I promise I'm not going to post a link to every positive review STILLWATER receives. Pinky swear. But, I have to tell you about the blurbs I've received from awesome mystery authors Harry Hunsicker & Diane Vallere.
“Dangerous things lurk beneath the placid surface in Stillwater, Texas. Secrets shunning the light of day, decades-old betrayals, lies that have taken on a life of their own. Moody and atmospheric, utterly compelling, you don’t want to miss Melissa Lenhardt’s marvelous debut novel, STILLWATER.” --Harry Hunsicker, former Executive Vice President of the Mystery Writers of America, author of THE GRID
“Secrets, lies, and betrayals run through STILLWATER like irrigation through dry land. Melissa Lenhardt’s writing drips with detail to create a story that rushes like a wave toward an ever-twisting ending. Don’t let the name fool you; STILLWATER’s threats lie right below the surface.” —Diane Vallere, bestselling author of the Material Witness, Madison Night, and Style & Error Mysteries
I mean, seriously. How can I not squee just a little bit about these awesome blurbs? Thanks so much, Harry & Diane, for taking the time to read my book.
I love blurbs. When I pick up a book, I skim the names of the writer's who blurbed the book. If it's a writer I like, I'll read the book. So, imagine my excitement when Catriona McPherson, award-winning author of The Day She Died, as well as a series of "ten and counting preposterous 1920s detective novels" agreed to read STILLWATER. Multiply that excitement by 100 when I received her feedback:
"Crisp and pacy writing pulls you in deep from page one, when Jack McBride strides into a crime scene and a world of trouble. STILLWATER is the perfect combination of a tightly plotted tale peopled by rich, complex characters (plus one or two deliciously hateful true baddies). Slashed budgets, racial tensions, messy pasts - this small town is anything but cozy. The mystery itself is a classic puzzle, though: clever and convincing. Roll on Jack #2!" —Catriona McPherson, Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity–winning author of the Edgar-nominated The Day She Died
If you're looking for something to read before STILLWATER is released on October 6, you should check out Catriona's stand-alone novels and her series. You won't be sorry!
FYI, I'll have news soon about the Jack #2 she speaks of. Stay tuned!
On June 1, I posted on the Swamp that some news was coming. Last Tuesday, I announced the news to my newsletter subscribers. Today, I'm posting it here for those who aren't subscribed.
If the one-line pitch, "Outlander meets the American West" sounds like a novel you'd want to read, you're going to be very excited about this deal. SAWBONES, the first novel in a historical series featuring a female surgeon from New York who flees out West after being falsely accused of murder, will be released digitally in March 2016. The remaining two novels will be released in six month increments.
This book has been a seven year labor of love. Not only was it the first manuscript I finished but it was also what I worked on after my father died in the summer of 2008. Dad loved watching Westerns, especially Lonesome Dove. All that summer after he died, I read McMurtry's novel, watched the mini-series, and took a deep dive into classic Hollywood westerns. I played around with a few scenes, not liking much of anything except the characters. What put this story into motion to become what it is now was reading EMPIRE OF THE SUMMER MOON by SC Gwynne.
I love all my books, but there's something special about this one. It's my favorite child and I absolutely cannot wait to share it with you all next spring! #Sawbones
Hang on, didn't you tell us about this book? It's coming out in October.
STILLWATER and SAWBONES are two entirely different books set in a different time periods with completely different characters.
I have two novels in two genres being released within months of each other.
It's okay to be shocked.
I CAN'T BELIEVE IT MYSELF!
STILLWATER, my contemporary mystery, will be released in FOUR MONTHS!
I cannot believe it is almost here. Things are about to move fast and furious for this novel so expect the next newsletter to be chock full of STILLWATER news, including the cover and information about the book launches. #BigSecretsRunDeep
If you'd like to read more about SAWBONES, click HERE.
If you'd like to subscribe to my email newsletter and receive news early, as well as get exclusive content and contests, click HERE.
If you share this post on social media, please use these hashtags:
I know it's been a little, how should I say this?, quiet around the Swamp for the past few months, but there's a very good reason for it. Soon, I will be able to tell you the reason. Hopefully, this week. Going forward, news about my books will come first through a newsletter. You may remember I ran a contest a couple of months ago promoting it. If you didn't sign up for it at that time, now is the time to do it! I promised I wouldn't spam you and, true to my word, I haven't sent one since the contest. Now, it's four months from the release of STILLWATER, and news will be coming more frequently and I want you to hear it first!
