SFWC 2018: Some Insight

The great thing—well, one of the great things—about this conference was the number of opportunities to talk to industry professionals and gain some insight. In particular, I was trying to figure out what to do with my YA novel Hamlette. I’ve sent it out to some agents, and there have been nibbles, but so far (barring one incident I’d rather not rehash) no real feedback that I could use. Here’s the little bit I have received:

  • One agent was “afraid to fall in love with it” because it was too close to something else on his wish list, and so if he took mine on he wouldn’t be able to take on that dream manuscript if it were to ever cross his desk.
  • One agent said she didn’t have time to read this manuscript but was intrigued by my description of planned follow-up manuscripts and said she’d like to read those if I didn’t find representation.
  • One said she thought it was “a crazy fun concept” but the way the narrator directly addresses the reader didn’t work for her.

That last one gave me pause, of course. She didn’t say, “If you change it, I’d love to see it again,” so I guess it wasn’t a revise and resubmit.

Okay, so I while at the conference I met with Rusty Shelton and asked him whether I should just scrap this blog and my existing author identity and start over. He said no. (I was honestly surprised by this!) He said, “You have a half-built house. Why start over and have to lay a whole new foundation?” When you put it that way . . . He and I brainstormed some ideas that I look forward to putting into practice soon.

Then I met with independent editor Amelia Beamer and poured out my story of woe. She was so kind to listen, and so sympathetic. I told her I just didn’t know whether to keep trying to find an agent for my manuscript, or if I should self-publish it, or maybe just trunk it entirely. I told her about the agent that didn’t like the one aspect of the manuscript. “I’ve received a number of rejections,” I told her, “but none have specified why. Maybe they all hate the direct address and just didn’t bother to tell me?” Amelia pointed out that that could be true. Or not. I could try to change the manuscript for this one agent, but as she didn’t ask for revisions, I should be sure I’d be changing it because I honestly thought it was good advice. (I’m still not sure about that.) Then she told me, “The publishing industry will take your little piglet that you’ve nurtured and turn it into sausage. So be sure you’re okay with that. Else, write something you’d be okay with seeing turned into sausage.” Which I thought was a very good and vivid metaphor.

Next I had a chance to speak with an agent who shall remain nameless. Sufficient to say she’s an agent who only handles children’s and YA. I laid out my dilemma, told her the feedback I’d had from other agents. I wasn’t trying to pitch her so much as understand what wasn’t being said, or what the market might be for my book. She pulled up her email and showed me that she had 11 queries in her inbox referencing Hamlet. In short, Hamlet is overdone. I mentioned that one of the agents (the one with the wish list) had suggested Merry Wives of Windsor, which I have in fact outlined as a potential project. This agent told me that might be a good way to go because it’s a much fresher, lesser-known play. “Sit on the one you have, and maybe it can be published later.” I asked if it would hurt my chances if I self-published this one. She said no, since the books I’m considering writing—these Shakespeare updates—aren’t really a series with the same characters throughout.

So now I’m really trying to decide what to do here. But I least I have a clearer view of my options.

This morning I went to a session about children’s book marketing and was flattered when Penny Warner remembered me. (She’s delightful btw.) She asked me what I was working on and I told her, then also told her what the agent had said about there being too many Hamlets. Naheed Senzai was sitting next to Penny and said, “Find another agent.” Penny pointed out that everyone in the room could write a version of Hamlet and they’d all be different. “Figure out what sets yours apart.” But I don’t know what sets mine apart since I don’t know what those other 11 manuscripts look like! Still, the encouragement was much appreciated.

Other takeaways included the idea that my paperback books should be made by IngramSpark while my ebooks should probably be Kindle exclusive. Many thanks to Penny Sansevieri for that.

I realize much of this relates specifically to me and my project, but it goes to show how key these conferences can be, how important. Here is information I would otherwise not have had. Here is fresh support. Here is new perspective. I still have many decisions to make, but it’s so nice to learn and connect and get a bigger picture. If you are an author and have an opportunity to attend a conference, I highly recommend you do so.

No Questions Asked

Here’s a question for you: Which authors’ books do you buy—preorder, even—without question? You’ll pick up their next book no matter what?

I have three at the moment.

1. Tana French

I love her Dublin Murder Squad series and click “preorder” without hesitation whenever a new one is announced.

2. Ben Aaronovitch

Yeah, the last couple Peter Grant novels were wobbly, but I’ll still read them.

3. Kate Morton

She has a definite formula, but I enjoy her books anyway.

I enjoy a lot of authors on a regular or semi-regular basis, but in most cases I’m still pretty selective. Like, I won’t read every Stephen King novel. And I fizzled out on Neil Gaiman. And I haven’t enjoyed the most recent stuff by Anne Rice.

So which authors inspire your loyalty and why? What is it about their work that you keep coming back to? Let me know in the comments!

P.S. Brynnde is still free, but today is the last day!

Watership Down

I’ve written before about my particular connection to this novel, which is about rabbits in search of a new warren. I read it in sixth grade. I was attending a private school at the time, one so small that the fifth and sixth grades were together in one room, and even still there were only 11 of us.

This was the kind of school where girls wore skirts (though there was no set uniform, just many rules), and each morning we had to kneel to be sure our skirts touched the floor. We had to memorize long passages from the biblical book of Proverbs. We took a character-building class that featured a lot of Zig Ziglar. Physical education for the girls consisted of ballet. Lots and lots of ballet. And cheerleading. I won academic awards in Science and History as well as one for “Thoroughness,” whatever that was supposed to mean. That I did my homework completely? Seriously, no idea.

My classmates liked that I could draw (Garfield and a dog based on the same general idea as Garfield) and asked me to show them how.

And they wondered about this big book I was reading. So one day, as we were sitting outside, I told them the story of Watership Down. They were intrigued and began to call me Hazel-Rah. Then they began adopting rabbit names for themselves, too, until every recess was a game of running up and down the playground hill pretending to be rabbits. The boys were Efrafa and raided our warren and we chased them away, again and again.

