Visit me at

August 19th, 2011

Visit me at

I’m starting a new author blog at I’m consolidating, because I have too many sites to maintain. I blog at the new site four or five times a week, so you’ll find much more updated news and other tasty tidbits there.


In the meantime, I’m gonna leave this site up until my agent or publisher asks me to take it down. Then I will.


See you at

Letter Off Dead is off to the publishers (again). And a new manuscript is complete.

August 3rd, 2011

I’ve completed another manuscript on a new book. I think as of today it is officially done and ready to send to my agent, the esteemed Abigail Samoun.

The new book is called A Matter of Life and Seth. It is, as Abi calls it, teen noir. A young adult murder mystery about a teen named Seth investigating the murder of his own mother. Seth, a recent high school dropout, comes from a rough neighborhood, but has a serious, complicated romance with one of the richest girls in town. While trying to solve the murder of his mom, he deals with issues of class, race, family and love. The book is violent and emotional.

I’m pretty happy with it. Nervous to find out what Abi thinks. Yikes.

Letter Off Dead is on its way to publishers this coming Tuesday!

July 31st, 2011

Thanks to the great work of esteemed agent and editor Abigail Samoun, of Red Fox Literary, Letter Off Dead is done–after many rounds of revisions–and is finally on its way to a group of “lucky” publishers. Let the bidding wars commence.

OK, kidding about that bidding wars thing. I’m just hoping some publisher will see the value in the story and give it a shot. Abi put together a great submission package, so we’ll say a prayer and hope for the best. I have no idea how long it takes to get a response when a real live agent is involved. We’ll see.

Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Awards

May 18th, 2011

My first book, The Tilting House, is a finalist in the Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Awards, in the grade three-to-six category. It’s a pretty short list. I wish I knew some sneaky, underhanded way to get these brilliant Penn State kids to vote for my book…

Anyway, if you want to see the list, go here:

It’s alive!

May 13th, 2011

Just a quick note to update the status on the long and winding journey from idea to publication. The esteemed Abigail Samoun is about to officially launch her agency. More on that later. In the meantime, I just sent her what I hope are final changes to the Letter Off Dead manuscript. Abigail had a handful of young readers read the manuscript and they all had the same issues with the story.

I’m not overly fond of writing to please focus groups, but I agree with their criticisms and am happier with the story after the changes.

Abigail The Esteemed will begin shopping around the story, likely in early June. I’m happy to let her take on that part of the process. In the meantime, I’m full steam ahead on another story. It is a yet untitled young adult murder mystery–intimate, violent, set in Tacoma and jammed with local characters and landmarks. Classic noir meets Stadium High School. Hilltop vs. The North End. And a bit of Romeo and Juliet.

Stand by for news.


Working on a new book

February 3rd, 2011

I’m getting close to done with the outline phase of the new book, an as-yet-untitled YA mystery set in Tacoma. I’m really excited about it. I can hear the voice of the main character rattling around inside my head.

I’m trying to think of a way to blog the book, but don’t want to force it. Letter Off Dead worked because it was a series of letters. But a mystery novel won’t work that way. I guess I could just do really short chapters. Any ideas, anyone?

O! The travails of publishing!

December 9th, 2010

Random House has officially passed on Letter Off Dead. And, might I add, dammit.

According to my editor, the still-esteemed Abigail Samoun, they passed on nearly the entire Tricycle catalogue, which is a bummer for everyone, because the Trike folks consistently had high standards and delivered great books.

The only lining on this black cloud is that they’re paying me the rest of my advance. And Abigail has promised to shop the book around a bit, assuming RH gives her permission.

This is drag, to be sure, but it’s the most common status in the publishing industry and I’ve been there before. My plan is to keep plugging away on promoting this book and keep plugging away on writing the next one.

In the mean time, I’ve got a fully-edited book based on a popular blog that has been carefully edited by a talented, meticulous editor. It’s ready to go to galleys. If anyone’s interested in publishing it, let me know.

And, might I add, dammit.


December 7 – That’s when the fate of Letter Off Dead is decided.

December 4th, 2010

On December 7, the list of proposed Fall 2011 books by the now defunct RH imprint, Tricycle Press, will be decided upon by Random House. “Letter Off Dead” is among that list. So on 12/7, it will either go forward with another Random House Children’s Books imprint, or go back into limbo, which may be appropriate, considering the subject matter, but dang.

In the email I received from my editor, the esteemed Abigail Samoun, she said: “Ugh. Makes my stomach twist up in a knot.”

That pretty much sums it up.

