Archive for the 'Rachel Aaron' Category



13
Feb
10

getting it right vs. getting it done

/* Special note! I just got my copy of Nora’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and it is awesome! The book is beautiful and the story is fantastic so far. If you aren’t reading it already, do yourself a favor and check it out! You won’t be sorry, promise! */

I just recently turned in edits for the second book in my series for Orbit. When I first got the manuscript back from my editor, I estimated it would take about 2 weeks to go through and get the book into publishable shape. Boy, was I wrong. The deeper I got into the text, the more I realized the text had problems. Nothing huge, but there were lots of small discrepancies, little matters of timing, congruency, and continuity that had to be adjusted. As I worked I was very aware of my approaching deadlines. I had a third book to get out, after all. I couldn’t afford to be sitting here nitpicking timelines on a book that was otherwise completely fine.

And yet… I couldn’t just be sloppy. This was my book. This was going to be purchased by my fans (I’d assume, since they would have had to have read the first book and liked it to care about the second), they deserved a good story, the best I could give them. So these two needs go back and forth, getting the book right vs. getting it done, finally coming to a head in a scene towards the end of the book.

First off, it was a pivotal scene for one of my favorite characters, one that I’d been thinking of for a long, long time. I could not afford for this scene to suck. I’d thought I’d gotten it good enough, but rereading it, I realized it wasn’t what it needed to be. And yet, it was just one scene, a thousand words, and I was so close to finished and pushing my deadlines already. So I sat there, going one way, then the other until, finally I gave in and rewrote the stupid thing. It took me 2 days to get it right. Two days! For a thousand words! But I got it right this time, or as close to right as I could get.

This constant tug-of-war between getting the book finished and getting it right is actually good for both book and writer. If it was all about getting it done, my books would be sloppy and dull. If it was all about getting it right, I’d never finish anything. Between the constant pulling I end up with a book that’s good, not perfect (let’s face it, there will always be things I’d wish I’d done differently), but good enough that I’m proud to put my name on it and delivered to the publisher in a timely fashion so people can actually read the sucker, because that’s what this is all about.

Now that I’m finished editing and the novel is turned in, I can sit back and revel in the feeling that I’ve written the best book I could have written. Not the best book I’ll ever write (because how depressing would that be? Peaking this early in my life), but a book that I’m proud of and that was delivered within the appropriate amount of time. I feel I’ve created something worth reading, and even if it isn’t perfect, I couldn’t be happier. This time I won on all fronts, I got it done and got it right, and that’s good enough for me.

31
Jan
10

MacMillan vs. Amazon

So I was going to write about the editorial muck I’m neck deep in, then Nora brought this to my attention and everything else got derailed.

So here’s what happened. Publishing giant Macmillan, parent company of SciFi/Fantasy giant Tor, decided it wanted its ebooks to cost around $15. Amazon, primary retailer for ebooks, didn’t like this at all, and, to show their strong displeasure, have pulled all Macmillan books, print and electronic, from Amazon.com. (Though Macmillan imprints like Tor  seem to be fine).

This is certainly only temporary, but it is a pretty powerful statement from Amazon about who really controls the price of ebooks. However, while they battle it out, the real victims (as it always is in wars) are the civilians, in this case, the authors.  These are people whose books have just vanished from Amazon through no fault of their own, and that sucks. Now, of course there are other retailers, but come on. This is Amazon.com, the online book behemoth. This isn’t small change, especially for scifi/fantasy with our tech savvy audience.

This is also a first shot in the coming greater conflict between retailers and publishers as ebooks move from a fringe format to a real money maker. Who really controls the price? What will that price be? It’s a very interesting conflict to watch for signs of what the future holds for ebooks. Meanwhile, however, it really sucks to be a Macmillan author.

What do you think? Would you buy an ebook for $15? Who’s in the wrong here, Amazon or Macmillan?

ETA: Macmillan’s explanation via Publisher’s Lunch (thanks to Nora for the link, she finds everything!)

UPDATE! Amazon has relented! They will be selling Macmillan books again. Their explanation is a bit backhanded, but that’s to be expected from someone who’s been pushed to do something they don’t want.

15
Jan
10

the writerly life

First off, hooray for all our new posters! Makes me smile all over to read all this awesome.

Sorry for my absence, I can only offer the pathetic “things have been hectic” excuse. But life has been moving faster than I can catch it, lately. However, tomorrow things really ramp up, for tomorrow my baby comes home! After 24 days in the NICU, I am so pumped to finally get him home. This also comes at a time when I’m editing a book, trying to finish a book, doing some freelance CSS work for extra cash, AND trying to keep my house from falling down around my ears. Life! It’s up to my neck.