The teachers and administration were disturbed. There was nothing really wrong with the game, or the book, but that it had created such furor, and that it was so out of the ordinary . . . bothered them.

The next year I was moved to the public school system. An unmitigated disaster. But later some of those students who’d been in sixth grade with me joined me again in high school. (The private school had suffered some schism in its congregation and been unable to sustain itself.) They remembered me as Hazel-Rah, and I remembered them by their rabbit names, and it felt like a small victory. I had outlasted the place that had condemned me for my broad imagination and my desire to spread it to the masses.

2016 has been a crap year on a number of fronts, but its harshness is most quantified by the long list of famous people who have passed away over these 12 months. Just today we lost Carrie Fisher, but we also lost Richard Adams, author of Watership Down. The Black Rabbit of Inlé has come to fetch him home. May he enjoy green fields and primroses everlasting.

Author Interview: Elizabeth Spencer

Today I’m welcoming Elizabeth Spencer to my blog as part of my ongoing Author Interview series!

PepperWords: Easy stuff first: Who are you and what should we know about you? Where are you from, etc.?

justice_unending_cover_largeElizabeth Spencer: Hi! I’m Elizabeth Spencer, and I’m a bit of a nerd. A nerd who likes to make stuff. So it’s no surprise that I spend a lot of time writing YA fantasy—but also baking, crocheting, sewing, and pretty much anything else that involves making cool things. (I’m currently working through the entire World of Warcraft cookbook!) I also play a lot of video games, particularly RPGs. I live in New England, but I’m a very new transplant and I haven’t really settled in here yet.

PW: I lived in Massachusetts for 12 years myself. Tell us a bit about your writing history. Have you been doing it long? What inspired you to start writing?

ES: I’ve been writing since I was in grade school, but it took me a long time to muster up the courage to try to publish something. I started writing seriously about nine years ago, and wrote five full-length novels before Justice Unending. Justice was the first book that I really made me stop and think, “Wait. What am I doing? This is good. I could query this.” I’m glad I did!

PW: What about this book? What sparked it? What genre is it, and what draws you to that particular genre?


Justice Unending is an action-adventure-style YA fantasy with some light steampunk elements to it—so while there are corsets and trains and at least one giant steam-powered laboratory, the story’s main focus is an insular group of bodiless immortals and the conflicts between them and the people they possess.

Justice was the product of this persistent, half-formed idea that haunted me for most of a year, where I wanted to write some kind of fantasy about people marked with tattoo-like symbols on their body that gave them certain magical powers. But that wasn’t an idea as much as it was a magic system, and I had no idea what kind of story should go with it. I was on a long plane ride when it finally all came together—what if these people were possessed by some sort of spirit, and the symbols on their bodies were the marks of whoever was inside them? And, hey! I love Victoriana and steampunk, but I hadn’t actually written anything but high fantasy. So why couldn’t I throw in some corsets and big hats in this one? By the time that plane landed, I had the setting, the main conflict, and most of the main plot points and characters worked out.

PW: Oh my God, I am so in! This book sounds amazing. Okay, in Hollywood we write log lines for scripts—one sentence that sums up the story, a bit like the write up in TV Guide. For example, the log line for Back to the Future might read: “A teenager gets sent back to 1955 where he must contrive to get his parents to fall in love else risk never being born.” What would the log line for your book be?

ES: A teenage girl is possessed by the spirit of an ancient assassin who wants to use her body to take down the kingdom—and to right an ancient and terrible crime.

PW: And if you were casting your book as a movie, are there any particular actors you’d envision as your main characters?

ES: Is… is this the time to admit that I don’t watch a lot of movies?

PW: LOL! Fair enough. What are some of your favorite books? Favorite authors?

ES: Ahhh, I can never pick a favorite! The Seraphina books by Rachel Hartman are some of the best YA books I’ve read in the last few years, and Catherynne Valente’s Fairyland books are my new favorite MG series. But Patricia McKillip will probably always be my favorite author, though—I started reading her books when I was very tiny, and read all of her books throughout my teens and early twenties. She’s probably the reason I became so determined to write my own books.

PW: What are you currently reading? What’s on your TBR list?

ES: I just started on the first Mistborn novel! It’s amazing, and there are tons of them, and I can already tell that this is going to be a series I’m going to be reading for a very long time. I also want to check out Martha Wells’s Ile-Rien books, if only because I have been completely obsessed with her Raksura series, and the next one doesn’t come out until mid-2017.

PW: Tell us about your writing process. Is it very structured? Do you have a favorite place to sit and write, or a favorite food or drink while writing?

ES: I’m definitely a plotter! But recently, I’ve found that something halfway between plotting it and winging it seems to work best for me. I go into my first drafts with about four or five major plot points and a lot of world building—I like to have my world, characters, and magic systems figured out in advance. But then I just loosely follow the outline, point my characters toward the next big plot point, and see if I actually end up there. When I hit the end of a writing day I’ll write a quick “mini-outline” of the plot points that feel like they should happen next, and then use that as a guide the next day.

I write in a seldom-used guest room that I’ve crammed a desk into. I’m a bit ritualistic about it—that room is only for writing, and the internet is only for accessing my files and doing research. There are very few distractions in there, except a bunch of warm blankets and a pair of speakers for background music. Alas, while I’d like to say my writing drink is “hot chocolate,” if I make some before I write I’ll forget about it until it’s ice cold. I just wait until I’m done to treat myself now.

PW: How long does it take you to write a book? How do you know a manuscript is ready to send out to agents and publishers?

ES: I am extremely neurotic about tracking how much I write—I have an Excel spreadsheet that tallies up my totals by day, week, month, and story. So I can say with complete confidence that it takes me 4-5 months to write a first draft, about two to do the first edit, and however many more months it takes to drum up some beta readers and work through their changes. Thus far I average about a year to a year-and-a-half from starting to being query-ready.

