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: Sessions

keep-calm-and-choose-wisely-33 Writer's conferences are wellsprings of information, but you can only attend one session at a time, so choose wisely. Any good conference will have a variety of sessions to choose from and your job is figuring out what's going to be most useful for you.


“During 30 years of earning my daily bread as a writer I have learned many lessons about our craft. The most significant of those lessons is that I still have many lessons to learn about out craft.” ―  H.P. Oliver

You can never go wrong with craft. There’s not a writer out there who shouldn’t aspire to improve their craft regardless of where they are in their career. However, if you just finished or are still writing your first or even second novel, this is probably where you should focus most of your time. You may be a prodigy, but odds are that first novel isn’t a masterpiece. It’s a stepping-stone to growing as a writer. Like any skill, you aren’t born knowing how to do it right or when it's a good idea to break the rules. You have to learn the ins and outs of your vocation before you can advance through the ranks from apprentice to master. Craft sessions are there to help you on that journey. Take advantage of them.



“Content is King. Promotion is Queen” ―  Bob Mayer

Whether you intend to try traditional or independent publishing, marketing is something you’re going to need to learn. A great book that can truly sell itself is almost as rare as unicorns. Don’t hang your career on the hope that your book is going to be that fabled creature. Plan to bust your ass building your audience and make your book soar. These sessions will help you get ideas on how to go about that and what will work for you and your book.

Traditional publishing:

“If you wrote something for which someone sent you a cheque, if you cashed the cheque and it didn't bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.” ―  Stephen King

If you haven’t decided how you want to approach publishing, these sessions can give you the knowledge you need to make that decision. If you’ve decided on a traditional approach, these sessions can give you an inside look on what agents and publishers are looking for and how the publishing process works in the traditional world.

Indie Publishing:

“Behind every novel is a greater story of how it came to be published.” ―  T.L. Rese

Again, if you’re not sure how you want to go about publishing your work, these sessions can help you make an informed decision. If you already know you want to go this route, the sessions will give you insight on what has and hasn’t work for others and help you figure out how to go about it.


Remember, don’t get ahead of yourself. If you only just started writing, focus on craft and worry about marketing and publishing after you’ve seasoned your skills. If you're ready to move on, keep in mind that in publishing sessions, the people presenting will likely be advocates of the route they’ve chosen. Learn about your options and don’t get caught up in someone else’s enthusiasm. Choose the publishing path that is right for your goals as a writer and the kind of writing you do.

Happy Conferencing!

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!

Long Silence

Barrensmall The blog has been very quiet lately. Despite my best efforts, I can’t get my cat to write posts for me.

Too busy to blog.

If I haven’t been blogging, what have I been doing?

Writing and editing books. Yeah, I know. Who does that?


I have one book that should be ready to send to my agent soon and another that will be ready hopefully by November (before the madness of NaNoWriMo because I will be doing that again). I have a third book that I may burn in frustration, but I haven’t quite given up on it yet, and a novella that I plan to start sending out in August.

But that alone isn’t enough to keep a blog in the black like this.

As I mentioned in my previous post Life Changes and Getting Comfortable with Spiders, I’m also getting my house ready to sell. This involves packing,




and many other frustrating, stressful and time-consuming tasks.

As if that weren’t enough, we had our last big 4th of July party at this house. Along with the half-day party, 45-minute fireworks show, and live singer at intermission, we added a fire troupe performance by Dragon Steps to intermission this year.


Add to that the simple tasks of life—apparently sleep is a necessary thing—something had to give. So what haven’t I been doing?

You guessed it. Blogging.

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!!

Writing the Right Book.

When I wrote the novel that landed me an agent, The Girl and the Clockwork Cat, it wasn’t an attempt to cash in on a new trend. In fact, when I came up with the idea, I refused to write it because it was a trend. I went on to write the first draft of another novel that I had planned. Throughout that process, the main character for Clockwork Cat pestered me relentlessly, giving me an endless flood of ideas for the book while I tried desperately to cling to the manuscript I was writing.

Eventually she won, but not before I stubbornly finished the first draft of the other book (which needs major editing as a result). From the moment I started writing Clockwork Cat I found myself on a roller coaster ride with the main protagonist dragging me along by my throat. She’s easily the most determined character I’ve ever worked with and not one to take no for an answer. I love working with her, even if it is exhausting as hell. Here's a small excerpt from the book to give you a glimpse of her.


The steamcycles rumbled to life and she heard them pulling out of the alley. With fierce will, she managed to stay still until the sound of the engines faded in the distance. Then she scrambled like a startled rabbit, throwing disgruntled cockroaches in all directions in her desperate charge for the open air beyond the edge of the ashbin. One bony elbow smacked into the brick wall and she bit down on her lip to stifle a cry.

