Angie Azur is a YA Sci-fi Writer.
Writer for PALEO Magazine.
Former Intern at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
SCBWI & COWG Member.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Interview with Amber Lough: Author of THE FIRE WISH

 I met Amber at the Andrea Brown BIG SUR WRITER'S RETREAT. I loved her hair!! And, now I sport some pink in mine as well ---

--- thanks Amber! 

What else drew me to her was her fabulous personality. I was a newbie back then, and I talked her ear off, asking tons of questions about how to get an agent. She was very patient, helpful, and kind. I took her advice, and I'm closer than ever to landing that first contract. 

Amber has a novel coming out in fall of 2014 titled THE FIRE WISH, about two girls, both from different sides in a war between humans and jinni, and how the choices they make affect everyone around them. I'm secretly hoping for an advanced reader's copy...hint...hint Amber. :-)

Below are the questions I asked her:

  1.     Give us a clean, funny joke:

Not my forte, for sure. :-)

How do you cut the sea in half?

With a sea saw.

2.     Why do you write for teens?

I write for teens because the characters I most care about are in their teens. It's an intense age!

3.     What time do you get up and what do you eat for breakfast?

I wake up around 7, and I usually eat cereal, although I'd rather eat eggs and toast, and wake up at dawn without feeling sleepy at all.

4.     You belong to SCBWI. How has that organization helped your writing career?

  When I wrote my first novel, I submitted it to the WIP Grant contest. Later that year, I discovered I was the runner-up for the general WIP award (with Ruta Sepetys in first place). It meant more than anything to know that I wasn't delusional, you know? I could actually DO this writing thing!

5.     What was it like working with a publisher at Random House?

   It's wonderful. My editor really understands the story, the setting, and everything I want to do with the novel. She's also very quick to read and respond to my revisions. I can't wait until I get to see what they've come up with for the cover.

6.     Who is your agent? And, how has she helped you?

   My agent is Laura Rennert, from Andrea Brown Literary Agency. I really don't think I could have gotten a better agent. She's brilliant, supportive, knowledgeable, and thinks fast on her feet. What more could a writer want in an agent? 

7.     How many query letters did you send out before you landed a contract?

   I sent out seven, and agents #6 and #7 offered representation. I wanted my #7 first, but I didn't think I was good enough for her. But then, after a few rejections came in, I thought, why not? I'm going to query my dream agent. And she said yes!

8.     Why should young people read THE FIRE WISH?

  There are so many people (of all ages) who discover they are the only one like them in certain crowds. The only person of their religion, the only person of their color, the only person who sees things they way they do---and this story really brings that to light, I think, and shows readers how their differences can be their strengths. And really, all of us have somewhere we belong. We just may have to go looking for it...or break some rules.

9.     What are you working on now?

   Right now, I'm working on the sequel. It's proving itself just as challenging to write as everyone said it would be. And yet, I love having the chance to dive deeper.

10. Where is the best place to find a great cup of Joe or Tea in your town?

  My favorite place in Syracuse is just down the street from my office. It's half bike shop/half cafe, and it's called Mello Vello. They have the best vegan cookies around (and I'm not vegan) and really good tea. I am both a tea and coffee person. I am not a cold drinks person. I will order hot drinks in summer, if I can.

11. Is there anything on your writer's desk that is a must have, like a special pen? Or stuffed animal?

  I used to have a candle lit whenever I wrote, but a few weeks ago I nearly set my whole desk aflame and burned my earbuds. So now I just have a small collection of crystals to look at when I'm drafting a scene. (I have lots of crystal references in my books.)

12. Give 3 words of advice to newbie writers:

Write. Read. Play.

13. Who are you reading right now?

   I am reading a book by Christopher Healy called THE HERO'S GUIDE TO SAVING YOUR KINGDOM. It's pretty funny.

14. Is there something that you wish you would have known when you first started out?

  I was going to say yes, but if I changed some things, I might have ended up in a different place and I really like where I am right now. 

