Chasing my crazy dream in the writing world…

Cover Reveal: Brenda Drake’s LIBRARY JUMPERS May 28, 2015

Filed under: Blog,Cover reveal,Publishing,YA Fiction — chasingthecrazies @ 6:54 am
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Brenda Drake has done amazing things for the writing community. Year after year, she tirelessly puts together opportunities to connect agents and editors with writers via her contests like: Pitch Wars and Pitch Madness. On top of that there is also the infamous #PitMad, Twitter pitch contest, that I know has connected many writers to their agents.



So what better way to say “Thank You” to Brenda for her years of service to the writing community than to shout from the rooftops about her book’s cover reveal.



Here’s a bit about LIBRARY JUMPERS…



Gia Kearns would rather fight with boys than kiss them. That is, until Arik, a leather clad hottie in the Boston Athenaeum, suddenly disappears. While examining the book of world libraries he abandoned, Gia unwittingly speaks the key that sucks her and her friends into a photograph and transports them into a Paris library, where Arik and his Sentinels—magical knights charged with protecting humans from the creatures traveling across the gateway books—rescue them from a demonic hound.


Jumping into some of the world’s most beautiful libraries would be a dream come true for Gia, if she weren’t busy resisting her heart or dodging an exiled wizard seeking revenge on both the Mystik and human worlds. Add a French flirt obsessed with Arik and a fling with a young wizard, and Gia must choose between her heart and her head, between Arik’s world and her own, before both are destroyed.



And here’s the gorgeous cover from Entangled Teen that actually made me gasp…








library jumpers_500

 (Available January 5, 2016)





Congratulations to Brenda and the entire Entangled Teen team on this stunning cover!


Want to add on Goodreads or Pre-Order? See links below!






BBrenda Drake Author Photorenda Drake, the youngest of three children, grew up an Air Force brat and the continual new kid at school until her family settled in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Brenda’s fondest memories growing up are of her eccentric Irish grandmother’s animated tales, which gave her a strong love of storytelling. So it was only fitting that she would choose to write young adult and middle grade novels with a bend toward the fantastical. When Brenda’s not writing or doing the social media thing, she’s haunting libraries, bookstores, and coffee shops or reading someplace quiet and not at all exotic (much to her disappointment). For more on Brenda, check out her website, or follow her on Goodreads, Twitter or Facebook.




Add to Goodreads

Pre-order opportunities:  Amazon or Barnes and Noble.


Monday Musings: Writing Strong Female Characters May 25, 2015

Filed under: Blog,Publishing,writing craft — chasingthecrazies @ 6:45 am
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At the RT Convention last week I attended a session titled, “Writing Strong Female Heroines.” Renowned authors like Richelle Mead (Vampire Academy series), Lauren Oliver (The Delirium series), and Kresley Cole (Immortals After Dark series ) were among the panelists.



In the course of the session each author spoke about how they created their female characters and what the end goal was for each. No matter what each writer said, they all agreed on one point: whether their characters were warriors, or struggling in a dystopian society, they had to have layers and make both good and bad choices in order to be believable.



While I wholeheartedly agree with these points, I have to state that writing strong female heroines (no matter how many layers they have) is still a HUGE struggle.



In the last two books I’ve written, my female leads have had a very clear vision of their goals. They’re driven and highly focused on what they want/need and are not ashamed of their place in the world. But no matter how hard I try to make them three-dimensional, I still get push back on the level of their strength.


I’ll often get comments like, “Would she really make that decision?” or “Wow! That comment seems harsh.”  While frustrating, because I know I’d never get these comments if I was writing a male character, this kind of feedback pushes me to fully embrace every spectrum of what it means to be a woman.



When writing females I try to remember the following:


1) You can let them make bad decisions.


2) It’s okay to let them be surly – even when people insist the character should be more vulnerable.


3) They can fight for what they want and not be ashamed of their ambition.


4) They embrace standing on their own two feet.


