Thursday, March 31, 2016

Getting the Call with Ellie Moreton

I always feel bad when an entry doesn't get any requests in a contest, but it's far from the end of the road. There's so much more to contests! I'm so glad Ellie picked herself up and kept moving forward. Now, she gets to share her success story. 

When I first started writing the book that got me my agent, I was in a slump from giving up querying my first MS. I trunked it and felt so empty inside. I had worked on that first manuscript for years, it was my baby, and I just didn’t know how to fix it. I had a few ideas for a new MS, but nothing really SPOKE to me. Nothing was shiny enough. Nothing SPARKLED.

Until I had a dream. It was only a short scene, but the feeling it gave inspired my new MS. I started thinking about the feeling and imagery. I started questioning what was going on, why, who? Until my mind was consumed with this world and the characters. I started writing it in May 2014. I finished it in December and sent it off to CPs and Betas.

I started querying and joined The Writer’s Voice contest. I got picked for Monica and Stephanie’s team, and was so ecstatic. When the agent round came, I didn’t get any requests. None. But I made a lot of great friends, and continued my journey.

In late October, after a good  amount of requests and an even larger abundance of Rejections, I got my first offer. I was ecstatic. I flailed and messaged all my CPs and friends and flails some more. 

Then I put on my professional pants and asked for two weeks, Nov 4th, for other agents to get back and to contact their other authors. This was a bit of an odd circumstance because the agent couldn’t talk to me on the phone between their scheduled events at the time, and was also talking to me through an assistant.

The following week, I got my second offer! This was an agent who only had my query when I followed up with my offer of rep. She immediately asked for the full. (This is why it’s so important to send out notices to all the agents, even those who have just your query.)

We talked on the phone and I was super awkward. Everything in my brain just dumped out and I was so scared she would realize that I was a flailing phony and walk away slowly. She asked me if I wrote anything else, and I was like ‘no’ and then immediately remembered I co-write a space opera on wattpad and facepalmed a million times. My brain was just mush. The questions I researched and printed out were a garble of words in front of me.

But she didn’t back away! The notes she gave and what she told me about her vision for the book just made me feel so… good. She loved my Manuscript! My words! She liked them! She really liked them! I felt like this was how it should be with an agent, and that was pretty much when I made my decision to go with her.

On November 4th. I emailed and accepted her offer. Within the week, I had signed and emailed back the contract and was officially represented by the wonderful Christa Heschke at the McIntosh & Otis Agency!

It took me 7 months to write my book. And then another seven months to get my agent. Let’s see if the future brings some more lucky 7s.


Born and (mostly) raised in Plymouth, Massachusetts, Ellie was usually found outside, building forts and having stick fights with the neighborhood kids. (She always won.) After majoring in graphic design in High school, with the dream of becoming a manga-ka, she went to college for Media Arts & Animation in Brookline, MA, where she got her Bachelor’s degree before she found a job in Accounting, (Yeah, weird) and also started to seriously read and write. She still doodles and draws on random scraps of papers, sticky notes, and whatever else is around.

She currently resides right outside of Boston with her boyfriend and Cat. 

Twitter: @ByEllieM

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Getting the Call with Karen McManus

It's always wonderful to share a success story from a former contest veteran. Karen was one of Mike's picks for our recent Nightmare on Query Street! Congrats, Karen!

I was one of those kids who wrote constantly. By middle school, I had an entire library of books I’d written and (badly) illustrated. But once I started the college-career-family trajectory, I let my interest in writing slide.

A few years ago I started reading YA books and was inspired to try my hand at writing again. I spent months writing at night and on weekends, and for the first time since my childhood, I finished a book.

Not a GOOD book, though.

It was a classic first effort that should have been trunked as a learning experience. In late 2014 I didn’t have critique partners or beta readers. Nobody except my sister and a friend had read ever my book. While it had some characters I still love, it also had gaping plot holes, pacing problems, and so much first-chapter exposition that my MC sounded like a tour guide. Plus it was dystopian-themed, which had been off-trend for years.

But I didn’t know any of that. I attempted my first query, which was basically plot teasers and adverbs strung together with clich├ęs like “she doesn’t fit the mold.” Which mold? Who knows. I didn’t specify.

Not surprisingly, my inbox was a mixture of crickets and form rejections.

