Monday, March 31, 2014

Kickass Queries Series! # 7 - Carla Luna Cullen

Hi Peeps!

Today we're highlighting something a little different on the KAQ series - a Kickass *Pitch.*

That's right. Carla Luna Cullen is here to share the pitch that scored an offer of rep from her agent, Erin Niumata at Folio Literary Management.

Carla's Pitch:

Bridget Jones meets Indiana Jones when an awkward 21yo travels to Cyprus to work on her first archaeological dig and finds romance. NA. #Adpit

G: How many manuscripts did you query prior to signing with your agent?

C: I queried two manuscripts before FIELD RULES—a young adult fantasy and a young adult fairytale retelling. Both times, when I gave up, it wasn’t because I’d exhausted all the agents on my list, but because I realized the books might be difficult to sell.

G: How long did it take to write your pitch, and what things/steps do you think were most important to make it agent/contest-ready?

C: For the longer, 35-word pitch that I used for Pitch Wars, I worked with my mentor, Karma Brown. She helped me distill the pitch down to the essence of the story, yet keep the unique elements. The idea for my Twitter pitch came to me on a whim—I wanted to do an “X meets Y” pitch and use Indiana Jones, since it makes people think of archaeology. “Indiana Jones meets Bridget Jones” sounded catchy, plus it was appropriate for the tone of the story, since my heroine is awkward and lacks self-esteem.

G: Tell us about your query style – do you approach your entire list of prospectives at once, or query in small batches and revise in between?

C: I always query in small batches—between five and eight per round—and then revise as needed. With my last young adult manuscript, I had sent out about ten queries when I got an R & R from an agent. I made a lot of revisions based on the R & R, so I’m glad I hadn’t queried dozens of agents with the earlier version.

G: Now the fun part – what was “the call” like? How did you know your agent was the right person to represent your project?

C:The call was really exciting. I was jittery and nervous, and I’d barely slept the night before, but Erin was easy to talk to. It helped that she offered representation right away. I loved her agenting game plan and the way she spoke about representing my career, rather than just one book. 

G: If you could give one piece of advice to authors seeking publication, what would it be?

C: What has helped me the most is the support of other writers. Whether it’s a local or online critique group, a chapter of RWA or SCBWI, or a group of Twitter friends, I suggest finding writers to bond with. No one else will understand the highs and the lows of writing in the same way. These are the people who will kick you into gear when you lose momentum or keep encouraging you when you feel like giving up. 

Thanks for stopping by, Carla! Can't wait to see where your publishing journey takes you next!

You can learn more about Carla and her work by following her on Twitter (@casacullen) or visiting her blog at You can also find her on Tumblr.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Kickass Queries Series! # 6 - Seabrooke Leckie

Happy Friday, Peeps!

Seabrooke Leckie is with us today for the 6th installment of the Kickass Queries Series, sharing the query that nabbed her agent, Rachael Dugas of Talcott Notch Literary Services.

Seabrooke's Query:

Seventeen-year-old Talon is one of the New York Assassins’ Guild’s most talented journeymen – and she knows it. She has no doubt that eventually she’ll make guildmaster, where she’ll be able to do the most good for her plague-worn city, helping to clean up crime. The first step is to pass her trials and be promoted to the guild’s elite, though for Talon it’s mostly a formality.

But the trials reveal a different – and darker – side to the guild, and Talon finds herself questioning the morality of what they do. When she’s tasked with eliminating a rogue assassin who’s returned to the city and killed some of her guildmates, she's shattered by the secret she learns about her guildmaster. With a foot on each side, she has to choose between the guild she loves and calls home, or the rogue who wants to destroy it. Dozens will die if she makes the wrong choice... but the right choice might cost even more.

STARS AT MIDNIGHT is a quick-paced light sci-fi YA set in a future post-plague New York City, and is complete at 96,000 words. I envision it as being the first in a series. I have included the first ten pages below for your review.

G: How many manuscripts did you query prior to signing with your agent?

