Chasing my crazy dream in the writing world…

W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday with Rachel Lynn Solomon June 29, 2016







Every writer has their own path to publication. Some paths 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 Rachel Lynn Solomon’s writing journey…





Amy: When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?



Rachel: I can’t remember ever not wanting to be a writer — I think I’ve wanted to be one as long as I’ve been a reader. When I was growing up, I wrote constantly and posted stories on FictionPress (some are even still up there). I didn’t get serious about being a writer until after I graduated college. I’d studied journalism, so I’d been writing and hearing others’ stories for years, and I decided to try telling one of my own. It became my first finished book, a semi-autobiographical new adult kind of thing that I still can’t believe I queried! I did not understand showing vs. telling. I did not understand what was wrong with three chapters filled solely with info-dumps. But it was important for me to write that book — to know that I could write a book.




Amy: I love the themes of sisterhood and family dynamics in FINGERS CROSSED. What inspired you to write the story?



Rachel: The story concept came to me in several waves. The very first one — and this is almost awkward to admit! — was that I wanted to write a bold, kind of sexually aggressive teen girl because I hadn’t read very many female characters like that in YA. I thought it would be fun to explore, so she became one of the twins. I also felt I’d read a lot of twin stories where the characters were opposites: one’s going to Harvard, and the other’s a slacker. Both sisters in my books are ambitious in different ways; one is a viola prodigy and the other wants to become a surgeon.



I’ve always thought of Huntington’s disease as one of the most tragic things that can befall a family. The idea that you can know if you’ll develop the disease but not when — it’s heartbreaking to me. While doing research, I learned there’s a 50/50 chance that the child of a parent with Huntington’s will inherit it, and I thought, what if one twin tested positive and one tested negative? It seemed to lend itself naturally to a dual POV story, and I hadn’t read too many multiple POV books narrated by sisters.



Lastly, family dynamics and Judaism are integral to the story. This is actually the first book I’ve written with Jewish protagonists. Growing up, I rarely read any stories about Jewish people that weren’t about the Holocaust. I wanted my younger self and other Jewish readers to see themselves in my book.




Amy: After reading your amazing blog post about the journey to selling your debut (read the post here!), I was inspired by your perseverance. How did you keep writing in spite of the ups and downs?



Rachel: I kept writing because it was the only thing I could do, the only thing I had control over. At any stage of this journey, that remains the thing we have the most control over. Writing has always been a bundle of different things for me: cathartic, comforting, challenging. While taking breaks is always a good idea, I don’t think I could have stopped writing because in my soul I am a writer.



It also helped to connect with other writers on long journeys, particularly writers who’d left agents and were querying for the second or third time. I never felt alone, and that was a tremendous comfort.




Amy: Are you one of those people who has an easy time writing a query or does it take several tries before you land on your final version?



Rachel: Depends on the book! I always write queries early on in the drafting process so I know whether what I’m writing has a solid enough hook and stakes. If I’m struggling to write the query, maybe I haven’t fully developed the plot or characters yet. Then I labor over each word. I love words (I mean, obviously, right?) — but more specifically, the exactness of them, the satisfaction of a dynamic verb or a precise noun.




Amy: Do you work with critique partners? If so, how do they help shape your stories?



Rachel: YES, and I would be absolutely lost without them. I used to send chapters to readers early on, but now, while I brainstorm with CPs throughout the process, I don’t usually share until I have a completed (and often extremely messy) first draft. I like to have something finished that I can then mold and take apart.




Amy: From beginning (first draft) to end (signing contract), how long was the process of getting a deal for FINGERS CROSSED?



Rachel: I started writing the book in March of 2014, and it sold in May of 2016, so a little over two years! It’s been through several rewrites and many, many revisions. Once it went on submission with my current agent, Laura Bradford, it sold in six weeks, which still feels unbelievable to me. I don’t think anything in publishing had moved quickly for me up until that point. Laura is amazing; she put the book in the hands of the right person!




