contests, on the grind

That pub’ life: Publishers Marketplace #AuthorToolboxBlogHop #blog #Wednesday #amwriting

Querying writers, listen up! You’ve probably got a handful of go-to online resources that allow you to obsess, internet-stalk, and hyper-analyze literary agents’ actions that might reveal your odds of getting signed.



Well, have you checked out Publishers Marketplace? This month’s Author Toolbox Blog Hop post (brainchild of my critique partner and marketing extraordinaire Raimey Gallant) is devoted to my favorite publishing resource, and with also a tiny, teeny, squinch of self-serving.


Last month I mentioned that I achieved one of my crazy-head-spinning, life goals of getting a literary agent! But, not just any agent. A total dreamboat, in-my-wildest-dreams agent, Jill Marr of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency! *cue squees*

Then, thanks to her ninja agent skillzzz, three months later I had a 2-book publishing deal with Thomas & Mercer!! ‘Surreal’ doesn’t begin to describe my summer or my feelings of epic joy.


I would not have known that Jill was my dream-agent or that Thomas & Mercer was my dream publisher, had I not been clued in to Publishers Marketplace. This platform contains publishing data across the entire industry: agent, publisher, publishing advance, projected publishing date, editor, history of deals and ergo likelihood of future deals. All the way around, Publishers Marketplace allowed me to best strategize what agents I would query, and which publishers I would follow.

As a major proponent of Twitter pitch contests, I believe a querying writer MUST know the agents to whom she is querying. There are so many vanity publishers out there, trying to make a buck (or several hundred) off of beginning-writers who might not be aware of the pitfalls. Publishers Marketplace allows us to figure out who is selling, who is working hard to sell, and who hasn’t sold books in years, to whom we can then entrust our manuscripts.

In a nutshell, Publishers Marketplace comes at a cost ($25 per month) but it’s worth it. If you’re not ready to query, you can afford to hold off. Or, you can be like me, and check it for years before you actually get a pub deal, for inspiration and motivation, to reassure yourself that one day you too will be listed in your own little PM blurb.



“Debut author Elle Marr’s THE PARIS TWIN, in which a woman receives a call that her identical twin has been murdered and travels to Paris to collect her belongings, but there she finds a note: “Alive. Trust no one.”, to Megha Parekh at Thomas & Mercer, at auction, in a two-book deal, by Jill Marr at Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency (world).”

For more educational and motivational blog posts check out the Author Toolbox Blog Hop lineup, here.

Are you looped in to Publishers Marketplace? What do you consult for big-dreams-writing motivation?

on the grind

Fine-tuning and Formatting #AuthorToolboxBlogHop #blog #WednesdayWisdom #writerscommunity #amwriting

This summer I signed with my incredible literary agent Jill Marr of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency!


Besides jumping for joy, the weeks that followed involved some good-old-fashioned edits to my manuscript. In the process I learned about some very basic citation/formatting styles that had escaped my notice until then. See how many you already know (and use?) below!

  • APA (American Psychological Association) is used by Education, Psychology, and Sciences
  • MLA (Modern Language Association) style is used by the Humanities
  • Chicago/Turabian style is generally used by Business, History, and the Fine Arts

Since you’re most likely keen on writing, I’ll focus on the Chicago Manual of Style here. The rabbit hole is long on writing styles, so I leave you to peruse the full contents at your leisure – just sign up for a 30-day trial, as I did.

In this post, I’m most interested in everyone’s favorite — punctuation. Despite being a huge fan of punctuation (said no one, ever) I still get stuck on rando uses of semi-colons, colons, and how and when to use additional formatting. Check out the quick cheat sheet below, drawing on the CMoS as the authority.

Italics: All punctuation marks should appear in the same font—roman or italic—as the main or surrounding text, except for punctuation that belongs to a title in a different font (usually italics).

For example: She loved reading Alice in Wonderland

or: Did they know they should run and jump?

Semi-colons: These are often used between two independent clauses to signal a closer connection between them than a period would.

For example: She writes frequently as an aspiring author; every morning is spent with her laptop open and illuminated.

Colons: I think most people are familiar with colons and their usage, so I want to highlight something a little off the beaten path:

When used within a sentence, the first word following the colon is lowercased unless it is a proper noun. For example:

Nour purchased the following items at the supermarket in Nice: two apples, one bottle of wine, and a round of Camembert. 

However, when a colon introduces two or more sentences or when it introduces speech in dialogue or a quotation or question, the first word following it is capitalized. As in:

He started by swearing under his breath: “Son of a biscuit!” 


What forms of punctuation trip you up? What about grammar? Is it too odd to ask which form of punctuation is your favorite?


This post is a part of the Author Toolbox Blog Hop, graciously hosted by writer extraordinaire, and my critique partner, Raimey Gallant. Check out her blog and others offering great tips here. Happy reading!

on the grind

A Story’s Skeleton #AuthorToolboxBlogHop #blog #writeordie

Hello, all you creatives! What’s the difference between a day dream put to paper and a well-written story? Structure!


I know, I know, you’re creative! You don’t breath the same air as the rest of the world, you don’t abide by the square pegs people try to put you in — but hear me out. I’m all for writing without a goal, pantsing, or plotting it all out, if it leads you to the bang-out, best story of your life. But I guarantee employing story structure will take your plot to the next level, after the first draft.


Story structure is actually everywhere if you look for it – all your favorite movies, and even your seemingly ambling novels (Holden Caulfield does have goals, I swear). For great, and succinct, explanations on everything from the hook to the climax, I consult the great K.M. Weiland’s website, aptly named Helping Writers Become Authors. She has many available resources for free, as well as for purchase items  – each of which are worth the low-price.

