September #PitMad Reminder


Happy Monday!

Just a quick reminder about #PitMad.

What is it: Twitter contest for writers looking for an agent. You get to tweet your best elevator pitch for your completed manuscript in 140 characters.

When: Thursday, September 8th.

Contest Rules: You are allowed to tweet 3 DIFFERENT pitches for one project that day. You can pitch more than one book. Sounds like if you have 3 different manuscripts, you can pitch each project once. Include the hashtag #PitMad and your genre/category. A list of these can be found on along with full contest rules. Interested agents will favorite your tweet. Follow the agent’s submission guidelines and get your manuscript out ASAP.

Good luck everyone!!!

Tweet Your Way to a Literary Agent


Happy Friday fellow writers!

Tired of querying? Ready to get out of the slush pile? If you answered yes to either question, then keep reading to learn 2 ways to tweet your way to snagging (fingers crossed!) a literary agent. I’m sad to say, I’ve only just discovered these fast, fun ways to pitch to multiple agents. Most of the contest dates have flown by, but don’t fret, there are still a few left. So get ready to tweet, people!

1. # PITMAD: Have a completed manuscript ready to publish? Then why not try your luck with #PitMad. This first contest is all about pitching agents on Twitter using 140 characters or less. Think you can do it? Here are the rules: You can only tweet 3 pitches (the same pitch or a different pitch if you’re ready to publish more than one novel). Remember to include the hashtag #PitMAd and the category (#A, #MG, #YA, etc.). When agents/publishers see something they like, they’ll tweet their submission requirements and favorite your tweet. If you get picked, send your stuff in ASAP!

Remaining dates for #PitMad 2016: September 8 and December 1, 2016. 8am-8pm EDT.

2. PITCH WARS: Ever want to have your very own literary mentor? If so, than this contest is for you! Pitch Wars connects writers with industry professionals (published authors, editors, etc.) to help shape up their manuscripts before submitting to agents. They will read your ENTIRE manuscript, critique, and help you perfect your pitch. What you need to know: To enter, you must have a query and the first chapter of your book. Check out #PitchWars to get info on the mentors. You’ll be able to select 4 of your fav mentors for application submissions. Once the forms go live, you’ve got 3 days to get your app in. Unfortunately, the contest dates for 2016 (August 3-6) have already passed. Mark your calendars for next year!

For more info on Pitch Wars and PitMad, check out: She’s a YA author and has an awesome site that gives you the nitty-gritty on the contests.

Hope you guys get to enter the remaining contests this year. I know what I’ll be doing September 8th. Do you???


5 Query Blunders

social-1206612_640Hey all!

It’s been a while since the last Fast 5 post. Since I’m still querying, I thought I would focus on 5 mistakes you can make during the query process. Easily overlooked blunders that will make you want to smack your head while shouting, “Doh!”

I have made at least two of these goofs, and I can’t help but cringe each time I think about them. Hey, I’m human. Mistakes happen. But in a business in which every word counts, you don’t want to screw up your chances of landing an agent because of a silly error.

This post isn’t about pointing fingers or making you feel bad. It’s to reflect on our mistakes. To learn from them. And to take a moment and say, “Yes, I did that. And I will NEVER do it again.”

1. Using the incorrect form of address. This is a mistake I recently made. After copying and pasting a dozen queries, I sent the final one using Mr. instead of Ms. I realized my mistake AFTER I sent the email. Well, crap. What was I supposed to do now? Ignore it? Email an apology for using the wrong address? I googled, and of course, there were over 20 different suggestions. Chicken that I am, I did nothing. Well, I just received a rejection from the agent (are you surprised?) with an icy reminder to proof read my emails. Ouch. Lesson learned. If I ever make this mistake again, I will email an apology ASAP.

2. Wrong agent name. This one is pretty bad. It makes the agent think you didn’t research them at all. That you are sloppy. Each agent wants to feel as though you’ve done your homework and can’t wait to send them a query. Double, triple check that name. Every. Single. Time.

3. Formatting. Check the agent’s website. All of them have specific guidelines for submission. Some go into detail and tell you exactly how to format. I have found most agents want single-spaced, one inch margins. Save the double-spacing for your synopsis and manuscript.

4. Punctuation/grammar. Ugh. Another recent blunder. After deciding to freshen up my query, I made a rookie mistake and omitted a word from a sentence. It was a glaring mistake. I must have read the query 10 times. It should have been perfect! Do yourself a favor and have a pair of fresh eyes look over your query before hitting send.