I’ve been reading and rereading the list of these imprints to figure out where I might possibly fit in. Here’s the rundown, from my ridiculously uninformed opinion:.

Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers – This is cream-of-the-crop stuff. Bestsellers like Carl Hiaasen (who I love and who doubles as a best-selling crime novelist), Christopher Paolini (“Eragon,” which my son Abel loves) and Marc Brown (“Arthur,” about which my youngest daughter and I got into an argument–what kind of animal IS Arthur, anyway?). It seems highly unlikely I’d jump up to that level. I rate this one an unrealistic longshot.

Bantam Books publishes highly commercial paperbacks with a focus on movie and television properties as well as original paperback series. – Not a possibility, based on what I know about the way paperbacks work.

David Fickling Books -  dedicated to bringing the very best of England’s children’s books to the young readers of America. To make this list I’d have to travel back in time a few years, move to England, and change all “cookie” references to “biscuits.”

Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers – Another collection of seemingly bestsellers, such as R.L. Stine of “Goosebumps” fame and Louis Sachar, who wrote “Holes,” one of the greatest middle reader novels in the history of the universe. Maybe slightly less of a longshot than Knopf, but not by much.

Delacorte Press Trade Paperbacks – I should admit that I don’t really understand the whole paperback thing. I’m guessing you have to sell a bunch of hardbacks first to make this list, so I’m guessing this one isn’t gonna happen.

Dragonfly introduces children to talented and award-winning artists and writers through affordable paperback picture books. This isn’t me. I don’t do picture books.

Yearling Books – more paperbacks. Not gonna happen, as far as I understand it.

Laurel-Leaf is another paperback imprint that focuses on reprints. I’m not at the reprint phase yet, so not gonna happen.

Disney Books for Young Readers is based solely on Disney properties. Since there is, as of yet, no Letter Off Dead ride in Fantasy Land, this one is not a possibility.

Doubleday Books for Young Readers – the country’s oldest children’s book publisher, which, as far as I can tell, does only picture books and coffee table books. So no go.

Golden Books – In 1942, the launch of Little Golden Books revolutionized children’s book publishing by making high-quality picture books available at affordable prices. But since the titles include The Saggy Baggy Elephant and The Poky Little Puppy, it’s pretty unlikely Letter Off Dead will fit in there.

Knopf Trade Paperbacks publishes paperback editions of novels for middle and young adult readers originally published by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers in hardcover. So first I’d have to make the Knopf hardcover list.

Random House Books for Young Readers does Dr. Seuss, Babar, the Magic Tree House, Junie B Jones. But it also includes middle reader and young adult. It seems like a long shot to go from a small independent like Tricycle right up to the mothership, so I’m gonna list this one as a stretch as well.

Robin Corey Books only does pop-up books. Could be cool, but not gonna happen.

Schwartz and Wade Books is a small little imprint, so maybe a possibility. When I see their list online, though, I only see maybe two middle reader books a year and no Young Adult. I’m pretty sure LOD fits in the YA category, so this will be a stretch, too.

Wendy Lamb Books says they focus on innovative middle-grade and young adult fiction by award-winning writers such as Christopher Paul Curtis, Peter Dickinson, Patricia Reilly Giff, Gary Paulsen, and Graham Salisbury. The imprint also seeks new talent and publishes many first novels. Hey, I’m a new talent! And my first book was a Junior Library Guild selection! They even sent me a certificate and a gold pin, so you could say I’m award-winning! Of all the imprints on the list, this seems like the best fit for Letter Off Dead. Wendy, if you’re reading this, I love you. Can I get you a coffee? And have you lost weight?

Then there’s Tricycle Press, which is still listed on their site, but is now officially closing it’s doors. Fare thee well, Tricycle. Your three-wheeling days are over, but may the words your brought into the world live on forever.

So there you have it: One good possibility, a handful of total long shots and a few not-gonna-happens. Say a prayer, would you?

I’ve seen the cover and it is wonderful.

December 3rd, 2010

Abigail sent me a rough version of the book cover for Letter Off Dead, as done by renowned illustrator Bagram Ibatoulline. It is stunning. I can’t show it here, but it does a remarkable job of capturing the longing that I hope exists between the characters.

I will tell you that it shows limited views of Dad, Trevor and The Boat, as well as a distant shot of the seaside village Dad is stuck in. It may sound like a lot going on in a single cover, but Bagram  pulls it off beautifully. It also has a strong dose of eeriness, which I want to be a part of the book. I’ll share it with you all as soon as I’m allowed. In the mean time, the cover was sent, along with the manuscript, to Random House, hoping it will help to convince them to keep the project alive in a post-Tricycle Press world.