There are plenty of writing gurus out there. Which do you consult? Who is your go-to?

Shout out to the incisive creative, author Raimey Gallant, for creating this Author Toolbox Blog Hop, and allowing us writers to converge on the inter-webs once a month. Check out her page and others back at the hub!

on the grind

Getting all the feels for my #ThursdayAesthetic #TheParisTwin #writenow

Taking a cue from a recent #AuthorToolboxBlogHop post (courtesy of the amazing Raimey Gallant) and trying out my first Thursday Aesthetic.

The Paris Twin is the story of Shayna Darby, a twenty-five-year-old woman whose twin sister is announced dead in Paris. Shayna goes to Paris to clean out Angela’s apartment, where she finds a note: Alive. Trust no one. 

Did the images below pique your interest? Feel free to comment in the space below, and any questions you might have as a result!

TA 726.jpg

on the grind

On the hunt for errors? #AuthorToolboxBlogHop #amediting #amwriting #blog

When I was in high school, I was the student that always had her hand up – not in an incessant way, but whenever there was a grammar question, I usually knew the answer. I LOVED grammar (writer alert!) because it made so much sense to me – like parentheticals around every phrase or predicate, illuminating the intention of the author. Nerdy, right?

Well, it was all fun and games until I started writing long-form creative fiction. Commas didn’t seem so natural to me anymore, and semi-colons seemed like alien hieroglyphics. Enter, Stage right: ProWritingAid. This free tool hunts down all the run-on sentences, repeat words, and grammar mistakes. LOVE THIS. If you’re like me, and approach editing with friends like a pre-query, it’s great to know you’re presenting your best work to beta readers.

Grammarly offers the same service for a price. There’s a low-frills version for free but otherwise it costs $29.95 per month, $59.95 per quarter or $139.95 per year for premium service. I know many writer friends who swear by this platform, but its explanations for why errors were made can be difficult to understand.

Finally, and one of my favorites for the name alone, the Hemingway App. Ernest Hemingway is one of the kings of short, powerful sentences, right? It’s only fitting that an app (and desktop version) be created to edit lengthy prose down to his style. Pricing ranges from free to $9.99 for the desktop version.

This is a very succinct (Hemingway-version?) list of editing tools, and the Internet is full of dozens more. A matrix of resources can also be found at the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop main page, and I encourage you to do a deep dive among the many writer blogs found there.

While the platforms I mention here are my personal faves, I’m always on the hunt for more. What writing tool do you use? What are its pros and cons? Comment in the space below and share your own writing hacks. Happy hunting!


on the grind

Community #amwriting #ontheporch #writercommunity #yougotthis

After five, almost six, years into writing, I think the single most important thing an aspiring author needs is – you guessed it – community. Through all the Twitter contests, slush pile submissions, QueryTracker questions, and QueryManager uploads, my writer friends have been my rocks. The people on whom I rely for beta reading and general emotional support as we each navigate this windy road to publication.

If you haven’t already, I’d highly recommend getting involved in the Twitter community – join conversations on hashtags like #ontheporch, #amwriting, #writercommunity, and other threads like #CPmatch for those on the hunt for critique partners. There are also great facebook writing groups, I guarantee, in your local area, or local critique groups that you can probably locate via your neighborhood bookstore (they still exist!).

Us writers tend to be lonely folk when we’re drafting pages, but we don’t have to be! Like anything, you get what you put into it. So get out there! Tweet something writer-related, or @ me and I’ll @ you back. Reach out when you’re not sure your book will ever be in print, or read by strangers, and we, your writing community, will send you a gif.

Write on, friends!


on the grind

Story Structure a.k.a. Your Alliterative Espresso #amediting #amwriting

When writing a story I love to open a bottle of wine, pour myself a glass, and let the words flow. It’s important for me to consider my laptop a “safe space”, where I can write anything I want, so long as I’m getting words on the page. Sometimes they make sense – brilliant paragraphs of prose! – while other times, I wake up the next day, and gut a page and a half.

That’s where story structure comes into play. Does the scene have a full arc? Does the chapter contain the right amount of conflict and resolution? How does this move the plot along overall, and in that specific part of the book? I used to think, intuitively, I got that. No problem! But every time a chapter, or part of the book didn’t feel right, I went back and consulted my story structure guru, K.M. Weiland. I seriously can’t shout from the mountaintops loud enough about how helpful her tutorials are, even when compared to other breakdowns available on the internet.

If you’re struggling with an aspect of your book, I’d suggest you start with her website. Then maybe buy one of her e-books on story structure. Or three.

Meanwhile, I’ll be pouring myself another cup of coffee because writing = wine time, while editing = early days and aromatic beans. Happy editing, friends!


on the grind

Flash fiction FTW: The Good News #amwriting #MondayMotivation

Good news! My flash fiction was again honored by Wow! Women on Writing in their Summer ’17 contest, and named among the Top Ten best stories.

It was aptly titled The Good News. (<Insert cheesing emoji>) You can read my interview here, and learn more about my thought process. One of the things I highlight is that it took me about two years to finesse. Off and on, editing, then setting it aside, then editing with coffee, then with wine, over about two years. I’m especially proud of this win because I didn’t quit. Throughout this period, I felt like there was some literary gold to be mined (okay, definitely flattering myself here, but you know what I mean), and kept going until I found some version I liked. I’m just glad literary agent Quressa Robinson and the Wow! slush team agreed!