Amy: As most writers know, publishing is a very difficult business. What was the one thing you think you did to garner agent interest?



Rachel: From my first draft, I knew this book had a great hook, and that my challenge was going to be getting the writing to live up to that hook. I wrote and rewrote several times from a blank page, which I’d never done before. I wrote each character separately to ensure their voices felt distinct. I printed the manuscript several times and did hard copy edits. I had at least 10 readers over the course of the two years I was working on it. This book meant the world to me, and I didn’t want to put it out there until I felt I had done everything I could.




Amy: What can you tell us about “your call” with your agent, Laura Bradford? How did you know she was the right fit for you?



Rachel: Though I’d been represented previously, this manuscript had not been queried. Laura was the first to offer on it in March of 2016. From the moment we got on the phone, I felt so at ease. She was funny and down-to-earth, and my favorite thing she said that made me feel like she got what was I trying to do was something along the lines of, “You don’t really like Adina [one of the twins] because she’s so sharp. But she’s compelling. You root for her.” I feel strongly that (female) characters don’t need to be likable — but they should be interesting. I don’t want to spend 300 pages with a nice, mild character who follows the rules. My characters live in moral gray areas.




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? 



Rachel: I’m going to borrow something I wrote on my own blog for this one :). It took me several books to realize that getting published was what I wanted more than anything else. Every new book made me want it even more. It’s taken me a long time to develop the confidence to be able to say that I have something to say as an author. I’ve spent so much time in my life downplaying my own accomplishments, however small, and I’m trying to take more pride in what I do. We have to be our own best advocates. So I would say this: you are the only person who can write your book. You are the only person who is going to put it out there. You are the only person who’s going to send it to readers and agents and editors. Maybe you need to take a break for a while, and that’s okay. Maybe you need to find new readers, take a class, consult craft books. At times there are more downs than ups, but if this is something you desperately want, you have to keep writing.





rachel 2016 3Rachel Lynn Solomon is a Seattle native who loves rainy days, tap dancing, red lipstick, and new wave music. Her debut contemporary YA novel, FINGERS CROSSED, will be out from Simon & Schuster/Simon Pulse in spring 2018, with a second book to follow in 2019. She’s represented by Laura Bradford of Bradford Literary Agency. You can find Rachel online at and on Twitter @rlynn_solomon.


Monday Musings: Agents, Publishers, and Research June 27, 2016



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Over the last few weeks there’ve been two pitch events on Twitter. The AMAZING #PitMad hosted by Brenda Drake, and the stellar #SFFPit organized by Dan Koboldt. There’s also been the ongoing battles heating up with the writing contest #QueryKombat.



Hopefully those of you who are participating in these contests are getting a ton of requests! The question that comes next is what do you do with those requests? Do you polish your sub package up all neat and shiny and send right away? I’d say yes ONLY if you’ve done your research first.



Getting a request is an amazing thing. It feels like discovering that “golden ticket” that’ll move you to the head of the slush pile. And while this may seem true, there’s still work to do. Your job at this point is to not blast off an email right away, but go to each individual agent or publisher’s website and do your research. Determine if their list, and what they are looking for, gels with what you are writing. If their sales and distribution chain match your goals.



In thinking about all these things, I thought I’d go back into my archives and share a post from my QUERY 101 series regarding research. This information applies not only to those who have received requests, but those just getting ready to jump into the trenches.






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



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


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



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



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



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



So where do you go to research agents?



Here are two websites that will help your process: AgentQuery and QueryTracker. Both will allow you to research by category. From there, you can drill down to see which take your genre. Once you determine this information, I suggest you go to that agent’s website. Many times they may have changed their query guidelines, be closed to queries, or revamped their wish list. You can also check out writing communities like AbsoluteWrite & AgentQueryConnect for writer feedback on agents. I’d also suggest dropping by the #MSWL website this Thursday, June 30 (2016) where agents will be dropping in and adding their latest updates!



