Chasing my crazy dream in the writing world…

Monday Musings: A Cool New Project May 23, 2016

Filed under: Blog,Inspiration,Publishing,writing craft — chasingthecrazies @ 6:58 am
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One of the smartest things I did as a newly-minted writer was become part of the vibrant community at AgentQuery Connect. The site not only offers a chance to share and get feedback on your queries, but allows you to connect with like-minded writers in every category and genre.



Over time I’ve made friends with some talented writers over at AQC, some of who were kind enough to read my early work and give it a publishing shot. One of these incredible human beings is Matt Sinclair, founder of Elephant’s Bookshelf Press (EBP).



Matt and his team were kind enough to look at one of my earliest short stories and give it a place in The Fall: Tales From The Apocalypse. A little while later, another one of my stories became part of EBP’s fourth anthology, Summer’s Double Edge.
















Matt and his team took a chance on me. Taught me how to hone my story so it was worthy to stand next to tales from the likes of Edgar award-winning writer, Mindy McGinnis, amazing Middle Grade author, MarcyKate Connolly, as well as Young Adult writer, R.C. Lewis.



Looking back on that experience, I realize what an incredible opportunity Matt and his team gave me. Now I’m thrilled to finally get a chance to pay that generosity forward by becoming the copy editor for EBP’s newest Urban Fantasy anthology.



The submission window for this great anthology is currently open. Stories can be up to 5,000 words long. No erotica. Stories cannot have been published previously on any other public site or platform. Deadline for all submissions is July 11.



There is no payment for your story, but published authors will receive a paperback edition of the completed anthology. Currently EBP is aiming for publication in late September, though it might end up being October.



If you love to write Urban Fantasy, or have always wanted to give it a shot, send your submissions to:



I highly encourage you to submit to EBP. Hopefully your experience will be as amazing as mine!














QUITE THE QUERY with Amelinda Berube and UNDER THE ICY LAKE May 20, 2016








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 Amelinda Berube. This great query connected her with her agent, Lana Popovic.




All fifteen-year-old Marianne can recall from the night after her parents split up is a single image: a silent, icy lake under a starless sky, with something in the depths groping its way towards her. She certainly doesn’t remember floating in midair or shattering windows without touching them. But her mom saw it happen – in fact, her mom is checking herself into the hospital, convinced she was hallucinating.



Now an unseen force is flinging objects at Marianne hard enough to crack a chalkboard and scrawling “THIS IS MINE” across her math exam. With her dad off to pursue “true happiness” and her only friend moved across the country, she’s desperate enough to break her shell of bookish invisibility and confide in loner goth-girl Rhiannon. Between Rhiannon’s badassery and her confidence that handling a poltergeist will be no big deal, it doesn’t take long for Marianne’s cautious admiration to kindle into a crush.



But Rhiannon is wrong: their improvised attempt to communicate with the presence haunting Marianne only calls down the full force of its rage. It will do whatever it takes to possess Marianne completely and reclaim the life it says she stole; her mom’s fragility and Rhiannon’s loyalty become weapons for it to use against her. She must unravel the truth about what – and who – her enemy is before it forces her to take its place under the icy lake forever.



UNDER THE ICY LAKE is a 57,000-word YA horror novel that combines the subjective, introspective approach of BLACK SWAN with the suspense and pacing of classic ghost stories like WAIT TILL HELEN COMES.






Fun tidbit:


Executive correspondence is my day job bread and butter, so I figured a query would be a breeze—just another piece of business writing, right? You can imagine what my first attempts looked like! Fortunately, Twitter came to my rescue. I lost count of the swaps I did somewhere past 20 and ran it by two or three query-doctoring editors into the bargain. When Michelle Hauck picked my entry for her Query Kombat team I knew I was finally on the right track. I didn’t make it to the agent round of that contest, but the feedback gave me what I needed to put the final polish on it. 80-odd queries later, here we are!