Justice was a bit of a mess, though. I started querying it before it was ready and had to stop, get some new betas, and rewrite some of the story before I tried again. The first version I queried was only proofed by me and my beta friend who reads everything I do. And while they’re a fantastic reader, I needed the cold, hard, dispassionate gaze of a perfect stranger to figure out which things really weren’t working. After getting three new betas and rewriting the first fourth of the story, Justice was finally ready to go. That took nearly two years. Goodness!

PW: I’m a slow writer myself, which agonizes me since so many people say you should put out several books a year. How did you get the publisher for this book? How long did it take, and how many queries or submissions did you send out?

ES: I queried 30ish agents, stopped, then rewrote. Then I queried 93 agents over the span of (again—crazy detailed Excel spreadsheet here) 10 months. That resulted in 5 full requests and 1 partial, but no one ultimately offered me representation. And while that was very disappointing, I knew by the end of it that I probably had something special if I was getting this much interest.

I later submitted it to nine publishers and got two full requests and two contract offers. That took another 10 months—although most of that time was spent trying to get my first contract offer to work out, and then having to hunt down and negotiate a second one. But this is my first published novel. Now that I know the ropes, I hope the next ones will go faster!

PW: I’ve had similar experiences in querying and submitting. It does (usually) go faster once you get the hang of it. That said, never a good idea to rush it, right? What are you working on now?

ES: A YA high fantasy about an impenetrable fortress in the middle of the ocean that is said to be home of the gods—until a ship full of starving and half-dead children crash-land on the shore, bearing a curse that’s slowly killing them. I’m about 85K into it and am hoping to be done with the first draft by the end of the month.

PW: Yow, sounds intense. What advice would you give to young writers, or writers who are only just starting out?

ES: Start a writing habit. Don’t worry about being good. Don’t worry about publishing or getting an agent. Worry about establishing a habit where you write on a schedule—whether it’s every day, 3 times a week, or whatever makes sense for your schedule. Then learn how to finish projects reliably and on a decent timeline. It took me wayyyyy too long to learn that it didn’t matter how good my writing was or how interesting my ideas were if I was unable to finish a first draft in a reasonable amount of time—or if I never did at all.

PW: Where do you see yourself in five years?

ES: I’m hoping I’ll get an agent sometime in the next five years. Fingers crossed! But even if I don’t, I intend to keep publishing books. It took me a long time to decide to publish something. Now I need to get my butt in gear and actually start building a library!

PW: Now a little about you in general. Favorite quote or inspirational saying:

ES: I’ve always been fond of “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”

PW: I’ve never heard that one, but I really relate.

Favorite color:

ES: Plum-colored purple!

PW: Favorite TV show:

ES: Is this a bad time to say I don’t really watch TV, either? Uh. Can I do my favorite video game?! I’m a diehard fan of the Castlevania series (before they rebooted it with the Lords of Shadow spinoff), and while Symphony of the Night is probably the best game in the series, my favorite story (and cast of characters) will always be Aria of Sorrow.

PW: Works for me! (I know nothing about video games except what my kids and husband try to explain to me.)

Favorite movie:

ES: I’m not sure I have one! I’ve enjoyed a bunch, but claiming a “favorite” seems like a pretty big burden. And I’m not sure I’m ready to make that sort of commitment.

PW: Someone (living, dead, or fictional) you’d like to meet:

ES: It’d be so lovely to have a chance to talk to Tolkien about how he came up with his ideas and built his worlds. World building and linguistics fascinate me!

PW: And last but certainly not least, where can we find you and your book?

ES: My website is at elizabeth-spencer.net, and you can find Justice Unending on Amazon and the Evernight Teen website!


Within the walls of the Bastion, it’s an honor to become a host for an Unending—the bodiless, immortal spirits who rule the country.

But for Faye, it meant her sister would have to die.

When Faye sneaks into the Mother Duchess’s manor, she just wanted to see her sister one last time. Instead, Faye finds a manor in chaos, a murdered man, and an Unending assassin named Aris who needs a new body—Faye’s body—to bring the Bastion to its knees.

Now Faye’s harboring the Bastion’s most wanted criminal. And if she wants to live, she’ll have to escape the Duchess and her immortals, all while keeping Aris from harming anyone else.

There’s just one problem—Aris is not the villain. And now Faye is the only one who can help her stop the Duchess before anyone else—and especially Faye—has to die for the Unendings’ whims.


Trays rattled. A half dozen women gasped. Justine was on her knees and forearms, her head inches away from the tiles. Her fingers clawed at the grout.

It happened so quickly Faye was left standing with her hand in the air. She dropped to her knees and put an arm gently on her sister’s back, her voice shaking so hard she had to force herself not to yell, “Why didn’t you say you felt this bad?”

“I—” Justine croaked. She clenched her eyelids shut, clamped her arms against her chest, and bent over herself, folding her body into a tight ball of pain.

The maids crushed around them. Olivia crowded up behind Faye, sounding worried. “We’ll have to carry her to her room. Two or three of us can do it. Faye, tell your father—”

“No,” Justine whispered. “No.”

Faye watched Justine’s back rise and fall with every unsteady breath. “Oh. Oh. Me? You want me.”

“What?” Faye asked.

“I can’t… I’m sorry. Please, one moment… I…”


Justine didn’t answer. Slowly, unsteadily, she pushed herself up to her knees. She was still shaking as she pulled her arms away from the curve of her stomach, lifted them, and showed their backs to her sister.

Thin black sigils ran all the way down her arms, spiraling and looping from her knuckles to her elbows. They looked like stylized flames.

Those were the sigils of an Unending.

Faye stiffened. The maids sucked in a collective gasp of surprise. Only Olivia managed to croak, “Whose are they?”

