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

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

TAHOE Writer's Retreat 2013 & Mentor Program

Wow. That's really all I can say about this past weekend Tahoe retreat and Mentor Program run by Ellen Hopkins and her amazing crew of mentors.

The Mentors:
Ellen Hopkins
Tera Lynn Childs
Terri Farley
Susan Hart Lindquist
Elizabeth Law
E.B. Lewis
Jenny MacKay
Heather Petty
Suzanne Williams
Jim Averbeck
David Diaz

The Agent:
Sarah Davies - The Greenhouse Literary Agency

I went to this retreat because I wanted to talk with the mentees about their mentors and see if it might be something I'd be interested in in the future. And I can tell you right now -- I AM! In fact, I wish I would have tried to get into this program this year.

It's the best of writer and illustrator, mentor and mentee camaraderie. I hated to leave them as they went on to stay another night, while the non-mentees had to say goodbye. 

But it was one of the best writer's retreats I've ever gone to. The small critique groups were comprised of 3 - 6 writers and one mentor. 

Everyone's work was above par. I enjoyed all the critique and believe that it has made my manuscript 1000 times stronger.

I also got to meet one on one with Sarah Davies. I not only loved her ideas for my first chapter, I loved her British accent! 

I have to give a shout out to the staff at the lodge and the food. The staff comprised of the most polite group of college students and young adults I have ever come in contact with. They always said hello with a smile and went out of their way to make us all feel welcome. And the food was amazing. There were plenty of choices for even the most picky of eaters….me. My belly was happy!

A big thank you to Ellen and her awesome group! I hope to be chosen for the mentor program of 2014. 

Good luck to all those in this years program. I am looking forward to reading your books and seeing your illustrations. 

You all rock!


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Intern Advice: How to get that Agent to read your query!

By the way. This latest blog is brought to you by Grammarly. "I use Grammarly's plagiarism checker because you can pull one over on me, but you can't pull one over on Grammarly!"

I'm back with some more friendly neighborhood intern advice. How you can get an agent to notice your work?

Agencies get slammed with hundreds of query letters per week, sometimes per day. Hundreds. That number goes down around November and December - but their workload goes up because they are working on contracts for their clients - book deals - movie deals - etc... 

Agents try to read all queries but when you add up the numbers they just can't get to all of them. You could be waiting months to hear back. Or you might not hear back at all.

So, what's a writer to do? 

How can you get the attention you deserve?

How do you get read? 

My advice is this:

  • Go directly to  Query Shark  right now and research queries. 
     On the left side of the blog far down on the left side, there is a list of queries that got a YES. Look at those. Find one that matches your book idea the best and play with it. 

Just like artists copy great artworks first before they come up with their own amazing pieces. Writers copy great writing styles before they write amazing queries and books.

  • That first sentence better make me want to read more.

First sentences are a big deal. Not just big. Huge. Gargantuan. Mammoth!

Go directly to a book story and snag the top books in your genre. Have a notepad with you and copy all of their first sentences down. 

Now play with those. Can you tweak them to make them your own? Do they inspire you in some way? Why do you think they are the first sentence in that book? Do they make you want to read more? 

  • Idea. Concept. This better be new. Or old with a new twist. 

I love vampires. So if you are sending a vampire query it's up my ally, but it better be different. Really, extremely different because the world is slammed with vampire stories right now. 

Research what the agent's niche is. What can't they stop reading? You can figure this out by what they've been representing. If you see an agent publishing fantasy books on vampires - well then you know her niche. 

  • Writing. The writing must have that certain something. And this really means unique VOICE.
I know it when I read it. I can hear the character and I immediately love her, hate her, or need to know more about her. 

If your story starts off with action, there must be a strong voice there or it's just action. And who cares? If someone is in a car chase on that first page, it's just a car chase until the character speaks. 

There better be something new about the character that I haven't seen before. I better love her, hate her, or need to know more about her. 

In other words. How do you view the world? Tell me.

