Chasing my crazy dream in the writing world…

W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday with Alexis Bass April 30, 2014



Many times when I do an interview with a new author they say something that resonates with me. In today’s interview with Alexis Bass, I was struck by her comment about continuing to write during the query process.  It’s true that the constant “refreshing” of your inbox can drive you mad, but if you can focus on something new it helps keep the insanity level in check. And it’s true what Alexis says, (even though it may be hard to hear) but every novel that doesn’t get published is great practice.


Many thanks to Alexis for sharing her nuggets of advice and her amazing writing journey today…



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


Alexis: I always, always, loved writing and dreamed about being published. But actively going about it—revising, getting critiques, researching agents, sending out queries—probably happened when I was three years out of college. Prior to getting serious I was a first draft junkie with several completed novels under my belt, none of which had been revised or edited. When I was in college I always thought, Oh, writing is such a hobby for me, I’ll do it in my free time, and eventually get published. It makes me laugh now. I did work toward getting published in my “free time”—but really, for me that meant pursuing it like it was a second job. I lost a lot of sleep, took a lot of working lunches, and my laptop came with me on any and all vacations. But I loved it, so it was worth it.



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


Alexis: About four years ago I spent time revising and editing a novel to get it to the point where I thought it was acceptable to start pitching to agents; and it happened to be YA.





Amy: I love the Marilyn Monroe quote you use in LOVE AND OTHER THEORIES.  Was this the inspiration behind the book?


Alexis: Thanks! That quote was a huge part of the inspiration for LOVE AND OTHER THEORIES. I was also greatly inspired by general conversations I’d had with my girlfriends in high school and college about dating, about boys, and about the way we examined what other girls went through thinking either, “that’s not going to be me” or “she’s got it figured out.” So it was natural writing about these characters who treat avoiding heartbreak as a serious business.



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


Alexis: Once I got the hang of it, it didn’t seem so bad—but writing the query for that first YA novel was so torturous. I took a class, which helped. I also had critique partners going through the same thing—HUGE help. But what really worked best for me was writing a query-type summary (250 words) whenever I got an idea for a novel, even before I started drafting it. I’d recommend this to everyone, because when the idea is the freshest it’s easiest to break down query-style, highlighting the most pivotal plot points to paint a picture of the main conflict. The query for LOVE AND OTHER THEORIES was drafted before the novel was finished. It just required some tweaking after the manuscript was revised and ready to be sent to agents.



Amy: How many agents did you query for LOVE AND OTHER THEORIES?


Alexis: Since this was my second time in the query-rodeo, I approached it much differently. I was very selective about who I sent the query to; it reached around fifteen agents, if memory serves. I also tested the query first, through webinars where agents were offering critiques, and through pitch sessions, just to see if my idea and my pitch were drawing any attention.



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


Alexis: Some query rejections came quickly; some full-manuscript requests came quickly; some I had to wait for. Once your manuscript is out with agents, waiting is always part of it, but that’s the kind of waiting that’s a bit more fun (I think!).



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


Alexis: I wish I could recount more details from The Call—I was all too nervous, stunned, happy, to remember specifics. There was this checklist I got off the internet, “what to ask during ‘the call’” or something, and I printed it out, ready to ask everything I was “supposed” to ask. I think every question on the list Suzie addressed and after a while I stopped looking at it. 🙂  I do remember I said, “I want to scream!” instead of actually screaming. I’m sure that was much appreciated, by both my neighbors’ and Suzie’s eardrums.


Aside from the general things I knew about Suzie and New Leaf Literary and Media from my research, I knew she was the right fit for me because of how much she loved and understood my book. She also gave me one of the best revision notes I’d ever received, and changed the book for the better x 100, while not changing the themes of the story.



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?


Alexis: Followed the rules. (Is that boring? haha) I knew agents got 300 plus queries a week, so I wanted to make it as easy as possible for them to read my query. And should it have peaked their interest, I didn’t want to give them any reason to suspect that I might be anything but completely professional about writing and my writing career. A short, carefully edited query, with as many pages as the agent preferred included, was what I concentrated on.


I also knew the market I was entering very well, so I was able to make a comparison. Love and Other Theories will appeal to readers of Nina LaCour and Courtney Summers. I’ve been told that was helpful, too!



Amy: If you were giving a keynote speech at a writer’s conference what would be the most important piece of advice you would share?


