Cozy mystery author Cate Price

Back in September I had the pleasure of speaking at the Valley Forge Romance Writers chapter in Philadelphia and had a blast – but also met debut author Cate Price.  It’s not often I run across a cozy mystery author at an RWA chapter, but it’s happening more and more lately.  I invited Cate to come share her call story with us and she graciously accepted.  Here’s Cate…

When One Door Closes… 

Cate PriceA writer’s road to publication can be a long and difficult one, but if you keep your mind open to all the possibilities along the way, sometimes dreams can come true in ways you never expected.

Thanks so much for inviting me to the Lair today! It’s an honor to be he

I took a slightly different path to publication than I’d expected. About twelve years ago, I joined Romance Writers of America, determined to finish a book after years of jotting drivel down in notebooks. I wrote a romantic comedy, which finaled in the Golden Heart, then a romantic suspense, and finally a murder mystery with romantic elements that I really thought had some merit.

I attended an editor/agent panel where I was told “that book will never sell”, based simply on my query letter. I was crushed, but I didn’t give up. I mean, I really loved that book.

 I entered it in thirteen contests and it finaled in eight. Several agents requested the full, but then passed. When it eventually finaled in the prestigious RWA Kiss of Death Daphne Du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery and Suspense, I plucked up my courage and queried everyone on my top agent list, including my dream agency, BookEnds, LLC.

Not surprisingly, I received a rejection almost immediately, but a couple of weeks later, Lauren Ruth from BookEnds asked for the first fifty pages. I was sure it was somegoing-through-notions-200 kind of mistake, but hey, if they were going to open the door a crack, I was going to barge right through it!

 (By the way, this happens more than you might think. A top agent sends a rejection to clear out her in box, but then passes the submission on to her assistant for another look. So don’t be so quick to fire off those angry emails!)

Soon after, I received a note from Lauren saying she’d like to set up a call. I was confused. She hadn’t read the whole book yet, so how could she offer representation?

During the call, she told me the good news and bad news. The good news was that they loved my style, but the bad news was they felt the book I’d written wasn’t “marketable”. Not the first time I’d heard that, right? However a senior editor at Penguin had come up with the idea for a sewing-notions-themed series, and was looking for someone to write it. Lauren thought I would be a great fit.

I was smart enough to realize that this was a wonderful opportunity to work for a major publisher and sign with my dream agent, but it meant giving up on the The Book of My Heart. I also wasn’t sure how strange it would be to write from someone else’s guidelines. Truth be told, I was a bit worried about the whole sewing thing, too. You can fool some of the people some of the time, but if I was expected to be some kind of expert seamstress, it would have been a very tall order indeed 😮 . 

It was a lot to absorb in one phone call.

antiguesMy mind spinning, I asked if I could see the guidelines, saying I’d like the weekend to think it over. As I read them before I went to bed that Friday night, I was relieved to see the heroine actually owned an antiques store, which sold vintage sewing notions as well as other treasures. She attended auctions and estate and yard sales looking for merchandise. Well, this was right up my alley, as browsing around flea markets is one of my favorite things to do!

Around 3 a.m. I woke with my brain bursting with ideas for characters, plot twists, and red herrings. At 5 a.m., even though it seemed ridiculous to be getting up that early on a Saturday morning, I got out of bed, sat down at the computer and began to write. (Little did I know that what seemed so crazy then would soon become a habit). I wrote for four hours straight, stopping only to make more coffee.

 The guidelines were brief, but cleverly written. There was a wealth of inspiration in those few pages, but not too much detail as to stifle any creativity, and I felt an immediate connection to whoever had penned them. 

I emailed Lauren to tell her how excited I was, and she said she would send out the agency contract and let the editor know I was on board.

(On Monday morning, in a bittersweet twist, I received an email from another very good agent, who had read the first fifty pages of my original book and wanted to see the full. But I felt I was committed to my newA Dollhouse to Die Forturn in the road now, so had to decline. I also quickly emailed everyone else I had ever contacted to say I was off the market).

