Chasing my crazy dream in the writing world…

W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday – Stephanie Diaz January 30, 2013




What blows me away about today’s featured author, Stephanie Diaz,  is how young she is, yet what an amazing handle she has on the publishing world.  She has been writing since a very young age.  She started querying at 13!  What were you doing at 13? I think I was chasing after boys and playing with make-up – certainly not going after my publishing dream! But what Stephanie doesn’t have in years, she surely makes up for in her mature approach to having her novel, EXTRACTION published.  Stephanie’s journey is full of ups and downs like all of us, but what is so compelling about her is her constant commitment to her story and the craft of writing.


Here is Stephanie’s writing odyssey…


Amy: What inspires you to write YA Fiction?


Stephanie: I just turned 20 recently, so I am a young adult. It’s always seemed natural to me to write for my age group, because I understand teenagers (mostly). But I hope my work also has cross-over appeal!



Amy: Was EXTRACTION your first completed manuscript?


Stephanie: EXTRACTION is my third completed manuscript, not counting the two middle grade novels I wrote for fun in elementary school.



Amy: How long did it take to complete?


Stephanie: The first draft took me a month and a half. Revisions prior to signing with Alison took something like five months overall. This is partly because I received two revise and resubmit requests while querying, and both times I did hefty revisions.



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


Stephanie: I used many critique partners and beta readers throughout the process. Every single one of them helped me see things in a new light and gave me the confidence to keep writing. I owe them ALL the love.



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


Stephanie: I went through a LOT of drafts for the query. I can’t even remember how many. The lovely writers over at Agent Query Connect helped me come up with something that I initially sent out, but after I received quite a few rejections, I began trying variations. A couple weeks in, I whipped up a brand-new query that finally started getting me requests!



Amy: How many queries did you send for EXTRACTION?


Stephanie: *apparates to Query Tracker* I sent 144 queries. Of those, I had 26 requests for material and 4 offers of representation.



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


Stephanie: The response times varied from a couple days to a few weeks. The agent who first offered rep actually requested a full the same day and offered a week after I queried her. But it took four months to the day from when I sent the first query to when I received my first offer of rep.



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?


Stephanie: I’m not sure that I did anything special, besides trying my hardest to wait until my manuscript was ready before sending it out (ahem, I sort of failed with that at first). I also participated in a couple blog contests that earned me partial or full requests.



Amy: What was your “call” like with your agent, Alison Fargis?


Stephanie: When Alison called me, I knew almost immediately that she was the one I wanted to sign with. We scheduled the call, and I’d already had another call with an agent beforehand, so I was prepared with a couple questions to ask her. What I didn’t expect was for her AND her co-agent to be so enthusiastic. I was on the phone with both of them at once (because I had originally queried her co-agent), and their passion for my story is what made me fall in love with them. I felt like I had the whole agency rooting for me instead of just one person—and even knowing one person believed in my novel was ridiculously awesome and hard to believe. Alison was simply lovely. I had three other offers from amazing agents, but in the end, picking her was easy.



Amy: What was one piece of advice you got during your early writing stages that has stuck with you to this day?


Stephanie: Some of the first agents I queried back when I was 13 told me to just keep writing. I think that’s the most important thing. If you love it, put everything you have into your work. Keep learning as much as you can, and keep at it. Don’t ever lose that passion.



Stephanie is 20. She was born and raised in Southern California, and will graduate from San Diego State University this spring with a bachelor’s degree in film production. She intends to visit the Shire someday and hopes to be the next Doctor’s companion. Her work is represented by Alison Fargis of Stonesong. For more information on Stephanie check out her website or follow her on Twitter.


Has it been a year already? January 28, 2013




I can’t believe how quickly time flies.  It was a year ago today I began “Chasing the Crazies” and let me tell you, when I posted that first entry my hands were shaking.