See what a crazy classroom of kids did with my first book

December 2nd, 2010

I’ve been doing a lot of author talks surrounding my first book, The Tilting House, which is a middle reader novel (9-12 age range). I greatly prefer to do these talks to students after they have read the book. While nearly all the students I’ve spoken to have done some sort of associated projects, such as illustrating a chapter or writing a letter to me, none have taken it as far as the following group of over-achievers, as you’ll see from the email I received a few days ago:

Hi Tom,

The 3rd-5th grade community at University Child Development School
would like to tell you how much we enjoyed reading The Tilting House.
The content was so rich that we were able to extend it into our weekly
math problems.  Our students created their own geo-block tilting
houses, found the surface area and scaled them to full size.
Furthermore, we solved “writing on the wall” math problems dealing
with Platonic and Archemedian solids.  Finally, once we finished the
book, we had a Tilting House celebration with grow powder doughnuts,
dress up the Daga family, decorate your tilting house and The Tilting
House trivia.  Our students could barely handle the suspense at the
end and were sad when it was over.

We would love to host you at our elementary school in Seattle.  Please
let us know if you are interested!

UCDS 3-5th grade team

Grow powder doughnuts? I’m interested.


Final round of revisions, then off to Random House

December 1st, 2010

My editor at Tricycle Press, the esteemed Abigail Samoun, has sent the “complete” book package to Random House to see if another imprint will pick it up for their fall 2011 line-up. With the sad demise of Tricycle, it is now finger-crossing time.

I spent the weekend on a frantic final round of revisions. Even though we’re to the fine-tuning phase of the book, revisions can still be pretty extensive. Want to see how much? Below is Abigail’s Saturday email to me. I had to complete these changes and turn the manuscript back around to her by Monday:

Hi, Tom

I haven’t had a chance to do a thorough edit on this draft. I think it’s reading well and you did an excellent job on this last revision. Since time is short and we only have until the 30th to get this draft to Random House, I thought we should focus on a few fairly easy fixes:

-Let’s hear Carl’s dialogue early on in dad’s letters.
-It still feels like Carl should be the one who keeps trying to get on the boat but can never quite do it—and when he finally does, he wants to bring his suitcase with him. That would strengthen his character arc. After he’s turned away from the boat, he could then retreat to his cabin, crushed. And when Dad talks him into going into the woods, Carl is already somewhat broken. As is, there’s no definitive event that breaks him. Doing this would also weave Carl in more at the beginning of the book. As is, Gordon is more present than Carl is and it feels like we need a stronger set-up for losing Carl in the woods. Gordon could be more on periphery before the woods section and then come more to the foreground once Carl is gone.

Perhaps Mudgett shouldn’t ask Misty out the first time—kind of dilutes the tension around his asking her out the second time.

Try to emphasize more Trevor’s chickening out of the try-outs and Donnie’s disappointment in this.

Page specific:
Page 30: Letter ends a bit abruptly
37: Dad mentions Trevor not going to school—confusing because at this point, Trevor is going to school again.
37: Uncle Floyd: why is Dad particularly worried about him? Has Uncle Floyd wasted his life?
50: Add some dialogue from Carl
61: Extend this entry—more about the lead-up to Trevor’s chickening out. Ramp up the tension here—will he or won’t he? Maybe mention the kids all gathering behind the gym for the fight. His running out of the school in this draft is a bit cartoon-y. Perhaps he should simply find himself turning left instead of right, toward the parking lot instead of toward the gym. Maybe he sees Donnie, watching him go.
69: “And death seemed pretty natural until it came to my own”–what about Meredith?
70: ‘Chicken dude’ nickname works but cut two lines after “these guys are such dorks”—high fives feel kind of cliche. Try to mention the rest of Trevor’s class—girls and guys—staring at him, pointing, whispering. Give the sense that he’s been shamed before the entire school.
75: Mention that Trevor is keeping up his boxing practice a couple of times between page 75 and 130.
77: Mention of Carl’s wife “disapproving” is confusing. Is Carl losing his grip on reality?
85: Should Dad start letter by addressing Trevor’s question about basketball?
86: Have Brandy laugh at Trevor? Or does that happen later?
93: Trevor seems pretty worried about Dad going into the woods at beginning of letter but then tells him to go ahead by the end. How does he get from one point-of-view to the other?
100: Bring in Misty more into this section. What’s her reaction to “chicken dude”? Does Trevor still like her? Set-up Trevor’s asking her out after fight.
119: “You old sinner!” Gordon sounds like Carl here.
128: Feels like we need to keep boxing specifics between Carl and Dad—maybe conversation about clinches should come during boxing training section. As is, Gordon’s knowledge of boxing is too similar to Carl’s.Characters blend together.
130: Have Trevor get a couple of punches in on Mudgett? Have Mudgett mention Trevor’s running away from earlier fight?
132: What’s Rhett’s reaction to Trevor’s fight?
142, 144: Where are Dad’s letters?
153: Isn’t Trevor worried about Dad’s recent letters?
205: “You’re clearly brave enough”–dialogue doesn’t sound like Rhett.

