Tag Archives: Talker 25

Covers, Covers, Covers

Elly Swartz’s Finding Perfect just got a cover last week (see it here) and that reminded me of how exciting (ok, and nerve wracking) seeing your cover for the first time can be. A lot is riding on that cover design. In spite of the proverb, we all judge a book by its cover.

The perfect cover isn’t only beautiful, it delivers the right book to the right reader. So I thought I’d do a roundup of four books that I’ve had the opportunity to read whose covers do exactly that. The first is Penny Parker Klostermann’s There Was An Old Dragon Who Swallowed A Knight with art by Ben Mantle.There Was an Old Dragon cover

From the minute you see that big, old dragon with the dinner napkin around his neck, you know he’s trouble. Funny trouble. And the book delivers that funny again and again both through text and pictures.

Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 11.51.40 PM

The cover of Jennifer Chambliss Bertman’s Book Scavenger tells you, “Hey, if you like books, if you like mysteries, if you like to solve puzzles, this is your book. Sarah Watt’s did the art and April Ward designed the cover. And when you read the book, it absolutely delivers on the cover’s promise. Books, mystery, puzzles galore.

CharmedChildrencover (1)

Janet Fox’s cover of The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle, with art by Greg Ruth, is fabulously sinister. You can’t help wanting to go into that lighted door and yet, at the same time, thinking “I am not sure those kids should go in that door. I do not have a good feeling about this.” Janet’s book comes out in March but I’ve already read an ARC and let me tell you, it’s both worth going in the door and sleep-with-the-lights-on scary. It delivers on the promise of the cover.


And finally, there’s the cover of Joshua McCune’s Talker 25. Gorgeous color combinations, all that texture, the stylized nod to dragons and the the tagline below the title. The cover is gritty, tough. You know the book will have a dark side. And that’s exactly what you get when you read it. (Plus the realest dragons I have read in years.)

If you’d like to read more about the thought process behind Talker 25, there’s a great post about how Paul Zakris, art director at Greenwillow, and Sammy Yuen, the artist, worked through that process here.

So here’s to the artists and cover designers who do such a brilliant job telling a reader in one image what’s waiting inside that cover.

Which covers that you’ve seen lately do you think do the job of delivering the right book to the right reader?


Filed under cover art

An EMU’s Quiz, Inspired by TALKER 25

Here we are, the fourth day into our launch party for Joshua McCune’s debut novel, TALKER 25.  If you like dragons, intense action, high-stakes plots, and compelling characters, you’re gonna love this book for teen and adult readers. But, for today’s post here on EMU’s Debuts, it’s time for a launch party game inspired by some of the Talker 25 story elements. The game, or quiz, is part truth-or dare and part fantasy free-for-all. Our own Emu debut authors had fun coming up with clever, and revealing responses. Seriously, you might learn something revelatory about one of these brilliant folk while we pique your interest in TALKER 25. Our celebrated author of the hour, Josh McCune, even chimed in with his own self-restrained responses.  And I do mean restrained because he is, after all, the dragon master of TALKER 25.

Let’s get to the good stuff, shall we?


1.) Talker 25 begins with a high school prank gone very, very wrong. What kind of high school pranks did you or your friends try to pull? (Don’t worry, we won’t tell.)

ADI RULE   My class pulled a “prank” on our Headmaster at graduation. Each graduate handed him a marble when they went in for the diploma/handshake. He just kept putting them in his pockets. There were 110 of us. LOL? 

LAURIE ANN THOMPSON   None, that I can remember. How boring, eh?

TARA DAIRMAN   Ha–I think that Melissa (in Talker 25) has a much more exciting high school life than I did! I honestly can’t remember any pranks. Does dressing identically to my best friend (we already sort of looked alike) to confuse the teachers count? 🙂

REBECCA VANSLYKE    High school pranks? I was always the shy new kid (three different high schools), so not so much in high school. However one school-related prank was when I was teaching at an old school with a leaky roof. My next-door teaching partner had a notorious leak, and it would happen during, or even after, a rainy day. She always had a bucket under the leak. So one morning I got there early and filled the bucket just a BIT more than was there. The same for the next two weeks. Every day there would be more and more water in the bucket. Soon the custodian was climbing up the ladder, feeling the ceiling panels. Then the custodian AND the principal would be up the ladder. On the last day of school I planned to bring in a goldfish to put in the bucket as the coup de grace. But, sadly, I got busted. The custodian got there before I did one morning, checked the bucket, and knew something was up when it was nearly to the top later on.

