New Experiences

As a resident of the far east coast, I’ve seen a lot of things that most people haven’t. The wild, grey Atlantic ocean.  The Fundy Bay tides. Forests covering absolutely everything. The glory of that in the autumn.

Of course, there are a lot of things I haven’t seen. Like, for example, a mountain.

a whole new world

I spent my vacation this year on the southwest coast.  We touched down in Ontario, California and walked out into the world and I couldn’t believe my eyes. The horizon was completely dominated by mountains!  Scrub-lands! Palm trees! Wild cacti! Dry heat! I must have looked like a little kid stumbling through the area.

“Write what you know” is an incredibly overused and overrated statement. In the words of fellow fantasy author Mary Robinette Kowal, “Write what you know is what’s saddled us with so many novels about English professors fantasizing about having affairs with their coeds.” I’ve never seen a unicorn, a body, or an elemental. I’ve never solved a murder, ridden in a carriage, or taken notes with only my mind. But I think I did a pretty good job writing all those things. “Write what you know” should really be something more like “have enough knowledge about what you’re writing that you can fake it, and throw in some personal experiences to add flavour.” If people just wrote what they knew, we wouldn’t have any speculative fiction at all.

But with that said, gosh there sure is some value in new experiences from a writing perspective. For instance, having spent a week driving up and down mountains, I’m embarrassed at how I’ve written them in the past. They’re just so big that I imagined their size was a gradual thing. They look that big from far away, but up close, they must look completely different. It must take forever to drive up a mountain. Never did I imagine that we actually could drive up and down one of those San Bernadino mountains in a half hour, the car at a 70 degree angle all the while!

Despite being on vacation, I learned a lot on my trip to bring into my work. Mainly, to never discount the value of real world experiences. I’ve thought about writing a Gold Rush fantasy at some point, and I’m definitely realizing that I might need to spend more time in the scrub-lands before I can really tap into all those things. “Write what you know” might be oversaid and overrated, but there’s value in new experiences.

(And yes, I had fun. I had so much fun you guys. The Colorado river, SoCal, and Las Vegas… what a crazy trip! Happy thirtieth birthday to me and all my best friends. We celebrated in style.)


Five Things You’ll Never See Me Write (Without a Lampshade)

As anyone who’s had time to read my debut will tell you, I’m not the sort of writer who shies away from negativity. My characters are all deeply flawed and occasionally unpleasant people, and I’m willing — some might say eager! — to dive deep into the uglier aspects of the average person’s psyche. We’re all a little horrible, and the world is full of horrible things, and I’m a big believer that art should imitate life.

And… with all that said, here are five very real things that you’re never going to see me include in a book unless I hang a big lampshade on it or have the book deconstruct it.

1. “I don’t get along with other women; I prefer having male friends. Women are just so catty.”
This is a really common attitude among women, especially young women. I remember saying things like that, myself! It’s a very real thing to write… but I’d only write it in a scenario where the character in question learns to value female friendships.

Society tells us women that we, as a gender, are mean-spirited, competitive, petty, and backstabbing. And for those of us who had a hard time fitting in when we were younger, it tells us that we’re different. We’re one of the only good ones and those ugly characteristics are just part of what women are and only men, who are clearly civilized and straight-forward and honest, can really understand us, the girl who isn’t like “normal” girls. It’s not hard to extrapolate what’s wrong with this. I want my writing to reflect what I’ve learned as I’ve grown: female friendships are valuable and important.

“I’m not like other girls and prefer the company of boys” is just a way to paint women as lesser, and realistic or not, it’s an all-too-common attitude I don’t want to perpetuate in any context.

2. The promiscuous bisexual.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with promiscuity. Every person has the right and the privilege to decide for themself what their sexual life will look like. Being promiscuous doesn’t say  anything about you except that you’re confident and comfortable with that lifestyle and you’ve chosen it over another one. But you’re never going to see me write a bisexual character as promiscuous unless bisexuality is the norm in the story.

Because it’s so common — and it’s damaging. In a world where bisexuality is barely understood when it’s even acknowledged, bisexuals  struggle constantly with the perception of being greedy or indiscriminate. Bisexuality is often seen as, not a valid sexual orientation, but a turbo-charged version of promiscuity. Liking sex so much that nothing about a partner matters except their willingness to engage.

