QueryTracker Blog

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A TOUCH MORTAL Q & A Giveaway with Leah Clifford

Congratulations to QueryTracker's very own Leah Clifford on the release of her debut young adult novel, A TOUCH MORTAL. We are thrilled for Leah and are delighted she has joined us here today for a question and answer session.

Leaving a question in the comments will enter you in a blind drawing to win one of two prizes. Leah is giving away a signed copy of her book and a 10 page critique.

The floor is wide open: publishing, writing, or personal questions--well, not too personal. ;)

Here's some info if you haven't gotten your copy of A TOUCH MORTAL yet.

About the book:

Eden didn't expect Az.

Not his saunter down the beach toward her. Not his unbelievable pick-up line. Not the instant, undeniable connection. And not his wings.


So long, happily-ever-after.

Now trapped between life and death, cursed to spread chaos with her every touch, Eden could be the key in the eternal struggle between heaven and hell. All because she gave her heart to one of the Fallen, an angel cast out of heaven.

She may lose everything she ever had. She may be betrayed by those she loves most. But Eden will not be a pawn in anyone else's game. Her heart is her own.

And that's only the beginning of the end.

About the Author:

Leah Clifford has been an extreme cave tour guide, a camp counselor, a flight attendant, a pizza delivery girl, a waitress, and a grocery store clerk. Now she adds author to that list. She lives outside Cleveland, Ohio. This is her first book.

More can be found about Leah and A TOUCH MORTAL on her website and Goodreads.

Once again, congratulations, Leah!

Okay, guys. Ask away in the comments and Leah will drop in throughout the day to answer your questions.


Laura Pauling said...

What drew you to writing about angels?

E. Arroyo said...

How did you know your work was ready for submission?

Michelle McLean said...

Congrats on your book birthday!!!! So excited for you :D

Erin Edwards said...

More a comment than a question - Yesterday I saw your book face-out on a big display of paranormal romance at a Barnes and Noble in Austin, Texas! I recognized it from this blog.

So some questions do come to mind. Was that something your publisher arranged for? Do you know how much they are doing for marketing?

Kristi Helvig said...

Congrats, Leah! I so want to read this book. My question is: Was A Touch Mortal the first book you wrote, and was it your original title? Okay, that's two questions but I'm curious. :)

Erin Kane Spock said...

How do you determine the level of 'heat' in a YA love story? The plot sounds like it has the potential for high passion.

leahclifford said...

@Laura! I'm not sure what made me write about angels. Honestly, I'm not religious myself at all. It was just the story that came to me!

@Arroyo I don't know that you ever get to the point where you're ready to hit send! lol I can tell you I ran mine through quite a few beta readers and I also edit as I go so it had maybe 5-10 rounds? Maybe a few more? Hit send when you feel that you've taken it as far as it'll go with the talent you have!

leahclifford said...

@ Michelle Thanks :) xoxo

@Erin Aw man that is AWESOME! I know publishers pay for most anything that's a special display like an endcap or a cardboard holder. I couldn't say for sure if *mine* was because I don't know specifically what the display looked like. When you sell your book they come up with a "marketing plan" that details things like what your print run will be, if you'll be part of a tour, if they're making you a trailer...all the little ins and outs. But it's constantly shifting. For me, there were a few things that didn't work out and some things were added. Changes are still coming in. Just now I got to announce I was added to the Dark Days tour stop for Minneapolis! :)Great questions!

leahclifford said...

@Kristi Thanks! A Touch Mortal was NOT my first book. I have a trunked novel that's an adult paranormal. It's a hot mess of purple prose ;) The original working title that I queried with was Reapers...but then an editor pointed out that the characters weren't really reapers so I had to come up with a new one. The new title also was changed before we settled on A Touch Mortal!

@Erin Kane Spock To be honest, I just write what comes in a scene. I'm not a big outliner and my editor and I aren't afraid of pushing the boundaries. *g*

Lucinda Bilya said...

Congratulations Leah!

Where do you find reliable beta readers? (cost is a factor for me - a full-fledged member of the Starving Artists Society)


Corrie said...

Hi! Just wondering about your new marketing role for your book..Like, is it more or less time consuming than you expected? Are you fitting things around a day job?

leahclifford said...

@lucinda You shouldn't pay for a beta reader! Most times they're people I made a connection with, whether it be from query tracker or through twitter (If you don't have twitter, GET TWITTER...it's one if not THE best networking tool for writers at all stages of the game! We love procrastinating and twitter is like little tiny bites of procrastination so we don't feel so guilty lol) My original reads were done by other writers, and after a few rounds I found some teenagers to read it. Stay away from family and friends who aren't writers at first, unless you can trust them to be honest and harsh. The critiques that made me cry were usually the ones that had the most truth about my writing and plot holes. Harsh = good. You can't improve off of "It was good."

