Wednesday, April 23, 2014


Good Morning, All!

So ever since I announced my book deal, I've been getting this question a lot:

"What is your book about?"

For some reason, I find this to be a very difficult question to answer. I'm always afraid I'm going to say something stupid. Or worse, make my story sound stupid.

I promise, it's nothing close to stupid. But this is why I write - because when I'm asked to say things without the help of a backspace key, I'm exponentially more moronic.

So today I thought I'd put together a little show-and-tell combo that would answer this question for me, and hopefully explain why I love this story so much, and why I hope you'll love it, too.

Here goes:

LAST YEAR'S MISTAKE is a book about Kelsey, 

Isn't she love-lyyyy? 
who lived in a small town in Connecticut called Norwood (which doesn't really exist.) The house Kelsey grew up in looked something like this:

A small, boxy split level like all the other homes in her neighborhood. This house, BTW, really *does* exist. And I used to live in it.

Kelsey much prefers the surroundings of her yearly vacations at her uncle's summer home in Newport, Rhode Island, where the houses look like this:

Okay, so maybe these are not actual homes, but some of the preserved Gilded Age mansions that overlook the beach. Still, Newport has a ton to offer compared to Kelsey's hometown, and it also happens to be the place where she meets her best friend the summer before high school starts.

Everyone, say hello to David.

Anyone else hear Pony by Ginuwine playing in their head
right about now? No? So it's just me, then...

As it turns out, not only does David's grandfather own the house next door to the one Kelsey's family vacations in each summer, he is in the process of moving to Kelsey's hometown in CT. The two of them become fast friends, inseparable in either Connecticut or Rhode Island.

Unfortunately, life is about to throw Kelsey some curve balls in the form of old friendships unraveling, health scares, bullying, and worst of all, David turning his attention to Kelsey's sworn enemy, Isabel.

Aren't flawlessly beautiful brunettes just
the most disgusting thing ever?
When Kelsey's father is offered a job just outside of Newport, Rhode Island, she's convinced there's no reason for her to ever want to stay in Connecticut - until the night before she's ready to leave it all behind, and David confesses his love for her.

Furious that David would turn her whole world upside down when she's on the brink of a fresh start - and even more furious at what she sees later that same night - Kelsey runs off. And doesn't look back.

Fast forward to a year later, when Kelsey is living in Rhode Island. She's succeeded in shedding her old life for new friends, a new look, and even a yummy new boyfriend named Ryan:

Someone please tell me they feel
the need to bust out with their best Leighton Meester
impression of Good Girls Go Bad right now.

So imagine Kelsey's surprise when, on the first day of senior year, a piece of her past shows up in the hall at school - David.

Now Kelsey is forced to face the past she thought she wanted to forget, and the reality that her new life may not be as perfect as she once thought. She'll have to decide what's more important - the life she thinks she loves, or the boy who never stopped loving her.

And that's it in a nutshell.

Liked the sound of it? Feel free to add it to your shelf on Goodreads!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Kickass Queries Series! # 9 - Michelle Modesto

Good Morning!

Today we have a double feature of sorts for the Kickass Queries Series. My agent sister, Michelle Modesto, is here - and over at the YA Misfits blog - talking about her novel, MACHINE AND THE WILD, which debuts with Balzer + Bray in 2016.

Michelle's deal was announced the same week as mine, and if you're looking for a 2016 book to be excited about, look no further. Here's why:

Michelle's Query:

It's been several years since seventeen-year-old Westie lost her family and her arm to cannibals while traveling west on the wagon trail, yet the memory still haunts her.

She's on a downward spiral, spending her time in saloons, preferring the warmth of whiskey to the cold hands of everyday life. It's only when fate brings those cannibals to Rogue City where she lives with a brilliant inventor and a band of misfits, she discovers her will to live again. She trades booze and gambling for a stronger drug: vengeance. 

Now, with a powerful mechanical arm, there's nothing to stop her except maybe her own reckless ways. If she’s not careful, the revenge she seeks for those she lost years ago could cost her the family she has now.

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

M: I’d written four other novels, but only queried one other MS prior to Machine and the Wild. The others were more like practice books, a way to strengthen my craft. So, in other words, they sucked.

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: I started writing my query letter when I started writing the book and it changed as the book changed. Overall, I think it took about six months. When I was done I entered it into a query contest on Twitter where I was able to get it critiqued. That was so much help. I recommend Twitter contests to everyone.