To sign up for my newsletter, CLICK HERE.
And, watch your inbox for some exciting news! The banner picture above might be a hint. ;)
One more thing: 199 people have added STILLWATER to their Goodreads Want to Read shelf! Have you? If not, go over and be the one who puts it over the hump!
I know it's seven months until STILLWATER: A NOVEL is released, but I cannot contain my excitement! I've been thinking of what contests and giveaways I should have closer to the release and thought, "Why wait?" Plus, I had a pretty awesome idea for the swag to give away and I wanted to share. I have a friend who is a wonderful artist. Seriously. I'm in awe of her creativity. So, when I went to her with my idea, she said, "Yep. I can do that." And, it looks just as awesome as I expected!
Seriously, how cool is mug? The words all relate to the book, either character names, themes, or specific places. Why a coffee mug, you ask? Because Ellie Martin, the main female protagonist, owns The Book Bank, a combination bookstore and coffee shop. Hence, a hand-painted coffee mug.
How do you win this awesome coffee mug? Simple.
Going forward, my blog post will focus on writing instead of book news. The best way - the first way - to get news about the book, events, contests and exclusive content will be the newsletter. It'll be delivered right to your inbox. No blogs to follow, no social media accounts to check and hope my announcements will, against all odds, show up on your timeline. But, I'll also announce stuff on social media, so if that's your preferred way to get news, follow me on Facebook and Twitter.
Don't worry about me spamming you with newsletters. Marketing is important but it's also time-consuming. Every minute away from it is a minute I'm not writing or editing. So, I'll only send you newsletters when it's important, or can't keep it to myself news!
The contest will run through FRIDAY, March 6. Sign up! I'd love to share my publishing journey with you!
This quote by Margaret Atwood was the first thing I saw when I opened Twitter this morning and wow, is it a perfect sentiment for where I've been this week, starting a new MS.
I'm not a plotter. Oh, how I long to be a plotter, but that much organization completely kills my creativity. She's already a timid little thing, the last thing I need to do is murder her with PLANS.
I know, in broad strokes, the beginning, middle and end of every book, but I've never been one to outline chapter by chapter what happens when. One Nano I tried the Snowflake Method. Lasted about a day.
My method is think shit up, and write it down quick, before I forget it.
Have I told you before? I have a horrible memory.
Anyway, not a plotter. That's why my "synopsis" includes lots of parentheticals such as, "she is betrayed by the con-woman (not sure why; will figure out later, probably jealousy but OMG Boring, and Predictable. UGH.)." There's also a few, "blah, blah, blah" and "yada, yada, yadas" in there.
So, it's no surprise I'm an insanely inefficient writer. I will, almost always, write at least 20,000 words that end up in the trunk file. One day, I'm going to hem all those scenes together and publish a seven part, stream of conscious contemporary mystery/historical fiction/women's fiction/erotica epic that will take the literary world by storm. I've jettisoned more awesome scenes than I can count. Actually, I don't want to count them. It's too depressing. I'm an expert at killing my darlings.
So, here I am, starting a MS with the beginning and the middle and the end clear in my mind, but the details of how they get there are fuzzy. Or non-existent. And, this time, I have a deadline. Not a self-imposed deadline I can meet or not meet depending on my inspiration. An honest to goodness deadline where there will be consequences if it isn't met. Which means I can't dither.
I can't check my phone every time a sentence isn't forming right.
I can't get up and switch the laundry over, decide I need to make a cake (I wanted to the other day but didn't *pats self on the back*), clean out the cabinets, organize the pantry or wash the dishes.
I can't wait for the perfect word because now, at 7,000 words, none of them are perfect, but they're all salvageable.
Yesterday, I sat in front of a blank screen, knowing I needed to write at least 2000 words and didn't have an idea to save my life. I ended the day with 3500 words and two damn good scenes under my belt that I hope survive to the end. We'll see.
So, if you asked me today, "What's the hardest part of writing a book?" I'd say, "The beginning." Ask me again in a few weeks and I'll say "The end."
But, I'll be damn happy to be there.
Something happened yesterday. A monumental event I knew was coming, eventually, but I wasn't prepared for how absolutely cool and fantastic it was. My debut novel, STILLWATER, went up on Amazon. It is available for pre-order.
A couple of things: yes, I know there's no cover image. That will come, hopefully soon, but I don't know when exactly.