I wish we had more time to work on this but the manuscript is in strong shape and I think it only needs a couple of small rounds of edits. If you have any questions or want to run anything by me in the next few days—particularly regarding Carl’s character arc– please call me. I’m sad to think this may well be the last time I work on this book. Though I hope with all my heart that Random House moves forward with the book, it still hard to stomach the idea of another editor taking over the project. But perhaps they’ll bring a fresh eye to it and make it better than I could have at this point. I guess, like Gordon, I’m double-minded about this one. If Random House doesn’t want to move forward with it, I do know a couple of other editors at other houses we could send it to—of course, that’s entirely up to you. But I’d like to help you get the book out there any way I can.

I should have the cover comp to show you on Monday.



The insides of book marketing for a new author

November 23rd, 2010

A couple of days ago I completed an interview about my own book marketing efforts. Read the interview to see how sales are so far, what marketing I did on my own (with the help of my friends) and what the publisher contributed to the effort.

Brilliant thoughts from the kids at Bryant Montessori

November 19th, 2010

Yesterday I did an author talk with the kids at Bryant Montessori in Tacoma, Washington. They’d all read my first book, The Tilting House, and were ridiculously excited to have a “real author” (whatever that means) come and talk to them. That’s what I love about kids–if they like something, they show it. No need to be cool. No need to be reserved. If they want an author to sign their arms, they just roll up their sleeves.

These small humans also wrote some lovely letters to me beforehand. Here are a few highlights:

“Dear Mr. Llewellyn, Why did you make Victor Peat and his brother have a black Cadillac? Ws it because they had to look professional?” – Rosemary

“Mr. L, I like the book. I had fun reading the book. I like the way you used the name Josh. From Joshua.”

“Dear Mr. Llewellyn, Some of the book is scary. Did you have these thoughts when you were a kid?” – Eden

And here are a few sample stories created during a writing exercise with the same group of students:

“A famous chef made a cake then a dog came and ate it. Well, the people were inside. The people came out and realized that the cake was gone and they saw the dog standing there with a cake mustache and they chased the dog until they got the dog. The end.”

“Once upon  a time there was a famous chef. So it was his wife’s birthday. So he made a cake for his wife. All of a sudden, Sawman jumped out of the cake and Sawman was cutting everybody’s head off.”

“There once was a ninja who rescued the president, but he was not an ordinary ninja, he was the Great Ninja of the World!!!. The end.”

“Once upon a time there was a cat. The cat jumped on a windowsill. Because the cat liked to look out of the window.”

“The dog is a famous chef who couldn’t resist eating his wedding cakes. Then one day when he was feeling extra awesome he did not eat his wedding cake. He took it to the church where the old man with the canary was getting married. But then the dog felt hungry and ate the whole wedding cake. The he drove back but on the way he fell asleep, crashed into the ocean and drowned. The end.” – Jude

The future of literature is clearly in good hands.


How much money does a bestselling author actually make?

November 18th, 2010

While I wait anxiously for news on the future of my book, I thought I’d keep the conversation going with some related insights into the process. In fact, here’s one now:

I clearly don’t write for the money–based on the fact that I keep writing without making any–but it’s interesting to shine light on the myths of wealthy writers. I’m sure there are a few, but very few novelists can ever quit their day jobs.

Terry Cordingly is the Associate Director of Marketing at Tate Publishing & Enterprises and he blogs about the business side of publishing. Check out this fascinating post from him about just how much cash an official New York Times bestselling author actually brings home:

Aaarrgghh! My publisher is closing its doors!

November 17th, 2010

My book, Letter Off Dead, is being published by Tricycle Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books. Or, should I say, it was being published by them. Late last week, I’m told, Random House informed Tricycle Press that they are closing them down.

I just spent the last three weeks on what I thought was the final push toward getting this book in shape for publishing. I’ve been blogging about it. On Monday, City Arts Magazine even called for an interview about the progress. All good fun, right?

