(Um. Reposting this because for some weird reason, LJ ate the post. This is not the first time this has happened. Does anybody have any idea if it’s even *possible* to retrieve a post that LJ has wiped out? I mean, I have no particular attachment to the post itself, but there were comments on it, not all of which I’d responded to yet (ie, yes, mony, you *have* known me a long time, and stuff like that)…)
(…oh, I bet I know what happened. I edited the entry on mizkit, and set it to ‘do not crosspost’. I bet that when you do that if it for some reason goes back to do an update, it sees the ‘do not post’ and it wipes the original entry. Grargh!)
Somehow this ended up seven pages long (I blathered on about many of the books in some detail), so it’s just going directly behind a cut tag.
– The early years: I started my first novel at around age 7 or 8. It was the first of what I intended as an on-going mystery series with 5 young protagonists, a la Trixie Belden, the Bobbsey Twins, the Happy Hollidays, etc. Even at that tender age I grasped the idea of longevity as a writer being carried in series. I think I got around 20 pages written. I wish I still had that.
I don’t recall trying to write another novel in my pre-or-teen years. I feel like a bit of a slacker, accordingly, since so many people I know were apparently doing their best to write them then. I wrote short stories for classes, and revised lots of books (like, say, DRAGONSONG) in my head, to include myself as a main character, but I don’t remember writing much down.
#1 – 1992, first actual novel: NO SONG BUT SILENCE, written when I was 19. I remember that I read some particularly bad book (I can’t, to my dismay, remember what), and thought, “Well, shit, I can do better than *that*,” and sat down and wrote my first book. It was an Arthurian re-telling, and I’m quite sure the protagonist was too much of a Mary Sue, though I knew enough to not make her Just! Like! Me!
That, my first book, was the first time I ever was typing along, doo dee doo dee doo, and had a piece of totally unexpected story come out of nowhere and flummox me. I still remember sitting there as a character said something that both made sense within the context of the story, advanced the plot, built history, and came completely out of the blue. I think I said, “Holy shit!” out loud. That was an amazing moment.
I revised it, submitted it (to DAW), got rejected, and…don’t recall doing much else with it. I’ve still got a copy, but I haven’t looked at it in fifteen years, and I suspect that if I ever want to revisit it (I am, I fear, still a sucker for Arthurian tales) that I should rewrite it from scratch, keeping the half dozen scenes that I do remember, which are probably about all that’s worth remembering.
If I ever do that, I’ll go back and re-read the original when I’m done. I have a suspicion that aside from the obvious growth as a writer in plotting, characterisation, etc, that the story itself will be…very, very similiar. I am consistently very much like myself.
– 1993-1997: The MUSHing years. I didn’t write any novels during this time, but frankly, I’m pretty sure I got most of my million words of bad writing out of the way. I learned a lot about storytelling, too, and I enjoyed the hell out of doing it.
– 1997: I started MANIFEST DESTINY, a…a civil war story set in space, to play very very fast and very very loose with the concept…which was a Cast Of Thousands book. I got about 30K into it before totally losing control. I just didn’t have the skill set. Later, Jim utterly goggled at me for even having *tried* something that ambitious that early on. I wrote an additional 20K on it in 2002, and ran, again, into a wall of “not yet good enough.” I’m now good enough, I think, but I’m under contract for too much other stuff.
#2 – 1998: IMMORTAL BELOVED. I was well and truly a Highlander fan during this period. Warner Books was publishing Highlander novels, so I wrote a Methos novel and submitted it (to, in fact, Betsy Mitchell, who is now my editor at Del Rey). The rejection letter I got was a really nice one (not from Betsy, but from her assistant) and said they’d cancelled the Highlander novel line, but that I should resubmit if the line opened again. You can read it here, if you want to.
This was probably one of the most useful projects I’ve ever done, as far as learning to write books is concerned. I sat down and was chugging away at it, and I’d gotten to around…35,000 words, and was 2/3rds of the way done with the book. *That*, I knew, wasn’t going to work, so I had to step back and do some major revisions that taught me enormous amounts about how to fill a story.
#3 – 1999: Sarah and I wrote TRAPPER’S DAUGHTER, a western romance based loosely on characters from MaddockMUX. Again, a fantastic learning experience (oh, my snowstorm!). We wrote alternating chapters and edited each other’s work, and one of my favorite things about that book is that if I didn’t know which chapters I’d written, I wouldn’t know which chapters I’d written. We did a damned fine job on that, and we racked up a whole lot of really positive rejections from publishing houses who kept saying, “This is really good, but it’s too dark for our line and we don’t know what to do with it. Good luck placing it somewhere else.”
It just now occured to me that if we were to ever go back to that (which I think we’d both like to do, at some point, because we had a whole series set out and it would’ve been good) that in fact the best thing to do might be to start all over. It’s been nearly ten years, and probably what we could write now would be much stronger than what we did then. That might be a hell of a lot easier than trying to revise old material. Huh. Interesting thought.
