Chasing my crazy dream in the writing world…

Fabulous Fall Reads September 28, 2012


With the weather getting cooler and October break around the corner, I started thinking about all the things I’m looking forward to this fall.


I love everything about Halloween, except the costume magazines, which appear in my mailbox in July.  I can’t even think about costumes when it’s still over 100 degrees outside.  And then of course, there are the big warehouse stores who put out the gargantuan (my SAT word for the day) candy bags in August.  Is it me, or do you need a forklift to haul some of those bags into your shopping cart?


Other things I love about fall? The cooler weather. The opportunity to finally run outside without getting heat stroke. And the release of many books I’ve been waiting months to read!


Here are a few titles I can’t wait to get my hands on – it’s truly a bonanza for anyone who loves Young Adult Fiction. And as you may notice, there appears to be a pattern here, as many popular series are taking their final bow.





REACHED by Ally Condie (November 13)

The final installment in The Matched Trilogy and the conclusion to the epic romance between Cassia & Ty.





BEAUTIFUL REDEMPTION by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl (October 23)

Ethan and Lena have been torn apart and now they must find their way back to each other in this epic conclusion to the Caster Chronicles Series.





FINALE by Becca Fitzpatrick (October 23)

Patch and Nora have battled many demons but now they may have to battle their own family and friends in order to stay together.





THE LIES THAT BIND by Lisa & Laura Roecker (November 1)

The sequel to the enormously popular, THE LIAR SOCIETY. This time Kate Lowry is back to sleuthing when a prep school classmate goes missing.





THE EVOLUTION OF MARA DYER by Michelle Hodkin (October 23)

In this highly anticipated sequel, Mara finds herself coming to grips with her extraordinary power, and finds herself doubting everyone around her, including the boy she’s supposed to love.



So those are a few of the new books releasing soon that I’m excited to read.  How about you?  Is there something hitting the bookshelves soon you’re dying to read? I’d love to hear about it!



And NEXT FRIDAY… THE F3 (First Five Frenzy) returns with Agent Michael Carr of Veritas Literary sharing his thoughts on what makes the first five pages of a manuscript compelling! For any aspiring writer, this is a must read!


W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday – The Illustrious Authoress September 26, 2012



Being anonymous is one thing. Staying anonymous is quite another. Yet the woman behind the blog, Miss Snark’s First Victim, has managed to successfully stay behind the curtain. All the while sharing her energetic personality with readers, as well as offering ample opportunities for writers to get their work in front of a prestigious contingent of literary agents.


Known as Authoress, this woman not only has an amazing touch with the aspiring writer community, but is well-versed in the world of writing, being an author herself. Fascinated by her ability to not only write, but run an amazingly successful blog, I knew I had to track down this great lady and learn about her writing journey.


Gracious as always (although still remaining anonymous) Authoress took up the challenge and agreed to answer my questions…


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


Authoress: I self-published a non-fiction book in 2002. At the time, I considered myself an essayist, and believed (truly!) that I could never write a novel. Everything changed when I sat down and wrote my first (horrible) novel, a YA fantasy. That was in 2003. From the first word, I knew I wanted to be a published novelist.



Amy: When did you complete your first manuscript?


Authoress: Some time in 2004.



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


Authoress: What’s really interesting is that this first, horrible novel actually received 2 partial requests! Clearly I’d done a better job on the query than I had on the novel. I finally realized that my first novel was not publishable, and began querying my second novel (an MG fantasy). I received requests for partials and my very first request for a full, so there were some heady moments during Novel 2’s journey! But ultimately, it wasn’t strong enough, either. In truth, I was still honing my craft, and in looking back, I can clearly see why the MG fantasy didn’t land me an agent. By the time I queried Josh, I was on my fourth completed novel. And that was the winner!



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


Authoress: At first, it had its normal ups and downs (and obsessive email checking, of course!), but it got really difficult toward the end. The YA dystopian that Josh fell in love with had gotten many requests and two revise-and-resubmits that all ended in rejection, and I was beginning to despair of ever landing an agent. People kept telling me, “It’s always the hardest right before your big break comes, so hang in there!” It was hard to believe that, but it turns out they were right.



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


Authoress: Well, I was always working on the next story, so after a while, when my rejections had piled up and the agents left on my list had dwindled to almost none, it was easy to shift gears and query the next novel.



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


Authoress: You know, I’ve just had this carved-in-stone vision for my writing career, and quitting would have meant giving that up. Even when I was ready to walk away–and I was seriously considering it, even as Josh was reading my manuscript–I ultimately knew I could never do it. I’m just not the walk-away type.