5. Length/content. This one can be a bit tricky. One paragraph? A Whole page? Sometimes you’ll  get lucky and the agency’s submissions guidelines will tell you exactly how long the query should be. What they don’t want is a multiple page synopsis. Get to the point quickly and succinctly. Also, don’t get too friendly. You can add a sentence or two about attending a conference they spoke at or reading one of their recent interviews. But stay professional and polite. Writing to the agent like she’s your new BFF is a sure way to get it tossed out.

Have you guys made any query blunders? What was the outcome?


Query Update 05/26/16

typewriter-159878_640Happy Friday!

It’s time for another query update. The struggle to find an agent continues as the next batch of rejections roll through. Recently, I read that you aren’t really a writer until you get a ton of rejections. Ok, been there, done that. Can I move on to the I-got-an-agent stage? Pretty please?

Let’s start with an update on the full MS. I heard back 4 weeks after emailing the agent. Verdict: REJECTED! No explanation of why which would have been super helpful. After a brief pity party, a few Snickers bars, and possibly some Tequila, I revamped my query. With more than 15 rejections, I thought it was time.

Last night, I sent out 5 new queries. The first rejection came in 37 minutes. Wow! Scratched that one off the list. Today, another rejection from the new batch of queries. Although I appreciate the speedy response, it still sucks.

I’m taking a breather the rest of the weekend to see where I’m at. I have a handful of agents to hear back from and a much bigger stack to still email. But I think it would do me good to just take a step back and relax. Focus on writing the next book and stop refreshing my email every 20 minutes.

Happy writing. I’ll check back in with you guys for another query update soon!

When to Nudge an Agent


Hey all!

I’m still deep in the query stage and I’ve had a few questions about when to “nudge” an agent. While querying, most of us are on pins and needles waiting to here back. How long will it take? Days? Weeks? Months? Never?

I didn’t do this back when I queried my first book. I wasn’t even aware it was acceptable to email an agent and ask, “Hey, have you read my query yet?” Or, “Have you finished my manuscript?”

With a little research I learned that, yes, it is OK to send a follow up email for these occasions. The most important aspect is when you send it. Listed bellow are a few examples I found online.

1. Query: If an agent has given a time frame for a response on their website, wait the specified time before nudging. This seems like common sense, right? You would be surprised how many writers break this stipulation. When searching QueryTracker, I found instances of writers nudging after 2 weeks. That is way to early when an agent clearly states they will get back to you in 6-8 weeks. But if you passed the 8 week mark and haven’t heard anything, get yourself to a computer and type up that nudge. Sometimes queries get lost in spam and never make it to the agent.

2. Partial Request: This is when things get tricky. You would think an agent could breeze through 50 pages in a day or two. Sometimes. Remember, the agent is busy answering queries, reading partials, scrutinizing complete manuscripts ,and dealing with current clients. Prepare to wait a few weeks. Maybe even months. I’m not kidding. So how long should you wait to nudge? My first thought was a month–until I read a tweet from an agent asking why so many writers are nudging after only 4 weeks. She moved those partials to the bottom of the list. Ouch! This was only one agent’s view. Others might not mind hearing from you at the 4 week mark. Personally, I would go with your gut here. If you find you just can’t wait anymore or have an offer, nudge away. Agents will respond ASAP when you tell them you have an offer for representation.

3. Full Request: This one seems a little simpler than the partial. I believe if an agent has requested a full manuscript, they should get back to you within 2-3 months. It’s a reasonable amount of time and I’ve seen the time frame listed on a good number of agency websites. As mentioned above, if you’ve received an offer you can nudge the agents that still have your partial or full MS. I’ve read most will reply quickly. They don’t wan’t to miss out on a great novel and will move your work to the top of their TBR list.

In case you guys are wondering what a nudge should sound like, I’ve included a sample below. Let me know if you’ve had to nudge an agent. How did it go?

Dear agent,

I sent you the full manuscript for (title of book) on (date). I’m following up to see if you have received the materials and if you have had a chance to read it. Our previous correspondence is below. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you. 

Simple and to the point. Hope it helps!






Query Progress


Hey everyone!

I’m taking a break from the Fast Five posts to update you guys on my query adventures. This time around I’m doing things differently and wanted to chronicle my progress. I was curious to see how other writers were getting along with their queries and only found a handful of sites that broke down the process. Call me curious, but I want to know what happens from the initial email query to partial requests and signing. Or if the the writer decides to self-publish.

