The Perfect Assassin (Book 1)

It’s here!!

The Perfect Assassin is out in the world!!

You should be able to find it anywhere books are sold. Also libraries!! In fact, people’ve been sending me photos of it in the wild, face-out, at Barnes and Nobles and their local indies, and honestly, that’s been so, so cool.

People have been asking me how this all feels and mostly just: normal? I guess? I’ve been waiting for this day in general for most of my life and in specific for about two and a half years, so it’s all been one long transition. I treated the Day Of like a birthday and went for a run and just generally let myself chill – which was great, A++, best way to celebrate.

And then I went back to work the next day, both dayjob and also writing. A project I’ve been noodling on for almost three years now is slowly coming together and my hope is that once Book 3 is officially, 100% done I can finally focus on the new project. One thing I’ve learned in the last few years is that I am no good at multitasking.

Or at least, I thought I could focus on dayjob and new!WIP, but even though the Day Itself is past, people are only just now sending me photos of my book in the wild and that’s just… that’s been wild. It’s one thing to know your book is out there, it’s another for your high school and college friends to be excitedly sending you photos of them finding it in their local bookstore. I have teared up so many times over the past forty-eight hours.

It’s something that for so long I’d hoped would happen, and even something for some time I’d known would happen, but knowing and hoping are pale things to the reality of it actually happening.

And now I get to see things like this:

Bookshelf with prominent SFF titles face-out

It took me 20+ years to get here. I guess it’s okay to need a few more days to process it.

Chronicles of Ghadid Trilogy, The Perfect Assassin (Book 1), The Unconquered City (Book 3)

Less Than a Week

How did we go from two and a half years to less than a week??

Oh right, the passage of time.

Well aside from flailing, I haven’t much to say. But I’ve got a lot of links!

First off, if you want to learn about dunes – or some of my research behind the Perfect Assassin and its world, you should check out my essay over at Tor dot com, How Do You Fight an 80-Foot Sand Dune?.

Second off, the introduction to March got TPA featured on a bunch of lists, which is exciting.

The Nerd Daily’s March Book Releases: Fantasy + Sci-Fi

Barnes and Nobles The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books of March 2019

io9 Gizmodo’s 39 Amazing New Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books to Check Out in March

And my little book even somehow snuck into Amazon’s best books of the month for March:

Yeah okay, that’s all cool.

But you know what’s even cooler?

I turned in book 3 edits this weekend!

[Sound of kazoos and party poppers]

Gotta wait yet to see if Book 3 is actually, well, done done, but at least, at the moment, I am free of the edit mines. So I’m gonna kick back, relax, maybe take a break and enjoy this whole Book Coming Out OMG thing, yeah?

Chronicles of Ghadid Trilogy, Pre-pub, The Impossible Contract (Book 2), The Perfect Assassin (Book 1)

January Recap (Madcap?)

It sure has been a month. I don’t even know how to begin, so let’s just run through it, shall we?

I started a new job. Winter finally showed up. I moderated my first panel and gave my first reading at ConFusion in Detroit. I wrote a bit more of my WIP. The cover for book two entered the world. Book one got two excellent trade reviews. Our laundry machine broke. A Polar Vortex shut down our city –

Wait, wait, WAIT – you say. Book two’s cover?? Went live???

Oh yeah. I guess that’s important.

Okay that’s an understatement. It’s pretty important and I’m REALLY EXCITED about it. If you’ve been following my posts for any length of time, you know Book Two was once Book Only and I poured my heart and soul into it. Then I wrote Book One and poured my heart into that too, but Book Two will just always have that place in my heart as the First.

There’s just something about writing a book for just you, never knowing if it’s going to get an agent’s attention let alone reach the light of day – or the hands of readers. I love all of my book children equally, in their own ways, but The Impossible Contract just feels different. For The Perfect Assassin, covers and blurbs and reviews weren’t daydreams – they were expectations. I had a contract, after all. But for TIC, well. They were dreams.

And when I got to see TIC’s cover for the first time in December, it was literally a dream come true.

And now that it’s live elsewhere on the internet, I can finally share that dream with you:

The purple! The gold! That expression! That garrote! It’s THANA. My Thana, who started out as a lone figure on a rooftop almost five years ago and now has a whole family to rely on. She has come so very far and I can’t wait to talk more about her and share her with you in November.

