Monday, April 27, 2015

Querying Author Interview: Misa Buckley

Happy Monday, everyone! Today's querying author is:

Misa Buckley

Twitter: @MisaBuckley

How long have you been writing?
I started writing 1999, with fanfic. I was challenged to write original for the National Novel Writing Month in November 2010 and though I "lost", I decided to write to towards publication. My first novella was released in July 2011.

What inspired the project you’re currently querying?
I was raised on a steady diet of Star Trek and Doctor Who, which turned into a love for all things science fiction. I'm a fan of many shows, such Stargate SG-1, Farscape, and Andromeda, and this love of starships and relationships came together to form GENESIS DUSK.

What’s your elevator pitch for the project you’re currently querying?
On a generational starship with a strict caste system one technician will rise above her status to change the fate of a galaxy.

What are you working on in the meantime to keep yourself from checking your email every three seconds?
Most the day job, but I also have steampunk stories on the go. Not sure how long they'll be yet.

What are three books that have shaped you as a writer?
Douglas Adams' The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy was the first sci fi novel I read, and I loved the quirky humour of it. I also loved how Arthur was a real everyman, with no real skills or specialised knowledge.
THE COLOUR OF MAGIC by the late, great Terry Pratchett was another quirky novel. I loved how clever it was. I think my favourite character was the Luggage. 
Gay Gavriel Kay's TIGANA is a beautiful, lyric fantasy with deep worldbuilding. It also made me realise that there isn't such a thing as good and evil, and that even the "bad guy" is the hero of his own story.

Are you a plotter or a pantser or an all-of-the-above-er? What is your writing process?
Mostly a pantser, though I do a little planning. I tend to write a back page blurb and go from there. I also keep notes as I go.

What advice would you give to a writer about to take the plunge into querying?
Don't query every agent going – search those who represent the genres you write in and then read their submission guidelines carefully. It helps to have a folder of documents – basic query, synopsis, first three chapters, first five pages, full manuscript – so you have everything to hand before you start. And fill in the email address last just in case you hit 'send' by accident!

How do you take your caffeine?

I don't. I prefer flavoured water. Or cider!

Thanks so much for participating in the interview series, Misa! Best of luck querying GENESIS DUSK!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Indie Poet: Brittany Ward

Happy Friday, one and all! Today we have with us indie poet Brittany Ward, who has just released her first book of poetry A Planet-Sized World Layered in the Brain.

Brittany Ward:
A Planet-Sized World Layered in the Brain

How long have you been writing poetry?
I’ve been writing poems since about junior high school.  I used to primarily stick with short stories and figured poems were too difficult and obtuse and therefore I couldn’t possibly write them. However, once I began I realized writing them came more easily to me than writing prose.  My poems at that age were wretched of course, but writing them seemed to come naturally.

What’s the most rewarding thing about going indie?
 It’s probably the freedom it allows me to include everything I want and have the book look exactly the way I want it to.  Since this was more of a personal project for me, I really wanted it to be comprehensive. When you try to get poems published in a magazine for example, the editor will typically advise you what the publication is looking for and what they do and do not want, which is good and challenging in of itself and not to be dismissed.   However, if you want complete control and the freedom to experiment without any boundaries, self-publishing is the route to go.
What inspired your poems?
Science, particularly astronomy, is what tends to inspire me, and I like to use scientific analogies for the landscape of personal thoughts and emotions.  The interconnectivity between macro and micro worlds (the cosmological, biological and quantum), as well the unfathomable distances and timescales involved in cosmology, come with their own suite of inspiring emotions for me, so it comes somewhat naturally to me to draw from those emotions and the imagery they evoke. Simple things like a photon  (the elementary particle of light) being in a sense eternal and unaffected by time (since it travels at the speed of light and time slows down the closer you get to the speed of light) is a very beautiful and poetic concept to me.
Is there any connecting theme/anything you can tell us about the collection of poems as a whole?
I suppose one connecting theme is the synthesis of the micro and macro words, and how it relates tohuman understanding and emotion.  To paraphrase Carl Sagan, the Universe coming to understand itself.  I hope that’s somewhat of an emergent theme, however since this is a collection of poems I’ve written over the course of years, they’re a little bit all over the place. (I’m so adept at plugging my work. “All over the place.” “I HOPE there’s a theme!” Haha.).
We wants it, precious! Where can we buy your book?
Lulu at the following link is where you can currently get it:  From there, you can preview some of the poems as well as the gorgeous artwork Danielle Pajak created for the book.  We’re also working on getting it on Amazon Kindle in an e-book format, and it’ll be at the Dimi Espresso Coffee Shop in Payson, AZ in June of this year.  There will be updates on my Facebook as far as specific dates (
What project are you working on now?
I’m just trying to write more poetry! I really only have amorphous ideas right now and I’m hoping they gel into proper poems soon!

Can you tell us about any particular poets/poems that have shaped/inspired you as a poet?
This is where I’m going to sound a bit uncultured unfortunately, but I actually don’t read a lot of poetry! The majority of my inspiration came from popular science writers and communicators who were able to express scientific concepts in an imaginative, poetic way (namely Carl Sagan, astronomer Phil Plait), or just from reading about science in general.  The one poet who has probably influenced how I strive to portray landscapes of the mind is Sylvia Plath. I admire how she can create a sense of beauty or interest in the otherwise grotesque or mundane.   I also aspire towards an economy of words and simplicity like from that I’ve read in Japanese tanka (court poetry) and haiku, although I’m not always successful!  

What is your writing process? Do you plan your poems beforehand or just wait for inspiration to strike?
Typically it’s just whenever the inspiration strikes. Sometimes a specific concept will inspire me and I’ll build the poem around that, however usually it’s just about being in the right mood and letting the poem evolve as I write.

What advice would you give someone about to take the plunge into indie publishing?
I would advise to temper your expectations and not to expect a lot of sales. Since you’re self-publishing, all the promotion rests on you and you will need to do a lot of work to get noticed. I would choose indie publishing with the aim of obtaining more exposure and getting noticed and not with the aim of making money.