Query Tracker is great for a quick look at an agent’s response time but not for following a writer’s query journey from start to finish. Since I couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for, I thought I would give it a shot myself and create a series of posts. For the next couple of weeks, I’ll be sharing my progress. The good, bad, and downright awful.

Two cups of coffee courage and a pack of Combos later, I’m ready to start… and jittery from too much caffeine.

A Hunt in Belgrade Query: Round 1

04/25/16:  Sent 9 queries. Why only 9? After blasting out way too many queries at once with the first book, I decided to scale back and send around ten at a time with book 2 (which I’m querying as book 1 now). That way I can get a feel if the query is working. If I get no bites, I’ll know I need to revise it. But why exactly 9? I liked the number.

04/26/16:  Request for a partial. Hooray! I’m jumping for joy and emailing back 50 pages as fast as my fingers can type. Two hours later, I’m brought back to earth as I get my first rejection. Although it is a encouraging, personalized rejection, it still sucks. I remember how it feels to get dozens of rejections and move on. I’m tough, I can do this. Then I remember this is actually my second rejection. I got the first one two hours after emailing an agent Monday. Talk about speedy!

04/27/16:  Request for full MS from agent with partial. My heart is beating out of my chest I’m so happy. I calm myself and take a day to make sure the MS is in tip-top shape. The next day I email it and try to stay calm. It’s great that a respected agency has asked for the full MS, but I’m a realist. I remember reading something like only 1% of writers land an agent. Realistic but still hoping for the best.

05/02/16:  Two rejections. Yeah, kinda figured I would get rejected by these guys. Read they are extremely picky.

05/08/16:  Rejection.

I sent out a few more queries yesterday. I’m waiting to hear back from 9. This must be my knew lucky (unlucky?) number. Typically, I’m an impatient person when it comes to hearing news–good or bad. A few websites suggest sending out queries then forgetting about them. Well, that’s not me. I obsessively check my email. But as the weeks go by, I think I’ll slow down. After all, life doesn’t stop just because I’m querying my book. Laundry, work, and grocery shopping aren’t magically completed. And as I finish typing this last line, the dryer buzzes. Aah, back to reality!










The Query Rejection You Want to Get


This past Monday, I finally sent out my first batch of query letters. It wasn’t long (2 hours!) before I received my first rejection. It was the typical “thanks, but no thanks.” No big deal. I’m used to getting standard rejections. Agents are busy people. Of course, we writers would love to get a personalized letter, something with a little feedback. But that usually doesn’t happen. Yesterday, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a rejection that did include a brief critique and encouragement. I had to share it with you guys.

Dear Emily,

Thank you so much for writing me about your project. I read and consider each query carefully and while yours is not exactly what I am looking for, I would certainly encourage you to keep trying. I especially enjoyed certain phrases (But life on the run caused stress–and stress caused wrinkles. And if the stress didn’t kill you, eventually a bullet would.) Yet, at the same time, I felt some of the writing was a little too clinical sounding (the threat of apprehension necessitated the rendezvous in such place.) I think yours is just a matter of not overthinking some of the writing. Make it sound natural; don’t overwrite.

I know your work is important to you and I am grateful that you wrote me. I appreciate you thinking of AGENCY NAME with this work and wish you only the very best.

Best regards,


Don’t you wish all your rejections were like this? I know I do. Not only was it eloquently written, the rejection gave me coveted feedback. If I keep getting standard rejections, I can take the tips this agent so kindly provided and tweak my manuscript.

I would love to hear from you guys. What has your experience been with rejections? Do you usually get the standard no, or do you ever get one with a brief critique?


5 Tips to Craft Cool Characters

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Good afternoon all!

Are you ready for 5 fast tips on how to craft cool characters? I hope so, because I’ve had this blog on my mind for some time. I’m in the middle of querying one book while writing another and needed a refresh on what makes a memorable character. Keep on reading to find out.

1. Unique Trait: So you’ve given your hero a wicked scar, an amazing tattoo, or a questionable limp. Now it’s time to emphasize why these traits are so memorable. Did he (or she) get the scar fighting wild hogs in Borneo while running from gun-toting midgets? Did he get the tattoo on a freighter in the middle of the Adriatic from a one-eyed albino with a fidgety hand? Or maybe your hero has a limp because he was in a car accident. Ok, back up. What car accident? Was there anything unusual about it? If you give your characters a trait you  want your readers to remember, I suggest backing it up with a good story.

2. Create an Interesting Backstory. Let’s use the tattoo example from above. Is the tattoo just an interesting trait or is it important to the character? Maybe he’s honoring a fallen friend, a fellow marine. This is your chance to create a compelling backstory that could set up the rest of the book.