But BEFORE THAT I have a whole ‘nother book coming out.

And The Perfect Assassin has been getting some awesome reviews.

But Kai, you say gently, You just dropped a cover on us. You can tell us about the reviews later.

I mean, yes technically, I could but in reality, this is probably the only blog post I’m going to make for the next month or two, so you’re getting this now.

Here – if it’s any easier, you can take a break and come back in a week or so and pretend this is a whole new blog post. Good?

Good.

Welcome back!

I’ve already flailed and hyperventilated about this elsewhere, but The Perfect Assassin got a starred (!!!) review from Publisher’s Weekly! You can read the whole thing here, but if you want to avoid some very light potential spoilers, here’s the choice quote:

“Doore is a force to be reckoned with, blending a stirring plot, elegant worldbuilding, effortless style, and diverse, empathetic characters.”

!!!!

!!!!!!

I might have shouted “a force to be RECKONED WITH” every chance I had for a week straight. Honestly, I’m still riding that high.

And then there’s also this amazing review from Booklist. It’s behind a paywall, so if you don’t have access, here’s another good quote:

“Doore’s thrilling fantasy debut is a suspenseful murder mystery wrapped around a coming-of-age story […] Ghadid, set on platforms hundreds of feet above shifting sands, is vividly described, with a fascinating history and culture that Doore folds in naturally. This author is one to watch.”

WATCH ME.

IF YOU DON’T, WHO WILL.

AND IF NO ONE DOES, DO I EVEN EXIST?

Anyway: *flings confetti*

I guess this means I can’t pretend I’ve just been bribing/threatening everyone for good reviews. Or maybe it does and these are two flukes that will never happen again! Who knows! I sure don’t! You might find out in just 48 days!

 

Photo by Georgia de Lotz on Unsplash

Chronicles of Ghadid Trilogy

Looking Back, Leaning Forward

Today is the Solstice, the longest night of the year and the turning point. No longer will the days continue to shorten; we only have light to look forward to. It’s the perfect time to breathe deep, feel the chill, and look back at the year.

And this has been a year. It feels like a blur that went on a little longer than expected. There were some very long parts and some parts that kinda just blew by, leaving me happy if disoriented. I don’t even know how to conceptualize this year, so I’m just going to list what I’ve done.

This year, I:
– Finished copy edits and page proofs for Book 1 aka The Perfect Assassin and now the text is Set in Stone and Untouchable Forever and Always
– Finished edits and officially turned in Book 2 aka The Impossible Contract
– Finished writing (and rewriting [and revising]) Book 3 aka The Unconquered City and sent it to my editor
– Read 29 books
– Mentored (and am continuing to mentor) for Pitch Wars, which involved reading quite a few manuscripts, agonizing over which to pick, rejoicing when I found the right one, writing up a comprehensive edit letter (only 17 pages), and now chilling while my mentee sweats
– Started blogging for the Debutante Ball
– Wrote and edited a novella
– Wrote two short stories
– Got 22k words into a new WIP
– Visited Tucson and the Tucson Festival of Books, where the Toddler was officially introduced to cacti and other desert flora (not the fauna, so much)
– Got to see Hamilton (finally!!)
– Attended Sirens for my 2nd year, where I
– Sat on my first panel (!!)

That all sounds very impressive listed out like that, but this year was particularly hard in some less obvious ways. I delved deep to write book 3, and that wasn’t always easy. I also had my first migraine, for which I had to go to urgent care and get hooked up to an IV. I also had a back injury that has kept me from my favorite movements – running and heavy lifting. I also dealt with several severe panic episodes and started seeing a therapist again. Depression stole a lot of joy from what should have been joyful moments.

And there have been some friggin’ joyful moments:
Meeting agent siblings at ConFusion
Receiving my first blurb, ever.
The blurbs after that.
Readers sharing photos of their Advanced Reader Copies of my book in the wild
Readers sharing what they loved about reading The Perfect Assassin – not just fellow debut authors and agent siblings, but real humans who don’t even know me and have no reason to pretend they liked my book (!)
Friends and family being excited for me
Seeing cover comps for book 2
Realizing book 2 is coming out next year as well
Making two (2) betas and now one (1) editor cry with book 3

Honestly, how can you top that? I don’t have the first clue, but in 2019 it looks like we’re going to try. I’ve got two books coming out – two!! – and on top of that, a new dayjob, another round of Sirens and ConFusion, and another journey to Tucson. As well as a Toddler to continue to nurture and raise – and occasionally water.

