Archive for September, 2010

30
Sep
10

Glorious celebrations demand free books!

ETA: It’s now noon on Friday, and the giveaway contest is closed! Thank you to everyone who entered!! I am now putting all the emails and comments together in a big virtual hat. Since I love all the comments so much, I’ll be using a random number generator to make the hard choice of who gets free books for me. Winners should be notified today.  Again, thank you all so much for participating. Even if you didn’t win, I sincerely hope you’ll go to your local bookstore and give The Spirit Thief a try.

Sincerely,

Rachel Aaron

_______________________________________________________

So my first book, The Spirit Thief, comes out tomorrow! YAY!

To celebrate, I… wrote a guest blog post for Kalayna Price’s blog party about how we’re living in a golden age of publishing!

But wait, that is not NEARLY enough celebration! So, to reward all you loyal Magic District readers, I am going to celebrate my book’s release by GIVING AWAY 20 COPIES OF THE SPIRIT THIEF! These are not ARCs, they’re the real deal with lovely, glossy covers and beautiful embossed lettering! Total hotness.

Here’s what you’ll be getting:

The Spirit Thief

Eli Monpress is talented. He’s charming. And he’s a thief.

But not just any thief. He’s the greatest thief of the age – and he’s also a wizard. And with the help of his partners – a swordsman with the most powerful magic sword in the world but no magical ability of his own, and a demonseed who can step through shadows and punch through walls – he’s going to put his plan into effect.

The first step is to increase the size of the bounty on his head, so he’ll need to steal some big things. But he’ll start small for now. He’ll just steal something that no one will miss – at least for a while.

Like a king.

Sounds fun, doesn’t it? You want one, don’t you?! Well that’s good, because I want to give you one!! BUT, there is a catch! A catch, in fact, shamelessly stolen from our own Nora (because she has amazing ideas) when she did her Hundred Thousand Kingdoms ARC giveaway.  It goes like this: in order to get a free (autographed!) copy of the Spirit Thief, all you have to do is send me an email or reply to this post stating:

  1. That you will in fact read the book. Because, while I care deeply about your bookshelves, Orbit didn’t send me this lovely box of books just to have them be shelf decorations.
  2. That you promise to, once you’re done reading, leave me a review at the venue of your choice (Amazon, GoodReads, your own blog, wherever). If you don’t like the book, that’s fine, leave a review anyway! Of course, I hope you do like it, but reviews, good and bad, are vital.

That’s it, no contest, nothing but your desire to REEEEAD! That’s not too much for a free book, is it? This contest runs for 24 hours. At noon tomorrow I’ll randomly select 20 winners from the replies/emails, and those lucky people will  get free, autographed copies of The Spirit Thief shipped right to their door!

Now, I’ve got 20 copies, so your chances are pretty good! And if I don’t get 20 replies by noon tomorrow, I’ll just keep pushing the give away open until I do. So get those entries in, and good luck!!!

Advertisements
09
Sep
10

The Pregnancy of Elephants (annotated)

If anyone ever tells you that the process of publishing a book is like an elephant pregnancy, you tell them they’re dead wrong. It’s actually like FIVE elephant pregnancies back to back.[1]

As my debut novel THE NATIVE STAR just hit bookstore shelves a little over a week ago, I thought it might be fun to go back through my old LiveJournal posts to remind myself of the path it traveled to publication. Having done so, I find that “fun” is probably not quite the word to use. “Harrowing” is maybe a better one. And “instructive” is the best of all. I’m recording this for every writer laboring toward that first sale, that first publication—that first whatever—who has ever thought, “I must be crazy, I must be doing something wrong, it shouldn’t be taking this long!!”

Well I’m here to tell you, it takes a long time to make a baby elephant. And it takes even LONGER to make five of ’em. So sit back, relax, and try not to cringe in horror as we hit the instant (hah!) replay button:

I first mentioned the book on my blog on 1/3/2002. As are most writers who are enthralled with a shiny new project, I was full of starry-eyed optimism:

So this is my first post of 2002. Whoopee. I may be somewhat less attentive to my LJ over the coming months because I am writing quite a lot on the new novel (a lite magical realism romp set in 1876, for those keeping score) and have been spending every second of spare time on that instead of on LJ.