Lori M. Lee said...

Hi Leah! Congrats on the book birthday! My question is: How do you normally begin a new story? Does the character form first, and you build around her? Or do you think up a scene and/or world, and create the characters to fill it? I hope that made sense lol.

Taffy said...

Did you submit any other stories before this one?

leahclifford said...


Much much more. Small things all add up, so I might have a guest post and an interview to do, and I have my normal sites that I check and emails to answer. One of my worst habits is overthinking, so I'll get an interview question and I'll complicate what could have been an easy answer into an essay lol and then I get self conscious and edit it down. I've heard of other authors that have a chunk of time set aside to do marketing in (like two hours in the morning for instance), and that's a system I'm going to be starting. I think being organized is the key. I worked my dayjob until September, balancing through several rounds of edits but I wasn't sleeping more than a few hours a night and the stress was terrible. I finally got to the point where it was healthier for me to let something go. That said, I miss the structure of a day job. I wrote in the morning, thought through plot while cashiering and then wrote when I got home. It was like forced plotting time! :)

leahclifford said...

@Lori Hi! Thanks! This one (A Touch Mortal) started with a short story I wrote years ago for a college class. I loved the scene and the characters and always wondered about what was going on. My trunked novel I think started with a scene too. Usually I'll have an exchange of dialogue pop into my head that references things or people I don't know and I'm like "Who are they talking about?" and I write to find out. lol ...yes, I know I sound crazy. I've made my peace with it! lol

@Taffy Yes, I had an adult paranormal that I started to submit and realized I could do better. The plot wasn't too original and I didn't think I wanted to write adult for a career. So I pulled the novel and started writing A Touch Mortal.

Tere Kirkland said...

Congrats, Leah!

I just downloaded the book yesterday, but haven't had a chance to read it yet, so don't enter me for the contest, but I just wanted to say how happy I am for you.

Good luck with everything!

Leah Clifford said...

Thanks Tere! <3

Alicia said...

Okay, this isn't a book related question, but I have to know more about when you were an extreme cave guide. Was this splunking?

leahclifford said...

@Alicia haha Yeah, I worked at Cave of the Winds in Manitou Springs, Colorado. They used to have an extreme tour that was 3 hours of crawling and climbing. Kneepads, headlamps, helmets...the whole bit. I also led the normal tours through the commercial part of the cave and lantern tours through a historical section. I also did many of the children's programs for the schools that came. While I lived in Colorado I was secretary of the Southern Colorado Mountain Grotto, did a ton of caving and some conservation work (delicate formations would be damaged by mud that people brought in on their shoes and clothing and we would carefully clean off formations with lint free cloth, hauling the dirty water out so as to not contaminate the cave). SO MUCH FUN! Some of the best years of my life!

Keriann Greaney Martin said...

Hi Leah! I'm a brand-spanking-new writer so everything is all very shiny and new and exciting. So I'm curious, do you have any tips for someone like me who is just starting out?

PS - I'd love to win the contest :). And congratulations on your first published work!

leahclifford said...

@Keriann On the Career Side: Establish an online presence. It should be something you're comfortable with! I used to blog, but found vlogging was more my style so I do that now (I'm Thursday on the YA Rebels on youtube!). Whatever you choose to do, it shouldn't be about promotion 99% of the time, but more about conversation (if that makes sense). Talk to other writers, if you're blogging or vlogging, talk about things that you noticed or wondered about or felt something strong for and ask others opinions. Start conversations on twitter. Ask questions. You want to talk to people, not at them. You'll find there are a lot of damn cool people out there! Pretty soon you're making friends and having fun!

Writing Side: Write. Writewritewrite. Read as much as you can. I like to think of it as my brain being a well. If I take words out to put them on a page, I need to read and put them back in! Edit. Kill your darlings! Every scene has to have a reason for being there or should be cut(even if it's awesome). KEEP EVERYTHING...everything you cut just paste it into a separate file! There were so many scenes I thought I had to cut and ended up using pieces and parts of later! Someone once told me if a beta reads and says your story is really good, ask them what you can do to make it great.
Know that you will cry. A lot. You will also laugh and scream and panic and dance. It's worth it.

Noble M Standing said...

It sounds amazing and I can't wait to get a copy of the book.

Any tips on finding that perfect agent? Did you just blindly submit or did you select a few that felt/looked right?


Ali said...

Hi Leah :) Congratulations on your book release!
Love the plot of the book...

When you get a chance to read, what are your favorite genres and/or authors to read?

Eliza Faith said...

Did your query gain a lot of requests, or did you have to re-write?

And, Do you belong to any writing guilds? If yes, how have they helped?

grats girl!

Zac and Sarah Steele said...