   It would have been nice to know I needed to be far more patient than I'd expected, however.

15. Do you write full time, or do you have a day job?

Writing is my day job, but I don't spend 8 hours actually writing prose. Much of it is spent reading, tweeting, brainstorming, and researching. And I really don't get 8 hours anyway.

  16. Who is your biggest cheerleader?

  My critique partner, Emma Kress. She is the kind of cheerleader that says, "Go Team! You messed up that last pass, but you knew better! Get back out there and play the way I know you can! You're the best!"

17. What do you think about critique groups? Good for the writer? Confusing for the writer?

  Great for the writer. I've been in three "groups" now, and all of them have become good friends of mine. 

  Right now, I'm in one group and have one solitary "partner". Having to show up to a meeting with pages keeps you on track, and I trust all of my critique group partners to tell me where I'm falling short. We all have each others' best interests in mind, and together, we can accomplish more and greater things. Alone, I'd be like a fish with one fin.

18. What one workshop or conference should NO writer miss?

   I've been to several SCBWI conferences, both in NY and LA, but I have to say the Big Sur writing retreat hosted by ABLA is the best. (And not just because that's my agency.) 

  It's just the right size. It's big enough for you to make new connections, but it's small enough for you to get personal attention from your breakout groups and leaders. 

  And for me, it was vital: I met my editor there, before she was my editor, and her interest in my book really boosted my confidence.

19. Do you use an outline when you start a new idea? Or do you just sit and write?

  I have a notebook that I dip into before I write a new scene. I write out, in pencil, what I think will happen in the scene. I write these pages out in third-person, but the actual story is written in first-person.

20. How can my blog readers help you be become an even bigger success?

  Become my friends! And when my book comes out, please read it and let me know what you think.

21. What one word best describes you?


22. Any big news?

Nope. But maybe check back in August?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Game of Thrones

I was lucky enough to get into the premier of The Game of Thrones last night....and WOW! I wish I could tell you what happens in two weeks, but you'll have to wait. He he. Evil, I know. 

I kind of feel bad, nope, not really...

What I can tell you is what I learned as a writer from George R. R. Martin. 

  • He worked 10 + years in Hollywood before he wrote The Game of Thrones
  • He wrote tons of books, and was told they were all too long, too expensive to produce, and had too many big battle scenes
  • He cut constantly to make his work fit into what others wanted
  • Finally, after 10 years of doing this, he quit and wrote the way he wanted to write
  • The Game of Thrones was born
  • Instead of having to cut anything, producers approached him on how they could turn it into a series on HBO
  • George is not an over night success
  • George labored over words for over 10 years
  • George does not like the way death is portrayed in TV shows - no one seems to care about the person who died - the audience doesn't really feel the pain
  • He wants to create the reality of a death - the heart break - the sadness - not gloss over it
  • He writes strong, real, heart-breaking characters - the other stuff comes after

And...the NUMBER ONE thing I learned from George:

  • He does not believe in labels such as Fantasy, Dystopian, Sci-fi...

George said, "The only difference between these labels is the furniture. It's the characters that matter."

Oh - and the coolest part of the evening was, he sat right behind me. I hope some of his writing success rubbed off!!!
Thanks George, for not giving up, for writing what you wanted to write, and for sharing your amazing creativity with all of us. The world is more fun with you and your stories in it.

And, to the right is John Snow and Caitlin. So cool. I know I'm geeking out right now, but this was an amazing event!!

Another tidbit - The King Slayer is huge!! He towered over everyone there. 

Write what YOU want to write!!


Saturday, March 16, 2013


Some of you may, and some of you may not, know that I have been interning at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. When I grow up, I want to be a children's book literary agent....and a fantastic, kick-ass writer. 

It's been almost three months now, and I am learning tons. But the number one thing I've got is what a query letter should or should not be. I'll also be learning about contracts soon, but that's not nearly as exciting.

In the mean time I've decided to launch my first contest. 