Post script: That summer we got a new roof. I take full credit. J

LINDSEY LANE    Oh geez…I went to a girl’s school. I was very compliant. VERY goody two shoes.

JOSHUA MCCUNE    I was a good, shy kid. Lol. I did however once dress up as a monkey and jump out of a box for my grandparents’ anniversary to commemorate a real simian my grandparents once had the misfortune of owning. The feces-throwing kind. 

MYLISA LARSEN     I was rather boring in the prank category, I’m afraid. The pranksters came from my husband’s side and they have a code of silence.

CHRISTINE HAYES    High school pranks: I was a really boring teenager, but someone I’m rather close to “borrowed” the huge inflatable Ronald McDonald from atop the McDonald’s across from his high school. He and his friends returned it a few days later when they found out their prank was more of a felony than a harmless way to spend a Saturday night.

AMY FINNEGAN    Kids used to climb onto the roof of my high school pool house and jump through the skylights into the pool. In the dark. Good thing there was always water in it. 

PENNY KLOSTERMAN    There was a popular TV commercial about Scope Mouthwash when I was growing up. (Yes, this dates me!) In the commercial, a pointed note (see below) and a bottle of Scope were left for someone who needed fresher breath.

The note said:

Once in the morning does it.

The Green Phantom 

My friends and I left a bottle of scope with that note outside our math teacher’s door, then knocked and ran. We don’t think he took it seriously because he still had tremendously bad breath…or it could be that “once in the morning” didn’t do.

MEGAN MORRISON    My friends and I were pretty mellow, but we TP’d a few houses in our day.  We also TP’d our high school, as a senior prank.  We were obviously very creative. 

DONNA BOWMAN BRATTON    My current pranking tendencies developed slowly after a rather unfunny high school career. No dragon kissing for me, I’m afraid. I did pull the standard sleepover pranks, though. And a few Halloween pranks that I refuse to disclose until my kids are adults. I don’t want them to get any ideas.


2.) If you could create a dragon of your own, what color would it be? Which gender? What powers would you want your dragon to possess? 

ADI RULE    My dragon would be dark and deadly and enormous and possess all the powers. And I would rule the land from atop its monstrous, spiky head.

LAURIE ANN THOMPSON    I’d create a purple dragon with the power of teleportation. 

TARA DAIRMAN    Ooh, great question. My dragon would probably have to be purple.Gender doesn’t matter, but obviously its power would be to breathe *moderate* amounts of fire, just perfect for lightly caramelizing the tops of creme brulee custards.

REBECCA VANSLYKE    My dragon would be able to change colors, in order to blend in to the background. Actually, these dragons may really exist, since they are so great at camouflage.

LINDSEY LANE    My dragon would be female. Very alluring. As in she sort of puts people in a trance with her presence. She wouldn’t be one color. She would be a chameleon, able to shift colors depending on what kind of allure she needs to create. Ahh but that isn’t her power. Her power is in her voice. Her ability to speak the truth, cut through the crap, eviscerate people’s defenses and still leave them standing but kinder for her evisceration. What actually happens during the evisceration is she exorcises their fear: fear of other, fear of different, fear that holds every -ism and wrong headed way of thinking in place.

JOSHUA MCCUNE    I once wrote a story about an aluminum dragon, so I’d go with that.  Genderless of course. It’s a robot after all. It would possess the power of granting me magic writing prowess. 10k words a day 😀

PENNY KLOSTERMAN    Purple and Orange. Female. 

Powers: Ability for her and her rider (me) to disappear. I often say that I would like to have been a “fly on the wall”. I think the ol’ “dragon on the wall” would work just as well. 

While we’re at it, I would like for my dragon to grant one wish a year. I’m trying to be reasonable and not greedy.

