Friday, May 13, 2011

QueryTrackers Making Tracks, #8

This is the eighth installment of my Friday series on successful authors from QueryTracker. Some of my guests have agents, others have found success in less conventional ways. But one thing they all have in common is the utilization of the QueryTracker website to help make their tracks in the publishing world.

Today’s guest,
Beth Cato, had two offers before signing with agent  Rebecca Strauss of McIntosh & Otis, Inc.  You can find the details in her QueryTracker success interview.

Welcome Beth!

 BC: First of all, thanks for inviting me here today! I truly appreciate it.

 AGH: Absolutely my pleasure. Let’s start off with what genre(s) you write.

BC:  I mostly write fantasy and science fiction, but I dabble in literary short fiction and have had several poems published. My non-fiction stories can be found in a number of Chicken Soup for the Soul books. However, fantasy is my greatest love.

AGH: Interesting about the Chicken Soup stories. When I first read your interview on QT, I thought your name sounded familiar. Maybe that’s why? So, could you give us a quick summary of the book which snagged your agent?

BC: Sure! When goody-two-shoes healer Celeste Reed wakes up to find her superpower is gone, she turns to the government for help so she can get back to work ASAP. Things take a sordid turn when she discovers she's been their unwitting guinea pig all along, and that a mysterious terrorist is taking advantage of other test subjects like her. Lives on the line in her city? Not on Celeste's watch.

AGH: That’s an original premise, losing a superpower instead of gaining one unwittingly. How long did you query, and what were your stats?

BC: I sent out 22 queries, and had one partial requested at a conference. Agents then requested five partials and three fulls. I started querying at the end of January and had two offers in mid-March, which still flabbergasts me. I expected to be at it another six months. I bought a full membership at QueryTracker two days before I had "the Email" about setting up a phone call. I ended up having two offers, which is awesome and terrifying all at once.

AGH: That’s very exciting! I understand what you mean about the fear. You want to know you’re choosing the right agent for you. Back to your book, what inspired your idea?

BC: A dream. The basic concept for the novel was told to me in voice-over, with one brief scene that followed. That scene is still in the book, too.

AGH: That’s so cool! Some of the best books get born through dreams. How did you come up with the title?

BC: The title emerged the very next day as I jotted down detailed notes on the dream and the expanding idea for a book. Since the story is about a super-powered character becoming normal, the word "Normal" seemed a natural fit as a working title. It also fits a theme where Celeste's version of "normal" is constantly challenged. Her entire life, she could never touch people bare-skinned without being compelled to heal them. Then her power is gone. Staying conscious while touching people is something foreign and frightening for her.

AGH: Hmm. That could make for some good tension between Celeste and the other characters. J Before you signed with your agent, how many previous books had you tried to query?

BC: Two, but I gave up on the querying process very fast. Probably a good thing, as those books are horrendously flawed.

AGH: What books / authors have most influenced your own style and concepts?

BC: I had a hard time finding Celeste's voice. C. E. Murphy's Walker Papers series taught me all about urban fantasy pacing and voice. Some of my other influences include Elizabeth Moon and Mary Doria Russell.

AGH: Have you recently learned anything about the business side of publishing that you can share with up and coming writers, something you wish you’d known in the beginning?

BC: You have to market yourself from the time you even consider writing a book. I did a few things right--like I had my website set up before I had a single short story sale--but I had no idea how much marketing and publicity is handled by the author. One of my agent-siblings recommended a book for me to read, BOOK LIFE by Jeff VanderMeer. It's all about balancing public and private worlds as an author, and how to market yourself. A lot of the material in there was all new to me.

AGH: Wow, thanks for the rec! So, are you involved in any new projects you can tell us about?

BC: I'm revising a novel that's the start of a different urban fantasy series.  It's an homage to the old school RPGs I loved growing up, like Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy. It features two middle-aged adults who are thrown together and realize that their favorite childhood role-playing game is really an instruction manual on how they're supposed to save the world from an invasion of parasitic dragons. I'm also outlining sequels for NORMAL and writing short stories. Plenty to keep me busy!

AGH: Speaking of busy, you mentioned you already have a website up and running. Could you share that link with us so we can follow your journey to the shelves (and beyond--J)?

BC: My web site is and my blog can be found at

**Five for fun**

AGH: Which would you rather do: carry an umbrella or sing in the rain?

BC: Oh, carry an umbrella. I hate for my face to get wet! This presented a constant challenge when I lived near Seattle for a few years.

AGH: Are you Team Dog or Team Cat?