A couple of months later, I submitted a proposal, which consisted of the first three chapters and synopsis for GOING THROUGH THE NOTIONS, and Berkley Prime Crime offered a three-book deal based on the proposal alone. 

Luckily, my editor is delighted with how her vision and my interpretation have turned out to be so in line. She tells me she thinks we were separated at birth! 

But the point is, it was a leap of faith at the time, and one that I could have easily passed on. I could have stuck to my guns and stubbornly insisted on trying to sell that Book of My Heart. However, my decision has turned out to be a great one, and a good lesson to keep my mind open to all possibilities and be ready to change course, if necessary.

 (That book that I loved so much is still sitting on my computer, and while it may never sell, I will always be grateful for the doors it opened for me).

How about you? Has there ever been a time when you took a risk and it paid off? Or not?!

Today, I’m giving away a copy of GOING THROUGH THE NOTIONS to a random commenter. I also love to hear from readers at or on Facebook at or on Twitter @catepriceauthor 

Cate’s risk definitely paid off.  Check out the cover for the next Deadly Notions Mystery, A Dollhouse to Die For (Gee – I have a dollhouse just like that in my basement).  Here’s the blurb from Going Through the Notions to whet your appetite.

antiques2A retired schoolteacher—and yes, daughter of an F. Scott Fitzgerald fan—Daisy Buchanan has finally found her calling in the quaint village of Millbury, Pennsylvania. While her husband endlessly renovates their old house, Daisy happily presides over Sometimes a Great Notion, a quirky shop that sells sewing bits and bobs, antiques, and jewelry.
Daisy has her eye on an antique dollhouse and a classic Singer Featherweight at the local auction—until her friend and mentor, auctioneer Angus Backstead, is led away in handcuffs. It appears he bashed in the head of a drinking buddy who stole a set of fancy fountain pens. Daisy’s sure the sprightly old-timer couldn’t have done it. But if Daisy can’t stitch together the bidder truth—and soon—Angus will be going once, going twice… gone forever.

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  • Lianne says:

    Seeing the book covers makes me want to read them!

    • Lianne, have you won the rooster before? He’s a curmudgeonly example of poultry that goes to the first commenter of the day so congratulations!

    • Caren Crane says:

      Oh, Lianne. Be prepared for the Golden Rooster to wreak havoc on your plans for the day. He can be surly at times and certainly doesn’t let anyone do things like sit at the computer browsing books! I agree, though, that Cate’s covers are wonderful!

    • Lianne –

      I agree. Love Cate’s covers as well as the cute titles.

      Perhaps you’re assuming a risk keeping the GR for the day. Put him to work! Personally, I think he makes a great feather duster 🙂 and lock up yur chocolates.

    • Cate Price says:

      Lianne, keep an eye on that rooster. He sounds like a bit of a handful! Hope he brings you good luck in the giveaway.

      My covers were done by the artist Ben Perini and I love them. I think he did a fantastic job.

      Have a great day!

  • Cate, I loved your call story! They’re always great, aren’t they? Donna, thanks for bringing Cate to the lair. Cate, congratulations on your sale. What a roundabout way to get to a great place to be! Hope you enjoyed the journey. Like Lianne, I love the covers!

  • Amy Conley says:

    Hello Cate! Your books and the way they came about is really a wake-up call about taking that extra chance. And having it pay off. Congrats and the book looks awesome too,

    • Amy –

      Isn’t it interesting how sometimes things all come together? Not exactly stress-free, but taking a risk often pays off.

    • Cate Price says:

      Hi Amy,
      Yes, you never know when the extra effort you made to enter that contest just under the deadline wire will pay off, or if the person you had a nice chat with in the elevator at a conference might turn out to be your editor someday. And never, never, never give up!

  • Mary Preston says:

    I do enjoy a cozy mystery & those covers are just so fantastic.

