Thursday, April 29, 2010

What is Next For Lady Glynis Wright? And for me?

I received this comment today on a previous post for The Tale of the Vampire Bride.

Hi, I'm a French student of English and I'd just like to say thank you for writing such an amazing book ! "The Tale of the Vampire Bride" is definitely the best novel I've read in the last few years. Lady Glynis Wright is a smart and endearing heroine, and I felt so connected to her that I would actually cry everytime someone she loved died. I read this book a month ago, but I'm still obsessed with it ! Are you planning to write a sequel ?
I was going to write an answer in the comments, then realized it could be missed.

The answer is that my agent is currently reading both of my vampire novels and then we will discuss whether or not to pitch them to publishers. Though The Tale of the Vampire Bride has a home currently with The Library of Horror Press, Dr. Pus is more than willing to let me shop the book to a bigger house. But we'll see what my agent thinks.

Even if TotVB does not move onto a bigger house, I will still write the sequel to the novel. It is tentatively named The Vengeance of the Vampire Bride and takes place immediately after the events in the first book.

Now, the question is when will I be able to write it! UGH! Like most writers, I have a full time job and I have to write at night or on the weekends.

The books I have tentatively slated to write in the next 18 months:

  • Pretty When She Kills
  • The Last Bastion of the Living (futuristic zombie tale)
  • The Vengeance of the Vampire Bride
  • Untitled Post Apocalyptic novel

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Authors (and Publishers) Behaving Badly

Every once and awhile an author has a very public meltdown somewhere on the internet. It can be on Amazon or a blog or a forum. A bad review usually sparks the volcanic explosion that splatters all over the blogsphere and ends up in deleted posts, much crying, and sometimes idle threats.

In December, Neil Gaiman even tweeted about an epic meltdown on Amazon where the author threatened to report anyone responding negatively to her to the FBI. He wasn't the only one to point out the insanity erupting over on Amazon. The author began deleting her comments, but it was too late. She was the talk of the blogsphere.

Even Alice Hoffman, a very famous novelist, had her own meltdown on Twitter when a reviewer did not like her latest novel.

It's rough to see another author basically lose it over a bad review. I always flinch when things like this go down though I do understand exactly how they feel. As I have stated before, its like having someone tell you that your kid is butt ugly. It took a little bit of time for me to develop a thick skin.

So do reviews sting? Yep. But at the same time as an author, you have to let it go and move on.

But what happens when it is the publisher that responds badly?

Recently, a friend of mine posted a review on amazon for a zombie novel. She had never heard of the author, but the premise sounded interesting. As she was reading the book, she even told me some of the things she had liked about the plot and was looking forward to the ending. When she finished, she posted a four star review. Her only complaint? The editing. Which doesn't surprise me, because she zinged me with the same comment long before we knew each other. She's a stickler for editing. In fact, she edited my last novel for Library of Horror Press. She wields her red pen like a saber.

So, to summarize...four star review...only complaint...editing.

The publisher came at her immediately. In fact, he had remembered her from a previous review of his novel where she had made a similar comment. He launched into several attacks (which she edited and reposted....LOL) and he kept coming at her. Finally, he declared full out war on her and said he was going to get her fired. Since she uses her real name in her reviews, he used Google to find out where she worked.

Yes, he actually called the law firm where she works to get her fired.

When she called me up to tell me, she was laughing, but in shock. I felt my own mouth drop open.

Again...four star review...only complaint is editing.

With the help of the lawyers of her firm, she crafted a response, which she posted on Amazon. Since then, he has called on all his authors to write positive reviews for each other and has attacked a blog that reports on his bad behavior (using very nasty homophobic comments). He went back and deleted all his comments on Amazon and changed the screen names to Suzy Q. But, this won't help him. She has all the email notifications from showing his aliases and comments.

So how do I feel about all this?

I feel terribly for the authors. It's one thing to deal with your own professionalism in the business when things are rough, but quite another to have your publisher take a dive into the deep end of the crazy pool.

I'm not worried for my friend. She's got a salvo of lawyers on her end that have been in communication with the authorities and are aware of internet laws. In fact, I think she finds the whole thing rather amusing. Whenever I chat with her on the phone, she's laughing.

But I can't help think about that author, whose book she really liked, and how he must feel. He did thank her for her review and she plans to read his future works. He was courteous and professional and she is his fan. Luckily, the publisher's behavior has not affected that author/reader relationship. But what about in other cases?