MYLISA LARSEN    I did create a dragon for a story once. He was orange. He spoke English but he had an unpronounceable name. So I called him Hank.

CHRISTINE HAYES    My ideal dragon would be purple and horse-sized, so I could ride it around town to run errands. It would have unlimited hidden storage for my vintage junk shopping and could fly over traffic during rush hour. And it would wag its tail like a dog, because that would be adorable.

AMY FINNEGAN    I would create a ferocious female dragon that was translucent and could blend into any background, awaiting her prey. 

MEGAN MORRISON    I’d create a red dragon, because that’s my son’s favorite color at the moment, and I think he’d be pretty delighted by a big red dragon of either gender. As for powers, what’s better than flight?  If the dragon would take us for rides, I’d be happy. 

 JENNIFER BERTMAN    My dragon would be a green, pocket-sized dragon named Kermit with the power to put a smile on your face by singing mellow songs and playing the banjo. 

DONNA BOWMAN BRATTON    I’d create a purple dragon with a wardrobe because I don’t have daughters and sometimes, a mom needs a break from ball caps and athletic cups. My dragon would be female because, well, males tend to mark their territory and I don’t want to clean up “that” mess. My well-accessorized dragoness would possess the powers of time travel, and flight, and shape-shifting, and bionic hearing, and eyesight. Because, you know, she would be an over-achiever


3.) In Talker 25, a dark and twisted television show comes into play. If you were to re-imagine a modern-day reality TV show to include dragons, what would it be?

ADI RULE    American Dragon Idol. I’d love to see blowhard, talking-out-their-backsides judges get incinerated by butthurt, mediocre dragon-singers. That I would watch.

LAURIE ANN THOMPSON   Reality TV? I’m far too serious to watch reality TV (NOT! I LOVE reality TV!!). One of my favorites is So You Think You Can Dance. I think dragons on SYTYCD would be AWESOME!

TARA DAIRMAN    House of Cards–with dragons! Wait, the Underwoods sort of are like dragons already…

REBECCA VANSLYKE    How about Pimp My Dragon? The object is to decorate and accessorize a dragon. The only rule: Don’t get toasted! (And if the dragon is male, that could lead to a spin-off show: Dragons in Drag!

LINDSEY LANE    How I met your Mother. It turns out that Ted marries a dragon and becomes the father to the new race of mankind. Barney is the godfather to every aberration that follows. Robin runs away (Thank god). Marshall and Lily are eaten. (Praise the Lord).

JOSHUA MCCUNE    Is this a trick question? Kissing Dragons is my dream show.  (duh!)

PENNY KLOSTERMAN    Liven Your Lair: Starring the Dynamic Dragon Duo of Design and Décor

MYLISA LARSEN    Can we just feed all participants in reality shows to Josh’s dragons?

CHRISTINE HAYES    The Amazing Race, on dragonback.

AMY FINNEGAN    Dragons vs. Terrorists

MEGAN MORRISON    I enjoy Masterchef, and though he doesn’t need them to augment his powers of intimidation, I can picture Gordon Ramsay sending in his twin dragons (“The Grill Masters”) to roast contestants who fail to produce edible dishes. 

JENNIFER BERTMAN    This is the true story of seven dragons picked to live in a house, work together, and have their lives taped. Find out what happens when dragons stop being polite and start getting real: The Real World–With Dragons!

Donna Bowman Bratton    I’ve never actually watched Project Runway, but I think it would be a hoot to launch Project Runaway. Contestants who are not fried by dragon-breath, compete to design and create strapless evening gowns, tuxedos, and speedos for the plus-sized dragon and dragoness.


4.) The main character in Talker 25, Melissa, discovers that she can telepathically communicate with dragons. If you had telepathy, who or what would you wish to communicate with?

ADI RULE    Canadian seals. My heart breaks every year. Get the hell out of there. Do not trust the people.

LAURIE ANN THOMPSON    My dog goes into this crazy frenzy of barking whenever anyone leaves the house and anytime two people hug. I’d tell her to knock it off. Actually, I’ve tried to tell her to knock it off, both verbally and telepathically. Apparently she can’t hear me. She’s too busy barking.