S: The novel that Rachael signed me for was the third one I queried, but the sixth one I’d written. The two books I queried before this one were both good, and I did get requests from agents for them, but I grew so much as a writer from one to the next that in retrospect I’m glad no one took them on.

G: How long did it take to write your query, and what things/steps do you think were most important to make it agent-ready?

S: By the time I was querying this book, I’d had a lot of practice! So it didn’t actually take me that long to write this winning query, in absolute terms. However, all that practice from the two un-signed novels (easily more than a dozen versions) was applied when I came up with this one, so in the grand scheme of things, it actually took a lot of time and work to get here.

The number one thing you can do to help make your query ready is have your critique partner read it and help you with it (and if you don’t have a critique partner, you should absolutely find one! A good one is worth her weight in gold). They can objectively look at your story and your query and help identify where it needs tightening.

The other bit of query advice I’d offer to queriers is to figure out what the backbone conflict arc is of your story, the arc that results in the final climax, and center your query on that. After lots of trial and error, I learned to set my queries up with four parts in two or three paragraphs: background/set-up, inciting incident, character’s options/decision, stakes if s/he fails. The latter two items should reflect the book’s climax. Your critique partner can let you know if you’ve identified the right plot points to lay your query out around.

A final comment – I’m actually a little more vague in this query than I think is ideal. I did this deliberately because the points I’m concealing with my vagueness are huge plot twists that I still wanted the reading agent to have the surprise of discovering as they read… but if that’s not the case with your novel, I think most agents would prefer a bit more detail than I’ve provided.

G: Tell us about your query style – do you approach your entire list of prospectives at once, or query in small batches and revise in between?

S: For my first two queried novels, I followed the commonly-shared wisdom of querying in batches of about 6-10 agents at a time. After each round I would tweak my query letter before trying again. I did notice an increase in requests as my query grew stronger, though I think ultimately what really affected my request rates was the strength of my attached pages, which improved with each book, and the central concept/conflict of the particular novel I was querying. In retrospect, the first two books I queried were probably started in the wrong spot, and could have benefitted from a rewrite/removal of that first chapter or two.

For the third queried book, the one that I signed with Rachael with, I actually entered it in a couple of contests before I ever sent out a query to agents. In those two contests I got seven agent requests, and that prompted me to send queries to an additional six agents who I also would’ve been really interested in working with. I used the same query I had in the contest, plus a closing line with the genre and word count (which had been in the header of the contest entries). Four of those six queried agents requested.

G: Now the fun part – what was “the call” like? How did you know your agent was the right person to represent your project?

S: I was so nervous when Rachael called! (I suspect: what writer isn’t?) But she was really friendly and easy-going and quickly put me at ease. I think that was part of how I knew she’d be the right one. She also seemed to really “get” my story, and didn’t have a lot of suggested changes for it; the suggestions she did have were all things that made total sense to me; I didn’t feel any reservations about any of them. Knowing that she had the same vision as I did for my story was the clinching factor, but I also came away from the conversation trusting that she would be really good at her job and a really good match for me and the things I needed from an agent. (And she has been!)

G: If you could give one piece of advice to authors seeking publication, what would it be?

S: Persevere! As it turns out, publication is a long game. There’s a lot of waiting. I mean, a lot. At every stage. There’s a lot of rejection. At every stage. Stuff that you think will go quickly or will be a slam dunk often isn’t either. It’s a very humbling experience. But the successful writers are the ones who don’t give up. If this book doesn’t get picked up, write another. In fact, while you’re waiting for this book to get picked up, write another anyway. That way, if it doesn’t, you’ve already got another option in the wings, and if it does, you’ve got a head start on your second published title.

Thanks for sharing your story with us, Seabrooke! Best of luck with STARS AT MIDNIGHT and all your writing endeavors!

You can learn more about Seabrooke and her work by following her on Twitter (@SeabrookeN) and checking out her blog and Tumblr. She is also a contributor to the Ink and Angst blog.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Kickass Queries Series! # 5 - Andrew Kozma

Hi All!