Then, later that day, my editor, the still-esteemed Abigail Samoun called. I said, “How’s it going?”

“Well…” said Abigail, “not so good, really.”

She told me that Tricycle Press is being shut down. Random House, which purchased Tricycle last March as part of their acquisition of Ten Speed Press, ran the numbers and just can’t find a way to keep the imprint going. Abigail is out of a job there at the end of January.

I harbor no ill feelings toward the House of Random. It’s hard out there for a publisher. And while publishing may create these wonderful objects called books, it’s still a business. But this news still sucks.

So what does this mean for Letter Off Dead? It means I’m back in the most common of all publishing statuses: Wait And See.

The Tricycle staff is meeting with RH in early December to pitch my book (and all the others in their fall 2011 catalog). Abigail is optimistic that one of their other imprints will pick it up, because it has the following things going for it:

1. It’s young adult fiction, and YA fiction is hot right now.

2. It’s not a picture book, which means it translates to digital sales pretty well (woe to you, picture book illustrator, as sad as that may be).

3. It’s already got a proven following–10,000 visitors a month on this blog.

4. My first book, The Tilting House, is still selling well. Sold out its first printing in a month and currently sits at over 8,000 copies sold.

5. Most of the work has already been done. It’s ready to go to galleys. The cover illustration by Bagram Ibatoulline is done and by this early December meeting the cover design will be done as well. Abigail–heroic woman that she is– just emailed me and said, “Our designer is working on the cover and I told her to do her absolute-very-best-extra-spectacular job on it.” God bless you, Abi.

So right now it’s Wait And See time. Feel free to send up a prayer for the future of this book. And tell your friends about this blog so the numbers stay strong.


Check out the City Arts online article about blog-to-book

November 16th, 2010

I talked to Mark Baumgarten at City Arts yesterday about turning this blog into a book. Here are the results. By the way, the illustration on his post is by our own James Stowe.

Made the edits. Submitted the draft.

November 15th, 2010

After a four-day sprint to the finish, I managed to make some pretty massive changes to LOD, based on smart recommendations from my editor, the esteemed Abigail Samoun. I put all the changes in place with one day to go, then had to do another final read-through and edit on the last day. Whew.

I’m feeling good about these changes. The story is tighter. The rearrangements – like moving the boxing scene farther back, moving the girlfriend section after the fight, and removing a few minor storylines (no more dog, for example) makes for a more logical and natural-feeling story arc.

Here’s what happens now: Abigail has to go over all my changes this coming week. She’ll get the manuscript back to me by next weekend. Then I need to make more changes, do a “final” read and get it back to Abigail by Thanksgiving. From there it goes to copy edits, which is like a really thorough proofreading. A good copy editor checks all the grammar, spelling and obvious stuff like that. But she will also make sure the logic holds up. If Trevor says he has a basketball game on Friday, the copy editor makes sure the game happens on Friday and not on Thursday. If Aunty Iola’s favorite color on page 45 is blue, on page 122 it can’t be yellow unless she’s taken color-wheel classes.The copy editor will even make some stylistic suggestions. Then I make those changes (assuming I agree with them). the manuscript gets one more careful read by somebody at the publisher, and then it goes to galleys by Christmas.

What’s a galley? A galley is a bound draft of the book, usually complete with cover. It’s not the final version. Illustrations may be placeholder only. Minor changes will still occur. But publishers like Tricycle Press use galley proofs as advance reading copies, providing them to reviewers, magazines, and libraries in advance of final publication.

Anyway, I’m tired, but excited where this thing is going.


Only a few more days until final draft deadline and still so far to go

November 12th, 2010

I took a vacation day today, because I simply cannot get Letter Off Dead back to my editor, the esteemed Abigal Samoun, by the agreed-upon Monday deadline if I don’t.

I’ve made most of the big structural changes–and they really are pretty substantial. No more dog. Moved boxing lessons around. Switched the order of the girlfriend and the fight. But this is so much more complicated than just cut and paste. It’s like having a completed house and then having the city inspector tell you that all the load-bearing walls have to be rearranged. “Keep it in perspective,” they remind you. “You still can keep the ceiling and floor right where they were.”

I might have mentioned this before, but editing an epistolary is much more challenging than editing standard fiction. There are two story lines and two voices dancing with each other. When I change the order of one, it necessarily changes the order of the other.