TARA DAIRMAN    If I could have telepathy with an animal, I’d have to pick our local prairie dog colony here in Colorado. What are these little guysthinking? And could I convince them to do circus tricks en masse??

REBECCA VANSLYKE    About 18 years ago I would have given anything to know what my baby was thinking. Exactly WHY is she crying? When she had a cold, did she think she’d feel this way for the rest of her life? Does she really think Grandpa has her nose? Do people really disappear during a game of Peek-A-Boo? Nowadays it would still be a cool talent. To walk down the aisles of the grocery store saying to new parents, “He doesn’t like that brand of diapers. They chafe.” Or “She’s hungry.” Or “She wants to go home. She misses the dog.” Call me The Baby Whisperer!

LINDSEY LANE    Who do you think is communicating with the dragon and giving her the knowledge to lovingly eviscerate people’s fears?

JOSHUA MCCUNE   I’d dream walk like Nobody Owens and mess with reviewers heads. Lol

PENNY KLOSTERMAN    This is a hard one. I’m not sure I want to know what anyone is thinking 😉 So I’m going with what I think would be a simple-minded creature. My duck, Mrs. Quackers, is back for the third year in a row. She’s setting on twelve eggs. I have often wondered what she thinks about all those hours she spends on her nest. 

CHRISTINE HAYES    I would telepathically communicate with my dog to stop barking, chewing, jumping, making messes in the house, and waking us up in the middle of the night. Because otherwise he’s delightful.

AMY FINNEGAN    My husband, so he would *at last* know exactly what I was trying to say.

MEGAN MORRISON    My students. Oh, man.  If I could telepathically remind them to sit down, or refocus, or use an apostrophe, or whatever it is they need to do – that would be so amazing.  It would allow me to individualize attention in a totally shame-free, private way.  Kids would really appreciate that.

MYLISA LARSEN     At the moment, I am feeling the need to send a telepathic message to the hog-sized woodchuck living under my barn who just ate 125 bucks worth of perennials for lunch.

JENNIFER BERTMAN    After a day of not being able to understand what “uuuh! uuuh! uuuh!” meant before the tantrum timer ticked down to zero, I’d have to say I’d like to have telepathy with my 2-year-old son.

DONNA BOWMAN BRATTON    Well, first, I’d want to be able to communicate with my newly created, well-accessorized, over-achieving female dragon. Then…hmmm…sometimes I’d like to read my kids’ minds. Sometimes, I’d like to read the minds of animals. Sometimes, I’d like to communicate with trees because they can tell the history of the world.

There you go, folks. I told you it would be a fun game. Now all you have to do is help us throw confetti to celebrate Josh’s launch week. Then run out or search online for your very own copy of TALKER 25. You can find the book at one of these places: Indiebound, Amazon, BN.com, or at your local book store.

Remember, today (Thursday) is your last day to be entered to win a signed hardback copy of TALKER 25. To enter, comment on this post or earlier posts from this week.



Filed under Uncategorized

Talker 25 Book Birthday: Name That Dragon!


Welcome to Day 2 of launch week for, and the official book birthday of, Joshua McCune‘s TALKER 25! Available now. Today. AT THIS VERY MOMENT. Fly to your nearest bookstore or order online at IndieboundAmazon, or BN.com.

Dragons, of course, play a central role in this epic tale. With names like Betelguese the Red Giant and Red Wraith the Specter of the Adirondacks, it’s not hard to imagine whose life would be forfeit if you met one face to face–say, in a dark alley or fighting over the last crab cake at a dinner party.

Do you have what it takes to name one of these mighty creatures? Your prize, should your name be chosen as victor, is your very own copy of TALKER 25!

Here’s a pic for inspiration:


Think you can name this bad boy?

And here’s a link to Josh’s richly imagined alternate reality show, Kissing Dragons. It’s amazing. Tons of inspiration there.

Please enter your name ideas in the comments section. Enter as many names as you wish!  A winner or winners will be chosen and announced in next Monday’s post.

Thanks for playing!