ABerubeI’m a writer and editor with a small department in the Canadian public service, having previously dabbled in academe and carpentry, and am also a member of SCBWI. I spend way too much time on Twitter as @metuiteme.


W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday with J.M.M. Nuanez May 18, 2016







Every writer has their own path to publication. Some are long and winding. Others are a straight shot. No matter the tale, the journey always involves ups and downs, caution signs, and for some, serious roundabouts, but what always remains is the writer’s commitment to their craft and their enduring dream to see their work on bookshelves one day.



In bringing you the W.O.W. series, I hope as a writer you will learn that no dream is unfounded. That with time, patience, perseverance, and commitment to your craft, it is possible to cross that finish line and share your story with the world.



Today I am pleased to share J.M.M. Nuanez’s writing journey…






Amy: What inspires you to write Middle Grade fiction?


J.M.M.: I’m not sure. I just love stories period. And so far, the best ones from my brain have been middle grade. Mostly, I think that on the inside, I’m probably still in seventh or eighth grade, that point when you are on the cusp of truly crossing over, leaving childhood behind. Middle school is also a weird and fascinating time because everyone is crossing into young adulthood at different times. Hilarious and heartbreaking stories just spring up.




Amy: How did the story idea for MY PERFECT ME come to you?


J.M.M.: The first image I ever had was of a sister and her younger brother, holding hands, standing defiantly against the world. Oh – and the brother was wearing a skirt. It came to me randomly as I was walking home from work. Their names – Jack and Birdie – came to me soon after and I just had to know their story. The look in their eyes, their loyalty to each other, the skirt, it was enough to eventually cause me to give up querying my first novel and dig into their story.




Amy: Did your first query for MY PERFECT ME come easy or did it go through many rewrites/edits?


J.M.M.: It went through about four re-writes – the major one being through a Lit Reactor query writing course with Bree Ogden (which was amazing by the way!).




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


J.M.M.: A bit laborious. But not frustrating. Before I began querying, I did a lot of research on the process (the query-writing course included). So I knew that there was potential for the process being a long one – I told myself that if I got 100 rejections, then maybe I’d re-think the writing career. So, I started gathering a list of 100 agents. I had a list of about 40 before I started querying, starting with my top picks. In the end, I only queried fifteen.



I guess I should add that I’d been through the query process once before with another novel. I’d gotten as far as a few partial requests and one full request, but at that point, I decided to pour all my efforts into getting to know Jack and Birdie.




Amy: How many agents did you query for MY PERFECT ME?


J.M.M.: 15




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


J.M.M.: It was a mix. There were a couple that came back within minutes. And then a few I had to wait a couple months. Most came back within a couple of weeks. I also had a few R&R’s, which I eagerly agreed to since all of the feedback was very similar. It was the R&R that eventually landed me my first offer.




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


J.M.M.: The end of the query process unfolded at a very strange time – my husband and I were leaving our ex-pat life in South Korea, going backpacking around Asia for six weeks and then returning to America. The call with Susan happened – literally – within three hours of us getting on the plane to leave Korea and fly to Japan. It was about 3:30am and I was sitting in a Seoul hostel room the size of a shoebox. I had the hostel’s wireless internet and a cellphone with the Google Talk app.



Susan was the fourth and last agent I spoke to. A few days before, I’d received the first offer of representation. As per protocol, I had informed all the agents who had my query about the offer and quickly received three more offers of representation and requests for calls. Too bad I was in the midst of shutting off my apartment internet, shipping off my life and leaving for a couple of last nights in Seoul. It was an insane 72 hours.



Matters were further complicated by the fact that all four agents were absolutely amazing! I couldn’t believe it. Some small, stupid part of me was mad that I’d been put in this “horrible” position of having to turn someone down.



The big, bright spot, though, was that un-namable attribute that everyone always talks about when they speak of choosing their agent – that mysterious quality that allows their agent to “just get it” – they just know the characters and the story with seemingly no effort or explanation beyond the manuscript itself.