And somehow, somewhere, somewhen, I’ve gotta write The Next Book. I’m still not 100% certain what that’s going to be; I’ve got a draft zero to eke out and see if it’s viable, and two other plots simmering on the backburner. A lot depends on how TPA does, of course. A lot depends on how much writing I can get done with a fulltime job and a Toddler, while taking care of myself and the house as well. A lot depends on 100 different things that could change at any time.

So here’s to those 100 different things – and here’s to writing, despite them all.

Here’s to 2019.

Chronicles of Ghadid Trilogy

Where Do We Go From Here

Serious Author Being Attacked by Serious ToddlerI… I turned in book three. I still can’t quite believe it. A week or so has already passed and the implications are only just hitting me. I think I’ll need a bit more time to process the fact that I wrote a friggin’ trilogy. There’s a whole blog post in there somewhere, but for now…

For now I’m going to Take a Break. At least from writing. I have Pitch Wars submissions to read (and they’re all so good – you guys are making this hard), as well as the entirety of my towering TBR list to read, as well as this lovely autumnal weather to enjoy, as well as this rambunctious toddler to chase around, as well as a job to seek, as well as this coffee to drink –

So I might be a bit quiet in these parts for a bit. I’m actively not writing the Next Thing, but I am participating in the Debutante Ball, so you can still find my thoughts and ramblings over there.

Seriously – check it out. Five debut author ladies are gonna talk about the whole Book Thing for a full year and I’m one of them. You can even read my little intro here!

I followed them for a year plus before applying and, if last year is anything to go by, it’ll be a lot of fun and interesting posts to read.

So yeah. That’s it for me right now. Pitch Wars, Debutante Ball, Toddler, definitely not researching Ostrogoths or the impact of climate change on the range of tropical diseases like dengue nope definitely not.

…nooope.

The Perfect Assassin (Book 1)

The Perfect Assassin Has a Cover

This is a cat meant to soothe you and think happy thoughts and not, in fact, the actual cover

First there were copyedits. Then there were page proofs. Then there was silence.

Now. Now, there is. A cover.

*pauses for the appropriate amount of anticipation*

*pause*

*paaaause*

*drumroll*

Ta daaa!

Thank you to the team at Tor for putting this together, especially my editor Diana Pho for helping find the perfect model, and Larry Rostant for its creation.

And now back to your regularly scheduled excitement. Those fingers! That leapage! The red!

Fun fact: I specifically requested red because of Plot Reasons (not blood, jeez guys) and I am very very pleased with how that turned out.

Also fun fact: One of my original ideas was to have the main character, Amastan, sitting with a bunch of scrolls, which somehow I thought would be very engaging. Ahah. Ahah. Ahaha.

And that, my friends, is why I’m not in Marketing.

What do you think? Eye-grabbing? Face-stabbing?

If you like murder! and sand in your teeth! and archival searches!, you can pre-order The Perfect Assassin – the story of a historian turned assassin turned detective who is really tired of this shit – over at the usual suspects. Some early readers have said it’s okay, they guess. And there will be a book two! And a book three! And book three has definitely made some people cry, so you know that means it’s great.

March 2019, guys! That’s like, eight months and change! Less than a pregnancy away!

Barnes & Noble AmazonIndiebound

Querying, The Impossible Contract (Book 2), Writing

Hey What About Your Query, Kai?

A picture of a cat, not a query letter.

As some of you already know, I’ve joined this year’s Pitch Wars mentor crew. For those unfamiliar with Pitch Wars, this means that one (not-so-)lucky writer will get the chance to have their manuscript beaten (literally and figuratively) into shape by me. But to get to that point they – you, possibly – will have to first write a query.

If there’s one thing all authors/writers/agents/human beings can unilaterally agree on, it’s that queries were devised to torture storytellers. You spent what feels like a million words (by that 24th revision it’s probably been more) carefully building a story and now someone wants you to do it again in – *gasp* – 250-300 words. Mon dieu!

