Chasing my crazy dream in the writing world…

W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday with Kristy Acevedo October 28, 2015




Each manuscript provides an opportunity to learn and grow. Your first attempt at writing a story may not be easy, but if you work at your craft, and allow yourself to learn, your work gets better. In today’s W.O.W., Kristy Acevedo shares her journey on the path to publication and explains how taking her time, and allowing herself to mature as a writer, led to selling her debut, CONSIDER to Jolly Fish Press.



Many thanks to Kristy for sharing her journey today…




Amy: What inspires you to write Young Adult Fiction?


Kristy: Teens have always been my natural audience, which is why I also decided to teach at the high school level. My teen years were rather tumultuous, so I want to give back to that age group. Teens also respect honesty, and I’m someone who tells it like it is.





Amy: From reading your bio, I know you are a high school English teacher. How much does that affect your writing if it does at all?


Kristy: Tons. I spend the majority of my time surrounded by teenagers, including AP students and more reluctant readers. When I write, I try to engage both types of readers with fast-paced and thought-provoking stories.





Amy: How many manuscripts had you completed prior to CONSIDER?


Kristy: I completed two manuscripts, one that I received great editorial feedback on but haven’t made all the changes yet. My debut idea begged me to write it. Glad I listened. Prior to that, I worked on two manuscripts that are half complete. Writing those stories definitely taught me how to write my debut novel.





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


Kristy: No, but I did put it on hold. I had my daughter when I was only 19, and I left college after freshmen year due to her medical needs. I returned to college a year later and finished my English undergrad degree in record time. Then I started teaching, got married, had another daughter, got my master’s. I was writing during all this time but not on a regular basis. I’m actually glad that I didn’t seek publication immediately; it gave me time to experience life and mature as a writer.


Four years ago, I decided it was finally time to focus on me and my writing dream. I joined SCBWI, attended conferences, found a fabulous critique group, and started a Twitter monthly writing challenge group to keep me accountable.




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


Kristy: Write in layers. Don’t expect to get everything right in a rough draft. Focus on one aspect and see it through to the end, then go back through and add another layer.


I was also encouraged to join SCBWI and find a local critique group. Both have been crucial to learning about the industry and building my craft.




Amy: If you met a struggling writer at a book signing and they told you they were on the verge of giving up, what would you say to them? 



Kristy: One day at a time. On March 11, 2015 I participated in #PitMad on Twitter. One little favorite by editor TJ da Roza led to my two-book deal with Jolly Fish Press ten days later. You never know what’s right around the corner.






(Available April, 2016)



As if Alexandra Lucas’ anxiety disorder isn’t enough, mysterious holograms suddenly appear from the sky, heralding the end of the world. They bring an ultimatum: heed the warning and step through a portal-like vertex to safety, or stay and be destroyed by a comet they say is on a collision course with earth. How’s that for senior year stress?


The holograms, claiming to be humans from the future, bring the promise of safety. But without the ability to verify their story, Alex is forced to consider what is best for her friends, her family, and herself.


To stay or to go. A decision must be made.


With the deadline of the holograms’ prophecy fast approaching, Alex feels as though she is living on a ticking time bomb, until she discovers it is much, much worse.



Kristy AcevedoKristy Acevedo is a YA author, high school English teacher, and huge Star Trek, Doctor Who, and Harry Potter fan. When she was a child, her “big sister” from the Big Brothers Big Sisters Program fostered her love of books by bringing her to the public library every Wednesday. A member of SCBWI, her debut YA science fiction novel, CONSIDER (Jolly Fish Press, April 2016), won the 2015 PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Children’s Book Discovery Award. In 2014 she founded the Monthly Twitter Writing Challenges (see She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, two daughters, and two cats. She believes coffee and dark chocolate were put on this planet for the good of humankind. For more on Kristy, check out her website or follow her on Twitter – @kristyace.



Monday Musings: Building Character October 26, 2015

Filed under: Blog,creative writing,writing craft — chasingthecrazies @ 8:17 am
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With National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo) quickly approaching, I started thinking about story beginnings. One of the things I struggle with at the start of a manuscript is building my characters. I know their voice, but usually other things like their hair color, eye color, mannerisms, elude me. When I first started writing this was a huge problem because even though I knew what the character wanted, I had no background as to why they were driven to desire those things.



After struggling, and getting plenty of feedback on my lack of character detail, I started combing writing sites and reading craft books on how to get to the heart of a character. One of the things I found most helpful were character questionnaires.



