I am Ellie Cahill!

I hope you read the title of this post with the appropriate intonation.  Sure, I could have gone with the Kirk Douglas classic, but frankly this image works better for me.  Speaking of which, if you haven’t seen That Thing You Do, you’re missing out, and you should probably get on that if we’re going to be friends.

So if you’ve visited my site before, you might realize it looks a little different.  Thanks to Amazing Web Designer of Wonder, Tessa Elwood, at, my header now includes my NOT AT ALL SEEKRIT pen name, Ellie Cahill.

Ellie Cahill? you ask.  Yes, that’s right, I now contain multitudes!!  I bet you have questions.  Allow me to direct your attention to the FAQ below…

Q:  Who’s Ellie Cahill?
A:  Me!  Also, the author of PIECES OF ME, a New Adult book I wrote.

Q:  What’s New Adult?
A:  It’s a relatively new category fiction (notice I said category, not genre).  New Adult books feature characters who are between the ages of 18-25 who are going through the early stages of independence.  Stories tend to focus on college, or the years right after college when you’re getting your first grown-up job, and the stakes in relationships are higher than ever before.  Just like Young Adult is a category that encompasses all genres (sci-fi, paranormal, contemporary, historical, etc.), New Adult stories can be any genre.

Q: So, what’s PIECES OF ME?
A:  You can learn more about it on my NA books page.  It’s coming out February 24, 2015 from Ballantine.  Here’s the Publisher’s Marketplace announcement from back in February:

piees of me PM announce

Q:  Why a new name?
A:  There are a lot of reasons writers use pen names.  Sometimes it has to do with keeping young readers for stumbling onto books that aren’t appropriate for them.  Sometimes it’s to “fit in” better with the genre, because your publisher wants a different identity than the one other publishers use, or because your real name is impossible to spell or pronounce…ahem.

Q:  Hey, I loved ASK AGAIN LATER, will I like PIECES OF ME?
A:  If you like my YA books because they stop at the smoochy-smooching level, probably not.  But if you’re an over 18 type person who likes a little more smexy in your reading, then you probably will.

Q:  I’m a grown-up type person, can my teenager read your New Adult book?
A:  That is totally up to you and your teenager to decide!  When in doubt, I always suggest you read a book yourself before you make up your mind.

Q:  Does this mean you’re not going to write any new Liz Czukas books?
A:  Heck no!  I want to write ALL THE THINGS ALL THE TIME!  I’m just excited to have the chance to write more!

Q:  Do I come here for Ellie Cahill news/information?
A:  You bet.  Even if you type into your browser, you’ll end up here.

Q:  Where can I get the new book?
A:  Nowhere yet.  It will be available as an ebook and a trade paperback in February of next year.  I’ll keep you updated on where to get it as I get more details.  In the meantime, you can add it to your Goodreads list.  You can also sign up for newsletter in the sidebar and get all the info dropped right into your very own inbox.  Or check back here, on Twitter, or Facebook.  (Did you notice my pretty social media buttons up top?  How awesome is Tessa?)

And don’t forget TOP TEN CLUES YOU’RE CLUELESS will be out on December 11, 2014!

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ASK AGAIN LATER’s Cover is Live at YA Highway!

Today is the day!  I’ve been waiting for this for so long!!

You can finally see the cover to ASK AGAIN LATER over at YA Highway!  Many many thanks to the ladies over there for being such excellent hostesses and generally excellent people.

Now get over there and gaze, people!  Gaze!!

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Happy Memorial Day, Blogiverse!

I’ve again returned from an arduous journey tramping through the wilds of the Internet Jungle, collecting rare specimens to display here in my own little corner of the world.  I bring you…Link-a-Palooza!

First, in case you missed it, agent Mandy Hubbard took herself a little trip to New York and had a sit-down with dozens of editors.  What did she ask them?  The same question we’d all like to ask them:  What are you looking for?  And then she went and put it all in the Epic Post on YA/MG Trends.  Read, memorize, and go forth informed.  But remember–DON’T CHASE TRENDS.  This is just to help you know where to market your current projects.  Chasing trends will only end in heartbreak.

