Chasing my crazy dream in the writing world…

2016 PitchWars Bio – Bring on the YA! July 19, 2016









Welcome to my blog and my bio and wishlist for Pitch Wars! Although I’m a newbie mentor this year, I’m no stranger to Pitch Wars. I’ve been chosen as an alternate twice. First for a YA Thriller, then for a YA Historical (for which I had to pull out of the contest after signing with an agent.)


Because of this extraordinary experience, I understand all facets of this process and the commitment it takes to make a manuscript shine. I decided to dive in as a mentor this year because I know how it feels to have someone special on your side. Rooting you on. Pushing you to do your best work. I’m here to be mentor, guide, teacher, and above all a support base for what will be a long, yet thrilling ride.






I started out my career working in entertainment then moved on to my true love, advertising and marketing. In my many positions, I managed to work with writing at some level. Formulating pitches. Copywriting. Developing and creating marketing plans for new book releases. No matter the job, my love has always been the craft of writing.


To understand the publishing world better, I’ve completed internships at not one, but two publishing houses, as well as a literary agency. Currently, I’m a freelance editor for Wild Things Editing. And along with Michelle Hauck, I host a yearly contest called Sun vs. Snow where I mentor several entries (my favorite part!) Oh, and I also run this fun (and somewhat crazy) blog – hence the name.


When I’m not doing all the things above, I write Young Adult (Historical, Thrillers, and Contemporary). My work is represented by Roseanne Wells at the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency.



Six Fun Facts…



–  After college I worked as an NBC Page. I met dozens of celebrities and tried to act cool, but after I made an ass out of myself in front of Garth Brooks I learned it’s best just to be yourself!



–  I worked at a major book distribution company just when Harry Potter was being introduced to the U.S. market (I read an early ARC of The Prisoner of Azkaban). Right before Goblet of Fire released, I was in charge of calling bookstores and reminding them (over and over) that they could not release books until midnight (a lot of them did not listen – LOL!).



–  I was a competitive gymnast for a good part of my childhood until several broken bones ended that dream.



–  I’ve been to BEA three times – all for work. The last time, I presented to a major group of publishers while eight months pregnant. I got a few side-eyes, but I killed it!



–  On a trip to England several years ago a tour guide informed me that every book published in Britain is housed in a huge vault below the University of Oxford library (not sure if this is true), but at that moment I realized I wanted to be a published author and have a book housed in that library one day.



–  My favorite all time movies are: Somewhere in Time (I’ve watched over 20 times) and Field of Dreams (If you want a good example of Magical Realism, this movie is it!)







I’m not going to say “wishlist” because for me it’s more about what I “hope” to see in my inbox! To add to that, I “hope” whoever subs to me will be ready to work. I’m looking for something that has a unique concept, but also has tons of heart. The manuscript doesn’t have to be completely polished, but it does have to be something I know agents and “hopefully” editors will want to see come across their desks. This includes the following:






Looking for family and friendship stories. Dual POV and male POV always catch my eye. If it’s an issue-based story, the approach needs to be unique. Love, love, LOVE strong heroines who make bad choices but rely on themselves to solve the situation (not a male or parental figure). HEAs not required, but there needs to be a suitable and satisfying resolution.


Favorite books in this genre include: The Boy Most Likely To, Lola and the Boy Next Door, Going Too Far, and Eleanor and Park.



Overall favorite: SUCH A RUSH (Jennifer Echols)





Why I love…Strong heroine who makes bad choices. Believable Romance. Satisfying and honest ending.







If you submit historical to me, be prepared to be grilled about your facts down to the most minute level. I’m a stickler for authenticity and detail. I don’t have a preference for a specific time period, but I’m looking for a compelling manuscript that weaves in historical elements that elevates the level of storytelling.


Favorites books in this genre include: Flygirl, Under A Painted Sky, and The Explosionist.




Overall Favorite:  Outrun The Moon (Stacey Lee)




Why I love…Fierce female heroine. Intriguing time period. Magical storytelling!







Please send me manuscripts with twists and turns. Psychological mind games. Huge bonus points for unreliable narrators. No gore or grisly murder descriptions. The best writers allude to these facts rather than splash them across the page.


Some favorites: Between The Devil and The Deep Blue Sea, Ten, and The Darkest Corners.



Overall Favorite:  Anna Dressed in Blood (Kendare Blake)





Why I love…Spot-on male POV. Intriguing mystery. A cast of minor characters who help tell a compelling story.