Alexis: Keep writing. Maybe that’s basic advice, but really if you’re writing it’s because your ideas are demanding you to. So indulge. Remember that every book that doesn’t get published was great practice. Listen to what other people tell you about your story, without getting defensive. Be willing to go outside of your own head, and see the story through others’ eyes. Fix it. Delete the long sentences you love. Delete entire chapters. Keep reading to always discover new things you love about what you’re doing. Participate, even though the publishing world is sort of daunting and feels exclusive. Go to conferences, online or in person. Pitch your novel even if your hands shake and voice stutters (I’ve been there—agents are very understanding about this!). Talk to other writers even though you don’t want to answer that dreaded question: What is your book about? Query ‘that one agent’ even though you think they’re out of reach since signing Famous Author X. Cry over rejections. Get excited when your book makes your beta-readers emotional. Obsessively check your email during submission. But don’t stop writing. Unpublished words are never useless, they are process.



AlexisBassAlexis Bass grew up in Washington, went to college in Arizona, and currently lives in Northern California (by way of Seattle). She loves fashion and good TV as much as she loves a good book, and she is a huge advocate of the three C’s: coffee, chocolate, and cheese. Her debut novel, LOVE AND OTHER THEORIES, will be published by HarperTeen in Winter 2014. For more information on Alexis, visit her blog, Facebook page or follow her on Twitter.





QUERY 101 SERIES: The Personalization Quandary April 25, 2014

Filed under: Blog,Literary Agent,Publishing,Query — chasingthecrazies @ 8:21 am
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Let’s say you’ve got the body of your query at a state of perfection. Character, conflict, and cost are all there, and your critique partners have given you the “thumbs up” to send. You paste the body copy, along with your bio, and perhaps some sample pages (if agent requires that as part of submission) into your email. You type “Dear XXX” and then you get stuck.


What do you say next? Should you personalize the greeting? Add how your work would be a good fit for their list? Personally, I think this part of the query can be the most difficult. You want to be professional, yet you want to prove you’ve done your research too. But…you don’t want to bog down the agent with too much greeting before you introduce your story.


One word of note here: Queries should be addressed to ONE agent only. And you should address them by name. After reading agent after agent interview, I can tell you the quickest way to get sent to the “trash” is to start your query with “DEAR AGENT.”


How much you want to personalize your intro is up to you.  If you want to get to the meat of the query, I think that is fine. But if you have some personal connection to the agent (like you met them at a conference), or have a specific reason for querying them (their bio states they want YA Thrillers), then I recommend adding some level of personalization. Why? Because it proves you are serious about the process, have done your research, and know the agent works with your category and genre.


There is one other benefit to personalization: it makes you stand out.  As I read agent’s “ten queries in ten tweets” on Twitter, I see the same comments over and over – “I don’t take this genre,” or “person did not follow sub guidelines.” If you take time to do your research, and address the agent by name as in “Ms. XXX or Mr. XXX,” you will be steps ahead of other writers in the slush who don’t bother to follow the correct protocol.


Just like writing though, your personalization needs to be true to you. It doesn’t need to be overly flowery or poetic. If you are a “get to the basics” kind of personality, then that’s how your intro should be. If you are a writer who is more about making a connection, then it’s okay to state that you are an admirer of their client’s work and that is why you are approaching them for representation.


When it comes to personalization each writer is different. There is not one way to do it right. The key thing to remember is this is your initial introduction to an agent – the moment where they start to decide if they want you as a client. If you can state clearly why you are approaching them for representation, and add a hint of personalization,  you will be well on your way to making a good first impression.


What are your thoughts about personalization in a query? What approach worked for you? Would love to hear about it in the comments.







W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday with Ava Jae April 23, 2014




I’m very excited today to share the writing journey of Ava Jae.  A while ago, I was lucky to read the first few chapters of her manuscript, SLAVE & SIRA, and was blown away by her writing.  Now I am thrilled to share her writing odyssey where she shares a few tidbits about her time in the query trenches before signing with her agent, Louise Fury.


Thanks to Ava Jae for sharing her writing odyssey today…



Amy: First, you have an incredible blog, Writability. Do you find that posting regularly helps to hone your writing skills?


Ava Jae: Thank you so much! I definitely find that posting regularly has helped my writing—it really taught me that not only is it possible to write even when I don’t feel like it or don’t have ideas, but it’s possible to do so consistently and come out with halfway decent writing at the end. Or at least, halfway decent to me. 🙂



Amy: What inspires you to write both Young Adult and New Adult fiction?


Ava Jae: Well, I like to say in my bio that I love writing about self-discovery and the complicated worlds of young people, then I like to take their emotionally-ridden lives and basically destroy them. That’s a huge part of it—mostly, I just love the energy and excitement and the way that young people view the world, whether it’s teenagers going through puberty and dealing with new influences and hormones for the first time, or new adults trying to juggle new responsibilities, independence and what it actually means to be an adult. I also love the honesty in the voices of both YA and NA fiction as well as the quicker pace that tends to be prominent in YA & NA.