All the agents had impeccable reputations, were intelligent, kind, enthusiastic and generous. Susan was (and is!) all these things, but beyond that it was like she was sitting inside my head. Or like maybe Jack and Birdie were somehow also sitting inside hers. Not her version of them, but mine. Thus, our back and forth discussion about their story and the future was, well, effortless. I got off the phone, found my husband in the dim, communal kitchen and said, “She’s the one.”



Even though I knew that Susan was it, I told her and everyone else that I really needed the weekend to decide. Sitting on a tatami mat while hunched over my cell phone in a Tokyo AirBnb apartment  – I’ll never forget writing those three rejection emails. It was the most difficult thing I’d done at that point in my writing career (and that doesn’t even include trying to be gracious and eloquent while typing on a tiny touch screen). Even writing the novel and all its revisions seemed easier.



But I tell you what: writing the acceptance email and then receiving Susan’s unbridled enthusiasm made everything worth it! I flew off into the jungles of Southeast Asia a happy, delirious writer – and remain so to this day. Go #TeamBent!




Amy: What one thing are you looking forward to most as a debut author?


J.M.M.: Moving on to the next book. ^_^




Amy: If you were doing a book signing and you met a writer who was about to give up on their publishing dream, what would you say to them?


J.M.M.: First I would ask why they want to give up. There are many reasons why someone would give up on their writing dream. It’s a hard road to take.



But in general, I would tell them what my writing professor told me in college: it’s not the talented who publish – it’s the tenacious. With tenacity you can learn the craft and finish the first draft. Many very talented people can’t finish a draft. Remember: you can’t revise (and subsequently publish) what isn’t there. Do the work. Tell the stories. Don’t give up.





Nuanez, JMM-square-lgJ.M.M. Nuanez is an active member of SCBWI and holds a BA in English.  For two years, she and her husband lived in South Korea and taught English in the public school system.  Now back in the US, when she isn’t writing, she can be found reading, gardening, or knitting in her hometown of San Diego, California. Also, she is an avid fan of cats, pizza, and YouTube.



Find J.M.M. Nuanez at her website,, or visit her at Twitter,, or Instagram,


Monday Musings: Writers I’ve Got Your Back (Part 2) May 16, 2016

Filed under: Blog,Publishing — chasingthecrazies @ 6:30 am
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(Thanks Roselle Kaes for the awesome portrait!)





If you’ve read this blog long enough, you know I’m a voracious defender of writers. I’ve dedicated a lot of time to putting positive thoughts and feelings out into the social media stratosphere. And while some have called me a “Pollyanna” (yep, that term ages me) about the writing community, I refuse to change who I am and what I believe about my fellow writers.



So here’s the honest truth, I was REALLY, REALLY mad last week regarding a dominant thread on Twitter. While many saw it as funny, I saw it as a huge bash to many writers’ work.



Writing is hard. Many of us toil for years on a single novel. We craft sentences over and over until they sound just right. We agonize over themes and dialogue, wanting to be true to our characters. I would guess this is no different for authors who have penned bestsellers and done amazing things to shine a bright light on certain categories and genres, particularly Young Adult. So to call them out. Make fun of their work. That’s not okay with me. It doesn’t make me laugh, and it doesn’t make me think we’re doing the writing community any favors.



With all of this in mind, I wanted to reshare a post I wrote a while back. It details how I feel about the writing community and why we should lift each other up instead of tear one another down…



It takes a lot of effort to be cruel.  To rev-up that anger inside and then spew it out all over the internet. Boy, I’m exhausted reading it all, aren’t you?



If you’re wondering what I’m referring to, I’ll only allude to the fact that in the last several weeks two writers have taken to the internet to say some pretty unkind things to their fellow authors. I’m not giving links or mentioning names. As a former PR manager, I know these people think any publicity is good publicity, and I’m not going to be a cog in that wheel.