At first, I started with the typical things like name, hair color, birthdate, etc.  And while an interesting place to start, those details still didn’t help me build the character’s backstory or give me an idea as to why they behaved the way they did.



One particularly frustrating day, I followed a link from social media to the Gotham Writer’s website. There I found a questionnaire that went beyond the common questions and forced me to think about character traits I would have never considered.



Here are a few examples of what pushed me to think beyond the basics for my character:



What is one strong memory that has stuck with your character from childhood? Why is it so powerful and lasting?



Where does your character go when he/she is angry?



What makes your character laugh out loud?



And this one is a little different, but it forced me to think beyond the typical realm…



When your character thinks of their childhood kitchen, what smell does she/he associate with it? Why is the smell so resonant?



Now none of these questions may strike a chord with you, but they forced me to consider all the outside factors that make up a solid character. They’re not, nor can they be, stick figures on the page. In order for the reader to connect to them, they must have both happy and sad memories. People who push their buttons and others who instantly calm them. Reasons for why they hate certain smells and embrace others. Quirky, I know, but if I think back to characters I’ve fallen in love with, I’ve had a connection to some small, odd part of them that has been revealed in the narrative.



What about you writing friends? How do you break down your character? Get to the heart of their stories? Are they already completely shaped in your head, or do you use questionnaires to help build them? Please share your thoughts in the comments and also include links if you have suggestions for sites and/or posts that have helped you create a fully formed character.



Here are some of my go-to sites:



Gotham Writers Character Questionnaire

Character Profile Questionnaire (via Writers Helping Writers)

100+ Questions to Help You Interview Your Character (via Helping Writers Become Authors)








FIRST FIVE FRENZY with Noah Ballard of Curtis Brown, Ltd. October 23, 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, Noah Ballard’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?


Noah: It is imperative! It’s like the first shot of a movie, the first note of a song. First impressions are lasting. Don’t start your novel on a bad beat and have to compensate for it in the rest of the paragraph, chapter, book.





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?


Noah: I tweeted recently that as an agent I’m looking for a book that’s first line doesn’t introduce a bloody corpse, the protagonist’s name and job, a sweeping vista, a salutation (don’t ever say, “Hi, my name is…”), a character waking up, the weather (there’s so many rainy nights in my queries!) or an info dump (giving us the exposition in summary form). People seemed to like that tweet.


That being said, Bill Clegg’s DID YOU EVER HAVE A FAMILY starts with a character waking up and smoking pot and info dumping his relation to the main narrative of the novel. And critics seem to love that book, save for Dwight Garner.


This is all to say there are no hard-and-fast rules in this, but there are easy choices and hard choices, familiar territory and narrative ingenuity. In both cases, I am more interested in the latter.





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?


Noah: For the kinds of books I work on, it’s voice. Voice is confidence and an authenticity and a trust I immediately have that this writer is going to do something interesting in their prose. Plot is great, but I’m looking to be told a story in an artful way.


The best example of voice I’ve seen recently is Joshua Cohen’s BOOK OF NUMBERS that Random House put out earlier this year. From moment one, he dares you to stop reading, but you can’t. Other great voice-driven writers that come to mind: Sarah Gerard, Lindsay Hunter, Lauren Holmes, Phil Klay.




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


Noah: The biggest mistake I see is writers being overly eager to get to the inciting incident of the plot (see: bloody corpses). The exposition isn’t simply a montage to get us up to speed. Its purpose is to give us a baseline for who these characters are, what they want and a reason why we should care about them.


I’m currently obsessed with Mr. Robot on USA, and I think that is a great teaching tool for voice and exposition. In the opening scene, the protagonist, Elliot, establishes that he’s a computer hacker who wants to do good for the world—shown in his busting of a child porn ring hidden on the servers for a coffee shop chain. Busting this coffee shop is not what Mr. Robot is ultimately is about, but this scene shows who Elliot is, what his desires are—and it’s entertaining to see how he goes about doing it.




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


Noah: Concepts are fine, but regardless of genre, great novels are about people struggling against society, other people or themselves. STATION ELEVEN by Emily St. John Mandel certainly has a concept—a post-apocalyptic Shakespeare company—but that’s not what the book is about. The book is about people struggling to survive—against a broken society, people with their own agendas and their internal loss of hope. This is achieved through the aforementioned voice and telling a compelling, well-paced story.