Hope everyone is enjoying the Kickass Queries Series thus far. Thanks again to all the fabulous authors who've volunteered to share their agent-snagging queries!

Today Andrew Kozma is here to talk about the letter that landed his agent, Lana Popovic of Zachary Schuster Harmsworth.

Andrew's Query:

At the age of six, Maxwell MacLeod was taken from her family and put on the spaceship Santa Maria with twenty-nine other children, never to see her parents again.  Instead, she and the other children were raised by the Teachers to be the perfect astronauts, the first true space explorers.  Their mission: to explore Persephone, a planet-sized object that recently appeared at the very edge of the solar system.

But by the time she is fifteen, Max has learned that a cloistered world is the perfect breeding ground for deceit.  A student has been murdered and, as a result, the Teachers have split into factions, each convinced the other does not want the mission to succeed.  Years ago, Maxwell wrecked her one true friendship with a boy named Luke and she has no one she can trust except for her Teacher Ms. Farkas.  Now a sinister group called the Shadows – who might be students or teachers or both – has given Max a choice.  She must spy on her beloved Teacher’s research or suffer at their hands.

My young adult novel PERSEPHONE is a 67K word work of science-fiction.

I received my Ph.D. in Creative Writing from the University of Houston and my MFA from the University of Florida. I have published a book of poems, City of Regret (Zone 3 Press), as well as stories in magazines such as Daily Science Fiction, Stupefying Stories, and Bound Off.

G: How many manuscripts did you query prior to signing with your agent?

A: I queried three manuscripts before signing PROJECT PERSEPHONE with Lana Popovic. The first was a quest-type fantasy a la THE LORD OF THE RINGS while the other two were YA fantasy novels, both contemporary-ish but with Wonderland undertones.  I pretty much queried everyone I could with each of them, the querying process roughly being a year per novel. With my second and third novel I received strong responses from agents who encouraged me to keep sending to them—the almost-but-no-cigar that kept me confident in my writing. But my novel was finally picked up by someone who’d had no prior experience with my writing.  I think it was a combination of the genre (YA science fiction) and the voice that captured her.

G: How long did it take to write your query, and what things/steps do you think were most important to make it agent-ready?

A: Too long.  Really, a week or so of trying to condense the novel myself, plus a week of having my critique partners inform me what it should really sound like. I think having that outside influence is really important, since for me, at least, I’m too close to the story. And it is hard to find the middle ground between the shortest summary (girl on spaceship, trouble brews) and explaining everything at once, all the time.

I think the most important thing to realize is that the query needs to be true to your novel, but it also (and more importantly) needs to convince the agent/editor that they need to read your novel. Once they start the book, it’ll be your words that hook them for good.

G: Tell us about your query style – do you approach your entire list of prospectives at once, or query in small batches and revise in between?

A: I kept a constant number of queries out at once. When a rejection came in, another query went out, which allowed me to combat the dejection that comes with rejection proactively. I revised the query a few times over the course of the process, but because I was always getting some requests I couldn’t say it was the query’s fault and not that of my sample chapters.

G: Now the fun part – what was “the call” like? How did you know your agent/editor was the right person to represent/publish your project?

A: Well, it was an e-mail first. Pro-tip to queriers, include your phone number so that if an agent loves your work, they can call right away and blow your mind.

However, the e-mail did blow my mind. Lana was totally, unreservedly in love with the novel (even though she knew it needed work (strange how those two things can mesh without canceling each other out)) and liked everything that I liked in the novel. It was a letter that knocked me on my butt for days, and I still keep it in my inbox so I can cheer myself up when I’m feeling lower than the totem pole.

As for the call itself that preceded the acceptance of representation, we gelled on the phone, and she convinced me that not only did she like the novel, but that she understood where it needed to go (and where I needed to go) in order to make it the best possible version of itself. Also, of course, she had clear ideas of where to submit the book, which is always nice.

G: If you could give one piece of advice to authors seeking publication, what would it be?