Justine stared at her own hands like they belonged to someone else and cocked her head to the side, as if listening to a voice only she could hear. “Belisama.” She paused a moment, dreamlike. “The Mother’s guard? I would imagine that she’d choose someone big, someone strong, someone who can…” She fluttered her eyes weakly, and it sent tears sliding down her cheeks. “I am admirably responsible? Duty? Is that enough?”

Faye wished Justine would stop talking. Her sister did not ramble. Her sister was proper and well spoken, and this … this was terribly, desperately wrong. Faye stared at the sigils as her stomach shuddered like a pot in rolling boil.

Justine pulled herself away from Faye as she rose to her feet. Olivia offered her a shoulder, and Justine leaned against it before she tried to speak again. “We need to send a message to the Mother Duchess. I’ll have to go there, talk with her, be Fixed.” Her eyes widened, as if she only then realized what she was saying. “I have to tell Mother and Father. I have to get my things in order. I have to make sure the maids know what to do. I…”

No one said anything, even as Justine trailed off into silence. The maids looked at her achingly. Olivia shot Faye a concerned glance, then gently took Justine by the arm. “Come, miss. Let’s tell your parents the news.”

Faye tried to breathe and choked on a sob. No one seemed to notice. The maids stepped around her, their skirts rustling against the tiles as they followed into the hall, leaving the half-finished dinner still bubbling and popping on the stoves.

Faye couldn’t move. She was trembling, she realized, trembling so hard her fingers were numb. Her brain looped wildly, madly, hysterically through a pair of awful, unbearable thoughts.

Her sister had been chosen by an Unending. Her sister was going to die.

Buy Links:

Evernight Teen:




About the Author:

Elizabeth Spencer is a YA fantasy author who writes action-packed adventures about magic, mystery, and very brave women. She also writes steampunk, although that’s mostly because she really, really loves big hats. Her first novel, Justice Unending, was released by Evernight Teen in November 2016. She otherwise has a very normal job as a professional editor and project manager. She lives in New England with her husband and an extremely fluffy cat.

Author Interview: Sarai Henderson

Today I’m welcoming Sarai Henderson to my blog as part of my ongoing Author Interview series!

PepperWords: Easy stuff first: Who are you and what should we know about you? Where are you from, etc.?

hunter-evernightpublishing-2016-ebookSarai Henderson: My name is Sarai Henderson. I live in Oregon, in a small town south of Portland. I’m the mother of three young boys who keep me busy and the author of HUNTER, a YA urban fantasy/paranomral about bounty hunter telepaths who work for a ruthless telepath faction.

PW: Tell us a bit about your writing history. Have you been doing it long? What inspired you to start writing?

SH: My writing started after my ballet career suddenly ended when I was 18. I had always enjoyed writing when I was young, but didn’t truly come to life until that was all that was left. I wrote my first novel in my early twenties (House of Chaos) but didn’t publish it until this year, 2016. After I had my third son, I decided to write Hunter, my most recent novel and my first to be published. It took me a year of lunch breaks from work and a Twitter pitch party to land my publisher, Evernight Teen.

PW: ET is the publisher of my YA novel Manifesting Destiny! What about this book? What sparked it? What genre is it, and what draws you to that particular genre?

SH: Hunter is a YA urban fantasy/paranormal. I love urban fantasy because I can describe the world around me, so people can see what I love and hate about places I’ve been. In Hunter, I describe how the rain falls here in the NW. Its something I actually love, but I let my main character in the book loathe it. I wanted her to portray misery in that moment and the rain really helps with that (even though it truly is a beautiful thing).

PW: Nice use of imagery and symbolism. In Hollywood we write log lines for scripts—one sentence that sums up the story, a bit like the write up in TV Guide. For example, the log line for Back to the Future might read: “A teenager gets sent back to 1955 where he must contrive to get his parents to fall in love else risk never being born.” What would the log line for your book be?

SH: Sixteen-year-old Hunter is stuck between her telepath world and the strong arm of the government where she must choose between trust and loyalty.

PW: And if you were casting your book as a movie, are there any particular actors you’d envision as your main characters?

SH: I’ve always loved Emma Stone and her big eyes. She would be a perfect Hunter and I think I would make Chris Pratt Seeker. He has the big brother kind of vibe that Seeker is known for.

PW: I love Chris Pratt, would watch him in just about anything.

What are some of your favorite books? Favorite authors?

SH: I’m a huge fan of Garth Nix and his Old Kingdom series. He was what drew me to epic fantasy, magic and the paranormal. Everything he writes is unique and creative. He is my favorite author.

PW: What are you currently reading? What’s on your TBR list?

SH: I’m reading Allegient right now, finishing up the series before I see the last movie. I’m also working through the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. I’ve been reading those books for 10 years now and I’m only on Book 4. That’s some deep stuff.

PW: I read the first couple Wheel of Time books but felt overwhelmed, not up to the task. I think it takes a special kind of person to be able to read something so densely, lushly written. I stand in awe of Jordan’s world building, and in awe of you for attempting to read it!

Tell us about your writing process. Is it very structured? Do you have a favorite place to sit and write, or a favorite food or drink while writing?

SH: My process is pretty much word vomit. I sit in my car on my lunch break from work and write until my hand cramps. I can usually come up with a pretty good plot in my first draft that needs some small tweaking in the next draft. Its worked for me so far.

PW: How long does it take you to write a book? How do you know a manuscript is ready to send out to agents and publishers?

SH: My first draft takes me about a month and a half, but the following drafts can take me another six months or so. I usually consider a novel done when I can’t stand reading it any longer.

PW: How did you get the publisher for this book? How long did it take, and how many queries or submissions did you send out?

SH: This book was unusual when it came to the submission process. I finished it just in time to participate in Pit2Pub, a Twitter pitch party by Kristin D. Van Risseghem. My first 40-character pitch received eight requests, one of them happened to be my current publisher, Evernight Teen. I was researching all the publishers that had shown interest in my novel when I got a message on Twitter from Evernight Teen saying that they were really interested in my novel and how much they wanted me to submit to them, so I did. They were the second query I made with this new manuscript. A few months later, Hunter was published.