Next, agent Natalie Fischer (a.k.a. Princess Unicorn CEO) has some great revision suggestions with even more links to other revision posts on her blog.  Read it and weep.  Then do what she says even though you want to cry, because she’s right.

The Intern continues to impress me with her thoughtful posts from the safety of anonymity.  Her Thoughts on Universals will make you think long and hard about what you’re writing.  And you will be grateful.

If you don’t already know Hannah Moskowitz, you obviously haven’t been reading my blog very long.  But even if you’re old pals with Hannah, you should read her post on creating the playlist for her latest book, Invincible Summer.  She has a particular fondness for covers in her book playlists and I found the greatest site for finding those amazing covers that just may inspire a new scene, book, or who knows what.  The Site of Awesomeness Covered in Awesome-Sauce is  Cover Me where you can find the most unusual covers you’ll ever here.  Just be warned:  You may lose a lot of hours to browsing this site.

And finally, your moment of zen.  Watch it to the end.  Trust me.

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On the Awesomeness of J.A. Souders

This weekend, I got the only news I can think of that might excite me more than getting a publishing contract of my very own:

My awesome crit partner, best-friend-I-never-met, future-superstar, natural redhead, and all-around cool person Jessica Souders sold her amazing book RENEGADE to Tor Teen!!!

Seriously, I could not be more excited for her if she was chosen to be the Princess of Florida (that’s a thing, right?).  And I could not be more excited that soon all you people are going to get to read her story.  This thing is going to blow your mind.

Here’s the announcement from Publisher’s Marketplace:

Jessica Souders’s RENEGADE, about a female assassin in an underwater Utopia who realizes her memories have been altered and her mind and body aren’t under her own control, to Melissa Frain at Tor, in a nice deal, in a three-book deal, by Natalie Fischer at Bradford Literary Agency (World English). Translation: 

Are you in?  You’re so in.

So now, your job is to go fan up.  Trust me, you’re going to want in on this when this story hits the shelves.  You’re going to want in on it early so you can make like a hispter and say you totally heard about it before anyone else.

Go to her website, follow her blog, follow her on Twitter, and Like the RENEGADE fanpage at Facebook.  Got it?  Great!

How was your weekend?

– Liz

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On Getting MY AGENT

**Many apologies to any of you who already came to this half-finished meme which posted automatically without my knowledge! I would never be such a jerk, I swear it!

Writers love How I Got My Agent stories as much as 20-somethings love proposal stories.  And far be it from me to keep you all in suspense, so here is my story.

I started querying my latest project back on November 1, 2010 (I was hoping to slip into a lighter querying period while NaNoWriMo was going on).  I started small, with 5 or so queries, and tried ever so hard to be patient.  The responses were good!  Of course, I got the expected rejections, but I was also getting requests.  I was sending out partial and fulls with every appendage crossed and checking my email like I was getting paid by the ‘Refresh.’

Finally, on a Friday in January, I got The E-mail.  It was from a lovely agent who wanted to schedule a phone call with me for the following Tuesday.  I read it, closed it, went back to what I was doing for a few minutes, came back, read it again and went on like that until I’d read the message about 4 times.  Then, I was finally able to respond (with minimum exclamation points, I might add) and we set up a call for the following week.

I spent the weekend tied in knots trying to tell myself it could be a revise & resubmit call, but knowing in my heart it wasn’t.  We talked, and it went well.  Very well, in fact.  I was excited and dizzy when I got off the phone.

Like a good little writer who spends all her time reading blogs and Twitter, I knew my next move was to notify everyone who still had a manuscript.  There were nine notifications in all, and they all promised to get back to me by my one week deadline (I couldn’t stomach waiting for two. I would have imploded).  A couple of them made me promise not to accept an offer before they could respond.  And one, it turned out, had already read my partial just days before and was waiting for her second reader to finish it before asking for the full.  She wanted the full ASAP.

On Friday of that week, I got my second call (from the agent who had read the partial and asked for the full).  She’d stayed up to an ungodly hour finishing my manuscript and her second reader did the same the next day.  Although my heart was slightly lower than my throat this time, I was still as nervous as they come as we talked.  It was another great call, and that meant I had a very tough decision to make.  I also had a few days to go until my deadline.

