Pre-pub

How to Care for Your Debut Author

27427499981_57c65e961d_z

Congratulations on your new debut author! Given the proper care, these creatures will make a wonderful addition to your family. They are generally quiet, complacent, and 120 proof, but while they may appear hardy on the outside, with frequent gruff vocalizations such as “no really, I’m fine,” “these aren’t tears; I have allergies,” and “I just have to meet this deadline,” you must be vigilant that they aren’t hollowed out by constant anxiety.

But don’t worry! To preserve the wellbeing of your debut author so that they not only survive the transition into your home and their new life, but also flourish and thrive and become a name you can drop to get into fancy places, just follow these five easy steps.

Step One: Water Daily
Try leaving a bowl of water out for your author. If you notice that the water level remains unchanged, remind your author that dehydration can lead to headaches, dizziness, death, or worse – a missed deadline.

Step Two: Feed regularly.
Be sure to include lots of greens in your author’s daily meals. If your author is a millennial, you can count avocados as a green. In a pinch, many brands of mint chocolate chip ice cream are also green.

But be warned: do not mix the avocados with the ice cream.

Step Three: Encourage photosynthesis.
An author will naturally shy away from sunlight, but it is in their best interest – and health! – for them to go outside daily. Try taking them for a walk, but be sure to keep them on a leash lest they start daydreaming and wander into traffic.

Step Four: Give general encouragement.
Picture a pristine lake, bordered by dogwood on one side, a meadow on the other. The surface of the lake is as clear and still as glass. Beneath that surface is a fish, dreaming of another life: a bigger lake, with more room to swim and grow, more fish friends like itself, and a publishing deal.

Now picture that fish dropped into the ocean. Rest assured that this was a euryhaline fish and therefore will not perish from the sudden change in salinity. The fish has everything it dreamed for: a bigger lake, lots of room to swim and grow, and millions of fishy friends.

But it’s also, understandably, a tad bit overwhelmed. Out of its depths. Feeling a bit like a fish out of water. Except, well, in water. Because we’re talking about the ocean. Ahem.

The potential for growth is nigh limitless, the possibilities unbounded, but at the same time, the chance for extreme anxiety is astronomical. The learning curve to survive the ocean is quite steep and while the fish is yet floundering, Here There be Sharks.

A few kind words can mean a lot during this time.

Step Five: Be patient.
Becoming a debut author is tectonic: it’s a process of many infinitesimal, invisible changes that eventually converge to create a new continent. You may have known your debut author since Before, and they have been many things along the way, and they are still those many things. But to the outside, they are now – as suddenly and irrevocably as a volcano – an Author.

This clash of creeping vs abrupt change creates a dissonance (not-so-)fondly called Imposter Syndrome. The debut author still feels in their bones that they are the fish in the pond, and that they don’t deserve to be in the ocean, that at any moment, someone will swoop in with a net muttering about “mix-ups” and “the wrong forms” and deposit them back in the pond.

They’ll continue to act like they’re in a pond and it will take them some time to accept that the ocean is theirs to thrive in and explore. They may swim about, first one way, then the other, as they try to understand their new home. They will need to learn, understand, and process, before they can accept.

A part of them will always be in that pond.

So be patient. When they cry about seemingly inconsequential things, give them a tissue and an ear – preferably attached. Likewise, when they can’t stop talking about something exciting that happened months ago, take them for a walk.

Your debut author may do strange things, like pee on the carpet, cling to the walls, or email you fourteen cover comps at 3am demanding your detailed opinion ASAP. Breathe deep and remember that this, too, is part of the way they’re processing the change. And maybe ask them to help clean up the pee. I mean really.

Bonus: Take care of yourself.
Your debut author is surprisingly resilient; despite what they may claim and occasionally deeply feel, they will likely survive living in the ocean. And they will need you for the long run. So remember to take care of yourself as well.

Set boundaries as needed. Be clear about what you are willing or not willing to discuss with your author. Because if you’re not careful, they may chew up hours of your time discussing the emotional depth and cultural resonance of particular fonts.

