Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Journey Thus Far, the Road Ahead

As I posted earlier today, I signed with the awesome John Rudolph of Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. That announcement was eight years and 600,000 words in the making. Actually, probably a little bit longer. Here’s the abridged version of how I got to this point.

I’ve always loved story telling, but became a writer later in life. I got serious about creative writing in May 2000 (I’m good at remembering dates). I was driving home one night when a question popped into my head: “if you could only save either your brother or the woman you love, who would you chose?” That conundrum soon mushroomed into a rough sketch of a story set in Roman Spain at the turn of the first century. I had the makings of a novel, but I had never written something remotely that scope so I knew I needed instruction. I enrolled in Gotham Writer’s Workshop where I learned the mechanics of fiction writing. From there I went on to write … and write … and write and finished about two-and-a-half years later with an epic historical weighing in at 250,000 words. It was a sweeping love story about a young Roman noble and the slave girl he was raised with. Believing anything was possible, I queried that behemoth in 2003, but with no success.

Being a bit na├»ve, I was devastated at this failure. I didn’t appreciate then how difficult the publishing process was so I needed to take a break. Back then I didn’t think I could write anything better than that book. It didn’t take me long to realize I was nuts, but I wasn’t going to give up on the epic historical just yet. So, I decided to do a major rewrite, turning that beast into two distinct books which I queried separately. That garnered some requests, but nothing panned out. I did get my first full request from these projects, which was very exciting. Yet the downside was that if you reached such high you had to eventually come crashing down which happened with the full rejections.

With those books I realized (or was overcome by delusion) that my best writing was ahead of me, so I kept on reading and writing. I always read a bunch of books in the genre I’m writing in to get in the proper mindset. From about 2000 to 2007-08, I had been reading nothing but historicals (and a lot of thrillers, mainly because I love thrillers—Ken Follett and Frederick Forsyth are my boys!). Still in an historical state of mind, I decided to combine my two loves and write a biblical thriller. That garnered even more requests, but, alas, no offer of representation.

Admittedly, I was burned out on historicals so I decided to write in another genre I enjoyed—scifi. Inspired by Octavia Butler, PD James, and Margaret Atwood, I wrote a dystopian thriller set in the Middle East. There were a lot of requests on that, but they all were near-misses. Disheartened, I needed to regroup because I was never smart enough to quit.

I decided to dust off a story I plotted out when I was 19 years old and in the US Army about a teenage girl possessed by a Mayan demon who becomes a super hero. Considering that I created that plot during the flattop, big sweater, Hammer pants era of the early 1990s, I needed to seriously update the story for today’s audience. Like I normally do when starting a new project, I bought a ton of YA books and read like crazy. I loved the genre and was thoroughly inspired. So much so that while I was writing this YA urban fantasy I began writing a YA multicultural high fantasy. The latter was inspired by my friend Cindy Pon’s excellent YA multicultural fantasy set in Ancient China, SILVER PHOENIX. Rather than Ancient China, I set my high fantasy in Medieval Spain, a world rich in tradition and mythology.

I first queried John Rudolph on the YA urban fantasy, which he loved but believed it needed too much work before he could offer representation. He suggested a revise & resubmit and also invited me to send him any other manuscript I had. I was in luck because I had already finished the YA high fantasy and started querying that book and gotten some requests. I immediately emailed the book to him and a week later we had a fabulous conversation. He offered representation and I, of course, accepted. That book is called DRACAURUM, a tale of young heroes, villains, love, betrayal, and redemption. I’ll be discussing the project more as time goes by.

What now after such a long journey? Making DRACAURUM the best book I possibly can. I have revisions to do (and probably more after that) and when John and I are finally satisfied with the finished product I’ll go on sub.

I can’t lie. I thought of giving up at various points along this long journey, but (being a huge sports fan) I kept on thinking of the old NCAA tournament coach’s motto: “survive and advance.” For writing purposes, to me that meant to move on from the bitter disappointment of rejection and keep on writing. There’s no guarantee success will come about by doing that, but there is an absolute guarantee that it won’t if I had stopped.


I am excited to officially announce that I've signed with John Rudolph of Dystel & Goderich Literary Management.

I'll post more about the project, my writing journey, and what else there is in store.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day!!!

To my father, uncles, brothers-in-law, friends who are fathers, and all fathers going strong or dearly departed, Happy Father's Day!!!!