One other thing that’s different this time around: When I was working with Abigail on The Tilting House, we did all the edits within MS Word, using the Track Changes tool. I complained. After three or four rounds of edits, the margins were so crammed with tracks and comments that it became impossible to tell what was what. So this time, Abigail printed out the manuscript and made corrections and comments the old-fashioned way, in blue pencil.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I miss Track Changes. The combination of Abi’s handwriting and the blue pencil makes the comments hard to read. And lugging around nearly 300 pages of paper on the bus is giving me a  backache. And if I agreed with her change, I could just click “accept” and make it so. Saved a bunch of time, even if it was occasionally confusing.

Enough chit-chat. I’m on deadline.


The glories of the editing process.

October 26th, 2010

Image of sample page edit for Letter Off Dead manuscript

Above is a sample page, with editor Abigail Samoun’s comments in place. These are just the in-page comments. Now multiply that kind of work times 267 (total number of changes), add on some fairly massive structural changes, multiply it by a deadline of November 15 (a little over two weeks) and you’ll have an idea what I’ll be doing with all my upcoming “free time.”

And might I add, yikes.

What does my publishing contract look like?

October 23rd, 2010

Like I said a few posts ago, I signed the contract and returned it to some lady with no vowels in her last name at Random House.

How much money does a guy like me make on a book like this? Not much. It works out to be about a buck a book – in hardbacks. So if I sell 10 million copies, I’m rich.

But if I sell, 10,000 copies, the whole thing works out to be about 50 cents an hour. Papberbacks pay less, because they sell for less.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. Getting any money for something I would do for free is total icing on the cake.

I get an advance (a pre-publishing fee) of enough to cover the first printing. A typical first printing is about 6,000 books. So do the math. If the book sells well enough to go into second printings, then I get royalty checks a couple of times a year, based on sales.

Fee breakdowns are as follows:


Paperbacks: 12%

Audiobooks: 10%

E-books 25%

And then, if someone pays a bazillion dollars for the movie rights, I get 70% and the publisher gets 30%

This is all how I understand it. I may have gotten something wrong here, so don’t hold me accountable, as there is plenty of legalese in these documents. Aaand, if some attorney from Random House wants me to remove this post, I’m happy to do that to. In the meantime, I thought it might be interesting to a few of you.


Submitted a “final draft” to the editor

October 22nd, 2010

I barely made my deadline to turn in a “final draft” of Letter Off Dead to my Tricycle Press editor, the esteemed Abigail Samoun.

The final word count of the blog was 76,000. The word count of the “final draft” was 60,ooo. This means whole subplots were removed (Mom is no longer dating. Dad only goes into the woods once). Massive plot rearrangements happened. Copious amounts of caffeine and ibuprofen were consumed. But it’s done. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that it’s still far from final. This is just the beginning of numerous rounds of revisions and edits. Galleys are scheduled to be released in February, which means that major revisions will be done sometime before then. After that, copy edits (basically proofreading) happen for a few months.

I’ve decided to keep blogging about this process, because I like the idea of it being transparent along the way. The whole thing started as a blog, and I’m hoping it might be interesting to a few of you to see the inner workings of the publishing process.

If you find this boring, just don’t read it.


Cover illustrator chosen for Letter Off Dead

October 21st, 2010

Tricycle Press (an imprint of Random House Children’s Books) has selected none other than Bagram Ibatoulline to do the cover illustration for Letter Off Dead!

This is pretty seriously exciting to me, because Bagram has done work for writers like Newberry Winner Lois Lowry and other big names.

What the hell is he doing making a cover for my book?

Check out his work here.

Contract signed, sealed and delivered

October 20th, 2010

Letter Off Dead is really coming out as a book. It comes out November 8, 2011 from Tricycle Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books.


In contract talks right now!

September 8th, 2010

Yesterday I received a slew of very happy emails from my esteemed publisher, Abigail Samoun. Tricycle Press, the Young Adult imprint of Random House, has decided to publish Letter Off Dead in book form!

I’m supposed to have first round edits of this beast to them by the weekend (as in three days from now). A final edit is due by October 11. Hopefully some illustrations happen along the way (haven’t heard about that yet). Galleys by December. Then lots and lots of rounds of proofreading, line edits, etc. The book will finally come out in September of 2011.

I’m pretty excited and a bit overwhelmed at the moment. The basic story and characters will remain the same, but going from blog-friendly version to print-friendly version means some pretty drastic changes–nearly all for the better, I think.

Stay tuned!


The Future of Books

August 30th, 2010

This Wednesday, City Club of Tacoma will be hosting a panel discussion titled, The Future of Books. Guess who’s moderating?

