Super Squee! (and the Pain Dumbs)

This is going to be short and sweet as I'm suffering from the pain dumbs (the lack of mental capacity that occurs when part of your brain goes into hibernation until your pain levels go back below what's tolerable). This is a result of my frolicking recklessly on the back deck and subsequently crashing down on its rather unyielding surface with as much velocity as I could muster. I don't recommend trying this at home. The crashing part that is. I highly recommend frolicking as much as possible. frolicking

So, on to the squee part.

I was delighted to announce last June in my post An Agent and Geeky Goodness that I had accepted an offer of representation from the fantastic Emily Keyes at L. Perkins Agency.

Now I get the pleasure of announcing that my debut novel The Girl and the Clockwork Cat, a young adult steampunk, will be published in Spring 2014 through Entangled Teen.

It was announced on Publishers Marketplace on September 18th.


My agent also posted about it on Twitter the next day... twice. Thanks Emily!


So that's my story. More to come as things progress. Now, back to the pain dumbs.

Happy writing!

Writer’s Conference Strategies: Volunteering

h44A5BE23I just survived another great PNWA Writer’s Conference. With the event fresh in my head, it seems a good time to offer up a little of my experience for anyone who’s considering a similar conference for the first time or just looking for ways to better their experience at a familiar conference.

Writer’s conferences can be stressful, especially if you’re pitching a book to agents and editors. I picked up my agent, Emily Keyes, just before the 2012 PNWA conference. Since I was already registered and no longer needed to pitch, I decided to volunteer. I can strongly recommend volunteering for many reasons and suggest doing so even if you are pitching (or perhaps especially if you are pitching).

Benefits of volunteering:

  • If you’re pitching, volunteering can help take your mind off that stress. If you’re not pitching, it can take your mind off other stresses like wondering if a publisher is going to make on offer on your book or if the blood work on the cat living in your shop is going to come back showing some horrible disease.??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????
  • Volunteering gives you a look behind the scenes. You get to see how things run and how much amazing work goes into putting a conference together. If you help with early pitch sessions, you can also get helpful insight into how those sessions are run before your turn to pitch comes up.
  • You meet great people. Not just other volunteers and aspiring authors with their own fantastic stories to share, but also the agents, editors, and published authors sitting on the other side of the tables. They are great people and sometimes they’re just as nervous as the attendees are.
  • In a business that can seem really lonely and unforgiving, you will be appreciated. It takes a lot to run a conference and more help is always needed. The conference staff will appreciate you for your help, as will the attendees and presenters.

The down side:

  • You might miss a session you wanted to attend, but usually volunteer coordinators will try to work with you to find a time for you to volunteer that allows you to make the sessions you most want to attend.

As you can see, the balance is in the positive. There are many good reasons to volunteer and only one notable down side that I have run into. I strongly recommend the experience.

Have you volunteered at a conference? If so, how was your experience? If not, what concerns might keep you from doing so?

Happy conferencing!

The Next Big Thing and the No Kiss

I was all ready to do my No Kiss Blog Fest entry (due today), then I was tagged by the wicked Tod McCoy (who’s really quite a pleasure to be around when he isn’t signing me up for extra work) for The Next Big Thing Blog Hop (also due today). The most logical thing seemed to be to combine these two into one post. The book I am working on is Clockwork Cat book three, but I’m going to focus on the Clockwork Cat series as a whole for the Next Big Thing and snag the almost kiss from book one of another series. Without further delay, here is my entry for The Next Big Thing Blog Hop followed by the much-anticipated (let me delude myself – I’m happy that way) entry for the No Kiss Blog Fest.

  1. What is the working title of your book? Book three has no official title yet, it’s just book three. The first book is The Girl and the Clockwork Cat so Clockwork Cat has naturally become the series title.
  2. Where did the idea come from for the book? The series started with an idea I had during a writer’s conference. I’ve gone into that in detail in Writing the Right Book so I’ll let you read that if you want to.
  3. What genre does your book fall under?  I call it Young Adult steampunk, though the steampunk elements are not that heavy, especially in book one, which is almost more of a Young Adult alternate history. As the series progresses, the steampunk elements play more of a role.
  4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?  No clue. They are unique in my head and, at this point, I’d rather keep them that way.
  5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? I don’t have one that encompasses the series, but this is one of the less horrible versions I came up with for book one: After finding a cat with an unusual clockwork leg, Maeko discovers just how much a London street rat can accomplish when she decides to protect the cat and prove the innocence of a friend’s family by pursuing a murder investigation through the squalid streets of the city.
  6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? The books are represented by Emily Keyes of L. Perkins Agency.
  7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? The first draft of book one I wrote for NaNoWriMo 2010. Book two I wrote for NaNo in 2012. Book three has taken longer because I set it aside and rehashed some of the plot, which will now require a bit of rewriting before I finish the first draft.
  8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? Honestly, I’m not sure. It sticks more to the lower key alternate history style of steampunk in the nature of The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, but with more of a high-stakes adventure pacing… and a cat.
  9. Who or What inspired you to write this book? Again, it was something said at a writer’s conference in conjunction with music from a Steampunk event I’d been to prior to the conference (oh, and a conversation with my mom in which the cat with the clockwork leg came to life and cemented the deal).
  10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? The main character, a half-Japanese girl surviving as a pickpocket in the streets of London, is a vibrant and determined individual who really seems to capture my readers. Also, everyone loves the cat.