Thankfully that’s not really what a query’s meant to do. All it’s gotta do is entice. And to do that, you just gotta distill your plot down to a few lines, pick out some awesome details, snag the voice, do the Macarena, assemble the Avengers –

Wait. No.

They say a picture’s worth a thousand words, but I’m sure an example is worth just as many. So, here – have one successful query letter that just happens to be mine. It’s been a few years (*cough3cough*) and if I could I’d change a few things, but I’m going to resist and let you see the exact query that led to pages being requested that led to a full that led to a call that led to an offer and so on.

[Side note: This query was for The Impossible Contract, which is now Book Two (and if you want to know that story, go here). I don’t think there’re any spoilers for The Perfect Assassin (aka Book One) in here, but you have been warned if you care about those things.]

Dear Agent –

THE IMPOSSIBLE CONTRACT is a fast-paced adventure fantasy complete at 128,000 words. I’m sending this query to you in particular because I noticed you expressed an interest in LGBTQ stories in any genre and this novel includes a lesbian romance.

In the desert city of Ghadid, assassination is a family business. To learn the trade, Thana trained with her older cousins for years, but she’s still nervous when it’s her turn to take a contract. But it’s not just the responsibility: it turns out that her mark is the Empress’ own marabi, a highly skilled and powerful priest. Any qualms Thana might have had about killing a holy man, though, are soon put to rest when she learns the mark is involved in the blasphemous practice of binding souls.

The contract should have been straightforward: steal into the mark’s room, circumvent his magical protections, and slit his throat. Except that someone else wants the marabi dead. Before Thana can deliver the killing blow, a half dozen men break into the room and attack them both. Even outnumbered, the men should have been no match for fast and lethal Thana, but they have a key advantage against her knives and garrote: they’re already dead and someone – another blasphemer – has bound their souls. Thana barely escapes with her own life, let alone the mark’s.

The mark is determined to discover what these men are and who sent them. Thana is determined to follow the mark and finish her contract, even if that means leaving home to cross the desert. If she fails, not only will her family be shamed, but Thana’s life will be up for contract. But along her journey, Thana learns of the ancient evil behind the dead men and bound souls and realizes that the price of her success may be the destruction of all she holds dear.

Aside from writing, I also practice photography and weightlifting while living in the Sonoran Desert. I have the writer’s prerequisite small but significant cat collection and caffeine addiction, as well as a number of chickens, a degree in Classics, and way too many (never too many) knee socks.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

 

Here’s a few things to note:

First off, you’ll notice I front-loaded the query with the title and wordcount and a little personalized intro for that specific agent. Typically, you’ll want to go straight into the query proper, but if you have a reason you’re sending this to a specific agent, it can help to put that up front.

In this case, my query doesn’t have room for the romance in it, but since I knew the agent was specifically looking for queer fic, I pointed that out as part of the personalization.

Second… this is a little long for a query. Related, that wordcount is about 30k too long. I got dinged a lot for that, by the way (multiple agents specifically cited the wordcount in their rejections), and part of signing with my agent meant cutting as much as I could – and then cutting more once I signed with Tor. So take it from me, you really want to stay within the acceptable word count ranges for your genre (this has a good rule of thumb btw).

On the positive side, it still worked. So.

Third, I know a lot of writers worry about not having any pub credits to their name to rattle off in the bio section. You’ll notice I, too, had no prior publications nor anything really of note, so instead I used that space to add a little more of my own personality.

But wait, there’s more! Don’t just take my word for it – you can read a breakdown by another agent over at the Weekly Workshop as to why, exactly, my query worked for her.

I’d also recommend taking a deep dive into the Query Shark archives as well as reading all the queries the other mentors have put up in the last few days.

So there you have it. Just be short and honest and bleed a little on your keyboard and you’ll do just fine.

The Unconquered City (Book 3), Writing Tips

Book 3: Beta Time!

Book three. Is. Done.

Well.

Let’s caveat that.

It’s done enough. Enough that I need to put it in someone else’s hands and step away and breathe and focus. Enough that at this point, I’d be going in and tweaking and finetuning and adding details and subtracting paragraphs and not wholesale stripping out and rewriting chapters – which is what I spent most of May and all of June doing.