    • Mary –

      I was noticing how the dress and the sewing machine are in the next cover as well. I have an old sewing machine downstairs like that. Hmm…I have the dollhouse and the sewing machine…guess my life in general is a mystery 🙂

    • Cate Price says:

      Hi Mary! I feel very lucky that I have the talented Ben Perini creating these covers. I thought the one for GOING THROUGH THE NOTIONS was great, but I think I like A DOLLHOUSE TO DIE FOR even more. Can’t wait to see what he does for Book 3!

  • Helen says:


    I do love the sound of these books and I love the covers huge congrats and taking that turn in direction I don’t think I have ever done that sort of thing but if a possibility cmae up I would give it a go so glas you did

    Have Fun

  • Shannon says:

    I’m a researcher-writer who has to keep up with events in my field. When I come across a development, I basically have to come up with a proposal for a 10 line article, a 500 word essay, 800 word graphic, or a 1250 word study. I have to explain the what, the so what, and the why of the development. Most of my idea’s don’t meet threshhold; yet if I want to be “published,” I had to put forth my ideas and risk rejection. The good news right now is I am working on a long study; the bad news is that the publication date has been moved up and I have to get the 91 citations filled out according to the style manual.

    I’m glad you took the risk and you have your first book published! What a choice you had to make. Good luck on your second and third books.

    • Sharon –

      I don’t think most people realize how many rejections we receive as a writer. They think you write and voila – you get paid. It doesn’t quite work that way. But good for you on the long study and the publishing credential.

    • Cate Price says:

      I like to think that nothing is ever wasted. All those proposals you’ve done in the past (whether rejected or not) have given you the necessary experience and skill to be able to handle 91 citations in a hurry. Good luck with your new deadline, Shannon!

  • Teresa Hughes says:

    I’ve never been much of a risk taker. However, my mom told me about six months ago she thought I should try writing a book. I used to love writing stories in school and I read all the time. “She said I should do it and see what happens.” So I am working on my first book and will be taking a risk by submitting it in the near future.

    Thanks for sharing your experience! It gave me insight into what to expect.


    • Caren Crane says:

      Teresa, that’s fantastic! I’m so glad you’re mom gave you a push to try your hand. Can’t wait to see the finished product! 🙂

    • Teresa –

      Good Luck with the book! Publishing is never easy but I do so love the journey. You learn so much about the craft, the industry, and yourself along the way. Can’t wait to see your name on a cove. Good Luck!

    • Cate Price says:

      Hi Teresa! Good for you. If you’re writing romance, Romance Writers of America has many chapters across the country, and it’s where I found the courage to finally show someone else my writing. It felt like such a huge accomplishment to actually finish a book. Yay to your mom for being so supportive, too.

  • Quantum says:

    Hi Cate

    I do love a good mystery, but alas there is no e-book version to download.

    Have you considered self-publishing that book under the mattress?

    So many Indie authors have similar tales of rejection, but then achieve publishing success on their own. Lexi Revellian is one example springing to mind.

    • Quantum –

      GOING THROUGH THE NOTIONS is available in Kindle. Here’s the link

      Generally publishing with NY means they bring out the book in all formats simultaneously.

      • Quantum says:

        Thanks for the link Donna.

        Unfortunately I live in the UK and Amazon seems to discriminate against European customers. Very odd in a global digital market!

    • Cate Price says:

      Yes, I did consider it, but I went back and read the first few chapters the other day, and decided I would need to rework it a little first. It’s not quite enough of a romance, and not quite enough of a mystery. I feel as though I’ve gained an enormous amount of experience while writing this series, and even though I still love that book, I can see more clearly now what needs to be fixed.

  • Caren Crane says:

    Cate, what a great call-ish story you have! 😀 I think you are a champ for being able to set aside your vision for your career and take an alternate route. We all hate change!

    The Notions series sounds fabulous and I can tell the books are full of wit and humor. I hope these take off and you have a great time writing lots of these! And maybe one day you’ll get back to your other Great Ideas and we’ll get to see those, too. Win-win! 🙂

    • Caren –

      These days, no manuscript is ever wasted 🙂 . I think I’d have a hard time as well taking someone else’s vision and running with it. Kudos to Cate for making it work!

