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Today started bad and got worse every hour before noon.  Work was stressful, I was tired and crabby, and for some ungodly reason, I kept thinking it was Friday.  Then I went to lunch.  And got the Best. Email. Ever. from my CP, Amanda.  This was the email that awaited me on my lunch break:

Yaaay! I can make the announcement!

This doesn’t mean much to most of you.  But because I have been waiting for this email all week, I was freaking ecstatic.  Instant day brightener.  I was smiling like an idiot in the middle of the break room at my work because I am so excited for her.  I know she’s an awesome writer and soon the world will know it too.

And I’m so happy to announce that my amazingly talented CP, Amanda Burckhard, has an agent!

Here is her story in her own words:

You know how people ask how you got the idea for your manuscript? Honestly, I have no idea. I only remember when I got the idea. In January I went to Italy for my last class as a senior in college. I stayed in Rome for three weeks and my last week there I started writing a story while bored in class. By the end of class, I had missed the entire thing but had 10 pages of something. Every night when I got back to the apartment, I would write a little before bed. By the time I got back to the US it had become an obsession. I’d stay up until 2am writing and start again the moment I woke up the next day. After a few weeks, I had a first draft of a full length novel. Some friends read it and it turned out it didn’t suck half as bad as I convinced myself it did. But I had no idea what to do next.

Then I found Agentqueryconnect.com and that changed everything. I wrote a query. Then rewrote it. Again. And again and again and again! Don’t even get me started on how much trouble I had with that query. The help and advice other members over at AQC gave me was INVALUABLE.

While I was in the land of awful queries, I found a couple beta readers and made some changes. Then came the Writer’s Voice Contest over on Brenda Drake’s blog. I was excited, yet so terrified to enter. Well I didn’t get chosen but I did find some amazing CP’s. Then I did some more rewrites. And more. By the time I had a sparkling MS ready, it turned out to be a completely different story from my first draft. But it was so, so much stronger. If there is any advice I could give an aspiring writer, it’s find some great CP’s! It’s great to have people who love your work, but find some CP’s who challenge you and don’t let your love of your work blind you to something that needs tweaking.

So I had a shiny query and MS. It was time to send out some queries. I started towards the end of May. Sent out small batches but no bites. Entered a few contests and still nothing. It seemed a lot of agents were straying away from the YA Urban Fantasy genre. There were times when I thought I’d never get a request. Rejection after rejection came and I still didn’t have any. I was just about to scrap my query and start another, when I got my first request. Then another. And another. It was like they all came in a rush. So weird how that works out sometimes.

During a moment of crazy, wishful thinking, I sent a query to an editor with an independent pub company. She asked for the full. A month later, I had an offer of publication. Then another offer of publication from a second pub company who had my full through a contest I had entered. So I sent nudges to all the agents who had my query/full. I got a few more requests and some stepped aside.

In the end, I had a choice to make. Agent or publication? I ended up over analyzing it and couldn’t make up my mind. But in my heart I knew I wanted to go with the agent. She was so enthusiastic about my work and our personalities meshed so well. Plus, I knew I’d always wonder ‘what if?’ if I didn’t take the agent and aim for the stars.

So I am now ecstatic to announce I am represented by Julia A. Weber of J. A. Weber Literaturagentur GmbH.

Growing up, I always had my nose in a book. Especially young adult. I started reading the genre in middle school and still do. Writing has always been something I wanted to do in my life, but I never thought it would turn into anything beyond writing for fun. Now I have an agent and it’s beyond my wildest dreams! The funny thing is, I found my agent through my now agency sister. Although, she doesn’t know it. When she signed with Julia she announced the good news on AQC. I had never heard of Julia at the time, so I googled her. I followed her on Twitter and after a lot of research, I added her to my list of agents to query. When she asked for the full I was so excited I danced around the living room for 5 minutes before I could explain to my roommate why I was dancing. I’m so excited to work with her. My MS could not be in better hands.

So remember to query widely! If I hadn’t, I never would have found the agent of my dreams.