Second, the tentative release date is October 6, 2015. That can always change, but for now, that's the target. As long as it is released before November 19, I'll have achieved my goal of getting published by 45.
Third, it will be available in electronic formats before October 6 and hopefully in audio as well.
Fourth, pre-orders are love.
So is sharing.
Taps microphone. Hello? Shields eyes from spotlight. Anyone here?
There's a drunk slumped at a table with an empty bottle of Wild Turkey, a suburban mom with a tiny bit of spit-up on her shoulder and a man whose thousand yard stare can only mean he's at the end of writing a first draft. Thanks for sticking around, guys. Sorry for the delay. Traffic was a nightmare.
Where have I been, you ask? Working on the sequel to STILLWATER (coming Fall 2015), which means I've been procrastinating like a mofo. My favorite form of procrastination has been researching book marketing, which says to engage your readers/fans through social media--Twitter, Facebook, Blog--which I haven't been doing because I feel guilty I'm not working on my sequel.
The good news is, the sequel is coming along. It's still a hot mess, but it's getting there. I've also learned a few things about book marketing. Here's what I've learned:
- Facebook isn't nearly the marketing dynamo everyone thinks it is. The posts on my page have very little reach, even when I share it on my personal page and my friends share it. Why? Because Facebook wants me to pay for promotion.
- Heard the "you must have at least 2,500 Twitter followers" stat again this weekend. Apparently, this magic number will be the deciding factor for publisher's sales/marketing departments if they are on the fence about buying your book. Still think its a specious piece of advice.
- Blogging is more difficult when your posts need to be more than just some random woman on the internet posting her thoughts about books. I have to look at everything I post through the "How Will This Help/Hurt My Book Marketing" lens, which has sucked what little blog creativity I had out the window.
But, there's always Friday Twitter Tips. No surprise my favorite tweets focus on craft and marketing/promotion these days. But, there are still a few query tips because they never, ever die.
Because Query Tips Never Die...
Things Only Writers Find Funny
PREVIOUSLY ON FRIDAY TWITTER TIPS
Take a clever, determined reporter who moonlights as a detective, a sidekick who spends most of his time flirting with the ladies, a kidnapped beauty, and a host of lowlifes who just might hold the key to unlocking the case and what do you have? You have The Great Cat-Nap, a delightful middle-grade mystery in the vein of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. With cats. Yes, you read that right. Cats. And really, what better animal to have as a stand in for Sam Spade than a slick, black cat with green eyes? Reading this novel as an adult was pure pleasure. The cat puns are thick on the ground, but somehow not overdone. You'll find yourself laughing at loud at how Bostwick turns even the most pedestrian cat stereotype on its head, and sometimes into something vaguely seedy, but still age appropriate. Cats that need to switch to water from heavy cream late at night. Dilated pupils from too much catnip. A crazy-cat lady beloved by the cats she rescues from the streets. Then, Bostwick will throw in a reference to noir canon which will go over kids' heads but will have adults nodding their heads and laughing at its ingenuity.
"Of all the rundown newspapers in all the cities, she had to walk into mine."
But, let's not forget the kids. They will love this book. It's a clever mystery which will keep them guessing but is also so well laid out they might be able to come up with the solution to the mystery just before Ace does. Any child who loves animals will love this book. Cats, dogs, a mink and a rat all play prominent roles. There's enough danger to keep them on the edge of their seat and enough humor and cleverness to keep them engaged and reading. It's not hard to imagine children who have their own pets, cats especially, putting this book down and imagining their pet as the star in their own adventure.
The Great Cat-Nap by A.M. Bostwick
Ace is a hard-core newspaper reporter. He's tenacious, confident, and assertive. He's also a cat. When the famous show cat Ruby the Russian goes missing, Ace is on the story. But he bites off more than he can chew when he agrees to play detective and find the prize-winning cat, believed to have been kidnapped by animal smugglers. Calling on his feline friends, a few dogs, and even a boastful rat nemesis, Ace’s investigation will lead him from the most respected parts of town to the lowly haunts of the underground alley cat system. He’ll have to try to break a cat out of the pound for priceless information and get into a single-pawed battle with smugglers before getting his shot at solving the dangerous crime, culminating on a chilly October night in the gray and lonely streets of downtown.
The winner of the 2014 TOFTE/WRIGHT CHILDREN'S LITERATURE AWARD, this 55,000 word middle-grade mystery is filled with adventure, suspense, and humor -- all told from the point of view of a cat!
