The Long And Winding Road

The long and winding road.

I finished up a new novel yesterday. That makes the second one I’ve written this year.

“Wait, second one? What are you talking about? What happened to that thing with the creepy Japanese ghosts and the riddles and stuff?”

RYOJI went on submission last spring. While it was out, I started hammering away on RYOJI 2. I’d finally found my groove, gotten about halfway through it, when we got a pretty decent Revise And Resubmit request from a major publisher. WINNING, right?

So I halted all work on RYOJI 2. I read the letter from the editor over and over, sleeping on it, deconstructing it, coming to the realization that this guy really understood RYOJI, really got the essence of the book, the setting–and his ideas on what needed to be fixed rang true. I had no idea how I could do any of the things he suggested at first, until I realized that I couldn’t–at least, not with the words on the page. I’d have to rewrite it to make it really sing true and not look like some sort of Frankenstein’s monster. Daunting. Scary. But this editor understood RYOJI, and this was my shot to really see if I could write, if I could edit with the pros, and if I could finally land a deal.

I spent July and part of August tearing RYOJI apart. I rebuilt it–better, faster, stronger. I have tasted the joy of working with an editor, and I can confirm that it’s a horrifyingly enriching experience.

I rewrote all but a fraction of the novel from scratch. The feel is still there, as are the characters (but for many their fates are radically different!), but the story is a new one with the same heart. No, that’s not quite true–with more heart, I think. And with nearly 30k fewer words. What I pitched originally as an 80k word novel was now a 55k sleek storytelling machine.

And so back out on submission we went.

Now here’s a part of the submission process a lot of people may not be familiar with. If an editor wants to buy your book, that’s GREAT! You should celebrate that. Go out and find a wine cannon or a pool of chocolate–whatever floats your boat. You have accomplished something amazing.

BUT KNOW THIS: just because the editor wants to make an offer doesn’t mean the publisher will agree.

The long and winding road, indeed.

So now I’ve written another book. Still fantasy (I’ve put contemporary on hold for a while–someday!), more for an older teenage audience (staunchly YA–legendary creatures, gore, and polygonal webs of romance). I’ve sent it out to some Elite Beta Readers while I take a break to do some beta reads (and catch up on my TBR pile!) of my own. I’ll edit toward the end of the month/beginning of the year, and then it’s off to the hands of Most Illustrious Agent.

It’s kind of like this, but with more teenage love and angst.

It’s surprisingly common for agented authors to not sell the first book they go out on submissions with.

I guess if I had one point to make sure you walked away with here, it’s that everyone’s journey is different. It’s impossible to compare another author to yourself, to figure out how far along the road you are, because the road is a lie. There is no road. Just a field full of landmarks for us to visit in whatever order the winds of chaos blow us. All we can do is deal with the hand we’re given, one step at a time.


Consummatum Est

It is finished.

Last night I finished writing RYOJI AND THE RIDDLE MASTERS. And maybe someday you can read it. It’s a tale about a boy becoming so much more than he ever dreamed possible, about the difficulty of changing the nature of things. The virtues and follies of pacifism, the role of honor, the shattering of our innocent worldview as we cross that threshold from childhood into our teenage years.

Did I mention it’s set in a fantastical version of Heian-era Japan, steeped in Japanese mythology with a dash of steampunk? There are riddle duels with spirits in the underworld, pirates armed to the teeth with swords and metallic flame-throwing birds, jealousy, betrayal, and at the center of it a boy torn between his parents: his father of the old guard, his mother leading the rebellion of the new.

It’s been five years in the making, and now it is out of my hands, and into the hands of the illustrious Beta Readers.

I hope they like it. And if they don’t, I hope to use their feedback to forge it into something greater. And someday I hope to share it with you all.

Saddle up, it’s queryin’ time.

Well Hello There, 2013

Yes, yes, it’s been six months since I updated this thing last. But I promise I’ve got some really good reasons.

Second grade, Kindergarten, and Pre-K.

Second grade, Kindergarten, and Pre-K.