Note: Research should also be done on publishers if you’re going to submit to them as well. My suggestion here would be to try and reach out to someone who has worked with them and ask about their experience.



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



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



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









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



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



FIRST FIVE FRENZY with Caitie Flum of Liza Dawson Associates June 17, 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 Caitie Flum’s perspective on what’s important in those critical first pages.




Amy: Many writers have the impression that a great first line is imperative to drawing in the reader. How important is a first line to you as an agent?



Caitie: Not as important as I think some writers think! I have seen advice that says if your first line isn’t brilliant, agents will stop reading. I never give up on something after just one line. A great first line will get me excited, but what comes after that first line is more important.





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?




Caitie: Well, all of the ones you mentioned above! Getting ready for the day is another one that should be avoided – it is just boring. I have also seen lately something similar to the dream opening – something is described and is really exciting and it turns out to be from a movie or TV show. And please, stop having your characters look in a mirror and describe themselves.





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?



Caitie: I don’t ask for first pages, so it is just based on the query!





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



Caitie: The biggest mistake I see is that it is just info dumping, no story or character. Also, over describing things. Yes, we want a sense of place, but most of the time, having two pages straight of what it looks like is not that compelling. Also, not starting is the right place. which I know is difficult, but makes sure the story has to start where it does.





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



Caitie: All of the above! It depends on what it is. If it is middle grade, it needs to have that voice from page 1. Any books with action need to nail that pacing. In every genre, I need to get to know the main character.




Caitie Flum joined Liza Dawson Associates in July 2014 as assistant and audio rights manager. She graduated from Hofstra University in 2009 with a BA in English with a concentration in publishing studies.



If you’re interested in submitting to Caitie, please check The Liza Dawson Associates website for their guidelines.


W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday with Dave Connis June 15, 2016








Every writer has their own path to publication. Some paths 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 Dave Connis’ writing journey…





Amy: What inspires you to write Young Adult fiction?



Dave: Sponges, specifically the yellow kind with scratchy backs.




YA has a playfulness, honesty, and emotional connection that I think can only be found in that stretch of life. Adult fiction often feels, to me, like it goes out of its way to be gritty. Most of the adult books I’ve read feel like this: we’re adults and we can have sex with anyone and say **** all the time. Oh, **** my childhood totally ****ed me up and now I’m gruff and need to solve this problem with sex and drinking. You get some of that formula in any genre really, except for maybe picture books, but YA just seems to have an unrivaled honesty to it that cuts through the layers of BS we adults get so used to operating in.






Amy: How did the story idea for THE TEMPTATION OF ADAM come to you?



Dave: I was thinking about how porn affects brain chemistry on a long road trip, promptly looked up if there were any YA books that honestly discussed porn as an issue (there aren’t) and decided that it was too big a gap to leave. I drafted the story line and the main characters for the rest of the drive, then started writing it as soon as I got home. I didn’t even unpack from the trip.





Amy: In your bio I read that you are a musician. Do you find that music ever plays a role in your writing?



Dave: Songs and albums define some books for me. When I listen to Benjamin Francis Leftwhich’s album, Last Smoke Before The Storm, I think of the Eragon series because I listened to that album while I read the series, and that was four years ago! The same is even true in my own writing. The music I listen to while I write always tends to affect the mood of what I’m writing. As for music in my books, most of the include it in some way. TOA has a pretty big plot point that revolves around music. One of my plans (this might be idealistic, but who knows) is to always have some sort of album come out with a new book. I don’t want to make it my “gimmick,” or my “thing.” I honestly just like having music and books hand-in-hand because they’re so hand-in-hand when I write.





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










Amy: How many agents did you query for THE TEMPTATION OF ADAM?



Dave: Oh boy. I can’t remember. I think it was about 40-50.





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




Dave: I collected responses (8 full requests, all rejected) over about a year and a half because I queried ten agents at a time. When the last agent in my last wave responded, I’d send out another ten.