You may find yourself affected in unexpected ways. Feel free to talk to your debut author – or don’t. Whatever your choice, remember that your feelings are just as real and just as valid, and you deserve to be heard.

If you follow these easy steps, you, too, can have a happy and healthy debut author in your home or life, which will bring you years of delight, entertainment, and – of course – books.

[Pre-ordering their book will also soothe your debut author’s soul.]

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.

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

From the Debut Trenches: Page Proofs

Well what do we have here.

No really. What do we have here? Gorgeously formatted pages with words on them that look vaguely familiar, like maybe… *squints*

OH GOD THEY’RE MY WORDS

Excuse me for a moment while I flail.

*flails*

Ahem.

Those beautifully-formatted words are from page one of the Perfect Assassin‘s page proofs.

Page proofs are all the words in the book laid out as they will be printed, which is why they look all Fancy and Real. Somebody has already gone through, page by page by page and line by line by line, and made sure everything is lined up just right and that there aren’t any pages with a single word/line on them or there aren’t any single lines/words just
hanging out.*

My job is to find any lingering errors, be they missing words, misplaced words, or misspelled words. My job is to make sure any changes made during copy edits made it into this version. My job is NOT to change sentences / paragraphs / entire chapters. If I attempt to anyway, I am 100% certain my editor will personally fly all the way to Michigan, find my house, and swat my hand.

Because at this point, this book has already been through rewrites, revisions, edits, copy edits, and countless eyes – including my own – that have checked and double-checked every word and phrase. One must just be able to let things go at some point, right?

Thankfully, after spending a week with these pages, I’m still not feeling the urge to carve them up wholesale. In fact, I wasn’t even tempted to pluck out entire paragraphs. I allowed myself a few changes for flow, a few changes for clarification, and a few changes for plot reasons, and then there was that final leech that hadn’t been changed to leach.

Seriously, I can’t be the only one who didn’t realize there was a difference.

Yet more than a few times I had introduced the practice of using blood-sucking leeches into a dry, sub-Saharanesque desert instead of simply leaching something away. Welp. Apparently I’m still learning English after all these years.

The changes were/are minimal at this point, so really I just got to take a moment and read the story all the way through. It’d been long enough, and looked different enough, that I could almost pretend to be a reader, almost see it as someone outside my head might.

And if the fact that I’ve read this ad nauseam and still get caught up in the second half is any indicator… maybe this book will do all right out there in the world.

Wow guys. Guys. Less than a year guys. Guys.

It’s hard to believe that this time last year I was still hacking through rewrites, uncertain if I’d ever make it work. And now, a year after I sent this thing to betas with so many apologies for how rough and choppy it still was, it’s in the final polishing stages and is very close to becoming real.

You’d think this would make me feel better about how choppy and rough book 3 is right now.

You’d be wrong.

So I’m going to allow myself a few days in the sun and air with the pretty and complete before diving back into the messy darkness of rewrites.

…preeetttyy

*These are called widows and orphans.

Chronicles of Ghadid Trilogy, Draft Zero, Pre-pub, Unnamed (Book 3), Writing

What I Wish I Knew, Now

Ice on witch hazel blossoms

A common theme among blog posts by debuts, post debut, is the What I Wish I’d Known post. These are inevitably helpful in pointing out all the gaps in one’s knowledge, the I-didn’t-know-what-I-didn’t-knows.

But I call rubbish. I am impatient as a toddler and I don’t wanna wait until after my debut to know what I didn’t not know (huh?). I wanna know now. So here’s a list of the things I (currently) really wanna know, ’cause that’s how I role.

 

10 Things I Wish I Knew, Now

1. Will I actually be able to smash this wreck of a first draft into shape by August?

2. Is there a secret way into my publisher’s internal system so I can know exactly what’s going on with my book at any given time, including how long it’s sat languishing in Carol’s inbox? CAROL*?

