How Querying is Like Online Dating

Back in 2000, I met my husband through an online dating service. Back then, people didn’t admit that they met their significant others online. I never saw the big deal. Was it really classier to say, “We met when he spilled his Miller Lite on me”?

I was lucky enough to have my husband be the first person I met in real life, though he had a different experience. He has many, many stories to tell about bad dates, and I have other friends with stories too.

All this to say that I know about online dating.

I also know about querying because I’ve been doing a lot of it. So, here we go…

Writing The Intro

Writing the intro online is nerve-wracking. Do I include my love of cats right away, or does that make me seem like a crazy cat lady? Should I talk about the scar on my chin where my best friend hit me with a golf club (true story… it was an accident), or leave that for a second date? The query letter is the same way. I really, really want to put in the subplot and some interesting parts, but the query is meant to get an agent interested. It’s a teaser. And with both, I can’t and shouldn’t include everything or it’s overwhelming.

Finding A Match

So I have the query letter (or my intro), and next, I need to find a match. Online, I put in my interests and some facts about me, and then an algorithm shows me who might be a good fit. For queries, I scour manuscript wishlist or query tracker or #mswl or a number of other websites. I find an agent who likes YA and horror or thrillers, and then I look closer. Does this agent like the same kinds of books I do? Does that agent seem approachable? I look at the photo of him or her and wonder, “Is this the kind of person I could really talk to?”

The Match

Once I find someone who might be a good fit, I take my basic query letter and personalize it based on what I know about the agent. Or maybe not. Some of them say they prefer just the pitch. Some want something signaling I’ve done my homework. Some don’t specify a preference, so I’m left to guess what they might want. When I pitch (or respond to someone’s profile), there’s that balance of how much to be myself and how much to be formal and distant. Query letters should be professional, but agents also say that if you can include voice in the query letter, it’s helpful. So, I have to be two things at the same time, and really, I’d rather be reading. But no success story ever started with, “And then I decided not to follow through.” So BOOM, I hit send!

The Wait

Luckily, as far as I know, agents have no weird rule about playing it cool and not responding to a query letter right away. I’ve gotten responses as quickly as hours later, and as slow as months later. Some agents never respond. This is a weird time. There’s all that possibility that maybe I’ll find THE ONE. Each time I send a query letter off, it’s a mix of excitement and nervousness. Will this agent (or potential date) like this first impression of me?

The Response

The response is always a moment where I don’t know how to feel. Most positive and negative responses start with “Thank you,” so I never know from the opening if it’s going to be, “I liked it, send pages,” or “Not for me.” The worst is probably no response, when I really, really thought an agent was THE ONE because they specifically said they wanted books that channeled Christopher Pike, and then nothing? I really thought we could have had a connection. Did the agent think my query was too long/ too short/ not enough voice/ a stupid premise? It’s like wondering if your potential date didn’t like the fact that you mentioned you hate red velvet cake.

Friend Zoning

In dating terms, this is when you think someone is cool, but you just want to hang out with them and not date them. Sometimes this is mutual, and sometimes not. I’ve had a few responses from agents who read my manuscript and gave a list of specific things they loved about it, BUT ultimately just didn’t connect to it. This confused me at first, until I realized that it’s like falling in love. Sometimes the chemistry is there, and sometimes it isn’t. We can’t make chemistry happen. I’ve read perfectly well-executed books that I hated and my friends loved. And they’ve read lovely books that I adored and they just didn’t. So I get it. And I appreciate the honesty up front that it wasn’t love. Because I want an agent who’s as enthusiastic about my book as I am.

Everyone’s Journey Is Different

Some people find true love on their first date, and some have to go through hundreds of horrible dates before they find THE ONE. Some people go through lots of perfectly okay dates that don’t go anywhere, and some people think they’ve found a connection, but then don’t. I know fellow writers who seemed to find their agents easily and some who went through hundreds of queries before they found a match. I’ve read stories of authors who thought they found THE ONE, only to later realize it wasn’t a good fit. But I truly believe that in any endeavor: love, writing, getting published, it’s about persevering, to keep trying, to believe that it will happen. Success and happiness aren’t easy, and they probably shouldn’t be. Because every step of the path teaches something wonderful, and I’m soaking up all that learning. Someday I’ll look back at every agent who rejected me, every agent who friend zoned me, and I’ll know that it had to happen exactly that way.

Did I miss any steps in the query/ love process? Do you agree or disagree that it feels like this?


5 Books I Regret Putting Off

I’ve complained a few (million) times about all the books on my TBR, and how the stack seems never-ending.

Some of them I was excited to read at one time. Others made their way onto the pile because of recommendations from other people or because it was cheap at a library book sale, or because Book of the Month recommended it.