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



Dave: There were a lot of jokes and I couldn’t really think straight because I was so excited. He asked me if I had any other projects and I’m pretty sure I explained one like, “well, there’s a girl and I made up a sport and there’s space. I mean it’s in space. With, like, a Last Avatar thing kind of happening…I’m still working on that.” I knew because he didn’t take himself to seriously in the whole process. He never treated me like I was the one getting the deal, he always acted like he was the one honored to come along side of me and help, and this has continued to be the case. I’m so glad I signed with him.





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



Dave: FAN ART. For real. I’m gonna put all of it on my office wall.





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





1. Writing is a lonely, comparison ridden, idolizing, performance pushing sort of task and the only way to defeat those demons is to remember why you like to write. At any point, you’re going to wish for more. “If only I had an agent.” “If only I had a better book deal.” “If only every publishing house showed up at my book auction.” There’s always a reason to never be satisfied. One of your biggest obstacles as a writer is being satisfied with what you’re given. Make sure you realize this early so you can remind yourself of it often.



2. I suck at grammar, and it took me years to learn that grammar was spelled with two a’s instead of an a and an e. The biggest reason I have a book deal is because I kept writing. I got better, and I learned as much as I can. You’ll never stop learning if you don’t stop writing.






dave-connisDave Connis is an author based out of Chattanooga, TN. He feeds his family by working at a local library and at his church as Assistant Youth Director. He loves Jesus, cusses a lot, makes music, and is probably struggling with social media comparison right now. For more on Dave check out his website or follow him on Twitter (@DaveConnis)


MONDAY MUSINGS: Revisiting QUERY 101 June 13, 2016



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Starting this Wednesday, I will be jumping in to help judge the next round of Query Kombat. If you’re not familiar with this writing contest, it’s a great event hosted by Michelle Hauck, Laura Heffernan, and Michael Anthony. In the contest, two queries are put together and they “battle” via judges’ comments. The more successful, compelling query moves on to the next round for the chance to eventually be the overall winner.



This will be my third year of judging and I’m always struck by how clever and interesting writers can make their queries. This had me thinking about the total structure of a query and how daunting at times it can be to put one together. Summarize your entire story in three paragraphs? Add voice, characterization, and an amazing hook? The idea alone can be downright frightening at times.



So today, I want to go back and share a post from my QUERY 101 series about structure. In this post I share the overall basics of putting a query together, as well as discuss the definition of a hook, and share examples from some of my favorite stories.



In reposting, I hope to make the difficult process of putting together a query a bit easier. If you have any questions or comments, I’m always happy to help!



Here is the original post…



In the first post in the Query 101 series, we talked about query basics. Today, we are going to talk specifics of structure: greeting, hook, book & cook.


Let’s start at the beginning:





1) Always begin with addressing the literary agent by name. Do not address your query as “Dear Agent.” Be courteous. Do your research and find out the correct spelling of the agent’s name.



2)  Address one agent at a time in the heading. There may be many people in that particular literary agency who take your category/genre, but each should get their own individual email or letter. The last things agents want to see is they are part of one long email chain.



note: Check submission guidelines. Some agencies ask that you query agents one at a time. Others have a policy that a “no” from one is a “no” from all. Make sure you respect the agency’s individual submission guidelines.






There is plenty of debate on the internet as to whether or not you need to personalize your query. Some say just get to the “meat” of your story. Others say personalization means you have researched the agent and know your manuscript would be a good fit for their list.



I stand firmly in the “personalization” camp. Now, that does not mean your greeting has to be flowery and over-the-top. Simply stating that you are familiar with their client list, mentioning a comment they made in an interview, or explaining that your manuscript would be a fit for their #MSWL (Manuscript Wish List) is enough.



After personalization, some people add title, category/genre and word count of their manuscript. Again, there is debate about where this information should go. Some say at the beginning. Others say leave it at the end. My advice is to put it where it flows best with your query. No matter where you place, it is MANDATORY you include this information as the agent needs to know they rep. your type of manuscript.






