On Saturday night I finally hit send and The Grave at Storm’s End went flying through the internet-ether-satellite-space-dohicky system thing and magically landed in my editor’s inbox (or inbos as we like to call it). FINALLY.
It has been two years. TWO YEARS, since I last sent the manuscript to my editor. She got it back to me in very good time ready for the next pass, but it never returned to her because shit had hit the proverbial fan. Marriage breakup. Moving back to Australia from the other side of the world to start all over again with two young kids. New relationship. Moving house. Baby. Moving house again.
Talk about a mess.
And honestly working on the book became associated with a lot of pain, so whenever I did sit down to hammer it out, I struggled.
In fact I struggled so much that I restarted this pass nine times in those two years. Sometimes I got as far as halfway before everything went downhill. Sometimes it was only one or two chapters. As soon as I hit an issue I couldn’t immediately solve I became a depressed mess. And then the words dried up altogether.
Some people write because they enjoy it. Some people write to make money. I write because I’m yet to find anything else that fulfils my existence. When I don’t work I’m miserable and cranky because quite frankly I’m dying inside without the words to feed my soul. I love that people enjoy my books, but I don’t really write for anyone else and even if no one read them I would still write them. You don’t want to meet me when I’m not working.
The point of all this? Well, it took time, it took the constant loving support of a truly amazing partner, it took visits to a psychologist and a lot of perseverance, but I did it – I just hit send on the email that once again flew The Grave at Storm’s End to my editor’s inbox.
All I can say to my fans who have been waiting forever for this book is that I am very sorry, but life is an unpredictable beast. Thank you very much for bearing with me while I fought it and I hope that when the book finally comes out later this year that the wait will have been worthwhile.
For me the release of The Grave at Storm’s End will be more than the completion of a trilogy, it will signify closure. This is the beginning of a new era.
I went to visit my lovely editor in Sydney recently, a once a year mini vacation because it turns out that she lives in the wrong city (ie not Melbourne). I get a few days away from my kids and the chance to talk shop without having to type in a little window and get distracted by Facebook. But this time, there was another reason for going.
In late 2013, Amanda (yes, my editor totally has a name, isn’t that amazing?) got the Eye of Vice tattooed on the inside of her forearm. Her love for Darius was just that strong.
This time it was my turn.
So, I’d been told it didn’t hurt too much. I’d been told that having given birth to two children, this would barely rate a mention on the pain scale. Quick. Painless….
Yeah right. It HURT! Like, it really hurt. Like a dozen tiny chipmunks gnawing at my arm with tiny sharp little teeth, tearing each bit of my skin away cell by cell. But I digress. The purpose was worth the pain. A symbol to remind me always where I started from, to remind me to work hard and not lose sight of my goals… I would have gone through more for that. As it happened it took about seven minutes, although I had to lie there for quite some time afterwards due to my tendency to feel faint, even when horizontal. So I ended the seven minutes pale and sweaty and in need of cold water. But after about half an hour I was able to walk out with a smile on my face and a bandage on my wrist.
It’s been nearly two weeks now and it is healing beautifully, so here it is at last, alongside my editor’s Eye of Vice. This. This is how committed we are to these characters, these books, and to the world I am creating. Or perhaps spewing forth… whichever image you prefer…
Without further ado, I give you …. The Empath Mark.
So I’ve decided I’m going to do a series of throwback posts looking at old writing of mine.
1) Because it’s funny
2) Because you can learn a lot from it
3) Because it’s interesting
4) Because it’s funny
In light of the fact that I’ve been working on The Vengeance Trilogy non-stop for the last two years, it seemed the best place to start. Not the new stuff, but the old OLD OOLLLLLDDDD stuff. Endymion and Darius have been around for quite some time. I think I started writing them in 2008, the second major series of books I ever worked on. Back then they didn’t have Katashi or Kin, although Malice existed, as well as a very very different version of Hana merely called Regent and owning a penis. (That is one attached to his body, not merely one he carried around in a bag or something…)
So, here goes. I’m hoping I don’t need to disclaimer this in more detail than saying this work is more than six years old. Do not take it as any measure of what my published works are like.
“I’m sorry to wake you, Laroth,” a calm voice said beside me, sounding genuinely apologetic. I looked around sharply, afraid that someone had witnessed my uneasy night. A pair of unruffled brown eyes were watching me out of an interesting, if not precisely attractive, face.
“Oh, it’s you,” I muttered, putting a hand to my head. “Why did you wake me, Marek?” I sat up, waiting for his reply. He had been my secretary for long enough to know never to wake me after nights like that. We never spoke about it, but he had learned through experience that sometimes I wasn’t quite my usual self. It had been a very bad storm. “What time is it anyway?”