3. At least tell me my pub date, Carol.

4. What kind of cupcakes do you like, Carol? Oh no reason. Just, you know… wondering.

5. When will this snow end??

6. How does this book end????

7. What is number seven? Does Carol know?

8. At what point does the sheer terror become outweighed by the excitement?

9. How different is terror from excitement, really? I mean, physiologically speaking both release adrenaline, increasing heart rate and perspiration and breathing, dilating the pupils and – OMG THEY’RE THE SAME THING.

10. …will the next thing I write be anywhere near as fun as this?

*

Here’s current progress on Book Three, working title The Unconquered City, the story of an assassin turned monster hunter who’s really sick of people threatening her city. Now with more! impressive amounts of steam, heart-to-heart chats, and bonding over corpses.

Project: Book Three, Draft 0.5

Deadline: August

Current word count: 70,024 / 80000 words. 87% of the way there

 

Days of spring: *sobbing*

Days left to finish this draft: 7

Days until I start the next project: 7

* If, in fact, there is a Carol at my publisher, I’m certain she is the Best and not easily bribed by any flavor of cupcakes, even if they’re red velvet with proper buttercream and they just happened to appear on her desk Thursday morning. 

Chronicles of Ghadid Trilogy, Draft Zero, Pre-pub, Unnamed (Book 3), Writing

From the Debut Trenches: The Copy Edits Are Among Us

13658658_115396695577874_409556392_n

Things that I have been unduly excited about since I discovered they were a Thing:
– Flannel sheets
– Bat boxes that have the Batman logo
– Copy edits

One of the things I’ve realized I’m good at over the years has been picky details. Since learning the exact nature of copy editing, I’ve been more than a little eager to see them in the inky flesh. Going through a novel line by line, hunting out spelling and grammatical errors, as well as continuity errors, sounds like my kind of party.

But ohmygoodness, was I not prepared for the style sheet.

See, in order to catch those continuity errors, a copy editor must first figure out what the continuity is. Which for any book can be a load of biscuits and fun, but for fantasy novels gets even trickier. All those made up terms and systems – aka worldbuilding – become Real. And the copy editor must not only understand those terms, but make sure they’re used consistently within the established rules of the world.

So they make a style sheet. And in it, they list all of the characters, major or minor or sub-minor, and their relationships to the other characters. They also list all the bizarre terms you made up. They also create a timeline. It’s meticulous and it’s picky and it’s beautiful.

If this whole writing thing doesn’t work out, I think I’ll try my hand at copy-editing. Just saying.

If it’s weird to see all your made-up people and terms treated like Real, it’s even weirder to see the copy edit document itself. I knew it’d be marked up. What I didn’t realize was that it’d be formatted to look like a book. Guys. This is getting legit.

I did a first pass of the copy edits already, and it doesn’t look nearly as frightening or intimidating as I’d feared/expected. I’ll take my time going over each change, but so far it breaks down to:

– 94% changing an en dash to an em dash
– 2.7% saving my bacon by catching continuity errors
– 1.2% fixing typos/homophones
– 2.1% highlighting echoes*

Bless you, Copy Editor. And bless all copy editors everywhere, because it takes a very keen and practiced eye to catch this stuff.

Progress will slow a little on book 3 while I go through my copy edits, but I planned for that and also one of these is due MUCH sooner than the other, so.

Here’s current progress on Book Three, working title The Unconquered City, the story of an assassin turned monster hunter who’s really sick of people threatening her city. Now with more! terse conversations, monster hunters, and quiet cups of tea.

Project: Book Three, Draft 0.5

Deadline: August

Current word count: 24558 / 80000 words. 31%

Fancy bracelets: 2

Awkward conversations: 4

Broken glass: All of it

Life, Pre-pub

Goodbye 2017, Hello 2018

IMG_20171225_080831_947

If you ask any writer (or artist [or human being]), they’ll say that 2017 was a rough year. Full of distractions and worry and dread. Yet despite all of that, we kept on keeping on. I’m not exception – while I wasted countless hours on what-ifs and not sleeping, the work still had to be done. And it got done.

But man, am I exhausted. Hopefully 2018 will be a little less emotionally draining.