This  is the intriguing portion of your story. It’s a one-liner that pulls the agent in and encourages them to read on.



Some great examples of hooks from successful queries:





16-year-old Dusty Everhart might make a regular habit of breaking into houses late at night, but she’s no criminal.



Mindy McGinnis’ NOT A DROP TO DRINK:


Lynn was nine the first time she killed to defend the pond.



Mary Elizabeth Summer’s TRUST ME, I’M LYING:


Julep Dupree is not a real person. In fact, Julep isn’t even her real name.







This is 4-6 sentences that summarizes your manuscript. It hints at the main plot, introduces your protagonist and antagonist. Your sinker (final line) leaves the agent wanting for more – but DOES NOT reveal the ending.



A few notes about “The Book”


– Try not to introduce more than 2-3 characters. More than that and the information gets confusing.


– Be specific about the stakes. Remember agent is looking for character, conflict, and cost.


– When possible, try to insert a touch of voice – this helps bring the story to life and gives agent an idea of what to expect in sample pages.


– Query should be written in third person, present tense. I would also highly recommend you stay away from gimmicks like beginning with a question or writing your query in the voice of your main character. I’ve talked to many agents who say this approach immediately turns them off.







This is your bio. If you have publishing credits include them. If you have education or internships that are pertinent to creative writing or publishing, mention them. Writing contest wins? Include those too. If you don’t have any publishing credits, that is OK. Plenty of agents say they have signed debut authors without any publishing history. A simple line about who you are, and what you do, is fine.






Thank agent for their time. I would also use the space underneath signature to include info about your social media presence: website, Twitter handle, Facebook page, etc.



This is merely a structured outline of a query. It is up to you as the writer to fill it in as you see fit. Whether you want to include voice, or a certain type of personalization, that is entirely up to you. The main thing is to keep it professional and one page. Follow submission guidelines and agents will see you are not only serious about your book, but about your writing career too.






BEHIND THE CURTAIN: A Working Relationship With A Cover Designer June 10, 2016



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One of the things I’m most intrigued about when I talk to writers about self-publishing is the unique relationship they have with their cover designer. Almost always there seems to be this cool give and take of ideas and creativity between author and artist. A synergy that builds as the two develop and create the right tone and mood for a writer’s work.



Today I’ve asked Cover Designer, Ashley Ruggirello to share a “Behind The Curtain” look at what happens when an author and artist collaborate on a book cover. For any of you considering jumping into the world of self-publishing, I think her honest and open comments will help give you an idea of what it takes to have a successful experience with a designer.




Amy: How does a writer usually approach you to work on a cover?


Ashley: It varies per project. I work with a handful of publishers, so many times it’s the project manager that approaches me, though the questions tend to be the same whether it’s a publisher or direct author. Many are curious of three things: cost, timeline, and portfolio. Since many get ahold of me through my website, the portfolio is often taken care of through that. Cost tends to be more important to an author/publisher than timeline, which is why I do my best to work within someone’s specific budget, or offer payment plans to make the cost more manageable. That’s not to say timeline isn’t important, either. I’ve been able to complete a full cover within on days time, but others have taken much longer, dependent on inspiration, stock photography, etc…

It’s important, with any cover artist, to make sure expectations are laid out and we’re both on the same page. It’s a working relationship, after all.




Amy: Are there certain categories/genres you prefer to work on?


Ashley: I tend to be approached by authors who write within the genres I write, myself—paranormal, fantasy, sci-fi, etc… And so I have the most experience with designing for those genres. Recently I’ve been branching into more of the contemporary genre, which is a fun contrast to all the sparkles and magic I’m used to.




Amy: How does the collaboration process work? Do you read an excerpt of the book or a synopsis to get a feel for the story?