The last two years have taught me a lot. One of those lessons is when to shut up and just ignore the crazy. When you don't pay attention to it, it becomes white noise.

So, dear authors, ignore the bad reviews, even if they are personal potshots at you, and recognize its better to move on than get involved in a flame ware (like that publisher).

I guess a second lesson that can be gleaned from this is research the small publishers you are dealing with. A little research could save you some grief.

In the end, it is never easy to face criticism, but it is always better to keep your head up, your mouth shut, and a smile on your face than end up the bane of the blogsphere.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Big Shout Out to My Agent, Hannah Gordon

My agent actually made it to England for the big London Book Fair that ended up not being so big due to a certain volcano. A diverted flight and 9 hour bus ride don't sound like a lot of fun, but I guess its all part of the job of being an agent.

Hopefully, she will have a much easier time getting home today. I got my fingers crossed that she'll be safely back in NYC soon.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

My Absolute Write Post-How I was Published

Two of the ladies over on Absolute Write asked about how I got published by Tor. So I tried to condense down my story for easy reading. Most of you already know how I started as an Indie Author, but for those new to the blog, here is a short version (hehehe..kinda short) that I ended up posting on Absolute Write.

My road to the Tor book deal was not the one usually traveled. Don’t get me wrong. I tried for years to find my way into publishing through traditional means. I met a lot of rejection because I was basically doing everything wrong. I didn’t realize that at the time and stopped writing for several years discouraged with the process and drained of all hope.

A few years later, a friend of mine started editing for a small press. She remembered I had a vampire novel in progress (more like on indefinite hold) and offered to help me get it ready for submission. The publisher wanted to see it as soon as it was done, so it seemed that I would finally get my foot in the publishing door. I set about rewriting my vampire story (it needed a lot of work) and was happy to have someone guiding me.

It was about this time that I had a vivid image come to mind one day while I was at work. I saw a woman, in a pink bathrobe, long hair flowing in the wind, standing on her front porch, staring down at tiny fingers pressed under the door desperately reaching for her. I knew instantly that it was the first day of the zombie rising and that her zombified toddler and family were trapped in the house. She was the lone survivor and in shock. That is how I came to meet Jenni. I took a break, wrote a quick “short story,” posted it to a forum, and went back to work. I had never written a zombie story before and I was surprised how easily it had come.

The response on the forum was very positive and people asked if I was going to continue the story. I sat at my desk and wondered if there was more. It was like the scene from the Matrix when they jack in and get a massive download of information. Suddenly, the whole story was just there…just sitting in my mind…just waiting to be written.

Over the next two years, I wrote the story in “mini-chapters” and posted it online. It garnered a huge following. I was surprised to have a growing fanbase that clamored for more and reviewed the chapters as they were posted. When the epic zombie tale was done, the fans wanted it published so they could own their own copies.

The small press interested in the vampire novel had closed their doors before I even finished the rewrite, so I knew I had to buckle down and send out query letters. My query letters suck. They really do. They’re awful. I was turned down over and over again. Yet, the fans kept begging for the story to be published. I was receiving emails on nearly a daily basis. The fans just couldn’t understand why a big NYC publisher wasn’t snapping up the story.

It was my husband who sat me down and said, “Look, with all the new media taking off, we can publish As The World Dies ourselves.” I was very resistant to the idea, but the more we researched, the more possible it seemed. I already had a fanbase waiting, a blog that I could use to update the fans, we knew artists, and had friends who could edit. As the last round of rejection letters came in, it made sense to go our own way. The fans were waiting.

As The World Dies ended up three books. It was over 1,600 pages long when I finally compiled the entire thing and over 300,000 words. It was enormous. Luckily, there were places in the story where we could cut it and make it into three books. As The World Dies: The First Days was released August 14, 2008. Sales were slow the first month, but within three months the book had caught on and it hasn’t truly slowed down since. It has garnered very good reviews from the horror community ( gave it four stars). Because of the strong female protagonist, Jenni and Katie, the books have gained a large female following as well. The Hathor Legacy, which highlights strong women in media, gave it a very good review, and Rainbow Reviews also gave it a great review, concentrating on the bisexual character of Katie. Bitten by Books has given the first two books glowing reviews.

As The World Dies: The First Days won the 2008 Dead Letter Award for Best Book (Fiction) and was named one of the Top 10 Best Zombie Novels of the Decade in December 2009.

As The World Dies: Fighting to Survive, also received positive reviews and won the 2009 Dead Letter Award for Best Book (Fiction). As The World Dies: Siege was released on August 14, 2009, completing the trilogy.