E-Book available from
About the Author
A.M. Bostwick writes Middle Grade and Young Adult novels. An early draft of her young adult novel, Break the Spell was a finalist in the 2013 Wisconsin Romance Writers of America Fab 5 Contest. The Great Cat Nap, winner of the 2014 Tofte/Wright Children's Literature Award from the Council for Wisconsin Writers, is her debut novel. Abigail lives in Tomahawk, WI, with her husband, dog and thrill-seeking cat. Follow her on Twitter @BostwickAM
We are one year out from the publication of my debut novel, STILLWATER, and things are starting to get interesting. Not only am I writing the sequel, tentatively titled THE FISHER KING, but I'm researching press kits, email marketing and newsletters. In short, I'm educating myself on every possible way to get the word out about STILLWATER to as many people as possible. Blog, Facebook, Twitter, newsletters, print media, I'm going to try it all. But, probably the absolute best way to reach readers is through Goodreads and Amazon. Amazon won't help me until the book is available for preorder, which won't happen for months. But, Goodreads. That's another story.
That's a long introduction to say I am now officially a Goodreads Author.
Okay, celebration over. Back to work.
Do you remember when I announced my publishing contract I said I would need your help in the upcoming months?
I need your help.
If you're on Goodreads, you can find my author page here. Click on "Become a Fan."
Then, scroll down a bit and you will see the link for STILLWATER.
Now, this next part is very important. So important I'm giving it it's own line.
Add it to your Want to Read bookshelf.
This is critical. Why? Well, other people who are friends with you will see it on their timeline and maybe they'll add it. You can recommend it to your friends, as well. The more people who Want to Read STILLWATER the better. Why?
Interest on Goodreads and pre-orders on Amazon (when it's available; it's not yet) will give the book buzz, which can then be translated to media buzz, which will be translated to sales, which will be translated to readers, which will be translated to more sales and more readers which will be translated to a happy author!
If you aren't on Goodreads, why aren't you? You can join easily using your Facebook login. Then follow the steps above to Become a Fan and add STILLWATER to your Want to Read bookshelf.
That's it for now. We won't have a cover for a few months, at least. When we do, I'll be waving that baby all over the internet. You won't miss it.
Today on the blog, I'm welcoming one of my Workshop peeps and debut author of the rural fantasy ONE NIGHT IN SIXES, Arianne "Tex" Thompson. During the day, Tex is a master teacher for an academic and tutoring prep services company. In her free time - which you'll see she doesn't have much of - she's a regular at libraries, writers' conferences and conventions, as well as being the editor for the DFW Writers' Conference website. And, she writes, natch! Somehow, with everything she has going on, she found time to answer a few questions about her alter-ego, time management skills, and the future of her hero, Appolosa Elim.
Okay, when I Googled your name to get to your website, I discovered a DC Comics superhero named Tex Thompson. I know I'm totally showing my comic book, superhero ignorance here, but I had no idea your nickname came from a superhero. I mean, it makes sense, of course. As Truvy from Steel Magnolias would say, "There's a story there." Spill. How did you get your nickname, and what made you decide to use it in your pen name as well as your given name?
Would you believe that I didn't actually know about Tex Thompson the DC character? Thompson is my maiden name, and "Tex" was the pronounceable part of the AOL screennames and message-board handles that I used to play online games, lo these many years ago. As for how that particular virus mutated and spread offline - well, you know that feeling you get when you walk into the DFW Writers Workshop to read for the very first time? That kind of sweaty, queasy, five-out-of-six-on-the-Pepto-Bismol checklist terror? That was pretty much it. I decided that I could handle getting my life's work eviscerated by a roomful of strangers - but not without a secret identity. So Bruce Wayne became Batman, and I became Tex - and you know, I think it's worked out pretty well! (Except for that third-string superhero guy. Mark my words, Google - I WILL UNSEAT HIM.)
I wish I'd thought of the secret identity before reading at workshop. Maybe it wouldn't have taken me six months! Have you ever gone to a con dressed up as superhero Tex Thompson? And, if there was a Tex Thompson superhero movie, who would play your doppelganger?