Here’s my point: STOP with the madness. Let’s support our fellow authors. Their success does not in any way take away anyone else’s glory. In my opinion, we should be creating a positive community where we all join together and buoy each other’s successes. Shout about amazing sales and awards from the rooftops. By doing this, we create a community where authors feel welcome and supported.



It’s hard to be a creative type. We spend lots of time alone – outlining, plotting, writing, revising. On top of that, it takes a massive amount of courage to then share that art with the world. Why as a fellow author would you add to that anxiety by being unkind? I simply don’t get it.



I’m just one small author. I’m not sure I can make a difference, but today I’m taking a stand to support my fellow writers. I hope you will join me in a year-long effort to stay positive. All my tweets, blog comments, interviews, and guest posts will have an encouraging bent. I will take every chance I have to lift up those who are down from rejection, and promote those who have a cover reveal, book birthday or hopefully, hit the NYT Bestsellers list.



It’s almost cliché now to remind people what a small community publishing is – but it’s true. There are always going to be those who want to belittle someone else’s work, but I hope those people stay in the minority. If we as authors make an effort to drown out the negativity with our praise, I believe the writing community will become an even stronger place.





First Five Frenzy – Melissa L. Edwards of The Aaron M. Priest Literary Agency May 13, 2016



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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’s requested over and over.



Today I’m proud to share Melissa Edwards’ 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?



Melissa: A great first line is a good sign for things to come, but it needs to be followed by hundreds (thousands!) of good lines. If the first line is great and the second is terrible, that first line isn’t enough. I take each line as an invitation to keep reading.





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?



Melissa: Novels that start with a wake-up are my personal pet peeve. Eyes opening and a protagonist doing morning rituals—not very interesting. I also don’t like bad weather— rain, wind, fog, snow—in a first scene, if it can be avoided.





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?



Melissa: It’s usually a character that gets me—a funny voice, or an unusual background, or a different perspective. I am a quite character- based reader. It’s usually the person who makes me feel something—the right character can do nothing for 50 pages and I’ll still be with you. That being said, they better do something eventually because pacing is so much of the battle.





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



Melissa: All exposition, all the time. I see authors just dump information into their first few pages. I understand the need to set a scene, to introduce the team, to place the setting, but there’s a way to integrate that information seamlessly into the action. Just throwing background at the reader to get it out of the way isn’t particularly enjoyable, and isn’t that the point of reading?





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



Melissa: As I said earlier, I am a character reader. A distinct voice can make a book, and carry the reader from the first page to the last. Think about novels like A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES or EMMA. These are books that continue to be relevant, not only because the writing is so strong, but because the voices are so distinct. A character doesn’t need to be likeable to be successful, but he or she needs to be memorable.





Melissa L. Edwards is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis and Vanderbilt Law School. Melissa began her career as a commercial litigation attorney, but happily transitioned to a career in publishing. At present, Melissa handles foreign rights for Aaron Priest and manages her own list. Melissa’s taste ranges in genre from classic Victorian literature to hard-boiled crime dramas. She is interested in reading sweet and quirky middle grade fiction, contemporary YA, light-hearted women’s fiction, and female-driven suspense. She is also interested in select pop culture nonfiction. Ultimately, Melissa is looking for a book that will keep her glued to the couch all day and night, and continue to occupy her thoughts for weeks later.



If you’re interested in submitting to Melissa, please check The Aaron M. Priest Literary Agency website for their guidelines.


W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday with Kathryn Purdie May 11, 2016







Every writer has their own path to publication. Some are long and winding. Others are a straight shot. No matter the tale, the journey always involves ups and downs, caution signs, and for some, serious roundabouts, but what always remains is the writer’s commitment to their craft and their enduring dream to see their work on bookshelves one day.