5) When confronted with conflict, they handle their own battles knowing “Prince Charming” is not going to ride in and save the day, and are perfectly okay with that reality.


6) A quiet heroine can still be a powerful heroine.



For me this is not some huge statement on women and their place in the current world, but more of a real view of women in my own day-to-day landscape.



I have female friends who are pilots and doctors. Family members who are high-powered attorneys and successful business owners. Not once have any of these women apologized for going after their dreams. For putting off marriage and children to fulfill their career goals. Each of them goes about their business, quietly kicking ass, and not being ashamed for wanting to be successful.



This is the true female character I want to share in my books. And even though I might still get pushback on their level of strength, or unabashed quest to achieve their dreams, I won’t stop writing them. These are the real women who are out in the world. I believe they deserve to be portrayed in the pages of books, and I’ll keep writing them without shadowing any part of their life (whether good or bad) because this is the true and diverse reality of women today.



Do you write strong female heroines? How do you balance their character? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.


First Five Frenzy with Shannon Hassan of Marsal Lyon Literary May 22, 2015

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. It’s tricky to get just the right balance, but I hope by reading each agent’s comments you’ll learn how to make your manuscript a shining gem that will be requested time and time again.


Today I’m proud to share Literary Agent, Shannon Hassan’s perspective on what’s important in those critical first pages.




Amy: There is a belief among many writers that having a great first line is imperative to drawing in the reader. How important is a first line to you as an agent?


Shannon: What matters to me is the overall impression I get from the opening pages: Am I drawn into the story? Do I care about the characters?




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?


Shannon: The alarm clock. The time or the date (“It was 4:30 on Tuesday”—yawn). The position of the sun in the sky.


A scene that opens with the character alone, doing nothing (or something mundane), and lost in his/her own thoughts, can also be tough to pull off.  Get them interacting with others and/or with their external environment—this will still tell us a lot about their character, and will be more engaging.




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?


Shannon: Many of the queries I receive don’t include opening pages, although I am totally fine receiving them. So I often make the decision whether to request the manuscript based on the query. If you can get your voice across in the query, that really helps.




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


Shannon: Some authors try to setup everything in the first few pages, and it can come across as too expository. I think this happens because authors are fleshing out the characters and storyline in their own minds as they start writing a novel. It is important, after you finish your draft, to revisit that first chapter and look at it critically. Are there parts of backstory that can wait until later? Is there a way to take much of what you are “telling” us up front and blend it more organically into the narrative later on?


Think of your opening pages as a first date… do you really tell your date everything about yourself or do you leave them wanting to learn more 🙂




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


Shannon: All of that is important. But voice is especially important because it either works for me or it doesn’t, whereas structural issues, like pacing, can often be fixed with editorial work.



Shannon Hassan, an agent at Marsal Lyon Literary, brings a depth of business and editorial experience to her role, having worked in publishing and law for more than a decade.  She represents authors of literary and commercial fiction, young adult and middle grade fiction, and select nonfiction.  She is drawn to fresh voices, compelling characters, and crisp prose, and enjoys both contemporary and historical settings.  She received her JD from Harvard and her BA from George Washington University. For more information, please visit:, or follow her @ShannonHassan.


If you’re interested in submitting to Shannon, please check the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency website for details.



W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday with Ashley Herring Blake May 20, 2015






Sometimes a passion for writing comes from the excitement of creating stories for a particular audience. As Ashley Herring Blake shares in today’s W.O.W., her drive to create comes from wanting to write extraordinary stories for teenagers. In her own words below, she explains how “teens are some of the bravest people she knows” and that inspires her to create important stories that speak to their struggles and the rapid changes they’re going through.


Many thanks to Ashley for sharing her writing journey today…




Amy: What inspires you to write Young Adult Fiction?