Fairytale Re-Imaginings


Please be aware I AM NOT looking for Peter Pan (or Captain Hook), Snow White, or any traditional “Disney-style” retelling. If you’ve got an obscure villain origin story or a side character who has been overlooked (think one of the ugly stepsisters), I’m in. Again, I’m going to be very selective here. Only send me something very unique if you have it!


It will not be released until 2017, but I’m dying to get my hands on fellow mentor, Sarah Henning’s SEA WITCH – the villain origin story of the Sea Witch from Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid.







I take this process very seriously and am ready to get to work with a manuscript I know will blow agents away. If your book meets any of the criteria above, I hope you’ll send it to me. Please, if you have questions, or need clarification, leave a comment and I will get back to you as soon as possible.


Thanks and good luck! No matter which mentor “U” apply to, I can guarantee “U” will have an amazing experience.


There are many other incredible YA mentors. Check out the list below and click on the link to go to their bios and wishlists!




































































Powered by… Mister Linky’s Magical Widgets.


First Five Frenzy with Elana Roth Parker of Laura Dail Literary Agency July 8, 2016



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 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 Elana Roth Parker’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?




Elana: A great first line is…well, great. But it’s so not the most important thing if the sentences after that first one are less great. Out of all the books I’ve signed and sold, I only remember the first line of one novel by heart, if that tells you anything.



What’s more true is that a bad first line can do disproportionate damage relative to the good a killer first line can do. It’s more important that you have a solid first line followed by a solid first paragraph followed by a solid first page, and so forth. We’re looking at these cumulatively and holistically. You never want a reader to say, “Well that first sentence was the wittiest line ever. Where’d that writer go for the rest of the novel?”





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?



Elana: Those are some pretty good examples right there. I also get tired of the “It all started that day when…” opener. Or an out-of-context piece of dialogue. You want to start the book about 5-10 minutes (I hope you understand that this is not literal time…) before the big story starts. Just enough to give me some context and get to know the main character before I get derailed by a big plot point. Not enough to bore me, or confuse me (which is why dreams aren’t awesome).





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?




Elana: Ease of entry is what I’m looking for most in the sample pages I ask for in the query. I look for quality of writing that matches the pitch—i.e. if it’s a great concept, I need the writing at an equal level of quality at a minimum. I need to be brought into the character’s world naturally, and feel like the pages are inviting me in, not fighting me. And I also need those sample pages to offer me something the query didn’t in terms of depth.





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



Elana: Mostly writers get tripped up on where their story starts, as I mentioned above. Context is very important for a reader—we like feeling grounded. I often find the sample pages are either too slow and voicey or too caught up in some big action sequence that I have no idea what’s happening. You need to find a happy medium. Strong voice AND some movement. But not overkill on either front. And make sure the characters I’m meeting in the first pages are the same ones you’re talking about in the query. There’s nothing more disorienting than a prologue or short scene featuring some other characters.





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



Elana: All of the above. I need to see all of those thing. Nicely balanced. Remember that you’re welcoming a reader into a world they’ve never stepped foot in before—even if you’re writing a contemporary novel in a recognizable setting. I don’t know anything about your characters or their situation before I open the book. Ease me into it and show me my this is going to be an interesting story to continue with.





Elana Roth Parker has specialized in children’s publishing from the beginning of her career, from her very first internship at Nickelodeon Magazine followed by 5 years as an editor at Parachute Publishing. She’s been an agent since 2008, most recently at Red Tree Literary, which she founded in 2012. She joined the Laura Dail Literary Agency in 2016.




If you’re interested in submitting to Elana, please check the Laura Dail Literary Agency website for submission guidelines.



Summer, Summer, Summertime…. July 6, 2016

Filed under: Blog,PitchWars — chasingthecrazies @ 6:51 am
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(One of my favorite pictures from a beach in Cape Cod, MA)




After I post a new First Five Frenzy this Friday, I’m taking my regular summertime sabbatical from blogging to focus on family, friends, and vacation! That means probably no new posts until early August, except for PitchWars which is coming up fast!



Speaking of PitchWars, this will be my first year as a mentor. If you write YA and have a polished manuscript, please think about subbing to me! My bio and wishlist will post here on July 20. I can’t reveal any more details except to say I’m looking forward to partnering with a writer who is committed to getting down to work and making their book so stellar agents will be clamoring to sign it! And if my wishlist does not fit what you write, there are many other amazing YA mentors you should check out.



As I said, I’m only mentoring Young Adult, but there are also opportunities for those who write Adult, New Adult, and Middle Grade. More info on PitchWars is available at Brenda Drake’s blog. As a two-time veteran from the writer’s side, I can tell you PW is a wonderful opportunity any writer with a finished manuscript should consider.



