Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Once More into the Trenches

Once more into the trench, dear friends, once more,
And clog our e-mail with our rejected.

If I'd planned ahead, I probably could have parodied the whole thing.  But it's late and I'm tired, so two lines are all you get.  :P

But yes, it's time to start the query process, and enter those trenches once again.  I was going to say I hadn't done this since 2013, then I looked back at some dates and realized no, I queried The Accidental Warlock in 2014.  Looking back at those notes, I realize I didn't get as much silence from those queries as I thought - my silence-vs-rejection ratio was about 50%.  But I remember the silence more.  I noticed the silence more.  Getting rejected is something I'm used to by now, but opening e-mail and hoping even for bad news and seeing nothing?  There's something different about that, something colder and more bleak.

I mean, for all its problems, Skyborne got one partial request from an agent and one full request due to a contest.  (A full request that never would have panned out anyway since the book wasn't a romance, but all the same.)  And I thought TAW was a much better book than that.  So hearing back what felt like so much nothing?  That hit me hard, and I think that silence was a major factor in why I set the book aside after only a few months of querying.  That, and 2014 was a bad year for a lot of things, writing among them. music player just started playing "Don't Stop Believin'", so it's clearly time for me to stop brooding on the past.

I'd like to think that things will be different this time.  Yes, I've thought that with every book, but I have a better feeling about The Book of Lost Runes than ones I've queried before.  Have I said that about past books I've queried?  Of course.  If nothing else, I'm well-aware of my own vicious cycles.  But I think I can do better this time.  I have a good query, thanks to all the feedback I got here.  I might actually have a good synopsis, since scribbling that out went much more smoothly than I anticipated.  (How I'm going to fit it into one page for one agent on my list, though, I have no idea.)

Most importantly, I have a story that features what's probably the best version I've ever written of two characters who have lived in my head since 2002.  And if all goes well, I have a reasonably good idea of what's going to happen to them next.  Yes, I'll keep working on that while I query, in hopes I'll finally have a need for a sequel plot.

It's never easy to toss my work out into the world and politely scream "PLEASE LOVE ME."  But I keep telling myself, I have to keep telling myself, somewhere out there is someone who wants to represent the kind of books I want to write.  I just have to find them.

In that search, I've been making use of Query Tracker's literary agent search, which at current count has over 150 agents who are looking for fantasy.  I haven't plowed through the entire list yet to see who sounds like someone I want to query, but y'know, that's an awesome addition to the list I already have.  And I'm going to look into small presses as well, especially after seeing Rena's awesome cover from my last entry.  If anyone else has any suggestions or sources for this kind of thing, please share.

Next week: IWSG, wherein I shall confess the sins of my writing past and encourage others to do the same.  Bwa ha ha.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015


Y'all have no idea how excited I am to post this.  ^_^

Rena and I have been friends since 1998.  We met back in college, in fencing club, proving that hitting each other with swords is highly underrated as a bonding experience.  Along with moving across the country twice and spending untold hours lost in tabletop gaming, we've both been writing and chasing the dream of publication for many, many years.

And now, I am both ecstatic and ridiculously proud to help reveal the cover of her first published novel:

Allyson fights acne, not trolls. As an inhaler-carrying member of the asthma society, she just wants to meet the father who turned her mother into a paranoid, move-across-the-nation freak. Now she’s trying to fit in at yet another school, but for the first time in her life, she has a best friend, Beth. When Allyson accidentally spits fire at kidnappers in the mall, she realizes why her father isn’t in the picture: she’s half dragon. Her acne? Emerging scales. Her asthma? The side effects of her dragon’s fire breath. Instead of freaking out, unflappable Beth reveals her own troll heritage and explains how things work with the supernatural creatures hiding within the modern world of smartphones and skyscrapers.

When trolls kidnap a unicorn, Beth gets blamed. Allyson is determined to prove Beth’s innocence and keep her friend off the unicorn chopping block. When they start looking for the kidnappers, they get a call from the last person they expect: Allyson’s father. He tries to warn them off, but he’s been put under a spell by the kidnappers to keep the victims from escaping. Nothing short of death can stop him. Now Allyson must choose between killing the father she’s always dreamed of, or letting her best friend die for a crime she didn’t commit. 

Like most mad scientists, Rena Rocford’s early works were largely met with scorn and mockery, but she bided her time. After all, what did her fellow kindergarteners know about literature? From that day forward, Rena kept her writing on the mythical back burner as she pursued more logical goals. Today, crayons. Tomorrow, the world. She moved on to essays and egg drops, followed by experiments in shady laboratories. She tried her hand at everything, learning from anyone who would teach her. She even moonlighted as a horseback riding instructor.

 Admittedly, living as a muggle brought Rena some levels of success such as completing her master’s degree, but always the stories returned, calling her to the keyboard in the dark of night. Now, having built armies from words, Rena has set her sights on world domination, one book at a time.

From her secret base in the wine country, Rena has enlisted the help of her cats, her loyal dogs, and her family―who can be relied upon to hide the launch codes at a moment’s notice. You can find Rena at her blog, follow her on Twitter, GoodReads, or find her on Facebook. Her debut novel, Acne, Asthma, and Other Signs You Might Be Half Dragon comes out November 23rd, 2015.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Perchance to Dream Again

“A thousand dreams within me softly burn.”  --Arthur Rimbaud

A few nights ago, I finished rereading the crazy dream book.  This is something I wrote because I knew I had to - because if I didn't, it would become one of those things I'd always think about and wonder if I could have made it work.  And now that I've reread the whole thing, I'm left with more questions than when I started.

