Chasing my crazy dream in the writing world…





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 Gail Nall. This great query connected her with her agent, Julia A. Weber.



Twelve-year-old Chloe Demirjian-Carter dreams of being a champion figure skater. She practices every day and does everything she’s supposed to do. But when the judges award her perfect program with less-than-perfect scores, Chloe lets them know exactly what she thinks.



As a result, Chloe’s coach dumps her and she’s kicked out of her prestigious training rink. No one wants a skater with a big mouth – no one except the misfit Fallton Figure Skating Club. But joining Fallton may be the second-biggest mistake Chloe’s ever made. No one takes skaters from the “Fall Down” club seriously. If Chloe wants to win the Regional competition, she has to find a way to change the judges’ minds about her new club. Which wouldn’t be so hard if she was the loudmouth skater everyone thinks she is.



A middle grade novel complete at 50,000 words, DON’T FALL DOWN is a cross between Kate Messner’s SUGAR AND ICE and the movie Stick It.




Query Tidbit:



I still had some queries and fulls out on a previous manuscript when I started querying BREAKING THE ICE (formerly DON’T FALL DOWN). So when I got the offer from Julia (who’d actually read both mss) and sent out my nudge emails, I had to remember which agent had which manuscript! I did some serious spreadsheeting to keep track of it. :)





Breaking the Ice


Available now via Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and iBooks.





Gail NallGail Nall lives in Louisville, Kentucky with her family and more cats than necessary. When she’s not writing books, she manages grants for a homeless shelter and chases her toddler. She once drove a Zamboni, has camped in the snow in June, and almost got trampled in Paris. Gail is the author of the BREAKING THE ICE  and co-author of the RSVP books (Aladdin/S&S) with Jen Malone, the first of which will be out in May 2015. You can find her on her blog, on Twitter, and on Goodreads.



First Five Frenzy with Kaylee Davis of Dee Mura Literary February 20, 2015

 FFF SideWords




If you’re like me, you toil for hours editing and fine-tuning the first pages of your manuscript. You look at the first lines to make sure they are compelling and tight.  You examine the next few paragraphs, hoping your MC’s voice is already taking hold of the reader.


The First Five Frenzy is all about getting an agent’s perspective on what works, and what fails, in those first pages of a manuscript. By reading each agent’s comments, I hope you’ll learn how to make your manuscript a shining gem that will be requested time and time again.


Today, I am proud to share Literary Agent, Kaylee Davis’ 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?



Kaylee: The first line sets the expectations. If the manuscript starts strong from the very beginning, I’m going to be interested in continuing to read. And that is key.


Then, if I lose myself in the story and suddenly I’ve read pages ahead without realizing it, I’m going to be absolutely delighted. It’s got me hooked, and I’m going to want more!




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?


Kaylee: It’s incredible how many openings start with dreams! I also see a lot of waking up, exposition, or stopping by a reflective surface to explain the protagonist’s physical description.


More specifically, for MG I see a lot of manuscripts begin on the protagonist’s birthday. For YA, it’s walking into a new high school for the first time. For Scifi, it’s a lengthy description of the new universe/planet/species. For Fantasy, gathering herbs is huge and I don’t know how this became a thing, but it’s really popular!


A lot of those openings are more passive. On the flip side, when a writer is trying to draw the reader in with action or conflict or shock value, I see a lot of manuscripts begin by plunging into the middle of a battle or fight scene. This can be effective, but more often it comes off as disengaging—typically the stakes are undefined, and the reader hasn’t yet had the opportunity to emotionally invest in the protagonist.


That doesn’t mean that if a particular manuscript opens in one of the above ways it will automatically be rejected. But it does mean the first impression is being made on a note of heavier competition, and now those first pages have to work even harder to delineate the manuscript as being apart from the pack.




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?



Kaylee: Ultimately, I want to feel like I’m in good hands. If the ideas and execution come together in a way that intrigues and immerses me, that’s gold. I’m in, and I want to be along for the ride.



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



Kaylee: The mistakes I see are often a result of too little editing. In the first draft, often the writer is familiarizing themselves with the story and the characters. They’re mentally delving into backstory and descriptive detail to bring vividness and authenticity to the world. But if that is not edited out in later drafts, then those first paragraphs, or even first pages, end up being solid exposition.


