I received my first rejection and decided to channel the twinge in my chest into a swivel on the heel and a sway of the hips. Dance with me. Make it a country-western line dance. Maybe a neoclassical ballet. Or my personal favorite, the Humpty Dance.

This will not bring me down.

I began my hunt for a literary agent–one who would love my story as much as I do–expecting hundred rejections and years of No, No, No. This is a difficult hunt, full of refusal and heartache. But even after my mental preparedness, the twinge of the first No still hurts. Each rejection adds to the million reasons NOT to write. Won’t stop me, though. I’ll never be able to ignore that goddamn whisper in my head. The one that says, You’ve got stories in the attic, Godwin. Write them!

So, stand up and point your slippers, cowboy boots and Air Force 1’s. Here’s to my first rejection.

Hi Pam,

It was so nice meeting you at Thrillerfest, and I want to thank you so much for letting me review HALLOWED EVE. Unfortunately, after careful consideration, I think it is best at this time for me to step aside.  

There is no doubt that you are a talented writer, and your abilities show through in your strong and clear voice. The story is certainly action-packed and kept me engaged. But in the end, I just didn’t connect with the story as I had hoped I would be able to. I believe you are definitely on to something here, Pam, and I encourage you to continue writing. That being said, I just didn’t feel confident enough about my ability to sell your work in order to offer you representation.  I sincerely wish you the best of luck with it, and I thank you, once again, both for being in touch with me and allowing me to review it.  

All best,


The Rejection Dance

The gates opened. The swarm of two hundred hungry authors began their footrace down the hall.

Sixty-five agents perched at tables fringing three rooms. Of the sixty-five, less than a dozen represent adult sci-fi/paranormal, which is what I was pitching.

How the hell would I find the agents on my list amidst the bobbing heads and haze of body odor? Was I in the right room? The lines doubled, tripled. My head spun.

Ah! Found an agent on my list. I shouldered my way through the sardines. Fourth in line. A deep breath.

My knees knocked. No, I’m not just throwing in a cliche. My damned knees were knocking. “Knock it off,” I told them. They knocked again.

“Nervous?” someone beside me asked. This time I knew the voice.

“No,” I said to Michael Palmer. I smiled and knew it too was twitching.

“Shit wasn’t like this when I started writing,” he said. “I had it easy. Didn’t have to kill myself standing in lines begging someone to ask for a page.” He sighed. “I’ll tell you a story.”

He did. Several stories. About his dead ninety-nine year old aunt, about his grandchildren, about his beloved brass rhino.

I knew what he was doing. And it worked. My breathing returned to normal. Sweat dried from my face. My smile was genuine.

“You’re up,” he said.

I gave my three minute pitch.

“Fascinating,” the agent said. “But I can’t sell adult paranormal right now. Oh, it’s still a hot market. You’ll find someone who will sell it. Good luck.”

Two point five hours later, it was over and I needed a cigarette in the worst way. I had pitched to eight agents.

Only eight.

There were hordes of sci-fi / paranomal writers. And not enough agents for this genre. With lines six to eight people deep, no time limits, why did I think I’d zip through dozens of agents? Some pitches before me were ten minutes long, especially those trying to set up a sci-fi world.

The response I received was consistent:

  1. Apocalypse, sci-fi, paranormal is big in YA. Change your novel to YA. Damn. I wouldn’t really need to tone down the gore, the rape, the sex. This shit sizzles in YA. But Young Adult novels are narrated by a…um…young adult. NOT a thirty something mother with ghost children.
  2. Publishers will NOT take novels over 100,000 words. Mine is 113,000. No problem. I can send it to my mentor, John Pfannkuchen and he’ll trim 50,000 and make it better at the same time.
  3. Change your story to a romance. Add more sex. First time novelists do well in this genre. LOL! The sex I can do. But romance? Ask my husband. I’m the WRONG girl for that

Good gawd, I sound negative. Of the eight agents I pitched to, five requested pages. Five agents WILL read my pages. Isn’t this why I went?

My CC buddy, the gorgeous, leggy, blonde dog-trainer Christine, picked up six requests for pages for her brilliant sadist serial murderer thriller. I met another CC guy there, the hunky pilot Dana (by the way, if you ever fly Continental Airlines, know that your pilot might be writing about a magical healer while cruising at 30,000 feet). He roped in a full manuscript request or two.

But the highlight of agent day was Janet Reid. I LOVE her and love is not a word I throw around. She represents crime thrillers. I knew this. But meeting her was worth the twenty minutes in her line. Hell, if I’d spent all two point five hours in her line, it would’ve been worth it.

I sat down. “Janet, I just wanted to tell you that I finished my MS a year ago. Then I researched how to query agents. That’s when I found queryshark.”

She leans back. “Oh shit.”

“Oh shit is right. I read your entire blog and spent the next year revising.”

“I’m not nice,” she said.

“You’re honest. I’ve gained much from your attitude and your expertise and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to thank you in person.”

She laughed. “Let’s hear your pitch.”