Ashley: Simply put, I love writing YA because I really like teenagers. Adolescence is such a fraught period of our lives. Our bodies and minds are going through so many changes while we’re trying to figure out who we are, what we like, what we want to do. Add in sex and friendships and parents, and it’s a wonder any of us survive it. But we do. I think teenagers are some of the bravest people out there and I write for them because I admire them. I write for them because all of that painful growth, paired with the reality of who they are and the possibility of who they’ll become, inspires me even in my thirties.




Amy: How many manuscripts had you completed prior to SUFFER LOVE?


Ashley: SUFFER LOVE was my fifth complete book. Sixth if you count the draft I got three-fourths through and stopped because SUFFER LOVE sort of took over my brain. The first two were middle grade—one a contemporary that I don’t like to even think about, and the other a fantasy. My third was a YA fantasy that I like to snicker about and it was around the time that I started my fourth—a paranormal that I turned into a contemporary—that I finally figured out that contemporary was where I needed to settle. So, lots of practice before I landed on “the one.”




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


Ashley: I’m not sure how long it took me exactly, but I do remember that it was an agonizing process. I went through many drafts. At the time, I didn’t have the writing community that I do now, so it was really just me and my fabulous critique partner travailing over this thing. I know I drove her nuts! I finally enlisted the help of a veteran author whom I reached out to via email. She really helped whip my query into shape. Honestly, I feel like the query was harder than the book. It’s really difficult for authors to pare down their 70K novel into 300 words, and I really recommend getting help on it. Sometimes, it’s easier for someone who’s not as close to your story and characters as you are to see what needs to be said about them.




Amy: How many agents did you query for SUFFER LOVE? Did you receive instantaneous response or did you have to wait for requests/rejections?


Ashley: When all was said and done, I had queried close to thirty agents. I got a mix of rejections and either full or partial requests within a week or two and that went on for a while. An agent I was very interested in gave me a wonderful R&R. Her notes really improved the book. She ended up passing, which, honestly, was devastating, but it was the next day that I sucked it up, sent to another round of queries, and Rebecca contacted me within a week offering rep. I had two other offers, but she was the clear choice and I regret nothing that happened along my querying journey.




Amy: What was your “call” like with your agent, Rebecca Podos?  How did you know she was a good fit for you?


Ashley: My call with Rebecca was magical. There’s just no other way to describe it. She was my first offer (the other two came after a nudge), and I felt so comfortable with her. I knew she was a good fit for a few reasons. First, she LOVED my book. I think that’s key. It’s wholly possible for an agent to offer rep, because they believe they can sell your book and they like it and know it’s good, but not LOVE it. My other offers clearly liked my book, but not like Rebecca did. Second, I felt at ease with her. I knew I could call her up with crazy questions and not feel intimidated. This was important to me because I knew I WOULD be calling her up with crazy questions throughout this process! Lastly, she was new to the game, but had enough experience that I felt confident I would get the attention my needy little self required AND she would be able to represent me the way I wanted. She’d be able to sell and sell well. I’ve been with her almost a year and I have zero complaints about the amazing Rebecca Podos.




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


Ashley: Oh yes. When I first started really trying to write seriously, I had just finished a masters program in education. I decided to take the next year or so and really give it my all. I’m pretty sure I got a little loopy! I wrote every day, sometimes all day, and it was really overwhelming at first. It was stressful, thinking about how much I loved writing and the possibility that I might not be able to do it. Yes, writers will always write. But writers write for readers and it can be scary thinking that no one will ever care about what you’ve shed blood and tears for. After many rejections, I remember thinking, “I can’t do this again. I can’t write another book and query it again.” Honestly, I think I would’ve done it again. This is a slow craft and perseverance is a big part of success.




