful and needs polishing). I’ve had agents tell me my writing was beautiful but the premise wasn’t something they were looking for, or that they would invite me to query them with a different project.



Amy: How long did it take you to write the query for HIDDEN? Did it come easily or did you have to go through many drafts?


Precy: I went through a LOT of drafts. I must have had nine or ten versions in all—can’t remember for sure. I had my friends look at it. I posted it for critique on AQC. I even had BBC’s Query Cat slash it with a hatchet. I stayed up until 2 in the morning one day, staring at the jumbled mess of queries I had on my laptop, and then I wrote the version that would intrigue my agent.

Query writing was an ongoing process. Like I’ve mentioned before, I sent them out in small batches. The query that got me my agent was a product of an epiphany. After I sent it to Ms. Weber that fateful day, I immediately sent it to at least 10 more agents, from which I would garner 6 more full requests.



Amy: How many agents did you query for HIDDEN?


Precy: My stats:

40 queries sent

3 fulls requested before my agent offered representation (including my agent)

6 more fulls requested after I sent out notices of offer of rep

12 no response

5 passes because they saw the notices too late

14 query rejections



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


Precy: It varied. Some were fast responders, some slow. But with my full requests, they came pretty fast. I’m still getting late responses right now—mostly congratulations for the offer of rep email notice I sent them last May.



Amy: What can you tell us about “the call” with your agent, Julia A. Weber?


Precy: I wasn’t ready for it. I had gotten used to the waiting and the slow query responses that when her email showed up letting me know how much she loved my manuscript, I went into panic mode. Luckily, I have great friends who are agented. One of them immediately sent me a list of what to ask, and she also told me what to do next. (Thanks, Bethany!)

I exchanged emails with Ms. Weber—our sort of “getting to know you” correspondence. I was thrilled with her answers, and I knew we would be a good fit, personality-wise. Prior to querying her, I had already followed her on Twitter. She was always helpful and funny, offering tips to writers at every chance. So I knew that she would be someone I would love to work with.



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


Precy: Learn as much as you can. Don’t be hasty. I’ve seen this all the time: writers who immediately query their unpolished mss. Writers who don’t do their research, or don’t take the time to learn about the publishing business before querying. There is power in knowledge. Just as you wouldn’t set out for a job interview sans make-up or shower or with nice, clean clothes on, don’t send out your work if it clearly needs more editing passes. You don’t want to lose your first chance, or create a bad first impression.

And the same thing goes for your query. Ask for help. Keep on working at it. I know queries are HARD to write, but so is getting a job, right? Or writing an essay for a university admissions application form. If you want results, work for it. There are no shortcuts.



Thank you, Amy, for this opportunity to ramble on your blog!



No Precy, thank you, and I look forward to seeing HIDDEN on the shelves one day soon!



Precy maintains a blog and a Twitter account, where her friends know her affectionately by her nickname, Cherie. Her Young Adult Contemporary Fantasy novel, HIDDEN, is a story of a girl battling demons in her head only to find out they are real. With dark magick and soul-suckers on the loose, and a boy who can’t be trusted, she must use her visions to survive the world hidden beyond her own.


Blogging vs. Writing – My blog is winning July 23, 2012




It’s the battle royale – blogging vs. writing, and unfortunately, my blog is going for the knockout.



I started writing this blog about seven months ago and liked the idea of creating my own platform.  Since that time, I’ve enjoyed the ability to muse about my writing, other people’s work, as well as interviewing some amazing authors.  But at the end of the day, I find that I’ve done more creative things on my blog than with my writing.



The day-to-day tally:



Blog: 500 words


Manuscript: 200 words



What’s wrong with this picture?



It’s like the cart before the horse.  One is supposed to support the other.  But if this is true why is one getting all the attention?



I think I’ve figured that out.  The blog is easy.  You can put your thoughts down – beginning, middle and end – and get instantaneous response.  The writing, on the other hand, is a long, drawn-out process, where you may not get feedbacks for weeks, months, even perhaps years.



The thing is, writing is what’s important, and I lose sight of that sometimes.  It could also be that I only have a short amount of time to write anything now because I have screaming kids running around the house. Is summer over yet?



Fellow bloggers/writers what do you think?  Is your blog infringing upon your writing?  If not, how do you balance your time between posting and penning your manuscript? I’d love to hear from you.



And now, I’ve wasted enough time on this post. Back to the writing…until I have to post again.









In celebration of yesterday’s post with Lauren Kate, I’m giving away four books in the series: FALLEN, TORMENT, PASSION & RAPTURE – plus, FALLEN IN LOVE (collected set of love stories inspired by the series).



The contest will last until midnight EST on Monday (July 23).  To enter, you must follow this blog, and add a comment to this post. You get extra entries for the following:



+1 Being a current blog follower

+1 Blogging about the giveaway (Please include URL  as I will need to verify)

+1 Tweeting about the giveaway (Please include your handle so I can verify)



Please add up your entries and include at the bottom of your comment.  Winner will be announced in a post next Tuesday.


TWIST on W.O.W. – Lauren Kate (Fallen Series) July 18, 2012

photo credit: Andre Vippolis



So I’ll be honest, I sent a request for a blog interview for W.O.W. to the immensely successful and talented Lauren Kate thinking there was no way I would get a reply.  But I’m a shoot for the stars kind of girl and thought “What’s the worst that can happen?” No response, right? Oh well, nothing ventured – nothing gained (yes, I’m full of clichés today).