These aren't bad questions, though they leave me wondering if it's worth it to spend more time working on this book.  In general, I like it.  There are some repetitive parts; the main character continues to reflect on how weird things are even after she's come to accept that she's inside someone else's dream.  Of the eleven characters who make up the cast, only three or four of them get any significant development, and too much of it is right before they leave the story forever.  Also, the structure of a series of duels leading to the grand finale leads to the story feeling like it's deliberately stalling between the duels, even though we learn most of the important plot points during that time.

And I hate to say it, but my biggest fear about this book did in fact come to pass: it's just not weird enough.

On the plus side, the weird parts work really well.  Much of it feels like we're seeing a tiny piece of an unexplained mythology.  One of the characters, her bizarre nature is never truly explained, but she comes off as damaged and sympathetic.  Another character who loves being in the dream because he can be exactly who he wants to be has a particularly difficult scene when he's forced to wake up.  And the ending, warped and surreal as it is, really works.

So there's potential here.  It will need work to be a book worth reading, and I think I'll need to switch it to first person perspective, to really delve into the main character's head.  (Which will lead to some serious problems with the ending, but I'm getting ahead of myself.)  But there are a lot of things about the story I'm just not sure about, things I don't know if I can fix.

As cynical as it sounds, I'm also wondering if I should invest more time and effort in a story that, odds are good, would never sell.

I know I'm at the stage where I should be writing whatever I want, because I don't have any deadlines or obligations or anything of the sort, and it's impossible to know what's going to work out.  I'm sure there are more than a few authors who've been in this same place and the book they thought would never sell turned out to be the one that started their career.  But this book has always felt like the sort of thing that would just be too damn odd for any publisher to pick up, and knowing I'll have to make it weirder to make it work right doesn't help.

Fortunately, I don't have to make this decision right away.  I've taken down some notes on possible changes, and I'm going to see if I can figure out how to make this thing work the way I think it should.  I keep hoping to have some sudden flash of inspiration and somehow know exactly what to change and how.  If I can figure it out, cool.  If not, no worries; at least I gave it a shot and won't have to wonder how it would have turned out.

If I do decide to rewrite it, I'm thinking about doing that for NaNoWriMo this year, both since I've never actually participated in NaNo and because I know a NaNo project isn't something I'd take seriously as a potential book to sell.

Or I could write this ridiculous idea I had on Monday, which is easily one of the stupidest concepts I've ever come up with but the pitch line alone would probably sell it.  >_<

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

IWSG: The Tower of Discards

No, that's not a location on a fantasy writer's nightmare map.  What this is, though, is another IWSG moment of me asking for advice, instead of attempting to give it.

I've written a lot of books over the years.  If the count I just did is correct, I'm up to fourteen, and that's assuming I didn't somehow miss one or two.  And while I know it's important to not compare myself to others, since every writer's journey is different, I know I'm on the high end of how many books authors tend to write before they get published.

I have a problem: I give up on my own writing too easily.  And I don't know how to stop.

As I've talked about over the past few months, I'm working toward querying The Book of Lost Runes, though doing some major rewrites has stalled that.  But once my beta readers for the latest version of the book get back to me and I make whatever changes I need to, it'll be time to move on to the next step.  And yet I can't help thinking about setting it aside to work on something else.

Yes, this is the book I wrote an entire blog entry about, saying how happy I was that I'd told the exact story I wanted to tell.  Even now, despite my doubts (the usual ones and those specific to this book), I still think it's a good story.  It's still what I want it to be.

None of which keeps me from thinking I should trunk it and write something better.  I mean, I keep talking about how I finally feel like I'm getting better, so whatever I write next will have to be awesome, right?  Sure, until I decide to stop working on that one too.

I've been here, at this exact place, over and over.  No matter where I get in the query process, I stop when I start to think that no one's going to want to see the book, and I move on to something else completely.  If I was just setting a book aside for a while, planning to go back to it later, that would be okay, I think.  But no.  It's always "No one wants to read this, so into the trash it goes."  I'm only writing about it now because I'm feeling like this before I've even started to query.

So yeah, this does kind of boil down to me requesting an intervention.  For myself.  >_<

I don't know if everyone's been where I am right now, but I think most if not all of us can understand that feeling of wanting to toss something aside and start all over.  I've spent way too much time here, and this is not a place where I want to be.  But unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be something I can just flex my willpower at and declare with all my might that I'm going to press forward, and watch it disappear.  The feeling just comes right back.

So I'd appreciate any advice y'all can offer on this.  I am still pressing ahead with BoLR; I'm working on the query for that while waiting to hear back from betas, and of course working on other projects like I talked about last week.  But I could use help with this.

Next week: The Full Rewrite., not for BoLR, not after everything I just wrote...

One more thing: I'm featured over at Dianne Salerni's blog today!  She does a feature called First Impressions, where writers can have their book's first page posted and get critique.  If you want to read the first page or so of The Book of Lost Runes, head on over.  ^_^