There’s a plot and events proceed (mostly) logically and it all comes together and actually ends, instead of dropping unexpectedly off a cliff. It’s not perfect, not by any long shot or under any fancy filter, but that’s good. It shouldn’t be perfect. If my betas do their jobs well – and they will – then I might still have some structural work to do. And better to do that and clean it up before the finetuning.

It’s a bit like building a body from scratch. You’ve gotta build the skeleton first, bone by bone by bone, and that’s your rough draft. And then you shove in the guts and veins and layer that all with muscles. That’s your second draft, the one that actually looks alive and might even function – it just wouldn’t be pretty.

At that point, you could begin putting the skin on and adding hair and all those little details that will turn your attempt at playing God into something less unsightly (you don’t want your story oozing on the freshly scrubbed lab tiles, do you?), or you could have someone look at it and make sure all the organs are properly connected and the veins go where they should.

Sometimes you’re so up-to-your-elbows in guts and organs that you don’t realize you’ve attached this ligament to that joint when it should really be attached to this joint or maybe you mixed up your orders for organs again and you’ve got a sheep’s heart instead of a human’s. How much easier it’ll be to fix if you haven’t already put the skin on and ratcheted up the lightning rods!

…okay I admit this metaphor got a bit out of hand.

But putting this gooey, skinless experiment of a book into my betas’ hands is scary. It requires a lot of trust. Trust in myself, that I know my process and I know what I’m doing. Trust in my betas, that they can see past the gore to the underlying logic and story. That they are willing to dive deep with me, get a little messy, and laugh the entire time. That they won’t just hold their noses and go “ew.”

Because we’re still a long way from done done.

But this is as far as I can make it on my own.

Chronicles of Ghadid Trilogy, Pre-pub, The Perfect Assassin (Book 1)

From the Debut Trenches: Galleys/ARCs

ARCs enjoying tea

Galleys/ARCs: WHAT THEY ARE

ARC stands for Advanced Reading Copy, and galleys are a variation on that theme. They’re an early print of the book with the post copy-edits but not-yet-finalized text and marketing verbiage all over because they’re, well, marketing tools. This is why sometimes they have a title and sometimes they don’t. Mine displays the tagline in lieu of the title, but the rest of the imagery is very much the cover.

ARCs go out to reviewers, booksellers, librarians, and anyone else in the publishing industry who might be interested to drum up buzz and pre-orders in the months before the One True Publication Date (TM). The author gets a few to do with as they wish – give to friends, drop off in the lobbies of prominent media establishments, scam into the hands of a beloved celebrity, build a (very) small fortress, bury in the backyard, etc.

Galleys originally weren’t due in for another two weeks, but my editor posted that they’d arrived on Tuesday and then next thing I knew, I had a tracking number for my share. I spent most of Friday on the porch, enjoying the randomly beautiful weather, and definitely not just waiting for the delivery truck.

Then the box did arrive and I promptly… sat five feet away from it, getting up the courage to open it. My wife had to talk me into opening it, using the very reasonable logic that the longer I let it sit, the more scary it would become. And that, reader, is one out of the many many reasons I married her.

So I opened them and kinda poked at them and then continued to sit at least five feet away, screwing up my courage. I’m not even entirely sure where the fear was coming from, except that this was a thing that I had created and now other people were reading it. And Amastan is on the cover and it’s a very strange feeling to see something plucked wholesale from your brain and just… out there. For other people to see. And I’ll always have a little guilt and shame tied up in this whole process, like there’s something innately wrong about wanting to share this thing I created and love with other people.

Then my wife brought out some wine and after a glass or two, I was able to pick one up. Thumb through. Read a bit.

And that’s when I finally realized: this is a book.

I’ve had inklings of that feeling ever since the copy edits stage, but seeing the words on the screen and seeing them in print, in a book, are entirely different things. The ARCs are still aways from the Final Form, but this is the first time I’ve looked at words I’ve read a hundred times, fretted over, smoothed over, deleted, and rewritten, and been able to turn off the editing part of my brain and accept them as Canon.

My characters are real and other people will read them and experience them in ways separate from me, ways I will have no control over and if that isn’t terrifying…

Well.

Now I have to send these babies out into the wider world and I have a few ideas for just how to do that, one of which involves screaming, and the other, more viable idea involves giveaways. So watch this space because that is gonna happen.