“It’s just after noon,” Marek replied. “Your breakfast is on its way, but I woke you because a messenger just arrived at haste from the town of Yolbrun. He says he’s been travelling all night and is under orders to give the message into your hands only.”
I rolled my eyes. “I hope you disabused his mind of its unfounded feelings of importance.”
“You don’t pay me for nothing.” As he spoke Marek held out a sheet of heavy parchment that had been folded back on itself and sealed with more wax than could ever be considered necessary.
I took it from his hand. “It seems that the inhabitants of Yolbrun are overenthusiastic.”
Breaking the seal with my forefinger I spread the sheet across the silken covers of the bed, staring down at the tiny scrawl covering the sheet from edge to edge.
“Definitely overenthusiastic.” I handed it back to Marek without reading so much as a sentence. “I do wish people would learn to limit important missives to as few words as possible. Tell me whether there is anything worth knowing in that effusive ramble.”
Marek took the sheet back without comment, his dark eyes swaying back and forth as he read each line in turn, occasionally squinting at a small and poorly formed word in an effort of comprehension. Half way through he was interrupted by a knock at the door, and went to let in the servant who was bearing my breakfast tray.
“Nothing but platitudes so far,” he said, going back to the letter while I lazily began slicing an apple with a silver fruit knife.
Before the maid left she placed a large pillow behind my back. I leant against it while I ate, feeling the last strains of my headache resolutely refuse to disperse. It was nothing if not pathetic, being so affected by pain throbbing through one’s temples, but no matter what I did I could not escape it. Distance, time, indifference – everything seemed to change except for this.
“Ah!” Marek lowered the parchment and grinned at me over the top. “Overenthusiastic they might be, but–”
“Just tell me what it says,” I interrupted, holding up a hand to stem his enthusiasm too.
Without displaying even a flicker of annoyance Marek cleared his throat. “Commander Ovael of the Yolbrun town guard has written to inform you that he has a man in one of his cells who bears a peculiar marking on his left forearm. He goes on to say – among other things – that it exactly matches the drawing which was sent out with your last orders.”
I paused with a slice of apple halfway to my lips and stared up at him. “Then for once you did right to wake me,” I said, taking a bite. “Call my dresser. I will go see the queen.”
“I believe this morning she is negotiating the possession of that young man who arrived with the Marscian rebels,” Marek commented, folding the parchment and holding it questioningly over the coals smouldering in the grate. “You know, the one with the long curls?”
“I know.” I nodded, and Marek dropped the parchment, waiting until it had caught alight before turning away.
“Very well, Laroth. I’ll send for Rhys. Is there anything else you wish?”
I shook my head, taking another bite of apple as he left.
I read through that but I shuddered at the early flutter of adverbs and nearly bailed. Looking back at old work often makes me want to curl up and die a little inside… Looks like a fun year of Thursdays coming up!
And yes, that is me playing on my brother’s toy car. I only know it was his because he labelled the photo with the words ‘my toy car’ when he sent it to me…
Two weeks ago I came THIS close (yes, I’m holding my fingers VERY close together) THIS close, to submitting The Blood of Whisperers to a big US agent. I consider it to be the low point of my year. Lower than every gaff on social media that has made me cringe and vow to do better. Lower than the pain of crowdfunding. Lower than the day I screamed at my girls and threatened to throw their toys in the bin.
I started this journey at the beginning of 2013, making the final decision that I would publish my own books. Before then I was much like every other aspiring author, writing synopsisisisis (never could finish typing that word) and query letters and making lists of who to send work to and when. But the lack of control kept leading me back to considering the self-publisher route. I knew that as a traditional author I would have no say whatsoever over my cover, my blurb, my title, and would be expected to fix and change anything inside the book my appointed editor told me to.
That sucked. Yes there are awful covers, terrible blurbs and shudder-worthy books out there that have been produced by authors. Not many authors are also designers or artists and sometimes you have to wonder where their discerning genes have gone begging. I like to think I’m not like that. I like to think I have made it through this process with my objectivity intact. I like to think that I can see what will best suit and sell my book better than someone who has never read it.