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


Ava Jae: I queried and trunked four manuscripts before writing SLAVE & SIRA, though one of those manuscripts I queried twice, so I’d been through the query trenches five times before querying the MS that landed me an agent. I also had five other full manuscripts in the drawer that I didn’t try to polish and query.



Amy: Did your query for SLAVE and SIRA come easily or did it go through many drafts?


Ava Jae: Ha ha ha ha ha. Does anyone write an easy query? If so, I could use some of their magic.


I can’t even tell you how many drafts the SLAVE & SIRA query went through, because I lost count. I posted the original version on WriteOnCon’s forums during their WriteOnCon 2013 event and if I remember correctly, I went through at least eight drafts just based off critiques from the forums. There may have been more.


After that I won a couple critiques from editors off Twitter and giveaways, so it went through several more drafts from those critiques. Then I also had CPs and other very nice people such as yourself look over it. Even after I started querying, I kept getting critiques and tweaking it—in fact, the query that eventually ended up in front of Louise was actually tweaked many times over after she had it, though she never saw those edits.


So…yeah. There were a lot of drafts. And ultimately, Louise saw the first 250 words of my manuscript before she saw my query. So.



Amy: Did you have critique partners for SLAVE and SIRA? If so, how critical were they to your writing process?


Ava Jae: Yes! I have several critique partners and many of them looked at SLAVE & SIRA—one of them even went through it twice. They helped me so ridiculously much. They pointed out plot holes, characters in need of development, places where I could boost the world building, and pointed out several things that were confusing, etc. I love my critique partners to death and they all have super valuable insight.



Amy: How many agents did you query for SLAVE and SIRA? Did you receive immediate responses, or did you have to wait a while for replies?


Ava Jae: I queried 25 agents total. I received a few quick responses, but mostly I had to wait. And wait. And try not to go crazy waiting. To give you an example, two of the queries I sent out in my very first batch at the beginning of September I didn’t hear back from until I sent my notice of offer in early December.



Amy: Can you give a short summary of your call with your agent, Louise Fury? How did you know she was a good fit for you?


Ava Jae: Before I had my Call experience, I’d often read online that writers said The Call was a blur afterward—and you know, they’re right. I was so hyped up on anxiety and excitement and more anxiety that only a couple things really stuck out to me (so thank goodness I took notes).


The two things I remember very clearly are as follows: firstly, Louise and Team Fury’s vision for my book was spot-on with what I wanted. All of her edit suggestions were so beyond perfect and she really got my manuscript. And that was pretty incredible.


The second thing was she was totally willing to let me write in multiple categories and genres, which was important to me, as I like to write both YA and NA and Fantasy and well as Sci-Fi, etc. Between those two elements, I knew she was going to be perfect for me.



Amy: You connected with Louise via an online writing contest. How important do you think contests are in getting noticed by an agent?


Ava Jae: Online contests to me are an extra opportunity to get your work in front of agents. They’re not more important than querying or less important than querying—they’re another way to get your foot in the door, and one that I think is definitely worth giving a try.


That being said, I applied to many writing contests and Twitter pitch fests and wasn’t picked once except in the Secret Agent contest that put my work in front of Louise, which has entries chosen randomly. So something important to remember, I think, is just because you don’t make it into a writing contest doesn’t mean your work isn’t any good.


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


Ava Jae: Hmm. Not exactly. I never considered giving up on writing altogether, because I love writing, and more than that, I love writing novels. But the thought had occurred to me that I may never get published, and that was something I had to come to terms with. It wasn’t easy, but once I accepted that it was a real possibility and I was actually okay with it, I was so much happier going forward. That’s not to say I wouldn’t have been way disappointed (and hey, there’s still no guarantee I’ll be published so I can still say it’d be disappointing as hell), but in the end what makes me happy is writing, and living through my characters, and creating new worlds. I’m not published now and I’m perfectly happy, and to me, that’s what’s important.



Ava Jae is a writer, artist and movie lover represented by Louise Fury of The Bent Agency. She writes NA and YA novels because she loves writing about self-discovery and the complicated worlds of young people. Then she likes to take their emotionally-ridden lives, rip them apart, and set them on fire. She also has an addiction to movies, but that’s another matter entirely. You can find her weekly musings on her blog Writability, follow her on Twitter and tumblr or like her Facebook page.