I always say that whether you’re a plotter or a pantser, never underestimate the power of a critical eye during the editing stages. Just because a piece of writing is strong, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s strengthening the manuscript as a whole.



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



Kaylee: The concept resonates with me first, but I’m getting that information more from the query letter and the synopsis. I know beginnings can be tough, so the pacing of the manuscript as a whole is not always determinable by those first pages. However, voice can be. I’m getting to know the writer’s personal voice, and that’s establishing the whole flavor of the concept. Voice is also one of the hardest things to work on, so if a writer shows skill with that, I’ll feel confident going forward in the rest of the story.




Kaylee DKaylee Davis is an Associate Literary Agent at Dee Mura Literary. She is especially interested in building her client list in the genres of sci-fi, fantasy, contemporary, young adult, new adult, LGBTQ+, steampunk and literary. She is drawn to exciting, thought-provoking stories with a fresh perspective that explores what it means to be human. She is also a sucker for spies, hackers, conspiracies, ambiguous moralities, alternate realities, and giant squid. You can find her hanging out at About.Me or on Twitter at @Kaylee_Davis_.



If you’re interested in submitting to Kaylee, please check the Dee Mura Literary website for their guidelines.


W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday with Stacey Lee February 18, 2015






Today’s W.O.W. features one of the kindest writers I know, Stacey Lee.  Not only is Stacey an amazing writer, but she is also a big part of WE NEED DIVERSE BOOKS where she is currently the Legal Director. What I love most about this interview is what Stacey shares about her dedication to the craft of writing. Since a very young age she knew she wanted to write. Through many life changes, she stayed the course and eventually signed with an agent. Now, her debut novel, UNDER A PAINTED SKY will hit bookshelves this March!



Many thanks to Stacey for sharing her writing odyssey today…




Amy: I love the story on your website about writing your first manuscript on a typewriter when you were very young. Have you always had the writing bug?



Stacey: Yes. My third grade teacher hung a poem I had written about Thanksgiving on the classroom wall. I was the shyest kid in the class, and was astounded to be recognized this way.



Amy: What was the most challenging thing in writing your debut, UNDER A PAINTED SKY?



Stacey: For me, it was not being episodic. My main characters, Sammy, a Chinese girl, and Annamae, a black girl, are fleeing down the Oregon Trail disguised as young men. There were a lot of adventures that I had to ‘cut’ from the main journey as it didn’t move the main story along. For example, there was one baseball scene where the girls are forced to play baseball, and have to do it ‘in character’ as boys. I hated to cut that, but it had to go.



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



Stacey: I started querying in 1984 as a teenager, and back then, everything was so slow. I would often give up querying because it was just too daunting a process to send manuscript after manuscript, then wait for the SASE (self addressed stamped envelope) to come back, which could take months. Email made things a lot easier!



Amy: How many agents did you query for UNDER A PAINTED SKY?



Stacey: Around 20, I think!



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



Stacey: Not instantaneous. A few requested right away, but then it took a few weeks for them to read. Once I got the first offer though, things did start moving – other agents began requesting to talk to me. I was on my way to Lake Tahoe and my phone connection was really spotty. I felt sure I was going to mess it all up and no one was going to want me.



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



Stacey: I had always enjoyed reading her blog posts, and knew she was a great agent. (She had previously rejected another of my manuscripts.) She was at the Romantic Times convention when she offered, and so it was a super busy time for her, too. Our ‘call’ wasn’t long. Basically – she told me what she liked about my MS, and I said, okay, thanks, let’s do this.



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



Stacey: Absolutely. Sometimes it happened after querying a big project and getting nowhere. Sometimes it happened when I got busy with other things in life – like having kids! And pursuing other interests. But I always naturally came back to writing. I think it’s the same with a lot of writers – it’s instinct, like how salmon swim upstream. Without the dying part at the end.




Amy: The writing process is grueling and querying even more difficult. What one piece of advice can you impart to aspiring writers to encourage them to keep working towards their dream?



Stacey: Do it because you love to do it. Because you can’t NOT do it. Then you’ll stick to it.