 

Amanda, you deserve this so much and I’m glad you found the agent of your dreams.  I wish you and Julia all the success on your road to publication.  I know you’ll do fabulous.  And I look forward to holding a published copy of The Unleashing in my hands one day.  Congratulations!

Now all of you run over to Twitter and follow Amanda and Julia to stay updated on Amanda’s road to publication!

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I’ve always been easily distracted.  I struggle with multi-tasking at times because of it.  When I’m on the phone, I can’t be around other people or I will forget what I’m talking about and focus on whatever else is going on.  It’s bad.  Don’t even get me started on the distraction that is Twitter.

Over the years, I’ve learned things that work for me to help with my distraction.  I’ve gotten excellent at tuning people out (though if you ask my husband, I’m sure he will tell you this is most definitely NOT excellent).  I have to focus on one thing at a time.  I have to make lists so when I do get distracted, I remember what I was working on.

Enter Shiny New Idea…

I love new ideas.  They are shiny, exciting, and fun.  I can’t wait to get the basics written down, start to plot, and eventually get to the writing.  It’s one of the things I look forward to most as a writer.

My WIP hates shiny new ideas because they’re a distraction.

This happens to me every time I start a new project.  I get about half way through and I start to get ALL THE IDEAS.

For those of you who don’t know, I spend my work week three hours away from my husband.  Every Friday I drive home and every Sunday I come back.  While this is far from ideal for me and my husband, it’s perfect for my muse.  I tend to get most of my ideas while driving, which, let me tell you, happens to be super convenient.  Especially when you’re driving 70mph down the highway and have no paper.  Or a pen.

My most current idea hit while I was driving yesterday.  I was thinking about my best friend from high school.  To protect her anonymity, we’ll call her Jane.  Jane was really big into cars when we were in high school.  To me, she knew everything and she did all the repairs and modification of her cars herself.  I have a fond memory of spray painting her brake calipers red in the few hours left before the homecoming game our senior year of high school.  For those of you that know her, this was normal.  For those of you that know me, not so much.  Not only do I know nothing about cars, I have issues with getting dirty, and this process involved heavy duty cleaning.

Jane also liked to drive her car.  Fast.

And so a new character was born with Jane as my muse.  Without giving away too much detail, this new WIP will involve a female MC involved in an underground racing circuit.  Kind of like The Fast and the Furious.  But mostly not.  Yes, this means I will have to learn about cars and I’m okay with that.

The one thing that sucks about this idea is that I can’t start it RIGHT NOW.  So I’ve settled for writing down some major plot points that I can come back to when I’m ready.  And I do my best to put it out of my mind while I finish my current WIP, The Hit List (think Cruel Intentions meets Center Stage).

As of today, I’m 34k words into The Hit List.  My goal is to finish THL by September 1st at around 50-55k words.  And after that, I can’t wait to get started on my shiny new idea.

How do you deal with distractions?

I’m not a regular blogger.  It’s pretty obvious.  But I wanted to share some of my experience so far. And if this post helps a fellow writer, then hey, it did its job.

I’m deep in the trenches of query hell.  And it’s hard.  I’ve read the blogs and websites and forums over the years of other writers’ stories before I was too scared to put myself out there.  But you never really know what it’s like until you’re there.  It’s full of emotions, some good and some bad.  And it’s full of hope.  Hope that you’ll impress your dream agent.

Before I started writing BROKEN, I was terrified.  This manuscript was so far outside my comfort zone as contemporary YA.  The characters lived in my head for almost a year before I wrote the first sentence.  I swore to myself I would never write their story.  This was my form of self-care.  I work with addicts forty hours a week.  I didn’t want one living in my head the rest of the time.

When I couldn’t shake it, I wrote it down.  In three weeks.  I was amazed, especially after it took me so long to write my previous manuscript (I won’t tell you how long, but it was a lot more than three weeks.)  But I was still scared.  This manuscript is dark.  There’s swearing, sex, graphic drug use, cutting, and death galore.  And while I know there are many books much darker than mine, I worried that it was too much.  That no one would connect with my characters because they were too dark, too depressing, too angry, too whiny, too [insert your own adjective here].