You know, I am actually a really terrible cosplayer! If I don't look pretty much exactly like the character, I'm usually too nervous to even try (which is why my one and only cosplay alter ego so far has been the exquisite Pam Poovey, who is not only my body double, but everything I aspire to be.) I tell you what, though: if I ever get to be in the movies, I'm going to ask Robin Weigert to channel her Deadwood-edition Calamity Jane and get in there for me. She can drink, fart, cry, cuss, nurse the sick, bury the dead, kill a man, and love a woman - and if those aren't superpowers, I don't know what is.
Rumor has it you started writing ONE NIGHT IN SIXES in high school. Tell me about the genesis of Appaloosa Elim's story and it's journey to publication.
It is truly a long and sordid tale! And anyone who really wants to is welcome to hear
. But here's maybe a shorter, neater, cleaner way of saying it: I did indeed start writing a book when I was in high school, starring a guy named Elim. He was a horny, goofy, sword-wielding idiot, because the anime I watched was full of horny, goofy idiots, and the fantasy I read said that fantasy heroes were kickass sword-guys. And that didn't really change until I grew up, got an education, got to see some of the world, and decided that what I really wanted to write about were people we don't get to see as often - the ones who might be relegated to villains or sidekicks or victims, or who are just plain not included. So even though all that's left from that original 11th-grade novel are a few character names and traits, this does in many ways feel like the same book - because for me, the process of writing (and rewriting, and rewriting!) this one single thing over the past 15 years was also the process of figuring out what I really cared about, and what I wanted to contribute to the world's bookshelf.
Where does Appaloose Elim go from here? Tell me everything you can about the sequel! You're website very slyly slipped in a "s" at the end of the word "sequel," I noticed. Is SIXES going to be an epic on par of Game of Thrones? Harry Potter? Narnia?
Oh my cheese, no! Don't get me wrong - I have nothing but love and respect for the folks who can pull off a ten-book saga, but I don't have those chops (yet!)
One Night in Sixes
is the first third of a 300,000-word megastory I wrote from 2007 to 2010.
Medicine for the Dead
is the second part, tentatively scheduled for March 2015 - and Lord willing and the creek don't rise, we'll have a name and a publishing date for Part 3 soon afterward, which will finish the story. I tell you what, though: as much love and sweat has gone into building this particular fantasyland sandbox, I *definitely* mean to revisit this world and some of these characters.
Full disclosure: I read your
on your website then promptly took a nap from exhaustion. When do you find time to a) write, b) read. More importantly, what are you reading now?
Well, here is a shameful secret: I am TERRIBLE at time management. I feel like I'm always doing everything badly and at the last minute. So my TBR pile looks like a giant, dusty game of bar Jenga, and my book revisions are two months behind schedule, and I have so many emails rotting in my inbox, it's like a digital zombie apocalypse.
And speaking of zombies and what I'm reading now, LET ME TELL YOU: Daniel Bensen's New Frontiers has completely eaten my brain. It's a story about near-future Earth, where aliens have come in and done to us pretty much what Europeans did to indigenous Americans - and here to try and save our species is Harry Downs, an "exo-erotic diplomat" (aka interspecies gigolo), who's convinced that one good orgasm is all it's going to take to get humanity an equal seat at the table - or, you know, at least keep us from being enslaved and/or eradicated by the alien gangsters currently strip-mining the Amazon. It's basically Men in Black with a Debbie Does Dallas twist, and you are going to SCREAM in frustration when I tell you that not only is it not available in bookstores, it still needs a publisher! (He's got the agent part handled, fortunately.)
But as schlocky as it is for me to take up page-space here with an unpublished work, whose author is a friend of mine, the point that I really want to make is this: as a reader, every time I get bored and cynical and start to feel like I'm drifting on a sea of been-there-done-that books, I find something that totally pushes every one of my buttons, feels dazzlingly smart and fresh and relevant, and fires me up all over again. I LOVE that feeling.
I don't know about you, but I have books I re-read on a regular basis. I call them comfort reads. Do you have a book(s) like that or are you one of those weirdos who only read a book once and think, "That's that! On to the next book!"?
Ha! Would it redeem me at all if I told you that I didn't actually *mean* to be a one-time-only weirdo? To tell you the truth, what I've noticed happening is that I actually have TWO piles these days: Books I Want To Read, and Books I Want To Have Read. The former is pretty much the same as it's always been. The latter is made up of important new releases in my genre, "touchstone" books (things like
The Hunger Games
Game of Thrones
that are too big to ignore), and books that are assigned reading for my tutoring students. As long as those lists are, going back to a book I've ALREADY read feels like an unfathomable indulgence. I tell you what, though: whenever the nightmare-clowns find me or I'm up at 3 AM with a bad case of the pork sweats, the
Calvin and Hobbes
books always come out again. I definitely hear you on the importance of having comfort reads close to hand.