A breakthrough came when I joined Twitter in spring 2015 and met other writers. I found my first critique partner, who became my writing soul sister. I learned the market and studied writing as a craft, reworking both my query and my novel. I gave PitMad a try. I participated in a YA first-page critique party and met another amazingly talented CP. But while I finally managed to eke out a few agent requests, I realized my first manuscript was fundamentally flawed and put it aside.

(I did enter that MS into the 2015 PitchWars as sort of a Hail Mary, hoping one of the mentors I applied to might help me fix it. They all quite rightly turned me down.)

I wrote another book, a YA contemporary fantasy my CPs praised, and started querying in the fall. I had a better request-to-rejection ratio than my first manuscript, but still heard “just not for me” plenty of times. Then in October I entered Nightmare on Query Street (NoQS), a contest run by Michelle Hauck and Michael Anthony, and was chosen for Michael’s team. That was a huge confidence booster that came with bonus helpful mentoring.

I received three contest requests, but I’d also gotten a couple passes on querying fulls. Things were moving slowly—one step forward, one step back.

Meanwhile, back in September, I’d been inspired with an idea for a third book, a YA contemporary mystery. I wrote it madly in every spare minute—the characters completely took over my brain—and finished a draft in two months. My CPs thought it was The Book, but I wasn’t sure. I put it away for a few weeks, and when I came back to it I saw clearly what plot threads had to be reworked.

I’d met some amazing beta readers during NoQS, and they helped me revise more intensively than I ever had before. I took every opportunity I could find for additional feedback, searching for common issues that tripped readers up and trying to fix them. It was a complete 180 from my early days of writing in a vacuum.

In January 2016 I was ready to jump back into the querying trenches. I’d gotten a subscription to Publishers Marketplace, and had carefully researched agents I thought would be a good fit for my book and the career I wanted to have. I kept getting drawn to Rosemary Stimola’s website, admiring her list and the editors she’d worked with. So one Friday afternoon, I took a deep breath and submitted a query via her online form.

She requested the full three hours later. I’ll let you imagine the unprofessional flailing about that followed.

I sent my manuscript and settled in for a long wait, submitting a few more queries and getting additional requests. I also drove myself crazy looking at QueryTracker statistics and preparing for what felt like inevitable disappointment. But when Rosemary emailed a week and a half later, she wanted to set up a time to talk.

Flailing. Unprofessional. Lots of it, again.

When Rosemary offered representation, her vision for the book was so perfectly in line with mine that I was tempted to accept on the spot. But I had other fulls out between my second manuscript and this new one, and needed to give those agents a chance to read. By the end of the week I had additional offers and considered them carefully, but ultimately Rosemary’s immediate connection to the book won me over. I happily signed with her in February.

I learned a lot while querying, but the lessons that stuck with me the most are these: Connect with other writers. Constantly improve your craft. Above all, even (or especially) when you doubt whether you have what it takes, keep writing. Don’t give up. You never know which of the projects you’re working on will turn out to be The Book.

Updated: In news of the pinch-me-I’m-dreaming variety, Delacorte Press will be publishing my debut and a second book, which is the best postscript I could ever have hoped to add.

Karen McManus writes contemporary and fantasy YA, and is represented by Rosemary Stimola of Stimola Literary Studio. Her debut, ONE OF US IS LYING, about the fallout from death of a high school student who created a gossip app and its impact on the four teens whose secrets he was about to reveal, is forthcoming from Delacorte Press.

You can find her on Twitter @writerkmc and at

Monday, March 28, 2016

Which Came First: The Writer or The Angst

Writers seem to be emotional people. We worry. We fret the details. We grieve and get down. We spin up on cloud nine. We have more empathy than most. Writers seem to have their hearts on their sleeves. Don't get me wrong, we're a tough lot also. Thick skin comes with being a writer after any length of time.

But it often gets me wondering a certain chicken or the egg scenario: Are we writers because we feel more or Do we feel more because we write? There is a slight difference. Does the fact that we have that large share of empathy turn us into writers and somehow make us fit into that profession? Are we just an emotional bunch and writing lets us express that and get it out of our system?

Or does writing so many difficult situations and hitting our main characters with so many emotional problems cause writers to suffer the corresponding emotions.