#4 – 2000: I wrote URBAN SHAMAN while commuting back and forth from San Francisco to Mountain View. Jim’d said to me, “Write something, come to World Fantasy Con, I’ll introduce you to people,” and I did, and I knew I’d written something publishable, but I didn’t make it to WFC and didn’t do anything with the book for two years. After attending the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers conference in 2002, I decided I needed to get my ass in gear, submitted the book 3 times, and sold it (along with two unwritten sequels) in November 2003. Pub date: June 2005.
– 2001: I have no idea what I was doing in 2001. Not writing books, apparently. MUSHing, maybe, although I’d mostly given up on MUSHing around Y2K as people started to drift away, leave college, get real jobs, etc, all that stuff that changed the face of our online social network.
#5 – 2002: RIGHT ANGLES TO FAERYLAND
Aaaah, ANGLES. Angles is, to use a phrase I utterly loathe, the book of my heart. The fact that I use that phrase to describe it should tell you how very much it *is* the book of my heart. There’s just no other way to describe it. ANGLES is a traditional YA fantasy: children from our world go to another to rescue it, and I have been trying to write it since I was twelve years old.
On October 1, 2002, I went to bed, and, while lying there, the first sentence, and then the first paragraph, of the book came into my head. I got up and began writing. I wrote the first chapter that night, then put the rest of it off until November, when I did my one and only successful NNWM and wrote the entire book in four weeks. Halfway through I had a crisis of conscience, afraid that I was utterly failing to write THE SECRET COUNTRY, and so went and re-read THE SECRET COUNTRY and discovered that it was okay: I didn’t want to be writing that book. I finished ANGLES and it was the best thing I’d ever written.
It’s still the best thing I’ve ever written. It needs work, characterisation work, specifically (after enough editors tell you that, you start to believe it). It’s been trunked for the last five years, because I simply haven’t had time to get back to it, but it’s always there at the corner of my mind, waiting for me. There’s a tiny chance I might get to revise it this summer, which means if I get it done and get it *right* and get it sold, it’ll be about 25 years from the first time I started writing it when it hits the shelves.
That’s okay. In fact, if it takes another ten years, hell, if it takes another twenty years, it’ll be okay. Because when it finally gets out there, it’s going to be the best book I can possibly write, and if anything I write lasts, I think it’ll be Angles. Ted worries that if I get it done and get it out there that writing might lose its lustre for me, because that book means so much to me. But I think that writers only get a handful of transcendent moments, and ANGLES is my goddamned transcendency. I love that book, and it doesn’t matter if I don’t think anything else can quite live up to it. If I get that one right, that’ll be enough for me.
– 2003: I started 2003 writing a book titled (poorly) THE SEVEN AND THE NINE, a near-future dystopia sort of thing in which the 7 & the 9 were religious figures crossing a net-addicted, religious-fervoured America. I got 3 chapters written and realised I didn’t have enough grasp on the story to get much further. I’ll go back to this after the Inheritors’ Cycle and the MANIFEST DESTINY books are done, because I like the idea.
I also began a YA novel called FOOL’S GOLD, inspired by the Elizabeth Smart case, because I was fascinated by the headspace that kid must’ve been in, and wanted to explore it. It may be the only totally non-fantasy novel I’ve ever even started (excepting the mystery series as a kid). I might go back to it sometime.
#6 — 2003: HEART OF STONE. Thus began the saga of the Old Races. I wrote a version of HEART OF STONE that is completely, utterly, totally different from the published version in every way except the story is still the same, and sent it to Tor, where it was rejected. When I got an agent, I revised it and sent it to her. She gave me revision notes, I revised, she said, “Good job! Now cut 30 pages from the first 100, and we’ll really have something here!” Whimpering, I did, and in September 2004 Luna bought it and its two sequels, and asked me to do a major rewrite on it. Which I did. The whole process was utter hell, but the book turned out very well for it, I think. Pub date: November 2007
#7 — 2003: THUNDERBIRD FALLS. In an act of utter faith, I started writing a sequel to a book I hadn’t sold. URBAN SHAMAN *did* sell before I finished THUNDERBIRD, but in a way that added to the terror. Pub date: May 2006
#8 — 2004: “Banshee Cries”. Technically a novella, I still include it in my list of novels. My editor at Luna asked me to write a Walker Papers novella to be included in the WINTER MOON anthology, with notable authors Tanith Lee and Mercedes Lackey as the headliners. I spent two months singing, “One of these things is not like the others,” and going AAAAH ZOMG!, then sat down and wrote the novella in 3 days, which is still my personal record for the largest amount written (30K) in the shortest time. With the exception of one scene that was removed, the novella as printed is almost exactly as written in those 3 days. Pub date: Nov 2005