Until then, Happy Summer. Hope you all have a chance to rest and relax these next few months!



New Release: Sarah L. Blair’s DARKNESS SHIFTING July 1, 2016











I’m always thrilled for my writing friends when they take on a new challenge. Some decide to write in a new category or genre. Others decide to share their work via the self-publishing route. Today, I’m excited to share a guest post from Sarah L. Blair who shares insight into why self-publishing was the best option to introduce readers to her debut novel, DARKNESS SHIFTING.




I graduated college ten years ago. Like most new graduates, I entered the world clutching my shiny new Creative Writing degree with a bunch of ideas for what the future would hold. None of them included self-publishing. It was a whole different world back then, so long ago, yet not so far away. My professors all made it clear that getting published would be a long time coming, I’d be one of the lucky ones if I could turn it into any kind of career. It takes practice to hone your skills as a writer. 10,000 hours of doing something to become an expert. I knew I was a good writer, maybe even a great one. But I also knew I wasn’t good enough. Not yet. I also didn’t have any clue about how to get published, even when I was ready. I still have the 2006 edition of Writer’s Market in a box in the back of my closet somewhere, hiding out with a bunch of workshop stories that will never see the light of day.



About a year after I graduated, I got married and moved to Georgia. I still had no clue what I wanted to do other than Be A Writer, but I really had no practical experience in anything other than babysitting. So I got a job teaching at a pre-school. The hours were great, my boss and co-workers were incredible. And in my spare time, I wrote. I fussed around with a few ideas until one afternoon a girl walked into my head and said, “What have we got?”



I had no idea, but I wanted to find out. The idea took hold of me like no other story had before. I knew it was something, even if I didn’t know what.



It took me years to get that first draft down. But I finally had it. The End. And I revised and revised and REVISED. This book barely resembles what it once was. My scrap file is over 100k words. Finally, I thought I was ready to try to get published, because I didn’t know what else to do with it. By the way, it was still a hot mess.



Around this time I joined Twitter. This is where I learned everything about how to get published. Being able to see agent tweets, figure out what they were looking for, how they wanted to be approached, connecting with other writers just like me who were trying to find their way in the darkness of the query trenches—it was everything I didn’t know I needed. It was invaluable. I wish I could go back to 2006 Sarey and hand her this knowledge. There are a lot of things she would do differently.



I queried with a lot of positive response, but from the feedback I got, I knew it wasn’t ready. I revised. I queried again. By that time however, the market for anything paranormal or fantasy was starting to wane, and gauging what agents were looking for with things like Manuscript Wish List, I quickly realized that my little urban fantasy wasn’t what publishers wanted on their desks at the moment. Talking to friends, browsing through tweets from readers, and perusing Amazon lists, I still felt like it was something readers might be interested in. After all, I’d written a book I wanted to read, maybe other people would want it too? Self-publishing was a consideration in the back of my head. Maybe someday. It was at least a backup plan.



I took the advice of better people who had more experience and put my little urban fantasy away for awhile. I started a brand new project. Something completely different. I started something else. Even more different. I liked them both. But I stalled out. The characters just didn’t hold my attention the same way.



In the middle of trying to birth a book baby, I birthed two human babies. If you have kids, you know how time consuming they are. They need constant attention.



At the same time I was just entering the world as an intimidated but hopeful young writer, the idea of self-publishing was associated closely with the word vanity. It came with a certain stigma of entitlement and defiance.



Not anymore. In this past decade alone,  thanks to technology and e-books, it’s quickly evolved into something else: A viable path to getting books in front of readers. Isn’t that ultimately the goal for most writers? We just want people to read our work, and hope that they love it, or at the very least, react to it in one way or another.



One day I sat down and thought of all the reasons I wanted to be traditionally published. The biggest one was that I wanted a team. I needed people behind me who were smarter and more objective than I was to help me hone my words into something better than I could make them on my own. I needed a great cover. I needed publicity and marketing.



And then I realized… I already had those things. Thanks to Twitter, I had an entire community of talented people who love me and my words, and want to see me succeed. I already had my team.



Another thing I realized was that I have two little kids who need a lot of attention. I’m a slow writer. I can’t get to the page every single day. It’s essential that my family comes first. At this point in my life, I absolutely need to work at my own pace. Deadlines are certainly important for meeting goals, but at this point in my life I need flexibility. I’m not the type of person to let other people down or be unprofessional. If I chose to pursue traditional publishing I’d have zero control over deadlines. I’d be beholden to other people who really didn’t care if my kids were throwing a fit, or sick and needing extra attention. They wouldn’t care why I didn’t meet my deadline, only that I didn’t meet it. They’d remember that and see me as sloppy and unprofessional. Sure, they’re all human. Agents and publishers aren’t heartless. They have families and get sick too. But the publishing world keeps going, regardless.