Under painted

(Available March 17, 2015)



Missouri, 1849: Samantha dreams of moving back to New York to be a professional musician—not an easy thing if you’re a girl, and harder still if you’re Chinese. But a tragic accident dashes any hopes of fulfilling her dream, and instead, leaves her fearing for her life. With the help of a runaway slave named Annamae, Samantha flees town for the unknown frontier. But life on the Oregon Trail is unsafe for two girls, so they disguise themselves as Sammy and Andy, two boys headed for the California gold rush. Sammy and Andy forge a powerful bond as they each search for a link to their past, and struggle to avoid any unwanted attention. But when they cross paths with a band of cowboys, the light-hearted troupe turn out to be unexpected allies. With the law closing in on them and new setbacks coming each day, the girls quickly learn that there are not many places to hide on the open trail.




Stacey LeeStacey Lee is a fourth generation Chinese-American whose people came to California during the heydays of the cowboys.  She believes she still has a bit of cowboy dust in her soul.  A native of southern California, she graduated from UCLA then got her law degree at UC Davis King Hall.  After practicing law in the Silicon Valley for several years, she finally took up the pen because she wanted the perks of being able to nap during the day, and it was easier than moving to Spain.  She plays classical piano, wrangles children, and writes YA fiction. For more on Stacey, checking out her website, or follow her on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook or Pinterest.



Monday Musings: Taking A Chance February 16, 2015

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As many of you know, for the last couple of weeks Michelle Hauck and I have been running a little contest called, Sun versus Snow.  This is the second year Michelle and I have hosted this event, and just like last year it was a blast.


One of the things that caught me off guard was how quickly our 200 spots filled up…in six minutes. Neither Michelle nor I expected it. In fact, we were pretty sad to have to turn people away.


While I was shocked at how quickly the spaces filled up, it also made my heart very full. Why? Because it meant there were writers out there willing to take a chance. Take a chance to put themselves out there. Take a chance to share their work (which can be terrifying). And lastly, take a chance they may be rejected (the hardest one of all in my opinion).


Sharing your work can be a daunting thing. There is always that seed of doubt in the back of your mind that whispers what you’ve created isn’t good enough. That your writing, or story, isn’t strong enough. But those who entered, or even wanted to enter, were brave enough to push past doubt and try. And to me that is incredibly admirable.


So the next time you think about entering that beloved manuscript in a contest, be like those 216 that took the leap and entered. Yes, you may not get picked, but the experience and friendship you may find will be well worth it. I promise!





Here we go…Sun versus Snow Agent Round! February 9, 2015

Filed under: Blog,contest,Literary Agent — chasingthecrazies @ 5:56 am
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Today is the day our 15 amazing agents can begin reading the Team Sun entries and making requests. Not only will they see the amazing entries here, but they can also make requests for Team Snow over at Michelle Hauck’s blog!


As the agents move through the entries, please remember that contests are subjective. Our agents have a definitive idea of what they would like for their list. If they do not request, it DOES NOT mean the entry was not worthy. No matter what happens, you’ve got to keep querying and NEVER GIVE UP!


Before Team Sun totally blisters Team Snow, here are some guidelines to remember:


There is no commenting in this round except for agents. Sorry, but no cheerleading as this may lead to an unconscious bias.


We are happy to see and retweet your thoughts and cheers over on Twitter under the #sunvssnow tag! That’s the place to hang out and have fun! I hope to see my Team Sun members present and waving their pom poms! We have some scorching hot entries that are going to completely melt Team Snow!


Watch both my and Michelle’s Twitter feed as we will be tweeting when an agent makes an appearance!


Agents will consider entries at both the blogs regardless of whether they are Sun or Snow fans. Michelle and I are hoping the agents go crazy with the requests! There is amazing talent on both our teams!


Good luck to all! And get out the sunglasses and sunscreen because the heat is coming for Team Snow!



QUITE THE QUERY: Brighton Walsh and Caged in Winter February 6, 2015

Filed under: Literary Agent,Publishing,Query — chasingthecrazies @ 7:10 am
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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 Brighton Walsh. This great query connected her with her agent, Mandy Hubbard at D4EO Literary Agency.