But the book goes on a shelf and doesn’t get read. I pass it over in favor of books I’ve met at the library or something new and interesting.

That’s why I get so aggravated with myself when I realize that I’ve put off reading a book that’s so phenomenal I think everyone should read it. Immediately.

It’s like a little piece of wonderfulness was sitting on my shelf all that time, and I never knew it.

Here are some of the best books I put off reading.

  1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, by JK Rowling Yes, seriously. I was told over and over again that I needed to read this book. I only read it to prove everyone wrong, that it wasn’t really the greatest thing since sliced bread. I learned my lesson.
  2. Anything by Neil Gaiman I “discovered” Neil Gaiman last year. (Yes, I know. *sigh*) Sometime before 2003, I attended a writer’s conference in Pennsylvania. I wrote up a list of books recommended to me, and then never followed through with a single one of them. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME? Why do I do this to myself?
  3. Guilty Pleasures, by Laurell K. Hamilton A friend bought me this book when I was in high school. I didn’t read it. It languished in a box somewhere until I literally bought the exact same book, then realized I’d already owned it for years. Seriously, if you haven’t discovered the wonderfulness of Hamilton’s early (like first 10) Anita Blake books, do yourself a favor.
  4. The Mothers, by Brit Bennett I’m not completely done with this book yet, but it’s fantastic so far. I had a stranger stop me as I was reading it and say that she’d just finished it and loved it. That doesn’t happen to me often, so it bodes well.
  5. Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon I’m almost as ashamed to admit this one as I was to admit Harry Potter. But at least the Harry Potter books I can blame on the arrogance of youth. For this one, I got nothing. I found a scribbled paper from the supervisor I had at my internship, recommending this book to me in 2010! I cheated myself out of 7 years of happiness. Though, to be honest, I don’t remember her warning me that the first 100 pages were slow, so maybe I would have quit it. Maybe everything happens the way it does for a reason.

Fess up… what’s the book you most regret putting off reading?

Is it Fair to Review A Book I Abandoned?

I recently started a book I couldn’t finish because it was so over the top disgusting and ended up having “on-screen” violence toward a cat. Now, to be fair, I knew it was going to be gruesome. Even without reading the back cover, it’s clearly going to have zombies or cannibalism or something, all of which I’m fine with. I’m even fine with blood and gore. But when it’s grossness just to be gross, it doesn’t seem like horror to me. It almost seems like a little kid saying naughty words for shock factor. That being said, I’d actually started to like this book before the thing with the cat, and had high hopes for it as a YA horror.


But violence toward animals is an automatic pass for me. Even though I was over 50 pages in, I put it down with no regrets.

It’s rare for me to give a book 1 star on Goodreads. According to their rating system, 1 star means “did not like it.” And why would I finish a book I don’t like? In general, I’ll put a book down as soon as I realize I’m not into it. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad book. Lots of people loved The Goldfinch, and I was bored out of my mind.

There are plenty of books that I haven’t loved, but kept pushing through and was glad I did. Outlander comes to mind. The first 100 pages are slow and pretty boring. But once I was past that, it flew by (if an 850 page book can be said to “fly”).

John Irving’s books tend to feel slow, but when I get to the end and it all comes together, I’m so glad I read them, because wow.

In both cases, with John Irving’s books and with Outlander, I pushed through the boredom because I had recommendations from people I trusted. Plus, there was no animal cruelty, which is pretty much non-negotiable for me.

So, to sum up, I hated this book, would actively tell people not to read it, for the reasons I mentioned. I took a look at the reviews of this book on Goodreads, and it ends up with a 3.55 rating. It has plenty of 5 star reviews, and an almost equal measure of 1 star reviews. There are 2’s, 3’s, and 4’s as well, but it seems that most people either loved it or hated it.

If I’d finished it, is there a possibility I would have enjoyed it more? I never want to be like those people who trash a book they haven’t even read, based on what they heard about it. If I’m going to offer an opinion, it’s on what I actually did or did not experience.

For that reason, my inclination is not to review it on Goodreads. It just doesn’t seem fair.

Maybe Goodreads needs a “DNF” button so that people can see, in addition to the average rating, how many people abandoned the book. It seems like that would say a lot.

What are your thoughts on this?

Book Challenges- Week 9

I had a slow reading week. I was traveling and doing more writing than reading, which isn’t a bad thing, of course. It’s just always weird for me to look back at the week and realize I only barely finished two books.