I almost never cry for myself. Rejections sting, and of course, make me get down on life, but it's not until I see someone else suffering that my emotions really come out. I sympathize and find it too easy to imagine myself in their situation. That's when my heart really grieves. It's even true for fictional people. I still can't re-read Grudging without shedding tears at certain scenes because the characters' heartbreak becomes mine. With deadly stakes and scenes of loss, just writing the series often puts the real me in a funk of dark thoughts. I laugh less during the months I write. I suffer along with the characters.

But I'm also the kind of person who cries at a heartwarming movie, or even a stinking commercial for goodness sake. Tears also come when I get angry and try to form that into words--basically whenever I feel very strongly about something. I wish it wasn't so, but it's part of what makes me. On the other hand, small things like seeing my favorite cosplay character or getting a book in the mail send me into happy dances. I've always been emotional.

I guess the answer doesn't really matter. Whether the writing makes the emotion or it was there all along, the important part is putting that angst into our writing. Being able to move other people with words is a true talent. We, as writers, make other people feel by sharing our own emotion on topics large and small. That can move the world.

Are you emotional? Do you feel a character's plight too much? Does it hurt when they die? Do you cry at movies and can watching the nightly news make you too depressed for words? Then you're probably a writer--rejoice!   

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Convention Expectations

I took a trip to Chicago last weekend for the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo or C2E2. My publisher got a couple of us on panels, and I was scheduled to join five other authors from different publishers to talk about Fight the Power for one hour, with a book signing afterward. I'd never been to a Con, let alone one as big as this. For those who don't know, C2E2 is sort of like the grand-daddy of all SFF Cons in San Diego but with much fewer important announcements and premiers. You will still see a lot of this:

But there are not a lot of celebrities--at least not A-list ones. Still, the Con is huge with lots to see and do and there are huge crowds. You could walk among the vendors all day and not see it all. This will show how big it is: My sister and I got there before it opened for the day. We secured our badges, then went and got something to eat before getting in line. The line was like thirty people wide and I'm not kidding you that it took ten minutes after the doors opened for our part of the line to start moving. Ten minutes until we could even shuffle forward. There were just that many people waiting to get in. So a pretty big convention.

And I was going to speak in front of a crowd. This is what part of it looked like:

I was excited and plenty nervous. My stomach was feeling it on the drive up to Chicago. But the topic of my panel suited me so well so I also felt an edge of confidence. We were to answer questions on revolution in fiction and the little guy/underdog taking on the man. Right up my alley as a writer of epic fantasy! I write it and I've read dozens of books about it. I'd thought on the subject. And you know, once I got there, I forgot about being nervous. There was just so much to see and take pictures of! And I'm mainly talking about the people and the costumes. It was so crazy diverse and some of the costumes were just amazing. Look at this homemade Mad Max. It could be the real thing from the movie.

My panel wasn't until 12:30 and we had two hours to walk around and look at all the geeky things for sale. I bought a time turner necklace from Harry Potter and a Firefly t-shirt. My sister got two Walking Dead shirts. But the first thing we did was run to the Del Rey booth. Our Con program listed all the booths and had a map and we spent our time in line making a strategy. As soon as we got in, we went right--well not right, because we got lost a couple of times. It's like a maze in there.--for the book giveaway. I'd seen the day before that Del Rey was giving away copies of the new Michael J. Sullivan ARC. Thank you twitter for that tip! But freebies go fast. We got five or six books each and we're able to go back an hour later and get one of them signed.

We didn't get to check out a quarter of the booths or artists in Artist Alley before it was time to head upstairs where the panel rooms are located. We passed this on the escalator. (Went passed Angimon from Digimon and his big wings on the way back down. Wish I had a picture.)  

Oh and I found Rey. She was in the lobby. Who knew?

So yes. The panel. My nerves all came back. Sweaty hands and all that stuff. I was worried about using a microphone. Nervous about knowing what to say. Nervous about blabbering a bunch of boring crap. But it went well. The moderator introduced us and let us say three things about ourselves. Then she took audience questions and gave us all time to answer them. I let the first one pass me by, but jumped in on the second. I believe I made a few good points like about how characters manage to face such huge and overwhelming stakes.

I was very glad that at the last minute I packed one of my books into my bag. Here's a tip: you want a book with you to put up on the panel table. It makes you feel impressive. Oh and take someone with you. A big thanks to my sister for holding my hand and holding my bag full of free books! 

All the other panelists with me had done talks at lots of conventions before. One was a full-time writer with over thirty books out. I'm looking at you, Rachel. They were all very encouraging of the newbie among them. I can't thank Arwen, Lisa, Rachel, and Michi enough for that. It went really fast and was soon over. We headed back downstairs to the Con floor for the signing.