I spent most of January and February on an epic writing binge:

1/15/2002:

Every spare moment has been spent writing on the novel. I’m up to 130 pages (woo hoo!)

1/23/2002:

300 pages, double spaced, 12pt courier, 1 inch margins. 50,000 words. Still lost in my alternate version of the 19th Century.

Indeed, I was writing at such a fast and furious pace, I took a whole week off from work to write on the book:

Monday, Feb. 5 – 282 pages (55,588 words)
Monday, Feb. 11 – 351 pages (71,757 words)
A very productive week. It’s all about the words, baby.

By the end of February (2/21/2002) I was trudging laboriously toward the finish line:

Now I’m in the hard slogging.

I have to write the last few scenes where all the darling little furbelows and fripperies that I’ve left dangling throughout the book have to be gathered up and tied together. I have a pretty good idea of how I’m going to do it, which automatically puts me ahead of the game (especially compared to some of my other novelistic forays, where I came to Chapter 20 and said … “well, shit, NOW what happens?”) , but it’s like executing a complicated french braid—the hair is slippery and there’s just so many pieces of it wisping around. Once I get all that done (oh, Lord) then comes the big polish. It’s all very rough right now, and is full of little memos to myself along the lines of “insert brilliant description of the wharves of San Francisco in 1876 here.”

Urgh.

Must … finish …

The exact date I finished the novel is not recorded, but I expect it was sometime in March. So, keep that fun fact in your mind. The first draft of the novel was completed in March 2002. Once the first draft was finished, I sent it around to the writers’ groups I was in at the time and got lots of good feedback on it. I revised and rewrote. Sometime in 2003 I deemed it complete enough to start submitting. I sent the first few chapters to the late Chris Bunch who gave me some ideas for fixing up the prologue to make it more exciting. I took his advice (of course I did!) and he liked my revisions enough to ask his editor if I could send the book to her.

7/16/2003:

Bunch got me an in with Jennifer Heddle [of Roc.] I am to send her the MS of “Native Star” asap. Marked “Requested Materials”, no less! This is enormous! I can actually send something to an editor at a major house marked “Requested Materials” and not have it be a baldfaced lie! (not that I’ve ever REALLY done that, but I’m sure every writer has THOUGHT of it …) Now we play the waiting game.

The book sat at Roc for a few months, until finally I heard something back on 1/20/2004:

Anyway, the news is that last week, Jennifer Heddle contacted me and told me that while she wasn’t into Old West stuff, she’d passed the book onto another editor who’s going to give it a look. An editor to editor pass … that’s gotta be good.[2]

While I was waiting on Roc, I wasn’t letting any moss grow on this rolling stone. I was out looking for agents.

4/22/2004:

Hey, I got a letter from Lucienne Diver at the Spectrum Literary Agency today! She’s willing to take a look at my series package. Which is cool. Except now I have to actually put it together. Well, that’s not exactly accurate. Book One is solid as a rock, nothing left to do there but sell it.[3] I’ve got half of Book 2 written, but more importantly, I’ve got a detailed chapter-by-chapter outline for it. But she wants an outline for the rest of the series, and that’s going to take a little work. I’ve got a broad, sketchy idea of what I want to do in Books 3-6, but since this is an “alternate history” series, and since it advances through time and reinterprets actual historical events in the light of the existence of magic, I have to actually think through what the Russian Revolution would have been like if one threw magic into the mix. Or the Cold War. Or the McCarthy trials. Or the advertising scene in New York the 1950s. It’s going to be hard to write good solid outlines for these books without putting in the research. So I guess I’ll just have to keep it all very high level and figure out the details later.

But those concerns aside, this is pretty encouraging. She’s the first agent I sent a query to, I’ve heard so many good things about her, and she works for an agency which is well respected.

Now we play the package-preparing game. Then we play the going-to-the-post-office game. Then we play the waiting game.