Sound is the killer. Silence carries one through the night alive.


Now I sit back and wonder. I know the book is good, it’s gotten too much attention to be anything less, but is it good enough to make it in the world of big publishing. My agent seems to believe so and I love her for that. Sometimes I wonder if it wouldn’t have sold already if I had just slipped a vampire in there somewhere like Cassandra Clare’s Infernal Devices books. (I actually love these books. I already have book three pre-ordered and it doesn’t come out until March of next year.) If I had made the steampunk element more of a character in itself as it is in the fantastic Leviathan trilogy by Scott Westerfeld rather than a more subtle environmental aspect à la The Difference Engine, would it be on shelves already?

In the end, I always come to the same conclusion. I wrote the book the way it needed to be written. It wasn’t supposed to be about steampunk or magic or the supernatural. It’s a story about a young woman who, despite her lowly origins and the questionable means by which she has learned to survive, discovers that she is capable of great things. It is her story.

Clockwork Cat is the book that got me my agent. I hope it gets me a publisher too, but there are no guarantees. That’s why I’m still writing and editing like a fiend to get more out there.

I guess this is just to say that you should always write the story the way it needs to be written. I think we need to recognize that telling the story that is in us rather than trying to make it conform to, or avoid conforming to, some trend will make that story shine. It will feel authentic, not forced. The passion that we put into it will come through.

In this new age, with all of the small presses popping up, it is much easier to find a home for a good book that crosses genres or doesn’t quite fit the ideals of a specific trend. In the world of big publishing, it can still be a challenge to find a place for such work (though I’m giving it a go anyway). Break the rules of the genres if that’s what your story calls for. Ignore trends and popular gimmicks if they don’t fit your story. Write the book you want to read and enjoy it.

Happy writing!

Writing Conferences: Why go?

The PNWA (Pacific Northwest Writers Association) annual conference is almost here again. The first year I attended the conference I mostly fumbled about in an overwhelmed stupor (probably with my mouth hanging open most of the time). There were so many agents, editors and other publishing guru’s present, and I could barely fathom how many writers had come out of the woodwork in my region. That many crazy people all gathered in one place can be a shock to the system. (We are all crazy, right? It isn’t just me? I mean, they even have mugs making fun of us. We have arrived.)

What really amazed me were all the opportunities to learn, to network, and to put my writing in front of other people, whether for a peer critique of my pitch or for the attempted wooing of an agent/publisher. By the time it was over, I understood that I wasn’t ready and neither was the book I was pitching, but it opened my eyes to many things I had been missing. There's a whole world of author networking opportunities out there, both in person and via social media. Unexpectedly, while I was attending that first conference, some of the discussions also opened the door for a new book idea to sneak up and bludgeon me over the head (but that’s a different blog post).

By year two, I was ready (or at least much more so than before). I had a new book (see above) ready to pitch to agents. I was prepared to start talking, not just to the people I was pitching to, but to other attendees and anyone else who would let me chat them up. This led to some fantastic conversations with people in the book world and at least one great new friend.

I also knew going in how much information I could glean from attending the right sessions. As authors, we should always be looking to learn more about our industry and, more importantly, about improving our craft (you can never be too good at what you do). Many presenters are wellsprings of information. Be willing to ask questions (preferably questions that benefit everyone in the session). Gather the information. Compile it. Find the gems that will serve you best.

This year will be different for me. My agent will be there, so I’ll get to meet her in person, which is very cool. I’m looking forward to this new experience without the stress of pitching where I can really focus on networking and soaking up knowledge.

Conferences can be expensive, but they are an investment in your writing career regardless of what route you plan to take to publishing. Meeting agents and editors in person can also get you past the dreaded slush pile if that's your chosen path. If you can swing it, take advantage of the opportunities and give yourself a little boost. In my honest opinion, it's worth it.

Have you attended any conferences? Why or why not? What are some of the things that made it worthwhile (or not) for you?

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!

Basking in the Sunshine

This has been a crazy month. I’ve been traveling with family and have suffered from a heinous cold turned sinus infection, but I’ll get into that more later in my One New Thing post for June. I’ve also picked up a literary agent, but I’ll go into that more in my upcoming post about how I got a literary agent. This post is just a little fluffy one about my nomination for the Sunshine Award from the wonderful writer Fabio Bueno, an award that is rather appropriate for this month so far in spite of the nasty illness. Thanks Fabio!

Here are the rules:

  • Include the award logo in the post.
  • Link back and thank those that nominated me.
  • Answer 10 random questions about myself and/or tell seven random facts.
  • Nominate 10 other bloggers and link them to the award in their comments section.