What was I waiting for? I had a team. I could set my own timeline and adjust as needed. My decision to self-publish was made.



It’s probably best that I didn’t know exactly what I was getting myself into, because the learning curve has been enormous. Thankfully, I’ve got Trisha Leigh and Laura Oliva, my self-publishing gurus to hold my hand and guide me through this process. Their advice and input has been invaluable. The best advice I can give anyone else considering self-publishing is to find someone who has done it several times and snuggle up under their wing like a baby duckling. This is not something you can do alone. I mean, you can do it alone, but it’s a lot better with help.



The first step I took was to hire a professional editor. I sort of fell into this. I wasn’t looking seriously, yet. But my friend Julie Hutchings mentioned one day that she was needing a project and I knew I had one. We struck a deal and it was the best thing I’ve ever done for this book. Julie got it. Every single thing about my book, she nailed it. Not only that, but she helped me bring out the very best of my characters. She showed me which parts needed to be strengthened, and guided me into making this book so much better than I ever could have made it on my own. I was extremely lucky. I already knew Julie well enough to know she’d be a great fit for me and my book. If you’re looking for a professional editor, do your research. Read other projects the editor has worked on. Follow on twitter and other social media. You’ve got to find the right person, someone who understands your project as if they were inside your head already. It’s worth the time and effort, trust me.



The next step was a cover. I had no clue what I wanted. I scoured pre-made covers, and browsed other books in my genre to try to figure out what the trends were. I endlessly searched stock photos, trying to find something that caught my eye. Again, my critique partners, and self-published experts came to my rescue. We played around with ideas until I finally had a concept that I loved. I found a couple of stock photos that were perfect. My husband helped me put together a general idea of what I wanted, but he’s not a professional cover designer so he could only get me so far. I took my ideas to local cover artist and photographer Vania Stoyanova to put everything together into a finished product. She absolutely did not disappoint! What she came up with was so much more than I could have done on my own. I’m absolutely in love with it!



While I was waiting for Vania to work on my cover, I decided to tackle getting everything uploaded and ready for publication. I used CreateSpace for my print copies, and they’re great, but there’s definitely a learning curve. Everything is laid out in a step-by-step checklist, which really helps. But as far as formatting goes… I won’t lie: It’s been a total headache. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve tweaked margins, and spacing, and font-size. No matter what I’ve done, there are still a couple of spots with widow and orphan lines hanging on for dear life, alone and desolate at the top of the page. It’s been frustrating beyond belief. But at some point, I realized there’s truly only so much I can do. No book is 100% perfect in every way. Not even those written by the greatest authors of our time. Yes, even Harry Potter books have typos. You can only do what you can do, and then you have to let go.



And so I have. This book is as ready as it’s ever going to be to head out into the world. People jokingly talk about their book babies, comparing them to real children, but there’s a lot of truth to the analogy. As a parent of humans, I do what I can to guide my children, support them, and urge them into becoming the best they can be. I want them to be good people and grow up to do amazing things. I hope my book babies will do the same. I’ve spent countless hours honing, guiding, and shaping this book into something I want to put out into the world for others to experience. Who knows, maybe it’ll even surprise me and do something spectacular? I have no idea. For now, I’m keeping my expectations low and my hopes high.






Paranormal Investigator, Sidney Lake doesn’t jump at shadows. The weird stuff is her jurisdiction. When the mangled body of a supposedly extinct creature turns up in New York City’s subway system, she’s number one on the Medical Examiner’s speed dial.


But this case hits too close to home when clues point her toward the truth about her parents’ brutal murder twelve years ago. Her boss Mitchell Harris, questions whether she should continue to investigate. However, Sidney insists on facing her greatest fears and putting her parents’ memory to rest once and for all.


What she uncovers sheds a light on secrets that reach further into the darkness than she ever wanted to go… and leads her to a future she never imagined.


Now available via Amazon and Bookbub.





SareyPic2Sarah L. Blair earned a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. While spending a semester abroad at Swansea University in Wales she traveled to nearby Bath and Glastonbury often, drawing inspiration for her writing from the myths and legends surrounding the area. Sarah now resides just north of Atlanta, Georgia with her husband, their two children, and chihuahua. While writing is her first passion, she also enjoys sewing, tater tots, catching up on her teetering TBR pile, and hanging out on her porch drinking sweet tea.


You can find Sarah around the web on Twitter: @SarahLBlair, Facebook:, or visit her new website:



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