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


Ashley: Write. I know that sounds sort of obvious, but I know we can get so bogged down in planning or insecurities or fear of failure that we don’t write. If you want to write, write. Every time I start a new draft (ok, there have only been two new starts since SUFFER LOVE, but still), I get so nervous. It takes me weeks to really dive in. Yes, some of that is important prewriting, but there comes a point where you just have to suck it up and do it. If it sucks, it sucks. That’s what critique partners and agents and editors are for. Also, READ. Read everything. All the genres. I think MFAs in creative writing are wonderful and I’d love to participate in one someday if that’s ever possible for me, but I learned to write by reading. Sure, read some books on craft, but I guarantee you they won’t be as helpful as reading well-written (and, yeah, sometimes the not so well-written ones are helpful too) books. Another piece of advice has to do with community. I can’t tell you the difference having friends who write has made for me. Writing is such a strange job and it really helps to have people around you who understand the crazy. Surround yourself with these people, soak up their knowledge and experience and offer yours, even if it’s only online. My last piece of advice? Write.




AshleyHBlakeB&WAshley Herring Blake used to write songs and now she writes books. She reads them a lot too. She likes coffee, her boys, gloomy music, anything with pumpkin in it, Tiffany Blue-colored anything, scarves, and walks. She doesn’t like olives, soggy asparagus, or humidity and has not a lick of visual artistic talent. Ashley lives in Nashville, TN with her witty husband and two boisterous little boys. Previous jobs include songwriter and performer (though she made about enough money to cover the gas to the gigs), substitute teacher, barista, Applied Behavioral Analysis Therapist, teacher in a school for kids with autism, and, the hardest job in the world, mommyhood. That last one is still happening, along with lots of word making. SUFFER LOVE, a YA contemporary novel that follows two teens as they wade through an intense relationship complicated by their parents’ infidelities, is her first novel and will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt BFYR in 2016. For more on Ashley, check out her website or follow her on Twitter (@ashleyblake).





Monday Musings: Listening and Learning (An RT convention recap) May 18, 2015

Filed under: Blog,Publishing,writing craft — chasingthecrazies @ 9:17 am
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I just returned from an amazing five days in Dallas where I attended the Romantic Times Convention, aka RT. This year I went into the convention much more relaxed than New Orleans last year. I didn’t have to pitch and was excited about going to panels, hanging out with amazing writers, and being stress-free!



Before I went to the conference, I went through the daily agendas and plotted out which sessions looked interesting: diversity, being a hybrid author, writing strong female characters. These were just a few I was excited to attend.



Once the conference started, I found the right room for each panel and immersed myself in the sessions. While I learned a lot (and took copious notes) what I found was I gleaned much more information from sitting in casual settings (either in the bar or restaurant) and listening to my writing friends talk about their own experiences. How they interacted with editors, their own agents, or even about the struggles they went through to get an agent and secure their first book deal.



I’ll admit I was pretty intimidated by sitting in these groups. Most of these women are highly accomplished, having published numerous books, but when we all sat together they were just like you and me. Working on the next project. Waiting for feedback on their latest work. Concerned over their brand, or where they wanted their career to head next.



For me it was an eye-opening experience. I truly believed that once you got your agent, and secured a book deal, things after that were somewhat smooth sailing. Sure, you had the challenge of writing the next book, but you’d crossed that “magical threshold” of actually having a full-length novel published. Of course this is a huge accomplishment, but the worry and stress don’t end once you sign that contract.



Now I don’t want to sound all doom and gloom because these conversations were anything but that. Most of the time they turned into exciting exchanges about the evolving market, or even brainstorm sessions for future projects. During these moments I sat back and took it all in. Listening and learning to everything each of these amazing authors were willing to share.



While attending conferences are important, I would highly suggest you take time to interact and network with other writers. At lunch, dinner, or even during a moment between sessions, focus in on what they have to say. The sessions are important, but you may get even more of an education from listening to other writers and learning from their important experiences.





Kiera Cass(Meeting the very sweet Kiera Cass, author of The Selection series)


Monday Musings: Reading To Be A Better Writer May 11, 2015



Just last week I put the finishing touches on my fourth manuscript. There’s nothing quite like writing “The End” on a story. It gives you a huge sense of accomplishment of setting a goal and then achieving that goal. It’s a joyful time, but it also makes me a tad nervous. Why? Because my thoughts then turn to the question of “What’s next?”