Why?  Well, because I had no clue what I was doing.  It was literally like I was stumbling around in the dark with my eyes blindfolded and a ski mask pulled over my head for added confusion.  What started as an attempt to get my thoughts together on how much I loved writing, and how terrified I was of the writing business, turned into a blog that has brought me more joy than I can explain.


So what have I learned in a year’s time?


1) With one click you can reach the world


When I look at my views and see visitors from Argentina and Poland I am floored by the internet’s ability to help us reach so many people.



2) Writers are simply amazing people


The writing community is wonderful.  When I dove head first into my first series, Writer Odyssey Wednesday, published authors embraced me and generously shared the intimate details of their path to publication. I’ve made incredible connections through this series and hope it’s brought a sense of inspiration to every aspiring writer who has discovered my blog.



3) Agents don’t bite


Honestly, agents intimidate me.  They are THE gatekeepers to publishing, and without them it’s almost impossible to get your book into the hands of readers. Yet since reaching out to agents for my “First Five Frenzy” series, I’ve learned how down-to-earth, kind and gracious most of them are. Many have gone out of their way to answer my questions and taken time out of their busy schedules to help promote their posts – which blows me away.



4) Twitter rocks!


Being able to tie my posts into my followers has been incredibly helpful and I’ve met so many kind people along the way.



So it’s a new year for “Chasing The Crazies” and I’ve got some cool ideas in store for new posts.  Writer Odyssey Wednesday will continue to focus on authors and their path to publication.  I’ve also got several agents in the queue for “First Five Frenzy.” I hope their advice on those first five  pages will continue to help aspiring writers.


And what else?


For me the next few months are going to be nerve-wracking as I dive back into the query trenches with my YA Thriller, FIGHTING CHANCE.  I certainly hope third time is the charm.  I plan to post my progress and let you know about the crazy roller coaster that is about to become my life.  I hope you will stick around for the ride.


And to all of you who follow my blog, a big “THANK YOU” for believing in me and wanting to read my ramblings.  I appreciate each and every one of you! 🙂


On Never, Ever, Giving Up January 25, 2013

We writers, we all know the truth. Publishing is a TOUGH business. You can write for years and churn out manuscript after manuscript and never get a bite from an agent or a publisher.  Some will give up on their dream while others will keep pushing forward.


The question is which writer are you? Completely committed or ready to throw in the towel?


If you’re on the fence, let me share with you two great stories that have happened in the last several weeks. Maybe they will inspire you to keep your feet on the path to publication.


My critique partner, Katie French, toiled in the query trenches for a long time. After not getting any agent interest,  she decided to self-publish her amazing Young Adult novel, THE BREEDERS.  She’s sold quite a few copies and has done a great job promoting the book.  While in the throws of this promotion just a few weeks ago, she got an email from an agent.  And just weeks later, she was signing a contract with said agent.  She is a perfect example of someone committed to the craft and willing to go the extra mile to ensure that her dream became a reality. I am so happy for her and proud to call her my friend! She gives amazing manuscript feedback as well. I’m so lucky!


Just after Katie’s great news, I saw a wonderful announcement on Twitter from Megan Whitmer.  Megan is a beloved figure among writers due to her dedication to the craft and her inspiring spirit. After spending her fair share of time querying and doing several massive rewrites of her novel, BETWEEN, Megan connected with editors at Spencer Hill Press. After revising and working hard to perfect her novel, Megan was just informed that her book is going to be published.  Her endearing video, announcing this great achievement, can be seen here.


So the question becomes how dedicated are you to your writing? Are you willing to do several rewrites of your beloved novel? Or can you scrap that novel completely and start over with a new idea? How far are you willing to go to make your dreams come true?  I’d love to know.