(Aw, the waiting game *sucks*. Let’s play Hungry Hungry Hippos!)[4]

But the road to becoming agented, like the course of true love, never does run smooth. A couple of months later on 6/10/2004:

I also got a reply back from Spectrum Literary Agency today.

Lucienne Diver said that she “love[s] the world” I’ve created. She says the novel is “different, fresh, and well-written.”

“Clearly, you’re a very talented writer,” the letter goes on to say. So far, so good.

Then it goes on to drop the proverbial hammer:

“That said, the narrative didn’t seem to have quite the drive, fast pacing and overarching menace that would keep the pages turning late into the night.”

Sigh.

Well, at least the blow was blunted by the good news from F &SF yesterday. And she did recommend that I send it to Jennifer Jackson at the Donald Maass Agency, which I will now proceed to do (it’s always nice to have a name to drop when you’re making contact – “so & so suggested I send this to you”.)[5]

While history (or at least my blog) does not record when Jennifer Jackson rejected it, I seem to recall that it was a pretty generic form rejection. Which left me feeling like I was way farther away from my goal than ever. But I kept at it. One of the agents I’d targeted was Ginger Clark, then at Writers’ House. After licking my no-love-from-Jennifer wounds for a while, I sent it along to Ginger. I got my first rejection from her in June of 2005, with an invitation to look at the book again if I wanted to do a rewrite. This sent me into stormy turmoils of newbie author despair on 6/25/2005:

Ginger Clark likes the way I write, but not what I’ve written. But it’s not all bad news. She’s invited me to revise and resubmit. I hate revising. TNS is so ingrained in my head now that I don’t even know how I’d begin to revise it. It’s like, I’ve been over it so many times, it would be like trying to revise “The Cat in The Hat.” Any change just wouldn’t feel right. So what the hell do you do? I think I’ll write something new and just scrap the fucking book. No, I won’t really do that.[6]

Ultimately, I located a pair of big-girl panties and executed the rewrites as she requested. By the end of the year, a revision was on her desk. After a few months considering the rewrite, she rejected me again, suggesting that I tighten some stuff up in the last half of the book, and again offering to look at it again after additional changes. I had another private hissy fit. But I took comfort in the fact that I seemed to be getting closer. Then she asked for a synopsis of Book 2 (now titled THE HIDDEN GODDESS), which I sent. And all the while, I continued to freak out. Now, however, the subject of my freak-outs had moved on to nonsensical shit like whether people would still be interested in reading historical fantasy WAY IN THE INCONCEIVABLY DISTANT FUTURE, LIKE SAY IN 2010!

11/16/2007:

Sigh. Trying to stay positive and focused … I sent Ginger Clark the synopsis for book 2 a week ago (Friday?) and she said she’d read it over the weekend and get back to me on Tuesday or Wednesday … well, Tuesday and Wednesday passed, and now it’s Friday, and I don’t got no news to take to Orycon, and … I’m just chewing my nails. I’ve been waiting so long already! It’s wait wait wait. I want Ginger to take me as a client, and I want her to sell my goddamn book, because it’s going to be a year to two years before I hold a fucking book in my hand and if she doesn’t fucking hurry up, the time will have passed and people will be sick of historical fantasy …

AAAAAAAA!

Deep breath. Deep breath. Keep the crazy on the inside.

And I did keep the crazy on the inside, people. To my credit. It’s only now that I’m sharing it with the world.

In December of 2007, I traveled to NYC on business and met with Ginger. And, lo and behold … SHE OFFERED TO REPRESENT ME! It was a singularly sweet moment, but not without it’s annoying caveats:

I went over to see Ginger Clark, and she said, “I’d like to represent you.” Which was pretty exciting, but then she said “And I want you to cut 5k out of The Native Star” which was slightly less exciting, but I can cut it all out of the front. I know I can. Chapter 1 is 7k words … I can get it down to 5. That’s 2k right there. She also wants some taken out of the train ride. I just have to look for fat (even fat I like) and get rid of it.

Sigh.