How do you take your caffeine? 
5 hour energy shots .  Sometimes two a day. I may have a problem.
Despite growing up and living in the light-polluted Metro Phoenix area, the cosmos have been inspiring Brittany Ward's writing since viewing Comet Hale-Bopp from her background as a junior high school student.  Her work also appears in the May 2013 issue of Scifaikuest.  She is continuing to submit her work to magazine publications while residing in Tempe, AZ in a small apartment she shares with a neurotic black cat and a ton of books.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Query Stats!

Hey, all! I'm off to explore the wilds of Pennsylvania and Washington DC next week, and won't be blogging again until after I get back (although I do still have some posts from my interview series scheduled, so expect those!).

I wanted to leave you with my stats from the recent happy conclusion to my Adventure in Querying. So, without further ado, here they are:

Time Queried: 8 months, from August 2014 through March 2015

Agents Queried: 71

Rejections: 42

No Responses: 19

Partial/Full Requests: 18

Offers of Rep: 4

Worthy to note: this was my fifth time querying (with different versions of two separate books). This time out I told myself I would query until 1) a year had passed, or 2) I reached 100 agents. I was gearing up to query a new project this summer!

Personalization: My request rate from personalized versus non-personalized queries was about 50/50, which I think is interesting. When I did personalize, I put a sentence at the beginning of my query along the lines of "I saw on your website that you're seeking XXX specific thing…" or "I really connected with your interview about XXX specific thing…" Otherwise, I just started right off with my pitch.

Guidelines: Different agents require different things—some want you to structure your query in a very specific way. A handful even want sample chapters as attachments! Always always always ALWAYS double-check before you send!

Rejections: I got a lot of them. They sucked, especially the ones for partials and fulls. But I had lots of people to demand hugs from, and always sent out a new query or two to keep myself out there!

To conclude…

Don't give up, you guys! It's a hard road, but it IS possible. Keep writing, keep submitting, keep hoping and dreaming! YOU CAN DO IT! **hugs**

Monday, April 20, 2015

Querying Author Interview: Jenna DeVillier

Happy Monday, all! Today's querying author is:

Jenna DeVillier

How long have you been writing?
I have been "writing" since I could tell stories and realized I enjoyed it! Some of my earlier works were almost of the screenplay variety and were invariably "cool" Star Wars ripoffs. I did enjoy building new worlds and inventing new alien species, though. I've always been drawn to fantasy/sci-fi storytelling. I wrote my first actual novel during NaNoWriMo 2012 (first participated but didn't finish in 2011), and as they say, the rest is history! I've written one more NaNoWriMo novel since then, and another completed book (83k words as opposed to 50k). For some reason, my NaNoWriMo projects tend to be set in the real world, unlike my thought-out projects. My first book was urban fantasy (sort of? I guess? More like magical realism, maybe...I don't even know! Think If I Stay meets Lost), my second sci-fi, but the first half is on earth.

What inspired the project you’re currently querying?
Colton Dixon's face, oddly enough (if you don't know who that is, look him up! He's a Christian rock singer who was on American Idol a few years back). I saw one of his album covers and an idea popped into my head for a story about a vampire hunter named Xavier Peters who falls in love with a female vampire. Well, by the time I got around to doing something about it, I knew vampires weren't in vogue, and I wasn't interested in that storyline, anyway. Instead, I thought of assassins in the desert. That was my first spark for what became Soulreader. The story has changed so much from that initial concept, to first draft, to sixth draft. The character's name is still Xavier, though! But he's not the main character.

What’s your elevator pitch for the project you’re currently querying?
Grave Mercy meets Shatter Me when a young assassin must choose between avenging her mother's murder and staying loyal to the assassins' clan which has taken her in, all the while grappling with her newfound empathic ability.

What are you working on in the meantime to keep yourself from checking your email every three seconds?
Work? What's work? Kidding (mostly). I'm currently plotting out a Mayan culture-inspired fantasy (tentatively called In the Shadow of the Necropolis) about a princess trying to save her brother, the king, when the dark Shadow of the Necropolis pyramid sends him spiraling into madness. Large-ish cast of characters, plots, an imminent invasion...oh, and explosives. 
I'm also toying with a handful of other ideas, and I don't know which one to write after Shadow! There's a sci-fi Snow White retelling influenced by Asian Indian culture and Firefly (but I'm not sure if I want to work on it right now after reading the amazing R.C. Lewis's Stitching Snow!). There's also my time-travel book set in 2144 Japan/1944 Japan about the daughter of an inventor of an observation time-travel device who falls in love with a WWII kamikaze pilot. And just the other day a mashup came to me: the Babylonian Exile (Biblical) meets the story of Anastasia/the Romanovs (the real one). So many ideas! So little time.

What are three books that have shaped you as a writer?
1) Writing Magic: Creating Stories That Fly by Gail Carson Levine. As a child, on through the first years of high school, GCL was my everything. I was delighted to find that she had written a book on writing, and I picked it up at my local library. I own a copy now and, though I haven't read it in years, that definitely made me more enthusiastic about writing something of my own. 
2) Writing Fiction for Dummies by Randy Ingermanson. Yes, I know. I was one of those people that picked up a For Dummies book. But this book has been an invaluable tool to me over the years. Through it, I was first introduced to the Snowflake Method of writing, which I still use in all my novels. It's odd, and not for everyone, but I love it! My copy of WFFD is sitting on my shelf, right now, at least a dozen colored flags marking important pages, the binding creased and lined. And you know what? I think my little sister (freshman in high school) uses the book more than I do now, which is AMAZING! 
3) No Plot: No Problem! by Chris Baty. This was a random Barnes & Noble buy, probably the same day I bought WFFD. I went on a writing-book-buying spree one day! The amazing thing about this book is that I was afraid of writer's block, and this tiny book looked perfect for getting me motivated. It was the first time I had ever heard the magic word: NaNoWriMo. I didn't know then that Chris was the founder! This book really started it all, writing-wise. I looked up NaNoWriMo and found my local chapter not long after that, and that amazing group of people are such fun to write with on cold Wednesdays in November. I never would have met them otherwise! 
Obviously, Stephen King's On Writing and Ernest Hemingway's book of quotes on writing deserve honorable mentions here. I only didn't include them in my top 3 because I've only read them in the last year, so while they are wonderful books, they didn't influence my writing in the way the others did.