3. Give Your Character a Secret: I think it’s safe to say most readers love a character with a secret. They want to know what he/she is hiding, when it will be exposed, and what the repercussions will be. It adds tension and drama. And remember, the juicier the secret the better. It will keep your readers up late at night flipping the pages to find out what happens!

4. Complexity: Characters with perfect looks, perfect families, and perfect jobs are plain old boring. Make your characters multidimensional. How about an upstanding  cop who moonlights as serial killer. What makes this  character tick? Is the cop a psychopath? Or a hero because he’s wiping out murderers and rapists? Hmm…

5. Lower His/Her Inhibitions: When characters drop their inhibitions, good things happen! The shy college student kicking a muggers ass when he knocks down her elderly neighbor is much more interesting than having her cower in a corner. Or how about a loudmouth, roided up body builder who saves a kitten from a group of boys throwing rocks at it. Having your character drop his guard can lead to an extraordinary story.

These are just a few ideas that might help your characters pop of the pages. Let me know what techniques you used to create awesome characters!



What’s New?

20160421_173655Hey all,

Long time no post! Life has been a little crazy lately and the blog took a hit. With starting a new job, trying to get the synopsis and query ready, and life in general, I haven’t had time to blog. Hopefully, that’s all about to change.

I think I’ve finally settled into my new normal. After cancer treatment, I needed a while to recover. It took much longer than expected. SIX YEARS!!! When I was ready to go back to work, I wanted something low stress, less physically demanding than working at a hospital and shorter work hours. I also wanted to incorporate my hobbies and interests into my new job. What did I end up selecting? The library! And so far, I’m loving it.

Now on to the big stuff: my writing. This has also taken a pretty big hit. I wanted to have the next book finished by June. Unless the writing gods decide to zap me with super speed, it ain’t happening. BUT, I am pleased with the story so far. It’s coming along rather nicely. This time around, I’m not sticking to a strict outline. I’m letting the words flow naturally. I gotta tell you, I’m digging this new approach. I’ll continue with it for now.

That’s it for now. I’m off to write. Have a great weekend!!!


5 Books to Help You Self-Publish

Hey all!

For today’s Fast Five, I’ve chosen books that can help you self-publish. They are all available on Kindle for a great price, and one of them is even FREE! If you have a few minutes, mozy on down to Amazon and take a look.

41irx0s9wxl-_aa160_1. Building Your Book for Kindle by Kindle Direct Publishing. I listed this one first because a lot of self-publishers use Amazon as their main seller. And who better to offer you advice than the people behind Kindle? This free guide will help you create a digital file of your manuscript when using Microsoft Word 2010.You’ll learn how to prepare a cover, build a table of contents, upload your book and get info on how to make changes after publishing. It could have been a bit more thorough, but I’m not complaining. It is available for FREE on Amazon. Choose the good bits and move on.


2. A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Vol. 2 by Chris McMullen. Just like the title states, you’ll learn what you need to publish with sellers besides Amazon. It offers a detailed introduction on marketing, tips on formatting and cover design, and delves into rank and reviews.All this useful info at just $4.99.

3. Write. Publish. Repeat. (The No-Luck-Required Guide to Self-Publishing Success) by Sean Platt 514lbagvkhl-_aa160_and Johnny B. Truant. This little gem detours from the first two books by detailing methods to add a little oomph to your writing. These could help improve your story, characters and plot. It also helps you understand the self-publishing market and has the same goodies the above books have when it comes to info on covers, formatting and pricing. This one goes for $5.99.

51sojjsfopl-_aa160_4. CreateSpace and Kindle Self-Publishing Masterclass by Rick Smith. Yes, yes, ebooks are great. But who wants the option of having print books? Why, me! And I’m sure you do too. If so, then why not down load Mr. Smith’s book? Get your inner Tarzan ready. It claims to “fast-track you through the jungle of self-publishing” and informs you why you should publish paperback and ebooks. Sounds pretty good for $4.79.

51iln1fzsnl-_aa160_5. The Fine Print of Self-Publishing, Fifth Edition by Mark Levine. I just grabbed this baby from my local library. I haven’t read it yet, but it sounds like it has most of the same claims as the  four books mentioned above. It also compares major self-publishing providers and warns you which companies to steer clear of. It sounded interesting and I snapped it up. You can find the ebook version for $9.99.

Have any of you read these? Let me know what you thought, and tell me if they were helpful in your self-publishing journey.

Emily 🙂