There was a really long line waiting for signatures. Unfortunately, that line belong to the comic book person at the table next to us. Another tip: Fan conventions aren't really the place to get noticed unless you already have a big following. If you're new, you're just going to be a blip. 

I spread out my bookmarks and stood up my copy of Grudging and I signed a few books. Met a few friends from twitter. (Hi Ann and Jane!) But the other highlight from the signing was spending the time talking with another author from Harper Voyager (Hi Bishop! Thanks for keeping me company.) and the authors from my panel. Talking with authors who understand you is such a bonus!

After the signing, my sister and I hurried back upstairs to catch Bishop's panel. He was a moderator. Talk about nervous. At least I didn't have that worry! By then it was later into the afternoon. We took a few more pictures of cosplay and headed home. As we were going out, my favorite cosplay of the day was right in front of me waiting for the escalator. I think I squealed and scared my sister when I saw Toph from the Last Avatar in front of me. She looks perfect and really ended the day on a high note!


So keep in mind that most of the people at fan conventions, at least SFF ones, are there for the comics and the merchandise, not for books or authors. There were about 50 to 60 people at my panel. Cons are more for having fun, getting some experience, meeting people and mingling, and less about selling books. I took so many photos, had a blast, and would gladly do it again. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Getting the Call with Anna Priemaza

Sometimes you just know when an agent is right for you. Enjoy this inspiration from Anna Priemaza and here is to hoping for more good things around the corner. 

"I’d love to talk to you about [your manuscript]," the email said. "Do you have some time to talk today?"

Literary agent Lauren Abramo of DGLM wanted to talk! To me! Fortunately, I knew just what to do.

Step one: Stare at email in disbelief for ten minutes.

Step two: Email Lauren back to set up chat for 20 minutes away. Enough time to pull myself together. Hopefully.

Step three: Text hubby and my mom. Forward email to my crit group with the very coherent message "!!!!!! See below !!!!"

Step four: Print off the "getting the call" blog post I had saved to my favourites bar on an unusually optimistic day and highlight the questions I wanted to ask. (This one:

Step five: Pace back and forth in my office trying not to hyperventilate.

Step six: Answer the phone and try not to sound like an utter fool.

But let's rewind one week;

Another rejection. I laid my head in my hands. This book, IF YOU CAN'T FLY, was not going to be THE book. I resolved myself to this inevitable truth. Sure, I still had two fulls and a dozen or so queries out. But over the last three months, I had received over thirty rejections, including three partial rejections, which surely meant more rejections to come. And sure, I had that R&R with the lovely comments about my characters I could still do. But her feedback just wasn't resonating with me.

So it wasn't going to be this book that I signed with an agent for. I knew it in my heart. I emailed one of my CPs and told her that maybe it would be the next book. Or the one after that. 

After all, it hadn't been my previous book, which I had queried two years earlier. That one garnered forty-seven rejections, including six partial rejections, and then died. And now IF YOU CAN'T FLY was going to die a sad death, too. I knew it to be true.

Fast forward one week and one hour:

It turns out I don't have the ability to see the future because one week, one hour, and one telephone call later, I had an offer of representation for IF YOU CAN'T FLY from Lauren Abramo of DGLM! Happy dance.

Lauren was wonderful on the phone, but of course I did the polite thing and emailed the other agents who had my query or MS and gave them a week to respond. (I emailed all agents who had my query because, dudes, I got to send emails with the subject heading "Offer of Representation"; I was sending as many of those as I could!) 

I told the other agents I'd promised to let Lauren know by Thursday. By Monday, I couldn't take the waiting. "Can't I just accept her offer?" I whined to my crit group (also known as my Anna-craziness-support-group). "Who cares about those other agents?"

Their answer was unanimous and exactly what I knew they'd say. "No. You have to wait until the deadline." They did, however, suggest that I request a copy of DGLM's agency agreement to look over in the meantime. 

Which was a great idea because not only did I get to look over the agreement, but I exchanged some emails back and forth with Lauren and became even more impressed with her and how brilliant and helpful she seemed. By Wednesday, most agents had kindly stepped aside, and I had my email to Lauren accepting her offer all typed up and saved in my drafts folder, ready to send the very next morning.

