Monday, August 27, 2012

It Takes A Village, or Prepare For A Lot of Namedropping

In my last post I shared my excitement at the prospect of having my much-revised and edited historical fantasy novel The Silver Wheel available for readers. As I was describing the book’s journey to publication, I thought about the many people who helped me reach this place.  A few of these people aren’t writers:  my patient formatters, A Thirsty Mind and Formatting4U, the brilliant cover artist Rae Monet, the agents and edited who gave me input and helped make it a better book (even as they rejected it).  But most of the people who contributed to making this book happen were writers—a whole passel, posse, brigade, army, or whatever term you want to use, of writers.   

I’d only been writing a year when I joined my first critique group (thanks Ed Turner and Ann Erdman) and they began to gently advise me of my bad writing habits while at the same time encouraging me to keep going. They also referred me to Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, and I ended up joining the historical romance critique group that met at the Village Inn on Colorado Blvd. For over a year, I drove the 100 miles once a month to have my chapters torn apart and picked over. That’s how I met my dear friends, Jessica Wulf, Denee Cody and Margaret Aunon. We ended up starting a new critique group together, where I learned even more about how to polish my writing.

When I began writing the first incarnation of The Silver Wheel, the first person to read the story was the talented Anne Holmberg. Soon after that, I started taking chapters to my new Cheyenne critique group, Liz Roadifer, Jeana Byrne and Michael Shay, as well as Elizabeth Durbin (R.I.P.) and they helped me get it that much closer to a solid book. For several years no one saw it except agents and editors as I revised and tweaked. When I decided it was time to self-publish the book and I needed fast, accurate proofreaders, I was blessed to have generous writer friends.  Thanks Amanda Cabot, Joanne Kennedy and once again, Jeana Byrne, for your critical eyes and fast proofreading. And finally, my cover flat design was the work of Karen Duvall, who is a graphic artist as well as a wonderful writer.

Along with these individuals, there are many writers who spoke at workshops and programs over the years who taught me the craft of writing and inspired me to keep going even when my career fell apart and things got grim. Many of the workshops were presented at Colorado Gold conferences. In addition to these workshops, the camaraderie and support I’ve found through Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers has been absolutely invaluable. Writing can be a lonely occupation and having contact with other writers who understand and sympathize with your struggle is so important.
There are many other people I'd like to thank by name, but like Oscar acceptance speeches, blog posts are best kept short. So thank you to all those writer friends and acquaintances who shared the journey and helped me reach this place!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Realization of a Dream

Over ten years ago, I started a novel called When The Sky Falls.  It was about the Roman conquest of Britain and inspired by a book called The Life and Death of a Druid Prince: The Story of Lindow Man, an Archaeaological Sensation by Anne Ross and Don Robins. Reading about this young, obviously aristocratic man who had been strangled, stabbed and then pushed into a marsh to drown, my writer “wheels” immediately started turning.

I wrote the first version of the story in about nine months and sent it to my then-agent. She told me it didn’t work. It was too depressing, didn’t fit any genre and the perspective was too detached to grab the reader. Discouraged, I put it aside and went back to romance. Two years later I dug it out and started working on it again, trying to fix the things the agent had pointed out. I expanded it, tried to make the story more personal and compelling and came up with a more positive ending. But when I sent it to a good writer friend she tactfully told me I had the skeleton of a good story but it wasn’t there yet.

More rewriting. Eventually satisfied I’d fixed the problems with the book, I started sending it out. Based on responses, I tweaked the story and changed the title to The Silver Wheel.  More submissions. When editors and agents mentioned the length (almost 160,000 words) and the youth of the protagonists (the main characters are in their early teens when the book begins), I decided to break it up into several books and market it to YA. The first section became Lady of the Moon  

Off and on over the next five years I put it aside, got it out again, added and subtracted from the story, tried to make it have a more feminist slant, make the heroine stronger, etc., etc.  I got nowhere. When a year ago, I sent it to my current agent and he declined to represent it, I decided it was time to self-publish.

I put it aside while I e-published my backlist and some original romances that were more marketable, but dragged it out again this summer. I added back most of what I’d originally cut and went through the grueling process of proofing and editing. After going through the manuscript four or five times myself and having several friends proof it, I feel it’s as good as it can be. The first part, Lady of the Moon, is already out as an ebook and the full story will available soon in ebook and print.

Given that I'm terrible at promotion and this is a relatively obscure time period, the book may only sell a handful of copies a month. But still, it will be available to readers, and my vision that I have developed and honed for ten years (I must have written close to half a million words on this story) will finally have an audience. It's a great feeling!