Chasing my crazy dream in the writing world…

Monday Musings: Taking A Break June 8, 2015

Filed under: Blog,creative writing,Publishing — chasingthecrazies @ 1:00 pm
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Ferris Wheel





Most of my childhood memories from summer involve rollercoasters, log rides, or turns on the Ferris Wheel. The reason why is pretty simple. I grew up a fifteen minute drive from Disneyland. At night you could actually climb onto my roof and watch the fireworks in the distance. Living so close to Disneyland fed an obsession I had for rollercoasters and anything that would turn me upside down, spin me around, or basically twist in the air. I loved the feeling of free-falling when the log ride dropped me down that final chute, or the inability to walk a straight line after a speedy turn on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.




Funny how nowadays I feel like my life has turned into one long spin on the teacups. For the last year I’ve been in sort of a whirlwind. Trying to get a handle on being in the publishing world (querying, signing with an agent, working on two new books) has in a lot of ways made me feel like I’m on 100 mph ride that does not want to stop.




Don’t get me wrong, I feel absolutely blessed to be in the great position I’m in. Writing every day. Working on new ideas is a blessing I don’t take for granted for a second. But I must admit that in a lot of ways it has taken over my life in a way that’s not really healthy. Important things have fallen by the wayside. Events I should be paying more attention to have sort of slipped away. Honestly, my life feels really out of balance and it’s taken my focus away from important things that matter a great deal to me.




With this in mind, I’ve decided to take the next month and a half to restore my life back to normality. Part of this means focusing on the here and now. Being present in the moment. But that’s hard to do when you’re constantly worried about being active on social media or what you’re going to post on your blog for the next several weeks. So I’ve made the decision to go quiet for a while. Fall in love with a few good books. Take the time to reconnect with family and friends. But most important: take a breath and remind myself why I love to write.




I hope you’ll stop back in August when I return. There are lots of cool things in the works including many more successful queries to share, as well as an important BEHIND THE CURTAIN post you won’t want to miss.




My wish for you is a summer filled with precious memories. I hope you’ll drink some lemonade. Watch the sunset. Maybe get your feet wet in the sand. But most of all, I hope you’ll hug the ones closest to you. They are really what this life is all about.









BEHIND THE CURTAIN – Listening To Your Gut – A guest post from Christina Lee June 3, 2015

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Even though we are in an age where information is readily at hand, it still seems many things in the publishing world are kept in the dark. Things that we’re taught not to talk about or share. One of these things is rejection and how long it takes to sell a book.



The authors who seem to get the most exposure are the ones who have whirlwind experiences. They write and sell their first book in a year and suddenly they’re on the New York Times Bestseller list. As most writers know, this is NOT the norm. But for those outside of publishing, that’s all they see. This exposure puts pressure on a lot of writers to sell the first book they’ve got out on sub. If they don’t, they walk away feeling like they’ve not only let themselves down but others who believed in them (agent, family, critique partners).



This leads me to a conversation I had with Christina Lee when I attended my first RT convention. One evening the organizers arranged a scavenger hunt through Bourbon Street. While I was in one location, a good writer friend, A.J. Pine introduced me to an author I really admired, Christina.  I actually had a hard time speaking after we met. I’d  just finished her book, ALL OF YOU and loved it.



As we talked, Christina opened up to me about the ups and downs she went through in publishing before she sold her first book. That conversation was over a year ago and to this day I still think about it vividly.



Her story makes for the perfect “Behind The Curtain” post because many times writers don’t talk about what happened prior to selling their first book. Rejections, unsold books, and failed agent relationships are forced back into the shadows like pieces of dirty laundry everyone is too afraid to talk about. To be honest, by keeping quiet I think we’re doing the writing community a disservice.



If you want to write, then I think you should go into the publishing world with your eyes wide open. You need to be aware that there’s not some magical formula you can create to sell a book. It takes years of hard work, sacrifice, and perseverance for many writers before it happens.



So today I’m proud to share this guest post from Christina Lee. I hope it will touch you and open your eyes to the realities of publishing. We each have our own path and it takes bravery and guts to follow wherever it may lead!






Guest Post From Christina Lee




Thanks for inviting me to write something for your Behind The Curtain series. To tell you a little bit about my journey, I wrote my first book in 2008. It was like a hybrid NA/YA romance that will thankfully never see the light of day. HA!




But finishing that first book was so liberating because I gave it my all and figured out my passion for writing fiction in the process. Plus, I began learning my craft. You can only do that with lots of practice, rewrites, revisions and critiques from other writers.




In hindsight, that wreck of a book still wasn’t ready and no surprise that it was never picked up by an agent. So I began writing another young adult novel immediately. That one got some attention from a few agents but ultimately I had to shelf that book as well.




I landed my first agent with my third YA book. We went on submission, but then something strange happened. She left the business suddenly with no forewarning to her clients. There were other disappointments that went along with that situation (that I won’t mention publicly) but honestly, I should’ve known better. Because in the end, I never listened to my gut when I signed with her. I was so excited about being repped—she seemed cool, legit, loved my book, and had the right contacts—but other things were way off that were red flags.




So I queried again with the same book while writing my fourth. I found an awesome and reputable agent who loved that book, was really passionate about it. We went on a couple rounds of submission, got rejections and R & Rs (revise & resubmits) with no result. So we tried my next book and got even fewer bites.