You can also tell very quickly about an author’s understanding of humanity in their early pages. That’s how I judge the books I review: What does this author understand about other people and what are they trying to share with me and, subsequently, the reader? If the answer is a viewpoint I don’t share, an insight I wish I’d thought of or generosity I respond to, I’ll definitely request more pages.




Noah Ballard is an agent at Curtis Brown, Ltd. He received his BA in English from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, and began his career in publishing at Emma Sweeney Agency where he sold foreign rights for the agency in addition to building his own client list. Noah specializes in literary debuts, upmarket thrillers and narrative nonfiction, and he is always on the look-out for honest and provocative new writers. Noah has appeared across the country at graduate programs and writing conferences speaking about query letters, building nonfiction platforms and submission etiquette.


If you’re interested in submitting to Noah, please check the Curtis Brown, Ltd. website for their guidelines.



W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday with Karen Fortunati October 21, 2015







In my opinion, one of the biggest struggles for a writer can be deciding when it’s time to move on. We all have stories that are close to our heart, but for one reason or another, the timing, or the market, isn’t right for that book. It can be difficult to put that idea away, but once we make that choice it can open doors to new possibilities.


In today’s W.O.W., Karen Fortunati shares how she made this difficult choice . She had a deep love for her first story, an MG Fantasy, but realized after some difficulty that it was time to move on to a new idea. That new project turned into her debut, THE WEIGHT OF ZERO which will release in the fall of 2016.


Many thanks to Karen for sharing her writing odyssey today…




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



Karen: Five years ago, I started a middle grade fantasy story. This was my first attempt at novel writing and I worked on nothing else besides this one story. Now, I absolutely loved this story (still do) but the problem was that I was the only one. After getting query rejections numbering thirty or forty or maybe even more (probably more) over a three year period, I decided to begin a Young Adult story.




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



Karen: I got the idea for The Weight of Zero while attending a full manuscript workshop organized by Kathy Temean in September of 2012. (She runs one or two workshops every year and also has a super helpful blog: Kathy is the former Regional Advisor of the New Jersey SCBWI, a wonderful person and writer and an amazing resource.) As part of the workshop, Kathy had scheduled a first page session. Attendees could present a first page and get professional and group feedback. I had nothing else besides my middle grade manuscript that had already been workshopped. When I told Kathy, she said to write something new. So I did. It was the first page of The Weight of Zero. During the following year, I let the story brew and wrote the first chapter, then a synopsis and then character summaries. By the end of 2013, this story fully grabbed hold of me. I put aside my other manuscript and I finished it in the fall of 2014.




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



Karen: For my middle grade manuscript, the three year query process was demoralizing and discouraging. (I remember getting one rejection back in less than two hours.) It was completely different this time around with The Weight of Zero. I had early agent interest and an offer from Sara Megibow within four weeks of sending her my query.




Amy: How many agents did you query for THE WEIGHT OF ZERO?



Karen: I probably queried around fifteen agents.




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



Karen: I did not receive any instantaneous responses like my middle grade query. The requests for partials or fulls took approximately one week although one agent got back to me the next day.




Amy: The subject matter in THE WEIGHT OF ZERO is an important one. What influenced you to write the manuscript?



Karen: In a nutshell, The Weight of Zero is about seventeen-year-old Catherine’s struggle to accept her bipolar disorder. After an excruciating episode of depression, Catherine equates her diagnosis to a death sentence. Deeming suicide her only option, Catherine hopes she can complete her one item bucket list before her depression returns. But her plan gets complicated by a new medication, new therapy and new relationships. Life begins to blossom again but the issue is whether Catherine can realize it in time.



I was moved to write this story for several reasons. First, I’ve witnessed the effects of mental illness and addiction in family members and friends and seen the impact of suicide. In addition, my husband is a child psychiatrist. Through him, I’ve learned about different mental disorders, the role of medications and the positive outcomes that are possible with good clinicians and meaningful therapy. My goal was to write a story of hope to those suffering with mental disorders. And I wanted to do this by getting into the nitty gritty of care and all that goes into it – both the practical and emotional aspects. Another goal was to expose some of the stigma that a mental disorder carries and just how heavy the weight of that discrimination can be.




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



Karen: I had done my research and knew that Sara was well-respected and experienced and savvy. From reading her Tweets, I also sensed a tremendous enthusiasm and desire to help writers combined with the utmost professionalism and graciousness. Talking to Sara confirmed all this but I knew she was the right agent when she perfectly summarized my manuscript, honing in on the points that were most important to me. She got exactly what the story was about. About three weeks after formally starting to work with Sara, we had an offer from Kate Sullivan, a dream editor at Delacorte.