So here goes. More random information about me that you probably weren’t holding your breath for:

1. What’s one of your favorite books from childhood? Tailchaser’s Song by Tad Williams. To be honest, it’s been so long since I read it that I don’t even remember why I love this book. I just know that it’s one of those books I itch to read again every time I think about it.

2. What are you reading? I’m reading Fullmetal Alchemist book one by Hiromu Arakawa in Japanese. I loved the Fullmetal Alchemist anime series so I figured the manga would be a good first step into reading a book in Japanese. I’m also reading A Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi.

3. Which do you prefer, Facebook or Twitter? I’m honestly more of a twitter fan. I can get and give more information faster there, but I tend to interact more with my close friends on Facebook, so it's something of a draw.

4. Favorite thing to do in your free time? Video games or kayaking or horse riding or… well, lots of things.

5. Favorite season? I like most seasons for various reasons (how poetic), but living in Seattle predisposes me to summer because there is a bit less rain.

6. Favorite magazine? I don’t really read magazines much.

7. What is your favorite animal? Snow leopard. I'm a long-time supporter of the Snow Leopard Trust.

8. Favorite teacher (and why)? I had a number of great teachers, but I’d have to say that my sixth grade teacher, Mr. Johnson, was probably the best simply because he was the first to encourage me in my book writing.

9. What is your favorite number? Can I have three? I really like 3, 7, and 13.

10. Do you prefer reading short stories or novels? Novels. I pick up a short story now and then, but I like something longer that I can become deeply immersed in.

This time I’m going to break the rules and just say that I would love to hear from all of you. What is your favorite season, teacher, etc.? If you haven’t received the Sunshine Award and would like to, say so in the comments and I slip in a list with you on it.

Happy sunshine!

Are You Popular Enough to be an Author?

A new and improved version of this blog post can now be seen in the Spring 2012 issue (volume 2, issue 3) of Line Zero, a quarterly independent print journal from Pink Fish Press.

I wasn't popular in school. I don't recall ever wanting to be. As far as I could see, it didn't do the popular kids any good. If anything, they just had more expectations to live up to. My main concern in school was--no, not getting good grades--telling stories. I spent hours and hours of class time working on book ideas, which didn't do much for my grades. Most of my teachers liked me despite that and a few even encouraged me when they found out I was writing books instead of notes (yes, I was in school in the dark ages between texting on cell phones and etching on stone tablets).

When I started college, I took a different approach because then I was actually investing my own money in those classes. Funny how motivating that can be. I still didn't engage much with my fellow students. I had school and a job to focus on and somewhere in there, I had to make time for my writing. Popular wasn't going to get me good grades or the money to pay for the next term and it sure wasn't going to satisfy all the characters in my head.

Somewhere in the last few years, I got the harebrained idea to take my writing addiction and try to make a go at being an author. Only now, it looks like being successful as a new author has become a popularity contest. How many Twitter followers do you have? How many people follow your blog? How many fans do you have on Facebook? What is your Klout score?

I thought going into this that being a successful author was about writing well and telling a great story. I never wanted to be popular and I still don't really. I love the people I've met online, but I have little enough time for my friends and family and my writing as it is. Getting published isn't about me. It is about the enjoyment people get out of reading my work. As far as I'm concerned, if someone likes my writing, that's even better than them liking me.

Don't take me wrong. I do believe that an author should put effort into marketing their books to help with sales in today's environment and I honestly love the idea of being able to connect with my readers (once I have published work to offer them). What I don't get is how that turned into having to market ourselves to even get looked at by an agent.

We aren't our books. It isn't our charming smile and great hairdo that makes someone want to read what we write. Sure, that might lure a few people in, but what will keep them is good writing and good stories. Writing a good blog, doesn't mean you can write a good fiction novel. It means you can write a good blog. Conversely, writing a good book doesn't mean you're automatically a great blogger.

I honestly think the agents and publishers are putting a little too much emphasis on the social media aspect right now. That said, it is what they seem to want, so I am doing my part to step out there and wave my own flag (I just wish it had a skull, crossed katana and perhaps a bottle of rum on it).

If you want to play the game in the current market, you have to jump in the sandbox with the other kids and try not to be voted out. Can you build the best sandcastle? More importantly, does it matter how beautiful that sandcastle is if you open the doors and its empty inside?

hBEBB0E8F see more Five Minute Getaway

Actually, if that's your sandcastle, you may not need anything inside. :)

So now that I have grumbled about social media on my blog (and shared it out to Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn because no one would know I was grumbling otherwise) I’ll go back to editing.

I would love to hear your thoughts about the current emphasis on social media for unpublished authors. Can a good social media presence transcend bad writing? Does a poor social media presence mean disaster even if you have an amazing debut novel? Should your social media presence be a major factor for agents and editors considering your work?