The TV/Film rights for the series were optioned in September 2009 and the paperwork was signed at Horror Realm in Pittsburgh where I was attending as a guest author. The producer is currently working on trying to bring the books to TV. He had approached me about the film option in May and I liked his vision. Since the option was signed, I have been approached by other directors, producers and screenwriters about the option.

Permuted Press, an indie publisher that is now co-publishing books with Simon & Schuster, had approached me soon after the release of the first book about publishing all three novels. I had considered the offer then refused it, feeling I needed to give the Indie Author route a good shot before giving up. After the Tor deal was announced, he told me I did the right thing turning him down.

Right before Horror Realm I was approached by another publisher (who shall remain nameless). Luckily, I had an entertainment lawyer (due to the TV/Film option) and he advised me to find a literary agent after hearing the offer (yeah, it was that lackluster). He offered to refer me to literary agents he works with and I agreed.

Within a week, I was mailing off copies of my novels to Hannah Brown Gordon, literary agent from Foundry Literary + Media in New York. It was just another week before I heard back that she liked what she was reading. Within two weeks, we had a phone conference and she offered to represent me. I discussed it with my husband and I signed on with Foundry right before Thanksgiving.

Over the Christmas holidays I compiled all my reviews, interviews, awards, etc and sent the whole package to Hannah. She wrote the pitch and put together the package in January. In the last week of January, she pitched As The World Dies: The First Days.

On February 8th, we got word that Tor was interested.

March 15th we had a good deal for all three books.

The moment it all became real was when Senior Tor Editor, Melissa Singer, sent me an email that read “A Deal! We got a deal!”

In all my dealings, not once did the fact that I had self-published work against me. If anything, the fact I had a fanbase, an author’s platform, solid sales, good reviews, and support from the horror/zombie community worked in my favor. I have actually been congratulated on my success and Tor has told me they look forward to building on the foundation I laid.

To think, I self-published to make my fans happy and inadvertently ended up fulfilling my greatest dream.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Just How Hard Is It To Get an Agent? Or Sell to An Editor?

Over on the Absolute Write forum, Soulcascade posted two links that could be viewed as very upsetting. It is a literary agent and an editor from Del Rey listing all the reasons why they reject manuscripts. Personally, being able to see why they reject manuscripts is very educational. It is like a checklist of what to avoid in your own work.

A few excerpts from Janet Reid, a literary agent:
Good premise, but the rest of the novel didn't hold up: 11

Not compelling or vivid, or focused; no plot/tension: 10

Slow start or the pace was too slow: 9

Structural problems with the novel: 8

Interesting premise, but not a fresh or new take on familiar plots/tropes: 7

Had caricatures rather than characters: 2

Needed more polish and editorial input than I wanted to do: 2

Good books but I couldn't figure out where to sell them: 7

Her complete list is here. Out of the 124 full manuscripts she requested to see, she signed only two.

The editor's list was also compelling. It revealed that sometimes your manuscript may be rejected simply because it is not what the editor was looking for.

An excerpt from the list by Del Rey editor, Betsy Mitchell:
Not what Del Rey is looking for (meaning we had enough on our list already of whatever subgenre was on offer): 22

A good manuscript but not right for our list (included a couple of nonfiction SF-related titles more suitable for a small press, the odd children's book, etc.) 14

Not a genre that's doing well right now (horror, mostly; some foreign novels being offered for translation, anthologies whose concepts weren't strong enough) 18

It is sometimes very hard to understand why the manuscript you love so much isn't picked up by an agent. The list above is a good starting point to make sure that any manuscript submitted is the best it can be.

The editor's list is probably a lot more eye opening to a lot of people. There is a belief that if a manuscript doesn't sell there is something wrong with the book. That isn't necessarily true. My own agent says she gets a lot of manuscripts sent to her that are good stories, but nothing makes them stand out. She has to reject them because she knows she can't sell them. Therefore, you may have an awesome manuscript on your hands, but it just might not suit the needs of the publishing houses. It may take a lot of submissions by your agent to finally find the right fit.

As my agent told me over and over again, "It only takes one."

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Your Writing Career and You - How to Determine Your Path

Recently I was asked to give another writer advice on their career path. I started to answer the email, then realized I didn't have an answer. The path I started on diverted onto a whole different one despite my own best laid plans. I aimed for an Indie Author career, hoping to one day create a big enough book list that I could support myself with my writing. I felt pretty good about this choice, then a whole lot of other things happened, and now I have a deal with Tor.