Now, I shall tag these authors to answer the same questions for next Wednesday:

But that’s not all. Here, for your reading pleasure and for the No Kiss Blog Fest is an “almost” kiss from the first book in my dark fantasy series. It wasn’t easy to find one of these scenes. Apparently, I'm not much for “almost” kissing.

Perhaps it was her insatiable curiosity as a reporter, but she was strangely reluctant to leave him now that safety was so close. “I… I don’t understand.”

“What if I told you I intend to kill you now?”

“I…” she hesitated, torn between instinct and ingrained fear.

“Do not think about your answer. Say what you feel.” His eyes held her captive.

“For some reason, I wouldn’t believe you.”

He smiled and Dark swirled around him, giving a sinister, yet deliciously forbidden allure to the expression.

“I don’t understand,” she repeated. “I thought Dark sovereigns were dangerous. I thought they… tortured people.”

He stepped in close to her. “We are very dangerous,” he whispered, his lips so close to hers that she could feel the breath of his words tickle across them. “Sometimes, we just are not in the mood to play.”

“The dress,” she muttered, looking down at the gown she wore to escape his intense gaze and focus on anything other than the longing now raging through her.

“Wear it when you return.” His hands slid up her arms to her shoulders. “You are trembling again. Are you afraid now?”

“No,” she breathed.

His lips brushed hers, almost more of a caress than a kiss. Then he stepped back, releasing her, and the Dark folded around him. In an instant, she was alone.

Savoring the lingering tingle of his light kiss, she licked her lips and tasted blood on them. It had the familiar coppery tang, but was unusually sweet. She ran her tongue over her lips again, searching for a cut that would explain the blood. Again, she tasted the copper-sweet tang and licked it away, finding no wound beneath. The wound inside her lip from her fall had long since stopped bleeding. This wasn’t from that. Odd.

Swallowing the taste of coppery sweetness, she turned to go inside and stopped mid-step. A chill ran through her. What had Syberis told her?

The cat’s voice whispered through her memory. “We are bound in hisss blood.”

The NaNo Novel That Could (or How I Got My Agent)

I started out looking for an agent the way many people do, by cold querying any agent who handled my type of books. I thought I had an amazing book and, honestly, we should think that of our work. If we don’t love it, why the hell did we write it. I just knew someone was going to snatch up this spectacular masterpiece. They didn’t.


I was naïve, but it’s okay to be naïve. The important thing is being able to learn and grow. In the beginning, I only researched agents and editors to make sure they handled my genre. But that’s not enough. Information is everywhere. There’s no excuse for sending something to an inappropriate agent or editor. Just handling your genre doesn’t make them an automatic fit. That’s like assuming a shoe will fit simply because it’s the right color.

When you’re looking for an agent, you want someone who will be as passionate about your book as you are. You want someone who will promote it enthusiastically to publishers. To get that, you need to care enough about your book to find the right person for the job.

How do you do this?

The turning point for me came when I attended my first conference, the 2010 Pacific Northwest Writers Conference.

One of the most important things I got out of the experience was the disappointing but crucial realization that the book I was pitching wasn’t ready.


I wasn’t thrilled about the discovery, but I had learned something that would prove to be a solid stepping-stone to getting where I wanted to go. I learned what I needed to do to make the book ready.

The second thing I learned was that meeting face-to-face and showing people that you’re serious about writing is priceless. I got submission requests from all seven agents/editors I pitched to at the conference.

Wait! Didn’t I just say the book wasn’t ready? Yep. But now I had a leg up on the slush pile. I just needed to fix the book and send it.

Lastly, I learned that ideas are simply floating in the air at a writer’s conference.


A single comment made at one session gave me the idea for the book that landed me my agent (more about that book in Writing the Right Book).

Did I get my agent from that conference?

Nope. I sent the manuscript out and received those dreaded rejection letters, but they were different now. The letters from agents and editors who looked at that book provided feedback, suggestions, and positive encouragement that helped me improve that book and my writing in general. The process also helped me understand that agents and editors really are people like the rest of us, not wicked gatekeepers cackling evilly as they hit send on a thousand form rejections a week. They want your book to be good almost as bad as you do and, if you put forth the effort to show them you’re serious, they’ll sometimes help you get it there.

The following year I attended two more conferences pitching the book I wrote during NaNoWriMo 2010, the one that stemmed from the idea I got at the first conference. I learned more, got many requests for the new book, and made some awesome friends. Every partial submission garnered requests for more and the fantastic feedback helped me polish and tune the book between sets of submissions.