Here’s the announcement:

Author Tom Llewellyn will lead a panel of speakers to address a variety of questions about the future of books. How, physically, will people read books in the future? Will technology “unbind” books, as it has unbundled other media, such as music albums? Will reading habits change as a result? What happens when books are interlinked? And what is a book anyway?


Tom Llewellyn, moderator and author

sweet pea Flaherty, bookseller

Neel Parikh, Executive Director of the Pierce County Library System

Kate Rogers, Editor-in-chief of The Mountaineers Books/Skipstone

Sheryn Hana, Book Publishers Network

Thanks to Ann Gosch and Jan Karroll for coordinating this program.

Dinner Program Details: Wednesday, Sept. 1; wine and cheese social begins at 6pm followed by buffet and program, which concludes at 8pm; University of Puget Sound Wheelock Rotunda.

Register before noon on Monday, August 30, to reserve for this dinner program: $25 members; $30 guests of members; $35 general public. Prepayment is required and no-shows will be billed. Email to register. (Please be sure your credit card on file is up to date. If we do not have your credit card on file, please register by phone: 253-353-2489.)


Wheelock Rotunda, University of Puget Sound

Photo from Flickr user goXunuReviews, used under a CreativeCommons license

An update on publishing efforts

July 15th, 2010

I’m in discussions with Tricycle Press, an imprint of Random House, on turning Letter Off Dead into a book for the fall of 2011. At their request, I submitted a summary of the revised storyline and a thorough edit of the first 30 pages. They tell me I should hear from them by the end of the month.

In the meantime, I’m plowing ahead on rewrites, promoting my first novel, The Tilting House, and biting my fingernails.

Stay tuned.


Author’s Epilogue

June 15th, 2010

What’s Up, Dear Readers?

Letter Off Dead, in its blog format, is officially done. Started on Trevor’s first day of seventh grade. Ended on his last day, as planned.

If you’re new to the site, you can go to this page and scroll to the bottom for Trevor’s first post.

It’s been a remarkable experience, not least because of the community of readers that followed this project and the challenging and encouraging feedback you all provided via facebook and blog comments. I only missed a few days of posts throughout the year. I’m tired but exhilarated.

Nothing is final yet (is anything ever final?), but I’m in discussions with the folks at Tricycle Press, a children and young adult imprint of Random House. The plan is to turn Letter Off Dead into a book.

I’ve always thought of this blog as a very rough, very live first draft. There’s power in the immediacy and roughness of its current form, but there are plenty of aspects about the current state that drive me a bit crazy. I long to give this thing a good scrubbing. It will almost certainly shrink a bit in the process. Apologies in advance if some of your favorite posts disappear in the process. I’m confident it will be a better final product.

The soonest possible release date is still more than a year away. In the meantime, I encourage you to (shameless sales pitch alert) buy The Tilting House, my first book, also published by Tricycle Press. And follow me on Twitter. I’ll post updates there and try hard not to be boring.

Thanks for playing along.


This is my last letter to you.

June 11th, 2010

Dear Dad,

School’s over. This is my last letter to you.

Donnie and Rhett are in the other room waiting for me. After I finish this letter, I’ll mail it on our way to the marina. They both assume I’m gonna jump. Off the marina, I mean.

We start from the shore. We swim about a hundred feet out to a ladder. You’ve got to wear shoes, says Rhett, or when you jump, hitting the water hurts your feet. And climbing the ladder does, too. The ladder goes all the way up from the water. The bottom part —the part that dips below high tide—is all covered with seaweed and barnacles, like wood on a shipwreck. The ladder gets cleaner as it goes up. The top rungs are bleached and cracked by the sun.

We climb the rungs all the way to the top. Then we just stand close to the edge of the roof and jump.

Rhett says there’s nothing to it. You just step off and fall.

I suppose I should say goodbye Dad, but I think you’re beyond goodbyes now. Beyond letters. Beyond words.

All that’s left is for me to step into air.

So that’s what I’ll do.

Your son,


I just wanted to say hi and tell her about some stuff.

June 10th, 2010

Dear Dad,

You’re really gone, aren’t you? You’re never gonna write me back.

Just to let you know, I’ll probably keep checking the mailbox for a while to make sure.

I went in to Mrs. Henry’s class at lunch today to talk to her about you. She was writing in a notebook with a pencil, but stopped when I came in. She looked up and smiled at me with all her wrinkles. I sure like those wrinkles.

