Dan Krokos Interview and Caption Contest!

I’d like to introduce you to the judge of today’s Caption Contest, Dan Krokos.

Dan shot to urban legend status when his query letter won over on Query Shark.

On the first try.

Then the Query Shark, literary agent Janet Reid, did an interview with BBC Radio about query letters. After the host read Dan’s letter on the air she gave the following response:

“That’s essentially a perfect query letter. And in fact…Dan Krokos wrote that and I signed him as a client about twenty-five seconds after I read the novel.”

Yeah, that made us writers still licking the condensation from the outside of the writing pool just to keep our parched dreams alive sit up and take notice.  

So, without further ado, here’s Dan…


Tell us about Dan Krokos 

I’m 25, living in a suburb of Cleveland(for now), and writing full time. Before that, I worked at a gas station for NINE YEARS. I went to school part time, toying with Law Enforcement, then English. During that time, I plowed through many manuscripts and read agent blogs feverishly and ruined several relationships. Once my book sold, I quit the gas station, and decided school was for losers. I’m hoping that decision doesn’t bite me in the ass one day, but chasing my dream isn’t a bad way to live.

What is one piece of advice you have for writers trying to break into the business? 

Put writing first.

I wrote casually for six months, then went for a two week stretch where I didn’t write anything. It was scary. I asked myself if this was what I really wanted to do, all the way, no looking back. It was. So I put writing first. I worked 54 hours a week and went to school part time, but I put myself on the pace to write three manuscripts a year. I was getting better with each one—I could see it—so I thought eventually I HAD to become publishable.

I skipped many social engagements in my early twenties. I skipped seeing my family. I alienated people. Because I had to succeed. Having a terrible job helped. But really, swallow all that self-doubt and just sit down and write something. It’s going to suck. Put it in a drawer. Don’t become attached to stuff. Keep moving forward. If your momentum is high you can outrun that doubt.

Wow, this is turning into like seventeen pieces of advice.

But I guess the main idea is, Put writing first.

Twitter—a valuable networking tool or an unbelievable time suck? 

Time suck. Here’s another piece of advice. Shut your mouth. Stop talking about writing and write. You don’t need to network. If you get an agent and maybe want to make some author friends on twitter, fine. Otherwise shut up about writing and write. Read agent blogs, not authors’ shitty, self-absorbed timelines. Unless you don’t have a job, time management is key, and every free moment should be spent learning your craft. I sometimes wish I never got on twitter, even though I’ve met some great real life friends there.

What are your thoughts on the recent rise in authors, both established and new, going the self-publishing route? 

I don’t like it. We need gatekeepers. We need agents and editors to make us shine. Here’s a cool thing: without my agent and editor, I would not be publishable. Unless someone reads my stuff and gives me notes, it’s just a first draft, or a second draft, or a third. It’s not final. There will always be problems I can’t see on my own, especially the closer I am to the manuscript. And I’m not the only one. Some writers turn in real train wrecks and expect everyone to make it better.

The point is, unless these self-published works are going through the same hurdles as published works, I don’t want to have anything to do with them. I like knowing that when I pick up a book, the author didn’t just have their mom proofread it before slapping it up on Amazon. If your book doesn’t snag an agent, write another one. It’ll be better, anyway.

What was your absolute last thought before you pushed “send” on your query letter for Query Shark? 

Probably a combination of “I got this” and “Oh, shit.” I knew it would be okay because I spent months on it, while writing the first draft. I spent time reading agent blogs and knew what to do, and what not to do. And I tweaked each sentence and reordered things until I didn’t even want to look at it anymore. If you aren’t reading about queries when you’re not writing, you’re hamstringing yourself. Study it. It’s just a few paragraphs.

What was your absolute first thought when you heard you’d “won” over at Query Shark? 

Maybe I’m good enough to do this after all. And at the very least, a professional in the industry has given me a nod of approval.

What do you visualize yourself doing one second after you hold your ARC for the first time? 

Maybe rubbing it all over my face. Probably taking it around town to show my friends and family that, yes, this is really happening. 

Who gets the first copy of your debut novel? 


Is your agent, Janet Reid, every bit as amazing as she comes across on her blog? 

And more. Some writers need their agent to hold their hand, to tell them everything will be okay. To sugarcoat things. Janet doesn’t feed me BS, and she doesn’t take any from me. But she also knows when to give a confidence boost. 