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, about five at a time. Keeps things clean and focused.

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

M: Yay! This really is the fun part. So, we all have that dream agent, right? The one we’ve had our eye on for some time. John M. Cusick was that agent. It happened after I read Girl Parts a few years ago. That book was weird and wonderful and one of my all-time fave YA novels. When I got the idea for Machine and the Wild, he was the first agent I knew for sure I wanted to work with.

The “call” was equal amounts of excitement and terror. Here was my dream agent and he was interested in my book. I kept thinking, he likes my book, this is awesome, I’ve got this. Then when my phone rang I totally panicked, like, oh my dog this is really happening, what did I get myself into? I felt like an imposter and that somehow he’d made a mistake. But he loved my book and was a super chill dude, easy to talk to. When we started talking about changes for the book and I saw our visions for it align, it was pencils down, the search was over.  

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

M: My advice for authors seeking publication is, get on Twitter and follow agents and editors. They are always tweeting their wish lists and other helpful advice.

Thanks, Michelle! To learn more about MACHINE AND THE WILD, head over to today's YA Misfits post and check out our interview!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Kickass Queries Series! # 8 - Summer Heacock

Hey Peeps!

We're back with another edition of the Kickass Queries Series! This time, Summer Heacock (who you might recognize as @Fizzygrrl from Twitter) is sharing the query that won her offer of rep from Sarah LaPolla with Bradford Literary!

Summer's Query:
I am seeking representation for WITH A SHAKE OF HER HAIR, a women’s fiction manuscript complete at 81,000 words.

Ellie Donahue is drowning in Suburbia.  She is driving a beige mini-van and wondering where the twenty-year-old version of herself disappeared to.   The version that didn’t give a crap about high-fructose corn syrup and thought ramen noodles and beer was a balanced dinner.

Stuck in a predictable rut of routine Sunday night sex and Thursday night chicken, Ellie’s biggest concerns are running into meddlesome Sancti-mommies at the grocery store, or being forced by her nudist mother-in-law to listen to an AC/DC cover by her band, ‘The Noody Blues’ and trying to ignore the fact that they are indeed naked while singing it.

When confronted by her husband's infidelity with a coworker, Ellie is forced out of her rut and into a reality where she is torn between the temptation of an affair of her own with her daughter's delicious soccer coach or fighting for her rapidly crumbling marriage. With her life upside down, Ellie struggles to determine her next step, and finds herself longing for the predictability of Thursday night chicken.

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

S: I queried three manuscripts before signing with my agent. Oddly enough, the MS I was signed with was the first MS I’d ever queried. It had been sitting all lonely on my laptop for a few years when I dusted it off, revised a bit, and ran with it.

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: My first query? Like, fifteen minutes because I was an actual idiot and had no idea what I was doing. My functional query that worked years later? I’m not entirely sure. I’d gone through maybe a dozen drafts of that query before I landed on what I thought would work.

When I look back on how this last version came about, the most important things to me were research and CPs. I spent a lot of time searching through “How To” query sites, and sent a loooot of variations to fellow queriers.

I can’t say it enough, in writing, you need people who will be honest with you. Someone who will tell you what is good, but also when you suck.

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: I like to think of my querying self as two different people. There was early on, excitable puppy Summer who wanted to get her book out into the world, and four years later Summer who, as such, did not have her head lodged securely up her ‘tocks.

I find that going in small batches works best. Especially at first. If you have a fairly high request rate, carry on. If you aren’t getting requests, revise.

I’ve done the “all in” all at once thing, and it was not what I would call my best choice.

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’d had a list of agents that had my work at the time, and I knew I was getting close to The Call. I had my favorites, ones that I would have sold a kidney to get an offer from. I was doing R&R’s for seven of them by the end.

But I swooned for Sarah when she sent me her notes requesting an R&R. I quite literally bounced up and down squealing as I read those notes. “OH MY GOSH SHE GETS MEEEEEEEEE!” is what my poor husband heard from across the house.

When we had The Call, I was already pretty smitten kitten for her. I tried to play it all cool like, “Thank you, this is wonderful. I’ll have my answer to you in 24 hours.”

Exactly 26 minutes later I called her back and accepted. Because I am a smooth mofo.

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

S: Wear a helmet.

Okay, perhaps something a little less ominous.