Are you a plotter or a pantser or an all-of-the-above-er? What is your writing process?
I've tried everything! Since I like to be organized, I generally find I work better when I plot (I use the Snowflake Method), but for some reason, I've always pantsed my NaNoWriMo books. Lack of preparation, probably. But I prefer plotting, definitely. It's fun to see how everything is going to come together, even before a word is set down on paper (or Word doc, or Scrivener...).

What advice would you give to a writer about to take the plunge into querying?
Do your research, and make sure your book is the best it can be. I feel like I am qualified to give that advice, only because I've broken both of those rules by accident or overzealousness! I got two PitMad requests on Twitter last September from agents. I had been pitching my book all day even though I knew it probably needed another round of edits. Instead of waiting, I queried both of them anyway. I know! Not smart. And on doing your research, generally I'm pretty good about it, but somehow (I still don't know how), I managed to add an agent to my spreadsheet that doesn't rep fantasy! I just queried her a couple of weeks ago, still totally oblivious to that fact. It took someone on QueryTracker pointing that out to me for me to notice. Yikes! It doesn't happen often if you're prepared, but it can still sneak up on you. Do your research, stick to agents who rep your genre, and maybe don't work on your spreadsheets when you're tired or distracted...

How do you take your caffeine?
Any way I can get it! I love coffee and tea, but probably my favorite drink while writing is a soda. It can get annoyingly lukewarm, but at least it doesn't get cold like coffee and tea do! Unfortunately, caffeine seems to have no discernible effect on me. The addictive part? Definitely. The staying-alert-and-focused part? Not so much.

Thanks so much for taking part, Jenna! Best of luck with Soulreader and your future projects!!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Indie Author: Ashley R. Carlson

Happy Friday, one and all! Today we have with us Ashley Carlson, author of The Charismatics.

Ashley R. Carlson ~ The Charismatics

Twitter: @AshleyRCarlson1

How long have you been writing?
Dabbling since I was eighteen, and started seriously writing in Nanowrimo 2013. That was the epiphany moment for me. 

What’s the most rewarding thing about going indie?
The most rewarding thing so far about being an indie author is getting my book into the hands of readers FAST. I wrote something last summer, published it in December, and I’ve gone to high schools for readings and have it in a local bookstore (Changing Hands in Tempe, upcoming staff pick!), and I’m winning awards for it. I didn’t have to wait five years to query an agent, find a publisher, and wait for it to hit the stands! Instant gratification.

What inspired The Charismatics?
Funnily enough, the first inkling came to me after watching an episode of “The Real Housewives of Orange County.” I know, I know. But there was a woman in the cast who was obviously in a very unhappy marriage, and she was acting out because of it. I started to think about that situation, and how a young woman would handle it. “The Charismatics” grew exponentially from there! 

What’s the blurb for The Charismatics?
An arranged marriage. A corrupt government called Legalia. A forbidden spiritual realm. 
Duchess Ambrose Killaher was just seventeen years old when exiled to Shinery—a city of snow and darkness—to marry a man who despised her, finding her only solace in an invisible companion named Roan. 
Now as the poor starve in the streets below and rebellious acts become a frequent occurrence, Shinery holds its yearly celebration to commemorate Legalia’s rule. But when Ambrose stumbles into a hidden courtroom and witnesses a violent murder, she is thrust into a secret world of the supernatural-one that could endanger everyone she's grown to care for. With the help of a handsome stranger, Ambrose learns of the past Legalia has covered up, and that she alone possesses the power to stop their unspeakable plans for the future.

We wants it, precious! Where can we buy The Charismatics?
Currently you can buy my book on Amazon for $2.99 (e-book) or $12.99 (paperback) here, or a signed paperback through my website for $14.99 (S&H included for the U.S.!) here
It will soon be at both Changing Hands bookstore locations, located in Phoenix and Tempe. 

What project are you working on now?
My contemporary adult novella, “Misery and Marlene.” It has not been easy—I’m writing in a different tense and POV, and a different genre than ever before. It’s a lot sadder and heavier than “The Charismatics” as well, but I think it’s got a great message. Then back to the sequel of “The Charismatics” this summer!

What are three books that have shaped you as a writer?
Gail Carson Levine’s “Ella Enchanted,” most definitely. My favorite book of all time—amazing fantastical elements, a strong heroine, beautiful relationships, simply glorious book. 
J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series, of course. Also, Philip Pullman’s “The Golden Compass”—my novel, “The Charismatics” is similar to it in a lot of ways. I’ve been told that it’s sort of a mash-up between that and “The Hunger Games,” which I’m not upset about! 

Are you a plotter or a pantser or an all-of-the-above-er? What is your writing process?
I’m what I like to call a “half-pantser.” I wrote a blog post about it here, actually. I only outline the current scene I’m writing, usually on my whiteboard. I do keep a notebook of characters’ names and ages, but that’s about it. 

What advice would you give to a writer about to take the plunge into indie publishing?
DO IT! Do it immediately. 
And do it right. Get a team together, utilize beta readers, find a great editor, cover designer and formatter—make sure your book is just as good as something that could be found on the shelves at Barnes & Noble. Build your author platform through all of this as well, meeting others through Twitter, Google+, etc. 
Most importantly to know after you launch a book—it’s probably going to be a long, uphill battle. So whatever you do, KEEP WRITING. Keep producing great work. Enter contests, try to get out into the community to share your work—but NEVER stop writing. The more books you have to offer, the easier it will be for readers to find you. 