And then I got an email from another agent. She loved my query and pages and was willing to read the manuscript that night and potentially set up a call for the next day in order to meet the Thursday deadline. BUT, she was only willing to rush to do so if there was actually a decent chance I'd sign with her.

I sat and stared at my computer for a full hour. Not a partial hour. A full one.

And then I emailed her back. No, there was not a decent chance I'd sign with her. She seemed lovely and under other circumstances I would've been thrilled to sign with her, but my heart was set on Lauren. 

And having decided that, I rebelliously sent Lauren my "I accept" email late Wednesday night instead of waiting until Thursday morning. And did another happy dance.

Fast forward another three and a half months to when Lauren called with HarperTeen's offer.

But that's a happy dance story for another time.


Anna Priemaza is a contemporary young adult author and a practicing family and immigration lawyer in Edmonton, Alberta, where she lives with her husband. She can never quite remember how old she is, as she knits like an old lady, practices law like an adult, fangirls over YouTubers like a teen, and dreams like a child. 

Her debut, IF YOU CAN'T FLY, about two teens who meet working on a science fair project and form the first real friendship either has ever had by bonding over panic attacks, ADHD, and their mutual obsession with a YouTube star who does walkthroughs of their favorite video game, is forthcoming from HarperTeen in Fall 2017.

Friday, March 18, 2016


Sorry, this isn't a pep talk. It's about writing. We all have different types of motivation and we all need it. It's what moves us and makes us act--or not act. And like conflict (see my post on types of conflict here), it's universal to all genres of writing. Humans need motivation and so should characters.

Every single character in your books, from the main character to the love interest to the janitor who is only in one scene, should have a reason behind the choices they make. Bad guys and bullies don't behave in an obstructive manner simply because they are "evil." They too have a motivation and a justification behind their actions, though it may be a twisted one.

And most characters don't act under a single driving factor. Katniss for example wanted to protect her sister, give them a better life while also wanting to escape it, desired to spend time with Gale, kept a wary eye on her mother, had a thing against the elites like Peeta, and probably deep down had a desire for revolution, all wrapped in a drive to survive and the wish to hold it all together for her dad. 

The choices we make aren't determined by one desire. We're a roiling mass of conflicting emotions and worries and drives. The best characters reflect that. They have more than one factor pushing at them. More than one thought in their head.

Take this post for instance. I wanted to share a little of my experience with others who may be just beginning, but I also wanted to clarify my own ideas of motivation to myself. I needed to fill spots in my blog or it would sit empty, and it would be a nice bonus if it brought attention to me and sold some books--because people gotta make a living. I also needed a break from working on my WIP. Multiple motivations. And there are probably deeper ones buried having to do with ego.

So if your character has just one dream, say to get into an Ivy league college, they are probably going to feel a little flat to the reader. There should be a whole messy swirl of desires in their head and heart, probably conflicting at some point.

Ramiro from Grudging started out wanting very much to be like his brother and take his place in the military. Personal honor is a big part of his personality. Being reliable and dependable. Proving himself to his brother and not being an embarrassment. Thinking and not simply reacting during battle. Then there's his desire to keep his horse safe and survive the day. And deep down a desire to be his own man and not like everyone else. And of course those are his motivations for just the first chapter. 

Like life, your desires change as your situation changes. Motivations aren't going to stay consistent over the life of a story. They'll evolve as a character evolves.   

Recently I started reading a story rather like Cinderella, only this story failed to provide any motivation. In Cinderella, the stepsisters and stepmother had reasons behind their treatment of Cinderella--fear and jealousy. Fear she could take everything away from them. Fear the dad would like her better. Jealousy that she'd get what they deserved. 

This story had a parent and siblings picking on the youngest member of the family. The older siblings got all the good treatment, were trained for society. The young main character had to sleep in the dirt, got teased and bullied. But immediately I'm thrown out of the story because they had absolutely no reason to act this way. All the rest of the family got along fine, why arbitrarily pick on the youngest? The MC wasn't deformed or simple minded or different in any way. There was simply no motivation for their crusade against him and it ruined the story for me. Maybe a motivation will appear down the road--maybe the MC isn't really related to them--but it's probably too late. I'm likely to quit reading before that happens.

So what should you do when you can't reveal the motivation of a character? Besides dropping a few hints, the author of that story could have had the MC be just as confused at their treatment as the reader. If the MC dwelt on the randomness of it, I would probably have let it go--accepted that and moved on--instead of letting it spoil the opening chapters.