A: Don’t give up.

Really, it’s stupid and simple, but don’t give up, either in your struggle for publication or in believing in your writing. Write what you want to write and do it well.  Persistence wins.

*** What Lana had to say about why she offered (per an email to Andrew) ***

"The writing is lyrical without losing the pitch-perfect YA voice; the plot is meticulously constructed and thrilling; Maxwell, Luke, Samantha, and the Teachers are artfully rendered; the emotional landscape is rich and nuanced. The narrative in its entirety is just lovely, and incredibly cinematic. You did a wonderful job setting the scene for the sequel as well, although as you said, the novel certainly stands on its own."

Thanks for your words of wisdom, Andrew! Best of luck with your book!

You can follow Andrew's publishing journey on his blog, and follow him on Twitter at @thedrellum. You can also find CITY OF REGRET, his book of poetry, on Goodreads.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Kickass Queries Series! # 4 - Rebecca Phillips

Happy Monday, Peeps!

I'm happy to present the 4th installment of the Kickass Queries Series, where authors like you and me share the queries that snagged their offer of representation or publication.

Today we're talking with the talented Rebecca Phillips, repped by Carly Watters at P.S. Literary!

Rebecca's Query:

At eleven years old, Riley Tate witnessed the sudden death of her father. Now, at sixteen, she still can’t bring herself to step on “the spot”—the section of kitchen floor on which her father landed after collapsing from a brain aneurysm. For someone like Riley, a hypochondriac with anxiety issues, moving on is never easy.
Since losing her dad, Riley has become obsessed with the human body, how it works, and what can go wrong with it. Reading about diseases distracts her from the things she’s not ready to deal with, like the fact that her mother started a whole new family with a man who has more muscles than brains and tries to act like her new dad. And that her doctor thinks she’s a mental case. And that her ex-boyfriend dumped her because she wouldn’t have sex with him. But she refuses to let anything—especially not a guy—interfere with her dream of becoming a surgeon.

When she meets Cole Boyer in an ER waiting room, Riley realizes immediately that he’s far from the safe, predictable boy she usually goes for.  A fearless daredevil with mysterious scars and a thirst for all things dangerous, Cole is like an accident waiting to happen. Still, despite their differences, they forge an unlikely friendship that eventually blossoms into something more. Dating someone who’s so casual about death has its challenges, but as Riley soon learns, not everyone can be—or needs to be—saved.

OUT OF NOWHERE was one of the three finalists in the 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest, YA category. Publishers Weekly called it “a very good example of a contemporary coming-of-age novel, with well-rounded characters and honest emotion.” With a blend of heavy issues and humor, OUT OF NOWHERE explores the total randomness of life, death, and love.

G: How many manuscripts did you query prior to signing with your agent?

R: Just two. I queried my first book, Just You, a few years ago with little success. My third book, Out of Nowhere, was the manuscript that got me my agent, Carly Watters of P.S. Literary Agency. I queried Out of Nowhere for less than three weeks before signing with Carly.

G: How long did it take to write your query, and what things/steps do you think were most important to make it agent-ready? 

R: It took me a few days, and I had help from friends. I also researched how to write a query and spent a lot of time studying other authors' queries. It's really tough to boil down an entire manuscript into a couple of paragraphs, but it gets easier with practice. It's important to show who your character is, what they want, what or who is standing in their way, and what is at stake.

G: Tell us about your query style – do you approach your entire list of prospectives at once, or query in small batches and revise in between?

R: The first time I queried, I did it in small batches. The second time, I went nuts and queried lots of agents at once.

G: Now the fun part – what was “the call” like? How did you know your agent/editor was the right person to represent/publish your project?

R: That first call with Carly was surreal. At the time, I was still reeling from the wild, wonderful experience of being a finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest, and the fact that an agent wanted to sign me seemed too good to be true. I had a list of questions an author is supposed to ask an agent, but I don't think I asked many of them. I liked how enthusiastic Carly was about my story and my writing, and the fact that she's a fellow Canadian didn't hurt either.