In a world where bisexuality is understood and respected, a promiscuous bisexual is just another character and there’s nothing wrong with that. But in the world we actually live in, I don’t want to add another drop to the ocean of that particular stereotype.

3. “There’s just something about this incredibly weak male lead…”
Love is an incredible thing. It makes us into different people. Sometimes better, sometimes worse. When love bends us to its whim, we can sometimes do incredibly stupid things, or act like complete idiots. It can turn the hardest person in the world into a softie. But you’re never going to see me write an independent, tough lady go all weak at the knees and turn into a blushing bride when the right man looks her way.

Because really tough women are often portrayed this way in media because it makes them seem less intimidating. Look, she’s hard as nails — but she’s also so cute in the right lighting. It’s an easy way to make a character seem more palatable — and I don’t think that character types needs that! She’s amazing as she is and making her melt for a man just reinforces the idea that she needs to in order to be something people want to see.

Love brings out the mushy creamy center in us all. So if I want to show that with a hard as nails character, it’ll be through love for something other than a man.

4. Queerness as a phase.
Human sexuality is confusing. Most people have asked themselves questions, entertained ideas, and wondered about themselves in some way or another. It’s natural to be lost and bewildered in the maze of your own mind when it comes to sex or gender or attraction or romance. And it’s also a perfectly natural thing to come out of that maze as the society default. But I’m not going to write that.

Even though it’s normal for heterosexual people or cisgender people to question themselves, it’s a luxury to be able to answer those questions in a comfortable way — no matter how uncomfortable the questions themselves were. Queer people don’t get to have that comfortable answer. And because they didn’t answer the way that the “normal” person does, they get tagged with the assumption that they will… someday. Eventually.

I won’t write a character who has a queer phase because it contributes to the narrative that everyone who is queer is in the midst of a phase.

5. Power imbalances in relationships.
It happens. Either through socialization or something wired into us, knowledge and power can be sexy. A lot of perfectly healthy relationships in real life started out with one person in a position of authority over another. And a lot of unhealthy ones, too — remember when I said that I don’t shy away from the bad stuff under the bed! I am never going to write a relationship between a student and teacher or subordinate and superior.

I don’t want to run the risk of romanticizing a relationship where there is such a power imbalance. This trope almost always focuses on the relative innocence of the younger party and there’s something about it that just makes my skin crawl. And it’s incredibly common, both in fiction created by men and women!

Questionable and overused? I think I’ll keep my distance.

Metrics of Success

Have you ever sat down and tried to sketch out an exact scenario that would signify you’ve achieved your dreams?

I did.

About ten years ago, my friends and I were trying to come up with moments like that. Moments where, once they happened, we could sit back and say “Well, all right. That’s it. I did it.” I constructed this scenario:

If someone I’d never met before and didn’t know my family or know someone who knew my family approached me with a physical copy of a book I’d written in hand and asked me to sign it, I’d consider that my dreams come true.

And now I need to come up with a new scenario, because I achieved that one ten times over!

Last Tuesday was my first official signing! I’d scribbled in a couple of books that I gave as gifts to my family and friends, but thanks to the wonderful people at Chapters in Moncton, I was sitting down a nice table, surrounded by my books, pen in hand, and was ready to sign some copies. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was shocked at what I got.

I was expecting a good turnout, just because my parents are social butterflies and know a hundred people. But a lot of those folks they convinced to come didn’t show up. And I had a good turnout anyway. A really good turnout.

A dozen strangers approached me. They’d heard of the book from an article in the local paper, or one of the posters I put up around town, or they were just walking by and curious what the display was for. They flipped it open. They read the back. And they wanted to buy it — and wanted me to sign it!

I loved talking with the fans. I’m actually pretty  bad in crowds and am quite shy. But it wasn’t only painless — it was wonderful! Answering questions, giving the skeptical my pitch, asking them what names I should write to personalize the signings. It came easily despite all past experience to the contrary. I was filled with such an energy and passion. And confidence! While I sat there, pen in hand, I really believed in the book. All these people couldn’t be wrong, could they?