After returning from Japan last August, it was a rush to get all the things ready for school. For the first time we had three of the four off for some learnin’, and that required a Herculean effort to pull off–especially considering that in those same 3 weeks we moved across town. And by across town, I mean “nearly 40 miles away”. That may not sound like much, but compound it with jet lag and school preparedness, and you can see how much of a nightmare that can turn out to be.

After that, we had an obscene number of things come up. See, when you have three kids in school, that’s three times the number of events and class-specific festivities you have to attend. And in addition to school, there was work, where I’ve been finishing up a major project–to be launched in the next month!

Then you’ve got the Fall Rush, where you get the hypersonic Holiday gauntlet known as New Hallothanksgivingmas Eve. Once you get into October, the year kind of speeds by until you hit the brick wall that is the cold, dark winter. I don’t know about you, but the first six months of the year seem to take about nine months to get through, while the last six months feels more like two.

And during all of this, my wordsmithing efforts were directed solely at crafting a new novel. And I can say, with some caveats, that I succeeded! It’s done, at 80k words. It’s middle grade fantasy, with a mythological Japanese setting, and it’s tested well with a very small audience and my Most Trusted Alpha Reader.

Artwork by Stephane Imbert.

Awesome concept art by Stephane Imbert.

And now to look back at my resolutions for last year. It wouldn’t be fair to ignore them. Here’s what I promised I’d do in 2012:

1 – Finish writing three drafts.

Well, I finished 2! I finished my multicultural romance set amidst the 2010 tsunami that has died the death of a million edits, and most recently I finished up my MG fantasy. (Yes, yes, I technically wrote The End in the first weeks of 2013).

2 – Cook something new every month.

Failure! While I ended up cooking something every month, and a lot more when my family was in Japan, it rarely ended up being something new. I’ve been too busy to research new, and I feel bad about it.

3 – Read two books a month.

Success! My next post will cover my 2012 reads, and what my TBR pile looks like for 2013. Here’s a preview: CLOUD ATLAS was my favorite last year.

4 – Finish up some of the cross-cultural tales for the blog that are languishing in draft status.

Also success! Not as many as I wanted, but I got quite a few finished. Maybe you can check them out. Perhaps they’ll even entertain you.

Sorry for such a dry post, but I mostly wanted to stick my head above water and say that I’m Alive!

What I’ve Been Up To Lately

I’ve been spending the summer in Japan with the family. Started working on a new project (middle-grade fantasy, Asian-themed), still waiting to hear on some queries from the last project, and just generally enjoying the heck out of  a long break. I’ll be back to regularity sometime in the next few weeks!


It’s Been a Good Twelve Years So Far…

I have probably left something out. There was a project I worked on in Japan for 2 years that never came to fruition. That’s not on here because it was never announced. “Gardens” *was* announced but we never had a cover so I’ve provided a picture of the epic Tanuki mascot we had.

Someday I hope to put up a gallery of 12+ novel covers. But for now, it’s fun to walk back through these video game covers and remember the good times I had working on each one. Here’s to 12 more.

Sometimes There Are No Words

I had to run to Office Depot over my lunch break today to pick up some supplies. Push pins, masking tape, index cards–typical things I use in project planning. It was a routine visit to a routine store but this time something very strange happened and I still don’t have any words. I still don’t know what I should have said, and I feel bad for saying nothing at all.

After gathering the things I needed from the various corners of the store, I approached the register where a very sweet older lady greeted me with a smile.

“Nice weather we’re having. Glad summer’s finally here,” she said.

“Oh yeah, me too, I’ve been getting a lot of good bike rides in lately.”

She paused her scanning for a second, then continued and looked up at me.

“You know, you sound just like one of my friends. His name’s Michael. He passed away recently.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

“He was thirty two or thirty three. Somewhere in there.”

I’m always sad when I hear that someone my age has died. I waited for her to continue, wondering what could have happened to her friend. Death at such a young age is usually fast and unexpected.

“He killed himself. Suicide. I wish I’d had just one more chance to talk to him before he did it. He was always so depressed. I wanted to tell him that there are other women in the world, that it’s not worth it.”

At this point I had no idea what to say. I swiped my card and she handed me my receipt. She snapped out of her malaise and, with a smile, said “Thanks for coming by! Have a nice day!”

I didn’t even say goodbye.

Sometimes there are no words.