You have to get tough with yourself and be realistic when deciding in which direction you want to aim your writing career.

Here are your three basic options:

Indie Author
Indie Authors do all the work themselves because they are self-publishing their work to retain control. That is the main reason a lot of writers choose this path. They retain complete and total control over the creative content, the layout, the cover artwork, and the promotion/marketing of the book. They are 100 percent in charge. They also keep all their royalties (after the publish on demand company takes their cut for printing, etc) and can publish in the formats they choose (hard back, paperback, ebook).

It's all about control.

But it is also about ultimate responsibility. If the book doesn't sell well, looks crappy, reads horribly, etc...the responsibility is on the Indie Author alone. It also means not seeing your books on the shelves of your local bookstore (unless you somehow work a miracle with the buyers). Your book will also come under harsher criticism for editing than books traditionally published and you're going to take a lot of knocks for being self-published. It means a whole lot more work than you ever imagined with possibly very little reward.

Being an Indie Author in genre will put you one step ahead automatically. If you write to a small niche, there will be a better response, but you will have to work hard to reach out to your potential audience.

Being an Indie Author is fun and hard work (is it ever!), but can be very rewarding if you find the right recipe for your own personal success.

Small Press/Indie Press
The small press publishers are carving out their own niche in publishing as they put out works that appeal to specific audiences. For example, Library of the Living Dead Press specializes in zombie fiction. Permuted Press specializes in post apocalyptic fiction. Though I know the owners of both of these presses, I haven't had a lot of small press experience. I do know a lot of authors with the smaller presses and some have had very good experiences and others have not. Research is a very important part of the writing process and publishing process. Small presses can sometimes end up being a fly by night setup, so it is important to seek out as much information as you can about a small press before submitting.

Small presses can sometimes provide more personalized interaction with authors and better royalty scales (but not always). A few have made it into major book stores (like indie press Permuted Press) and/or are represented by literary agents to broker bigger deals. An author will most likely not have any control over the cover or the layout. You will still end up having to promote your own book even though the small press may provide some advertising around the web or in magazines. You won't be making a ton of money or going on expensive publicity tours, but your book will have the benefit of being released by a press with a good reputation.

The Big Guys
The Holy Grail of any writer is being published by an imprint of one of the big publishing houses in New York City. We all have day dreams of a huge advance, major marketing push, book tour, appearances on talk shows, etc., but the reality is that you may end up with a very small advance, still do most of the marketing yourself, have to put on your own book tour etc...

The big deal can happen and still does, but for a lot of authors it is not going to be the reality for their first novel. Carrie Vaughn, a bestselling author, sold her first book in her Kitty series for $7, 500 advance. She now lives off her writing and is very successful, but her first sale was not spectacular. My own Tor deal is not the norm for most writers.

The big publishers can get you into all the bookstores, which is a major plus for most writers. If your first book does well, you may end up with a better deal, and closer to your original dream.

Getting into the ranks of those published by the New York publishing houses is not easy though. Prepare for years of hard work and lots of rejection. You will need an agent to get into the big houses. And an agent is not easy to find. I won't go into detail about how to get an agent because there are plenty of websites out there to help you along. But trust me, it is not an easy route to take and you will have to develop a very thick skin.

But the reward could be amazing!

In the end, whichever route you choose, you will need to push yourself harder than you ever have before to accomplish your goals. You're going to have to grow a very thick skin and be ready for heartbreak along with your triumphs. You may start out in the small presses and decide to go indie, or decide that the big publisher is worth all the heartbreak. You may switch paths several times before you find what works for you and your writing.

This is a new era in publishing. Things are changing constantly, but this is providing new opportunities for those willing to take some risks.

So to answer your question on which publication path should you choose...the one that suits you.

Monday, April 12, 2010

My Journey to Tor- The Story Behind The Deal

This post has been long in the making. I'm not talking about all the inner workings of the actual deal, but the fact I have started writing this three times only to end up starting over. Once it was because blogspot wiped out the post and I couldn't recover it, but the other two times I started and lost my train of thought immediately. Of course, I was also trying to write when I was still in the throes of "OH MY GAWD!!!"

Now that several weeks have passed, I am in a much calmer state. I've had conversations with my agent, lawyer and new Tor editor, Melissa Singer, and understand the next steps in the process. The topsy-turvy emotions that haunted me throughout the submission process have faded away.