For a chance to win a signed copy of ONE NIGHT IN SIXES, leave a comment below.
The border town called Sixes is quiet in the heat of the day. Still, Appaloosa Elim has heard the stories about what wakes at sunset: gunslingers and shapeshifters and ancient earthly gods whose human faces never outlast the daylight.
If he ever wants to go home again, he’d better find his missing partner before they do. But if he’s caught out after dark, Elim risks succumbing to the old and sinister truth that lives in his own flesh – and discovering just how far he’ll go to survive the night.
A post on Book Riot (my new favorite website about books and reading), The Reasons I Don't Read: Causes of the Dreaded Book Slump, hit home with me this morning because I am in a book slump. In fact, I'm so bothered by my book slump it made the list of things that are pissing me off that I bombarded my poor husband with on Tuesday.
- I'm procrastinating.
- I'm not writing.
- I hate our gym.
- I can't lose weight.
- I haven't lost myself in a book in months.
I won't bore you with talk about the first four because they are all on me and things I could fix if I put my mind to it. Though, in my defense, our gym isn't a gym, but a rec center with all the weird little quirks that comes with that. That place pissed me off from the word go with their weird childcare hours (at a crucial time in my life when working out was my only avenue to sanity), stupid rules and the fact it didn't have a water fountain on the workout floor. I mean, come on. What the hell kind of design is that?
*takes a deep breath*
Anyway. Reading. I talked to writer friends about this last night at happy hour.
And, can I just stop down right here and say how amazingly awesome is that I'm having happy hour with writer friends? Slowly but surely, I feel like I'm a part of a larger community, an industry, that I'm a professional. Crazy how much I missed that.
I can't read a novel without analyzing it from a writer's point of view. Without thinking,
"Oh! I should do that!" or
"Good God! I would never do that!" or
"Oh my God! Do I do that?" or
"If I did that, Workshop would cut me off at the knees."
Let me tell you, it sucks the enjoyment right out of reading.
"Come on, Melissa. Not reading isn't the end of the world."
To that I say, "You obviously aren't a reader." It is the end of the world. I love reading. It's who I am. Reading has educated me, comforted me, angered me, inspired me. One of my biggest joys in life is recommending a book to a friend and that friend loving it. It's a Twitter descriptor - wife, mother, writer, reader, ice cream lover - the last of which explains #4 up there. It's not like reading is a bad habit I need to kick. In fact, it's something I have to do to be a good writer.
Therein lies the problem.
I haven't been picking up books that grab my interest, but books I feel like I should read, specifically mysteries.
Here's a little quirk of mine: I write mysteries but I don't read a lot of mysteries. In fact, I write mysteries that I want to read. Fodder for another post.
As a result, instead of focusing on enjoying the story, I've been over-analyzing the text, the writer's style, how it differs from mine, what I can learn. In the last six months, reading has become homework and no one likes homework. My writer friends suggested I should get completely out of my genre which is, of course, the common sense response and one I should have seen myself, and would have if the other four issues up there hadn't sent me spiraling into irritation overload.
Will I continue to analyze everything I read. Probably. I fear it is the curse of being a writer. But, I still believe there are books out there that I will lose myself in, that I will forget to think of scene structure, tension, dialogue and plot. There's only one way to find it.
My workshop friend, Brooke, started this pretty cool blog tour idea in a post for Carve Magazine. I volunteered to participate, though I am not going to tag five people. Feel free to post about your own path on your blog. 1. Where are you on your publishing path?
I signed a contract with Skyhorse Publishing last month. My debut mystery novel, STILLWATER, will be published in hardback in October 2015.
2. How long has it taken you to get there?
I started writing ten years ago. I attended my first writer's con in 2012, I signed with an agent in 2013 and signed a publishing deal in 2014.
3. What’s your journey looked like thus far?
My mentor, Mark, told me recently I have done this whole publishing thing by the numbers. Finishing a book, getting an agent, getting a deal. It sounds like it was easy and painless and, if I'm honest, it probably has been an easier journey than many or most writers go through. Why? I don't know. It's not because I'm good at pitching or write a clear, gripping query letter. In fact, I'm pretty terrible at pitching and query letters. Don't even ask about synopses. My success has been a mix of talent, luck, perseverance and the confidence that, no matter how long it took, I would get published.