Monday Musings: Spring Contest Wrap-Up! April 21, 2014

Filed under: Blog,contest,Literary Agent,Publishing,Query — chasingthecrazies @ 7:59 am
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I love everything about spring! The new blooms, amazing weather, and the promise of a soon-to-be summer filled with lazy days by the pool.  One other thing I love about spring is the flurry of writing contests on the horizon! If you’ve got a finished, polished manuscript, it’s time to consider entering your work in some of these stellar opportunities:



1) Got  YA Contemporary?


Here’s a chance to pitch your YA Contemporary story to publisher, Spencer Hill Contemporary, an imprint of Spencer Hill Press.



2) PitchSlap with Mina Vaughn & Brenda Drake


Taking it’s name from a session at the upcoming RT Convention, this contest allows you to pitch your Young Adult, New Adult or Adult Romance (or story with romantic elements) via Twitter. Winners will have their pitch used as an example during the RT session, as well as receive query critiques from literary agents Jessica Sinsheimer and Pete Knapp. Agents and editors will also be trolling the #RTSlap feed during the day and could make requests!



3) The Writer’s Voice


A well-known contest where writers form teams and coach entrants on their queries and first pages. Judges include Brenda Drake, Monica Bustamante Wagner, Kimberly P. Chase and Elizabeth Briggs.



4) Query Kombat


The ultimate query battle! This contest is back for a second year with face-offs scheduled to begin on May 22. Check out Michelle Hauck’s blog over next several weeks for more details!


Did I miss an amazing contest that you know of? If so, please let me know in the comments!


One last word of note: If you plan on entering ANY contest please make sure to read ALL the submission rules and guidelines.




First Five Frenzy with Dr. Uwe Stender of TriadaUS Literary Agency April 18, 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, Uwe Stender’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?


Uwe: Very important, because it has to get my attention.  BUT: it’s only one sentence out of 75,000 words or so.



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?


Uwe: My answer is: NONE, because if you are a great writer you should start with whatever you want to start with and then write a great novel!… And now, I want to apologize to all of you readers about the tangent I will embark on.


I often compare novels to music. So, let’s take the first sounds of a song as a comparison.  Listen to the classic opening of “Be My Baby” by The Ronettes from 1963. Then listen to 1964’s “Don’t Worry Baby,” by The Beach Boys, then to 1976’s Billy Joel “Say Goodbye To Hollywood,” then to 1985’s “Just Like Honey” by Jesus and Mary Chain, then to 2001’s “Eighties Fan” by Camera Obscura, then to 2011’s Lykke Liu’s “Sadness Is A Blessing,” then to 2012’s Joey Ramone “Party Line,” then to 2013’s “Never Wanna Know,” you get the idea once you listen to them…Essentially the same opening, but they all develop into totally different songs and each of the songs is equally wonderful to me…so don’t limit yourself, or exclude anything.



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?


Uwe: The voice and the plot! Create a desire in me to want to read more.



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


Uwe: Many authors unleash too much backstory on the unsuspecting reader. Let the story, the plot, the characters develop and breathe.



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


Uwe: All of it, but mostly the voice. You can change and teach plot and pacing. Voice cannot be taught, it’s a gift. You have it or you don’t.




UweDr. Uwe Stender is a Full Member of the AAR (Association of Authors’ Representatives).

His best known clients are actress Melody Thomas Scott, CNN HLN and TruTV’s In Session News Anchor Christi Paul, Eric Deggans,former CNN anchor Daryn Kagan, 4 time Grammy Award winning composer Lalo Schifrin (“Mission Impossible”), Elizabeth LaBan, Stacy Tornio, and legendary NBA referee Bob Delaney.

Uwe was a guest speaker at several major conferences including the SCWC in San Diego, the Crimebake (Mystery Writers of America New England Chapter), the Writers’ League of Texas in Austin, Penn Writers, and he spoke on a panel at the Book Expo America in New York City.


If you’re interested in submitting to Uwe, please make sure to check the TriadaUS Literary Agency website for their guidelines.




Query 101 Series: Research, Research and More Research April 11, 2014

Once your query is a masterpiece, you think you’re done, right? Wish I could say that’s so, but there’s more work ahead. Now it’s time to figure out who you want to receive that shining gem. But before you can do that, you must do your research.


First, I recommend you have a clear understanding of your category (i.e. is your book Middle Grade or Young Adult?)

Here’s a great post from Writer’s Digest on defining categories:


Next, make sure you’ve determined the correct genre for your work. This is critical to the querying process. Why? Because I’ve heard many agents say they’ve rejected a query because it was labeled wrong and they did not rep. said genre.