I’m writing to inquire your interest in representing my completed new adult contemporary romance, Caged in Winter. Through Twitter and #MSWL, I saw you were seeking steamy new adult, and Caged in Winter would be a good fit for what you’re looking for.


A protective aspiring chef tries to find the recipe to break down the walls of a broken loner desperately seeking a solitary existence.


WINTER JACOBSON has always led a solitary life. Shuffled from foster home to foster home, then breaking out on her own to attend college thousands of miles away from her home state, she’s made it a point to do things on her own. She’s fiercely independent and doesn’t need anyone’s help. So when a Prince Charming wannabe swoops in on his white horse, attempting to rescue her, she tells him to get right back on his horse and keep riding.


CADE MAXWELL is intrigued by her fierce rebuttal. All his life, he’s been the protector—man of the house from way too young, guardian to his younger sister, role model to his niece—so when this girl with the fire in her eyes refuses his help, he makes it his mission to crack her walls, just a little. But even when he finally breaks through, she still holds back even though he’s offering something she’s never had: acceptance and love.


The one thing he’s most desperate to give her may be the thing that tears them apart.


Gritty, emotional, and sexy, CAGED IN WINTER will appeal to readers of Tammara Webber and J. Lynn. The manuscript is complete at 74,000 words is the first in a planned three book companion series. This title, however, also has the ability to stand alone.




Brighton’s Query Tidbit:


My query process was a whirlwind. I subbed to 23 agents, all in one fell swoop and all to my A list. I know there’s a lot of talk about how you should go about querying in terms of waves of queries and such, but my motto is always go big or go home, so that’s what I did. I got my first of four offers roughly three weeks after my first submission and signed with my agent a week after that initial offer!







Now available via Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iBooks.



BrightonBrighton Walsh spent nearly a decade as a professional photographer before deciding to take her storytelling in a different direction and reconnect with her first love: writing. When she’s not pounding away at the keyboard, she’s probably either reading or shopping—maybe even both at once. She lives in the Midwest with her husband and two children, and, yes, she considers forty degrees to be hoodie weather. Her home is the setting for frequent dance parties, Lego battles, and more laughter than she thought possible.


Her debut novel, Caged in Winter is now available. She is represented by Mandy Hubbard of D4EO Literary Agency. For more on Brighton, check out her website, or follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.


2015 Sun vs. Snow Contest: Announcing Team Sun! February 2, 2015

Filed under: Blog,contest,Literary Agent,Publishing,Query — chasingthecrazies @ 6:30 am
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I’m very excited to share this post today and welcome this fabulous group of writers to Team Sun. To say that Michelle and I were blown away by the entries this year is putting it mildly. The selection process was very difficult for both of us, and in fact we’ve added a little surprise!


There were so many worthy entries this year that we decided we each needed one more pick! So yes, instead of 15 entries each, we both have 16 now to share with the agents on February 9.


My choices are listed below by category in no particular order. If your entry was not selected, please remember we only had 32 spots for over 200 entries. There are many other contests coming up this year. I highly recommend looking into Brenda Drake’s Pitch Madness (submission window opens February 20.)


Just to let you in on a little secret, I was selected for Pitch Madness last year, and received a few requests, but ended signing with my agent via the slush pile (six months later). So remember, DON’T GIVE UP!  We each have our own individual path in this crazy world of publishing.


Now enough of my babbling. Here are my picks for this year’s Sun versus Snow contest:




The Hideaway


Missing Emily


New Adult

Picked Apart


Young Adult

The Sinner Rose

Of Night and Stone


Beneath Our Skin

The Heartsmith

In Darkness We Rise


Suspension of Disbelief

Forces Beyond Our Control (Free Pass Winner)


Middle Grade

The Secret at Seachase


Lost in Never (Wonder) Land



If you are part of Team Sun, expect letters from your mentor soon. Your mentor will help you fine tune your entry privately all this week.


Here’s the important part:


Get your revised entry back to me by Friday, February 6th at 3:00 pm EST. That’s so I have time to format the entries and have them ready to post for the agent round on Monday, February 9th. Mail your revised entry to the contest email Sunversussnow (at) yahoo (dot) com. Please use the exact same format.


Then it will be up to the agents! Congrats and good luck!






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