When I quit my job to be a writer full time, I had these lovely visions of long, quiet hours filled with the clatter of keys as ideas flew from my fingers unhindered by the mundane realities of the work-a-day world. As you can probably guess, it didn’t really turn out that way.  Moving writing from hobby to full time doesn’t make the words come any easier, or make the plot knots less sticky. It just gave me more time to fret about them, and less, because now I’m on a schedule. Don’t get me wrong, writing full time is a blessed, wonderful, luxurious thing. However, in my fantasies I forgot to account for the whole “life marching on” part of life marching on.

What I’m trying to say is that so far, after 6 months of working for myself as a writer, this is what I’ve learned about the writerly life:

  1. I spend about the same amount of time being distracted and off target as I did at my real job.
  2. I am no smarter, wittier, or more eloquent than I was before I dedicated my life to art.
  3. The internet is still interesting, chores still need to get done, and people still call at the absolute worst time.
  4. The first draft of any novel will still suck, whether I wrote it in the mornings before work or spent six hours a day on it.
  5. I do not necessarily get more words now, writing for 6 hours, than I did before I got my agent, when I wrote for 2.
  6. Despite all of the above, the flashes of awesome, of being able to really dig into a scene when you’re going strong without watching the clock, make everything worth it.

I imagine all of these will continue to be true after the kid comes home, only in shorter bursts punctuated by loud screaming. However, I am ready! Bring it on.

01
Jan
10

welcome to the future!

Well… technically it’s not the future until the end of 2010, what with that being the official end of the decade, but screw it. 2010 SOUNDS like the future! And while I am still somewhat miffed at the lack of flying cars and jet packs, I’m feeling pretty bright about the future. So bright, in fact, I’m making plans!

Rachel’s Plans for 2010:

1) Be an actual mom. This includes getting my baby home from the hospital and with me all the time, rather than just an hour a day in the NICU. This should happen very soon, he’s doing really well. I’m very excited!

2) Finish all books under contract. This should also happen very soon, in the next few months. Once I get all my books turned in, I will take a month off, for serious. It will be awesome. Then I’ll start in whole hog on promotion activities. For those keeping score, my books, The Spirit Thief, The Spirit Rebellion, and the Spirit Eater, should be out October, November, December 2010 from Orbit (they have an awesome website, by the way. Go check it out if you haven’t already. Our own Nora has a post up at the moment)!

3) Start a NEW SERIES! I’ve been working on Eli and company for 3 years now, and while I love them all dearly, variety is the spice of life. I’ve got 2 more books planned for the series, but we’ll have to see how the first three sell before those get underway. So, in the months of waiting between finishing all the manuscripts and the books actually hitting the shelves, I’m going to be pitching some new ideas to my agent to see if anything sticks. I probably won’t end up as busy as Diana (I think you suffer from a overflowing of blessing there, Diana), but it never hurts to have some extra casseroles in the oven. And I could certainly use a change of scenery.

So those are my big 3 plans, the ones around which everything else revolves. If I can pull those off, 2010 is going to be great.

So, what are you big plans for next year? Any big projects? Goals? Inquiring minds want to know!

25
Dec
09

“I can not die before my book is published”

Well, what a week it’s been.

So, as some of you are only too aware, I was pregnant with my first child. Was. That’s a past tense as of December 20th when my son, Nathan, became much less of an abstract concept and I almost became much more of one. Rest assured, however, thanks to my awesome husband and the miracle of modern medicine I am not posting this from beyond the grave. Both Nate and I are fine (though Nathan is not a happy camper to be here quite this early, but he’ll get over it), and although I’m spending Christmas in the hospital, I’m alive, my kid’s alive, and that’s the best present I could ask for.

What happened was eclampsia, an extreme and sudden case. Saturday night I had a bad headache and nausea, but that’s not so unusual for third trimester, so I wasn’t really worried. I threw up and went to bed… and woke up the next morning in the hospital with my husband telling me the baby is fine and I’m like “baby? what are you talking about?” Turns out I’d had a seizure and woken my husband, who called 911 when he couldn’t wake me. Since the only cure for eclampsia is getting the baby out, I’d had an emergency C-section as soon as I arrived at the hospital.

As the nurse is explaining all this and my husband is hugging me (I have the best husband ever, guys), my brain is going a million miles a second with everything that could have happened. She finishes the story with something like “you’re so lucky to be alive” and my first thought, before anything else is “Of course, I could not die before my book is out.”