PW: I had a similar experience with Manifesting Destiny. What are you working on now?

SH: Right now, I’m working on the sequel to Hunter called Seeker. It’s going to be telepaths against telepaths with a new threat and blast from Hunter’s past. Who knows what will happen? Well, I guess I do 🙂

PW: What advice would you give to young writers, or writers who are only just starting out?

SH: Don’t give up. I spent several years trying to publish my first manuscript and only two tries to publish my second. Anything can happen. You never know.

PW: Good advice. Seems like if the first book doesn’t sell, write something else and try again.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

SH: I dream big and want to have my Hunter series turned into a movie, but in reality, I think I’ll have my current series done and started on another. Hopefully, a little better known than I am now.

PW: I’ve been trying to get one of my novels turned into a movie for over three years now, but the industry is a tough nut to crack. Good luck with your work!

Now a little about you in general. Favorite quote or inspirational saying:

SH: My favorite quote is from the movie ThorL “You want me to put down the hammer?” I use it for everything. “You want me to put down the tuna sandwich… Laundry… Three-year-old child.” It works for everything….

PW: Ha! Love it! Favorite color:

SH: Orange!

PW: Favorite TV show:

SH: The Walking Dead

PW: Favorite movie:

SH: Fifth Element… Lelu Dallas, multi pass.

PW: Oh my God, we say that around our house all the time! Okay, someone (living, dead, or fictional) you’d like to meet:

SH: My favorite Chrises: Pratt, Evans, Hemsworth, Pine.

PW: Good taste! And last but certainly not least, where can we find you and your book?



Sixteen-year-old Hunter belongs to the Telepathic Alliance for the Latent or Newly manifested, otherwise known as Talon, a bounty hunter community known for their ruthless tactics. Her latest mission in San Diego was supposed to be a piece of cake, but when the job takes a treacherous and deadly turn, not even her telepathic abilities could have warned her of the dangers lurking around the corner.

There is only one place for Hunter to go, and that is straight into the hands of the government and their Psychic Intelligence Team, but even the “Normal” world isn’t safe. With each passing hour throwing her deeper into the game of life and death, Hunter must decide who to trust before this mission becomes her last.

Buy Links:



saraihendersonAbout the Author:

Sarai Henderson is a retired ballerina from Oregon City, Oregon, where she spends most her time chasing down her three rambunctious boys and writing on her lunch break at work. She enjoys DIY projects, Photography and writing on her blog about life as a mother of an autistic son. Find her online at www.exballerina.com or on Twitter @Shendersonbooks.

InD’Scribe Wrap-Up

On Saturday—the last full day of InD’Scribe—I went and had breakfast with a bunch of amazing authors. I still can’t believe they let me sit with them, and then they even talked to me! The breakfast was hosted by Kathryn Le Veque, and I sat across from Anna Markland and next to Rebecca Forster, and Susan Tisdale was one over on my right . . . There were a lot of others, too, and it was great fun.

Still not a ton of traffic from readers in the author room, but I was very excited when a school librarian, on the search for YA titles for her library, stopped and bought a copy of Manifesting Destiny. I hope her students love it! I also had a chance to chat a little with the amazing Anne Perry and get a book signed by her.

I did my second panel, too, with Debra Holland and Elizabeth Essex. That one was about building character and how important well-rounded characters are in books. Someone working for the conference came and took pictures of that panel, but I haven’t been able to find them online yet. Wish I could post one!

Saturday evening were the RONE awards. Two of my new friends—D.B. Sieders and Caroline Warfield—won in their categories! I was so happy for them! Made me think I was living in The K-Pro and bringing a little good luck to people. 😉

Afterwards we ate and danced, but I turned in a bit early because the weekend had exhausted me. I had to say goodbye to many of my new friends who were leaving the next morning, but thanks to Facebook, Twitter, and the like we’ll be able to stay in touch. And hopefully all be back at InD’Scribe next year!

Authors, I can’t say enough good things about this conference. If you can make it there next year (October 12-15), go! It’s such a supportive and welcoming group. These ladies gave me a chance and a voice when no one else would. They didn’t look at me and see a nobody. They saw me as somebody with worth, someone to be encouraged and guided. I found my tribe! The InD’Scribe Tribe!

InD’Scribe So Far…

Having a lovely time in Burbank at the InD’Scribe Author and Reader Conference! Of course, it’s mostly been authors, but we’re hoping now it’s the weekend we’ll see some more readers.

I arrived Thursday afternoon, knowing no one, but have found (like with so many other writers’ conferences) the people to be very friendly and welcoming. Still, there are a lot of us, and one sometimes feels lost in the shuffle. But the first night was the Enchanted Dreamweaver’s Ball, and it was like they’d brought Livian to life! He stood near the entrance, and yes, I tried to kiss him.


I was all dolled up thanks to Period Images who did my hair and makeup and from whom I rented my Regency gown.

They also had book cover models on hand so that we could take pictures with them. When he said, “Trust me on this one,” and dipped me, I think my swoon was a little too real:


He has a lot of practice, I guess.

Yesterday I set up my author table, but then they moved me, so I don’t have a picture yet of my “real” setup. Will post later! I also sat on a panel about villains:


From left: Andy Peloquin, Kathryn Le Veque, Beth Carter, Yours Truly, Arial Burnz

I’m on another panel today and then there’s more time in the author room where I’ve been making great friends. Check out Caroline Warfield, with whom I’ve had some great chats, and if you like Manifesting Destiny give D.B. Sieders a try with her mermaid books. (Though, to be clear, her books are not YA.)

And don’t forget! Two of my Sherlock Holmes stories are free this weekend, and The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller is only 99 cents on Amazon! Click here to go to my Amazon page and grab some goodies!