How do you take your caffeine?
In an IV, straight to my vein. ;) 

Thanks so much for taking part in the interview series, Ashley! Best of luck as you continue to promote The Charismatics and work on your new books! ~ Joanna


Ashley R. Carlson grew up wanting a talking animal friend and superpowers, and when that didn't happen, she decided to write them into existence. “The Charismatics” is her award-winning debut novel. She lives in Scottsdale, Arizona with four (non-talking) pets and one overactive imagination.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Once Upon a Time…

Advance warning: this post is loooooooooooong. I actually started writing it in August 2014, when I had no idea if I’d ever get to write the ending. But that day has now come.

So. Enjoy! :-)


Chapter One: The Beginning

Once upon a time, I loved to read and I loved to write, and I did both things profusely. I was six when I wrote my first poem, seven when I wrote my first story (which I illustrated horribly and never actually finished). I wrote and wrote and wrote. I was pretty sure I would turn out to be one of those awesome published teenage novelists. I got a short story published in Stone Soup in 1998 after months and months of submitting various things. With my dad’s abundant help, I put out my own kid’s writing magazine called Kids, Ink. and forced all my friends and all my parents’ friends’ children to submit things in 2000.

In 2001, I finished my very first novel, which wasn’t technically novel length (around 35K), but to me it was my first book-book, and I was super proud of it.

I went away to college from 2001 to 2005, earning my Bachelor’s Degree in piano performance, and was mostly too distracted during the school years to do much writing, although I kept at it during the summer.

Chapter Two: Querying, Take One

From the summer of 2005 on, I got extremely serious about writing books for publication, and I was convinced I would be one of those awesome published early-twenties novelists.

During late 2008 and most of 2009, I did my first round of querying for The Whale and the Tree, a novel I’d originally drafted during NaNoWriMo 2006, and had revised extensively since then. I got some requests! A few partials, a few fulls. One of the full requests came in the summer of 2009, and I did not receive an answer until a year later! It was a lovely email filled with super helpful revision suggestions, but by then I’d moved on from that particular manuscript and was busy with other things.

Chapter Three: The Heartbreaking Saga of How I Almost Got a Book Deal but Didn't

In December of 2009, I had an Idea. A sparkly, awesome, Super Intriguing Idea that I’m pretty sure came about after reading Hunger Games/Catching Fire (Mockingjay wasn’t out yet), Octavian Nothing, and The Bartimeus Trilogy in short succession. I super hearted this Idea, and I drafted it in seven weeks, starting in January of 2010. I spent the spring and summer and part of the fall rewriting it, and by November/December-ish, felt confident it was ready to send out.

Throughout 2011 I queried my new book, with very little success. I did get a few requests, most notably from the agent of a Super Awesome Author. She read my full and ultimately passed on it with reasons as to why, and invited me to send any new material, which at that time I didn't have.

I let querying kind of taper off after that… mostly because I spent the majority of 2011 and 2012 falling in love with, getting engaged to, and subsequently marrying the Most Awesome Man of All Time, aka my wonderful husband, Aaron.

In late 2012 and through the spring of 2013, I revised my book again, and sent out a new batch of queries beginning in April. I think I got maybe one request the whole rest of the year, which was disheartening.

In November 2013, I entered Pitch Wars, and didn’t get picked, which was super disappointing, though it was an excellent lesson in the reality of subjectivity. One of the mentors said my language was too old-fashioned for their taste, one said they didn't like prologues, one didn't really connect with the story, and one said they would’ve picked me if they had more picks and they thought I’d get an agent soon!

In December I entered PitchMas, a Twitter pitching event, and caught the attention of an editor from an independent press. I subbed to her, and in March received my very first R&R! I took a deep breath, screwed my courage to the sticking place, and revised AGAIN. I chopped nearly 20K words out of the thing, and re-subbed to the editor at the end of April.

At the end of June, I received the most disheartening email of my career: the editor loved my revision—it was exactly what she was looking for, and she would have made me an offer, BUT……… she was leaving the press, and so couldn't. :-(

Chapter Four: Just Keep Swimming

I was of course devastated, but tried to console myself with the fact that at least now I had a stronger manuscript. I’d also been working for over a year on a huge revision of The Whale and the Tree, and it was almost finished, so I’d have that to sub, too. And in any case, when it really came down to it… what I wanted was an agent, not a contract with a small press.

Backing up a couple months to January 2014: I stumbled upon the amazing Jen Fulmer during a find-a-critique-partner Twitter event, and we hit it off fabulously. She read and commented on my revision as I was working through it, and her insight was phenomenal. I began to understand why everyone always goes on about critique partners and how they’re so essential to the writing process—because they super, super, are! Without Jen’s enthusiasm, I wouldn’t have finished my revision so soon—if at all!!!

In August of 2014, I finished draft 5 of The Whale and the Tree. I loved this new version—different ending, more characterization, shorter word count (the previous draft was embarrassingly long), all while retaining what I’d originally loved about the story.

And so I drafted a brand new query letter and synopsis, took a deep breath, and sent out a batch of queries.

Chapter Five: Querying, Again

Querying is really, really slow, you guys. Agonizingly, glacially slow. And holy cow, can we talk emotional roller coaster? Because, yeah.

I sent out queries. I got rejections, lots of them, but you know what? I got requests, too. More than I’d ever gotten before. Some partials and a few fulls. The rejections on those were the most painful. It got to the point where I swore to myself after a full rejection that I wasn’t going to tell anyone when I got another request, just so I wouldn’t have to then explain to my husband and my mom and my BFF and my CP and my cat that I got rejected. Again. But every time I got a request, that philosophy went right out the window. It was just SO EXCITING. I couldn’t help it. So my husband and my mom and my BFF and my CP and my cat all got to ride the emotional roller coaster with me (sorry, guys!).

Autumn slipped slowly away. I sent out more queries, received a spattering of more requests, got more rejections.