And yet despite all this, despite the fact that I produced The Blood of Whisperers with every level of professionalism I possibly could. Despite having reviewers and readers alike inform me that there was no difference between the quality of my book and that of a major publisher, I still had doubts. I watched other debut authors rise to stratospheric heights of popularity because their traditional publishers had the engines with which to launch them, and I knew the bitter gnawing of jealousy. That could have been me. Instead here I am struggling against the damn stigma, knowing it will be a long and slow journey when all I want is for people to read what I write. Money has never factored into it for me. I would write obsessively for the rest of my life even if I never got paid for it, although obviously getting paid for it would mean I could spend MORE time writing.
But I digress.
There I was, sitting at my computer with my newly completed and edited synopsis and a fancy-ass query letter and … I think I made it pretty clear last post how I feel about my editor… well I have one more thing to thank her for. “Are you sure you need an agent?” she asks me via chat. “Give it to any publisher and they will pick it up in a heartbeat” She’d had little enthusiasm for my decision to go traditional, but we have become good friends and she would support any decision I made… but this last question made me start thinking again. Before we met, her opinion of self-publisher had been much like that of the general population, but she had read and loved my work, she had watched me fight for the right to be recognised for doing the damn thing right, for publishing professionally, and now I was giving up.
(More bad language coming up)
And so now I have dug myself out of the depressing hole I had sunk into, so pained by the stigma that I came THIS DAMN CLOSE to giving up my dream, I can say fuck it. THIS is what I want to do. I want to write what I want to write, not what will make a big company the most money. I want to be able to choose my covers, my artists, my TEAM. I have one and I love them all and their enthusiasm for my dream is almost as great as my own. I don’t want to sell my work or my rights or my control, and I damn well don’t want anyone to stand between me and my readers. There is just me, sitting here writing, and you sitting there reading (or standing, or lying down as the case may be. Hell, maybe you read while hopping, but that’s your choice!)
I am, in the words of the great and powerful Chuck Wendig, an AUTHOR-PUBLISHER and I am proud of it. YES, that means I fall into a category with a lot of SHIT. YES, that means the power of the marketing engine will never be behind me. YES, that means I will never be able to be a member of the SFWA and therefore will never have a chance at the popularity contest fantasy awards that I would LOVE to win (so I’m flawed! Who isn’t :D) But this is the path I have chosen and if I have to fight this battle through a sea of stigma I will do it, and be happy to do it so long as there are people who want to read my books.
There will be tears. There will be other authors who will look down on me like I am the shit on their shoes. There will be days when I will wish I had given in and stopped fighting for recognition without the stamp of Big Five approval. But on those days I will grit my teeth and keep fighting because I’m worth it. I’m worth an uphill battle along shit creek.
One day my girls will be proud of me.
I love you
I do, I really do. My editor is a truly amazing woman who does everything she can to ensure that when you pick up one of my books, you don’t only pick up a book as grammatically correct and lacking in spelling errors as it is humanly possible to make them, but also that they come to you finished to the highest standard of which I am capable.
Yes, she pushes me hard. She sends back comments that just say: ‘You can do better’, and she makes me (think whip in hand) write them again and again until they are right – until they really are the best I can do. I love that I am pushed to always improve. To do my best. To work hard. It’s like having my own personal trainer. “Another set, you can do it, one, two, three…”.
So now you get the picture, so why am I going on about it?
Because with the release of The Gods of Vice just around the corner, it occurs to me that my editor, and editors in general, don’t get enough credit for the work they do. When I was working on the front matter (copyright, dedication page etc.) for The Gods of Vice, my editor asked me, rather shyly for her, whether it would be ok to put her name on the copyright page credits (with the artist and the typesetter…). I immediately said yes, and wondered why it hadn’t been there on The Blood of Whisperers. It hadn’t been there, because in copying the traditional publishing industry standard, the people who work on each book are pretty much invisible. Authors name, publishing house. That’s it. Sometimes they mention the artist, the typesetter and rarely the printer, but the editor is never there. The publishing house is the editor.
Editors are important. I talk about it a lot. If you want to be the best writer you can be, then you need one. If you plan on publishing anything at all, then you need one. If you’re a writer and you don’t have one, then go get one!Go and take the single most important step toward publication (whether indie or traditional) that you can possibly take. They are easy to find, but like with everything, you can get good editors and bad editors, expensive editors, and cheap editors, and the editor that is good for me might not work well with you. I know some other great editors, but I couldn’t work as well with them as I do with mine. (Look at that ownership… she’s mine, I tell you *hiss* back off!) Don’t be satisfied with the first one you find unless they are ‘the one’ .. yes, it is as hard as finding a life partner.
Do you have an editor you couldn’t live without? If you do, appreciate them. Love them, because they are almost as important to a book as the author. I sure as hell couldn’t do this without you, Amanda 🙂