A major contributor to those emotions was just the simple fact I had long ago given up ever being in this position. I had let go of that long held, long cherished dream of being published by a house like Tor. As I have stated in previous posts, I spent years doing all the wrong things in my pursuit of being published.

So how did I get the deal?

Well, my path to the Tor deal was very winding, and I did not always know where it was headed.

I attended a few workshops a long time ago, hoping to find out the key to publication. Though the authors were asked, "How did you get published?" the answers they gave weren't very specific or were scenarios that didn't seem to fit most writers.

"My friend is _______, a bestselling author, and he/she gave my manuscript to her editor."
"My neighbor is an editor for _________."
"My professor showed my manuscript to the editor at _________."

And then there was the standard reply of "Just keep sending out your book until it sells." A lot of the writers attending stood around mumbling afterward that they had learned nothing, and I felt as lost as I ever was.

In recent years, "first sale" stories were my crack. A lot of those special scenarios remained in the stories, but there were also tales of people finishing their book, mailing it off to a publishing house, and getting a contract right away. In some cases, the road to publication was very easy. In other cases, it took a very long time, sometimes a decade or more.

I became convinced there was some sort of magic formula, some secret password, some hidden passage, that would lead into the world of publication. That there is one fabulous secret path that writers must discover to lead to the contract of their dreams.

I was wrong.

There isn't one magic formula, password, passage or secret path to publication.

Yep. That's right.

There is not one road that leads to the Emerald City, but many.

There are well-beaten paths, but there are new pathways being created all the time. There will always be stories of people dropping off their manuscript on the doorstep of a celebrity and finding a book contract a few months later alongside the tales of an author who sent out their manuscript a thousand times to finally get to the golden contract at the end of the rainbow.

So how did it happen for me?

Well, I have one of those stories I used to hate. Those bizarro tales that were all about the right place at the right time and a whole lot of luck.

As you already know, I self-published my zombie trilogy with the help of my husband. Right after the second book was released, I was contacted by a producer who wanted to buy the TV/Film rights for the series. This lead to securing an entertainment lawyer, who later advised me to find a literary agent. In very short time, I had a literary agent, Hannah Gordon from the Foundry Literary + Media agency.

I signed with the agency right before Thanksgiving and Hannah asked me to compile all the information I had on reviews, interviews, awards, etc that the books had garnered over the time they were published by me. So during the month of December, I buckled down and did the homework she had assigned me.

Which brings us to January...

Hannah explained the process of submitting my first book to the publishing houses. She told me how she would pitch the novel verbally via phone to the editors of the publishing houses she had chosen to include in the submission round. If they were interested, she would then send over an electronic copy of the book along with her pitch letter and information she had decided to include in the package. Then we would sit back and wait.

"Books are bought by committee," she explained. "It can take time."

Basically, if an editor likes a manuscript, they have to send it on down the line to other editors, the marketing department, the promotional department, etc and garner support from a whole group of people. Then, if he/she gathers that support, they head into a special meeting where all the editors pitch their latest discoveries. It is here that the final yay or nay from the publisher can either kill a deal or send it to the next level. This happens a lot.

I was happy and excited up until the day Hannah pitched the books. Suddenly, my stomach dropped into a black hole and anxiety ate its way into my nervous system. I was shocked by my reaction. When I found my hands trembling, I was amazed. I had felt so confident the books would find a home until the day of the pitch. Then it was if a cloud of buzzing insects invaded my brain and I couldn't hear my own internal voice anymore.

Hannah called after the first day of pitching. "Everyone wants to see it," she said happily. Then she named off all the publishers she was sending it to. I could barely swallow or talk. "It only takes one," she reminded me before hanging up. I rang up my mother to tell her the good news. She burst into tears. "I always knew this would happen," she said. Her tears spurred on my own.

The submission round suddenly was the most important thing to ever happen in my writing career and the impact it could have on my writing career and my life hit full force.

The second day, Hannah called again. "Everyone wants to see it! They'll be reading this weekend!"

It was Friday. I was both joyous and a complete wreck. That was the day I stopped reading online reviews for As The World Dies. I realized I had reached a point where I had to step away from everything relating to the series and just concentrate on my day to day life, writing my new book, and concentrating on not letting myself get overwhelmed.

The weekend came and went. The first week of February arrived.

And there was silence.



I knew this was the norm, but it still ate at my nerves.

"What if no one wants it?" I asked.

"You'll still write. You'll still sell books. You have fans. You're doing really well on your own," my husband answered.

"They will WANT it. You know that," both friends and family answered the question. "You KNOW it is going to be picked up."