Now, I’m not saying my need to see my published book created a miracle. Honestly, I had very little to do with the saving of my own life that night. But I can’t help thinking that deep down, the idea that I had something to see, something I’d worked so hard for that I could not die before realizing, helped to pull me through. When I think about how close I came to not waking up that morning, my brain shuts down and I can’t even comprehend it. All I know is that, thanks to my husband and doctors, I made it through. And let me tell you something, I’m not going to waste their work. I have some awesome ideas for this book you’re not going to believe, and I can’t wait to get back to work and try my hand at this whole mommy-writer thing.

One thing’s for certain, though: at the risk of sounding like a gushing new mom, he was totally worth the hassle.

Happy holidays, everyone! Keep safe, keep writing, and keep what matters close at heart.

19
Dec
09

The unexpected perks of publication

So we all know the obvious perks of getting a contract with a major publisher: a fantastic editor, outside verification of worth, money, your book in print (with a cover and everything!), etc. All of these things are the utmost peak of awesome, but there are other great parts of being with a publisher/having an agent, little perks no one tells you about… For example:

Perk 1: Free Books!

So I happened to mention to my editor at Orbit several months ago that I was excited about reading Soulless. Low and behold, what should appear in my mail box a few days later but a lovely ARC of Soulless! Friends, there is nothing more awesome then getting to read a great book… MONTHS before anyone else.  And that’s just one example. Sometimes books would just appear in my mail, awesome books, FREE awesome books by awesome people like Jeff Somers and Amanda Downum! Seriously bad ass, that’s what free books are.  This is not to be missed!

Perk 2:  Meeting Other Authors!

The first thing that happened when I got my agent (other than me nearly having a heart attack) was getting intr0duced to our own lovely Diana Rowland who, in turn, invited me to come and join her and some other bad ass people on a group blog (which is about to get a large influx of new bad ass people, stay tuned!). This kind of stuff (while not always on the level of awesome as joining the Magic District) seems to happen all the time once your name enters the published pool! My agent has introduced me to authors, so has my editor, my agent’s assistant, my editor’s assistant… it’s like they’re all in on this vast conspiracy to link authors together! Which is great because fantasy authors tend to be pretty awesome and interesting people you want to hang out with. I always thought that meeting other writers was something that happened slowly as you built a name, but it turns out they start you right out of the gate, which is great because your fellow authors are some of your best resources as a rookie. Amazingly awesome.

Perk 3:  Calls from New York!

Maybe I’m a total nerd, but there is nothing that makes my heart go pitter patter like pulling out my phone and seeing a 212 area code, then excusing myself because “I’ve got to take this call from New York.” Maybe it’s pretension, but it’s this stupid awesome feeling of “I’ve made it,” even when the call is just “hey, send us that form” or something equally banal. Bonus points when it’s your editor calling because she had this amazing idea that really is amazing, or because she wants to discuss things like cover art… squeee!

Sure writers don’t get health insurance, paid vacation, flex time, or 401ks, but there are other unique perks to the job that are not to be over looked, including the most important of all: being able to make a living writing stories you love AND having people read them. Can’t beat that with a stick right there.

11
Dec
09

It doesn’t get easier, but would we like it if it did?

Two years ago, before I had my agent or my publisher or any realistic hope of either, I was writing a book and having a hard time of it.

Continue reading ‘It doesn’t get easier, but would we like it if it did?’

05
Dec
09

Question for the audience

So it is gift giving time again and I am stuck with an interesting conundrum. I have 2 teenage boys and 1 eleven year old boy on my list, and I’d like to get them books for Christmas. Trouble is, I don’t read a lot of YA or know what’s cool (nor am I seen as being particularly cool). One of the teenagers and the eleven year old both read well above their level, I don’t know about the other teenager (other than he likes XBox and BMX racing).

SO, if you, lovely, well read readers, can suggest books boys would like and not just shove under their beds, I would be ecstatic.  I’d really love some good SciFi, since all 3 like that sort of thing, but I’ll take whatever recommendations you think up! Thank you in advance for helping me save Christmas!

28
Nov
09

middling

I’ve reached my least favorite bit of novel writing again, the end of the middle. In the beginning everything is peachy, I’ve got drive, energy, and none of my plans have turned out to be stupid wastes of time yet. As I write the energy dissipates and problems emerge – I start to uncover gaping idiocies, characters make very good points about why they would never do something like what I needed them to do for the plot, etc. The novel is starting to go off the rails.

Every time this happens, I struggle desperately to hold it on course, and sometimes this gets me through. Other times it just means wasted words on a plot that’s not worth keeping (see previous novel). Either way, I always run into the wall at the exact same place, the 2/3 mark. It’s the place where my bright beginning seems like hair brained scheming, but the end is still so far away I can’t see the finish line. Every morning I wake up feeling like I should just stop, go back and edit my way into something resembling a coherent plot. Sometimes, I give in, but not this time.