As you are writing and editing keep in mind that characters need reasons for what they do and how they react. A character without a motivation is a  hollow shell.

If anyone finds this, I'll give you a copy of Grudging. Just let me know. 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Great Short Story Opportunity

Hey all, I've got a great opportunity for you here if you have a few short stories lying around. Matt Sinclair runs a small press called Elephants Bookshelf that is looking for short stories for their latest anthology. This is a helpful way to get some publishing credits under your belt for those query letters and let you work with an editor. I had two stories in their anthologies and there are a couple of big named authors there too. Take it away Matt:

First I want to thank Michelle for inviting me to write a post for her blog. In all honesty, it’s one of the few blogs I still check regularly, even as others fade in my thoughts. From her contests and interviews to general posts about things of interest to writers, her blog always has something I’m interested in reading.

That’s refreshing, as my interests have changed as I’ve become more involved in the publishing side of the industry and, unfortunately, found less time for my own fiction writing. Although sometimes my knees buckle at the curveballs that life throws my way, I’ve come to realize that change is good. It keeps my brain invigorated and my perspective open to new possibilities. And that keeps my mind creative, which helps my writing. I think it’s something more writers like us can – and should – do.

Since I’m not exactly a household name in too many households, let me share a tiny bit about me and Elephant’s Bookshelf Press, the publishing company I started more than four years ago. It may be hard to believe, but back in 2011 and 2012, the epublishing revolution was very much in its infancy. It was exciting to think about reaching a vast sea of readers and sharing the work of lots of writers they probably didn’t know. Our goals with EBP included helping talented authors gain some experience with the publishing process – and credits – while they continued to seek representation or developing and expanding their audience.

We started with an anthology, Spring Fevers (take a look as a sample of our work via Smashwords or Amazon), and that anthology led to the next, The Fall (Smashwords or Amazon). Soon, we were mapping out the “seasons series,” (which included a couple stories from Michelle) of anthologies with a variety of themes.

Ten books later, we’ve launched our latest request for submissions. This time, it’s a collection of Urban Fantasy stories. While I have long enjoyed urban fantasy as a reader, I’ve not written it too much. But again, that’s one of the joys of this brave new world of publishing: we don’t have to pigeon-hole our writing completely into one genre. Even if an author writes YA, there’s no reason she can’t experiment with horror or science fiction. Heck, although literary fiction is a very difficult genre to break into for unknown authors, there’s still a large readership for a well told story.

In our most recent anthology, Horrors: Real, Imagined, and Deadly (Smashwords or Amazon), one of the writers, who had submitted stories to us in the past that were not published, told me she’d never written in the horror genre before. Her story was delightfully chilling. Voila! Her first EBP story.

When is the last time you experimented? It’s possible you do it often. Perhaps your work typically includes a character unlike you’ve ever written before. Or maybe your settings or story structure vary from piece to piece. Great! Perhaps you experiment with length from piece to piece. I love both short stories and novels and work in both forms. I’m working on an urban fantasy piece right now that’s very different from stories I’ve written in the past. If you’re looking to experiment, we’d love to consider your story or stories for the Urban Fantasy anthology; the deadline to submit is July 11. Feel free to ask me any questions you have.

But whether you submit a story for EBP or not, I hope you continue to experiment with your writing. Even if you’re a devotee of a specific genre, it can only help liven up your writing!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Signed Copies

If you can't make it to C2E2 on Saturday, you can get signed copies on Goodreads.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Grudging by Michelle Hauck


by Michelle Hauck

Giveaway ends March 20, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Getting the Call An Agent Perspective with Caitlen Rubino Bradway

We have a first! A Getting the Call post from the point of view of an agent who is also a writer. So enjoy the post and give a look to her just released novel, SUPERNORMAL. I'll put the blurb at the end of this post. 

I still get nervous before a call with an author.  It’s because if we get to the call stage, I really, really like your book, and I’m seriously considering offering representation.  It’s also because when it comes to communicating with other humans, I’m much better on paper than I am with my mouth words.  I find it helps to have notes in front of me, to make sure I haven’t had too much coffee, and know what I’m looking for when I get on the call.  Because that call is less about the book than it is about the author. 

So what am I looking for?  Well, a couple things, so for ease and efficiency I will put them in a list format.  (But please note these are all equal levels of importance; I just like lists, they let me pretend I’m actually super-organized.)