Surround yourself with people who are doing what you do, either in real life or online. Going through the fresh hell that is the road to publishing sucks a lot less when someone is walking that brimstone sidewalk with you. You will learn more, experience more, and come out a stronger writer in the end.

But like, seriously though on the helmet.

Thank you for sharing your hilarious query and story with us, Summer! Best of luck with SHAKE and all your writing endeavors!

Summer has been writing for fifteen years, and for the last eight years has been featured in her local paper, "Our Home Town", as the head writer for the Reviews and Opinions column. Her training is in Psychology and Creative Writing, and she also has a strong background in Theater and Stand-Up Comedy, a combination of experiences that I have been very helpful when writing. She is a stay-at-home-mother of two and is in the process of writing her next novel. You can follow her journey on her blog, Twitter, and Facebook.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

You Never Know. No, Really. You Don't: My Pub Story

Today is the day, peeps! The day I get to tell you all that my baby, my beloved novel, LAST YEAR'S MISTAKE, is going to be published by Simon Pulse!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

To say I'm ecstatic is an understatement. Being a published author has been my lifelong goal - I'm pretty sure I came out of the womb looking for a good book and a quiet corner to curl up in with it. It might explain why I screamed so much as an infant. My point: I have waited a LONG time for this, and I am so thrilled that my book found a home with a publisher and an editor who love it as much as I do.

My story is not exactly typical. I found my agent, or maybe it's more accurate to say we found each other, in 2012 when I entered LAST YEAR'S MISTAKE in Brenda Drake's Pitch Madness contest. Naturally, there was much happy dancing.

You can read the interview about it here.

LYM went on sub not long after. And if you think waiting to hear back on a query is torture, let me just tell you that time literally STOPS MOVING when you're waiting to hear whether or not your book is going to become a real book. And a couple of times, it seemed like it just might happen. There were a handful of editors who had nothing but complimentary things to say about the manuscript, but in the end, it didn't pan out.

Talk about heartbreak. I don't even think I need to elaborate.

Fast forward to almost two years later. I had put LAST YEAR'S MISTAKE on the shelf, put it out of my mind, and powered ahead on some new projects. I was literally in the process of putting the finishing touches on my newest when I got an email from John titled An Interesting Email On A Snowy Valentine's Day.

It was interesting, all right.

Sara Sargent, one of the editors who'd read and loved LYM when it was on sub, had emailed him to say she'd been re-reading it on her morning commute and remembering how much she'd enjoyed it, and would he like to re-sub it to her in new position at Simon Pulse?

My reaction was basically this:

She'd remembered my manuscript. Remembered it, and was still thinking about it. And wanted to publish it.

I can't even.

So, LYM came off the shelf for sub resurrection. My intestines went into immediate knots. This was the story of my heart, and I'd long since put it out of my mind. Sure, the occasional wistful memory still crept in every now and again, but for the most part, I'd accepted that LYM would not be my publishing debut, and had even allowed myself to get excited about my other manuscripts instead. Now it was back on the table, and every person I wrung my hands and fretted in front of kept telling me the same thing: don't think about it.

And of course, when you're not supposed to think about something, we all know what happens:


And for 34 long, agonizing, ENDLESS days, it was all I thought about. No amount of house cleaning or child rearing or new projects helped. I drove myself crazy until I reached a point where I thought, okay, it's been way too long. I guess the answer is no. Again. 

Then I got an email from John asking if I had time for a quick phone call, because he had some news to share. And....

I missed it.

I missed the email because my son had kept me up all night, and when he went down for his afternoon nap, I crashed like a ton of bricks. That's right, I SLEPT THROUGH THE MOST IMPORTANT EMAIL EVER.

Luckily John is persistent, and followed up with a phone call a little while later. AND I SLEPT THROUGH THAT, TOO.

I almost died of a heart attack when I wandered into my kitchen, bleary-eyed and messy-haired and looked at my phone. I wanted to smack myself.

But then I called him back, and finally, FINALLY, I had the news I'd been dying for since, oh, second grade: The folks at Simon Pulse loved LYM as much as Sara did, and they wanted to publish it.

Despite the fact that I was incapable of forming coherent sentences, I wanted to hug John. He's lucky that he didn't deliver the news in person, or it probably would've looked something like this:

In summer 2015, my book will be a real book. My dream will come true. Then, in 2016, it will come true again when my second book is published. That's right. A 2-book deal.

Living proof that you just never know.

No, really. You don't.

Join me in some more happy dancing, won't you?