G: If you could give one piece of advice to authors seeking publication, what would it be?

R: Read, research, seek feedback, be patient, and never give up.

*** What Carly had to say about Rebecca ***

"Rebecca Phillips caught my eye for the following reasons: her query was concise, tightly-written, and started with the stakes for her main character that felt life or death to me. Her query didn't read like a synopsis, it read like back cover copy. I'm a sucker for YA contemporary, especially a romance, and Rebecca's writing fulfilled everything I look for: a relatable heroine, an intriguing love interest and a plot that wasn't just about the romance. Rebecca was a 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award finalist which provided her with a quote from Publishers Weekly that helped me understand what the industry saw it in it too. Not only did Rebecca's query stand out, but her professionalism on the phone, her commitment to her craft, and unwavering collaborative spirit make her a dream client to this day."

Thanks for chatting with us, Carly and Rebecca! Best of luck to both of you with this awesome-sounding book!

Rebecca Phillips lives just outside the beautiful city of Halifax, Nova Scotia with her husband, two children, and one spoiled rotten cat. She absolutely loves living so close to the ocean. When she's not tapping away on her trusty laptop, she can be found vacuuming up cat hair, spending time with her family, watching reality TV, reading all different genres of books, or strolling around the bookstore with a vanilla latte in her hand.
Rebecca is always writing something, even if it's just a grocery list. These days, she is hard at work on her next novel. You can find out more and connect with Rebecca on her website:

Friday, March 21, 2014

Kickass Queries Series! # 3 - Tatum Flynn

Good Morning, Peeps!

It's time for another Kickass Query, aka one that nabbed a lucky author his or her agent! Today's is a MG Fantasy brought to you by the lovely Tatum Flynn!

Tatum's Query:

Lucifer’s youngest son, Jinx, is a failure as a demon. All he wants is to make his dad proud, but he’s just terrible at being terrible. After getting into trouble once too often (how was he supposed to know Blackbeard had a soft spot for mermaids?), Jinx runs away from Pandemonium, the walled city he’s lived in all his life. Braving the unknown perils of Outer Hell armed only with his wits, some soggy ketchup sandwiches, and a vampire bat named Bruce, he runs into eleven-year-old Tommy, who’s ended up in Hell after accidentally feeding her nasty uncle to a circus lion.
When Tommy and Jinx overhear the vicious Morax plotting to steal Lucifer’s throne, they embark on an adventure through Hell to try to prevent the coup. To succeed, they’ll need to brave carnivorous carousel horses, deranged dead people, soul-sucking mirages and two-headed vultures. But if they fail, not only will Jinx and his family be left to rot in the dungeons, but Morax and his cohorts will make Earth a far more dangerous place to be human than it has ever been before.
I believe BRIMSTONE FOR BREAKFAST would appeal to readers who enjoy the humour and scares of Derek Landy and the imaginative adventure of Rick Riordan. I am writing to you because xxxxx [personalisation if possible]. I enclose the first xxx below [first five pages or whatever]. I am a member of SCBWI. Thank you for your time and consideration.
G: How many manuscripts did you query prior to signing with your agent?
T: One, an MG historical, which I sent to around 20 agents before realising it needed some work. Unfortunately the feedback I received was contradictory so I wasn't quite sure what to do with it. So I moved onto my next book, BRIMSTONE FOR BREAKFAST, an MG fantasy, which landed me representation with Zoe King at The Blair Partnership and a two-book deal with Orchard Books.
G: How long did it take to write your query, and what things/steps do you think were most important to make it agent-ready?
T: I actually always write a query before I even start a book. It’s like I’m trying to sell the story to myself, to decide if I should spend several months writing it rather than another idea. So queries are one of the (few!) things that are easy for me. My advice for writing a query is to use Nathan Bransford's query formula: [protagonist name] is a [description of protagonist] living in [setting]. But when [complicating incident], [protagonist name] must [protagonist's quest] and [verb] [villain] in order to [protagonist's goal] and then flesh it out. And use specifics! Vagueness is the enemy in queries.
G: Tell us about your query style – did you approach your entire list of prospectives at once, or query in small batches and revise in between?
T: I sent out queries in batches of five to ten at a time, every couple of weeks. I was fairly happy with my query and opening pages, so I didn't do any revisions until I had two R&R requests. Plus I knew a children's book set in Hell wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea so I queried widely! It took me five months and 108 queries before I got my offers, but I got there in the end :)
GNow the fun part – what was “the call” like? How did you know your agent/editor was the right person to represent your project? 
T: Zoe and I never actually had The Call. I’d already spoken to two other agents on the phone (when I got my first offer I was so stunned I didn’t say a word, I think the agent on the end of the line probably thought I was either very calm or a bit rude, but I was just so happy and relieved I was speechless!), and then Zoe emailed to ask if we could meet. It was an important decision, and I wanted to be as informed as possible, so I decided to go to London and meet all three offering agents in person. They were all incredibly nice, so it was a tough choice, but in the end Zoe impressed me the most with her plans for my book and career. Plus it was very tempting as a kidlit author to be represented by JK Rowling’s agency!
Similarly, I met my editor in person before Orchard offered on BRIMSTONE (this was actually before I signed with Zoe - I kind of did things backwards :) and she was/is both incredibly lovely and enthusiastic about my book, so I really wanted to work with her.
G: If you could give one piece of advice to authors seeking publication, what would it be?
T: It's a cliche, but it's a cliche for a reason - Don't Give Up! It took me over a hundred queries to find the right agent. Although I'd add that I had interest during that time, both from agents and the publisher who ended up buying my book. So you should also know when to put an ms aside and move onto a new one. Sometimes it's the second or fifth story you write that's your break-out book. But either way, keep writing :)
Thank you so much for stopping by to share your story and your insight with us, Tatum! Best of luck in all your writing endeavors!
Tatum Flynn is the author of devilish MG fantasy Brimstone for Breakfast, out Summer 2015 from Orchard Books/ Hachette UK, and a sequel which she’s supposed to be writing right this minute. You can find her on Twitter @Tatum_Flynn and on her website at