I promised her a revision by February. I’ll probably get it to her sooner than that, but at least I have 2 months. I wanted to avoid the holidays.

In February, I sent the revisions to Ginger as promised (I am nothing if not punctual.) She took a couple of months to read them, and by May of 2008 she deemed the book was ready to send out. Finally, things really started moving.

Jun. 9th, 2008:

Today is a red letter day. I received word from my agent that Juliet Ulman at Bantam has made an offer on my novels — she wants to buy them both. We haven’t heard back from any of the other editors yet. If we do, it will go to some kind of auction situation. If we don’t, we still have an awesome offer on the table.

This is the day I’ve been waiting for since … 1990? 1989? Since I had a novel to sell? And it feels good. But like revenge, it doesn’t really change anything. Life goes on, onward and upward.

But what would a red-letter day be without a bit of hand-wringing from me?

I have been waiting for this day for years and years. And yet here it is, and it doesn’t feel like I’ve gotten to the mountaintop, it feels like I’ve just seen how much more there is to climb. It’s not a discouraging feeling, precisely. But I thought I’d be more thrilled than this. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not *unthrilled* … it’s just that this didn’t hit me all at once in a blast, it was one email, then another, then some banter … and it all built up into a book deal. And then it was like, “OK, we’re done, we have a deal” and I’m like … oh! Well! Good!

6/28/2008:

I just got off the phone with Juliet, and she is just as cool as everyone says she is. I am so excited to be working with her! (I mean, look at the awesome writers she works with: Barth Anderson, Tim Pratt, Eliot Fintushel, Greg Van Eekhout … the list goes on and on.) She gave me a quick rundown of what to expect from the publishing process. The first book will probably be coming out in Spring ’10, which means we won’t actually get started working until early ’09. Which seems an eternity now, but I have lots of stuff to work on between now and then, and I’m sure it will go faster than I expect.[7]

I signed the book contracts on Sept. 8, 2008. Six years after I completed the first draft of the book. And yet, the journey was by no means over. It would still be 2 more years before the first book came out. On November 20, 2008, I got the bad news that Juliet Ulman (who had acquired my book) had been the unfortunate victim of a round of layoffs. But the good news was that I had a new editor, Anne Groell. But the bad news was that she was going on maternity leave and wouldn’t be able to get started on my book until she got back. So I sat down to play the waiting game again. By this time I was getting pretty good at it.

The rest hardly bears reporting … there were copyedits and pageproofs, wranglings about the title for Book 2, but finally we got to the place where we are today. The novel ultimately hit the shelves just a couple of “seasons” later than originally predicted (the original pub date was Spring ’10, I ended up with a Fall ’10 release … considering all we went through, not too shabby.) I have copies that I can hold in my hand and love and hug and call George. It wasn’t fast, that’s for sure.

But like any elephant momma can tell you, it was certainly worth the wait.


#


[1]]The point being, of course, that elephant pregnancies take upwards of two years to come to term. Those poor, majestic beasts!
[2]]It wasn’t. The editor she passed it along never got back to me!
[3]]Ahem. As you’ll see, not everyone (*coughGINGERCLARKcough*) agreed with my assessment. And looking back, I am so goddamn glad of that. THE NATIVE STAR in 2004 was a far less accomplished product than the book that ended up being published in 2010. It’s called gestation for a reason, people!
[4]Yes, I was sick of the waiting game all the way back in 2004. Which just goes to show, you’d better learn to like the waiting game.
[5] It may be “nice” to have a name to drop, but it didn’t help much in this case.
[6] Once again proving the benefits of psychotic persistence!
[7] It didn’t, actually.

08
Sep
10

The people who influence you

(This post x-posted from the Grave Witch Release Party going on now at my blog)

As previously mentioned, I just returned from Dragon*Con, the largest Sci-Fi/Fantasy Con in the South East. The guest list for Dragon is always impressive. Big name TV/movie stars, best selling authors, and some of the best underground musicians are pretty much par for the course. Lines for events are sometimes blocks long and many rooms fill to capacity (and beyond, though then the fire marshals tend get rather irate). You’d pretty much have to be living under a rock (or, I guess, just not be a geek) to have never heard of at least a few of the guests. Whatever your particular flavor of geekdom, there is probably someone there that you’re dying to hear speak and maybe get a signature and a photo. I’d almost guarantee that there is a guest in attendance whose work you respect greatly, and maybe there is someone whose work has influenced or inspired you.