I’ve talked before about the novel as a wicked problem, a problem you don’t know how to solve until you’ve solved it. This was true two novels ago, last novel, and it’s true now. The 2/3 mark is where I’m deepest in the problem, my feet haven’t been able to touch bottom for a while, and I’m getting really tired of swimming. But I know if I keep going, push through to the good scenes that are still there, I’ll finish. Of course, the novel will be terrible, but my first drafts are always terrible. I’m just starting to realize this is because I’m secretly a much better reviser than a writer.

Some people really don’t need more than 2 drafts. Some writers just seem to know where their story is going. Some writers take dozens of drafts. All of that is fine, if we all wrote stories the same way, our stories would probably all be the same. It took a while, but I think I’ve finally made my peace with the idea of being a rewriter rather than a writer. I like to tell myself  this skill is because of my amazing problem solving abilities, but really it’s because it takes me a while to have all my good ideas. This is fine, writing is not a performance art. So long as I get the story right by the time it goes out, nothing else matters. Now to just keep repeating that until the novel’s actually done.

Happy (belated) Thanksgiving and good luck with all your projects!

22
Nov
09

Never assume you know your readers

Sorry about the Sunday post… AGAIN. Fridays keep blowing up in my face, mostly in good but terribly busy ways.

So the other night my husband and I went to a local place called Taco Stand which serves…. wait for it… tacos! Delicious tacos! It’s cheap, tasty, and very popular with families (what kid doesn’t like tacos?). This makes for a weird mix of townies and students, groups that are normally oil and water in our little University town, but it also means I run into people I don’t normally see. Unfortunately, this mixing has a bad habit of spawning the “what are you doing now, oh you have a book coming out!” conversation I thought (back before I was published) I would love having, but in reality is always pretty awkward given most people’s vague notions of fantasy and weird ideas about how authors spend their time.

This particular night I ran into a woman I used to work with at the church (my first job out of college as a designer/receptionist and, coincidentally, where I wrote my first novel), named Tami. Even though Tami was older than me and a mother with kids, we were cohorts in the trenches at our job, fighting against the pretty terrible decisions of those above us, and I always enjoyed her company. But, other than work stuff, I didn’t know her or her husband very well, always thought of them as a fairly conservative couple. So, while I was happy to see her looking so well, I was pretty anxious when she came up to say hello after four years and the “what are you doing now” conversation came up. I took the cheat way out and just told her I had a book coming out. Fortunately she had a tray full of tacos headed towards a table of hungry children, so the conversation was truncated and I fled to the other side of the room, safe (I thought) from having to explain yet again that no, my book was not Harry Potter or Twilight or Eragon.

Fifteen minutes later as my husband and I are walking out, Tami stops us. My heart sinks. Here it comes. I can almost see the Oprah question in her eyes. She asks what kind of book I wrote. I tell her fantasy, and to my utter amazement, Tami and her husband are immediately excited. What kind of fantasy? Epic like George R.R. Martin? Urban? Her husband lights up as he tells us how much he loves Joe Abercrombie and how upset he is that Patrick Rothfuss hasn’t put out a second book yet. Tami’s asks who I’m getting published by, and when I tell her Orbit she knows exactly who I’m talking about and tells me she loves their stuff.

At this point, my mind is blown. Here is this woman I worked with for a year, whom I thought I knew as a conservative small town lady with her husband who owns the local office furniture store, more likely (I thought) to read Rachael Ray than ever read Rachel Aaron, and they’re asking me what fantasy books mine is like. What new books can I recommend? Will my book be suitable for their 10 year old, who is already an avid fantasy fan? (My books are not YA, but they have no cussing or sex, just bloody swordfights, so I said maybe to that one. Tami assured me they’d both read it first, and I actually believe they will.)

In the end my husband had to pull me away from the conversation so we wouldn’t be late for our party. Still, I got a very valuable lesson about making assumptions about people, their reading habits, and my future audience. When I wrote my books, the reader I had in my head were people like myself and my husband – geeks, gamers, internet nerds, people who wrote fanfiction in highschool, etc., etc. But there are fantasy readers out there who never go to cons, get involved in geek culture, or even consider themselves geeks. They just like a good fantasy story.

Being so deeply involved in geek culture it’s easy to forget that there are people outside the bubble who buy the same books I do. Who may buy my book if they come across it. Fortunately, this encounter was a very gentle wakeup call and not the foot-in-mouth disaster it could have been. Still, lesson learned.