The day of my deadline was actually one of the best days I’ve had as a writer.  Because although most of the remaining agents decided to step aside, they sent me some of the most complimentary and encouraging rejections I’ve ever received.

Ultimately, I had to base my decision on gut instinct.  Who “got” my work better?  Who had a more compelling vision of my future career as a writer?  Who had more confidence she could sell my project?

It wasn’t easy.  Both agents who offered representation were great.  The decision was a matter of degrees, and a certainly “feeling” I got during out phone call.  Sending a message to the other agent declining her offer was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.

So, it pleases me something fierce to announce that I have signed with Laura Bradford of The Bradford Literary Agency.  Laura is amazing! (And you should totally follow her on Twitter if you don’t already).  She’s funny, excited about my work and ready to dig into the submission process as soon as we can get everything ready.  I am so happy to be working with her I could just burst!

Please wish me luck as I head into the next phase of my writing life!

– Liz

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On the sticky subject of book reviewing

Last night, I noticed a few comments on Twitter that were part of a larger #querychat.  I don’t know how it came up, or what the other commenters had to say, but literary agent Jill Corcoran made her case for not reviewing books on-line.

She discourages her clients from reviewing books on their blogs (I don’t know about Goodreads) because she believes it serves no purpose except as a possible liability.  Namely, if you don’t like a book and you review it badly, and your book goes on sub to the publisher of that book, and the editor happens across your blog, what are they going to think about taking you on as a new writer?
It’s a fair point.
And now it’s got me wondering.  Should I be posting reviews on Goodreads?  Anywhere?  A while back, I turned myself in knots over posting a negative review of a book anonymously.  I know what goes into writing a book.  Crawling through the slushpile of countless agents.  Refining, refining, refining your manuscript.  Clawing your way onto the desk of an editor.  Getting the attention of a reader from the shelves of a bookstore or library.  The odds are incredible.  So, who am I, really, to say whether a book was good or not?
Certainly I’m entitled to my opinion.  Even the most popular books/movies/songs/fashions/what have you don’t resonate with everyone.  But does it matter if I share that opinion?  
I’m not going to digress into a tirade about the Internet making everyone feel entitled, blah blah blah.  I’m blogging for God’s sake, that would be nothing but flinging stones from the front porch of my glass house.
But it does make me wonder…
In the end, what is the benefit of posting book reviews?
– Liz

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Lessons from the Trenches: Practical Query Tips

Courtesy of Getty Images.

Sure, you can find endless blog posts from Agents, Publishers, Writers both Published and Unpublished on how to query.  What makes a good query letter?  How do I know which agents to query?  What not to do with your query letter.  It’s all been covered.  Maybe someday I’ll amass you all a nice omnibus list of great query resources.

But, as I have recently become a querying machine, I have a few more practical tips.  Things you might not think of when you’re starting out writing your letters.  Things that will make your life easier.


1.  Create a Draft Query:  No matter what e-mail program you use (I use G-mail) there should be a place to save a draft.  Put your query letter in that spot without anyone in the To: field.  Why?  Because e-mail programs sometimes do some quirky formatting stuff, and if you get it all right the first time, you can copy and paste it into a new message whenever you’re ready.

2.  File Names:  Save your completed manuscript with a properly formatted cover page (in Word 97/2000 format, please–a.k.a. .doc NEVER EVER EVER .docx).  In the header, put your e-mail address on the left side.  On the right side of the header put TITLE / PAGE NUMBER.  I personally put my last name on the right side as well, but to each his own.  Just make sure you’ve got contact information available all the time.  Name the file  LastName_ManuscriptTitle_Full Manuscript

3.  Other Essential Files:  From the completed manuscript, create a new document for each of the following:

4.  The E-mail Ready Format:  When you’ve got your first chapter (or 10 pages, 3 chapters, whatever you’ve got the ambition for) saved.  Save it as a new document.  Select all, right click and use Paragraph to single space it.  Then, go through the WHOLE thing and put an extra return after every paragraph.  You absolutely must do this manually, even through Paragraph lets you do it the easy way.  Why?  Because then you can just copy and paste it into the body of an e-mail without making your recipient go blind at the massive block of text.