W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday- Taryn Albright January 23, 2013




Today’s featured writer is Taryn Albright.  Now I have to fess up that I came across Taryn in my search for an editor for my Young Adult manuscript.  I’d seen her name bandied about all over Twitter and when I checked out her website, and saw all the glowing references, I knew Taryn was the right one to read my pages.  Besides being an extremely talented editor, she is a college student and a writer as well.  Her journey is quite unique for someone so young and shows a true commitment  to the craft.  I hope you’ll enjoy Taryn’s writing odyssey, and if you’re ever looking for an editor with a keen eye for voice and pacing, Taryn is your girl!



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


Taryn: I’d always written (rambling dramas based on my swim team, epic fantasies ripped off of whatever series I read at the time), but it wasn’t until the end of my senior year of high school that I realized publishing was a business. I researched frantically all summer, and that November (2010) I wrote my first “serious” novel.



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


Taryn: Technically in 2007. But I didn’t know the market then, so I was just writing what I wanted. The first time I was aware of what I was writing was November 2010. The book with which I signed my agent was novel #10.



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


Taryn: I do have a critique group–they’re fantastic, and I would be miserable without them. We all met at the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Conference ( in 2011. However, BEGGING TO BREATHE was a really weird book for me. The first draft was written for fun, and it was really clean. I read through it once and sent it to agents and my CPs at the same time. They’re critical to my writing moral and to most of my books, but this one didn’t really benefit from their fantastic brilliance.



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


Taryn: I love love love querying! I wish I could do it again! I queried one manuscript before BEGGING TO BREATHE. It had about a 50% request rate, and 50% of the rejections were R+Rs. Deep down, I knew the MS wasn’t anywhere near ready, so I didn’t get hung up on the rejections. It was just exciting to actually be doing something toward my dream. I regret a lot of things about BEGGING TO BREATHE’s querying process, but it wasn’t laborious/frustrating at all.



Amy: How many agents did you query for BEGGING TO BREATHE?


Taryn: 16? I had a very unorthodox querying method for this MS because it was my “fun” book, and I didn’t intend to query it. But a couple agents had asked to see my next MS, so I thought okay, fine, and sent them queries. Once they started requesting, I decided I may as well query for real, and randomly sent stuff out. My list had 40 agents on it, but because I didn’t have a method, I only got to like 16 before stopping because of the offers.



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


Taryn: The agents at the top of my list were the “fast responder” types because I am impatient 😉 I started querying 1/26 and had an offer by 2/3, so whoever hadn’t replied by then (most had, except the queries I’d sent like 2/1) got a nudge.



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?


Taryn: It’s all about the writing. I’ve interned for 3 different agencies now, and there is nothing you can do to get an agent without a good book, just like there’s very little you can do to not get an offer if the agent falls for your book. I do think it helped that I had a pretty strong online presence, though. My agent usually calls clients and then offered, but she offered via email because she already had an idea of my personality from twitter and my blog.



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


Taryn: She liked my book, she liked the ideas I had, I liked that she was west-coast based, I liked that she was younger and newer and would have time to focus on me. I personally hate talking on the phone, so the call wasn’t super comfortable, but none of the calls were. The call with Vickie was about 15 minutes, and I just asked all the questions you’d expect (why’d you like my book, what revisions, communication, etc).



Amy: I love the fact that you have your own editorial service specializing in MG, YA and NA manuscripts. In your work I’m sure you’ve read a lot of very good manuscripts and others that still needed a lot of polishing. What do you think an aspiring author needs to do to stand out in the current marketplace?


Taryn: Thanks!  I *love* helping other authors. I think I like editing more than writing, actually. The manuscripts I love have (1) good writing (2) a strong, fun voice and (3) something unique. I know (3) is really vague, but that’s the cool thing about books–there isn’t a formula for success except creativity. OH! And outside of the book, perseverance is key. I know I got an agent at 18, but the truth is, that was my TENTH book. Write and write and write and write and eventually, your MS will stand out.