Amy: Can you give us a short summary of your call with your agent, Josh Getzler?


Authoress: Short? *grin* Actually, Josh had mentioned in an email that he felt like he was already my agent, so it was clear that our call was going to be a confirmation of that. A sort of “let’s-make-this-official”. It was a cold day right before Christmas, and I took the call in our upstairs TV room, wearing a chunky, brown sweater and my gray Jodimitts (you all know what Jodimitts are, right?). As Josh talked, I furiously scribbled down everything he said. And I smiled a lot.


The truth is, I absolutely hate phones. So that made me all the more nervous for this initial phone call. Now, of course, my scheduled calls with Josh don’t make me twitch anymore. He’s wonderful and warm and real over the phone, so it’s not the heart-stopping event it used to be. But, yeah. That first call was scary not so much because it was Josh, but because it was…a phone.



Amy: Your blog, “Miss Snark’s First Victim” has numerous success stories. But for every success, there are many who still can’t get an agent to bite. What is your advice for those writers who continue to struggle with rejection?


Authoress: I know you have heard it so many times that you probably want to drop-kick the next person who says it. But here it is, anyway: DON’T GIVE UP. Rejection is hard. I’m not going to pretend it didn’t come close to crushing me sometimes. But it’s imperative that you learn–hard and fast–that rejection of your work is not rejection of you. That you have within yourself the ability to take the bad and use it to create GOOD. In other words–keep growing as a writer. Never stop. Never say, “This is the best I can do, so screw it.” Because…the best you can do today is not the best you will be able to do tomorrow. This is a journey, and we’ve got to be willing to keep traveling until we reach our destination.


Also? You’re not alone. Don’t sit in your warm, little hole licking your wounds. Come on out and commiserate. We’ll stroke your hair and hug you for a little while, but then we’ll kick you in the behind and tell you to get back to work. Because that’s what it’s going to take.


And you can do it!







CHASING A GOOD READ – TEN September 24, 2012



One of the most difficult things about writing for me is plotting.  Some people use bulletin boards, note cards, or elaborate charts to get their ideas in place. I just write a simple outline and hope my chapters follow along.  This has worked for me with some success until now.


Why now?


Because I’m writing a YA Thriller and the plotting is kicking my behind! Trying to figure out when to reveal certain plot points, throwing in red herrings, as well as having tight prose, is no easy task my friends.


So why am I bemoaning all this?  Because I just read Gretchen McNeil’s, TEN, and the intricate plotting blew me away.  She weaved such an amazingly tight story that even down to the last chapter, I was still wondering who the bad guy/girl was.  And it’s no easy feat to fool me.  Friends and family refuse to watch mystery movies with me because I ALWAYS know who the villain is in the first five minutes.


I’m not going to give many details about this book, because I can’t stand it when people give away spoilers.  All I will say is the premise surrounds ten teenagers who sneak away to a remote island for a weekend party.  As they contemplate the evening’s festivities, someone pops in a DVD, and the real story takes off.  In gruesome detail our villain lets every reveler know that before the weekend is over they will all be dead.


I’ll be honest, about half way through, I started to worry this was going to have a predictable ending. I was sure I knew which way the story was headed.  But, Ms. McNeil had more than a couple of surprises up her sleeve – all of which caught me completely off guard.


My only negative comment about the story was there were some issues with the climax scene.  While filled with loads of tension, it had me feeling disembodied at certain points. I found myself rereading the text several times just to figure out where the characters were in the scene, which brought down the impact of the ending.


Regardless of this minor issue, I highly recommend TEN to anyone who enjoys an intense thriller. While marketed as Young Adult Fiction, I think any fan of  Adult Fiction (thrillers or mysteries) would find this a heart-stopping read.


And one last thing… If you do read TEN, I challenge you to predict who the killer is.  I bet, you too, will be shocked by the mind-blowing ending!


RATING: Absolutely worth the chase


A side note: Gretchen will be part of my W.O.W. series in October.  Come back by and check out what she has to say about her writing journey. It’s one interview you won’t want to miss!


A Writer’s Education Via The Web September 21, 2012




When you sit down to write a book no one ever tells you that trying to get it published goes way beyond writing “The End” on the final page. Oh no, that is just the first step in a very looong journey. A journey that may, or may not, end with an agent, and seeing your book in all its technicolor glory on the shelves one day.