"But I don't know!" I wailed. But yet, somewhere, deep inside, I felt As The World Dies would find a new home.

"Anything yet?" people kept asking. They were so used to things happening quickly when it came to As The World Dies that they expected a deal immediately.

It wore on my nerves. Anxiety was a constant companion. Yet, my hopes were high. Somewhere under all the white noise of anxiety, I felt self-confident. I just had to concentrate, focus, and push away the maelstrom of my own thoughts.

Like most writers, I am my own worst enemy.

"No one has pulled out. Everyone is still in. A good sign," Hannah assured me as we went into the weekend.

It was a relief knowing I didn't have to watch my email notifications constantly or wait for a phone call for two days.

"You're a hack," my friend and fellow writer, Victorya, told me. "Someone will pick it up. It's going to happen. You're like the Stephanie Meyers of zombies."

"Thanks, literary snob," I answered just as affectionately. "It's so nice to have your support."

Then we both giggled (:P at Vic) and went back to obsessing over Farmville on Facebook.

Aren't friendships grand?

Big kudos here to fellow writers (and friends) Dr. Pus, Kody (Boye), Victorya (Chase), Zombie Zak, Tim (Long), and Jessica (Brown) for keeping me laughing and sane during the wait. Big thanks to my family and best friends for their love and assurances.

Monday, February 8th, arrived. An email dinged into my inbox. It was from Hannah.

Tor was interested.

I thought my heart was going to explode.

The next few weeks Hannah reported in when someone was interested or pulled out. Tor remained interested and in the running.

"They'd be perfect for you," Hannah said to me.

My husband and I stood in the book section of a store staring at the books, picking out the Tor covers. Two of my best friends did the same thing, reporting back that the Tor covers were the best. My husband and I studied a list of Tor authors. Many of our favorites were on the list.

"Tor has always been at the top of my list," I told my husband.

"Don't take any deal unless it's a good one," he answered me. He's such a good guy. He always looks out for my best interest.

The first Monday of March arrived.

My allergies were killing me. I ran off to the store to grab some eye drops. During the night I had somehow pulled the cord out of my cellphone and it was nearly dead. I plugged it in at work and left it behind.

I have always dreamed about "the call." That special moment a writer always remembers when their agent calls with news of "the deal."

I missed it.

I totally freakin' missed it!!!

I came back from my errand to find a missed call from Hannah. I started listening to her voicemail and after I heard "Tor made an offer" nothing made sense anymore.

I took several deep breaths and found a quiet place to call Hannah. She immediately started telling me about the deal, talking quickly and excitedly. She told me the money amount and I think I stopped breathing. For a first timer, I knew it was an awesome offer. She was going into a lunch meeting, so we agreed to talk later in the afternoon. I floated through the day on a cloud of excitement, shock and utter joy.

After work, Hannah and I had a long talk. She read the Tor offer to me. I sat in stunned silence listening to it. It was perfect. Exciting. Amazing. The Tor editor, Melissa Singer, GOT the book. So did the other editors at Tor. They saw its strengths and laid out an amazing plan to promote it. I could barely breathe. I was so quiet, Hannah asked if I was excited. I was just trying not to pass out from joy.

Later, my pragmatic husband and I discussed all the aspects of the deal. He pointed out some important questions we needed to ask and was a little more subdued than I was about the whole deal. I was bouncing off the walls and he just wanted to make sure it was a GOOD deal. I got sloshed on margaritas that night and was utterly overjoyed. We had dinner with two of our best friends and as I told them the details of the offer, they were thoroughly excited for me.

"I'm proud of you," my husband said later as the enormity of it all sank in for both us.

My agent responded to Tor with a counter. They responded back. We discussed, she responded. Then we had a solid deal. Again, the news came in on a Monday.

Emails began pouring into my email inbox from all the agents at Foundry. Then the BIG email came in.

It was Melissa Singer, Senior Editor from Tor.

I could barely get my hand to function to click on the email. As I read, the enormity of what was happening hit me full force once again.

"I'm a Tor author, bitches!" I giggled to my co-worker and friend.

She high-fived me.

Another burst into tears at the news.

And at last, after all those weeks, I was able to announce it to the world that As The World Dies is going to be a Tor series.

Now that I am on the other side of the submission process, I realize how quickly it all fell into place. As I was going through the process, it felt like an eternity. As I lurked on the Absolute Write forum, I discovered my high anxiety is the norm for writers waiting for "the call." I am blessed that it was over so quickly. Some authors wait months, even years, once the submission rounds start to hear the words "we have an offer."