Ashley: I always start with one, seemingly simple question: If you could have your ideal cover, no limitations, what would it be? And, like I said, it seems like it might be simple, but it’s a great way to open up the dialogue about what an author is looking for, what styles they’re attracted to, etc… That’s why I always follow-up requesting published examples of covers they love, love, love or they hate with a passion burning hotter than one thousand suns. These two requests, coupled together, give me more of a well-rounded picture of what they’re looking for.

Many times I don’t have an opportunity to read a full synopsis or even excerpt of the book, so the design relies on the author being able to convey enough for me to properly capture their story. A short summary or blurb sometimes works.





Amy: How much back and forth happens between you and the author before the original design?


Ashley: This honestly varies so much. Like I said, I’ve nailed a cover on the first go around, with just small color or font tweaks to reach a final cover concept. Other times, I’ve sent five+ unique concepts, with none quite hitting the nail on the head, and so we work through it together, picking elements that work and those that don’t.





Amy: How many cover examples do you usually create for a client to select from?


Ashley: Right off the bat, I tend to send one or two. You don’t want to overwhelm the author with too many options, because realistically you can’t put everything into one cover, and I’ve had instances where an author wants to incorporate multiple elements from all the cover options. I stand by my motto that simplicity is key, otherwise known as less is more. Sending one or two cover concepts, or a few variations of one concept, is usually my preferred route to start. If I need to make multiple unique concept from there, it’s just part of the process, and we’ll keep playing around with designs until we land on something with potential.





Amy: What happens if an author does not like any of the presented designs? 


Ashley: This is an unfortunate scenario, but since art is so subjective, it’s bound to happen once in a while. I never like feeling as if I’ve failed the author or the project, but in the end I understand the importance of a compelling cover to sell your book, so I will always advocate in favor of the book. If I end up not being the right designer, we come to a mutual agreement to terminate the contract, and I’ll suggest some other designers who might be a better fit.

If the designer prefers to stick with me, I tend to ask for a little more author participation, by either pulling a previous concept into Microsoft Paint and physically moving elements around.




Amy: On average, how much time would you say it takes from origin of project to final design?


Ashley: Average tends to be within about a week or two of project start. Of course I always have to factor in other projects in my queue. But, just to be on the safe side, an author should approach their designer while they’re still in the process of editing their manuscript. Flukes can happen, and you want to be on the safe side. Also, authors tend to be anxious to publish their stories once edits are completed, and I’d have to be the factor holding that up if a cover art project doesn’t go as smoothly as intended.




Amy: What are some important things authors need to keep in mind when working with a cover designer?


Ashley: One thing I stress to any author/publisher who’s seeking a cover artist, is to make sure the designer’s aesthetic matches yours. A designer might technically be very talented, and capable of making a fantastic cover, but if the style doesn’t match what you’re looking for, the designer isn’t likely to make you as happy as you could be.


All artist are different, and have their own set of strengths and weaknesses, so research, research, research is important.


Beyond that, I actually have a blog post of the 5 Essentials to Prepare for your Book Cover Artist.




12985474_10153494971371752_4630433540483565755_nAshley “A.M.” Ruggirello is an author, designer and doting wife living in beer and cheese land, WI. When not lost in the fictional world of Skyrim, she can be found exploring typography, manipulating responsive DIVS, or with pen & paper in hand (figuratively though, as she uses Google Docs much more often), writing her novels. She considers herself a designer by nature and writing at heart, though she always wanted to make video game walk-throughs as a child. Ashley’s favorite color is chartreuse, and she has an undeniable attraction to moss (not of the Kate variety).

For more on Ashley, check out her website (Cardboard Monet) or follow her on Twitter (@amRuggs).


W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday with K.C. Held June 8, 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. Through all of this though, 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 K.C. Held’s writing journey…




Amy: When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?



K.C.: I have a collection of “books” I wrote as a kid so it was pretty early on. But I don’t think it occurred to me that being a writer was a possible career choice until one of my favorite authors, Zilpha Keatley Snyder, visited my elementary school and made being a published author an actual, tangible goal I could aspire to.