I was very naive when I started the writing process. I thought I knew how to maneuver through the publishing trenches, reach out to an agent, and get my book published in record time.


Yeah, right. Hello Newbie.


I was seriously deluded, thinking I could pull this off without educating myself on how this business works. And there’s no doubt about it. Publishing is first and foremost a business – a fact us creative types tend to ignore.


So if you’re new to writing and/or publishing how do you educate yourself?


I personally have found the web to be a wealth of knowledge when it comes to teaching a novice writer how to succeed in the land of the written word.


Here are some great blog posts I’ve come across that have been amazingly helpful in teaching me about the industry:


Questions about word count?  Think that YA novel you’ve written is stellar at 150K? You might want to think again.  Check out super agent, Jennifer Laughran’s blog post on word counts. I find myself referring to it constantly.


Think you’ve got an amazing query that you’re just itching to send to agents?


Hold off before hitting the “SEND” button and check out this post from Words From The Woods titled, “Optimizing The Query Process With Fewer Mistakes.” It will make you rethink your querying approach.


What happens after you sign on the dotted line and sell your book?  YA author, Mindy McGinnis, takes us behind the curtain in a post on Book Pregnant called,  “Why Does It Take So Long To Publish A Book, Anyway?”


Once the book is on the shelves how do you promote it? Well if you’re with a large house, they’ll have you work with a publicist, but they can only do so much.  What should you do as an author to promote that baby you’ve toiled over for so long?  The answer may be in Stephen L. Duncan’s “Mind the Gap” post on From The Write Angle.


All of these important posts have taught me that I’ve still got a lot to learn about the publishing business.


What about you? Have you come across a helpful article on the web that has taught you something about writing or publishing you didn’t know?  If you have, please tell me about it.  I’d love to read it and share with others!


W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday – Jessica Khoury September 19, 2012



I first came across author, Jessica Khoury, when I was reading a blog about successful queries.  I read her first lines and thought, “Man, this girl can write!”  From that time forward, I waited to see if her book would make it through submission and be published.  I stumbled upon a thread of hers on Agent Query Connect, and sure enough she had an announcement about her publishing date.


Her book, ORIGIN, hit shelves last Tuesday, and I devoured it in two days.  I can’t say enough amazing things about this book – so I’ll just say this –  GO OUT AND BUY IT OR DOWNLOAD IT NOW! You will not be sorry.


Ok, so enough fangirling – on to Jessica’s writing journey…


Amy: What drew you to write a Young Adult novel?


Jessica: YA is what I love to read, so I’ve never really considered writing anything else. The great thing about YA is it’s exploding right now, not just in numbers, but in possibilities. There is a level of experimentation and freedom in YA you don’t get in other genres; as an author, you can be daring, mixing genres, exploring themes and settings that haven’t been done before. It’s really an exciting place to be right now and I am so happy to have a spot in YA!



Amy: Was ORIGIN your first completed manuscript?


Jessica: Before ORIGIN I had written two complete novels. They were both high fantasy, and I love them both very much. The first, however, was written when I was 13, and is better off staying on its floppy disk in a deep, dark drawer–but it was a great learning experience! The second one I finished last year, having written it during college, and I would love to see it published one day! We will see.



Amy: How long did it take to complete?


Jessica: I spent 30 days on the first draft of ORIGIN, which sounds very fast, I know, but you must take into account the months of editing that followed. After editing with my agent and then editor at Razorbill, ORIGIN was in development for about 9 months.



Amy: Did you use critique partners for ORIGIN? If so, how did that affect your writing process?


Jessica: I had a few beta readers early on, before I got an agent, and their input was very valuable. The biggest influences on ORIGIN, however, came from my editor and agent. They are both very savvy when it comes to critiques, and I was so fortunate to have their help in developing the manuscript.



Amy: When you first wrote your query for ORIGIN did it come easily or did it go through many drafts?


Jessica: The query was actually really easy. I’d queried one book before that, and spent weeks on the query–not so with ORIGIN. I pretty much sent out the first draft of the query to agents–which I wouldn’t recommend to anyone. Queries are vitally important and you should take your time in crafting them. But I did post it on for feedback, so I did have feedback on it before it went out.



Amy: How many queries did you send out for ORIGIN?


Jessica: I sent 40 in one day. You can query a bunch of agents all at once, or do 5-10 a week. With ORIGIN, I felt I might get some good responses because I believed so strongly in the story myself, and I was right. I wanted the ability to have multiple agents requesting at the same time, because then they read faster and get even more exciting about your book. I’m so glad I did the full-out, query-EVERYBODY! approach; if I hadn’t, I might not have found my fabulous agent!