Not to mention her line edits make my sentences sing. She cut two thousand superfluous words from my latest novel without batting an eye or spilling her scotch. 

Tell us more about your upcoming novel* so we’ll know what we’re buying when we all converge on Amazon the day pre-orders become available. 

(*False Memory, the first in a trilogy, coming from Disney•Hyperion in 2012.)

It’s about a girl who loses all her memories, and has to rediscover her old life and the people in it. Turns out she’s a weapon of mass destruction, along with her friends, intended to be sold as ready-made super soldiers to foreign nations. The more she discovers about herself, the better armed she is to fight back against the people who created her. It is safe to say there will be some false memories. 

Think of Jason Bourne, with teens, and a few heavy splashes of futurism. Most of all, it’s a thriller.

Writers Everywhere Want to Know…

If you could occupy the world described in a novel, which would you choose? 

This is insanely difficult and hinges on too many conditions. If I was just going to be ME, I’d say (and this counts, because there are a ton of novels in this universe) Buffy. I’d want to fight evil with the gang. But instead of being a dumbass like Xander, I’d actually train so I wasn’t getting beat down all the time.

Now if I could be like the characters in a world, that changes things. Being a wizard in Harry Potter sounds fun. 

If you could have one superpower, what would it be? 

Flight. I think it’s best to fight crime with. Super strength and invincibility could still lead to my containment. Super speed would be good, but who doesn’t want to fly? 

If you were to perform in the circus, what would you do? 

Something with tigers. I love tigers. Real hard.

If you could have one current writer write your biography, who would you pick? 

Josh Bazell, just because he’s my favorite, and maybe he’d interview me and we could hang out and be best buds. Or Charlie Huston for all the same reasons. 

And now, to the eternal question. The one everyone wants to know…

Plotter or Pantster? 

Both. I don’t sit down with NO IDEA of what happens next. I outline maybe 10-30, sometimes 50 pages in advance. It’s really just basic stuff like “Miranda goes here, does this.” Maybe a snippet of dialogue. Writing that down gives me a few days to work out any kinks, and it allows me to sit down and be productive. I think that’s called the headlight method. It works. Try it. 

There’s nothing worse (besides rabies, maybe) than sitting down and not knowing where to go. Because when that happens, I check twitter. Or io9.com, or funny cat pictures. Or do anything but write. 

Keeping the outline sparse means I can still experience that wonderful discovery only writers can have. When you’re in the middle of a scene and genius strikes. And I don’t even always follow the outline. I’ve found the more I write, the easier it is to let go. The outline is a safety net. If I remind myself to stay loose, I have a lot more fun. 

It also helps to have a vague idea of the ending, just so you know what you’re building towards. Right now I’m “plotting” the third False Memory book. I know how it ends, and how it begins, and once I have a few more ideas on the middle, I’ll sit down and start drafting.


Thanks to Dan for an informative, fun interview!

Now, on to the Caption Contest!

Entrants shall write a caption for the following picture…

(Yes, this is a pig. Yes, it’s in my yard. A story for another day :D)

Enter your caption in the comments section of this post.

Humor is appreciated, but not required.

Entry deadline is Saturday, July 2nd at 11:59pm (Pacific Standard Time)

Winner and runner-up will be announced when Dan completes judging.   

Winner receives the book, The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler. (Thanks to Dan for offering up such a great prize!)

Runner-up receives a prize pack of writing goodies from me.

Krokos Interview Caption Contest is Coming!

This Wednesday is the big day!

Interview with Dan Krokos (I’ve seen his answers and trust me, he’s got some great writing advice. You don’t want to miss it!)


The Krokos Caption Contest, judged by Dan! (Winner receives a prize pack of writing goodies)

Until then, study up on Dan with THIS INTERVIEW over on The Novel Road.

One Week To Krokos!

One week until Dan Krokos interview and caption contest!

Get your funny ready because he’s going to judge a caption contest, and the winner gets a “writing” prize!

In the meantime, here are some links I’ve been saving for a rainy day…

Click here for the top ten lies writers tell

Click here for the best ways to get an agent’s attention on Twitter

Click here for an author’s take on what edits are like

Need Some Ideas…

Summer vacation is here, and I’m looking for ideas to keep two rowdy six-year-olds busy.

We’ve signed up for the summer reading program at the local library (this will be our third straight year participating), I bought squirt guns yesterday and let them go wild, and we’ve got plenty of playtime with friends planned. Also, we’ve got workbooks, worksheets, and fun games so their knowledge doesn’t fly away.