I hope so deeply that this wasn’t the only time I interact with the people who came and bought a copy. I’d always thought that I’d be awkward at events, but instead, I can’t wait to get out there and connect with my readers again.
A friend of the family is a talented amateur photographer and took some great pictures of the event. I’ll leave those with you while I try and concoct a new scenario for success. It’s going to be hard to top this one!

My Baby Turned Loose Into the World

Today is the day!

It was October 4th, 2011, when I wrote the last word of The Deathsniffer’s Assistant. (The last word is “murder,” which is very appropriate.) At the time, I didn’t know if the book was good. I didn’t know if I could ever find an agent, much less a publisher. I didn’t know if anyone on earth would ever read it.

Fast forward! Years later, I have the best agent, the funnest publisher, and strangers all over the world are holding my book and breaking into the first pages. I have traffic on my site, retweets on my blog, and shares on my Facebook. I have 200 goodreaders hoping to win my giveaway! It’s happened faster than I possibly could have imagined and this is it. The day when MY book because A book.

It’s out there in the world. You can get it one click for the price of a nice coffee. It can be on your phone as you read it on the bus. And none of that has anything to do with me. For so long, I’ve been the custodian and arbiter or my own work, but not anymore! Control over my work is completely out of my own hands.

It’s liberating. It’s terrifying. It’s exciting. Did I mention it was terrifying?

Today has been a whirlwind! I’m in the local paper, my social media is blowing up, and my book! My book is out there! Disseminating into the wide crazy world! All I can do is watch it happen and hope that there are people who will love my characters and my stories, because that’s all I ever wanted.

In my first ever post on this blog I said that I wanted you to buy my book. Not because I want to get paid (though who doesn’t love getting paid), but because I think you’ll like it. And I still think that’s true. There’s a link to Amazon in the sidebar of my site, and I invite each and every one of you to take this thing that I build out into the world, out of my hands, and judge it for yourself.

What’s In A Name?

I’m going to go a lot more personal today than I have in the past. There’s now a mere weekend between us and the release of The Deathsniffer’s Assistant, and I thought I’d take a moment to talk about the name that’s on the front cover: Kate McIntyre.

It ‘s not my name. Not the one that appears on my passport or birth certificate or driver’s license. But what is a name, really? Something we inherit combined with something we’ve given. And there’s value to be found in the names we choose for ourselves, whether it’s shortening my given name, Kathryn, into something that suits me better, or taking on a completely different surname.

Make no mistake: Kate McIntyre is a poor choice for a pen name, at least from the point of view of marketing and branding. There’s an English anchorwoman with the name, and at least one very successful real estate agent is pretty annoyed that I’m taking a chomp out of her Google rankings. There are a lot of other names I could have taken as my own that would give me no competition in the vicious, fanged world that is internet publicity. But I wanted this name, and I’d like to get personal and talk about why.

Sometimes, I’ll see a photograph of my mother as a teenager. My first thought is always — “Hm, how old was I in this? I don’t remember taking it.” Suffice to say, we look very much alike. My jolly maternal grandfather held me when I was born and jokingly told my father than the only physical resemblance we could have had was if I was a boy. McIntyre is my mother’s maiden name, and I’ve always felt like a part of that clan. We look alike, we value the same things, and we’ve always just immediately fallen into a rhythm with each other when we’re all together.

In the back of my mine, I always thought I might use McIntyre as a pen name, for all of these reasons, but it wasn’t until shortly before I finished my first book that I decided for sure.

In the spring of 2011, my Uncle Steve was diagnosed with terminal colon cancer, and for the next two years my life completely changed. My uncle, always uncomfortable getting too close, moved in and really became part of the family. He was a constant presence in my life, encouraging, big-hearted, and wonderful. He joked and loved and occasionally ate all the cookies in the house in the middle of the night like a true McIntyre. He dragged presents under the Christmas tree in the dark of Christmas Eve, all marked “From Santa,” so he wouldn’t have to admit that he bought them for us — plausible deniability, you know. He brought an entire tank of helium and about a million balloons for my mum’s birthday; he and my sister and I spent the whole morning blowing them up, singing along at the top of our lungs to Wild Ones by Flo Rida ft Sia, truly beautiful music that once again says so much about my music tastes. The three of us dancing about, surrounded by an entire civilization of balloons, is one of my best memories, and it’s the story I told him while he was dying and I was holding his hand. He had fought so hard, living longer than anyone thought possible until the day he passed in my living room, smiling faintly when I reminded him about Wild Ones.