Well imagine my surprise when not a week later, I received a very gracious email from Ms. Kate herself!  Her note to me was lovely but said she was on such a tight deadline with her next book, she couldn’t really do a full interview – but she did offer up some small tidbits about her writing life that I’m excited to share…



Amy:  When did you start writing?

Lauren:  I wanted to be a ballerina until I was about 15 and was told I didn’t have the right feet, ever since then, I’ve wanted to be a writer. When I was younger, I wrote often and across a lot of genres—poetry, songs, stories, lots and lots of diary writing. I started focusing mainly on fiction by the time I was in high school, and longer stories came more naturally to me than short stories. I majored in creative writing in college, and went on to get a masters degree in fiction—but I don’t think those things are necessary to being a good writer. Practice, curiosity, voracious reading, and diligence are more important than any degree. I finished writing my first novel right when I graduated college—but nothing ever happened with it. It look another six years before I had a book accepted for publication.



Amy:    Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Lauren:  Be fearless. Be glib. Be enigmatic. Read everything you can. Always finish your stories. Find a writing friend who can give you comments and help you get perspective. Remember, it only takes one person to say “yes” and open a door. Never give up.
To those of you who are working on a novel or have finished one and are sending out your work: Stick with it. I don’t think you can ever be too young (or too old) to start sending out your work. I recently found a shoebox with 67 rejection letters I’d saved over the years. What kept me writing was the support of other friends who are writers. An English or a Writing program is a great way to read widely and meet other writers—but it’s absolutely not necessary to become a writer. If you’re looking for an agent, Writers Marketplace (the book) is a great place to start. There are also tons of publishing blogs out there with suggestions for agents. It’s mostly about finding someone whose tastes and sensibilities match yours, kind of like falling in love.



Amy: What drew you to the idea of fallen angels?

Lauren:  I came to angels through the backdoor. What interested me initially about this idea was love. Genesis (6:1-4) describes a group of angels who fell in love with mortal women. Putting this reference together with a mention in Isaiah and another in Psalm 82, biblical scholars conclude that these angels were actually cast out of Heaven for putting something above God—Love! I was already interested in love stories, but this idea felt different to me. It felt big. An angel who would sacrifice everything about himself for love? I wanted to explore his story, and the story of the girl for whom he fell.



Amy: Is there any music that inspired the FALLEN novels?


Thirteen by Bigstar
You Look So Young by the Jayhawks
I Envy the Wind by Lucinda Williams
The Book of Love by The Magnetic Fields
Marvelous Things by Eisley
One by Harry Nilsson
Strangers by the Kinks
A Thousand Kisses Deep by Leonard Cohen
Beaches by Bridezilla
I Know Goodbye by Jason Morphew

I love playlist suggestions, so feel free to pass them along.



Amy: What can you tell us about your gorgeous cover art?

Lauren:  Working with my publisher’s design department to choose the perfect image for each book gave me a very specific kind of perspective. Often after writing the books, I still don’t really know what they’re about. Matching a visual concept to the text helps to connect the mystical gap between the writing of a story and the essence that story evokes when it’s complete. We were very lucky to have enlisted the help of the phenomenally talented Fernanda Brussi Goncalves from Brazil. Her images were the perfect fit for Luce and Daniel’s story.



Amy: What are you working on now?

Lauren: I’m working on something exciting and new. Like the Fallen novels, this next series takes an old, familiar story and injects an impossible love into its backbones. It’s been invigorating and challenging to move away from the world I was so comfortable with: new rules, new voices, new obstacles to overcome. My lips are forcibly sealed from giving away more details at the moment, but I’m excited to share the news as soon as I can.



I am beyond elated to share Lauren Kate’s thoughts on writing with you.  She is an amazing author who truly appreciates all her readers.


If you have not read the FALLEN series, I highly encourage you to check them out.  Daniel and Luce’s story will grip you from page one and won’t let you go until you have finished the final chapter in their journey.


Check out my blog tomorrow because I will be revealing details on my next giveaway for all four books in the FALLEN series!






Filed under: Uncategorized — chasingthecrazies @ 2:34 pm



Congratulations to IONA who won the copy of SLIDE and the gift card! Please send me your address and I will ship them to you this week.


Many thanks to all who participated!


And don’t miss tomorrow’s very special W.O.W. with a New York Times Bestselling YA Author!


@$#%&!!! in YA Fiction July 16, 2012




I’ve read three YA books in the last several weeks where the dialogue between each of the characters was filled with expletives.  While I understand the authors are writing about teenagers, and trying to give them an authentic feel, I wonder how much adding expletives is pure laziness put in the place of writing something of quality.



I write YA fiction and yes, my characters swear every once and while.  I’m not a Pollyanna.  I get it. It’s human nature. Something frightens us, makes us angry, makes us hurt, and we swear. That’s understandable.  But when the dialogue between two high school girls turns into a swearing match, which by the way adds nothing to the story, I get frustrated.



I’ve read many YA novels where the characters are in peril, and they have every reason to swear, but somehow the author manages to express their frustration without adding curse words.  This to me is the mark of an excellent writer.  They understand the genre, they connect with the audience, and they can appeal to them without going deep into the gutter with the language.



This all reminds me of a professor I once had who told me that when cursing seeps into your writing, it’s time to step away from the work.  It’s a sign your writing is failing. Why? Because you can’t come up with creative enough words to explain the scene or evoke emotions from your characters.



So I wonder what other writers think about expletives in YA fiction.  Is there a way to add it so that it gives authenticity to a story but doesn’t take away from the work? Can you not include them but still connect with the YA audience?



Whether or not you write YA,  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.  Respond in the comments and let me know your point of view.





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