Monday, September 04, 2006

Long journey to publication

I've got to say, that God has been very good to me and people --friends, strangers, etc-- have always been kind to me. A sweet grace and favor, that. So I was always getting helpful letters from editors and agents.

I started with a YA novel called The Herring Run which almost was picked up by Walker Books except that they said it was too episodic. The editorial assistant actually sent me a copy of the notes the editorial board had taken in deciding on the book. It was sooooo close. That was about ten years ago and I didn't really know much about writing.

That novel because Black Girls have always loved cowboys. Long story. But I tried to turn Herring Run into an adult novel. A collection of stories. I sent it to an agent I met at a conference. She said it was very melodramatic and boring and that I should really understand cause and effect and feel the emotions of the characters.

I began working on Treasures of Darkness. I sent it to an agent I met at a conference. He loved the beginning but said it went nowhere and that he wouldn't make enough money to feed his cat. Met a former editor at an art show and he said the story was drawn out. About 100 pages for the first night kinda thing.

I wrote Daughters of Men for Paul Witcover when he was editing for Harpercollins. HE liked it a lot and was really pondering buying it but then he left harper. He emailed me to say I should join some online writing and critting groups such as oww-sff and to show him DOM whenever I finished it.

I sent DOM to Rachel Vater at Don Maass but she said I was being redundant. I had to learn to show tension. I had to stop repeating myself. And my characters were always sitting down. She said to try to improve it.

I had to write a short story for an antho Brandon Massey was doing on black horror. Brian Jacobs was also doing an antho called Genre Noir. I figured I'd write a story called Father Gorgeous about a gorgeous semi-atheist priest who doesn't believe in the supernatural but who meets a demon. It missed out on the anthology because -- my usual problem-- my short stories never know when to quit. IT had two "beats" so I decided to make it a novel. I began fiddling around with it. It's about 66 pages but Lord knows what'll happen to it.

In the meantime I started writing Windfollower. It started out as a short story which I was writing for a contest. I like ballads so it was based on the Elizabethan ballad, "the trees they grow tall." But the contest came and went and I realized it was trying to be a novel. The flow of the story came so quickly that I said to myself, "this'll be my quick little shallow piece. I'll just toss it off. It'll be meaningless and just romance. Not as complicated or full of worldbuilding as DOM." Little did I know!!!! It became a story about a shamanistic culture meeting a monotheistic imperialistic racist country....with the Lost Book. Battles with demons and gods.

I sent it to Rachel. She said she had to turn it down because I still had that redundancy problem. I'm ebuddies with Cindy Ward who is the market maven for Speculations. NOTE: It is a weird thing in life that one cannot give without receiving, and all the folks who give tend to receive wonderful stuff...especially if they weren't expecting anything. There was an antho that Juno was doing -- best spec romance-- so I sent it to Cindy. She said thanks then emailed me to say that Paula Guran at Juno Books was really really really looking for good stories. She said I should send the story to Paula. So I sent DOM -- I sent mega synopsis and plot points and character studies and glossaries of DOM and just the synop and first 40 pages of windfollower. I told her however that I had been published in about 7 anthologies -- four or five fiction-- and I told her that with me "one word to the wise is sufficient." If she told me something, she could trust me to understand what she said...if she gave me a day or two to figure out what she meant. She figured she'd trust that I could write.

Because I had sent so much of DOM, she assumed DOM was the better written piece. I told her that DOM was written about five years ago and I really hadn't touched it in about two years. I said that actually Windfollower would be more finished of the two. But I sent her the first 200 pages of a 545 page octopus (Times New Roman no less) and Windfollower. I told her Windfollower was waaaay religious and she said the Juno guidelines said "No Christian fantasy...but Windfollower didn't seem religious like that...more spiritual."

She looked at both books and said she'd definitely go with Windfollower and she wants to do DOM except that DOM needs "a lot of work."

So that's about it. I tend to think it's just one of those grace of God things. Because she's been pretty cool about me fixing and repairing. I think it was because Wind follower is so odd and Cindy had said a good word for me and God had just given me grace and Paula was so desperate. All combined together.

As for what I want to do now, a part of me wants to work with DOM cause it's already finished and it's such a flaky world. But another part of me feels like I like Father Gorgeous and it's centered in this world. Like Windfollower, it's about the "real world" By this I mean, it has demons, humans, spiritual choices and both stories are things that have happened to missionaries or to people who have encountered the demonic. Unlike Dom which is truly creative....and deals with really far off fictive stuff that hasn't really happened.

Carole McDonnell Wind Follower June 2007 Juno (at) gmail (dot)com

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