I’m thrilled to be represented by Sara. There’s a tremendous sense of teamwork at KT Literary and Sara is amazing – always available to explain things or assist me in this brand new process. I could not have found a better partner in this publication journey!




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?



Karen: I put aside my middle grade fantasy and started something very, very different. Based on my experiences and what I’ve learned from my husband, I knew the story would cover some aspect of mental illness. I was lucky – and I think this is what garnered agent attention – because the subject matter was in demand. In addition to a relevant topic, my writing had improved significantly from my first novel attempt. (See point #3 below.) Finally, I put tremendous effort into my query, studying examples of successful queries online to get a better sense of what works.




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?



Karen: These are the four things that helped me tremendously:


  1. Joining SCBWI! Attend whatever conferences, meet ups or critique groups that you can. Writing is a lonely business and only people in the same boat can truly understand.


  1. Reading. When I first heard this advice five years ago, I scoffed. But now I understand. Once you begin writing, you read differently. I inhaled Contemporary YA and adult books as I wrote Weight. I learned about structure and pacing and voice. I usually listen to audio books and would play the first chapter multiple times to see how much was unveiled and what made me want to keep going and why I felt the way I did about a character. Some of my favorites were Reality Boy, Ask the Passengers, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin and Looking for Alaska. And any book by Jonathan Tropper.


  1. Finding a Writer’s Buoy. A buoy can be anything that keeps you, yes, floating/ writing. It’s the one thing or idea you can cling to when you’re ready to slam down your laptop for good. For me, it was this story on Kathryn Stockett and her tenacity in getting The Help sold. For whatever reason, this story struck a chord and I promised myself that I would send at a minimum 50 queries out.


  1. Sitting down and writing. And not waiting for the muse to strike. I learned she shows up sooner or later.





Karen FKaren is a writer of contemporary, realistic YA. The subject of her first book, The Weight of Zero, is mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder, and it explores the shame, stigma and anxiety that often complicate the management of this chronic condition. The issue is personal to Karen, having witnessed the impact of depression and bipolar disorder in relatives and friends.  In addition, her experiences with children as an attorney definitely influenced the writing of this story. All of this inspired her to write a story of hope for those who struggle with mental illness. For more on Karen, check out her website or follow her on Twitter – @karenfortunati.




QUITE THE QUERY: Jessie Devine and SOME KIND OF QUEER October 16, 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 where 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 Jessie Devine. This great query connected him with his agent, Kathleen Rushall.




Sixteen-year-old Jamie Kravitz just wants to make it through high school unscathed. It’s proving difficult with a non-binary gender identity and a target on his back. Laura, Cedarcrest High’s Queen Bitch, has had it out for him since she kissed him in junior high—and found out about his vagina later.


The only person who makes it better is Kenzie, Cedarcrest’s new girl with big dreams and lots of charisma. Kenzie and Jamie are fast friends. She helps him with his struggle to understand his identity, and he supports her through her trials with showbiz. They grow to trust each other to the death, and Jamie thinks he might be falling in love with her.


When Laura gives Kenzie the opportunity to audition for a TV show, Kenzie is willing to do anything. When a nude picture of Jamie surfaces on Facebook, signs point to her. As betrayals mount and secrets come out, Kenzie has to decide what’s important and Jamie has to decide who to trust, before they lose grip on their dreams and each other.


SOME KIND OF QUEER is a YA contemporary romance with LGBT themes. Complete at 54K words, it has the heartbreaking appeal of NAOMI & ELY’S NO KISS LIST by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan.




Fun Tidbit:


I wasn’t even going to query this book! One of my amazing CPs told me I had to, and I’m really glad I listened.




JDevineJessie Devine writes YA fiction with dark plots and queer characters. He is also a martial arts instructor. He likes his coffee, his cats, and his literary agent, Kathleen Rushall. For more on Jessie, check out his website or follow him on Twitter (@Jessie_Devine).


Cover Reveal: Michelle Hauck’s GRUDGING October 15, 2015

Filed under: Blog,Cover reveal,Writer — chasingthecrazies @ 7:08 am
Tags: , ,


Today it is my distinct honor and privilege to share the cover reveal for Michelle Hauck’s book, GRUDGING!


Michelle is an amazing friend and extraordinary writer, and I’m thrilled to be able to share the reveal with all my readers today. Her book, which is the first installment in the Birth of Saints series, will be released November 17, 2015.


Check out the gorgeous cover below and enter for a chance to win an e-book copy.