    • Cate Price says:

      Thanks so much for the warm welcome, Caren! I’m thoroughly enjoying writing this series, and have ideas for more adventures for these characters, so I hope it continues. I’ve learned so much already about the publishing business. One of the lessons I wanted to learn was how to write on a tight deadline. Be careful what you wish for 😉

  • Mozette says:

    Actually, I’m taking a big risk now… it’s been a crazy 2 months for me and it’s because I’ve started up a small hobby business online and am about to head off to the Creative Markets here in Brisbane. 🙂

    The Creative Markets are markets which are only for hand-made items. So, seeing I hand-paint clothes pegs, Dolly Pegs, Magnetic Pegs and pencils, I thought to give it go.
    I pulled together a bank account, sorted out an order book, business cards and a Facebook page and worked out a budget (well, kinda) and paid for a stall at the markets and I’m working my butt off to get myself all stocked up for them on 24th November!

    This is a big – huge – risk for me. I only hope it does pay off. So far, I have over $200-worth of goods I’ve done up, wrapped up and varnished… and I have a lot more to get done. I hope it all works out for me. If I do make some money at the Creative Market where I’m going, I’ll get together more stock and do it again in 2 months’ time, then get my act together more!

    Risks are weird… you either do them or you don’t. There’s no middle of the road. And if you don’t do them, you either regret not doing them, or are totally relieved you didn’t… this was something i wanted to do. I’m kinda scared, but I’m not… but I am. You know what it’s like – there’s a 50/50 chance of failure, but I’m on the 50% side of success because I’m very organised in the way that I have looked at this from all angles and know that I’ll be okay money-wise.

    And there’s my fb page for those of you who wish to see my work. 😀

    • Mosette –

      Very pretty! I didn’t realize pegs are clothespins. One of those language things. Yours are beatiful! They look like they take a lot of time to paint. You do fabulous detail. Good Luck with this new venture. I hope your new risk pays off.

    • Cate Price says:

      I wish you all the very best in your new business venture! The clothes pegs are beautiful, and I really think they should sell well. It’s just the type of little gift I’d buy for my friends and family. And you’re right about going for it one hundred percent. That’s the only way to do it!

  • Quantum –

    Going Through the Notions is available in Kindle. Here’s the link

    Generally publishing with NY means that bring out the book in all formats simultaneously.

  • may says:

    Not really…. I guess the biggest risk I have taken is marriage since it ends in divorce 50% of the time… So far, my husband and I are happy…

    Congrats on yor book!

  • Sue Spina says:

    I loved “Going Through the Notions” and I am anxiously awaiting book 2. I enjoyed reading your story Cate! Wishing you much continued success!

    • Cate Price says:

      Thanks so much, Sue! Copy edits for A DOLLHOUSE TO DIE FOR are due on Monday, so I guess that will keep me out of trouble this weekend. It’s scheduled to come out May 6, but if I receive some author copies ahead of time, I’m sure I’ll do a giveaway. Will let you know!

  • sandyg265 says:

    I love the book cover. I’m going to have to add this to my TBR list.

  • Anna Sugden says:

    Welcome to the Lair, Cate! What a fabulous story about your journey to being published!

    I took several risks along the way with my writing career – writing about a hockey player at a time when everyone said sports heroes were a no-no, being one 🙂

    • Anna –

      Cate has a distinctive British accent to her voice. You two should compare notes.

    • Cate Price says:

      Thank you, Anna! I think every ‘Rule’ can be broken if you know what you’re doing. And who doesn’t like hunky hockey players?!

      I was born in England and came to the U.S. when I was sixteen, so I still have a bit of an accent 🙂

      • Anna Sugden says:

        We love our hockey hunks, here in the Lair! 😉

        How funny! I was born over here – lived in the US from 9-21, just outside DC, though went back to boarding school. Then my hubby and I spent 6 years in NJ!

  • bn100 says:

    yes, a few times

  • catslady says:

    I too love the covers and I’m glad she took the risk. I think we all take risks every day – some are just smaller than others lol.