Taryn Albright is a nineteen-year-old Creative Writing major represented by Vickie Motter. In addition to her personal writing, she founded the freelance editing service, The Girl with the Green Pen, which gives a thorough critique of middle grade, young adult, and new adult manuscripts from the perspective of a teen. Nine of her clients have secured representation, and five have signed book deals, four with major houses. Since summer 2011, she has been an intern with various literary agencies. Basically, name a book-related job, and she probably does it.



“Behind the Curtain” – A Guest Post by Michelle Krys January 21, 2013

As an aspiring writer I’m always educating myself about the publishing process.  In all my research, there remains one murky area: what happens after “the call”? This step always seems to be shrouded in mystery. It’s hard to find out exactly what happens between when someone signs on the “dotted line” with an agent and gets a fabulous announcement in Publisher’s Marketplace about their sale.


Today, I have asked author, Michelle Krys to take us “behind the curtain,” and share with us the exact details of what happens after the ink is dry on an agent contract. Her thoughtful post shares the intricate details of the process and reveals what it takes to actually get a book submission-ready.  It is a revealing look at the path to publication and an education on how the work doesn’t end once you get an agent – it only just begins…



The wonderful Amy Trueblood has asked me here today to speak a bit about my experience going on submission. For those of you who aren’t deeply entrenched in the publishing business, I’m not referring to some kinky 50 Shades of Grey stuff, but to the process whereby an agent sends an author’s book out to editors in the hopes of landing a book deal.


Before going out on sub myself, I didn’t really know much of anything about the process. All of my focus had been on landing an agent. And then once that happened (I mean after I Carlton-danced around the house, called everyone I knew, and bragged excessively on the interwebs), I blinked at the computer screen, wondering what comes next.


See the thing is, no one really talks about going on submission. I guess you’re not supposed to or something. Well, here I am, talking about it. Today, I will share with Amy’s lovely readers my experience, beginning from the moment after I accepted my agent’s offer of representation.


*hides from agent and editor*


It was within the first week after the call with my fancy new agent, Adriann Ranta, that I received her edit letter. It was short (a few small paragraphs), and it outlined her suggested changes to the manuscript. We’d already touched on these changes during our phone call, so nothing came as a surprise. It took me just a couple of days to complete. A few weeks later, we were on submission.


Initially, I was pretty calm about sending my book baby out into the world. But it wasn’t long before I was cyber-stalking editors like a madwoman. Oh, the stalking! And then I stumbled across Mindy McGinnis’ SHIT series (Submission Hell—It’s True), and really tortured myself. I was cautioned against comparing myself to other writer’s experiences, but that didn’t stop me from becoming completely obsessed with the series. One moment, I was a failure because I hadn’t gone to auction in the first week and Fox hadn’t bought my film rights, like one author, and the next I was still doing ok because another author had been on sub eight months before they got their deal. Sounds horrible, but if I could go back, I wouldn’t do it any differently (I challenge you not to read Mindy’s SHIT series while on submission. It’s impossible).


My agent forwarded along my rejections as they came in, which was something I really appreciated because I have the patience of a housefly. And actually, for some inexplicable reason, I was exhilarated any time I heard back, even when it was a rejection. I lived for those emails. (Have I mentioned I checked my email about 32,000 times a day? Because I did).


I was often advised by fellow writers to dive into a new writing project to distract myself, but that just wasn’t possible. I couldn’t concentrate, knowing that any moment I could hear back from Adriann and my life would change forever. Going out didn’t help either—I just thought about when I could check my email next. Chocolate didn’t help. Neither did wine (Okay the wine helped a little bit). This was the part that sucked. That feeling of being in total limbo. There’s not a whole lot you can do about it that wouldn’t qualify you for AA. It just sucks.


And then I got a book deal.


Allow me to set the scene. I was at work. It was a busy day in the neonatal intensive care unit. We were a month into submission, and it was the last day for offers on HEXED, which we were accepting until 12 noon. I’d already struck out with 6 out of 10 of the houses I was out to.