Filed under Book Promotion, Celebrations, Launch, Uncategorized

Making a Book Trailer

A couple months back, I made my first book trailer. This was a lot of fun, in part because it tapped the artistic side of my brain that wasn’t dealing with editing. For some, creating a book trailer can be intimidating. Some are worried about the expense, others are worried about the tech side of things.  As TALKER 25 nears its glowing birth into the world, I thought I’d show you how I created mine and provide tips to hopefully make it easier to create yours.

STEP 1: Script

You gotta plot your trailer before anything else. It’s a query in A/V form. You want to give a sense of your book without giving too much away. You don’t want to make your trailer too long because unless you’ve got some great connections, your trailer’s gonna rely on visuals and sounds that just don’t compare to movie trailers.

What you have that movie trailers don’t (or at least don’t usually have well) are your words. Your words are your weapons. Employ them. Sparingly though. Like in a query, you can’t explore everything. KISS it. Keep It Short & Stimulating.

My script:

15 years ago dragons came to our world. Reds. Greens. And the wingless Blues.

They attacked without warning… Entire cities were wiped off the map.

Millions were buried beneath the rubble… or incinerated.

The end of humanity seemed imminent.

But then humans discovered the dragons’ weakness and it was the dragons’ turn to die.

The war between monster and man finally seems over. Most of the dragons have been killed or imprisoned on reservations and there hasn’t been a major attack in North America in three years [Note: this particular line is almost word for word the one I used in my query]

But the real war is just about to begin.

And at the center of it… is a girl they call…


Choose a Side. April 22, 2014

STEP 2: Make it more exciting

The words above are not words I’d write in a book. They may or may not be interesting alone. Thankfully, we’re not just limited to words. We can frame them with pictures, sounds, etc. We can add pauses and beats for effect. Yay!

But, oh shit, now we’ve actually gotta figure out how to make that razzle-dazzle of media make sense with our words. Do we want lots of pictures? Do we want just a few, where we fade in or out on them to create mood/texture? Are we illustrators who have the time to create our own imagery? What about sounds? Do we want ambient noises? Music?…

This is where most of the work usually comes. It’s storyboarding on a micro-level with additional aspects.

If you want pictures, there are plenty of websites to get them. I got mine from Shutterstock. But that costs money (since I needed pics for my T25 tie-in website www.kissing-dragons.com, I decided to shell out the coin). If you don’t want to spend money and you’re not a digital artist or brilliant photographer, I’d recommend creativecommons.org. 

When using media, make sure that you don't infringe on copyright, and attribute it if necessary.

When using media, make sure that you don’t infringe on copyright, and attribute it if necessary.

If you want to spruce up your trailer with sound, Creative Commons is a great place to start as well. I also found a ton of great clips at http://freesound.org/. The caveat here is that there are different licenses for these sounds, some which require attribution, and some which are noncommercial (which you should not use).

For my trailer, I wanted to add in some music tracks… sci-fi type/war-type stuff to help further generate the mood I wanted (mystery with a dark edge). An excellent website I found for this is https://www.pond5.com/, where you can pay for individual clips (most run from $1 – $5).

Odds are, until you actually start creating your trailer, you’re not gonna know exactly which sounds/pics/media are gonna fit best. You’re drafting here, so give yourself some wiggle room.


Now we’ve got to put it all together. If you’ve got a tech background, this can be kind of fun. If not, this can be quite paralyzing. There’s plenty of free editing software out there. The easier ones to use (e.g., Windows Movie Maker, iMovie) are somewhat limited, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing (particularly if you’re not too fond of computers). Others are pretty powerful, but require lots of pre-learning, which in my mind isn’t worth it.

I wanted something that was somewhat easy to use, but also pretty powerful. And since I like to do video-editing on the side for myself, I purchased and downloaded CyberLink PowerDirector12.

Given my kitchen sink tendencies, I wanted to get a little fancy with my sounds (layering, fading, etc.) so I downloaded Audacity, an impressive and fairly easy to use audio mixing program. Best of all, it’s free. I also did some image manipulation using GIMP, kind of like Photoshop, but free.