In bringing you the W.O.W. series, I hope as a writer you will learn that no dream is unfounded. That with time, patience, perseverance, and commitment to your craft, it is possible to cross that finish line and share your story with the world.



Today I am pleased to share Kathryn Purdie’s writing journey…





Amy: When did you first know you wanted to write Young Adult fiction?



Kathryn: I decided to write YA in pursuit of publication after reading Carrie Ryan’s THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH. I’d been on a young adult reading kick for about five years prior to that, but when I read this vivid, beautiful, and horrifying book, I knew I had to start writing YA, as well.





Amy: BURNING GLASS sounds like such a lush fantasy. How did the idea come to you?



Kathryn: The seeds of the idea grew over five years until the basic plot, main characters, and setting popped into mind fully formed in the spring of 2014. What influenced me to write this story is how I felt like an empath during the months of recovery following donating a kidney to my brother and how emotionally painful that empathy was. The Russian-inspired world came from my love of Imperial Russia and my fascination with its fall. I’d sustained that love for many years after learning the last Tsarevich of Russia, Alexei, had hemophilia like my son, three brothers, and grandfather.





Amy: In your bio I read that you studied acting in London. Do you find that being able to take on a role and build a character helps translate to your writing?



Kathryn: I actually studied in Oxford, England. Close! 🙂 My acting experience has hugely impacted how I approach characters, and even plot. My stories are very character-driven for that reason. I need to know everyone’s objectives, tactics, how they’ll grow, how they’ll fail. I imagine myself acting out each person on the page.





Amy: From beginning (first draft) to end (book deal) how long was your journey with BURNING GLASS?



Kathryn: Okay, not counting research and plotting time (three months for this book), I wrote the first draft of BURNING GLASS (originally entitled AURASEER) in four months. It was a very rare draft for me in that I never had any beta readers (long story, but there wasn’t time for that when my agent wanted to sell it), and my agent didn’t suggest any revisions either, so the initial revisions were done by only me (until those several rounds I did later with my editor). So from when I began writing that first draft to when the trilogy sold to HarperCollins, it was about 5 ½ months. But I’ve had a long journey to becoming a published author. I’ve had two agents and four books on submissions to publishing houses to get here. Moral of the story: don’t give up!





Amy: How many agents did you query for BURNING GLASS?



Kathryn: I’d already obtained an agent from querying a previous manuscript, so this question doesn’t really apply, but I did send out about 45 query letters before securing that agent, although he got back to me very quickly because of a client referral. (Like I said earlier, he is my second agent.)





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



Kathryn: I’ve had an easier time getting agents than selling a manuscript. I obtained my first agent by pitching my query in person to her at a writing conference. That was before I’d queried anyone else, and it was for the first story I’d ever written. But she quit the business while we were on submissions. I queried that same manuscript to about 50 other agents, but none offered because that story had already been seen by editors and publishing houses. So I wrote my second story, queried 45 more agents, and my agent, Josh Adams, got back to me within a couple weeks and offered. He was my dream agent, so I declined interest from the other ten or so agents who had requested full manuscripts at that point.





Amy: What was your call like with your agent, Josh Adams? How did you know he was the right fit for you?



Kathryn: Josh is my bestie Sara B. Larson’s agent, so I knew all about him through her before he became my agent. He is Sara’s second agent, as well, so she had been through tough times like me and wanted a much better agent/author relationship. Josh is incredibly savvy about the business, brilliant with contracts, offers great advice about my writing (I always run my plots by him, and he steers me away from unnecessary points that would otherwise make it difficult to sell the manuscript). He’s an excellent communicator (we chat on the phone often and he responds to my emails almost always within minutes), and he has a very good heart and maintains a fierce belief in me, my writing, and my career. All those things about Josh were grounded into me after that initial phone call. I’m honored to be his client.





Amy: What one piece of advice can you impart to aspiring writers to encourage them to keep working towards their publishing dream?