In December I got a full request as I was checking my email at a stoplight (I know, I know. I have an Inbox addiction). From January through March I got a couple more full and partial requests. I sent out more queries. My outstanding requests were up to six. I figured out how to make my phone ding every time I got an email in my writing inbox so I wouldn’t have to check it at stoplights.

I was halfway through a second draft of a novel I was planning on querying by summer if The Whale and the Tree didn’t pan out. I’d told myself I’d submit it until a year had passed or I hit 100 queries. I wasn’t super looking forward to starting the whole agonizing process over again, but I wasn’t about to give up, either!

Chapter Six: AND THEN……

And then I received an email from one of the agents who’d requested a full who wanted to TALK TO ME ON THE PHONE. I think I blacked out for a few minutes. But then I collected my wits, emailed her back to set up the call, and proceeded to jump about the apartment hollering excitedly at the cat and trying to brace myself in case it was one of those R&R with no offer of rep. calls one hears horror stories about.

But it wasn’t one of those.

It was a straight-up, no-holds-barred OFFER OF REPRESENTATION.

I kind of lost my mind with excitement. And then my husband got home early from work so I got to freak out at him instead of frightening the cat. :D

Deep Breaths
(Let me just stop for a second right there, and tell you a side story.

So there’s this website called QueryTracker that helps writers keep track of the agents they query, as well as comment about response times, request or rejections they receive, etc. It’s a super helpful tool, and if you’re querying and you’re not using it, do please check it out!

More Tea
Back in February, I just-so-happened to meet a writer on a QueryTracker thread because we’d both gotten partial requests from the same agent. We started emailing and struck up a friendship, and found that our querying journeys were remarkably similar. The day before my first offer of rep, my writer friend (who is Hanna Howard, and completely awesome), got TWO offers of rep, and we got to go along on the journey of shock, elation, and agonizing decision making pretty much simultaneously! She wound up having to choose between four amazing agents (and is now repped by Jenny Bent!). We were constantly telling each other: “Deep breaths, more tea,” and that became our mantra for her crazed week and a half and my two weeks before our decision deadlines. She even painted us matching mugs, and they’re AMAZING, and Hanna, you rock.)

But anyways. I had two weeks before my deadline, April 9th. I still had a lot of outstanding queries (and some partials/fulls), so I sent out my OFFER OF REP nudge emails, and got a flood of replies, that day and the next, and then a bunch more over the next week. Some were super nice step-asides. Many were requests for fulls. At one point my full requests numbered NINE. 0_o

 And then I got a SECOND offer of representation.

And then I got a THIRD.

Where I sat to take notes during The Calls (and drink tea!!)

And then, you guys, I got a FOURTH.

A fourth offer of representation.


That’s right. THE Sarah Davies. She offered with the understanding that she would want to see some extensive revisions, but her suggestions and ideas resonated strongly with me, and made me excited to dig back into Whale and make it better!

You can probably tell how this story is going to end. :-)

I am amazingly excited to announce that I am now represented by Sarah Davies, and am joining the Greenhouse Literary family! I’m so looking forward to the next step of this crazy writing adventure!

And a note to querying authors: there were many, many times when I thought I would never get to write a post like this. In fact, I can’t really believe it’s happening now.

This is a long, arduous process, but you can absolutely do it.

Don’t give up.

Keep trying, keep writing, and don’t you dare stop dreaming!

Cheers, all. Happy writing!

P. S. This blog post is so long it could be an entire novel chapter—or two!! I’m super impressed if you made it all the way from beginning to end.

P. P. S. Hugs and kitties and tea and ice cream and SPARKLES and CRAZY HAPPY DANCING!!!

Querying Author Interview: Heather Bryant

Happy Monday, all! Today's querying author is:

Heather M. Bryant

Twitter: @heather_b88

How long have you been writing?
Properly on and off for about six years. For fun, since I could pick up a pen. Before that it was all in my head with my Barbies.

What inspired the project you’re currently querying?
Nothing in particular. My MC came to me fully formed and the story evolved around her.
What’s your elevator pitch for the project you’re currently querying?
When her crazy dad's calling card of a doll's head shows up, Jenna and her family know it's time to haul-ass. The Valley offers them protection from him in exchange for Jenna's power. But the more she uses it, the more like him she becomes until she must choose; her life, or her sanity.

What are you working on in the meantime to keep yourself from checking your email every three seconds?
Another YA Fantasy that I wrote forever ago and am now rewriting and editing. But that doesn't stop me from checking every three seconds.

What are three books that have shaped you as a writer?
Harry Potter (is that the standard response?), Vampire Academy, and Cinder.

Are you a plotter or a pantser or an all-of-the-above-er? What is your writing process?
Hard-core plotter. I've tried to pants and it was a whole load of "so what do you wanna do?", "I don't know, what you wanna do?" 
I spend about a month getting all the story lines right with chapter arcs etc. and then get into writing. As my characters take over and establish themselves sometimes things change along the way.
What advice would you give to a writer about to take the plunge into querying?
Research! So, so much. It's very easy to get carried away and impatient and just want to get your stuff out there because you think it is AWESOME and READY. It isn't. Leave it a month, at least. No matter how perfect you think your work is for goodness sake, leave it! Read anything and everything you can about perfecting your craft. DON'T query until you have read at least every post on query shark. That is a minimum requirement. I promise you, it is not beneath you.

How do you take your caffeine?
With an IV drip.

Thanks for participating, Heather! Best of luck with your querying!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Indie Author: Virginia McClain

Happy Friday, everyone! Today we have with us the lovely indie author Virginia McClain.