(not the kind of song that usually moves you to actual tears every time you hear it)

If not for his cancer, Uncle Steve probably would have continued to hold himself apart from us. He deserved better than pain and a young death, but I’m so grateful for the time that he had together as a result of it.

I wrote most of The Deathsniffer’s Assistant while he was living with us, and he died a few months before I found Caitlin and my career really started. He was always asking about the process and was so proud of me. It breaks my heart a little that he isn’t going to be there Monday when my book hits shelves. He would have wanted to see it through to the end, and he’s always in my thoughts.

I’ve always thought of myself as a McIntyre, but because of the system we live in, I’ve never been able to claim ownership of that name that’s rightfully as much mine as the one on my bank account. Despite what a bad move, business-wise, it was to take Kate McIntyre as the name I shared my work with the world with, I don’t regret it. It’s a tribute, not only to Uncle Steve, but to my mother and my other uncles and my cousins and my sister and all the McIntyres, either by name and by blood. My birth name will be on my birth certificate and on my tombstone. It just seemed right to leave something with that other name, even if it’s just some fantasy murder mysteries.

Seeing Your (Literary) Baby for the First Time

“You’re not going to believe this,” one of my closest friends texted me to say a week ago. “There was a box from Amazon on my doorstep when I got home from work.”

He then sent me this photograph:

Oh my god.

It seemed that Amazon had made an error. Everyone who’d ordered the  book in those first few hours it was up on the site had a copy shipped to them — almost a full month early!

I couldn’t believe it. I still can’t believe it. Look at that. That’s my book! That’s my title, my characters, my cover art, my name! It looks so… real! It’s a real book! I couldn’t wait until my own copies arrived and I could hold it in my hands.

Well, it seemed that someone else had made an error — me! I had just expected the books to be sent to me automatically, not knowing that I had to put in an order with my publisher to get them! So here I am, a two weeks before release, and I don’t have my book!

It’s a strange, strange feeling. More and more pictures of my book have been seen floating around on the internet, and every single one makes my toes tingle! But despite all of it, I still haven’t actually touched or even seen my book for myself!

This thing I created is out there, in the world, and I have no way to get to it. All those copies have been arriving at places too far for me to reach. Some days, I just want to scream with anticipation! But other days, honestly, I’m a little glad. Odd, maybe, but it’s the truth. It’s heightened my excitement and it’s coated the stress and nerves of the pre-release hustle with a sense of wonder and glee and eagerness. Will they come today? Tomorrow?

Until I hold a copy in my hand, it still doesn’t feel real. And so long as it doesn’t feel real, I’m able to keep my chin up and keep working on the hundreds of little things I have to do before The Deathsniffer’s Assistant hits shelves for real!

… but it sure would be nice to see and hold my baby!

Here’s a little gallery with some of the pictures I’ve been sent. If you have one of those sneaky copies, be sure to take some pictures and send them to me! I’d love to see them!

The Way That You Cheer and Scream For Me

I’ve documented my shameful and yet devoted adoration of contemporary Pop Music. I love all music! Really I do. From trance to drum&bass, from country to world, from alt-rock to folk-rock, from classic rock to just plain classical. I don’t think there’s a single genre that I don’t like, and I can have one window open with Blackmore’s Night while another right beside it is paused in the middle of a Kanye West B-side, and meanwhile I’ve got Allie X playing on my phone.

But despite my eclectic tastes, well… there’s just something that keeps me coming back to that Hot Top 100, year in and year out.

I’m not saying it’s good music. I’m saying that oh my god I love it.

And today, I want to talk about one of my favourite songs, which barely cracked top 40, by one of my favourite artists, who isn’t seeing much top 40 success these days. So take a minute and listen to that modern classic… Applause by Lady Gaga.

Oh hell yes.

Are you still here? Have you closed the window in disgust, yet? Because I’m actually going somewhere with this, other than just publicly shaming myself!