How long did it take you to complete your first draft? And how long did it take from the first word you wrote until you had a copy of your printed, published book in your hands?

Stephsco said...

You mentioned earlier in the comments that you determined you did not want to write adult market fiction as a career. What swayed you to write YA?

Robbin L. said...

Are there any mistakes that you made along the way that you are willing to share. Most of us learn from our own mistakes :) Congratulations!

leahclifford said...

@Noble I was very specific with who I sent to and spent a lot of time researching the agents to be sure they were a fit. I read a lot of interviews to get a feel for them!

@Ali Thanks! I do read quite a bit, though it's almost exclusively YA these days! I'm a huge Carrie Ryan (Forest of Hands and Teeth, Dead Tossed Waves) fangirl and love love love Maggie Stiefvater (Shiver, Linger). And there's really no way to say it that doesn't sound like I'm showing favoritism but the other YA Rebels members have some GREAT books coming out!

@Eliza I had two versions of the query but they were very similar, more tailoring toward different agents than rewriting. My request rate was good so I stuck with it! I don't belong to any guilds, but learned a TON from other members on the Query Tracker forum.

leahclifford said...

@Zac and Sarah It took me about eight months or so from start to finish, with a BIG block of that being a terrible few months where I couldn't figure out what was wrong with the story. I thought it wasn't my book to write and I came really REALLY close to giving up. That's why it's important to have a writer support group so they can tell you you're crazy when you say stuff like that! lol I finally added another point of view and it was what the story needed! I started it around Feb. 2009 so around two years for the final copy in my hands. That said I was on a rushed schedule for being published and came out in 14 months.

@Stephsco I just don't feel like an adult! lol I don't have kids, I'm not married. I don't think that I THINK like an adult. My writing voice seemed like it was better suited for upper YA.

gideon 86 said...

Hi, Leah,

The cover is very appealing. I write y/a and always see if the cover attracts me to the prose.

My question is. How long did it take for you to acquire your agent?


ashelynn sanford said...

Congrats, Leah, on the book birthday! I can't wait to get my hands on A TOUCH MORTAL.

My question is what was it like writing a sequel?

leahclifford said...

@Robbin I'm trying to think of how to answer this...actually, I've been thinking about it for awhile. The truth is, every time I think of a mistake, it was a moment that ended up pivotal to getting me to where I needed to be. One thing that's hard and that I had trouble with would be remembering everyone's journey is different. I found some aspects of the journey easy, while others had a lot of trouble with them and vice versa. The best thing to do, the thing I try most to stick to is to be kind to everyone.

@Michael About a month from first query to first offer and another week or two to decide!

@Ashelynn Thank you! I hope you love it! The sequel has been TOUGH. I'm probably not supposed to tell anyone that, but it's the truth. I don't outline well, and with a trilogy, there is SO much to work out from narrative arcs for each character to series arcs. I don't think I'd do another trilogy again without knowing exactly how it was going to end and having most of it written. (lol I say that NOW...)

leahclifford said...

ALSO! I need to apologize to Zac and Sarah, who asked how long it took from start of novel to book in hand. It was actually THREE years. I thought something looked funny with that! I drafted from Feb 2008 to around Oct 2008, edited some, landed my agent in Feb 2009 and the book deal December 2009. A Touch Mortal came out 14 months later. So all told, about 3 years. Leahfail.

Patrick said...

Thank you everyone for a great Q&A, and thank you Leah. I hope your book does great.

We'll be posting the names of the prize winners soon, so watch the blog.

Dancer said...

Hi Leah,

When you found an agent, what comments did you receive that made it clear this person was right for the vision of your novel?


Theresa Milstein said...

Hi, Leah. Good luck with your book.

My question:

Is the blurb here on the post similar to your original query?

Empty Refrigerator said...

Question: Did you ever want to give up?

writesbymoonlight said...

Congrats on your debut novel!

Is seeing your book in print what you expected or was it sort of anti-clamatic?

leahclifford said...

Hey guys! Saw we had some late questions and figured I'd answer them :)

@Dancer I signed with Rosemary Stimola. When I started talking to agents I made a list of things that were important like communication, editing technique and references from other clients. I really wanted someone who had the same vision of an agent/client relationship as me!

@Theresa It's not at ALL similar! You can see my original query on the Query Tracker page's Success Stories

@Empty Refrigerator. Yes. Still do quite often! lol Writing a book after being signed and selling is exactly the same as writing one before. Same doubts, same struggles. It's not magically easier.

@writesbymoonlight It's not anti-climactic by a long shot, but it is VERY very surreal. I won't tell you how often I just stare at it, wondering how it all happened. I mean, one day it was words in my head, and then words on paper, and now words in print. I still can't quite wrap my head around it.