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.

 

Book Reviews

2016 TBR List Update, April

Another four books read from the list means another update! An airplane ride this past month meant I got to read two books back to back and I’ve been overall devoting more time to reading, since my brain has been so foggy.

I just finished Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor, a sci-fi-esque exploration of what would happen if aliens showed up off the coast of Lagos, Nigeria. I say sci-fi-esque because while yes, there are aliens, it features a lot of supernatural elements, too, and science is never at the forefront. I loved it for that and I loved it because it’s just so refreshing to read a story where aliens don’t destroy New York or something else ridiculous. Yes, more of this please.

Keeping with the books I absolutely adored theme, have you read On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis yet? You should read it. Seriously. Go. Now. I’ll wait.

*drums fingers*

*checks watch*

Ah – you’re back? You read it? Good. Now we can squee together about how awesomely amazing it is to have a YA book tackle so many real things and present the end of the world in such a hopeful, humanitarian way. I loved that all of the characters were fully fleshed out, human beings with flaws and hopes and dreams, and no one was Evil, but no one was Good, and it was just beautiful on a number of levels and that ENDING, yes yes, and the cats and yes I cried about the cats every. single. time. they came up.

Gah. Real contender for favorite book of the year, right there.

Before those two, I read (see: listened) to Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard. This made it onto my TBR list largely because it was such a big hit last year and I kept reading/hearing about it everywhere. I like to keep up to date.

It was, however, not a book for me. It was well written overall, but I was just not drawn into the story. I think this was largely because it retread a lot of YA themes that have been popular in the last few years that I haven’t enjoyed, but others (obviously) have.

And last, but not least, I finished Gates of Thread and Stone by Lori M Lee way back in March. This made it onto the list because it a) features a female main character who shares my name (rare!), and b) TIME POWERS.

While I enjoyed the story and the characters, I was thrown a bit by the sudden change in direction of the plot. Also I was a little disappointed that there weren’t a lot more fights using said TIME POWERS. Honestly. The world needs more epic battles with TIME POWERS.

That said, it looks like this is the beginning of a series, so I will keep an eye out for the sequel. Which will hopefully include more TIME POWERS.

  • Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard (YA)
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik
  • The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson
  • A Darker Shade of Magic by VE Schwab
  • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
  • Gates of Thread and Stone by Lori M Lee
  • The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson
  • The Accidental Terrorist by William Shunn
  • The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin
  • Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor
  • The Sons of Thesian by ME Vaughan
  • Too Like the Lightning Ada Palmer
  • The Shadowed Sun by NK Jemisin
  • Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (YA)
  • The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
  • Twelve Kings in Sharakhai by Bradley P. Beaulieu
  • The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi
  • Prophecy by Ellen Oh
  • The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo
  • Flex by Ferrett Steinmetz
  • On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyviss (YA – 2016)
Book Reviews

2016 TBR List Update

I have been making fairly steady progress on my 2016 TBR List of Awesome. Considering there are a number of other books I’ve read in the meantime, I think getting through five in two months keeps me right on track. I’m glad I put this list together because it’s very easy to get distracted by new/shiny books and ideas and to go down a path of research, without actually making progress reading the new stuff in my own genres. Also, so far, they’ve all been fun!

I just finished Uprooted by Naomi Novik, which was just the kind of fantasy I love. Fun and full of magic and more than a bit of adventure. It very much felt like more of an adult Tamora Pierce or Dealing with Dragons kind of story.

Before that, I finished The Accidental Terrorist which was not at all fantasy, but memoir, and absolutely fascinating. I’ve always been curious about Mormons and what, exactly, they’re doing out walking the streets in their crisp white-collared shirts, and this severely humanizes them. Plus, it laces quite a bit of Mormon history into the story, interestingly paralleling the author’s own experiences. Illuminating and surprisingly hard to put down.

The Ghost Bride was a different sort of fantasy – much more ethereal, much less full of magic – that I enjoyed. I think this one was published in an earlier year, but it was worth making the exception to add it to my list. Driftingly dark and occasionally disturbing and honestly, I never quite knew where it was going to go next.

Six of Crows was more in line with contemporary YA, but without most of the dreary and cliched trappings I’ve come to expect. Somehow, the author pulled off a great book with a twisty plot and relatable characters, even when one of those characters would normally be described as a horrible human being. I loved the Slavic flavor of the magic and the cultures. I’m so glad to be seeing more and different cultures used as a base for fantasy in lieu of the traditional European.

The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps was not at all what I expected and perhaps much too short. I only realized after the fact that this was actually a novella, but it could easily be expanded further. The ideas were there, and the themes, but alas. I enjoyed it, even as I also recognized this book wasn’t quite for me.

So there we go – five down, sixteen to go. I’m hoping to be halfway through in the next two months, while somehow juggling all the research I suddenly need to do (whole ‘nother blog post).

  • Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard (YA)
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik
  • The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson
  • A Darker Shade of Magic by VE Schwab
  • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
  • Gates of Thread and Stone by Lori M Lee
  • The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson
  • The Accidental Terrorist by William Shunn
  • The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin
  • Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor
  • The Sons of Thesian by ME Vaughan
  • Too Like the Lightning Ada Palmer
  • The Shadowed Sun by NK Jemisin
  • Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (YA)
  • The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
  • Twelve Kings in Sharakhai by Bradley P. Beaulieu
  • The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi
  • Prophecy by Ellen Oh
  • The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo
  • Flex by Ferrett Steinmetz
  • On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyviss (YA – 2016)