So without further ado here is the cover…











Grudging Cover





A world of chivalry and witchcraft…and the invaders who would destroy everything.


The North has invaded, bringing a cruel religion and no mercy. The ciudades-estados who have stood in their way have been razed to nothing, and now the horde is before the gates of Colina Hermosa…demanding blood.


On a mission of desperation, a small group escapes the besieged city in search of the one thing that might stem the tide of Northerners: the witches of the southern swamps.


But when tragedy strikes their negotiations, all that is left is a single untried knight and a witch who has never given voice to her power.  And time is running out.


A lyrical tale of honor and magic, Grudging is the opening salvo in the Book of Saints trilogy.



Available November 17, 2015 via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iBooks.




Want to win a copy? Check out this great giveaway for a chance to own the e-book :




MichelleHMichelle Hauck lives in the bustling metropolis of northern Indiana with her hubby and two teenagers. Two papillons help balance out the teenage drama. Besides working with special needs children by day, she writes all sorts of fantasy, giving her imagination free range. A book worm, she passes up the darker vices in favor of chocolate and looks for any excuse to reward herself. Bio finished? Time for a sweet snack.


She is a co-host of the yearly contests Query Kombat, Nightmare on Query Street, and Sun versus Snow.


Her epic fantasy, Kindar’s Cure, is published by Divertir Publishing. Her short story, Frost and Fog, is published by The Elephant’s Bookshelf Press in their anthology, Summer’s Double Edge. She’s repped by Sarah Negovetich of Corvisiero Literary.


For more on Michelle, check out her website, follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr or Goodreads.



Looking Back: What If You Never Get Published? October 12, 2015


A little over a year ago I published this post, and as I read it today it still resonates with me. When I first shared this piece I received tons of feedback regarding self-publishing being an option. While this is true, I think many people still want to consider the traditional route, but as self-publishing continues to gain steam it’s a much more definitive option now than it was even a year ago.


No matter the choice, every writer still ponders this question and how they want their stories revealed to the world. The amazing thing about publishing is there are many choices available and it’s up to the writer to decide which path is best for them. So perhaps the question now is not “What if I never get published?” but “How will I be published?”




Originally posted August 1, 2014




On this blog I’ve been fortunate enough to do a lot of interviews. Some with literary agents, and even more with writers. When I interview writers, I always try to mix up their questions. Include things that make each interview personal. While the questions may vary, there are always two I include. I ask about their time in the query trenches and if they ever thought about giving up on their writing dream.



One interview I did recently with Ava Jae stands out clearly in my mind. I asked her about getting discouraged, and giving up, and her powerful response has stayed with me ever since. Here it is:



“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.”



When I first read her reply, I was stunned. I’d never thought about the possibility of not being published. Now, let me step back. I have been published (short stories, flash fiction etc.), but I’ve not been lucky enough to have a full length novel published (yet), and for me that is the total dream.



Over the past months, I’ve had time to think about why Ava Jae’s reply stayed with me. And it comes down to this: Would I be okay with spending hours toiling over a manuscript with the knowledge that it may never see the light of day?



To be honest, for weeks after I published the interview this question haunted me. Here’s why: I love creating new worlds and breathing life into characters. When I write, I see each scene vividly in my  head, and I do my best to bring that to the page. Like most writers I’d guess, when I’m in the throes of a fresh new story, I eat, drink, and breathe these characters and hope I’m doing them justice. I’m not a fast-drafter. I have to really think through each scene and then go back and edit before moving forward. This means it takes me a long time to actually finish the story.



My most recent novel took five months to research and another eight months to write, even before edits. I’m not going to lie, this manuscript has completely drained me – but in a good way. I’ve put my heart and soul into the story and feel like these characters need to be put into the capable hands of readers. But the question still remains, what if that never happens? Am I okay with shelving this manuscript and starting something new? If you had asked me this when I first published Ava Jae’s interview, I would have said, “no.” But in recent weeks, I’ve come to this realization: as a writer, I don’t see I have another choice. The plot bunnies continue to pop into my head, and I write them down in a notebook, hoping I’ll get to them one day. While I don’t know what my emotional state will be if, in fact, this current manuscript doesn’t find a home, I do know one thing for certain, I’ll keep writing. I may need to take some time away to lick my wounds, but I’ll always end up back at the keyboard, because that’s what I do – create.



What about you? Do you continue to write even though it’s a possibility your manuscript may never be published? Is the creativity within you enough to fuel your work and keep you satisfied? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.


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