Popsugar Challenge

(7/50) No reading progress this week. BUT, I was on an airplane and saw two strangers reading! It was a little disconcerting to look around the airport and see everyone staring at their phones. The way they were interacting with them, I could tell they weren’t reading. But in first class, a guy was reading Dan Brown’s Origin. The woman beside me on the airplane read Holes, by Louis Sachar (for about 5 minutes… but it counts!). Honestly, they both look good, so I’m excited that I now have choices.

To be honest, I felt a little bad. I was reading on my Kindle (because it’s obviously easier to travel with than paper books) and I thought, “If someone else is trying to spot a stranger reading in public, I’m being completely unhelpful.” Sorry everyone.

While I Was Reading Challenge

(3/12) 25% done, but no progress this week

The Unread Shelf

Running Total: 3

5 Classic Books

(0/5) No progress

Miscellaneous Reading


YOU Are a Badass: How To Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life, by Jen Sincero: I used to be all elitist about self-help books, figuring they were all garbage saying some variation of “be positive!” Of course, that was when I was much younger, and before I’d ever read any. It’s easy to be critical of something you’ve never interacted with.

Then, when I was working on my Master’s Degree, one of my first assignments was to compile a list of ten self-help books that I’d recommend to clients, and what I’d recommend them for. So, off I went to the bookstore to take a closer look at these books.

What I found surprised me (and probably no one else). Some did appear to be garbage, of course. But far more appeared to be well-written by legitimate sources. The messages they delivered were far more complex than I’d think.

That set me on an actual exploration of self-help books. I’ve read more and more as time has gone on because I actually enjoy them. I enjoy the messages and recommendations to improve my already pretty wonderful life. If my life was less than wonderful, I think they’d be even more helpful.

This book was a lot of fun to read. I liked Ms. Sincero’s down to earth language and practical tips to reach goals and build confidence. A friend said this was great on audiobook, and though I didn’t read that version, my guess is that the enthusiasm of the author would bleed through even more than it did. (And even on paper, I could feel her enthusiasm.) I really enjoyed this, and if you’re looking for a fun and interesting book encourage you to reach any goal you’ve been putting off or “failing” at, this is a great place to start.


The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman: So, I wanted an audiobook to read on a long car ride. When I asked for recommendations, this one popped up. However, it’s narrated by Neil Gaiman, and I can’t follow his voice. But it looked intriguing, so I had to read it anyway.

Nobody “Bod” Owens grew up in a graveyard after a man failed to murder him. The ghosts who live there vow to protect him and teach him everything they know. This book has lovely illustrations along with a captivating story. Another reason I’m glad I skipped the audiobook and went for the print version.

2018 Running Total: 23

Have you made any progress on your TBR or book challenges?

Saving the End Until Later

Recently, when I was re-watching Battlestar Galactica, a main character talked about his favorite book, and how he doesn’t know how it ends because he never finished it. His argument is that he loves the book so much that he never wanted it to end.

Um… say what?

There are a lot of bookish habits I find odd, but this one is almost incomprehensible. I can honestly say it never occurred to me to not finish a book I love. When I don’t finish a book, it’s because it’s so awful that I just can’t.

When I love a book, it’s hard for me to put it down. I race to finish it. I don’t want to do anything but read that book. For me, it’s like being in love. Sometimes I read so quickly that when I get to the end, I start over again so I can enjoy it at a more leisurely pace.

I’m not sure that I could stop reading an excellent book (especially a favorite) if I tried. I’d be thinking about it, dreaming about it, creating my own endings. And anything I could come up with probably wouldn’t be as good as what the author could come up with.

I wonder if this was just a weird character trait that someone picked because it seemed interesting, or if people actually do this.

Have you ever done this or heard of this? Are you a savor-er or a gulper?

Character Deaths Should Mean Something

In real life, death often feels meaningless. People we love die, and we know that the world would have been a better place if they were still with us. The death of a loved one is painful and life-changing for those left behind.

In fiction (books, movies, or TV), death should serve a purpose. We get close to those characters, in some cases understanding them better than we do people in real life. We see them when they brush their teeth, eavesdrop on their phone conversations. We see the face they project to the world and the things they try to hide.

In good fiction, we become connected to characters. Their deaths can be heart wrenching.

I think it’s important that writers are never arbitrary in their choices, just killing off a character because they couldn’t figure out how to move the plot forward or for ratings.

From this point forward, I’m going to talk about the Harry Potter books and The Walking Dead Season 8, Episodes 8 & 9. There will be spoilers. You’ve been warned.

Especially in Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, JK Rowling kills off some important characters, but I would argue that they’re almost all necessary.

I cried when Hedwig and Dobby died. But after I got over my denial and anger, when I looked at those deaths as a writer, I realized they were necessary. Harry needed to understand that there was always going to be a price. It’s not like in the movies, where the heroes don’t take a single bullet, but the bad guys all get wiped out (I do love those movies though, BTW). Bad things happen to good people (and owls and house elves), and the survivors are left with a giant hole where their loved ones were.