Kathryn: Find a set schedule of time to write, whether it’s an hour a day or more, and hold that time sacred. That is YOUR time, the time for your dreams. You need to make a sacrifice to honor your dreams, and often that sacrifice comes in the form of giving up some sleep in order to write, until writing becomes so habitual you can find time to do so during the day. When I made a huge effort to pursue publishing—and when doors started to open for me—was when I decided to wake up an hour earlier each morning to begin my daily writing routine.







Burning Glass Cover




Sonya was born with the rare gift to feel what those around her feel—both physically and emotionally—a gift she’s kept hidden from the empire for seventeen long years. After a reckless mistake wipes out all the other girls with similar abilities, Sonya is hauled off to the palace and forced to serve the emperor as his sovereign Auraseer.



Tasked with sensing the intentions of would-be assassins, Sonya is under constant pressure to protect the emperor. But Sonya’s power is untamed and reckless, and she can’t always decipher when other people’s impulses end and her own begin. In a palace full of warring emotions and looming darkness, Sonya fears that the biggest danger to the empire may be herself.



As she struggles to wrangle her abilities, Sonya seeks refuge in her tenuous alliances with the charming-yet-volatile Emperor Valko and his idealistic younger brother, Anton, the crown prince. But when threats of revolution pit the two brothers against each other, Sonya must choose which brother to trust—and which to betray.



Now available at Amazon, IndieBound, Barnes and Noble and other retailers.





webEdit-10editedKathryn Purdie is the author of Burning Glass (HarperCollins). Her love of storytelling began as a young girl when her dad told her about Boo Radley while they listened to the film score of To Kill a Mockingbird. Kathryn lives near Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband and three children. Kathryn is a trained classical actress who studied at the Oxford School of Drama and was inspired to write this debut trilogy while recovering from donating a kidney to her older brother.



For more on Kathryn, you can connect with her on her website or via the following social media sites:















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 Niki Lenz. This great query connected her with her agent, Kate Testerman.





I read on Literary Rambles that you’re seeking stories with diverse characters and humor.  Please consider THE MANNY AND THE MOTORCYCLE, my MG fantasy, a modern retelling of Mary Poppins.



Twelve-year-old Ben Nontario is ticked off that his parents are hiring a nanny. Sure, wrangling his two little sisters after school would be a pain, but he’s convinced if he weren’t in a wheelchair, his parents would make him a latchkey kid like everyone else in the seventh grade.



When the nanny shows up, Ben starts to reconsider his stance. Marty, the burly, tattooed, motorcycle riding manny is surprising beyond his appearance. Strange things start to happen as soon as he arrives (Flying cutlery! Spontaneous cookie appearances! Field trips into picture books!). Ben, being a man of science, knows magic isn’t real, so he’s convinced the manny is somehow tricking them.  But the fun and friendship that Marty brings turn out to be what Ben and his family need most.



When Ben’s mom learns that Marty didn’t come from the nanny agency like she originally thought, she fires him immediately.  Ben has to decide if he can put aside his skepticism about magic, and use some to get Marty back.  If Ben can’t pull it off, the agency has a cheek-pinching, baby-talking nanny they’d love to replace him with, and the family bonds that Marty tied might just fray at the edges.



THE MANNY AND THE MOTORCYCLE is complete at 49,000 words.  Fans of MARY POPPINS and NANNY MCPHEE will love this updated retelling.




Fun Tidbit:


If this query letter sounds familiar to you, you might have read it in Query Kombat last year… where it got knocked out in the first round!  It just goes to show that not doing well in a contest doesn’t mean that your query won’t get the attention of an agent in the slush.




Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 2.38.13 PMNiki Lenz works as a free-lance writer in Kansas City, where she lives with her husband and two children.  She enjoys reading, travel, and binge watching Netflix.  She’s a card-carrying member of SCBWI. For more on Niki, follow her on Twitter (@NikiRLenz).


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