All morning, like any self-respecting writer, I compulsively checked my email any chance I got. My agent emailed me at about twenty to 12 to say we’d received rejections from another three of the houses, and no word from the last house. Adriann remained incredibly optimistic and let me know we’d go out for another round soon, but I was pretty shattered. However I was at work, so I sucked it up and put on a brave face.


But in a turn of events straight out of the movies, not twenty minutes later I got another email from Adriann, saying that she’d heard from the last editor and could I call her? I went into a quiet hallway to make the call. Wendy Loggia of Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, had made an offer for a two-book deal. I was euphoric! Except I couldn’t really jump for joy since, you know, I was at work and it’s a hospital and what not.


After the call, I went into the bathroom to compose myself and do some deep breathing exercises before going back into the NICU. When I walked back inside, another nurse casually asked what the call was about, and I broke down and ugly cried in front of all my coworkers and the babies’ parents, who had no clue what was going on and looked quite startled.


Wendy and I spoke on the phone later that week. She was incredibly warm and easy to talk to, and so enthusiastic about my project that I just couldn’t help loving her immediately (and not just because she bought my book!).


It’s been a while since then (almost a year), but as I recall we chatted about what aspects of the book she liked and then got into the revisions she had in mind. I was lucky because I completely, wholeheartedly agreed with her ideas (that woman is a genius), and it seemed we shared the same vision for the book. We also chatted about timeframes for when I would likely receive my editorial letter, and what the road to publication might look like for me.


I got my revision letter about 4 months after that initial phone call—pretty average in the business. The letter was 4.5 single-spaced pages. It expanded on what Wendy and I had already discussed, plus a few more things we hadn’t discussed but that I totally agreed with. My deadline was six weeks, and I finished just under that without too much stress. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed when I got another revision letter not long after, but this one was just a page or so in length, and the fixes were so easy it took me just a few weeks, maybe less, to complete.  Copyedits came a few months later, which took a day or two.


Which leads me to last week.


So there you have it, folks. I hope my lengthy diatribe has been helpful to some poor author out there on submission. Or at least, that it hasn’t made anyone question their self-worth too much.



michelle krys final 4x6

Michelle Krys lives with her husband and son in Northwestern Ontario. She loves bad reality television, celebrity gossip, dance music, and nachos, and is not ashamed of any of it (though she probably should be). Her debut novel HEXED is forthcoming from Delacorte Press/Random House Children’s Books in Spring 2014. She thinks it would be swell if you followed her on twitter.



Many thanks to Michelle for pulling back the curtain and sharing the details of her submission journey. I learned a lot and hope you did as well!


FUN FACT FRIDAY January 18, 2013

Filed under: Blog,Writer,Writing Journey — chasingthecrazies @ 3:28 pm
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Do you have something in your past that helps form your stories?  A fun little nugget you hope to share with your children and grandchildren one day?


Today is Fun Fact Friday and I’m going to share one fun element from my life I hope to use one day in my writing.


Here it is…


My first job out of college I was an NBC page in Burbank, California.  Yes, a blue polyester coat-wearing, tour giving, info spouting, Page.


As a first job it was all kinds of awesome.  I ate in the cafeteria with the soap stars, walked through the lot and into the studios where they taped “The Tonight Show” and “Days of our Lives.”  I gave tours and talked about the long history of the network and the ever-evolving peacock symbol. And of course, I met some pretty cool celebrities – some of which had some very odd requests for their dressing rooms (but that’s a story for another time.)


I did the job for almost a year, but I didn’t want to be an actress or a producer, so I moved into advertising shortly thereafter. But the experience is something I’ll remember for a lifetime, and it may come in handy one day with a middle-grade story brewing in the back of my mind.


What about you?  What fun fact from your life will you try to incorporate into a story one day? I’d love to hear about it.


W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday – Lindsay Cummings January 16, 2013




In today’s Writer Odyssey Wednesday interview, author, Lindsay Cummings shares her journey to publication.  What I love most about Lindsay’s answers are her specific goals regarding querying.  With a firm belief in her novel, she went after agents who were a perfect fit. She did the research and it paid off.  It’s a lesson many of us aspiring writers can learn from and put to work in our own query process.