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



K.C.: I queried a middle grade fantasy before HOLDING COURT that resulted in an R&R, but I ultimately decided to shelve it and move on. I still have feelings for that book though and someday I hope we can work things out. 🙂





Amy: I love that you have a background in costume design. How did you know you wanted to include that element in HOLDING COURT?



K.C.: I knew I wanted my main character, Jules, to have a super cool job so originally I gave her one of my mine-costume shop assistant! But then I discovered the existence of the Mad Maid of Kent and realized that was the perfect job for Jules. So I gave Geoffrey, the Master of the Wardrobe at Tudor Times, one of my dream jobs-recreating gorgeous historical costumes with an unlimited budget.





Amy: Did your query for HOLDING COURT come easily or did it go through many revisions?



K.C.: I feel like the query came fairly easily, but I did run it by my critique partners who helped me fine tune it before I sent it out. Having gone through the process before certainly helped.





Amy: From beginning (first draft) to end (signing contract), how long was the process of getting a deal for HOLDING COURT?



K.C.: I started writing HOLDING COURT on May 20, 2013 and I got my first offer on September 26, 2014.





Amy: Did you have critique partners for HOLDING COURT? If you did, how critical were they to your writing process?



K.C.: I have several treasured critique partners who are definitely critical to my writing process. I’m part of a local writing group that meets once a month and we share our work once we’ve completed a first draft. I also have several critique partners I met though the Nevada SCBWI Mentor program and we send each other work whenever we need feedback.





Amy: What can you tell me about your call with your agent, Kathleen Rushall? How did you know she was the right fit for you?



K.C.: I met Kathleen when I inadvertently sat next to her at my first SCBWI LA conference. One of her clients had literally just suggested I query her with my first book and then I happened to sit next to her, having no idea she was the agent we’d just been talking about. What are the chances?! She ultimately passed on that first book, but I was impressed with her kindness (she referred me to another agent) so once Holding Court was ready to go I knew I wanted to send it to her. It was the middle of December so I figured I wouldn’t hear anything until after the holiday season but on the day after Christmas I received an email from Kathleen requesting a phone call. BEST. CHRISTMAS. PRESENT. EVER!!





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



K.C.: I never thought about giving up on writing, but I did worry that my dream might take a backseat when my first child was born. It was actually quite the opposite, my daughter made me more determined than ever to fulfill my dream of becoming a published author someday. Because how could I convince her of the importance of dreaming big if I didn’t follow my own advice? Although it will be a few years before she’s ready to read it, she owns the very first copy of HOLDING COURT I signed. It’s inscribed “Dream BIG.”





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



K.C.: Treat your writing like a start-up business, not a hobby. Invest your time and money like you’re running a business, knowing that it might take a while to see a return on your investment, but making its long-term success your primary concern.












Sixteen-year-old Jules Verity knows exactly what’s in store at her new job at castle-turned-dinner-theater Tudor Times. Some extra cash, wearing a fancy-pants dress, and plenty of time to secretly drool over the ever-so-tasty–and completely unavailable–Grayson Chandler. Except that it’s not quite what she imagined.



For one, the costume Jules has to wear is awful. Then there’s the dead body she finds that just kind of…well, disappears. Oh, and there’s the small issue of Jules and her episodes of what her best friend calls “Psychic Tourette’s Syndrome”–spontaneous and uncontrollable outbursts of seemingly absurd prophecies.



The only bright side? This whole dead body thing seems to have gotten Grayson’s attention. Except that the more Jules investigates, the more she discovers that Grayson’s interest might not be as courtly as she thought. In fact, it’s starting to look suspicious…




Now available via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indigo and other retail outlets.





KCHeld webK.C. HELD was born and raised in California with stopovers in Honduras, Mexico, and France. Married to her high school sweetheart, and mom to two avid bookworms, she holds an MFA in costume design and has worked as a freelance costumer in opera, theater, film, and television. Although she once spent a summer working in a castle, there were no dead bodies involved.






For more on K.C., find her on these social media sites:










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