But 2017 wasn’t all bad. Personally, it was pretty great. My highlights:

– Wrote the first draft of Book One
– Wrote the second draft of Book One
– Revised Book One
– Sent Book One out to betas
– Revised Book One based on beta feedback
– Sent Book One to my editor
– Revised Book One based on my editor’s feedback
– Turned in Book One (🎉🎉🎉)
– Hacked 20,000 words off of Book Two
– Going line by line, entirely rewrote Book Two
– 2/3rds way through first draft of Book Three

 

And that’s only the writing highlights. Outside of that, I also:

– Broke my personal 5k record
– Turned 31
– Took a baby to Germany and survived
– Attended my first conference (Sirens ’17 wot wot!)
– Dayjobbed the stuffing out of my dayjob
– Learned how to throw a proper punch
– Held back the tides of unwashed dishes and dirty laundry
– Kept a baby alive and helped her evolve into a toddler

 

Writing it out like that makes it seem as if I was riding the waves, but at the time it felt like I was drowning more often than not. 2018 should be better (and easier?) for a number of reasons, not the least of which we’ll have a toddler and not an infant who refuses to sleep more than 45min at a time (oh god never again).

2018 is actually shaping up to be pretty fun/exciting for me, personally. And maybe for you, at least come the end of the year. So what have I got going in 2018?

– Polish up Book Two
– See/reveal the cover for Book One (!!)
– Write, rewrite, revise, edit, & polish Book Three
– Hit up Tucson Festival of Books
– Sirens 2018 (!!)
– Bid farewell to my lovely desert assassins and start a new project
– Keep a small human alive

 

Yeah. Okay. No small task. But if I survived 2017 and all it entailed, I can certainly survive – even thrive in? – 2018.

May you let 2017 go and embrace the new year with hope and light. ❤

Chronicles of Ghadid Trilogy, Pre-pub, Writing

My Not-So-Meandering Path Towards Publication

It’s cliché, but I’ve always wanted to be an author. I tried to find another, better paying career path – I did, really – but nothing held my attention like writing. My eclectic employment situations over the past ten years holds the truth of that. I bounced from retail to foreclosure to secretary to data entry to property assessment to web training development. The only consistency over the years is that at every job I wrote on my lunch and breaks. Daily.

Persistence. It’s another tired but true cliché that stubborn, consistent persistence is how you break into the publishing industry. That, and a little bit of luck. My wife will the be first to tell you I am stubborn af*. And I’ll be the second.

Since graduating college, I’ve averaged writing a book every 1.5 years. Of course, some of those were rewrites – and re-rewrites – of old stories. And after a few years, I started querying. At first, it was more just to see what would happen. I made all of the beginner’s mistakes and received only form rejections.

Then I had a mini mid-life crisis. I was years out of college with nothing to show for it. It was not too late to go back to school, it was not too late to find a Real Career Path(TM)**. But if I did, if I committed to extra education and a Job That Mattered, I wouldn’t have the time or the mental energy leftover to write. I had to decide.

It was a surprisingly hard choice. I love writing, but every successive year that I had nothing to show for all the hours I put into it I felt like more of a failure. Where would I be if it never went anywhere? What would I tell people when they asked me what I did? Who was I to think that out of the thousands, millions of aspiring authors, I could be one of the few made it?

But then again, if I didn’t try, if I didn’t throw everything I had at it – I would never know.

I chose to put writing at the center of my life and treat it like a profession – because it was. I made plans and set deadlines and from there devised daily word count goals to meet those deadlines. I frequently sailed right past my personal deadlines, of course, but I was rarely more than a month off.

I set up a system of writing, rewriting, editing, beta-ing, and querying, each stage with its own expected timeframe and deadline. I returned to the metaphorical drawing board for querying, researched the heck out of it, read Query Shark’s entire archive (twice [thrice]) and revamped my approach.

My queries improved and I got a few personal rejections. I kept writing. I kept querying. And then I took everything I had learned, wrote TIC, and queried again. After two months and many rejections, quite literally one week after I had decided to let TIC go and write something new, I received an offer of representation from my now Awesome Possum agent.