It was around that time that I got an idea for a new adult romance, but I knew my agent only repped YA. I wrote the book anyway and did it with wild abandon. It opened up this new world for me. A world I didn’t realize I was passionate about from the writer’s side, only from the reader’s side. The world of new adult and adult romance.




I had a candid discussion with my agent about my desire to write in a new category/genre and we ended up parting ways. Our goals had become vastly different. And that’s okay. The important thing was to recognize it.




I considered querying a few agents who were accepting NA submissions at that time, but I was also asking myself some tougher questions about my future goals. Did I want to continue with my dream of traditionally publishing my first book or should I go with a smaller press or maybe self-publish? Just keeping it real here. I wanted to be an author and get my book in reader’s hands. But I also wanted to be smart and put out a great product.




So I queried a handful of agents I thought sounded like the right fit, while I studied the market and talked to other writers about their experiences. I got an immediate response from my current agent, Sara Megibow, who asked for the full, and then contacted me with an offer a couple of days later. And this time around felt especially right. We were on the same page, had the same general philosophy and goals. Especially when it came to communication.




It was all such a whirlwind after that. My book went to auction with six publishing houses. I accepted a two-book deal with Penguin. This spring, my fifth and sixth books will publish with the same house. One is a gay romance and the other is an adult contemporary, so I’m still evolving and challenging myself, and I have an agent in my corner who supports all of that.




So my advice to any new or even seasoned writer would be: Ask yourself some difficult questions and then really listen to your gut. It sounds cliché but that little voice inside of you will never lead you astray. If something feels off—with an agent relationship, or your book, or your offer—if you’re not writing in the genres or age categories you’re most wild about, LISTEN!




Ask yourself what you can or should do differently to meet your goal. And then do it—even if it feels uncomfortable and disappointing at first. Because later on the discomfort may be greater.



Keep trying new things in the general direction of your ultimate dream. Don’t stay static. Always move forward, even in baby steps, to learn and grow and change. Eventually something good will happen!




Christina WOWMother, wife, reader, dreamer. Christina lives in the Midwest with her husband and son–her two favorite guys. She’s addicted to lip gloss and salted caramel everything. She believes in true love and kissing, so writing romance novels has become a dream job.  Author of the Between Breaths series including ALL OF YOU, BEFORE YOU BREAK, WHISPER TO ME, PROMISE ME THIS, and THERE YOU STAND are all available now from Penguin. Her latest release, TWO OF HEARTS, an adult contemporary romance, is now available via Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


She is represented by Sara Megibow of The Nelson Literary Agency. Also the creator of Tags-n-Stones (dot com) jewelry. For more on Christina, check out her website, or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.




Monday Musings: All Those Contests June 1, 2015


If you look around the internet these days it seems more frequently than ever new writing contests are popping up. They used to be sporadic throughout the year and now it feels like there’s a contest at least once every month.



If you’re a writer, these contests offer a unique opportunity to hone your query, pitch, and even sometimes your first 250 words or an entire page. In addition, it can get your work in front of some amazing agents who you would otherwise have to query normally via their agency websites (aka “the slush”).



Personally, I have benefited from some of these contests. When I was still querying it gave me the unique opportunity to polish my work and make great contacts/friends in the writing community. In fact, I’ve been so blessed by these contests that I even host one now with Michelle Hauck every January/February. And this brings me to my point…



When Michelle and I did our contest this year we had everything buttoned-up. Almost every agent we asked to participate said “yes.” We were both blown away and grateful. Then when it came time, we opened our submission window and “BOOM” within six minutes all 200 spaces were filled. To say we were both shocked is putting it mildly.



Once all the entries were in, our contest got underway. Our mentors did their jobs (beautifully!) and the posts went up. And then a very sad thing happened. We discovered another person on the internet had started a contest at the same time (a contest that we had never seen advertised – although Michelle and I blew out the doors publicizing ours just to make sure there wasn’t ANY crossover).



Several of our selections also appeared in the other contest. Agents were not happy about the double entries. We smoothed things over and everything worked out.



So Amy, where are you going with all this you may be asking? Here’s the deal: there are a lot of contests out there. Each offering a unique opportunity to share your work. What I caution is you choose wisely. Agents are beginning to see many of the same entries over and over and are tiring of it. This causes them to stop participating in contests.



I get it. Contests cause a frenzy. When you’re proud of your work it makes sense you would want to get it out there. But what I recommend is you take your time and look at what contests can do for you in the broadest scope possible:



1) Help you improve your submission materials


2) Connect you with agents/editors


3) Introduce you to possible critique partners



All these are critical to your process, but they are not the end all be all. If you don’t get selected, don’t let it stop you. Move forward. Improve your craft. Polish up your work as best you can and then send your unsolicited queries. Many times “the slush” gets a bad rap. But I can tell you from personal experience the slush can pay off.



Yes contests are important, but you can’t get caught up in them. Focus on your goals and your writing. Once you’re ready, polish up that query. Get those submission materials required by the agency ready (because you’ve done your research and YOU ARE following the guidelines) and then send them.



At that point, the future is out of your hands. Work on something new. Be confident in your writing and know that if this manuscript isn’t the one, the next one might be. Remember to keep improving. Your “yes” could be right around the corner. It could come from a contest or from the slush. The most important thing to remember is that if you want it bad enough you can NEVER GIVE UP.



Have you entered a writing contest? Did you find it helpful? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.


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