Here's how I knew the book wasn't ready yet.
In November 2011, I joined an online writer's workshop that I had been referred to by a SEAK attendee: thenextbigwriter.com Despite the grandiose name, the SEAK person had told me it was a supportive group -- and she was absolutely right.
The first person who reviewed me became a good friend, and we have remained so to this day. John Hamler, wordsmith extraordinaire and my nighttime buddy -- may he soon finish Antagony and be the next literary rock star. And then there's Jenn Nissley, an incredible literary fiction writer, who I am convinced will win the Faulkners and go on to superstardom.
Some of the others? Graeme Lipper, another SEAK doc and a great med thriller writer; Simi Monheit, fabuloso unabashed chick lit writer; Teri Taylor, hilarious creator of the 'Trailer Girls' books; Christina Michaels, Jeni Decker, Cathy Jones, all terrific crime novelists; Deedra Climer, intense as they come; Carlyle Clark, one of coolest guys ever; Terry McDonald, John VanCott, C Brass and Nathan B Childs, who were amazing reviewers; Felix Ulrich, who taught me a valuable lesson on 'filtering' verbs... see what I mean?
There are a lot of good people out there in cyberspace, not just stalkers who want to sell you Canadian drugs and sex tools, and want to invade your bank account...
I also hired a writing coach, Diana Amsterdam, who had come to my attention by way of a really excellent lawyer-writer friend, Allison Leotta. I'd never met either of them in person until mid-2012. Diana used the Socratic Method - something that drove me crazy in law school, as well as in Diana's lessons, but damn, it worked! She and I differed on several major issues - most significantly, Casey's family history - but she really made me think hard about what I was doing, and more importantly, she helped me figure out how to do it.
I workshopped online with TNBW through about May 2013, which brings me to the four-year mark since Bob Dugoni told me to make the lawyer my lead. I spent the summer of 2013 polishing polishing polishing, and hired an editor that someone on TNBW referred to me - Laura Kingsley, what a great pair of extra eyes!
By August 2013, I felt like I was ready to query/submit. I also felt that if I wasn't ready by then, I never would be.