5.  Memorize This:  If you’ve saved a longer portion in the E-mail Ready format, memorize where your 1, 3, 5, and 10 page breaks are.

6.  Get the Greeting Right:  When you create a new message for your query, CHANGE THE NAME IN THE SALUTATION TO THE PERSON YOU ARE SENDING IT TO BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING ELSE.

7.  Join QueryTracker:  The free version will do you just fine unless you start juggling a lot of projects.  Create a list of agents and keep it updated.  Do your fellow QTers a favor and put in a new comment when you get results from a query.

8.  Check For Yourself:  When you use QueryTracker, ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS go to the agency’s actual website and double check the submission guidelines.  Follow those.  Even if they’re not up-to-date, you can’t be faulted for following an agent’s own guidelines.

9.  Be A Google Genius:  While on QueryTracker, each agent page has a list of links to the left.  Click on the Google link.  But don’t stop there.  Change your search to include “agent interview” and probably get rid of the agency name in the search.  Why?  Agents don’t always stay at the same agency, or agency’s merge, change names, etc.  Their personalities and tastes don’t really change though.  There’s gold in them thar interviews.

10.  Save It All for Later:  Create a folder in your e-mail program for Query-related messages.  Whenever you get one–even form rejections–save them to this folder.  Why?  Because if you are querying the same agent in the future, you can look back and see what kind of personalization you wrote the first time.  You can see if you got a form rejection or personalized rejection.  If you got something personalized, you might be able to mention it in the future.  You never know what might be useful.

Will these tips help you get an agent?  Not if your story’s not ready.  Not if you’re chasing a dead trend (and believe me, I know all about that one).  Not if you query the wrong agents for your book.  But, they will help you be professional, efficient and avoid being a #pubtip on Twitter.

Does anyone else have a great querying tip?  Share it in the comments.

– Liz

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It’s been a while, so I thought I’d give you all a round-up of some of the great stuff I’ve stumbled onto through Twitter and my own procrastinating. Them interwebs is the greatest thing to EVAH happen to procrastination.

Blogs to read:

Ten Commandments for Working with Your Agent from Steven Laub’s blog.

250 Chances from the Storyflip blog. A fine piece on the importance of the first 250 words of your story, and how to screw it up.

No Exceptions from the Aspiring Mama blog, in which Pauline Campos reminds us to keep going even after our delicate little egos have been given the reality smackdown.

Soulless Turns One in which Gail Carriger gives you the blow-by-blow of real life after you make a sale. Fascinating, detailed and invaluable for those of us who obsess about what happens next.

Websites to check out:

BookSwim turns out to be the Netflix of reading, and I don’t know how I’m just learning about it’s existence. For a very reasonable rate, you can get all kinds of booky goodness delivered to your door, read at your leisure, and return books in pre-paid envelopes. Sounds like a great Christmas gift for the book nerds in your life.

In related news, I also just learned you can enter to win free ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) of books from GoodReads. Like, for free. All you have to do is be a member, and if you’re not a member, you should be. No easier way to store the ol’ To-Read list. And now that they have an iPhone app, you’ll never get to the library or bookstore without your list again.

Video Goodness:

The Dictionary of Jack: Literally in which Jack discusses the abuses of the word literally in the English language.

And speaking of abusing language–here’s Hank Green’s STOP EMBARRASSING YOURSELF on the vlogbrother’s vlog. If you haven’t already discovered the wonder of the vlogbrothers, now would be a great time to start!

And then, for a dose of fun: Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake do A History of Rap backed up by The Roots and just plain tickle the hell out of me. Go enjoy! (You’ll want speakers)

Find anything good lately? Share it in the comments!

– Liz

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Author Bios, or One More Annoying Thing To Do Before You Get Published

Yesterday, the lovely C.A. Marshall wrote an excellent blog about author bios.  That’s the little blurb about the author at the end of the book.  For those of you who don’t know, the authors write those themselves.  It’s all part of the package that an agent sends out to editors when you are “out on sub.”  (A place I’d dearly like to be.)  