#1: Is this author someone I can talk to?  I don’t expect us to be best friends right off the bat, but do we have an easy back-and-forth?  At the LKG Agency, when we’re considering representation, we’re looking at it as acquiring an author, not a single project.  Which means if this works out, there’s going to be a lot of communicating, and it will only help if we’re able to do that in a friendly and reasonable fashion.  And it’s even more important because of —

#2: Are we on the same page with the manuscript?  I am a very editorial agent.  I love working on stories with authors, talking about their characters, the plot, troubleshooting what works, what doesn’t, and how to make it better.  I want to know if we agree on revisions and the direction the story would go.  That I’m not seeing your middle grade as a stand alone when you had envisioned it as the first in a series.  It’s important that we have the same vision, because if we don’t, that’s a good sign that I’m not the right agent for this project.   

That’s not saying I expect the author to blindly agree with me on every single comment or edit I have.  I want to hear the author’s thoughts on the things I suggest — I think this scene doesn’t work for that reason, but they wrote that scene because they were trying to demonstrate something about the villain, perhaps if we went about it in this way instead of that.  Going back to #1, I’m looking for that back-and-forth.  I tend to get nervous on the phone when authors respond monosyllabically to my comments — does that mean they agree?  They don’t agree?  Do they hate everything I’m suggesting or are they interested in moving forward with a revision?  So, please, let me know your thoughts.  Do you think my suggestions will work?  If you don’t agree with the changes I suggest, then why not?  What are you trying to accomplish with this story, series, character?

#3: The author is approaching this professionally.  I’m sure you’ve heard by now that writing the book is the easy (and fun) part.  Publishing it is a whole different story.  I want to know that the author is ready and willing to tackle all of the work that is to come, and that they have realistic expectations of the process.  It’s one thing to say in your query letter that your book is going to be the next Harry Potter, but if I’m talking to an author and it’s clear they sincerely expect that level of success for their debut middle grade fantasy — and expect it immediately — I get concerned.  (Also, please, don’t compare your book to HP in the query.) 

One big way I know the author is tackling this professionally — they have questions for me.  I love it when authors have questions for me, because it shows me that they’re willing to sit down and do the work even before I offer representation.  So ask me questions: If we move forward, do I see it as taking on just a single book or taking on the author?  How is this process going to work?  (The author.)  Is there a written agreement?  (Yes.)  What kind of percentage does the LKG Agency take?  (Standard ‘first-born unless you can guess my full name’ setup.)  What happens if the book doesn’t sell? (Open a bottle of your adult beverage of choice, and then start working on the next project.)

#4: What do they have on the back burner? I always want to know what other ideas the author has cooking.  What they’re working on now, and what they plan on working on next.  I want to know how they see themselves as an author, especially because the LKG Agency only handles non-fiction, middle grade, and young adult fiction.  So if this middle grade novel is something fun and different they wanted to try, but they really see themselves as an adult sci-fi and fantasy author, then it’s not the right fit.

There are, of course, other things I need to know about you — do you think Galavant should be renewed for a third season? Where do you fall in the Batman vs Superman argument (Team Wonder Woman all the way, obviously) — but those are the main points.  At the end of the day, I’m trying to find out if we can work together.  And the phone call is the first step.


I joined the LKG Agency in 2008, thereby disproving the theory that no English major ever does anything with their degree.  Before that I worked at another literary agency, Don Congdon Associates, where I had the behind-the-scenes thrill of seeing Kathryn Stockett’s The Help first come in (and getting one of the first reads). And before that I was getting my Masters in English and Publishing from Rosemont College. I have enjoyed my apprenticeship under Lauren very much, and I am now actively looking to build my own list, which includes (after a surprisingly minimal amount of begging and pleading on my part), securing Lauren’s agreement to open the agency to considering middle grade and young adult fiction.
In my spare time, I am an author in my own right (or is that write?).  My first book, Lady Vernon and Her Daughter, which I co-wrote with my mother, was released by Crown in 2009.  We also contributed to Jane Austen Made Me Do It, published by Ballantine in 2011.  My first middle grade novel, Ordinary Magic, was published by Bloomsbury Children’s in 2012.

Camron Scott can see the future. 