“What can I do for you, Trevor?” I just stood there. Mrs. Henry is one of my favorite adults, but it’s still hard for me to talk to her. Then again, all adults are hard for me to talk to. Even Mom. Sometime in the future, I need to write letters to Mom and apologize for not talking much.

I told Mrs. Henry I didn’t really need anything. I just wanted to say hi and tell her about some stuff. She set down her pencil, then picked it up again and tapped the desk with it.

“What kind of stuff?”

“Oh, I don’t know.”

“Other stuff?” She smiled again. I knew what she meant. I nodded, but I didn’t say anything. We sat there like that for 20 seconds. Then she said, “You know, Trevor, you don’t have to tell me anything you don’t want to. Some things aren’t meant to be shared. Maybe this is one of those things you just want to keep. For yourself.”

“Yeah, maybe.” I might have sighed a little right then, either in relief or disappointment.

She said, “Can I ask one question? Did things turn out—OK?”

“I think so.”

“You think so? You’re not sure? Well then, Trevor, I guess you’ll just have to get used to not knowing.”

“That sucks,” I said. I meant it.

“I suppose it does. But there’s something exciting about the not-knowable-ness of it. It means you’ve got a secret—a mystery—that’s still waiting to be solved. There’s not many of those left. Seems like you’ve got a good one. Right up there with Bigfoot.”

I thought the Bigfoot comment was pretty stupid. But I pretended it was funny, then told Mrs. Henry to have a good summer and left.

Not knowing totally blows. I’d rather know, Dad. Where are you?

Your son,


I want to know for sure. At least I think I do.

June 9th, 2010

Dear Dad,

It’s been more than a week since you got on the boat. You did get on the boat, didn’t you? I hate not knowing. I want to know for sure. At least I think I do.

I’m pretty certain you’re gone for good. So why am I still writing? I’ve got no reason that makes sense, other than sometimes you get into a pattern and you just keep doing it because it’s what you do. I’ll probably stop when school gets out, because I try not to do anything that even smells like school in the summer. Except reading, I guess. I still read. But I try to read only trashy books, full of lots of violence and maybe even a little sex, but not so much mom would think I’m reading porn or anything weird like that.

Donnie is supposed to come over after school on Friday. Our plan is to stay up super late then sleep in practically all day on Saturday. Which means Donnie will stay up super late and I’ll probably fall asleep by 10. 11 if I drink lots of Coke. And I can’t sleep in to save my life, so I’ll be up early playing video games with the volume down.

I told Donnie that Rhett wants me to jump off the marina after we get home from school. Donnie said, “Can I come? I’ve always wanted to jump off that thing.”

Sometimes I hate my friends.

Anyway, tomorrow is really like the last day of school, even thought we have to go on Friday, too. Friday is only half a day. The cool teachers have parties in their classes and the other ones make you clean out your desk and review stuff. I think they should all have parties, because that will be the last thing you remember about them. But some teachers want you to remember how hard their classes were, I guess.

I’m gonna try to talk to Mrs. Henry tomorrow to maybe tell her about what happened between you and me. I figure she was a key person in the whole deal, so she deserves to know. If I don’t tell her tomorrow, I probably never will, because I won’t have her for a teacher next year.

I know that, because I got my list of classes for 8th grade. All new teachers. I don’t know any of them. I hope they don’t think I’m a hood, because of the whole cookie thing. I figure they all heard the story. Maybe Mrs. Henry will put in a good word for me. Maybe I’ll ask her that tomorrow.

If you were writing back to me, this is where you’d say, “You’re not a hood, Trevor. You’re a good kid. I believe in you. Blah blah blah.” I wouldn’t mind having someone say that to me right now.

Your son,



    Letter Off Dead is an actual transcript of letters sent between a 7th grade boy and his dead father. It covers the subjects of life and death, faith and doubt, fathers and sons.

    The textual transcript has been edited and presented here by Tom Llewellyn, a writer from Tacoma, Washington. The illustrations have been edited and presented by artist James Stowe, also from Tacoma. None of the content has anything to do with Tom's or James' beloved and very separate employers.

    • Amish Robot Amishrobot is a website by my friend Josh Penrod, a User Experience Manager of substantial talent, with a wacky view of the world.
    • ART by Stowe Featuring the illustrations of the masterful, ahem, illustration editor of Letter Off Dead, Mr. James Stowe.
    • Beautiful Angle Beautiful Angle, a letterpress poster project by Tom Llewellyn and Lance Kagey.
    • Feed Tacoma Tacoma blogs, all in one place.
    • The Angsty Writer Tacoma writer Megan Bostic sharing her angst in her distinct, sassy voice. Check her out.