When I decided to write this last manuscript I knew I was going into unchartered territory. I’d always written Young Adult and felt comfortable in that place. But then a funny thing happened, little plot bunnies started popping up with ideas that were way beyond the realm of YA. At first, I tried to ignore the ideas. Work on plotting something new, but I kept coming back to one idea which was definitively New Adult.


Having never written in the category, I started doing my research. Talking to other writers. Asking questions about setting, voice, and what would be considered authentic stakes for my type of story.  While I could ask questions, I knew my answers honestly lied in one place: reading.


If I wanted to learn about voice or the topical plots that drew readers to New Adult, then I needed to read. So over the last year I’ve immersed myself into what I consider the “School of New Adult.” I’ve read close to 45 books in the category. With each one I’ve learned something new, and it’s taught me how to approach my story in a way I never thought possible. (Thank you Chanel Cleeton, Christina Lee, Megan Erickson, Sarina Bowen, Rebecca Yarros, Lia Riley, A.J. Pine, Stina Lindenblatt & Jennifer Blackwood for being my teachers!)


Many people say they can’t read in the category they’re writing, but I’m the opposite. Reading inspires me to be a better writer. When I come across a perfect sentence, it challenges me to dig deeper. Think more creatively. I’m not envious of those who are accomplished as writers. They inspire me to work harder at my craft.


This pattern continues for me today. As of this morning, I started plotting my next two books which will be companions to the manuscript I just finished. Again, I’m pushing myself. This time writing from the male POV. What’s my plan? How am I going to pull off something I’ve never done before? I’m going back to doing what I love: reading and learning.


What about you? Do you read extensively in the category or genre you write? What challenges you to be a better writer? Would love to hear about it in the comments.




QUITE THE QUERY with Natasha Neagle and DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS May 8, 2015







If you ask any writer about the process of connecting with their agent (or publisher), the majority will say the most difficult part was querying. Not only the actual process of sending out the letters/emails, but formulating the query itself. In fact, I’ve heard more than a few authors say writing their query took them almost as long as drafting their book!


Some people have the talent of being able to summarize their book in a few sentences. But for those who don’t, I wanted to provide a resource so writers could learn what works, and what doesn’t, in a query.


With that in mind, I’m pleased to share today’s successful query from Natasha Neagle. This great query connected her with her agent, Andrea Somberg.



After her celebrity parents’ divorce, sixteen-year-old Arissa Jayne moves to the suburban hellhole of Innsbrooke, Florida and abandons the spotlight and drama for a quiet life. But Arissa’s existence as Girl Invisible is threatened when she tutors Erica, a flirty cheerleader, and they find themselves discovering more about the chemistry between them than the periodic table.


That’s when the harassment starts. Except it’s not the usual gay-bashing Arissa’s dealt with before. Each mysterious text or tweet threatens violence. All signed by Secret. When Arissa tries to block Secret from contacting her, the texts progress to a car accident. And murder. With the police involved and the evidence pointing at Arissa, she must confront Secret or go down for crimes she didn’t commit.


Determined to find out who’s hell bent on destroying Arissa’s life, she and Erica set a trap to expose Secret’s identity. But in a town where nobody plays by the rules and everyone has something to hide, taking down Secret to clear Arissa’s name might cost them their lives.


DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS is Sara Shepard’s Pretty Little Liars Series meets Heathers for the LGBT community, a 79,000 word standalone YA Contemporary Thriller with series potential.



Fun tidbit: Andrea read my MS in one sitting and immediately offered me representation.




Nat picNatasha Neagle writes diverse YA thrillers about characters with more guts than her. She considers herself a diehard fictional character shipper and has way too much fun shopping for makeup and shoes. She is a firm believer that the best way to hear music is live, and can always be found on Twitter, especially if Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead is on. Natasha lives in Northern Virginia with her superhero husband, two crazy-smart kids, and their demon-possessed cats. For more on Natasha, check out her website or follow her on Twitter or Facebook.


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