BC: Team Cat all the way. I've always had cats around. My two fat tabbies are named Palom and Porom; Porom is snoring under my desk right now.

AGH: If I were at your house right now, what would I find in your refrigerator?

BC: A whole chicken that's leaking onto a plate, milk, soy milk for my son, OJ and Diet Pepsi for my husband, and a whole lot of strawberries and grapes. Oh, and I can't forget my Mountain Dew. I have one can a day.

AGH: When would you go to if you had a time machine, and why?

BC: I'd want to go all over the place. I love history, and it'd be amazing to see it with my own eyes. This is probably a very unusual answer, but I would love to see my home region of Central California before widespread settlement. It's a beautiful place, but consists of farms and orchards; the old grasslands and marshes are gone. A 70-mile long lake no longer exists. I would love to do a true compare and contrast and see what has changed in 150 years.

AGH: What would be the first thing you would do if you woke up to find you were a fish?

BC: Get in water, fast! Then I'd go and take out Nazi submarines, like Don Knott's did in my old favorite movie The Incredible Mr. Limpet. If I could talk to people, I'd try and find a way to change back. If that failed and this was the modern era... well, I'd find some way to be useful and avoid being someone's dinner.

BC: Thanks again!


And thank you for the interview, Beth! That’s so funny you’d say that about Mr. Limpet. That was my all-time favorite Don Knott’s movie. I always thought he had the perfect face for a fish (and I mean that in the nicest possible way). J

Don’t forget to visit Beth’s website and blog to stay abreast of news and announcements. Also, you're welcome to leave her questions, comments, and kudos below.

Congrats, Beth, on all of your successes so far, and I wish you much luck and happiness on the rest of your writing journey!

Everyone else, I hope to see you next Wednesday on my new
weekly blogging day. Until then, have a wonderful, safe, and relaxing weekend.


  1. Amazing story! Plus, Mt. Dew. I have several 6 packs right here, even though I don't drink much soda. =) Maybe it's a comfort thing just to know they're around. I look forward to seeing your novel soon!

  2. Hello, Beth! Your book is right up my alley. I'll have link over to your blog for updates on it.

    I queried 2 books so far that I quickly abandoned as well. Hopefully, 3rd time will be the charm like it was for you.

    Anita: Wednesday is the perfect day to blog. Thanks for another wonderful interview!

  3. Great interview, Anita and Beth. I'm off to check out Beth's website now...

    *Happy to see you, Anita. And hooray for blogger being back and working. =)

  4. Kaylie: Yay for Mountain Dew! It is truly the nectar of the gods.

    Marybk: It makes me so happy when people say they like the sound of my book! Makes all those years of effort worthwhile, y'know? I do hope the third time is a charm for you. It's all practice... and sometimes very painful practice.

    Cherie: Thanks! I hope you like what you see over on the website.

  5. Besides your great name, that's an awesome premise! Unknowing guinea pig stories are the best. (sometimes I wonder if I'm starring in a reality show like Truman did--at some point my real husband and cooperative children will show up...right? And my agent??)

  6. Hi Kaylie, Maryb, Cherie and Bethany! Thanks for stopping by gals!

    Beth, great job on the interview. And your website looks awesome!

  7. Hi Bethany! You have a great first name AND last name initial. Yes, unwitting guinea pig stories are lots of fun as long as you're not the guinea pig.

  8. Great interview as always Anita! Beth great idea for a story--I can't wait for it to hit the shelves :-) Congratulations and good luck on the rest of your journey . . . sending you warm vibes and happy thoughts for a long, successful career!

  9. Thanks Rachel! I agree, this is a very unique idea. I love hearing about all of these great books that will one day (soon, I hope) be hitting the shelves. ;) I'm getting a very long future TBR list. Ha!

  10. Rachel & Anita: You're both awesome. Thanks for your support! I can't wait until that day my book is on the shelf, either. I'll probably keel over in shock/glee.

  11. Great idea, Beth, and excellent interview, Anita! (Also, I know you are sick of getting awards by now, Anita, but I just HAD to give you one, even though you've already received it. You were my #1 pick for a reason!) :)

  12. Haha, Beth! I feel the same way about when my book(s) ever hit the shelves.

    LisaAnn, I hopped over and thank you so much for the award. You certainly deserved to win that one yourself. :) I'm posting your name w/Cherie's on the side there, and will make it "official" soon.

  13. Great interview, Beth and Anita! Beth's book sounds great...and good for you landing that agent so quickly! Inspiring!

  14. Hey Stephanie! Thanks for stopping by and for your sweet compliments. Good for you with your agent, too! Looking forward to our future interview. :)