STEP 4: Putting it together.

Once you’ve figured out your software, figured out which pics, sounds, etc, you’re gonna use, you’ve got to put your puzzle together. Getting all the pieces to line up usually isn’t too hard, but making them fit just so can be tricky. You’ve got to play around with timing, leading-in and leading-out, transitions, etc. A different form of revision.

To me, this looks like fun! It's not everybody's cup o' Joe though.

To me, this looks like fun! It’s not everybody’s cup o’ Joe though.

NOTE: If the software side of things is beyond the pale for you, you can always skip steps 2 – 4 and outsource your trailer to professionals, like those at WaveCloud.

A trio of book trailers:

  • Adi purchased one image, but otherwise made her amazing trailer entirely for free.
  • The second trailer was one made via WaveCloud (and cost at least $299 to make according to current pricing).
  • Not including the cost of a month’s subscription to Shutterstock, the overall cost of making my trailer (software+sounds) was roughly $100. I’m going to make a trailer for my Kissing Dragons website, too, at some point, but that won’t cost me anything since I’ve already got the pics, software, and sounds I need.

Ultimately, before making a book trailer, you should ask yourself: Is it worth it? If you don’t have a big platform (e.g., high-profile author, lots of twitter followers, etc.), the answer could very well be no. A few people might see your trailer on your website, YouTube, Goodreads, etc., but will that translate to sales? Is the time expenditure and potential cost worth an extra book or two sold?

For me, the answer was yes. I enjoy the visual medium. It was a nice break from the written one. Also, along with my tie-in website, my trailer allowed me to provide some backstory that was either not included in my book or was nixed from it. This makes a kitchen-sinker like me very happy.


JM AP Close_Straight

Joshua McCune is the author of the Talker 25 trilogy (Greenwillow). Dragons, war, romance (though not with  dragons – I don’t do bestiality). First one drops April 22, 2014. For more info, visit www.joshua-mccune.com or www.kissing-dragons.com


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I Kissed a Dragon, and I Liked it.

If there be a devil, one of his concubines is surely Big Lady Doubt.

She first introduced herself to me in 8th grade. I’d applied to this science & tech high school. Figured I was a shoo-in. My brother had gotten in a few years earlier, and if he could do it, pshhh, please. Plus I was a math nerd. Game over. Thing was, I wasn’t a very dedicated math nerd. And there was also this English component to the entrance exam. English and meI weren’t on good terms then.

Man, talk about getting knocked off a pedestal. BLD told me to lay low and accept my lot at my regular school, but no matter how low I hunkered, the bullies found me. At that special school, I might not be special, but at least I’d be safe, and perhaps even normalish. So I rededicated myself to nerdiness, learned some big words, and tried again the next year. Got in.

The excitement did not last long. My peers were brilliant. 21 perfect SAT scores, a quarter of the class attending Ivy league schools, one guy even patented an invention.

BLD told me I couldn’t compete. You’ve already climbed halfway up the mountain. Don’t want to fall off it by aiming too high, do you? Nope, definitely not. Didn’t take any risks. Not with school, not with friends, and most certainly not with girls.

One thing BLD couldn’t touch was my writing. Why? Because I was awesome, duh. With my arsenal of big words (ambagious, marmoreal, casuistic… bam!), I could not be stopped. That, and I never let anybody but my mother read anything I wrote. She was completely unbiased.

In college, BLD told me to switch from an English/Physics double-major to something practical (mechanical engineering). Kept writing though. I was 300, 000 words into my epic fantasy and it was bound to be a best-seller.

Eventually, I discarded my unicorn dreams and got serious. An 81,000-word MG about a clan of warrior squirrels (there was a basset hound and a lemur involved, too). Serious stuff. I even mailed a query to South Africa, where the story was set.

Rejection. Shocking, I know. But this was my first go and I was just figuring out things. Nothing to worry about. Honing the craft and all that.

Round 2. A story about Gods playing games with kids (kind of Rick Riordan meets THE NIGHT CIRCUS). Got my first request. This is it. She will be wowed by my brilliance. Sorry, the story didn’t really go anywhere. Whatever. She knows nothing.