Plus, I’m a firm believer in unstructured, “come up with something to do” type of play, and of that there will be plenty.

But, we’re talking about three straight months, and this is our first summer vacation and one I want to make memorable, so does anyone have fun ideas to keep them busy?  

Kountdown to Krokos (and another Contest!)

Two weeks from today, on June 29th, I’m hosting a very special guest on my blog.

Dan Krokos has agreed to do an interview and judge a caption contest!

I’ve got some special interview questions of my own, but in the meantime check out his interview over at The Novel Road . He tells all about his amazing story regarding Query Shark, his thoughts about his agent (Janet Reid), and shows his sense of humor.

I’ve got a prize package for the winner of the caption contest so mark the date on your calendars!

“Worst First” Winners!

Jillian Kent has picked the winners of the “Worst First” contest!

Before I announce them, I want to thank all who participated. This contest was lots of fun, and I for one am glad I didn’t have to pick the winner because they all were so great. Oh wait, I mean they all were so horrible :).

So, without further ado, the runner-up, and winner of Jillian Kent’s debut novel, Secrets of the Heart, is…

Wendy Lawrence!

According to my watch, which I like to refer to as my miniature chartreuse chronograph, it was the best, and perhaps the superlative, (even the transcendent?), of times; and simultaneously (although I don’t know if this is by coincidence or not) it was the worst–most atrocious–of times.

(Check out Wendy’s blog here)

And now, onto the big one.

The winner of the “Worst First” contest, and recipient of a first page critique by Jillian is…

Leanne Shirtliffe!

Together, Ethel and Sylvester were a galvanized cell…he was the reduction cell and she the oxidation cell; together, when their batteries charged, they became the Energizer Bunny, except–in spite of their furriness–neither of them were pink, at least not bubble gum pink.

(Check out Leanne’s blogs, Ironic Mom and Wordbitches)


Congratulations Wendy and Leanne, and be sure to contact me for information on receiving your prize!

“Worst First” Contest Open for Submissions!

Before we begin, I am beyond excited to introduce you to the judge of the “Worst First” contest!

Jillian Kent writes historical fiction and is represented by literary agent Rachelle Gardner.

Jillian has generously agreed to offer GREAT PRIZES to the first and second place winners! She’ll critique the first page of the winner’s manuscript, and the second place winner gets a signed copy of her debut novel.

So, without further ado, here’s Jillian…


Hi Everyone!
Christi has been kind enough to invite me here so I want to answer as many questions for you as I can. So ask away. Nothing is off limits, but I may choose not to answer it if I think it’s something that I shouldn’t put out there for the whole world to read.
There was a combination of things that occurred in my life that led to the love of historical romance. I discovered the poem, “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes at a young age. You can read it if you are not familiar with it on my website at www.jilliankent.com It’s in the public domain.
I went to England the first semester of my senior year of college. Loved all of Great Britain. I lived and studied with other students from Bethany College where I went to school.

I read historical romance novels in my twenties and said, “I could do that.”
I am a research addict. I struggle a lot to stop researching and keep writing. Now that I don’t have the freedom to write at a slow pace (I’m really slow), I have to let some of the research go and just write. When I get to something I don’t know I leave spaces and notes to myself in a different font or color. I’m still trying to find the balance.
The way to publication has not been easy. I decided to begin studying the craft when my first child was born and that was twenty-one years ago. You must reach deep inside yourself and find out what it is you want related to writing. WHAT DO YOU WANT?  Do you want money, fame, a life-long career? This is a question only you can answer. I have to tell you that once you get published it’s a very busy time. You’ll have twice as much to do as you think you will.

So what are you thinking about today?


If you have any questions for Jillian simply leave them in the comments section of this post. I know for a fact she’s generous and kind with writing information, so please, ask away!

Now, on to the “Worst First” contest!

Entrants shall create, on purpose, the worst opening line to a novel.

One sentence (fifty word limit).

The use of commas, semi-colons, ellipsis, and/or hyphens is highly encouraged.  

All genres accepted.

Let’s keep it clean. No sex, extreme violence, or cursing.

Enter your sentence in the comments section of this post.

Entry deadline is Saturday at 11:59pm (Pacific Standard Time)

Winner will be announced when Jillian completes judging.   

(The “Worst First” was inspired by this annual writing contest.)