Amy: Did you receive immediate response or did you have to twist your hands and wait a while?


Jessica: I got my first request within fifteen minutes–so pretty fast! A week later, I got my first phone call and offer of representation.



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?


Jessica: My query really helped; it was the main thing catching agents’ attention. My query for my previous book was very weak and I learned a lot from the mistakes I made with it. I was able to develop my query-writing skills and come up with a very compelling one for ORIGIN.



Amy: What was your “call” like with your agent, Lucy Carson of The Friedrich Agency?


Jessica: So surreal! I was so nervous and couldn’t eat anything all day! Lucy was very sweet and enthusiastic, but also very to-the-point. She knew exactly what changes she wanted made to the book and was able to communicate those very clearly in our initial conversation. It was my first encounter with a real “industry professional,” so I was pretty shy and tentative, but now I know I could call her anytime about anything. She’s been great in making me feel comfortable in the publishing world and helping me develop not just ORIGIN, but my own public persona as a YA author.



Amy: If you met an aspiring writer on the street, who had just gone through a long period of rejection, what would you say to encourage them to keep writing?


Jessica: I’d say don’t give up–but if you’re having trouble, don’t just bumble blindly on. Take time to study your own writing and the writing of successful authors you admire. Read books on writing, join online writing communities, and focus on honing your craft. That’s what I did in the two years after I graduated college, and it paid off. You might have a natural knack for writing, but even natural talent needs to be trained, practiced, and continually sharpened. Writing isn’t just something that develops from sitting down to write every day–though that is a vital aspect to it. You must view it as a discipline requiring study, evaluation, and sometimes, a change to your approach.





Jessica Khoury is 22 years old and was born and raised in Georgia. She attended public school followed by homeschooling, and earned her bachelor’s degree in English from Toccoa Falls College. She lives in Toccoa, Georgia with her husband Benjamin, two terrible dogs and three contrary birds, and an abundance of books, shoes, and sweet tea. When not writing, she’s usually directing stageplays or coaching soccer. She began writing at age four and has dreamed of being an author ever since. Origin is her first novel. Film rights were recently optioned by Scott Pictures.


Find out more about Jessica on her website or follow her on Twitter.


Guest Posting Today: Underground Book Reviews September 17, 2012



Just a short note to encourage everyone to head over to Underground Book Reviews to check out my guest review on Jessica Khoury’s  ORIGIN.


This stunning debut is an amazing read that mixes science with morality, and will have you thinking about its themes long after you’ve read the last word.


Hope you enjoy!


DO WE NEED A DIFFERENT POV? September 14, 2012


Confession time.  In the summmer of 2006, a friend who was a sixth grade teacher told me about a book I had to read.  It was a little unknown novel titled, TWILIGHT.


I read it and thought it was a decent story, put it on the shelves with my other books, and didn’t think a thing about it.  A year later, I couldn’t go anywhere without hearing, seeing or reading about the flurry of girls and women obssessed with the book.  In fact, I was in a tiny airport in Cabo San Lucas and sitting across from me was a man in his early 60s and what was he reading? I don’t think I have to say any more about the frenzy and how many people it touched.


In 2008 with the craze still running rampant, it was revealed that Stephenie Meyer had re-written TWILIGHT from the POV of Edward, titled MIDNIGHT SUN.  The file got leaked on the internet, without Meyer’s permission, and eventually she posted it on her website for all her rabid fans to read. I read it, but I didn’t feel it really added much to the original story.


Why am I blathering on about this?  Well because I just discovered that Veronica Roth has just done the same thing with the release of a little thing called, FREE FOUR.  It’s one chapter from DIVERGENT, told from Four’s POV.  In case you’ve already read the series, I’ll tell you it’s the scene where he throws knives at Tris’ head.





All this has me asking –  do we need to read a book again, but from another character’s perspective? Will it add anything to the original concept? Would you want to reread HUNGER GAMES but from Peeta’s viewpoint?  Would it change how you perceived Katniss’ story?


It has me thinking about so many other possibilities.  What about HARRY POTTER? Would you want to read GOBLET OF FIRE from Ron or Hermione’s perspective? Although I will admit, I’d spend big bucks to reread HALF-BLOOD PRINCE if it was written from Snape’s POV.


So what do you think?  Is it helpful to the reader to get another character’s POV on a story, or does it not add anything to the overall concept?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!


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