For help with determining genre, check out this link from literary agent, Jennifer Laughran:


Once you have your category and genre clear, you can move on to agent stalking, umm, I mean agent research. While finding someone who takes your category and genre is imperative, you should also research their sales, publishers they’ve sold to, and how long they’ve worked with their clients. In my opinion, when querying an agent, you need to look for someone who wants to invest in your entire career, because of course, you’re going to write more than one book!


So where do you go to research agents?


Here are two websites that will help your process: AgentQuery and QueryTracker. Both will allow you to research by category. From there, you can drill down to see which take your genre. Once you determine this information, I suggest you go to that agent’s website. Many times they may have changed their query guidelines, be closed to queries, or revamped their wish list. You can also check out writing communities like AbsoluteWrite & AgentQueryConnect for writer feedback on agents. Note: Research should also be done on publishers if you’re going to submit to them as well.


Once you’ve determined the right agents for your manuscript, I recommend one additional research step. Google that agent and see if they have a personal blog and/or if they’ve done any interviews. Often times these bits of information can give you additional insight into what the agent wants. It can also help you personalize your query letter to highlight how you and the agent would be a good match.


I know this may seem like a ton of work – IT IS. But doing the legwork prior to querying may save you a lot of heartbreak. Determining which agent is a good fit for you will help with needless querying & rejection. Hopefully, it will connect you with the right person who believes in your work and wants to partner with you to ensure you have a successful career!


Want additional insight into what agents want and reject in queries? I recommend checking out these hashtags on Twitter:







And you can always ask your general publishing questions during #askagent sessions.


As always, I wish you luck on your querying journey and please feel free to ask questions in the comments!


Up next in Query 101: The Personalization Quandary & Comps





COVER REVEAL: Make It Count by Megan Erickson April 10, 2014

Filed under: Blog,New Adult,Publishing — chasingthecrazies @ 7:17 am
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Woohoo! Crazy excited to share the highly anticipated cover reveal for Megan Erickson’s, MAKE IT COUNT.


Before I reveal the cover, here is a small excerpt from the New Adult novel expected to hit shelves on June 3:


Kat gathered her books and stuffed them into her plaid Burberry messenger bag, then headed toward the front doors, smoothie from the library snack shop in hand. Head bent, fiddling with the clasp of her bag, she stumbled into a wall of human on the pavement outside.


“Oh, I’m sorry—” Her voice dropped out when she realized the solid flesh belonged to Alec, Max’s best friend.


She’d only met him once or twice before he’d moved in with Max this semester and every time, he cocked his eyebrow with a half frown like he knew something she didn’t. Which he actually did, since he had brainy superpowers. Smarter than a speeding Einstein. Able to leap over C-minus students like her in a single bound.


She didn’t trust people that smart. And she didn’t trust a guy who didn’t ogle her ass or leer at her boobs like every other member of the straight male species on the planet.


Right now, that raised-eyebrow frown pinned her where she stood. His pale green eyes behind thick black frames roamed over her shoulder to the library and then back to her. With his pin-stripe button-down, dark jeans with Converse shoes and hair styled in a short, messy pompadour, he looked like a nerdy Elvis.


His frown morphed into a smile when he spotted the smoothie in her hand, and she definitely didn’t notice his full lips. “You know, you don’t have to venture into the forbidden zone just to get a smoothie.”


Oooh. The jerk. She glanced around surreptitiously, then leaned in and spoke in a low voice. “Just play it cool. Don’t let it slip someone like me snuck in the library.” She gripped his forearm and whispered. “Password today is rosebud.”


His face blanked and he looked at her like he’d never seen her before. Kat debated whether or not that was an improvement over his other look.


But then those intelligent eyes narrowed and a smirk curled his lips. “I know. We nerds get an e-mail every morning.”


See? He always needed the last word. She propped a hand on her hip and leaned in. “Well, sounds like you have a mole. Might want to look into that.”


He opened his mouth but she cut him off. “Just looking out for you guys. Anyway, see ya around!”


Before he could shoot back a snarky comeback, Kat skirted around him and bounded down the stairs. She chalked that up as Kat 1, Alec 0.



So are you ready for the adorable cover? Here it is…









About the author:






MEGAN ERICKSON grew up in a family that averages 5’3” on a good day and started writing to create characters who could reach the top kitchen shelf.

She’s got a couple of tattoos, has a thing for gladiators and has been called a crazy cat lady. After working as a journalist for years, she decided she liked creating her own endings better and switched back to fiction.

She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, two kids and two cats. And no, she still can’t reach the stupid top shelf.



For more on Megan, check out these links:


Avon Romance:


Author website:




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