Yeah, that’s right, after you’ve already tied yourself in knots over condensing your magnum opus into a two paragraph tease for your query, after you’ve suffered the slings and arrows of making a three-hundred page epic into a three-page synopsis that somehow manages to retain all the wit and wonder of your manuscript all while telling the cut-and-dry beginning middle and end of your story, you now have to talk about yourself in the third person.  And be interesting.

Good luck with that, right?

As is so often the case, this is a topic that seems to be swirling around the blogosphere of late.  Literary agent Natalie Fischer inaugurated her blog with a post that had a great tip about writing the dreaded Bio. To whit:


           (name) lives in (state) with her (husband/cat/parrot). An avid writer, she spends her days (job), and
           contributes to (blog/magazine/newspaper). (Title) was a (second/first/third) place winner in the (contest).
           (name) is currently hard at work on her next project, (wip).

Okay, so maybe that doesn’t seem so hard.  But some of my favorite author bios have some sparkle.  Who doesn’t want sparkle?  (Damn you, Twilight for ruining that word for me.)

Cassandra’s blog contains some really excellent examples of bios from books she’s enjoyed.  I added one of my favorites in her comments section, so I won’t bother you all with rewriting that. 

I figured I would try my hand at this bio business.  You know, better be prepared for the inevitable, right?  (Dig me and my power of positive thinking.)  So here we go.

Simple version:

Liz Czukas lives in Wisconsin with her husband, son and cat.  The Sorbet Guy is her first novel.  An avid writer, she spends her days as a nurse and her nights hard at work on her next project, Chronic.

*THUD*  (That was the sound of me putting myself to sleep and hitting my head on the desk.)

Vampire-free Sparkle Version:

Liz Czukas lives outside Milwaukee, Wisconsin with her husband, son and the world’s loudest, fattest cat.  The Sorbet Guy is her first novel.  During the day, she maintains her secret identity as a labor & delivery nurse.  At night, she spends all of her time writing, using the Internet to turn her brain to a well-informed soup and devouring as much pop culture as she can get her hands on.  Liz is hard at work on her next project, Chronic, due out from [fill in publisher here] in 2013.  She loves visitors at, but makes no promises about refreshments.

So which one do you like better?

If any of you writer types want to share your bio in the comments, please do!  Maybe we can all help each other be sparkly sparkle sparks.  *Yurp!*  I think I just made myself throw up in my mouth a little.

– Liz

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How I Became a Grown-Up and Learned to Revise

The key to revisions is feedback. Without it, you can only see so much. In the case of THE SORBET GUY, I got lots of wonderful, cheerleading feedback from readers who loved the story. But, I knew it was too short, and I knew there was a reason it wasn’t grabbing the interest of any agents. Luckily, one agent gave me major editorial notes on the complete manuscript. Of course, that hurt, but he had a lot of good ideas.

With all of that information in mind, and having let the manuscript get some distance and maturity in an oak barrel (or, I didn’t touch it for well over six months while I wrote another novel, revised a second, and started a third) I went back to it ready for some neutral assessment and adjustment.

Over the next few blogs, I’m going to discuss each stage of the process that I went through. For today, I’ll just give you the rough outline.

1. I looked at the overall draft and flagged those areas that needed help.

2. I did rewrites and sent each chapter to two designated beta readers as I went along. One was a fabulous detail reader, who always took me to task on failure to show emotion and action. The other is unbeatable for big picture stuff.

3. If my betas found any issues that would affect the progress of the manuscript from that point, I paused to revise. Most of their suggestions, however, were stuffed back into that oak barrel to wait for my final draft.

4. Next, I created to-do list from all their suggestions, as well as my own thoughts.

5. Finally, I started back at beginning to do final draft.

So, we’ve got our work cut out for us as I go through this series. And when we’re done, I’ll talk about the querying process. Because I sincerely hope to be well into that stage by the time I finish telling all of you about this.

Hope you get something out of it!

– Liz

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