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Kickass Queries Series! # 2 - Dahlia Adler!

Hi All!

Today for our Kickass Queries Series, we're talking with one of your favorites and mine: Dahlia Adler!

Dahlia's novel, BEHIND THE SCENES debuts in three short months from Spencer Hill Contemporary, and if you need a reason (or twenty) to drop everything and pre-order it, you can find it here. She also runs The Daily Dahlia, a goldmine of information for writers in every stage of the game. Today she's sharing the query for JUST VISITING, the novel that landed her current agent, Lana Popovic, with Zachary Shuster Harmsworth.

Dahlia's Query

Reagan Forrester wants out--out of her trailer park, out of reach of her freeloading mother, and out of the shadow of the relationship that made her the pariah of Charytan, Kansas. 

Victoria Reyes wants in--in to a fashion design program and a sorority, in to the arms of a cute guy who doesn't go to Charytan High, and in to a city where she won't stand out for being Mexican. 
One thing the polar-opposite best friends do agree on is that wherever they go, they’re going together. But when they set off on a series of college visits at the start of their senior year, they quickly see that the future doesn’t look quite like they expected. After two years of near-solitude following the betrayal of the ex-boyfriend who broke her heart, Reagan falls hard and fast for a Battlestar Galactica-loving, brilliant smile-sporting pre-med prospective... only to learn she's set herself up for heartbreak all over again. Meanwhile, Victoria realizes everything she’s looking for might be in the very place they've sworn to leave. 

As both Reagan and Victoria struggle to learn who they are and what they want in the present, they discover just how much they don't know about each other's pasts. And when each learns what the other’s been hiding, they'll have to decide whether their friendship has a future. 

G: How many manuscripts did you query prior to signing with your agent?