The rules are as follows:

1. Post your Query Letter in the comment section of this blog.

2. Only post ONE. 

3. If you'd like me to reply to you, leave your email address.

4. I will choose 5 top Queries and explain why I would request pages - right here on this blog.

5. I will also choose 5 Queries in need, and email you directly what you can do to improve them. 

6. And, who knows, I just might tell my boss there's a book she MUST read!

7. The contest ends 3/23/13

Good Luck and may the Best Queries Win!!


Tuesday, March 5, 2013


When an idea comes to me it's like a movie. It's like a movie I've already seen, and now I just have to write down the scenes. But, I never used to do this. I figured since I saw it already in my head, that when I sat down to write, it would come to me. WRONG! 

My first novel, REDWOOD BLOOD, was the one I made all my mistakes in, including not outlining. It took me about two years to write it because I kept forgetting where I was, what was happening, and where I was headed. But, I was against outlining. I thought it boxed me in.

After rewriting RB 12 times, now I understand why writers use outlines. And I know I can't get boxed in because I am the one who can change the outline whenever it pleases me.

When I decided to move on from RB and write a new novel, THE LINK, I used an outline. It came from the book 90 Days To Your Novel. The author, Sarah Domet, showcases a few great outlines and I chose one of them to use as my own.

I've just finished TL, and I wrote it in less than a year. Really worked on it for about 90 days. Thanks Sarah! And, it will be much easier to revise because I didn't write myself into dead ends or add plots part way through, because I used my outline.

I've set it aside, and will be revising it soon. But, in the mean time I've started a 3rd novel, FLESH and BONE (working title), and I am using an outline, but I've altered my previous one adding setting points from Scrivener (an awesome writer's tool), to be more useful for how I write now. I'll show it to you below.

But first, why should you outline your novel?
  • You'll see dead ends before you write a whole chapter
  • Consistency with character: clothing, setting, attitude
  • Plot Holes: you'll notice these before you begin
  • Not enough characters: this will show up too
  • Too many characters: it will look confusing to you and daunting to write
  • Lack of a good ending: will be right in your face before you write yourself there
  • Lack of a great middle: This is where a lot of writers'll see it and be able to change it
  • If you can't get through writing an outline, how will you get through writing a whole story?
  • It will save you time!
  • It will save you time!
  • It will save you time!
  • It will save you time!

Example of my Outline for Flesh & Bone:

        Scene 1: Dialogue / Action

Characters: Payton / Allegra / Rafe / James
Season: Fall / Senior year of school is starting for Payton

Setting: Huge House / Mansion / Payton’s home / her bedroom / kitchen
Purpose: To introduce the characters and show the struggle between Payton and parents and animalia

Unique Features: Expensive kitchen appliances : Wolfe / Sub-Zero : Cold feeling : everything marble / white and blue

Plot:      Payton is being harassed or bullied by her parents into getting more animalia for college. Father says she won’t get in without it. Mother is embarrassed by her lack of it. Says her friend’s daughters are all animaled. Why won’t she just do it? Mother threatens to kick her out when Payton asks her what she said back to her friends. Father does not stand up for her. Payton runs off to her bedroom, where a note comes under her door. At first she thinks it’s from her Mother, an apology since it’s on her paper, but it’s not. It’s from an anonymous sender wanting to tell her the truth about animalia, and wants to meet in her 7th stall garage spot. 

Sights: James (Jimmy) makes breakfast in the background
Father is constantly groomed by his prehensile tail
Mother plucks feathers from her head
The kitchen is straight lined, white marble with blue kitchen cabinets
Sounds: Cracking of quail eggs / Popping of bacon / toaster pops up
Vacuuming of the maids in other rooms
Smells: bacon / spices / coffee

At Stake? Payton’s relationship with parents
Payton’s relationship with her school friends
Payton’s relationship with her world


Scene 2: Action / Dialogue

Characters:  Payton / Jimmy

Setting: Payton’s Bedroom / 7 Car Garage in the empty stall
Purpose: To reveal the horrible treatment of the animals who are used for the parts humans now graph on themselves. To get Payton on the side of the movement. To show some interest in Jimmy as more than a friend

Unique Features: Payton’s bedroom is like the size of 3 regular bedrooms. She has a flat screen TV, and the newest electronics lying around. Her closet is huge too, filled with the most expensive shoes and clothes. And she has tons of jewelry. In the garage, Payton’s favorite car, her Grandfather’s is now missing. The stall is empty. Other expensive cars are around, but the lights aren’t working. The place is unusually hot too, like the temperature control has been turned off.