This Dragon*Con, I had the opportunity to see one of those people who influenced and inspired me. And not only see her, but to talk to briefly and get a picture with said influential person. Who was this person? Well, you might have already recognized her from the photo, but for those of you who didn’t, the person I’m referring to is Laurell K Hamilton, the author of the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series and one of the forerunners of the Urban Fantasy genre as it exists today.  (NOTE: I know there is a lot of fan controversy about this series, but this blog post is not about that, so please keep comments positive and on topic.)

I discovered LKH and the Anita series when I was fourteen (this was in the mid-nineties, so the series wasn’t yet highly inappropriate for a fourteen year old to read–well, unless you object to violence and language, I guess) and before discovering LKH, I was strictly a high fantasy girl. Oh, I’d read gothic paranormal novels like Dracula and Frankenstein (which were pretty much UF for their day) and I’d read Ann Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, but nothing inspired a hunger for more of the genre in me like LKH’s books did.

Of course, there really wasn’t much more of the genre out there at the time.

P N Elrod’s Vampire Files and Tanya Huff’s Blood Books were on shelves, but that was about the extent of the genre that would eventually be called Urban Fantasy (and is even now mutating to a new name). Buffy didn’t start airing until a year or two after I started reading LKH (and I actually didn’t see any of it until years later when my college roommate decided it was all but blasphemous that I hadn’t seen Buffy and arranged several marathon viewings.)  The show Forever Knight (which I was a huge fan of and is probably another influencing force behind me writing UF) had come and gone, but as far as I could find as a fourteen year old, that was the extent of the genre.

I was dabbling in writing by that point, but only high fantasy. In fact, prior to finding the Anita books (and I received the first three by mistake from the Sci-Fi Fantasy Bookclub–I wouldn’t have picked them up on my own) I would have told you I wasn’t interested in any book set in contemporary times. Give me castles and dragons–technology as advanced as a car or wrist watch was a deal breaker. Then I devoured the first few Anita Blake books and I was hooked. I wanted more, and it wasn’t out there.

So I started writing my own.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I didn’t stop writing high fantasy at that point. In fact, I still focused primarily on high fantasy until I finished college. (And like those high fantasy novels, I didn’t finish any of my early UF stories.) I didn’t begin focusing on UF until nearly a decade later when I wrote the novel which eventually became Once Bitten, and by that point, other UF giants such as Charlaine Harris, Jim Butcher, and Kim Harrison were already established.

But if I had to point to one single influential writer who hooked me on the genre, that writer would be Laurell K Hamilton.

I saw LKH at Dragon two years ago and attended almost every one of her panels (including one memorable panel where I thought she was about to throw down with one of the romance writers), but at that time I couldn’t work up the nerve to talk to her. This year I saw her on several panels and even passed her in the halls a couple times, but I was too afraid I’d make a fool of myself to approach her.  Then, on the very last day of Dragon, probably two hours before I left, I saw her in the hall and finally worked up the nerve to talk to her. (Or maybe it wasn’t nerve. I’d literally just walked out from giving blood when I spotted her and was a little light headed so ‘just go for it’ sounded plausible.)

I asked if I could get a picture with her, and told her that her books had inspired me to write and that I have an UF book (Grave Witch) being released from Roc next month. Then I gave her a very nervous hug and ran away, even more light headed–either from blood loss or nerves. I hope I didn’t scare her and come off as a crazy fan girl, but how do you act and what do you say to someone whose work influenced you (especially during those formidable teenage years)? 

So, here is my question for you: Who has influenced and inspired you and how? (In any aspect of your life.) What would you say to them if you had a chance to meet them? Or, have you met that person? What did you do/say?