  • Experience. If you have some, put it in the query letter. If you don't have any, get some! 
Join SCBWI. Or any other writer's organization. This makes you look like you are a serious writer. 

Join a critique group. Get an article published. Start a blog. Intern for an agency. Go to writer's conferences or workshops. Volunteer at your kid's library. Work on author's months at your school. Do something in the industry you are trying to break into. (And know that this world is very small. Everyone knows everyone. Be kind. Be respectful. Be helpful.)

Now for why I keep reading:

  • I feel an emotional connection right away to the main character.
  • The first sentence is amazing and I have to know what's going to happen next.
  • The idea is fresh.
  • It's weird. Like Aliens meet Smurfs.
  • The writer has experience in the industry.
  • The query letter is very professional.
  • There are no typos.
  • The writer knows his/her craft and it shows.
  • It makes me think and question my beliefs.
  • Action mixed with strong voice.
  • The pacing is perfect. We're off and running.
  • There are other agent offers already.
  • A publisher has offered on it.
  • The premise is high concept - it could be a movie.
  • It's fresh fantasy with an awesome new world.
  • Anything vampire. I love them! What can I say?
  • Aliens intrigue me too.

I hope this helps you get that query in front of your ideal agent! Good luck. And as always...

Saturday, October 12, 2013


Nevada SCBWI Presents

Fallen Leaf
A Retreat for Children’s Writers & Illustrators

This will be my first time at the Fallen Leaf writer's retreat. But I have attended Nevada's SCBWI writer's conferences before and I know this will rock.

Ellen Hopkins, the SCBWI representative for this amazing region, is one of the best children's books writers and leaders I've had the pleasure to meet. She's inspiring and keeps things moving forward.

Don't miss out this year. There are a few more slots open and a few more days to register. Get a move on!

Go to the website below to register. 
And good luck!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Interview with Wendy WL Sexton: Author

I came across Wendy's Raven's Crest on Facebook. I reached out for an interview and was so happy she said yes. 

Wendy hasn't been writing long, but her books have gotten noticed. She has a no-excuses, just write what you love attitude and it's working.

Below are the questions I asked her:

Explain Raven’s Quest in 5 words:  

Strong, smart, sexy, loving, and suggestive

Why Romance novels?  

I wasn’t going to write a romance novel at first. I was told to write my story. I started out putting my story down, and somehow it changed directions. So by fate I think.

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

I’m a morning girl I love to watch the sun come up in the Arizona sky 5am, and coffee is my breakfast.

Where do your ideas come from? Are your characters people you know? From the news? People you used to know?  

That is a very good question.  Ideas come from driving. I will just be driving, and some idea will pop in there, then I must tell the story. Characters, all the names are people I know my friends, family, ex-boyfriends, crushes, and dream loves.

Do you use an outline for your stories? How do you start a new story? 

No I’m a pants-er. 

I fly by the seat of my pants. I will have a scene in my head, and then I will build a story around that scene. Then it doesn’t stop, I keep going and going.

What authors groups or organizations do you belong and why?

RWA, because it is gives you a place to meet local and get involved. The Naughty Mafia, a group of writers, fans, bloggers, that love to read and have a blast.

Who is your biggest cheerleader? 

I would have to say My Family, & Friends it is not just one person, it is everyone that has touched my life in some way.

What the hardest part of writing for you? The easiest? 

Getting stuck on a scene, that I want to move on and I just stop. So I get up and drive around for to Starbucks, shopping, anything to get ideas. 

The easiest is when I’m inspired by someone or something and I just can’t stop.

Where do you promote your books? What seems to be working the best? 

On the side of my race car that is competing on the NHRA circuit. On the side of my cars that that we drive around, Facebook, blogs, twitter, book signings. Online book magazines.

Favorite place to get a cup of Joe or tea in your hometown? 


When did you start writing and why?  

October 2012, at the Las Vegas motor speedway while my husband was racing. I was told to tell my story so I started telling a story not mine but one of many.