Plot:      Jimmy has a maid send a note under Payton’s door. He wrote it on her mother’s letterhead. He does not sign it, but he knows she will know it’s from him. Payton waits until her parents leave, and then she heads to the garage to meet Jimmy. Wondering what he’s gotten himself into now - she knows he’s joined the movement. He scares her jumping out from behind a car. He’s serious, more serious than he’s ever been about getting her to join. He tells her about the animals. He tries talking first, but then he shows her the rabbit. A small bunny, tied down and being injected with metal for a 13-year-old girl’s birthday animalia. Payton cries for Jimmy to stop it, she can’t bare the poor thing suffering. He puts it out of it’s misery with a hammer, right in front of her. She runs away. 

Sights: Expensive clothes, shoes, things in Payton’s room. Then amazing old cars. The metal cage of the rabbit. The hammer. The death. 
Sounds: Shuffling of maids, always around. The slamming of the front door as her parents leave. Maybe one of her Mom’s friends asks about the situation and her Mom makes a mean joke? The quiet of the garage, no air conditioning? The squeals of the rabbit. 
Smells: Lilacs, flowers always in her purple room. Cleaning products. Oil of the cars. Jimmy’s smell (gives Payton butterflies). 

At Stake? Payton’s friendship with Jimmy. Payton making a bad decision to join the movement and getting caught.


Scene 3: Action 

Characters: Payton / Allegra

Setting: Mother’s office / Mother’s Bedroom / Payton’s Bedroom
Purpose: To get Payton kicked out of her house. To bring mother vs. Daughter to a head. 

Unique Features:    Mother’s office is all wood, brought in from Africa. Payton has always loved it, the way the warm wood shows all it’s imperfections and that’s why it’s beautiful. Why can’t her parents see her as a beautiful imperfection? Mother’s bedroom is like a house in itself. Her closet is multiple rooms linked together with mirrors everywhere. 

Plot:      Payton runs away from Jimmy and the dead rabbit. She slips on glass in the hallway. It came from her Mother’s office. She goes to see what happened, figures one of the staff broke something. But the whole office is ransacked. Her mother’s animalia trophies lay smashed on the ground. Payton is freaked out, she grabs one, and runs to her mother’s room first. Calling her parent’s names. It’s also ransacked. Jewelry is missing, her box smashed. Clothes are torn and thrown about. Payton, still holding the broken trophy runs to her room next. It’s fine. Nothing broken, nothing missing. She hears her mother scream downstairs, and then the clacking of heels. Another scream, and Payton is running toward her, still holding the trophy. Allegra stops dead, and accuses Payton of doing this. How could she be so cruel after everything has always been given to her. She kicks her out. Payton throws the trophy. Allegra cradles it like a baby. Payton leaves. She’s going to Jimmy’s. She’s going to join the movement. She doesn’t need this anymore. 

Sights: Payton crying about the rabbit. Glass on the marble floor. Trashed office. Trashed bedroom. Jewelry. Ripped clothes. 
Sounds: None - no maids, no vacuuming. Mother’s screams. Heels on the marble. 
Smells: broken perfume bottles in mother’s room

At Stake? Trust between Payton and Mother. Trust between Jimmy and Payton. Who did this? 


There are many ways to outline your story.
All you need to do is Google Outline a Novel
and you'll get a ton of answers. Feel free to
use my outline. But, I suggest you tweak it to
fit how you write.