I’m writing all this not to say, hey lookit what I got, but hey lookit what I did. The cliché is tired because it’s true: persistence is key***. It’s important. So is trying new things and continually (constantly) learning. Write. Rewrite. Query. And then look critically at what you wrote and move on to the next project. No word or sentence or paragraph or novel written is ever wasted, because you are constantly learning from what you’ve done.

Some writers sell their first book. Most don’t. I sold my third****. Others sell their fifth or eighth or nth. Keep going. Practice. Read. Write. Repeat.

 

* AF = as foretold, or at least that’s what the Kids These Days(TM) tell me.

** I.E. Microbiology, like my wife, or accounting – which I might have (definitely) considered.

*** Necessary caveat is necessary: the privilege & luck of having the time to write is equally important.

**** Third distinct and separate novel that I wrote as an adult and consider Whole and Complete.

 

Chronicles of Ghadid Trilogy, Pre-pub, The Impossible Contract (Book 2), Writing

Exciting News!!!

I’ve been sitting on this news for a few weeks because I wanted to make absolutely certain it was Official(TM), but but BUT:

I HAVE AN AGENT!

july-82
Rainbows! Rainbows for everyone!
I am proud to be represented by Kurestin Armada of PS Literary Agency.

I still can’t quite believe those words. Honestly, any time the words “my agent” comes out of my mouth, I have to stop and giggle. Yes, giggle. I’m still a little how the f— did this happen?? but I know the answer to that.

And it goes a little like this:

I started writing The Impossible Contract in June of last year and finished a massive rewrite and subsequent rounds of edits sometime in March. I let it cool, then sent it to my first round of betas in April, and after hearing back from them and tweaking, sent out my first round of queries. The first round were all rejections, so I thoroughly revised my query and tried again.

Suddenly, I was no longer getting form rejections. I received a full request a few weeks in with my new query, then a partial, then another full. I was over the moon, even after a rejection on the partial, because finally I was making progress.

At this point, I started to mentally pack it in. This novel had done its job in getting me that much closer to my goal. Maybe the next one would be it. I still had a few fulls out, but then, what were the chances?

Fast forward to July 18th. I had quit my full-time job the day before because of a hundred different reasons. I was out late playing D&D, and normally I would have come home and gone straight to bed, but instead I idly checked my email. Oh, an email from an agent. Probably another rejection –

I had to read that email three times before the words registered. She wanted to set up a call for the next day. And then I cried. And then I made my wife read it to make sure I understood it correctly. I had. So I cried some more.

Needless to say I didn’t sleep that night.

Needless to say I convinced myself a hundred different ways that this couldn’t be The Call. That this was Something Else Entirely and I shouldn’t get my hopes up. I was dreaming. Hallucinating. Had I even read that email right??

But it was The Call and it happened and, even zombiefied from lack of sleep and way too much caffeine, I managed not to scare her off. She liked my book and she liked my characters and she got the story and then I expressed my gratitude by grilling her. Hah! But she still offered rep.

It was the hardest thing not to accept right then and there because I liked her agency and knew she personally was a good fit, but I still had fulls out to other agents. The responsible thing was to give them a chance.

I withdrew from the agents who only had partials, because I didn’t think they’d have the time, and then nudged the ones with fulls. They bowed out, citing time restraints, and I was secretly relieved because in the intervening days I had already made my decision.

So there you have it! This is only the beginning – an agent by no means guarantees publication, even when they do their best and are as awesome as mine – and I have a lot of work ahead.

What’s next? Well, writing something new because this next step can take a while. Also going around and thanking every single one of my betas profusely, thanking my friends for supporting me, thanking my family for encouraging me, and thanking the public library for providing countless air-conditioned hours of writing time.

Query Stats on TIC for those counting numbers:
Total queries: 30
Rejections: 25
Partial Requests: 3
Full Requests: 4
Offers of Rep: 1
Prior Queried Manuscripts: 2
How I’m feeling:

october-132