When Dumbledore died in Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince, it had to happen. It was inevitable. The mentor in a hero story always has to die in order for the hero to be truly heroic. Did I love it? No. But did it serve an important purpose? Yes.

JK Rowling understands when it’s important to kill characters, and when it’s not. Case in point, she was going to kill Arthur Weasley, but realized it didn’t serve the story, so she backed off.

In episode 8.8 of The Walking Dead, they made it clear that Carl was going to die. While I wasn’t happy about it, it wasn’t Daryl, Michonne, or Rick, so I thought it would be okay. I thought I was ready for it.

But as I watched episode 8.9, with Carl dying, I realized that it wasn’t okay. There was no good reason for him to die. We first met him 8 years ago as a little kid who got himself into bad situations and needed to be rescued/ protected from zombies… excuse me… walkers. Then he started shaping up into a little sociopath, and that was interesting to watch. But when he grew up and emerged from those two identities, he became a badass. He was this thoughtful 18 year old who could stare down death, shoot a bad guy without blinking, and still want to save a guy who was living alone.

Carl survived two gunshot wounds, countless fights with walkers, and almost being killed by Negan twice.

And yet he died because he was bitten by a walker during an ordinary killing of just a few of them.

That’s not okay.

Carl symbolized hope in the group. He survived so much, and was the obvious leader of the group after Rick and Michonne. And then the writers killed him. Probably for ratings.

This fan art, I think embodies everything all of us feel about Carl. It’s how it was supposed to be.

The actor playing Carl, Chandler Riggs, didn’t want to leave the series. Carl’s death serves no greater purpose in the story. Sure, his dying wish was for Rick to be a leader who could accept Negan’s people instead of killing them all. But there are so many other ways to accomplish this! Carl could have had a talk with Rick and reminded him that they integrated Woodbury’s people after the attack. Rick could have listened to Morgan or Jesus or Maggie. But no, they killed Carl.

One could argue that Judith or Maggie’s child is the hope for the future, but while cute, I’m not invested in Judith. It will be years before either of them could be a viable leader. So… no.

Honestly, it was a good episode. Maybe even one of the best recent episodes. But I think they killed the series.

I’ve stuck with The Walking Dead and loved it despite its flaws, even when everyone else said it was going downhill. Despite the fact that the writers can’t seem to come up with anything but this dragged out conflict with Neegan, I was still all in. But now? It’s not that I’m going to stop watching on purpose. But I fully expect that one day, I’m just going to forget that there’s a new episode. Or, instead of waiting for it breathlessly, I might find other things to do.

And that will be that.

How To Catch People Reading In Public


For my PopSugar challenge, I’m getting a little panicky. Ever since it was announced, I’ve been worried about how to fulfill it, and I have not yet had a sighting. The category is: a book that you’ve seen a stranger reading in public. But I don’t see people reading in public.

I don’t go out much. I was an early adopter of eBay and Amazon. When I realized I could get pretty much anything delivered to me, I was all in. There was even a time when I had my groceries delivered. (I stopped that after I asked for celery and got 1 piece of celery. Literally 1 piece.)

So, I go to Costco and the grocery store every week. I might pop into Target or Walmart monthly for paper goods or shampoo. Sometimes I drop something off at the post office, or go to the doctor/dentist/eye doctor. I ALWAYS have a book with me. (Honestly, I feel more naked without a book than without my phone.) If I have to stand in line for more than 30 seconds, I whip my book out and read.

But I don’t see anyone else reading at any of the places I go. Or at least, not books. Most people I see are staring off into space, or more often, staring at their phones. It could be that they’re all reading amazing books on the Kindle app, but it’s more likely they’re checking their Facebook or Instagram. And even if they are reading an amazing book, it’s not like I’ll ever know about it.

Same if I see someone reading a Kindle. I can’t see the title. Reader rule #1: Never interrupt someone reading. Never ever ever. The book gods will chew you up and use you as paper for the book you hate the most.

So, where do people read books? Does anyone have an answer for that? The library? A local coffee shop? I do go to the library, but primarily to pick up or drop off books. I don’t linger and stalk people. I do believe that most people at the library read their books flat (because hard backs can be hard to hold).

Then what happens if I finally do have an elusive sighting of another reader (a stranger, it specifically says) and their taste in books seems awful (Or, at least not appealing to me)?

What if I counted a book shown on Instagram? Those people are mostly strangers, and it’s obvious some of them are reading in a public place… does that count?

Help me! Tell me where you see strangers reading in public!