Virginia McClain ~ Blade's Edge

How long have you been writing?
Since the age of five. No, really. I have proof:

Ok. Granted, those are from first grade, so I might have been six or seven then, but that was the first "book" I ever wrote. I'm particularly proud of the absolutely nonsensical spelling. I mean it's not even phonetic, it's just... bad. I like to think my writing has improved quite a bit since then. Sadly, I can confirm that my ability to draw remains completely unchanged. This is why I hire professionals to do the artwork for my books.  
At any rate, I have been making up stories in my head and putting them down on paper for as long as I've known how to write. Sometime in my early teens I decided that I would one day write for a living. Everything since then has been the journey that brought me here (a journey that is far from finished). 
In 2004 I graduated with a degree in Spanish language and linguistics and went into teaching because I thought it would give me time to write. It didn't. However, after the initial shock of sorting out just how difficult teaching really was, I made time to write wherever I could, to save my sanity if for no other reason. 
My first published writing was my review of Georgetown University for The Students' Guide to Colleges 2005 published by Penguin. My first creative published work (and the first writing I was ever paid for) was a short story entitled Off Belay that was published in 2006 in a lit mag called the The First Line. 2007 got me involved in my first NaNoWriMo (that's National Novel Writing Month for the uninitiated) and 2008 brought my first ever completion of a first draft full length novel (the one I'd written the first 50,000 words of in November). From there my short stories began to be neglected, but my concept of myself as a writer became much stronger.

What’s the most rewarding thing about going indie?
The creative control is fantastic. Being directly involved in the process surrounding the cover art and design, and knowing that, if nothing else, my book will be beautiful, is really important to me. I see many books, including books that I love, that have horrible covers, or poor formatting, or just don't have the right look or feel to go with the story. When those books are traditionally published I feel bad for the authors because I know that they typically have no input into any of those pieces, and I feel extremely fortunate to have had the chance to control those elements for Blade's Edge. As I was fortunate enough to run a successful Kickstarter to fund the book, I was able to hire an extremely talented artist (Juan Carlos Barquet) and designers ( for the cover. Working with them was incredibly rewarding, as were the results. Doing the interior formatting myself was intense, finicky, and somewhat tedious, but the results were well worth it. 
I learned more about the publishing industry and all of its parts than I had ever known existed during this process and I'm learning more every day. That is also extremely gratifying. 

What inspired your book?
Blade’s Edge was initially inspired by the time I spent wandering around mountain shrines in Japan while I lived there teaching English for two years. 
As I spent more and more time hiking through the local mountains and encountering the various shrines everywhere, I asked myself what the world would be like if all of the shinto spirits existed and were able to interact with the world? That was the initial spark.
From there the story evolved and changed dramatically, and eventually became something that was loosely inspired by feudal Japanese samurai culture, but was, in fact, it’s own imaginary world.   

What’s the blurb for your book?
The Kisōshi, elite warriors with elemental powers, have served as the rulers and protectors of the people of Gensokai for more than a thousand years. Though it is believed throughout Gensokai that there is no such thing as a female Kisōshi, the Rōjū ruling council goes to great lengths to ensure that no one dares ask why. 
Even as young girls, Mishi and Taka know that they risk severe punishment - or worse - if anyone were to discover their powers. This shared secret forms a deep bond between them until, taken from their orphanage home and separated, the two girls must learn to survive in a world where their very existence is a crime. Yet when the girls learn the dark secret of the Rōjū council, they discover that much more than their own survival is at stake.

We wants it, precious! Where can we buy your book?
Muwahahahahahaha... EVERYWHERE! 
Ahem. No, really. It's in the Ingram catalog, so you can walk into any bookstore and order it with my name and the title (Blade's Edge by Virginia McClain) or if you want to get fancy you can use the ISBN: 978-1503057333 
For those who prefer to do their shopping from home (and who could blame you) you can use any of the following links for your favorite retailers: 
Amazon print 
Amazon kindle 
Barnes and Noble 
My Webstore 
It's also on iBooks and a number of other online retailers that I don't have links for at the moment, so if none of the above suit your fancy try searching for it.

What project are you working on now?
I am currently balancing between revisions on the next novel I hope to release this year, and a new story that plays into a series. My goal for April is to finish both the revisions and the first draft of the new story. 
The novel I'm revising is entitled Gwendamned and it is a contemporary fantasy book that's so light on fantasy I'd prefer to call it speculative fiction, but anyway, it's about... 
Hmm... I haven't figured out a spoiler-free one sentence pitch for it yet. I guess I'll have to work on that. It's religious satire... sort of. If that helps? 
And the new story is a contemporary fantasy/sci-fi blend that is inspired by the lost civilization they recently uncovered in Honduras. That's all the spoiler free description I have for that project at the moment. 
Sorry for not having more to share on those. I really need to work on my pitches!  

What are three books that have shaped you as a writer?
You had to ask the hard question! How can I narrow it down to three? Hmmm... Here's my attempt. Keep in mind my answer might change on any given day, but we'll pretend I can actually choose... 
Graceling by Kristin Cashore: Even though I didn't read this until well after I'd written my first three novels it has greatly shaped how I think about writing and how I feel about YA literature, consequently it has played a large part in forming my revisions of those first three books. Reading Graceling was like finally finding the protagonist I had been searching for my entire childhood. I wish the book had existed when I was younger. It made me want to write books that could be that powerful. I don't think I've done that yet, but it's given me a wonderful goal and made me more thoughtful as a writer. 
The Dark Elf Trilogy by RA Salvatore: There are a lot of books in the Dark Elf series, and I love most of them, but I'm specifically referring to Homeland, Exile, and Sojourn in this case. These books are such a splendid blend of action, fantasy, and moral dilemmas. Also, I read them in my teens and thus they were quite formative for my writing. 
The Discworld Series by Terry Pratchett: I didn't start reading these books until I was in college, but they have had a substantial impact on my writing. While not the most overt influence on my writing (though more obvious in some of my other books - including the book I hope to release later this year) Sir Pratchett's glorious satire and so very human characters have had a substantial impact on how I write and how I think.

