First Books & Second Chances

posted in: Inspiration, Writing | 4

Hello all!

It’s no understatement when I say that I have been dying to write a post like this again. A good news post, that is. And this one also borders on magical, in my humble opinion. Written in the stars? Perhaps so.

You see, twelve years ago, I was a starry-eyed writer with dreams of making it big. I had the ultimate idea for a young adult book: a time travel romance with horses and a big twist at the end. So I set forth working on this idea, telling almost no one about it at first. This book had no title for the longest time; I just called it “Don’t Quit”.

And I didn’t. It would take me three years, but I saw it through and I was so proud.

While I was working on “Don’t Quit”, I decided to join an in-person critique group in my area. I remember going for the first time, settling in with a dozen or so strangers at a large table at the back of Barnes & Noble (a place for real writers, in my mind; not wannabes). When it was my turn, my voice quavered as I read a few pages of my book to the group. I was sure they’d tell me that I was a fool for thinking I could write. However, they did not, in fact, do this. Instead, they were very complimentary and gave me some constructive criticism. This was my first experience of “writing community” which I’ve now come to value so much. I kept going back to that group and reading from this book, my confidence growing a little each time. At one point, one member of this group (who was already agented) told me that my book sounded like it could be on the shelf at B&N, and let me tell you, I took that has the highest compliment. I thought I just might have something really special.

In 2015, when I was nearing the completion of this book , I finally gave it a title: The Traveler’s Truth, and another one of my writing group friends told me that there was an agent looking for YA books with horses. Knowing virtually nothing about querying then, I eagerly queried this agent, even though the book wasn’t quite ready. A month or two later, the agent requested the full manuscript, and I’ve told this story before, but I was sure that I had it in the bag at that time! To me, a full request meant she must want to sign me, and I was destined for glory and fame (ha ha ha!).

When I didn’t hear back from that agent right away, I went ahead and finished my revisions and began querying more agents. I had a little interest, but not a ton. I kept going, however, bolstered by that first agent’s interest and any subsequent interest I received. I would end up getting about 10 requests with that book, but ultimately around 150 rejections. To this date, it’s still the book I queried the most. What I soon determined, however, was that this book was already “out of style”; it was deemed “dystopian” when dystopian novels had already saturated the market and agents and editors were moving on.

In 2016, as one last hurrah though, I entered this book, now shortened to just The Traveler, into a contest called Pitch to Publication. By this time, I’d already written my second book, a middle grade novel called The Evolution of Evie (which went very quickly compared to writing the first one). I was shocked to learn that The Traveler had been chosen by an editor though! After all, I’d entered contests before and never gotten anywhere. My hope in this book was once again renewed.

I worked tirelessly on the editor’s suggested revisions and turned my book in on time. My query and first few pages were put online for an agent showcase, along with the other contest winners (shout out to my P2P ladies!) I waited with bated breath to get requests, but alas, none came at all. I was heartbroken and I knew that it was finally time to set this book aside and move on. My goal, after all, was to get published, and I’d come to realize that it didn’t always happen with your first book or even your second.

In 2017, I queried The Evolution of Evie. In 2018, I queried my third book, Seeking Sara Sterling. In 2019, I queried my fourth book, which eventually became my first published novel: Not Our Summer. (You can read that story here!) After getting published, I thought I was well on my way; that my next book, Romeo and the Scarlett Letter, would be soon to follow. Alas, that was not to be. So I started a sixth book, a YA suspense called The Devil in Us All. Each book I was writing was quite different from the previous ones, and I experimented with different genres. However, I had come to think of myself as a contemporary story writer–not a sci-fi or fantasy writer. I thought maybe I’d dreamed a little too big with that first one, and perhaps it would be best to keep my feet on the ground and my head out of the clouds.

As some of you probably know, I parted with my first agent in February of 2024 and began querying The Devil in Us All since it was ready to go. I had lots of interest, but it’s an ambitious book told from 5 POVs and not everyone loves that kind of thing. Still, I had a high request rate and was determined to sign with a new agent with this book. However, early this spring, I was nearing the end of my query list. I had some ideas for more revisions, but then out of the blue one day, literary agent, Ali Herring, reached out to me on Twitter, asking if she could see The Traveler again. You see, Ali had been an intern at Talcott Notch agency back in 2016 when I was querying this novel and she’d read it then. I knew she enjoyed it because she told me as much. We connected on Twitter around that time and have kept up with each other somewhat ever since. She knew that I was currently unagented and told me she’d thought of The Traveler often over the years. What an amazing compliment!

I figured I had nothing to lose by sending this book back to her, so I did. I knew it would need some work since my writing has come a ways since I wrote it, but I was hopeful she’d still love the overall story.

Within about a month, Ali was back in touch, asking me questions about it. Soon after that (incidentally on the day of the solar eclipse!), I had my offer of representation! I couldn’t believe it, and yes, I even cried reading her enthusiastic remarks about this book of my heart. The book that first made me fall in love with writing books. I had several other agents with my suspense and one who’d even requested my middle grade novel (after seeing the query in a Facebook group), so I notified them all. As those two weeks passed, though, I was falling back in love with the idea of working on The Traveler again. Of making it the very best it could be. I even started making a playlist for it, since that wasn’t a thing I did back then.

Just as Jaden and Chance were meant to be together in The Traveler, which is now being rebranded as a “romantasy”, I knew that Ali and I were meant to be a team and champion this book together. She believes in this story, and she’s making me believe in it again too.

Yes, this book is very unlike Not Our Summer, and if The Traveler gets published, it may very well change the trajectory of my writing career. But that’s okay, because I now know that I contain multitudes. I can write many different kinds of books. This one just happens to be a beautiful love story with time travel and horses.

I really hope to get to share it with you all one day soon!

And for those of you that have had to give up on the book of your heart, may my story serve as a reminder that you never truly know what’s in store. Timing is everything and magical things can happen when you least expect them to.





4 Responses

  1. Veronica Dykes

    I’m glad you never quit on your first book and that Ali can help you get it printed. I love reading, writing and riding my own horses that I’ve had for the last 26 years. My husband and I bought “Thunder” when he was greenbroken at 2 yrs old in 1998. He will be 29 this year and is the Love of my Life! He has outlasted my last two husbands. Ha Ha
    My daughters both grew up with him and his girlfriend Tilley, who is 31+, an old Quarter Horse mare, like myself. I am 56 and my back is showing the years of carrying 50 lb bags of feed and slinging hay bales from the back of my truck. I divorced my last two husbands (10 yrs with each) but Thunder and Tilley are still with me. My two daughters and my 6 grandmunsters, who have also all grown up with our horses. They learned the responsibilities of taking care of 1200 lb animals, dogs, cats, bunnies, turtles and a sugar glider too.
    I will hope to see The Traveler as a Best Seller soon. Congrats on all your books! My books are photo albums full of pictures printed with handwritten captions and dates, in case I get dementia.

    • Casie

      Thank you for your comment, Veronica! Always happy to connect with other horse people. Sounds like you’re doing life right!