It's not as cool as you'd think. He can't see anything he's directly involved in, meaning no placing bets on sports events or stocks, or finding his true love. And it's fun trying to explain his power to to the cops whenever he tries to stop a disaster in it's tracks. The most recent complication landed him on a plane to sunny California, but at least this move best him way from his restrictive family and grants him the hope of finding a new home and a new life. 

What he doesn’t expect to find is a town seeded with people like himself, people with a special extra something. People like Ashley Garrett. 

Ashley is a super freak — charged with speed, strength, and crazy sensory perception. But she wasn't born with these talents. She’s just trying to learn how to live with them, and she’s spent the last year walking a tightrope between maintaining control and losing everything. When Cam has a vision of Ashley attacking some poor dumb kid, he does what he always does — steps in, saves the day, changes the future. And an unlikely partnership is born. He promises to use his ability to watch out for her and make sure she doesn’t lose control, a promise that Ashley is desperate enough to accept. The connection that develops surprises them both. 

But the super-powered road never did run smooth. When a series of kidnappings rocks the town, Ashley and Cam must figure out who is behind it all, and how to stop it. As you do when you're super powered — but really all Cam and Ashley want is to find a way to be is Supernormal.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Query Kombat '16 News

As has been the trend with Query Kombat, a new year brings new changes. And this year is no different. As many of you know, last year ended a little rough for our QK family. Michelle and I voted SC out of the group, causing some in the writing community to question our judgement.

Truth is, SC found a greater passion in his Write Inclusively campaign. It's a cause he vehemently believes in, and a change many (including myself and Michelle) would like to see come to fruition. Unfortunately, we couldn't see eye to eye on every detail, and that triggered our desire to keep Query Kombat and Write Inclusively (as entities, not ideologies) separate. When we couldn't come to an agreement on the degree of separation, Michelle and I were faced with a decision. And we made one.

SC was an asset to Query Kombat. Hell, without him, I may not have had the courage to see my idea through. Regardless of his day to day involvement from here forward, SC helped mold the Query Kombat tournament, as well as the dynamic of our group behind the scenes. He will forever be a part of the legacy of Query Kombat, and I hope one day we can work with him again.

As I said, though, a new year brings new changes! And exciting ones at that. Today, we're officially welcoming a new member into the QK Crew. Many of you may remember her from QK2014 as an agent round veteran. Now, she'll be behind the scenes helping to make others dreams come true.

So, without further ado, I'd like to welcome Laura Heffernan!

Laura Heffernan is a California-born women's fiction writer, represented by Michelle Richter at Fuse Literary. One Saturday morning when she was four or five, Laura sat down at the family's Commodore 64 and typed out her first short story. She's written ever since. Laura also works as a freelance editor. She's pro-Oxford comma, anti-unnecessary-to be-verbs, and believes cookie dough is a key food group.

When she used to have spare time, Laura enjoyed travel, baking, board games, and new experiences. She lives in the northeast, freezing like the true California girl she is, with her amazing husband and two furry little beasts. Although her growing fuzzy sock collection is becoming impressive, Laura eagerly awaits the return of flip-flop season.

Feel free to tweet your congrats using the #QueryKombat hashtag! And stop by Laura's blog to see the winners of the crossword puzzle host game. 

Friday, March 11, 2016

Speakers Badge

I'll be picking up my first speakers badge on Saturday, March 19th at C2E2. That's in Chicago in case you are as ignorant about cons as I am. I'm on a panel that seems right up my alley called Fight the Power at 12:30 Central time. Here's the description:

Frodo and the Fellowship fought Sauron and his evil horde; a rag-tag group of rebels take down the Empire in a galaxy far, far away. Sci-fi/ Fantasy is full of stories about revolution, a few taking on many, an unlikely hero surmounting incredible odds to achieve victory. A panel of SFF authors will discuss their favorite stories of SFF revolution, and what they like so much about writing books where their characters take on the man and fight the power, no matter what the odds of success are!

Pretty good panel for a girl who wrote a book about a city under siege from a crazy huge army and who loves to read epic fantasy. I think Grudging fits right into that topic. There will be a book signing afterwards and I hope to see some friendly faces!

So help me out. This is my first con. WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? What should I make sure to do or see? What should I take for the book signing?  Leave me informative comments about your experience at cons. I'm a trifle nervous about it all.

And also if you're a fan of SFF, how would you answer this topic? What are your favorite books where the characters fight the power? Why do bigger odds and larger consequences make the story more exciting for you?