As the dust settled and my emotions calmed, I felt like the luckiest writer on the face of the planet. My path was unorthodox and strange even to me, yet it made perfect sense. My life has never been the norm. Why would this be any different?

At first, I just contributed it all to luck, but over and over again, family, friends and fans kept saying to me, "You worked hard for this."

Slowly, I realized they were right. From the original inception of the story in 2005 to the Tor deal in 2010, I worked really hard to make As The World Dies into something fans of the genre and beyond could enjoy.

"You're allowed to be proud of this accomplishment," more than one friend has said to me.

Earlier I said there are many paths to publication. This is true. But I think there is a magic key to all of this. Over and over again success has come about through hard work (writing a book is hard work!), taking risks (sending your book out to agents and editors or self publishing IS SCARY), lots of research, (whether searching the internet to figure out where to submit or studying how to self publish), tenacity (continuing to submit or promoting your self pubbed novel), talent and skill (you have to be able to churn out readable, exciting stories), and a dash of luck.

Like so many writers working hard for the big break that will propel them into the mainstream, I concentrated for a very long time on how to get to this point. Strange how after I stopped trying, the deal came to me. But now I'm on the other side and I have realized that yes, I can pat myself on the shoulder; yes, I am a Tor author; yes, I have accomplished something huge.


...this is just the beginning of a greater adventure in publishing and there is so much work yet to be done.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Kim Harrison Isn't Really Kim Harrison, but I Am Really Rhiannon Frater

I'm not really sure why it came as a shock to find out that urban fantasy author Kim Harrison really isn't named Kim Harrison, she really isn't a redhead, and she regards her black clothes as a costume. She didn't even start out in the urban fantasy genre, but in the fantasy genre as Dawn Cook. For some reason this development really surprised me. I always suspected her red hair was a wig (it had that "look" about it), but the revelation that her name and even her wardrobe were all part of a "persona" really floored me.

Kim Harrison looking cute and like Rachel Morgan

Yet, at the same time, it sheds some light as to why I have been asked multiple times if I'm really goth and if I "really dress that way." I may dress up more when I go to events, but yes, I'm goth and I really do dress this way. I have a closet full of pretty goth clothes and neat shoes that I love to wear. There is a store here in Austin that I love to shop at called Secret Oktober and it carries some beautiful clothes and accessories. I'm always on the lookout for something new to wear and love funky shoes.

As I wandered around the blogsphere, I noticed some Kim Harrison fans were rather upset to find out "Kim Harrison" doesn't really exist, while others could care less. It also appears to be part of an increasing trend among genre authors to "dress up" or "dress the part" when attending conventions and book signings.

It brought to mind the original controversy a few years ago when several paranormal romance writers attended the RWA conference dressed as their characters. They garnered a lot of attention (both positive and negative) and continue to dress up to support their novels. New York Times Bestselling author Carrie Vaughn shares photos of her dressed up in her costumes for the various clubs she is a part of and back in the day Anne Rice was known to show up wearing ornate costumes.

Anne Rice as the Queen of the Damned

Since genre fiction writers deal in worlds of make believe and fantasy, we live with conflicting views on who we should be when we step away from the computer. Some writers love to stress how very "normal" they are in their "real" lives, while others love to stress how very abnormal they are in their "real" lives. Some stress how much they are or are not like the fantastical characters they write. Some seem to try to appear like them. Laurel K. Hamilton comes to mind resembling her Anita Blake in recent photos.

Laurel K Hamilton resembling her Anita Blake

Some writers loathe going out in public, while others revel in it. From blog to blog, the message changes constantly. It can be very confusing for an author just starting out. Do you just sit home and write the story? Do you dress up and promote the story any way you can? Do you reveal your true self? Do you hide it?

What to do?

If I were to put on a persona for As The World Dies, I would probably have to don jeans, cowboy boots and a tank top in tribute to Jenni and Katie. I honestly can't bring myself to do that. I hate jeans, cowboy boots look good on other people, and tank tops are for sleeping in. For Pretty When She Dies, I'd have to look like a rocker chick and I don't think I can fit that bill either. A gown from the Regency era might be fun to wear to a costume ball (hrmmm...may do that at Horror Realm) to pay tribute to Lady Glynis Wright in The Tale of the Vampire Bride, but I wouldn't want to do that for a book signing. Though I think author's wearing costumes can be pretty neat, it's not for me.

So how much do I reveal of my true self?