Spotlight: Deadly Alliance by Kathleen Rowland

Check out this romantic suspense novel by fellow Tirgearr author Kathleen Rowland!

deadly_alliance_by_kathleen_rowland-200Finbar Donahue, former Army Ranger, walked on the wild side in Iraq, but now he lives in the shadows. After his evasive partner, Les, was shot in a random drive-by, Finn discovers cash is siphoned monthly. He fights to keep his investment company afloat. When the late partner’s girlfriend, Amy Kintyre, applies for his bookkeeping job, Finn suspects she knows about his company drain and hires her.

Amy needs a nine-to-five with free evenings and weekends to get her fashion design business back on track. She unearths Les’ s secret bank account and alerts Finn. Freezing of the money laundering account sets off havoc within an Irish gang. Amy witnesses a gang fight between a brutal ISIS fundraising organization and the Irish. Desperate to escape a stalker’s crosshairs, she seeks refuge with Finn. As danger heats up, sparks fly hotter.


Chapter One

“You know I love your sportswear designs, right?”

“I’m glad you do.” Amy Kintyre sat opposite a buyer, none other than Kira Radner, at a coffee shop in Lake Arrowhead, California. This sudden opportunity to re-launch her sportswear designs gave rise to the jitters, and Amy clutched her hands under the table.

Kira pressed her face forward, Amy’s sketches drawn on figures in action poses. With the portfolio spread between them, she flipped it sideways to examine the fabric swatches stapled along the sidebar. Their earthy tones blended with the marred wooden table.

Amy stilled the chatty urge.

“You know your presentation is in two weeks.” Kira was giving her the green light with Recreational Sportswear, Incorporated.

“I appreciate this, Kira.” To get her business back on track, she needed blocks of time to sew mockups. Amy inhaled the spicy aroma of the raw cedar wood. The under-construction décor of wide, timber planks on the walls made her think of her new self. Crazy how thirty felt like seventeen when embracing life and freeing her artistic side.

“Then I beg you,” Kira said, “please, please, please have your product samples ready. Deadline is the first Monday of November.”

“Got it.” Fear over the tight time frame tasted sour in her throat, but this break called like no other.

Kira leaned forward. “Impressive functionality with the shorts. Who would have thought this pocket holds a Swiss Army Knife!” The buyer’s fingertips traced the pick-stitch hem, made with thread matching the fabric, appearing invisible. “Nice detail.”

Amy’s only mock-up kept their face-to-face meeting running like the hum of the fluorescent lights above.

“Oooo,” Kira said and raised both her eyebrows. “Classic nostalgia with a twist. A pocket knife for hikers!”

“Useful, I think.” The bright light flickered over associates who’d worked together in the past, but Amy didn’t share the difficulty of making the deadline. Her breathing shortened, and panic carved a hole in her chest.

“Gotta bounce,” Kira said. “Get to work.”

“I will.” She pulled out a notebook and jotted down a to-do list ending with the file with various size patterns. After a half-hour of regrouping and rethinking, she stopped tapping her pen. Kira Radner took a chance on her, but to turn this chance into a reality, she needed evenings and weekends to make the deadline.

Last Sunday while pouring over Craigslist classifieds, she’d zeroed in on Finbar Donahue’s bookkeeping ad. After her inquiry, his head accountant sent her a message. She still favored the toe she stubbed after her in-box pinged.

Thanks to what happened, the call from Kira, she needed Finn’s job. Her mind raced to her third interview for his nine-to-five. Tomorrow morning, if all went well, she’d land the regular-hours job, tailor made for her time frame. She ran a hand through her hair, picturing the arrogant know-it-all with a never-ending string of women hanging on his arm.

Handsome wasn’t the word to describe Finn, her late, ex-boyfriend’s partner. She’d been around Finbar Donahue enough to know he looked at his world as if he were the Almighty himself. The former Army Ranger made her way too nervous. She tensed up to such an extent, her voice broke.

Romance wasn’t part of this equation. Her dream to launch herself, stitch by stitch, came down to landing the job. On a mission, her goal was simple. She closed her eyes and prayed tomorrow she’d nail it.

Buy It: www.tirpub.com/DeadlyAlliance

[ File # csp7850808, License # 1386192 ] Licensed through http://www.canstockphoto.com in accordance with the End User License Agreement (http://www.canstockphoto.com/legal.php) (c) Can Stock Photo Inc. / Elenathewise
[ File # csp7850808, License # 1386192 ]
Licensed through http://www.canstockphoto.com in accordance with the End User License Agreement (http://www.canstockphoto.com/legal.php)
(c) Can Stock Photo Inc. / Elenathewise
How about romantic travel to Lake Arrowhead, California, where Deadly Alliance takes place? Fall colors mix with evergreens around this pristine mountain lake. Bring a picnic basket and rent a pontoon!

Book Buyers Best finalist Kathleen Rowland is devoted to giving her readers fast-paced, high-stakes suspense with a sizzling love story sure to melt their hearts. Lily’s Pad and the Intervenus Series: A Brand New Address and Betrayal at Crater’s Edge are sweet. Deadly Alliance and her work-in-progress, Unholy Alliance, are contracted with Tirgearr Publishing and written for adults.

Kathleen used to write computer programs but now writes novels. She grew up in Iowa where she caught lightning bugs, ran barefoot, and raced her sailboat on Lake Okoboji. Now she wears flip-flops and sails with her husband, Gerry, on Newport Harbor but wishes there were lightning bugs in California.

Kathleen exists happily with her witty CPA husband, Gerry, in their 70’s poolside retreat in Southern California where she adores time spent with visiting grandchildren, dogs, one bunny, and noisy neighbors. While proud of their five children who’ve flown the coop, she appreciates the luxury of time to write. If you’d enjoy news, sign up for Kathleen’s newsletter at http://www.kathleenrowland.com/

Find Kathleen online at these sites as well:

Author Interview: Kristen Morie-Osisek

The-Sixth-Event-evernightpublishing-JayAheer2016-finalimage Today I’m welcoming author Kristen Morie-Osisek to the blog as part of my author interview series!