Are you a plotter or a pantser or an all-of-the-above-er? What is your writing process?
I used to be pure pantser. Definitely for my first two NaNos I was all pants no plot (actually I'm pretty good at keeping tabs on plot on the fly, so I wasn't NO plot, but I was... not plotting ahead of time). Then on my third NaNo I turned uber plot and found that my characters suffered for it. All subsequent NaNos have become a mix of pantsing and plotting and I've finally discovered the key for my particular writing process: 
I work best in first draft mode with total pantsing. Everything made up on the go, no research aside from fact checking and plausibility confirming, and plot and characters invented on the spot. That's first draft. In first draft ANYTHING can happen. 
Then, on the rewrite, I get SERIOUSLY plotty. I don't even touch the rewrite until I have a detailed master plan on how I will fix it to make it exactly the book I want it be. I work out how every scene is actually supposed to go, and which scenes need to be axed and which need to be added, and how I will fix every character break, plot hole, and dropped item, and then I go in and fix them all in one swoop. 
I find this method very liberating because it makes both parts of the process a lot more fun. First drafts are always more fun (for me anyway) when the characters can do whatever they want. When they tell me who they are and what they will do because I put them in a ridiculous situation and then they find their way out. When I write a first draft like that, open to everything and only following a vague outline in my head, I find that my characters and world come to life in a way that they don't otherwise. A lot of the fun of writing for me comes from finding out what happens next. If I already know what happens next I don't find it as fun. 
Conversely, when it comes to revision I used to always feel lost because I didn't know where to start, and never had a concrete idea of how to make my story better. I knew I should clean up the prose, and that part was easy enough, but what about the scenes that didn't feel right, or the ending that flopped, or the character that decided she was a villain halfway through? I knew those things should be fixed, but I wasn't sure how. I didn't know how to drive the revision and so it always left me feeling overwhelmed. Then I took the only writing course I've ever paid to take (which was a course purely on revision) and suddenly, I realized that THIS was where detailed plotting worked for me. If I laid out an outline of the exact story I WANTED to tell, I could then apply the pieces of the story I'd already written to it and then see where I needed to fit the other bits. Suddenly revision became a giant puzzle that needed solving and... I LOVE SOLVING PUZZLES! So that transformed it from a process that I used to dread to one that I now attack with relish. 
After that, it's a game of prettying things up with the help of first readers, and then an editor, and then formatting.

What advice would you give to a writer about to take the plunge into indie publishing?
Never ever ever ever ever skimp on hiring a professional editor. In the past year I have read a lot more independent books than I ever used to, and many of those books have contained the cores of great stories but have been in desperate need of a unbiased third party's opinion. The one's that didn't suffer that way had been professionally edited and they easily rose above the crowd for that one simple fact. If you truly can't afford an editor, run a Kickstarter, or an Indiegogo, Pubslush, or Patreon crowdfunding campaign and get the money. While you're at it, raise money for an original cover that you like. You need these things, and too many books get published without them and don't sell at all as a consequence. You need professional editing. Seriously. I'm talking to you. Yes. YOU. (I'm also talking to me so don't take it personally.) 
I don't care how many English degrees your mom/spouse/best friend has, s/he won't give you the objective feedback you need. 
I say this from experience. My mom has a BA in English lit and an MS in linguistics. She will catch all of my comma splices, for which I am quite grateful, but she inevitably gushes about how perfect every single draft is when she gets to the end no matter how bad it actually is. I love how supportive she is, and I definitely keep her corrections on typos and grammar snafus, but she is no help at improving my prose because she cares about me too much. I don't know if she doesn't even see the sentences/paragraphs/scenes that suck, or if she just refuses to tell me about them, but either way, it doesn't get the job done. 
Hire someone. Then listen to them. 
That is all.

How do you take your caffeine?

Tea, coffee, coffee, tea... more coffee? I love both. Coffee is a pleasant ritual in the mornings. Tea is a comfort at any time of day. Lately, I've been enjoying a London Fog (steamed milk with earl grey and vanilla) whenever I feel as though tea should also be a snack.

Thanks so much for taking part in the interview series, Virginia! Best of luck with Blade's Edge and your future projects!


Virginia thinks dangling from the tops of hundred foot cliffs is a good time. She also enjoys hauling a fifty pound backpack all over the Grand Canyon and sleeping under the stars. Sometimes she likes running for miles through the desert, mountains, or wooded flatlands, and she always loves getting lost in new places where she may or may not speak the language.

From surviving earthquakes in Japan, to putting out a small forest fire in Montana, Virginia has been collecting stories from a very young age. She works hard to make her fiction as adventurous as her life and her life as adventurous as her fiction. Both take a lot of imagination.

She recently moved to Winnipeg with her husband and their dog.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Querying Author Interview: Eric Rasmussen

Happy Monday, all! Today's querying author is:

Eric Rasmussen

Twitter: @mreras

How long have you been writing?
After learning to write in elementary school, I became a writer. I started a novel in fourth grade that was almost identical to Lloyd Alexander’s The Black Cauldron, except it focused more on what the characters ate (I was a pudgy kid). I wrote fan fiction based on Lucasarts’ Sam & Max video game and cheesy science fiction. Since then, I have written for school papers, real newspapers, my forensics (competitive speech) team in college, poetry slams, my local arts and culture magazine, and my teaching job.

What inspired the project you’re currently querying?
Last year I finished a novel I started in 2002 and began querying it right away. I followed the advice to write your second while you query the first. That first project earned one request from 97 queries, so it has been banished to drawer. I am now querying that second manuscript, and am having much more success.

The idea for the second story came from contemplating just how much sway our bathroom scales have over our happiness. What would happen if everyone who has ever worried about the stupid number on that stupid device got his or her wish? What would happen if everyone was suddenly lighter?

What’s your elevator pitch for the project you’re currently querying?
One day, without warning or explanation, gravity lessens. Just a little bit. Some people find relief as their physical burdens literally lighten, while others discover their problems are greater than any natural force. A multiple-perspective presentation of the day GRAVITY LESSENS, like LOVE, ACTUALLY with a magical realism twist.