What I found when I sent it out to CP/beta readers was an OVERWHELMING positive response.  People loved the manuscript, they loved the characters and I was so relieved.  I revised.  I started querying.  I got rejections.  I got requests.  My confidence slipped at times and exploded at others.

The one thing that has helped me the most in this whole process has been my amazing, fantabulous CP, Kate.  She has been with me through every emotional up and down and supported me through it all, giving me advice when I was feeling low and screaming with me (over Google Chat) when I’m flying high.  Because I can’t post this process all over the internet.  Not only do I not want the whole world to know every detail, it’s completely unprofessional.

You’ve heard the advice on how to land an agent/get published.  Do your research.  Network with other writers.  Go to conferences.  Get critique partners.  Post your work in online forums if you choose.  Read the industry professionals’ blogs and articles and twitter feeds.  You’ll find this information everywhere on the internet.

Here’s some advice of my own.

Talk to someone, especially when you’re feeling discouraged.  Find someone that you feel comfortable with and that you can confide in when you’re feeling down (just please don’t do this to a prospective agent/editor/publisher.  This will not help you.  I promise.)  It doesn’t need to be another writer, but I’ve found that this helps.  Not only do they know what you’re talking about, they’ve probably been there or are there.  But do not let discouragement bring an end to your writing.

I don’t have an agent.  I’m not published.  I’m still querying, still keeping my fingers crossed that I find the perfect agent for me.  Maybe BROKEN will get me an agent and maybe it won’t.  Maybe my current WIP will be the winner when it’s finally time to query.  Or maybe it will be my twentieth manuscript.  But here’s one thing I do know: No matter how long it takes, I won’t stop writing because then the only person I’ve failed is myself.

One last thing.  I want to give a HUGE congratulations to the talented Kate Brauning, whose blog/website is featured on Writer’s Digest this week as the Writing Website of the Week!  Make sure you check out the Writer’s Digest website and Kate’s blog.  Congrats, Kate.  You deserve it.

WIP’s and CP’s

I’ve decided to trunk my YA urban fantasy for now.  Which means I get to focus on something else for a while! 

 

This is very exciting for me.  I finished a manuscript back in April that has been sitting ever since.  It’s something different than what I’m used to writing.  It’s fresh and new and I love it!  I’m deep into edits that I’m so excited about and I’d just thought I’d share because I know there are so many other authors out there that can relate to that feeling.

 

And one of the best parts of writing are my awesome CP’s that are there for me along the way (you know who you are!).   Thanks to them, I’ve started to push myself further outside my comfort zone and I have to say, it’s not bad.  You guys truly are amazing and I am so lucky to have you! 

 

Hopefully, this will be the beginning of regular posts.  Good luck on your journey and happy writing!

Here is my entry for The Writer’s Voice!  The Scarlet Order is a YA Urban Fantasy.  Hope you enjoy!

 

Query:

Sixteen year old Emma Jackson is telekinetic and desperately trying to control her new ability before she accidentally kills someone.  As if trying to navigate high school and a new relationship with her boyfriend, Conner, isn’t difficult enough already.

Emma and her three cousins find out that they protect an ancient energy as members of The Scarlet Order.  An energy that gives them each an ability.  An energy that means the destruction of the human race if it’s in the wrong hands.  And an energy that the Order’s enemy, the Fallen, must kill to get.

Perfect.  Not only does she have to worry about killing herself with her new ability, but she has to worry about someone wanting to kill her because of it.  Exactly what she needs.

Emma and her family are thrown into a war they never knew existed.  The stakes are high-kill or be killed.  But soon lies start to unfold and threaten to destroy the foundation of trust that Emma has built within her Order family.  Nothing is at it seems and it’s a steep learning curve with dire consequences.  Trust the wrong person and end up dead.