When I started on this endeavor, my husband did ask me to take down a lot of personal photos I had up of us and to be careful with how much I divulged. Every time I post on a social network, I do keep in mind that the information will be seen by people I don't even know. Sometimes I have had to delete posts from friends to keep my personal life a little more discreet. But that being said, I also want to be accessible to my readers. I think communication between writers and readers can be very valuable. I have enjoyed my interactions with fans immensely. Since I feel the best communication is honest, I try to be my "normal" self.

So, yes, I am goth. Yes, I am this goofy. Yes, I am this random. Yes, I am a klutz (I trip over air) and tend to get easily distracted (SQUIRREL). Yes, I am a person of faith who believes in Jesus Christ, but also reads tarot cards. I am politically all over the map depending on the issue, though back in the day I was a Republican. I am a straight woman who is married, and also a strong supporter of LGBT issues. I'm multi-ethnic (though I feel closer to my Italian roots) and have been taken for about 20 ethnic groups (Turkish, Israeli. Spanish, Irish, Italian, Mexican, Indian, Pakistani, Arabic, Greek...) and wish I spoke all those languages. I'm forty and loving it. I could be more fit and I'm working on it. I'm happy in my life and treasure the positive aspects of it. And I am a Texan and DAMN proud.

All these elements create who I am as a writer and keeps me in the business of writing stories.

And, yes, this is who I am.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Moving on...Letting Go...In All Things

Last night, as I leaned against the dark red wall of my former living room watching my husband organizing the last of our possessions to be moved to our new house, I felt a brief pang of sadness. I was surprised by the emotion. Our old apartment has some serious issues. As the building settled in the fall of 2009, cracks began to appear on the walls. The pipes in the wall broke and a window on that side began to leak. It became quickly obvious that it was time to move because when your apartment sits on the edge of a cliff with a great view, it's not hard to imagine the retaining wall giving way and sliding down the hill.

Not my idea of fun!

So when I felt a twinge of sadness at leaving the old place, I took a moment to reflect on why I was feeling that way. The good memories stored up from our time in the apartment flitted through my mind as surveyed the small pile my husband was building in the center of a now empty living room. I was surprised at how much smaller the space looked without our furniture. Slowly, I smiled as I realized I'm not leaving behind. I'm taking all my good memories with me and nothing has been lost.

Transition is always a difficult and emotional process. Letting go of the things we've grown accustomed to is not always easy. My husband and I have "slashed and burned" through our accumulated possessions. We've ditched the old, worn out items and donated the better quality stuff as we condensed our belongings. Though we have now moved to a bigger space, we recognized that we had clung to things that were now useless or had lost their meaning. We got rid of old pieces of furniture and streamlined our wardrobes.

Tomorrow the first of our new furniture is arriving and filling the void left by the old, worn out pieces.

And as most things do in my life, this made me think about writing.

Just as I have revised, condensed, and whittled away at my manuscripts, I have done the same with my life. It's good to get rid of the "dead stuff." Prune away the wilted bits and see it flourish into something more vibrant. When faced with a rough draft, I'm always aware that bits will be coming out. Extra words here and there. Bad punctuation. Muddled descriptions. Plot inconsistencies. Snip, snip, snip. When revising As The World Dies: Siege, I snipped out some major chunks and excised the epilogue (you can read it here on my forum). I agonized over ripping out certain scenes, but cut them anyway. As the dead pieces fell away, I realized I had a fresh opportunity to go in and write new dynamic scenes, flesh out my characters, and create a cleaner narrative. Suddenly, I didn't miss all the old bits I had cut away.

My life is full of change right now. I've moved across town to a great new house. I'm still discarding old possessions to give way to new. I am excitedly looking forward to the Tor revisions of As The World Dies: The First Days from my editor. I am helping develop the final draft of the Pretty When She Dies script. I'm waiting for feedback from my agent on the two books I sent to her. So many good things are blooming and all are the result of me slicing away the one possession I had kept with me most of my life: fear.

Ten years ago, I was full of hope and fear. I wanted to be a writer, but had no idea how to go about it. I gave up multiple times in the last decade before my husband finally said, "We can do this!" In that moment, I let go of my fear and fully embraced my hope. Since then, our lives have radically changed in many ways as my writing career took off and continues to gain momentum.

So what is the point of this rambling, long ass post? Sometimes, in life, in writing, and in ourselves, we have to let go of the dead stuff, the old worn out things that bog us down, and embrace the opportunity to bring in new, fresh dynamic energy.