4. What’s your future look like?
NYT Bestseller, baby! At least, that's the dream. Isn't it every writer's dream? Realistically, I want STILLWATER to sell well and for the second book to be picked up. I want the historical fiction novel my agent is submitting to publishers in the fall to be picked up. But, most of all, I want to continue to write, for people to read and enjoy my work.
It's Tuesday, which means I can use the prompt from The Broke and the Bookish to keep my blog from getting covered in cobwebs. This week's list is Top Ten Books I'm Not Sure I Want To Read --- basically any book that has you going, "TO READ OR NOT TO READ?" 1. Capital in the 21st Century by Thomas Picketty - I want to read this but I generally only make it 10% into business/self-improvement books before I'm bored out of my mind.
2. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt - A book about "a rumination on the nature of art and appearances" doesn't entice me to tackle a 784 page book, especially when I have its cousin sitting on my bedside table, waiting for me to finish.
3. The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton - the aforementioned cousin of The Goldfinch, i.e. literary doorstop with a partially obscured painting on a tan book cover. I started The Luminaries but I too easily set it aside for me to hurry back to it.
4. Moby Dick by Herman Melville - Poor Moby Dick. It will never get off of my To Read or Not To Read list, I fear.
5. William Faulkner - He may be brilliant, but he's a slog.
6. Middlemarch by George Eliot - another English language masterpiece I didn't connect with.
7. John Green - Was so unimpressed with The Fault in our Stars I doubt I'll ever pick up another one of his books, especially when a common criticism I hear is his books are startlingly similar.
8. Outlander Books 6-8 - I blew through the first five books one after the other years ago when I discovered Gabaldon. I loved her writing, characters, history and scope. But reading one after the other burned me out on the world. I would need to re-read the first books before tackling 6-8 and I've no doubt the same thing would happen. Luckily, the Starz adaptation is brilliant.
9. Game of Thrones Books 5 and Beyond - Started and disliked book five. Immensely. Maybe more than The Fault in our Stars, which is saying something.
I'll stop there. It feels weird, wrong even, to write a post about books I'm not going to read. Still, blog content!
What books do you vacillate on?
After ten years and hundreds of thousands of words, I finally get to write this simple, but monumental sentence: STILLWATER will be published by Skyhorse Publishing in October 2015.
Woo-hoo! It's been a long, somewhat frustrating process. But, the end result couldn't be better. We've found an editor and publisher who are as enthusiastic about Jack, Ellie, Ethan and Stillwater, Texas, as I am. I can't wait to work with the Skyhorse team.
I'm sure y'all have lots of questions, which I will be answering over the next 14 months as we progress in the publishing process. The most important information is THERE IS GOING TO BE A PHYSICAL BOOK IN BOOKSTORES WITH MY NAME ON THE COVER IN 14 MONTHS!!
If you would have told me when I first sat down at a computer and wrote a sentence that I would have a publishing contract in ten years, I would have said, "What's a publishing contract?" Last night, I dreamed about practicing my autograph on my dust-covered dresser. I'm sure Freud would have a field day with that dream.
Thanks to all my family for understanding when I zoned out for hours, thinking about my book. For the times I would cry out while driving carpool when I broke through a story problem. For Mark for mentoring me and being the first one to really believe I could do this. For my friends for their support and encouragement. See, every time I said I couldn't do something because I was writing, I really was writing.
Stay tuned. October 2015 will be here before you know it.
From The Broke and the Bookish - Top Ten Blogging Confessions
- I always have big ideas and plans to post regularly on my blog but invariable don't follow through with them. Lately it's been because I'm busy doing writerly stuff that needs to be done if I want to get published.
- Each blog post takes 30 minutes at a minimum. Usually over an hour. (This one had taken five hours, but ice cream had to be made.) That's a lot of time to dedicate to something I'm not entirely sure anyone reads and/or enjoys.
- Building a following on a blog is hard work. Does it reap the benefits touted by proponents of Platform Building? Magic 8 Ball says, "Ask again later."
- I used to religiously write book reviews but now can't seem to put into words why I liked a book or disliked it. I think I'm out of practice and if I made myself write them, it would come back. The problem is time. Book reviews take even longer than a general blog post.
- I don't read or follow as many blogs as I should.
- My favorite all time blog post is One Mile Ahead.