PepperWords: Easy stuff first: Who are you and what should we know about you? Where are you from, etc.?

Kristen Morie-Osisek: My name is Kristen Morie-Osisek, and I’m currently living in Connecticut. I have a Ph.D. in psychology, but I’ve also long been interested in prehistory and paleontology, which is what led me to write my book, The Sixth Event.

PW: Tell us a bit about your writing history. Have you been doing it long? What inspired you to start writing?

KMO: Back in probably fourth or fifth grade, I was bitten by the writing bug. I had always been a voracious reader, and it was around the time I discovered the fantasy genre that I realized I could write stories of my own. I started trying to write by hand, and because I have a very hard time doing that, it didn’t really go anywhere. Once I learned to touch type, though, I began writing short descriptive scenes and short stories. Finally, once I had free time in college, I finished an entire novel. From there, I just kept going. I have to say that it all started through reading—I don’t think I would have begun had I not been a huge reader as a kid.

PW: I think many writers do begin as readers, or at least good writers do. Writers who don’t read don’t write all that well in my experience.

What about this book? What sparked it? What genre is it, and what draws you to that particular genre?

KMO: The Sixth Event actually started life as a short story. I had always had the idea of someone waking up at a previous moment in their life at much younger age and trying to change something that will happen in the future. I brought a draft of that story to a creative writing class in college, and while it needed work, everyone really liked the concept, so I kept it in my back pocket. In addition, I’ve always been fascinated by extinct animals—everything from the dinosaurs to giant mammals in the ice age. I combined the two ideas into one in The Sixth Event, where the main character gets thrown back in time to prevent another planet-wide extinction event. The idea evolved from there.

PW: Sounds fascinating. In Hollywood we write log lines for scripts—one sentence that sums up the story, a bit like the write up in TV Guide. For example, the log line for Back to the Future might read: “A teenager gets sent back to 1955 where he must contrive to get his parents to fall in love else risk never being born.” What would the log line for your book be?

KMO: Hmm… probably something like “This time, extinction isn’t the end.”

PW: And if you were casting your book as a movie, are there any particular actors you’d envision as your main characters?

KMO: This one’s a toughie since I don’t know actors or actresses very well. I would probably want new talent to come in! The characters are very down-to-earth, so it’d be neat to get some new up-and-coming actors to play the roles.

PW: What are some of your favorite books? Favorite authors?

KMO: My favorite book of all time is TailChaser’s Song, by Tad Williams. Its animal fantasy about a cat and cat society. Think Warriors but darker and more fantastical. As for favorite authors, I love Mercedes Lackey and Anne McAffrey. Sci-fi and fantasy are my favorite genres.

PW: Oh my God, I love Tailchaser’s Song! I read Watership Down and then Tailchaser and just love them both. What are you currently reading? What’s on your TBR list?

KMO: At the moment, I’m reading The Storyteller Trilogy by Sue Harrison, which is fiction that follows Native American tribes that takes place in Alaska during the ice age, 800 years ago. It’s a really fun look back at the past. Up next, I intend to read some more YA, including the Maze Runner series, which I haven’t gotten around to reading yet.

PW: Tell us about your writing process. Is it very structured? Do you have a favorite place to sit and write, or a favorite food or drink while writing?

KMO: I tend to write as inspiration strikes, sitting on my couch in between playing video games. I don’t have a set schedule, but I try to write at least 400 words a day.

PW: How long does it take you to write a book? How do you know a manuscript is ready to send out to agents and publishers?

KMO: I’m a bit on the slow side—a book a year is my likely rate, with novellas or short stories added in on the side. As for readiness, I typically will finish the book, then take a break from it for a few months before going back and editing. Once a beta reader takes a look and I do one last editing pass, I call it ready.

PW: How did you get the publisher for this book? How long did it take, and how many queries or submissions did you send out?

KMO: The Sixth Event had a lot of near misses before I heard the unfortunate news that no one wanted dystopian or apocalyptic books any longer. After about a hundred queries and 25 or so full requests, and two editor requests, I went with small presses. Evernight Teen snapped it up very quickly!

PW: I had a similar experience with Manifesting Destiny. What are you working on now?

KMO: I have a YA portal fantasy series called A Ring of Stones in the works. Book 1 is complete and Book 2 is in the works, out of what will likely be three or four books. In Book 1, a young girl, Ryn, discovers she can walk through the veil between worlds and enter the fairy realm at will. The fairy world was closed off from the human world centuries ago, and Ryn has to figure out why she can travel the two worlds and how to protect the human world from powerful fairies who want to harm it.

PW: Cool! I keep hearing “portal fantasy” getting thrown around these days and had to look it up. Seems to mean a story that involves a magical doorway of some kind (in case anyone else was wondering).

What advice would you give to young writers, or writers who are only just starting out?

KMO: Every writer has their strengths and weaknesses, so it would depend on the person, but the old clichés still work. Practice makes perfect. Write every day. And most importantly, keep reading! Reading and enjoying other people’s books is the best way to keep your own creative juices flowing.

PW: Where do you see yourself in five years?

KMO: Given academia these days, probably scrambling for grant money. 😛 Seriously though, I hope to keep finding success. I want to put out my YA portal fantasy with Evernight Teen, and hopefully have the whole series out by then!

PW: Now a little about you in general. Favorite quote or inspirational saying:

KMO: This was said at my middle school graduation (class of 2000!). It’s a cliché saying, but I love it. “Shoot for the moon, and if you miss, you’ll still be among the stars.”

PW: Favorite color:

KMO: Probably green.