As the release date of my debut novel draws closer, I’ve been thinking a lot about Applause. I’ve been thinking about the truth of Applause. The song has a very simple message: Lady Gaga likes it when you like her. When you click the little thumbs up under her Youtube videos, that makes her happy. When you tweet her to tell her that you like her album, that makes her giddy. When she walks out on stage and the audience erupts into applause, that’s the best feeling in the whole wide world. It’s an uncomplicated sentiment that’s been said a thousand times before, and yet…

It’s not a popular one. We like to think of artists as altruistically placing their creations in front of us so that we can either like them or not at our leisure. We don’t like the thought of them watching us, breathing down our necks, waiting impatiently for our reactions, and then being filled with joy if we smile and devastation if we frown. We want to think of them as proud of the creation for its own sake, willing to stand by it and by unswayed by either praise or criticism.

Well, bullshit. I think every artist is breathing down necks. I think we all live for the applause.

Since the time our first cave-dwelling ancestor told a story instead of keeping it in her head, creative people have sat with bated breath waiting for the cheers or boos to follow. Homer didn’t fictionalize the siege of Troy in the Iliad because he wanted to keep his ideas to himself. Shakespeare didn’t write Hamlet so it could play to empty theatres. F Scott Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby to prove himself a literary giant and was devastated when it was poorly received at the time. And Lady Gaga lives for the applause.

(Oh, yes. I just compared Homer, Shakespeare, and Fitzgerald to Lady Gaga. I can always be relied upon for casual literary heresy.)

I’m not afraid to admit it. I want people to read my book and I want people to like it! Everytime I get any positive response from anyone, even my mother, it’s like a perfect dumb flower of joy bursts into bloom right in my heart. And anytime someone says they they hated one of my characters, it’s like a kick in the crotch. And why is that bad to admit? I don’t think I’m different than anyone else. I maintain a professional bearing and don’t go after people who don’t like it. I try not to get upset by negativity, because it’s unavoidable and inevitable. I won’t be one of those authors clambering all over the Goodreads statuses of their readers. My mantra for my career is: “Be cool, Kate. Be cool. Come on. Just be cool.”

But inside I’m a roiling storm of READ IT, LOVE IT, AND THEN TELL ME IN EXPLICIT DETAIL WHAT YOU LOVED ABOUT IT AND WHY. The same as, I believe, Homer and Shakespeare and Fitzgerald and the honorable Lady Gaga all did before me. I don’t think I’m different than anyone else.

I think we should stop being ashamed of it. I mean, by all means: be cool. Act like a civilized adult. Do not stalk your readers. Do not let yourself be destroyed by criticism. While as a writer, I’m struggling everyday not to turn the most annoying person in the world, as a reader I find desperation as unpleasant a trait as anyone does. But acting mature and admitting that you love being appreciated for your talents are completely different things.

If artists didn’t want their work to be admired, we wouldn’t have art. It would exist in basements and backrooms and hard drives, where the humble creator hides it from human eyes and doesn’t need anyone’s appreciation and the act of creation is its own reward.

I say it again: bullshit.

I feel you, Gaga. I live for the applause – applause – applause, too. We all do.

And no one can convince me otherwise.

Schrodinger’s Manuscript

I finished my first pass revisions of my second novel this weekend. That’s the first step in my editing process, when I just go through and read the book and fix anything that sticks out. I found some contradictions within the logic of the mystery, which I fixed, and ended up combining a couple minor characters into one. I also added a few scenes to build up the profile of some of the suspects in Olivia and Chris’s murder du jour to support the whodunnit aspect. Mostly though, my changes were just cutting scenes down, curbing my natural tendency towards long-winded dialogue segments, and making sentences a lot shorter and more elegant. The big revisions come later. A first pass is more just about getting the book ready to be seen by someone else’s eyes in a way that isn’t just embarrassing for everyone involved.

That “someone else” has the book now. She’s my alpha reader and she understands story structure like a master.  She does amazing job giving feedback on the actual content of my work, be it positive (hopefully) or negative (inevitably.) She’s also an adult, possessed of a life filled with adult things, and my books are around the 400 pages range. Not doorstoppers, but not afternoon reads, either. So it’ll take her a few days at least to get through the book.

And this, for some reason, might be the part of the process I find most stressful!