D: I signed my first agent on manuscript #3 (though #1 was a very short query process—I think I only queried nine agents), and my second agent on manuscript #5 (though she also signed #4). I like to make things complicated J

G: How long did it take to write your query/pitch, and what things/steps do you think were most important to make it agent-ready?

D: Writing this query probably took a couple of days, but once I finished, the first draft was very close to the final version. I think the most important things are running it by other people to see where you’re being vague or unclear, and number one paramount step is running it past someone who’s never read the book. No question—do this.

G: Tell us about your query style – do you approach your entire list of prospectives at once, or query in small batches and revise in between?

D: Always small batches—no matter how confident you are, I think you always want to give yourself opportunities to revise things you see aren’t working. Sometimes your query’s obviously just fine, but you get to the point where you’re getting asked for fulls, and you realize that’s where your problem lies. That doesn’t mean I think you should use agents as test cases—I’d never query without feeling my query and manuscript were both solid—but sometimes it’s just hard to see the issues with your own work until someone truly objective points them out to you.

G: Now the fun part – what was “the call” like? How did you know your agent was the right person to represent your project?

D: My call with Lana was a lot of fun, very comfortable, and, as usual, I talked her ear off. For me, so much was in how well we clicked and how much she truly loved my book. One of the scariest things about being on sub is how not in control the author is. We don’t get to pitch our books to editors; we rely on our agents to do that. So it takes out a lot of the fear when you feel like an agent would really represent your book the way you would, given the chance. So to feel like an agent “gets” it, and gets you? That’s a huge deal. Another big sign for me was that when we talked revisions, she brought up something that had been bugging me about the book but hadn’t seemed to bother anyone else. I wanted someone who would really push me on stuff like that, even when I knew I could technically “get away with” not addressing them.

G: If you could give one piece of advice to writers seeking publication, what would it be? 

DHa, I could never give only one. Except maybe “Read my blog.” Can I do that? I’m doing it. 

Thanks for sharing, Dahl! Best of luck with JUST VISITING and all your writing endeavors! 

To stalk follow Dahlia in every possible internet location, here's where you'll find her:

Twitter: @missdahlelama

Monday, March 17, 2014

Kickass Queries Series! #1 - Michelle Hauck

Hi All!

Back in the day when I was querying agents and facing rejection around every bend, I constantly scoured the internet for something: examples of successful queries and pitches.

It was a perpetual question in my mind: what are others doing right that I might be doing wrong? What did those letters sound like - those golden queries or pitches that netted the ever-coveted "yes?"

And so, I've decided to dedicate the next several blog posts to answering those questions by instating the Kickass Queries Series.

Several talented authors have volunteered to share the letters or pitches that took them from author to agented and/or published author, and shared some insight into their personal publishing journeys. Feel free to stalk follow all of them on their own blogs, Twitter, etc. They are all awesome.

Now, without further ado, let's meet our first author: Michelle Hauck, represented by Sarah Negovetich at Corvisiero Literary.

Michelle's query:

Tom, the classroom hamster, wants to escape from the h-e-double-hockey-sticks otherwise known as school. His military training at the pet shop didn't include playing house or being sentenced to a boot camp of never-ending Show ‘n Tell, math facts rap, and story time. But he’s learned a lot behind the bars of his cage. For example, if you want to keep breathing, never trust a pygmy who has earned the nickname Squeezer. Somehow he has to get away before the pygmies dress him as Strawberry Shortcake again—or worse.
When a “subspatoot” teacher fills in, Tom sees his chance to put Operation Escape the Pygmies into action. He makes a run for the border, hamster style. Bad news. The principal says a rodent on the loose is a distraction to learning and better off flushed. The way out is turned into a battlefield of snapping mousetraps, sticky snares, and poisoned pellets.
Tom seems doomed until the friendless Squeezer lends an over-excited hand. She quickly goes from supervillain to super sidekick. Now, the greatest obstacle to his freedom may be Tom’s soft spot for this lonely pygmy.
PYGMY HAZARDS is a MG fantasy complete at 34,000 words, which would appeal to readers of The World According to Humphrey. My epic fantasy, Kindar’s Cure, was recently released by Divertir Publishing. My short story, Frost and Fog, was published by The Elephant’s Bookshelf for their summer anthology, Summer’s Double Edge. I’ve worked at an elementary school as a special needs assistant for over ten years, giving me lots of experience with pygmies.