Give 3 points of helpful hints to a newbie writer: 

1) DO your research

2) Sometimes you will feel like you want to quit. DON’T. 

3) Tell the story the way you want to.

How many tattoos do you have? Favorite one? 

As of today I have 7. 
My dominatrix fairy is my favorite.

Do you get to choose your covers? How does cover art work?

Yes I have a cover artist. I will tell her what I like I will give her the story of the main idea.

What one word best describes you? 


How can my blog readers help you to become even a bigger success? 

Read my books write a review tell anyone and everyone.

What is your blog about? 

Mainly about my books, and authors that I love.

Who in your past helped you to become the writer you are today?

I would say my life. I have lived a crazy fun life I have done things that I’m not proud of, and things I wound never change if I was offered a do over.

What’s the funniest thing someone has asked you about your books? 

Are you Raven?

What are you working on now? 

WOW so many, I have Syclad’s Quest coming out Oct 15, 2013.. The last book in the Quest Series Luna’s Quest December 2013, I have about seven more books coming out in 2014

      Any big news? 

I'm in talks with a couple of publishing companies to put out my next series. Crossing fingers and toes!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Interview with Mary Papenfuss: Author of Killer Dads

Killer Dads: The Twisted Drives That Compel Fathers to Murder Their Own Children

I have always been curious about crime. I watch Law & Order, trying to figure out who done it and why. 

I reached out to Mary when I saw her book, Killer Dads. Of all the horrific murders in the world, Dads killing their families completely confuses me, and intrigues me at a beastly level. 

If you are a writer in the non-fiction realm, you will appreciate Mary's answers to the questions I asked her. This sensitive topic is one that writers much approach their leads with sympathy and openness. Mary explains how she does just that and much more to get to the real story beneath the crime.

 How has being a journalist helped your book writing?

   I couldn't have written my book without my experience as a journalist.  My work was my inspiration. I was captivated by the problem of domestic violence years ago as an editor at the New York Post and New York Daily News when I realized the tremendous volume of violence in the American home on any day -- yet we are largely ignorant of it, blind to it, or simply care too little about it.

   Much later, when I covered the California murder trial of Scott Peterson (who killed his pregnant wife, Laci, at Christmastime in 2004) for the Daily News, I was transfixed by the mystery of why men kill their children.  What had triggered Peterson to destroy the only child he'd ever have? I decided to research the phenomenon.

Beyond that, because of my work as a journalist researching and writing stories, I knew exactly the questions I had to answer, knew how do the necessary research and deliver on deadline. This book was particularly challenging because I had to convince total strangers to confide in me about the most difficult, tragic moments of their lives. But I've learned as a journalist that if you believe in what you're doing and you approach people with compassion and sensitivity, sharing their pain can be an incredibly moving experience. Something about that human connection reduces the power of the pain for me and, I hope, for them.

  How is it that you got involved with the William Parente family?

   I'm a news junkie and avidly follow all the stories I can, from crime to politics to international conflict and everything in between. When I began the book I thought back on the various crimes that had particularly interested me in order to plan my chapters. Beyond the issue of killer dads, I was especially fascinated by “family annihilators" -- men who kill their families before committing suicide. Many of these men have absolutely no history of abuse and there’s no indication they're about to destroy their families, making them a particular puzzle within the puzzle of killer dads. I decided to look at two types of annihilators --- dads driven by rage, and a father apparently motivated by love and a sense that he was "saving" his family by killing them.

    I chose the William Parente case primarily because of his murder of his 19-year-old daughter, Stephanie. By all appearances, Parente was a hard-working, upstanding member of his Long Island community in Garden City. But it turned out he was running a Ponzi scheme out of his Manhattan law office and it was about to implode, which drove him to murder his family. He had just written hundreds of thousands of dollars of bad checks in spring 2009, then collected his wife, Betty, and younger daughter Catherine, 11, and drove down to Maryland, where Stephanie was a sophomore at Loyola University in Baltimore. He killed them all in a hotel room before committing suicide.