#9 — 2004: THE CARDINAL RULE. I pitched the Strongbox Chronicles in a one-paragraph “hey, how’s this for an idea?” to my editor, who asked for a more thorough write-up and then bought two books from that. CARDINAL, therefore, was the first full-length book I wrote on spec. Pub date: Dec 2005
#10 — 2005: THE FIREBIRD DECEPTION. This is the only book I’ve had accepted without revisions. It may be the only book I *ever* have accepted without revisions. But it’s nice it happened once. :) Pub date: June 2006
#11 — 2005: COYOTE DREAMS. Oh, God, this is where everything went from crazy to really really insane. I was writing COYOTE while we moved across the planet. I was also doing the massive, massive, *massive* revisions on HEART OF STONE during this time. I had *also* signed a contract for four more Bombshells, and my life had become an absolute madness of deadlines. So I started writing a comic book for fun. o.O Pub date: May 2007
#12 — 2006: THE PHOENIX LAW. I had a deadline literally every 2 weeks in 2006, between copy edits, revisions, comic scripts, new books, proposals, etc. PHOENIX was the third, and, it turned out, the last, of the Bombshells; the line was cancelled and 3 books dropped out of my schedule. I’d still like to pick the Strongbox Chronicles up again sometime, but I don’t see it happening in the near future. Pub date: Dec 2006
#13 — 2006: HOUSE OF CARDS. Sadly, I turned this book in without a plot (easier to do than you might think. I knew something was wrong with it. I in fact knew, kind of, how to fix it, but doing so was going to be really hard, and I hoped maybe it wasn’t as mucked up as I was afraid it was. But what I thought was the plot…wasn’t, and the “kind-of know how to fix” was the insertion of one. Problematically, I can write well enough to disguise a lot of no-plotness. The book was vaguely dissatisfying, but I honestly didn’t realize it was lacking a plot when I turned it in, or I’d have have probably grit my teeth and fixed it before turning in.). In 2007 I had to go back and surgically insert the plot, which was, in fact, the “this will be hard” storyline that I’d thought would probably fix it, and which involved ripping out 2/3rds of the book and rewriting what was left. It was absolute hell for eight weeks. Strangely, I actually really liked the book when I was done with it, despite all that, and to my huge relief and delight, it appears readers are enjoying it too. The work was worth it. Pub date: March 2008
– 2006: I also wrote 15,000 words of a completely charming paranormal romance called TRUTHSEEKER, which I’d really, really like to finish, because, well, it’s completely charming. If I do say so myself. :)
#14 — 2006: THE QUEEN’S BASTARD. I…don’t remember when I started writing TQB. In 2004, maybe. Yeah. That sounds likely. I got 50K in and ran into the same problem I’d hit with MANIFEST DESTINY–I didn’t quite have the skill level to manage a cast of thousands. I was a lot closer by then, though, and when I came back to it two years later I could do it, and had a really, really good time doing so. Pub date: May 2008
#15 — 2007: HANDS OF FLAME was actually technically the only new book I wrote in 2007. But I rewrote HOUSE OF CARDS entirely. And yes, those two things, due to circumstances outside of my control, took literally the entire year. Pub date: Sept 2008
I also wrote the first chapter of CENTENARIAN, which I have not been able to go back to and which I don’t know when I’ll be able to. Maybe next year.
#16 — 2008: THE PRETENDER’S CROWN is my work-in-progress that you’ve all been suffering along with me on. :) Sequel to TQB, it’s clearly the biggest, and probably the most ambitious, book to date. I’ll be very pleased with it when I’m done, I think, but right now, God, I just want to *be* done. Pub date, assuming I haven’t blown it: Jan 2009
#17 — 2008: CAULDRON BORNE, assuming the title doesn’t get changed. Walker Papers #4. There are zombies. Pub date: Mayish 2009
From here we get slightly speculative, and include only books we are or hope to be under contract for. I have hopes of writing some other, non-contracted books during the next few years too, but the important part there is that I’ll be writing them on spec. Two contracted books a year is Enough.
#18 — 2008: (probably) THE IMPERATOR’S HEIR. I’m actually of contract with Del Rey when I turn TPC in, so I’m hoping they’ll be buying the 3rd (and ideally 4th and 5th) book(s) in the Inheritors’ Cycle. I expect, if that happens, that Betsy will want the third book at the end of this year. Because I feel VERY VERY GUILTY about TPC being late, I will do almost anything to get it to her this year if that’s what she wants. If that doesn’t go through (which I hope it does) then #19 will be:
#19 — 2009: WENDEGO HUNTS, assuming the title doesn’t get changed. Walker Papers #5. There’s a wendego. :) Pub date: Mayish 2010
#20 — 2009: Book 4 of the Inheritors’ Cycle, assuming all goes well and Del Rey actually buys those books.
#20 — 2010: RATTLESNAKE DANCES, Walker Papers #6. The end of this book is written. I wrote it, oh, hell, I don’t know. At least three years ago. When I sent the proposal for books 4-6 in to my editor, I sent the last chapter of this book. I heard the scream all the way from here. :) Pub date: Mayish 2011
#21 — 2010: Book 5 of the Inheritors’ Cycle. I think that’ll be the last book in that series.
I’d like to get TRUTHSEEKER and CENETARIAN written in that time frame too, as well as get ANGLES revised and maybe write the second book in that series. But, I repeat, two contracted books a year is Enough. So that’s the Books What I Have Wrote. And Some I Haven’t.