Before I do my first pass, my book mostly exists in theory, to me. It’s not a novel. It’s a collection of scenes that I wrote over a period of six months. It’s the legacy of one too many Starbucks refreshers and listening to Electroswing so loud I’m going to have hearing problems in fifteen years. It’s a patchwork Frankenstein’s monster, shambling through the slums of my harddrive. It’s not a book.

But once I’ve read it, everything changes. I see what I was thinking in my outline. How this scene leads into this one and how it all fit together. It’s not just a collection of scenes, some of which I wrote what feels like ages ago. This is actually a book! I start getting excited, I realize it’s not a complete disaster, I like what I’m reading! And then I send it off to my first alpha reader and…

Oh, God.

Something about this step just paralyzes me. Like the cat in the box that is both dead and alive, right now my book is both good and terrible. The thing is, even with all the insight provided by my first pass, I am still in no position to judge my own writing! I know it too well. The characters, the world, the mystery, the plot twists. I am not objective enough to be able to read the book and know if it works.

Until I get the response back from my first draft, it’s like I’m hanging in the balance.

A few days from now, I’ll have that response. We’ll open the box and the manuscript will be either good or it won’t be. Reality will collapse back and I’ll know what I have in front of me. What changes will I have to make before it goes to the next alpha reader on my list? What should my goals be working towards my final draft? How much work does it still need? And then I’ll be fine! Give me a mission and I’ll carry it out.

But, oh, this in-between state could kill a writer! I’d forgotten how it felt when I finished The Deathsniffer’s Assistant. I am definitely remembering now.

Getting Out of the Labyrinth: Part 8 — Signing

Wow! It’s been a long time since I had a new entry in my Labyrinth series, hasn’t it? Between the A-Z Challenge, being out of the country, the upcoming release of my debut novel, and my second book wrapping up its first draft, there just hasn’t been the time for a long, meaty blog post. But things have slowed down a little bit, and I’m here to talk about the spot where the process becomes business: signing with a publisher.

Congratulations! Somebody likes you. It’s so exciting and validating when you receive that call or email from your agent telling you that its finally happened after all your months of waiting. Here are five things that I learned from the day Caitlin called me with the news and the day I signed my contract with Curiosity Quills Press.

1. Do your research.

Before you even start talking to the publisher(s) who want your book, take some time to google them. Read about them. What do they publish? Who do they publish? What’s their business model? What do they usually offer for an advance? What about royalties? Who would you be working with?

These are all things that you can find out on your own time. It shouldn’t take you more than an hour to take some time to get some notes together, and it’s going to make you a lot more comfortable and get you on steady footing. Knowing what you’re walking into gives you a feeling of control over the situation.

Plus, It always looks good when someone walks into a meeting prepared!

As a final note, if you have anything you want to be clear on before you go into talks and you can’t find it through google, ask your agent! This is information that she’ll have access to, and her job is to facilitate this very conversation.

2. Stay confident.

Oh, lord.

I remember laying on my bed, trying to keep breathing. It was my first conversation with a publisher. I was on a conference call with Caitlin, an acquisitions editor, and the specific editor at the house in question who was interested in The Deathsniffer’s Assistant. Now, I’m not great on the phone at the best of times, and during this conversation, I was a babbling mess. There was a bit of interference on the line, which had me flustered beyond belief. I had to keep asking them to repeat themselves. It was awful. I kept thinking – oh no! I’m screwing this up! I need to impress these extremely important people who are doing me the favour of being interested in my work!

I only really realized once I’d hung up the phone and laid there basking in my humiliation that I had it all wrong.

For those of us who have been writing our whole lives, dreaming of the day we see ourselves in print, it’s easy to go into these talks thinking that we’re being done a favour. These people are giving us our greatest dream. We need them to like us. We need to wow them. We create a power imbalance in our heads that just doesn’t exist.

You need to realize, just like I did, that we’re actually the ones in the position of power right now. When you have a publishing house on the line, you’ve already impressed them. They want to publish your book. They’re already convinced. They’re there to convince you.

Keeping this in mind really helped me get my feet under me and I handled myself a lot better after that first conversation. Every time I started to find myself getting starstruck by the knowledge that the people I was talking to had the power to publish my book, I just took a second and reminded myself that they wanted to publish my book, and were trying to convince me to let them. It helped me screw my head on right every single time.