Every murder is tragic, but Stephanie's particularly affected me. Here was a young woman at the beginning of her adult life. She had a circle of friends, had chosen a career, and was nearly beyond the "orbit" of her family, yet her father reached out and dragged her to the grave with him. So I contacted friends and family and wrote my story about the Parente family annihilation.

 What intrigues you about crime?

   I was so sick of crime after working for years in New York, particularly after I had my son and daughter. It's one thing to read (or write) about a baby being killed, it's another when you hold your own baby in your arms and realize how utterly defenseless children are. 

   When I had some distance from writing or editing crime stories, I realized that crime has something profound to tell us about ourselves and our culture -- and that looking away from violence does nothing to end it. 

I've read true crime stories all my life. I think I read them because I'm ravenous for clues about what drives murders because murder is something I absolutely cannot imagine doing myself. 

Extreme behavior defines the "outer limits" of what it means to be human, and I want to understand those extremes. So I decided to examine a type of crime particularly mysterious, and to twin various cases with theories and profiles of experts as driven to understand domestic murder as I am.

 After interviewing the Killer Dad named J – is it tough to look at anyone the same again?

   Bizarrely, James, who slashed to death his 5-year-old stepdaughter during a vacation in Washington state, seems like a "nice guy," if you can use that phrase for someone who killed a young child. I think he lost control, and killed his stepdaughter in a white-hot rage during a vicious argument with his wife that not even he quite understands. He says he's completely sorry for what he did, has no excuses for it, and wishes he could trade his life for his stepdaughter's. I actually worry about him.

Researching the book, however, did make me look at family situations very differently. I now find myself often wondering if troubled dads I encounter are capable of family annihilation. I was struck recently when friends told me the father of their future daughter-in-law became insanely jealous because she was paying too much attention to them during dinner. He walked out, furious, and sat in his car. That’s the kind of guy who might murder his family.
I also now too clearly see more of our ape-like drives, uncovered by anthropologists, in everything from rock song lyrics, to Anna Karenina to Shakespeare's plays. That takes some of the romance out of literature and art for me.

 What is the best and worst thing you’ve found out about our prison system while researching for your books?

   Is there a best? Perhaps the best is keeping people from killing again. 

Oddly, I think of James often, and how the prison system is doing nothing for him. Many people would say the system shouldn't do anything other than to keep him locked up.  

I'm convinced he wants to make some kind of amends for killing his stepdaughter, though he knows nothing could ever make up for even a fraction of his horrific crime. Yet he would like to try, and there's absolutely no opportunity for him to do anything. He usually just sits in his cell. 

I think he should be given an opportunity to seek some modicum of redemption, even if he'll never find it. I also think it's such a waste not to put those empty hours to some kind of use.

  Why do you think these dads snap?

   Dads snap for a number of reasons: jealousy, rage, humiliation, a desperate sense of impotence. Some men are driven by anger, whiles others are so depressed they suck their entire family into a vortex of annihilation. 

   One researcher I cover at length in Killer Dads believes there's something specific about American life that makes it a particularly fertile ground for family annihilators. 

   Neil Websdale, a professor at Northern State Arizona who has studied 200 cases of familicides in the US, believes American culture demands far too much of men, and a national ethos of rugged individualism fails to deliver help regardless of struggles facing families. 

   Men are expected to be competitive, aggressive and successful in the workplace, as well as a nurturing, attentive father and romantic helpmate to spouses. It’s a bar set so high, Websdale believes, that many men are destined to suffer in failure and humiliation that can turn murderous.

Why should readers choose this book?

You should choose this book if you're interested in crime in a violent America, particularly the most baffling crime committed by a parent against a child. It's also for readers intrigued by possible motivations driving violence in our most elemental, profound human relationships.

  Who are you reading right now?

  Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin and Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld.  I love historical nonfiction, but I like to have a good novel going at the same time. 

 Any advice for newbie writers?

   Be passionate about what you write about. That passion will get you through the tough spots.

     What one word best describes you?