“I’m writing a paranormal–”


I stared at the palm shoved in my face. Then it was my turn to laugh. “Janet, I told you. I’ve read your entire blog. I know you’re not interested in the supernatural shit. I just wanted to meet you.”

She nudged her assistant and said to me, “I’m going to send you to some agents who will listen to you.” Her assistant wrote them down. She gave me the logistics on how to contact them and, most importantly, to tell them I was referred by Janet Reid.

My chin lifted a little higher as I walked away from her table. Janet Reid was everything I hoped for and more.

*As with all my non-fiction stories posted here, events and dialogue are as accurate as I remember them.

Agent Day at Thrillerfest

I attended a class today on how to pitch my book, taught by the charismatic Jon Land. Afterwards, I parked my ass on a bench in the hall as the crowd of desperate aspiring authors drowned him in questions.

I watched. I listened. I read his lips over the noise.

He met my eyes. I stared right back.

“Did you want to ask me something?” he asked over the ebb and flow of voices.

Shit. I probably shouldn’t have been staring. “Umm. Maybe, when the crowd clears.” I replied.

“It’s clear now,” he said and waved the hoverers away.

“Oh.” I stood and walked over. “I’d like to pitch my book to you,” I said.

He nodded. The hoverers hovered. I pitched.

“Whoa,” he replied. A heartbeart. Two. “Whoa.”

I narrowed my eyes. “Is that whoa good? Or whoa bad?”

“No, no,” he said. “It’s good. Give it to me again.”

I did.

“Feels like I Am Legend meets Children of Men.”

I sighed. Yeah, heard that before. “Inspirations maybe,” I said. “But it’s more.”

“Well, you have ghost children,” he said. “Give it to me again.”

I did. Two more times.

“Your pitch is perfect,” he finally said. “Don’t change it. And what you’re selling is a Paranormal Thriller. Make sure you pitch that up front. And find me if you have any questions.”

That night, my CC buddy and I cozied up to the hotel bar.

“You with the conference?” a voice asked from behind us.

“Yes,” we replied.

“Where’s your badge?” the curly haired man asked. I’d never seen him before and he was asking me. My buddy was still donning hers.

I shrugged. “Conference is over.”

“You should wear it,” he said, “and mingle.”

I turned back to my gin and tonic, shoulders aching with the weight of the day. “Sounds like a good job for you.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I glimpsed my buddy shaking her head, pointing to his badge and mouthing, “Michael Palmer.”

Shit. I probably should’ve done my research on attending authors, huh?

I smiled and fell back on what I was good at. I gave him shit for the next thirty minutes (ie I teased him about his obsession with rhinos of all things and suggested a tattoo design for his bicep). Very funny, personable guy. He’s got stories to tell. By the end of the conversation, I was asking him for parental advice.

Someone he was traveling with tapped him on the shoulder.

“I’ve got this private party thing down the street,” he said. “Come with.”

I nodded and my buddy shook her head. We followed him out.

One cigarette later and my senses came to. I shook his hand. “Thanks for the invite, Michael Palmer. It was really nice to meet you.”

I lit another cigarette and watched him walk away.

Next to me, Heather Graham lit one too. I’d met her earlier in the day. Very cool chick.

So, what my writer friends want to know is: Are these cons worthwhile? Well, the classes taught things I’d already learned from CC. But the networking could be invaluable if you’re willing to stare someone down in the hallway, make an ass of yourself in a bar, or acquire a nicotine addiction. I can’t imagine a better way to spend my time.

Day 1 Thrillerfest

I’m in NYC, awaiting my first day of Thrillerfest. Flight was delayed four hours and my room is non-smoking. The nerve! But my savior, in the form of a twin-tailed siren, is staring at me from across the street.

In my rush to get here, my husband reminds me that my tags are expired. I’ve been distracted. Some things have been sliding.

“Don’t speed,” he says.

“Would I do that?” I pull out of the driveway.

Here comes the flashing lights. Damn. I know those are not for me.

“License and registration,” says the pudgy cop. “You realize you were speeding and your tags are expired?”

Feigned jaw drop. “Oh no! I had no idea.” I proceed to babble some nonsense about being busy and important.

“Zombie Killer?” he asks and thrusts his chin at my rear bumper. (Yeah, I know none of you are surprised by my choice of decals. Zombie Killer looks damn good on my Wrangler, though.)

“Oh, why yes. I write about zombie killers.” I push back my shoulders. “I am, in fact, on my way to NYC to find an agent to sell my novel.”

His eyebrows shoot up his forehead. “Oh yeah?”

So I give him the two minute book pitch I’d been practicing.

He smiles. “That sounds neat. I write too,” he says. “Masters in criminology stuff. The publishing industry is hard. I sympathize with you…”

I tune out. I’m too occupied with mental fist pumping. Oh hell yeah, I’m sooo getting out of this ticket.

He trots his happy ass back to his patrol car. A few minutes later, he returns. “Good luck with your book,” he says and hands me my ticket.

My shoulders slump. I guess I’ll be working on that pitch.

(Joe…this post is for you. You made me do it.)

Eve of Thrillerfest