During this time, I also stepped up my research and began searching out other ways to get my work out of the slush pile and in front of agents. Online contests are great opportunities. I got my work in front of several agents through contests like those run by Cupid's Literary Connection.

After communicating with numerous agents, I also began to understand that it was important for them to be someone I wanted to work with.

Wanted: Someone to sell this book while I'm busy... writing the next one.

I started taking time before each submission to read up about agents on their agency website and to read entries from their blog if they had one. This research also gave me material with which to personalize my query letters, resulting in even more requests even from cold queries.

The quest for information led me to still more opportunities. I subscribed to Writer’s Digest online and began attending the occasional webinar, especially if the presenter happened to be an agent or editor I was interested in. I had to be selective because, while there are some free webinars, many of them cost and I haven’t found a way to grow money on trees yet (but I’m willing to learn if anyone has tips).

With all the positive feedback I’d been getting, I felt like I balanced on a fence, ready to fall to one side or the other.


Then it happened, sort of.

I signed up for a Writer’s Digest webinar, “How to Find and Work with an Agent in the 21st Century” being presented on January 19th, 2012 by Lori Perkins and Louise Fury of the L. Perkins Agency. I was interested in the agency and the subject, and a query critique by one of the agents was part of the package.

When the 19th came around, we were in the midst of Snowmageddon 2012, stranded at home with a few trees collapsed on the barn and horse shelter and, as of the time of the webinar, without power.

Snowmageddon 2012!

I plugged a headset into my iPhone, downloaded the meeting app (because there really is an app for everything), and crossed my fingers that my battery would make it through the 90-minute presentation. It did, just barely. I was impressed with both agents, but I directed my query specifically to Louise as the book was more up her ally.

On March 18th, I got e-mail from Louise (who had been out of the country) with a complimentary rejection and a referral to a new agent at L. Perkins Agency, Emily Keyes. Emily brought prior experience from the publishing world into this position and, after reading her blog, I liked the personality that came across. I submitted a personalized query the next day with a mention of the webinar and Louise’s referral.

Of course, I’d been submitting to others during this time as well. On April 27th, the editorial assistant at a larger New York publisher contacted me to let me know that she enjoyed the book and wanted to send it to their editorial director for consideration, to which I agreed enthusiastically. On June 5th, I received e-mail from the smaller local press stating that they wanted to move forward with the book.

I wasn’t sure how to handle the escalating interest. Did I jump to the small press? Did I ask them to wait and risk losing their interest? In an effort to solicit some wisdom, I sent e-mail to Emily Keyes letting her know that the book was garnering interest. She had, by this time, requested the full manuscript, but hadn’t read it yet. She provided me with some guidance and took the weekend to read the book.

When I got the offer of representation on June 10th, I finally understood what it meant to find someone with enthusiasm for your work. Emily was very excited about the book and that’s what ultimately decided me. Here was someone passionate enough about my book to put forth a real effort in finding a home for it. I accepted her offer and put her in charge of communicating with the publishers who had already shown interest.


That book is now making rounds and getting looked at by more publishers. I had the opportunity to meet Emily in person at a writer’s conference I attended in July. She is a delightful person and I am quite happy with her process of submitting the book. She’s managed to get it in front of several editors I never would have gotten attention from on my own. I also just finished making edits on another book (a much improved version of the one I pitched in 2010) per her suggestions and will soon have two books out making rounds.

What do I believe got me this far, aside from writing the best book I could (which I strongly recommend)?

  1. Networking and connecting with people.
  2. Finding ways to get my work in front of agents and editors outside of the standard cold query, such as conferences, contests and webinars.
  3. Recognizing that agents and editors are people and treating them as such by learning about them through blogs and other social media outlets like Twitter.

So, that’s my agent story and the story to date of my 2010 NaNoWriMo novel. Proof that NaNo novels can be good too.

Happy writing!!

An Agent and Geeky Goodness.

Last Monday, I am happy to say, I accepted an offer of representation from Emily Keyes at L. Perkins Agency. There are many great things about this, not the least of which is the time I can now spend writing that I previously spent researching and submitting to agents and editors. There were also the excellent announcements on Twitter.


I've already gained some unexpected perks from this relationship. Thanks to this tweet by my agent

I discovered QMx and now I have this on my desk

and this on my living room mantle.

(Yes, the wall is unfinished. My life is a work in progress. Did you really expect the house to be any different?)

The statue of Wash led to this brief and excellent twitter exchange.

I don't know yet how Emily will work out as my agent. We haven't been working together long enough to say. I can tell you that she is pretty awesome as a person and I look forward to working with her.

In the words of the lovely Kristen Lamb, We Are Not Alone, and that, my friends, is pretty cool.

Happy living!

Any Firefly fans out there? Any closet geeks? I would love to hear from you!