- Of the ten most popular posts, seven are about The Mentalist.
- I do not talk politics on my blog.
- Nor do I talk about religion.
- I didn't think I had blogging confessions. Turns out, I had nine.
Since I started compiling #pubtip tweets, I've noticed a trend. Most of the tweets from agents are about poor queries. Most of the poor queries are bad in the same way. All of the mistakes could be solved by the writer doing one thing before querying: research. I get it. You've finished your MS and you want to get it out there ASAP. You want the money and fame to start rolling in as soon as possible. Before you rush in and send out a query let me tell you a secret of the publishing industry. You ready?
The publishing industry is slow.
From the moment you query an agent, even if everything goes perfectly, you still might be 3-4 years away from seeing your book on a shelf. If you query an small press directly, that might be shortened to 1-3 years. I'm not telling you that to discourage you, or to push you toward self-publishing. Though I understand why writers go that route, I still think traditional publishing is the best path to success. I'm telling you that to bring home this point:
The one or two months it will take for you to thoroughly research potential agents and to perfect your query letter is a blink compared to the rest of the publishing process.
If you send out a sub-par query you aren't making progress anyway. The problem is, you think you are. The reality is your bad query and lack of research has zero chance of landing an agent. Take the time to make your query the best it can be. Are my tips below the last word on querying? Heck no. But, it's a start.
1. Make sure your MS is POLISHED.
- Find a beta reader.
- Or, if you don't have one, hire a professional editor to edit the whole book. If your book isn't polished past fifty pages, the agent will probably stop reading at fifty-one.
- Don't let your MS get rejected because of typos and poor grammar.
2. Research: Make sure agents are:
- open for submissions
- represent your genre
3. Research: Know your genre.
- Know the standard word length for your genre. Don't pitch a 100,000 word MG, or a 16,000 word novel.
- All books are cross genre, pick the dominant genre for your book and query it as that. Sometimes, it's difficult to know which one to choose. Discuss it with your beta reader or editor. (For the record, I made this mistake.)
4. Research: Follow submission guidelines.
- I know, I know. They're all different. It's annoying. But, it's part of the deal.
- If you can't follow submission guidelines, you will automatically be rejected.
5. Research: There is a right way and wrong way to write a query.
- If you don't know how, Google "How to write a query letter."
- Yes, writing is creative. You can be as unique and quirky as you want and no one will judge you. We embrace the quirk in creative arts. That's why we're so good at what we do. But, a query letter is a business letter, not an opportunity to be cute. Don't write it from your main charcter's POV. Of course, use your own writing voice, but don't be gimmicky.
- Join a query critique group or site and get your query critiqued before sending it out. (For the record: the first query I sent out was horrible. Truly. I should have joined a critique group.)
6. Be professional.
- Writing is creative, but publishing is a BUSINESS! Agents and editors are professionals. Accept rejection with grace. If you want to rail about how unfair it all is, scream into a pillow. Sending nasty email responses to a rejection will not get you an acceptance.
- You're going to get rejected. Everyone gets rejected. You may want to query the agent who rejects you one day and do you really want to take the chance he/she will remember your nasty email? Or the chance they'll mention it to their other agent friends?
This information isn't hard to find, which is why it's so puzzling when writers make same mistakes over and over. As I noted above, I made some of the same mistakes! (I apologize to the agents I queried.) The biggest problem with research is there is so much information it can make your head spin. Some advice may be contradictory. But, here's the thing: if you read enough articles, you will see the through lines. When in doubt, listen to what the agents and editors have to say. They'll be receiving your query, after all.
I will give you one suggestion: buy THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO GETTING YOUR BOOK PUBLISHED. It's a great starting point, just don't get so sidetracked by creating your platform you forget to query.
I could probably add ten more suggestions, but IMO, these are the ones I see over and over while compiling this Public Service Announcement. If there are any agents and editors who read this and have additional suggestions, please put them in the comments.
Top Ten Tuesday from The Broke and the Bookish. Since I posted My Top Ten Books In My Backpack a couple of weeks ago, I asked my good friend, Camey, to write a guest post about her summer reading list.
I’m just going to start out by being vulnerable. (I’ve been working on that lately.) Coming up with 10 books to read was a stretch. I’m currently working on my masters and could come up with a separate post called “Top 10 Leadership and Curriculum Books for the Summer”. Unfortunately, those will trump the below list, but I can dream, can’t I?
Great list, Camey! Thanks for posting!