G: How many manuscripts did you query prior to signing with your agent?

M: I queried three other manuscripts before PYGMY HAZARDS. My first adult fantasy got shelved. It’s just wasn’t ready. My second book another Adult Fantasy sold to a small press in a deal I did myself. I queried the third book a YA dystopian at the same time as PYGMY HAZARDS and it came close to finding an agent, but the market for dystopian is dead. It was my voicy MG that finally succeeded.

G: How long did it take to write your query, and what things/steps do you think were most important to make it agent-ready?

M: The query for PYGMY HAZARDS was the easiest I ever wrote. Maybe that says something about why it succeeded. I only ended up with five drafts and those were basically tweaks. All my other queries were in the thirty draft range. This one just flowed out of me.
Of course I got lots of advice from other writers. That step is a given. I pretty much subjected it to everyone I could find and posted it on forums for more feedback. There was such a positive response from readers that I felt very hopeful agents would like it too. 
 One thing that probably helped was I wrote this query before I finished the book, while it was still a WIP. That really helped me to carry the voice from the manuscript into the query. 

G: Tell us about your query style – do you approach your entire list of prospectives at once, or query in small batches and revise in between?

M: I always queried in small batches. Doing the research on agents and visiting websites takes so much time that large batches would be exhausting. I’d send ten one day and wait a few weeks then send another ten. I did revise a tiny bit in between and entered contests also.  

G: Now the fun part – what was “the call” like? How did you know your agent was the right person to represent/publish your project?

M: Ah, the call! I actually got two offers. After the first offer, I alerted all the other agents with requests and recent queries and gave them two weeks to get back to me.  That was a breathless two weeks of waiting for replies and checking email every few seconds.
I was out on a walk when Sarah called to give my second offer. My husband and I hurried back home as fast as we could go.
She’d read PYMGY HAZARDS in one weekend and emailed to say she wanted to talk. Over the phone she had so much to tell me about what she liked from my manuscript. She answered every question and was very positive about submissions. She got my sense of humor! I just felt she was the right one from that call. 

G: If you could give one piece of advice to authors seeking publication, what would it be?

Just one piece of advice?

I’d say to keep learning and improving and don’t walk away if your first book doesn’t find a home. Believe me, I’d guess very few first books land agents. Be persistent in getting better with each manuscript. Also don’t be afraid to get feedback. The more eyes on your query, the better.  Persistence and dedication are your friends.

Thanks, Michelle! Great advice, great query! Thanks for stopping by, and best of luck with all your writing endeavors!

Michelle Hauck lives in the bustling metropolis of northern Indiana with her hubby and two teenagers. Besides working with special needs children by day, she writes all sorts of fantasy, giving her imagination free range. A book worm, she passes up the darker vices in favor of chocolate and looks for any excuse to reward herself. Bio finished? Time for a sweet snack.

Goodreads: Kindar’s Cure

Monday, March 10, 2014

Writing + Motherhood = The Definition of Murphy's Law

I've been a mom for 7 months now, but it took me WAY less time than that to figure out that motherhood means never doing what you want, when you want to do it.

I swear to you all, my son has radar. He'll be happy and playful and contentedly amusing himself, until the second I decide there's something I need to get done - namely eating or writing. Then all of a sudden he goes from this:

To this:

I've also noticed this particular brand of Murphy's Law applies to his sleep patterns. When I'm bursting with a new scene to write, or dying to finish up an old one, I can almost guarantee this will happen:

But when I'm absolutely stuck, and couldn't get words down even if you bribed me with a night with Colton Haynes, that's when he does this for hours on end:

What about you, peeps? What are your hindrances to writing? When do you sneak in your creative moments?