3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

You’re about to make a really important decision. The publisher you sign with is going to have a lot of influence and control over your writing, and you two are going to spend a lot of effort and time trying to make money from one another. So as you go into this, you want to be totally informed and comfortable. If there’s anything you’re unsure about, ask for clarifications.

There’s no such thing as a dumb question! So long as you did your research like I said in step one, anything else is fair game. Your publisher will know that you’re a first timer and this is all new for you.

Signing a contract is a big deal. Don’t keep your mouth shut if you’re confused about something just because you don’t want to rock the boat. Get out in front of it!

4. Decide what matters to you.

I was torn between multiple offers when I was going to sign. The decision was agonizing because the offers came out to be equal, but in different ways. I was choosing between a traditional and a risky business model, between a bigger advance and a better understanding of my novel. What was the right choice?

Caitlin told me this:

Remember this is a business transaction, so you do want to consider whether the offer is worth it to you from a business perspective to proceed.  But it is also an artistic endeavor, so it also needs to be a publisher you feel comfortable will reflect and respect your vision and authorial intent for the work.

It’s such a simple thing, but it stuck with me. Something about how she said it and how she laid it out just made things click in my head. There was no right or wrong answer. What I had to decide was what I valued more. What I was willing to sacrifice. Worrying about your vision doesn’t make you a diva, and weighing the money involved doesn’t make you a mercenary.

There are a lot of moving parts to an offer, and when you get multiples, it can be really hard to know how to weigh those different parts. I lean back on what Caitlin told me. Each individual element is worth… exactly what it’s worth. The worth you assign to it. So if you’re trapped between offers, just sit back and think about what you value. Nobody else is making this decision. You’re the one who’ll live with it.

5. Trust your agent.

I know that I have a well documented good relationship with my agent. I only sing her praises, like, 100% of the time! But even though no other agent in the world can possibly be as amazing as mine… you hired yours for a reason.

Your agent exists for this very purpose. She is there to facilitate this very thing. She is your advocate in the field. She wants you to succeed and she wants your career to be long and inspired and successful. Not just because she presumably likes you and your work, but because she’s hitched her wagon to yours. An agent wants her clients to be happy, productive, and successful, because that’s how she pays her rent! She wants you to end up with the right publisher. She wants to be right there to help you find that publisher.

If your agent has something to say, listen. If you want her opinion, ask for it. If she has misgivings, heed them. You’ve never done this before, which is why she’s there. This is her job.

First Draft For Deathsniffer2 Finished!

it's time to meet my best friend again.
it’s time to meet my best friend again.

Good news everyone! I just finished my first draft for the sequel to THE DEATHSNIFFER’S ASSISTANT! It was one of my goals to finish my second book before my first one was released, and I’m excited to have hit that target with a lot of room to spare! It’s now eight weeks until July 13th, the release of my first novel, and I’m sitting on the first draft for the second in the series!

Of course, like all first drafts, it’s going to need a lot of finessing to get to the point it needs to be at. It’s kind of a mess right now! A whole lot needs to be fixed before even my alpha readers get to see it. But we’ll get there!

So to celebrate, let me share five facts about my second book. Which should be a challenge without spoiling much of anything for the first book, which isn’t out yet!

1. Book 2 still doesn’t have a title. It has about seven different working titles, all of which I just hate. I can’t even name the one that I hate the least, because I still hate the one that I hate the least more than I hate mosquitoes or turnip, my least favourite things. Hopefully something brilliant will come to me during revision, or one of my alpha readers will be inspired!

2. The second book takes place three months after the first. I really wanted an off screen period for things to grow. There are going to be three months between each in the series of four, with each book taking place in a different season!

3. The second book deals with a theme of grief. I delve into what grief does to us and how it can ebb and flow and twist us into shadows of ourselves. I’ve dealt with grief myself in a lot of different ways and during a lot of different life phases, so I hope it resonates with people.

4. The Deathsniffer’s Assistant introduces some possible romantic chemistry. The sequel delivers on that chemistry in spades. People who are disappointed with the amount of romance in the first book should hold out for the second! There are definitely a lot of people kissing in this one.

5. Currently, the sequel is almost thirty thousand words shorter than the first book. The really weird part is that to me it feels longer. I wonder what that means? Maybe I’ll get a better sense in my readthrough!