What are you working on in the meantime to keep yourself from checking your email every three seconds?
I am cranking out manuscript number three, of course. This next one is a straight literary story about a lake in northern Wisconsin and how the traditional Midwest residents react when they get a dose of modern diversity. In one year, a gay couple buys one of the resorts on the lake, another resort is turned into a strip club, a third becomes an international gastro-tourism destination, and Tom, the only remaining long-term resort owner, decides to burn his place down. It is another multiple-perspective story that follows each resort owner as they try to fit in to the forest up north.

What are three books that have shaped you as a writer?
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell knocked me over. He showed me how perspectives can be woven to tell a bigger story, and that is what I keep trying to write. I learned about connecting to characters from The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon. And it may be cliché, but if I can ever create something as significant and lovable as To Kill a Mockingbird (which I teach and have therefore read more than any other book), then I will be a great writer.

Are you a plotter or a pantser or an all-of-the-above-er? What is your writing process?
I take a hybrid approach. I start with an outline by chapter and I know what important and powerful moments my characters will experience. I do give them some freedom in how they get from moment to moment.

What advice would you give to a writer about to take the plunge into querying?
Follow all the advice, and there is a lot of it. Start a blog, manage your expectations, write the query like they tell you to, join Twitter, all of it. None of it will hurt! Every step you take is a thread you string across the chasm, which will one day create a web strong enough to support your career.

How do you take your caffeine?
In as many forms as possible, should disease, global crisis, or aliens disrupt any one source. I enjoy coffee, green tea, and the occasional soda with similar levels of enthusiasm.

Thanks for participating in the interview series, Eric! Best of luck with Gravity Lessens—it sounds fantastic!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Indie Author: Elizabeth Maria Naranjo

Today's Indie Author is the lovely Elizabeth Maria Naranjo, who's debut novel The Fourth Wall was released last summer from WiDo Publishing.

Elizabeth Maria Naranjo — The Fourth Wall

How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I have poems and journals from as early as the second grade and lots of song lyrics and short stories from junior high.

What’s the most rewarding thing about going indie?
A small press can be wonderful because of the collaboration. For example, I was asked for input on my book cover, with the understanding that the designer had final say. But just being asked, “What are your ideas for the cover? What do you envision for it, what’s important to you?” is something special about working with a smaller press. 

What inspired your book?
My own experience with lucid dreaming as a child inspired the book. When brainstorming the idea for The Fourth Wall I thought: What if a young girl who is dealing with something terrible had the ability to lucid dream? She could build an alternate world in her dreams and leave that terrible thing behind. But there would have to be a cost to keeping secrets from yourself. You could lose what’s real. 

What’s the blurb for
The Fourth Wall?
When Marin was little and monsters chased her through nightmares, she learned to weave her own dreams. Her mother called the lucid dreaming a gift, and when an accident takes her mother and leaves her brother an empty shell, Marin uses this gift to spin a new reality. One without time or sorrow. A world without memory. 
But just when Marin thinks she’s safe in her fantasy world, the monsters come back and her dream turns to a nightmare. Something in the dream doesn’t want Marin to wake up. In order to heal herself and her family, Marin must face the truth she’s forgotten and conquer what lies behind the fourth wall.

We wants it, precious! Where can we buy your book?
You must first answer this riddle. Just kidding. The Fourth Wall can be purchased from any bookstore, or it can be ordered from Amazon. It’s also available on Kindle here

What project are you working on now?
I’m working on a few short stories at the moment. I’ve toyed with the idea of trying to publish a short story collection, but I have no coherent theme or subject. My writing’s all over the place. 

What are three books that have shaped you as a writer?
Oh that’s tough. I’m just going to type out the first three that come to mind. The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver, The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, and Different Seasons by Stephen King. 

Are you a plotter or a pantser or an all-of-the-above-er? What is your writing process?
I’m a pantser, all the way. When writing a story, whatever the length, I have a general idea of what it’s about and I almost always know how it ends. The ending is clearest to me. But the scenes that encompass plot points along the way just occur naturally as I write. 

What advice would you give to a writer about to take the plunge into indie publishing?
Do your research. Look for a small press that’s been around several years, releases new titles on a regular basis, and has a professional looking website. Study their covers and if you can, get a copy of one of their books. Even download a Kindle sample to check the quality. Obviously if the writing is amateurish or is riddled with typos, this is not the publisher for you. Call your local bookstore and see if they’re able to order one of this publisher’s books—if not, distribution may be a problem. Check the website Writer Beware for any comments regarding the publisher. And do NOT under any circumstance pay a publisher. If they ask you for any money then they are not a small press, they are a vanity press. 

How do you take your caffeine?
In coffee. And in large doses.

Thanks so much for participating in the interview series, Elizabeth! Best of luck as you continue promoting The Fourth Wall!


Elizabeth’s short stories and essays have appeared in Brevity Magazine, The Portland Review, Literary Mama, Hospital Drive, and a few other places. Her debut novel, The Fourth Wall, was released in June 2014 through WiDo Publishing.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

April Showers (Not really, it's totally sunny)

Hi all! Happy April! I hope you've been enjoying the interview series! :-) You can look forward to an interview with Elizabeth Naranjo about her book The Fourth Wall on Friday, as well as one with querying author Eric Rasmussen on Monday.

I wanted to do a bit of a shout out today to some of the amazingly encouraging writers that have come into my life over the last year and a half:

My critique partner Jen Fulmer—you've read three of my books since January 2014, and you have amazing insight and spot-on comments, and I would've never gotten through my last revision without you! Also, you love cats and have a super cute baby. :-)

My other CP Jenna DeVillier—you've been a willing guinea pig for a couple of my revisions and you're super encouraging and awesome and I want to reach through the Internet and hug you!!

Lana Wood Johnson—you've been my Twitter/writing contest buddy and you're full of snark and hilarious DM conversations.

Hanna Howard—we met on a QueryTracker thread and… well things spiraled out of control from there. You know what I mean. ;-)

Seriously, there is such a fantastic community of super talented writers on the Internet!! I wish we could all meet in one room for an epic tea party! But until then there's always Twitter, right?

Love you all! Happy writing!