Here is more of Lindsay’s amazing journey…


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


Lindsay: I graduated from high school in 2009. I had plans to go to college for vocal studies. But I got sick with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and needed to decide what to do with my life. I started writing—and soon that became my biggest passion.



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


Lindsay: I was 19 when I finished writing my first book. It was a YA dystopian, and I loved writing it. It wasn’t great, though–so I put that away and wrote THE MURDER COMPLEX a few months later. Then everything clicked! 🙂



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


Lindsay: I do! I have a few friends that have graduated from college and are looking for editorial jobs. They have been SO helpful. My agent also does an amazing job of helping me polish up my work! Everyone is different, but luckily, my beta readers and my agent are KIND editors. They tell it like it is, but they are all sweet enough to tell me what they love about my work as well!



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


Lindsay: Querying my first novel was pretty crazy. I got a ton of full requests from agents, but no one wanted to offer representation on it. When I wrote THE MURDER COMPLEX, people jumped on it pretty quick. That was the most shocking thing, after months and months of rejections for my first novel.



Amy: How many agents did you query for THE MURDER COMPLEX?


Lindsay: I queried about 3 agents on my first round. With TMC, I was super selective about who I queried, because I really believed in that novel. I just knew someone else out there had to love it, so I queried dream agents.



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


Lindsay: My agent, Louise Fury, offered me representation within 3 days of my query! She read THE MURDER COMPLEX while she was at Book Expo America—I’m still shocked that it kept her attention during such a crazy convention!



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?


Lindsay: I started out as a book blogger first. I think it helped SO much, because it really helped me learn lots about the book industry. By the time I was ready to query my novel, I had a good online presence and a good start to learning how everything as an author was going to work!



Amy: What was your “call” like with your agent, Louise Fury? How did you know she was the right fit for you?


Lindsay: We spent almost 3 hours on the phone. She started right off by telling me HOW she would edit the work….I was so impressed by her vision for the book, and her passion for it, that I knew instantly she was my choice. I had other agents reading the full, but Louise got back to me so fast, and was SO in love with my book, that I had to pick her. Plus, she has a South African accent, so I felt fancy talking to her. (not to mention she has no filter, fits SO good with my personality, and is the most exciting and hilarious person I know!)



Amy: What was one piece of advice you got during your early writing stages that has stuck with you to this day?


Lindsay: I would say KEEP GOING. Writing can be tough, and the journey to publication can really suck sometimes. The ones that stick with it, and keep the dream alive, are going to have a much better chance at succeeding. Don’t let road blocks stop you! Just find a way around them, and keep working for what you want! 🙂




Your mind is not your own…
20-year-old Lindsay Cummings’ debut novel, THE MURDER COMPLEX, is described as an action-packed,  blood-soaked, futuristic thriller set in a world where the murder rate is higher than the birth rate, and follows Meadow Woodson, a 15-year-old girl who has been trained by her father to fight, kill, and to survive in any situation, and Zephyr James, the orphaned boy she falls in love with, whose sole purpose is to keep her from discovering the haunting truth about her family, even if it puts them both in mortal danger.



Lindsay Cummings is a 21-year-old author of dark futuristic thriller books for Young Adults. Her first blood-soaked novel, THE MURDER COMPLEX, book 1 in her series, is coming Summer 2014 from Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins. Lindsay deals with chronic fatigue, owns 2 german shepherds, 1 wolf, 2 horses, and a cat, and is currently trying to become like one of her book characters by training in Mixed Martial Arts. She’s still waiting on her letter from Hogwarts–it was probably just lost in the mail. She loves Jesus and believes all of her success is His doing! You can follow Lindsay on twitter @lindsaycwrites ! She’s always on, and loves to chat!


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