Then I got seriously serious. Writer’s Market, blogs, a thousand variations of a query (one which got mauled by Janet Reid on Query Shark), even revision. Wrote another story. My best one yet. With action and emotion and even theme. Sent out dozens of queries. Requests came in. Partials, fulls. Got so close. So damn close.

Then I heard laughter. BLD had entered the room. Knocked down the door. Refused to leave.

She laughed louder at my next story. A war story. With romance and darkness and consequence. And dragons? Seriously? Yeah, with dragons. Closing my ears to her noise, shutting my eyes to her sneer, I entered one of Miss Snark’s First Victim’s critique sessions.  25 words to hook a reader. If it sucked, so what? They didn’t know me from Adam. That’s why I used an alias. If they liked it, well, maybe BLD didn’t know everything.

Most everybody was hooked. This gave me a rush of confidence. Then an agent contacted me out of the blue asking for pages. Ammi-Joan Paquette. Me: Who?! BLD: Scam alert!

Unlike my astute agency mates, I was mostly unfamiliar with EMLA when Joan’s email arrived in my inbox (I knew it was a closed agency and I’m a wee, shy thing when it comes to conferences & networking – bad author). Did a quick check around the web and instantly realized how fortunate I was (understatement). This agent, this agency. Oh, hell yeah.

At the time, I was only about 14k into what was then titled KISSING DRAGONS. I was more pantsing than plotting at that point and wondered if I could keep riding the tailwind that had garnered her initial approval. BLD: No chance. You’re hosed. I powered on, if for no other reason than to spite her.

More good fortune struck in June, when one of my scenes from the story co-won* Nathan Bransford’s action-writing contest. Another confidence injection to propel me to the finish line. Sent it to Joan. Figured there’d be a long wait. BLD: followed by a short rejection.

Joan got back to me a day later to arrange a phone call. BLD was at a loss for words. Me: This is it. This is really it.

No. Joan wanted a revision. Why? Because the second half of the story was nutsoid (my word, not hers). I revised, sent it back a month later, ignored BLD’s smug look the best I could.

Another phone call. No, still a little bit crazy. But – and it took me a long time to realize this – the biggest issue was that I tried to wrap up everything a little too prettily. The ending was rather fantastical and shifted the tone from the gritty, realistic feel (her words, not mine) of the first half.

So I scrapped the back half completely, outlined (the horror), and rewrote. I went darker, because in that darkness was truth. Through that darkness was hope, however painful. That’s what I told myself at least.

BLD told me I was an idiot. It’s too dark for YA. She’ll despise this new version. What does she see in you anyway? This rejection could be the end of you.

So be it. Send.

I waited. Joan had gotten back to me on the other revisions super fast.

One month passed. Agents are busy people, I reminded myself almost daily. And they hate incompetent writers, BLD reminded me even more often.  Two months. BLD mated and multiplied. I prepped myself for rejection.

Another month trudged by. Then April came. A week before my birthday she emailed. As much as I expected another dashed dream, I still had that evil worm of hope slithering through my heart. It took me a very long time to open that email.

Loved it. Called two days later. I rambled incoherently, yet this did not dissuade her. Agented. Happy Birthday, Joshua. We did minor touchups and went on submission.

I figured it would be awhile (BLD: Forever). I’d been on the query carousel for more time than I care to admit.

A week later we had our first response from Greenwillow. Is this a trilogy?

A week after that, the offer came in. A trilogy. A gritty, realistic (yes, with dragons) trilogy about how the lines between good and evil blur and fade and sometimes disappear (BLD: maybe it’s just a story about dragons, kid). The first book, TALKER 25, will be released early 2014.

I’ve never particularly cared for the aphorism about life being about the journey and not the destination, but this journey has helped teach me that if you’re gonna kiss a dragon, don’t half ass it.

And, perhaps more importantly, I’m no longer afraid to tell Big Lady Doubt to suck it. At least every once in awhile.

* about a month after T25 sold, the other winner, Josin L. McQuein, also had her book picked up by Greenwillow.


Filed under Agents, Introduction, Rejection, rejection and success, The Call