Soon she questions everyone’s motives, including her own.  Suspicions replace trust, secrets replace the truth, and strangers replace family.  She finds comfort in an unexpected place-with the father she thought was dead.  There’s just one problem.  He’s a member of the Fallen.  Torn between her two families, she has to make a choice.  The Order has kept the truth from her.  But the Fallen are keeping secrets of their own.  Secrets that could destroy Emma forever.

 

First 250 words:

 

Thump.  Thump.  Thump.

My heart pounds in my ears and muffles everything around me.  I feel vulnerable and exposed with my unreliable hearing.  An owl takes flight across the street, soaring over my head, making me jump with surprise at its unexpected movement.  It hoots above me, but it sounds blocks away.

Alone in the dark.  Perfect time to be deaf.

The hair on the back of my neck pricks up as a chill runs down my spine.  I take a deep breath and hold it before slowly exhaling, trying to calm myself and hear better at the same time.  It doesn’t work.

Someone watches me from the shadows.  I can feel it.  The creepy vibe radiates out of them and hits me full force in the chest as a tingling sensation spreads from my heart out to my arms.

Orange and brown leaves litter the ground.  They crunch underneath my footsteps, making it all the more impossible to hear.  I stop and turn slowly to scan the neighborhood, looking for anything out of the ordinary.  Trees stare back at me and their branches sway slightly in the breeze, tossing shadows up and down the street, making it impossible to distinguish physical object from imaginary evil.  Their skeletal remains look foreboding in the moonlight.  I refocus, trying to slow my erratically beating heart.

Thump.  Th-Thump.  Thump.

 Snap.

My eyes flick to the right, toward the sound.  The crisp night air coupled with the panic that builds inside me causes my lungs to seize.

 

Thanks for the opportunity and good luck to all the finalists!

I haven’t blogged in over a year.  I’ve pretty much fallen off the face of the social networking planet.  The handful of times I’ve opened my manuscript, I simply stare blankly at the pages for a while before I get preoccupied with what’s playing in iTunes.  I neglected my writing partners (definitely not one of my finest moments and I apologize to those that were affected by this).  Why?

 

I can name a bunch of reasons that I’ve given myself over the past year or so.  I started my career.  The first real job I’ve ever had.  And it’s hard.  And stressful.  I got married two weeks ago.  Also stressful.  I moved three hours away from my family (with the exception of my husband) and friends for my hard and stressful job.  But there’s really only one reason that I’ve neglected everything writing related.

 

Perfectionism.

 

I’ve battled with perfectionism for a great deal of my life.  I was an A student throughout middle school and high school, graduating with a weighted 4.6 GPA due to the honors, advanced placement, and college classes I took.  I have at least ten projects scattered about my apartment at various stages of completion.  I procrastinate like a maniac because I know that once I get started the anxiety will set in.  Above everything else, I’m scared.  Scared of two little, insignificant words.

 

Finished.  Product.

 

Because once it’s finished, that’s when the judgment comes.  It means I can’t edit anymore.  It means I can’t justify my mistakes. Essentially, it means I’m completely out of my comfort zone.  Because in my eyes, that finished product needs to be perfect.

 

For those of you that have never had to deal with perfectionism, I envy you.  I wish that you never have this kind of experience.  For those that have experienced even one event in their life that perfectionism has taken hold, I empathize with you.  Because
you know how deeply it can affect your life.

 

So why am I writing this?

 

I want to challenge myself.  I want to finish my manuscript.  I want to be able to edit without starting at chapter one every time.  Because chapter one has been edited at least twenty times, while chapter twenty has been edited once.  I want to be able to edit past Chapter 6.  Because Chapter 6 has the most problems of all.  Because Chapter 6 will challenge my writing skills the most.  And I want to grow as a writer.

 

This is my challenge to myself.  I am going to edit at least three times a week.  That is what is realistic for me at this time and I don’t want to set myself up for failure.  I am going to pick up from where I left off, instead of going back to previous chapters.
I am going to post excerpts from edited chapters on this blog to hold myself accountable.  And I am going to let it go when I have edited that final chapter to a beta reader.  Hopefully I haven’t burned all my writing relationships at this point.