PW: Favorite TV show:

KMO: I love The Simpsons, but the TV show that will always give me warm fuzzy nostalgic feelings is Dinosaurs. Yep, the old puppet show. And if we include anime, Trigun! I love space westerns.

PW: “Not the Mama!” (Nod to those who get it.) Favorite movie:

KMO: There are so many good ones! I think the most recent would likely be Rise of the Guardians.

PW: Someone (living, dead, or fictional) you’d like to meet:

KMO: Einstein. I’d love to chat about the history of the universe with him.

PW: And last but certainly not least, where can we find you and your book?

KMO: My website, which I should update more often, can be found here: http://sfwrites.blogspot.com/

The Sixth Event can be bought from Evernight Teen here: http://www.evernightteen.com/the-sixth-event-by-kristen-morie-osisek/
Or at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Sixth-Event-Kristen-Morie-Osisek-ebook/dp/B01FEEITZ4/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1472521826&sr=8-1


During Raquel’s first semester of college, she witnesses the end of the world, only to wake up in her old room at her parents’ house two years in the past. Even worse, it seems she’s the only one who remembers—until Chris Lyley, a boy Raquel always thought was a loser, tells her he remembers the catastrophe.

Before long, they both discover new abilities. They’re able to understand any language and teleport through time and space. If Raquel and Chris can figure out what caused the end of their world, maybe they can stop it.

WDC16 #9

Can you even believe how many sessions I attended over the WDC weekend? As far as bang for your buck goes, I have to say the Writer’s Digest Conference definitely gives you a lot of content. (They’re already scheduled to have it in NY again, same hotel, next August 18-20 if you’re interested.)

Okay, so after a lunch break I went to hear Jessica Strawser talk about 10 Essential Writing Lessons From 10 Years of Bestsellers. She’s editor of Writer’s Digest and was pulling wisdom from various bestselling authors she’s interviewed. I couldn’t write fast enough to get exact quotes, so everything here is paraphrased. For the exact quotes, I’m sure you could go look up the WD interviews directly.

1. A better approach to “write every day”

This is the answer to the fact that we’re not all disciplined enough to write every day, despite being told repeatedly that we should. The guilt we feel at not meeting that goal ends up hampering us further. (For those of you who do write every day, I guess this doesn’t apply.) Strawser said that Alice Walker told her it wasn’t so much about actually writing every day as it was about the possibility of writing—being ready for it when the time came. Having the time and space and being receptive. Walker likened it to being ready for a guest who might come to tea. The person may or may not come, but have tea in the house just in case, right?

Meanwhile, Patricia Cornwell told Strawser that a writer should treat writing like a relationship rather than a job. If you want the relationship to succeed, you put in the effort. And if you miss someone, you pick up the phone and call them, even when you can’t be with them. Cornwell said she at the very least “checks in” with her writing each night by looking over her WIP even if she can’t work on it.

2. Protect your candle

This idea comes from author Lisa Scottoline. She says that sometimes it seems like it’s not okay for adults to have a dream; they’re supposed to “grow up” and live in the real world. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with adult responsibilities: a day job, the family, etc. But Scottoline says your dream—your writing—is like a candle in an old-fashioned holder. You walk with it and must shield it with your hand to keep it from going out. Protect it. This is your light. She even keeps a candle on her desk to remind her.

3. Find your weakness

Author Susan Mallery says you should figure out what you’re bad at and focus on it. Get good at it.

For me personally I liken this to targeting a flabby area on your body. Maybe you like your arms and legs but think your tummy needs toning. Work on that. Keep working on your arms and legs, too, but work extra hard on the part you want to make more appealing.

Patricia Cornwell somewhat famously mentioned that a writer who thinks they have no weakness—a writer who talks about how great their book is—is probably not a very good writer at all. It’s the insecure ones, the ones who know it’s not perfect, that end up producing something special.

4. Learn to love revision

Khaled Hosseini had a great analogy for this. He said it’s like moving into a house. The first draft is when you bring in all the boxes. You unpack everything. It’s hard work. Revision is arranging all the stuff. It’s hard work too, but can be more fun and satisfying than just the unpacking.

Don’t try to be a great writer. Be a great rewriter.

5. Don’t be afraid to throw things away

You worked hard on it and you want to keep it—all of it. Because to throw it out would mean you wasted your time.

It happened to Garth Stein. He did years of research and wrote a 100k novel only to realize he’d really only written the backstory. All that work was just preparation for the story he actually wanted to tell. Sure, he could have kept the 100k novel and said, “Good enough.” But he didn’t. “We’re building mountains, not molehills. It takes time.”

Khaled Hosseini says nothing is every wasted, even if you throw it away, because we learn from everything we write.

6. Character and plot are the same thing


Lisa Scottoline notes that how characters react is the key to the story. And that action (plot) reveals character. They are two sides of the same coin.

7. Take detours

David Sedaris notes that it’s important not to pressure yourself when you’re writing. Don’t worry about whether it’s marketable. Just go with the flow.

Garth Stein encourages writers to go out and have experiences. Similarly, let your characters off their leashes. You can always come back to where you were, but you may yet discover something new and better by letting them (and yourself) explore.

Don’t rush things and don’t force them. Readers can tell when the plot is forced. Be patient and let it come naturally.

8. Always aim to grow in your writing

Jojo Moyes says that it’s important to know what your story is really about. What’s the bigger question beneath the story?

It can help to ask readers: “Where did you laugh while reading? Or cry?” Challenge yourself.

9. Remember: It’s supposed to be fun

You shouldn’t be driven by the market or ambition. You should be driven by the passion you have for the project. Which is kind of the same as

10. Do it for love and never give up

Brad Meltzer says, “The moment you think you’ve made it, you’re done.”

Patricia Cornwell believes you can’t become a writer, you either are one or you’re not. It’s like a songbird—you can’t tell it not to sing. Whether they’re a success in the market or not won’t matter to a real writer. They just keep writing because they have to.