    • Cate Price says:

      Yes, we all take risks, and we also sometimes miss opportunities because they don’t come in the manner we expected.

      One of my favorite poems is ‘The Road Not Taken’ by Robert Frost. Depending on which path we take at a fork in the road might make all the difference in our lives.

  • Welcome to the Lair, Cate! Donna, thanks for introducing us all to Cate.

    Hmm, Cate, your journey sounds strangely similar to my own! I was hoping to break into romance but mysteries kept showing up in my manuscripts! I finally gave in to the mystery side and that’s when I finally published. I love the mystery world and I hope you’re enjoying the ride, too!

    GOING THROUGH THE NOTIONS sounds intriguing and fun–and your covers are charming! I’m a cozy fan so the covers and titles are always a treat. 🙂

    PS, I just jogged over to pick up a copy of your book and can’t wait to read it!

  • Cate Price says:

    Hi Kate,

    Thank you for the lovely welcome. It’s an honor to meet you here. I am enjoying the ride very much. I loved writing romance, but I really like the puzzle aspect of mysteries.

    And thank you SO much for buying the book. I’m overwhelmed!

  • Jeanne Adams says:

    Hey Cate! Welcome to the Lair! I LOVE the covers! ANd your call story was so fun! Like Donna, I’m meeting more and more mystery-with-a-little-romanc authors at meetings! Grins.

    Hope they’re all as nice and as talented as you. :>

    Donna, thanks for the intor to Cate’s work!

  • Cate Price says:

    Aw, thank you, Jeanne! It’s a treat to be here 🙂

  • Pat Cochran says:

    Way back in the day, I was dating a young man who was just that: somewhat younger than I. He asked me to marry him several times, but I just couldn’t get past the age difference. I felt it might be a bit risky! We never did encounter any risks and have been together for more than fifty years!

    Thanks for visiting the Lair today and I’m in agreement on
    the outstanding covers!

    Pat C.

  • Hi, Cate.

    Hearty congratulations on making your dream come true. I love the way you barged through the door, and look forward to reading your series.

    Best wishes!


    • Cate Price says:

      Thanks, Patricia. This was my dream agency (and still is). Lauren has since moved on, but now I’m represented by the equally fabulous Jessica Alvarez at BookEnds. I couldn’t be happier.

  • Becke Turner says:

    Congratulations. I wish you the best of success.

    I’m a risk-taker and so far I’m not too bruised. My risks have not always been successful, but I believe we all are exactly where we’re supposed to be.

    Of course that doesn’t stop that covet bug from stinging us!

  • Cate Price says:

    If we don’t try, and don’t take a risk sometimes, we’ll never know what could have been. Even if it doesn’t quite work out, there’s probably a lesson to be learned so it’s not a complete loss. Sometimes I look back at the things I’ve achieved and wonder how I ever had the nerve, but at the time I just put my head down and went for it and hoped for the best! And I agree, Becke, our choices make us who we are.

  • Jo Robertson says:

    Hi, Cate! Welcome to the Lair. Your call story sent shivers up my spine. I’m so glad you had the flexibility to take the course you did.

    I’m not much of a risk-taker, but I think all writers have to put their hearts and egos on the line when it comes to submissions.

  • Cate Price says:

    Hi Jo,

    I hope it doesn’t sound strange to say I’m glad I sent shivers up your spine, but I think that’s what mystery writers are supposed to do, right?!

    It is a risk to open yourself up to criticism and rejection, but I’ve been lucky enough to receive some great feedback and support along the way, too. I remember the first time I entered a contest and I got the judged entries back. It literally took me an hour of procrastinating before I could bear to open the package (this was back in the Dark Ages before entries were emailed), but the comments were so kind and constructive. I always think of those first judges of mine when I critique contest entries for others, and hope I can be as helpful.

  • Kat Sheridan says:

    What a great call story! And the book sounds like so much fun! Sometimes I really, really love to curl up with a cozy. I love all the intimate little details, the great characters, and the fun settings. Best of luck with this!