 

I have a challenge to anyone that reads this as well.  I challenge you to make a commitment to your writing, whether it’s for the next week, month, year, or manuscript.  Make a commitment to something that you struggle with.  And maybe we can grow together.

Addicted to Writing

I’m about to graduate an Addiction Counseling Master’s Program which means that I will be a licensed alcohol and drug counselor after I pass my exams (fingers crossed!).  I diagnose clients with alcohol and drug dependency on a daily basis so I’m very familiar with the DSM-IV criteria fro dependence and abuse.  I was finishing up an assessment the other day, when I realized that I could apply most of the criteria to my life as a writer.  So I broke down each of the seven criteria.  You only need to meet three of these seven to be considered a writing addict.

1.  Tolerance – Needing more to create the same effect OR a diminished effect from writing the same amount.  It could be that writer’s high – the feeling of euphoria when you feel you’ve written something amazing.  You might need to write more before you can achieve this high.  Or maybe you’ve become tolerant of your writing in general and have begun to think that it’s all worthless. 

2.  Withdrawal – Characteristic withdrawal symptoms are present OR writing to reduce withdrawal symptoms occurs.  These symptoms can include irritability, anxiety, headaches, character’s consistent nagging at you to continue writing their story, etc.  Keep in mind that you can’t have withdrawal if you don’t have tolerance. 

3.  Writing often occurs in larger amounts or over a longer period of time than intended.  Let’s say you have a writing goal of 1,000 words per day or editing one chapter per day.  But then you hit that pivotal scene, the one that you’re so wrapped up that you don’t even realize what you’ve done until 5,000 words and three hours later.  You may have had other plans, but it’s okay because that idea would have been gone if you hadn’t written it down. 

4.  A persistent desire or unsuccessful attempts to cut down or control the amount that you write.  I experience this most often when there is something that I need to complete that is boring, such as homework.  I make deals with myself.  “Well, I have this paper due on Friday, but it’s only Monday, so I can write tonight and then work on the paper tomorrow.” 

Fast forward to Thursday.  “I really need to write that paper, but I just had this inspiration for an amazing scene.  Maybe I can write a little and then write the paper after that.”

This tends to go hand in hand with #3.  Because let’s face it, if your trying to cut down on your writing in order to get other important things done, you’re probably writing more than you intended to write in the first place.

5.  A great deal of time is spent obtaining, using, and recovering from the effects of writing.  I’m a night writer.  It’s hard for me to get anything accomplished if the sun is up.  This means that I’m usually writing from about 8pm to 11pm or 12am.  I typically write until I’m too tired for my brain to work properly.  Then I drag myself to bed and go to sleep.  The only problem with that is that my character’s are so amped up in my mind that their nagging at me to write this scene and that scene.  Amazing ideas run through my mind in that time when I’m not really asleep or awake.  The next morning, I’m aware that I’ve had these ideas.  The only problem is that I have no idea what they were.  Then I spend the next several hours trying to remember what those ideas were.

6.  Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced due to writing.  Thankfully, I don’t feel that I fall into this category.  However, you might belong here if you make plans to write and then turn away plans to hang out with people in the real world instead of in your imagination.  You also might fit in here if you write while at work.   Okay, so maybe I do fit in here.  I’ve written while at work in the past.

7.  Continued writing despite knowledge of a physical or psychological problem.  This means you, carpal tunnel victims.  One of the qualifications to be a writer is to be a little bit crazy.  So, I’m not even going to touch the psychological problems piece.  But I think it’s safe to say that if you have carpal tunnel and you’re typing on a computer for hours a day, you might be exacerbating the problem.

 There you have it – the seven criteria for writing dependence*.  Maybe you know someone who identifies with this.  maybe you ARE someone who identifies with this.  Maybe we should put together a Writer’s Anonymous meeting.  Although we’d probably just sit around and talk about writing.  Not very productive.

*In no way do I claim to be an expert on this matter.