This essay, which appeared in Wright's Writing Corner, chronicles my journey from hopeful writer wanna-be to published author. I reproduce it here in case it is of interest to any readers.
Prospero Lost–A Writer's Odyssey
When I graduated from college, I took a job working for my father, with the agreement that I could write two hours and work six. (I only got paid for six, but I lived at home, so this was no big deal.) I had heard that an author I admired submitted stories for ten years before she finally got her first sale. I vowed then and there that I would not wait ten years! I would get published right away!
Pride goeth before a fall. That was in 1985.
I had begun writing about nine years before, when, at the age of twelve, I started my first story on my mom’s old typewriter. By college, I’d finished a couple of short stories. Not good enough to sell, but I did have a real, bona fide rejection letter from George Scithers at Amazing Magazine, which I hung on my dorm room wall. Even back then, I could tell that the novel would be a better medium for me than short stories, so I was determined to start a novel.
Only, I knew my writing was not up to the job, so the first six months, I just practiced grammar. I bought a couple of grammar books and split my two hours of writing time between doing grammar exercises and copying and diagramming passages from authors I liked. My grammar is still weak in places, but it improved greatly that year over what it previously had been. My clearest memory from that period is of copying paragraphs of Tolkien by hand (this was before we owned a computer) and underlining them in various highlighting colors, to indicate the parts of speech; a lot of semi-colons in Tolkien.
Eventually, I moved on to writing a novel. Several novels were started and discarded: one about a wizard who was trying to create life while drinking a lot of tea; one about immortals in the time of Queen Elizabeth; one called City at the Heart of Dreams, about a girl who met Odin in a dream and soon finds out she’s pregnant, but only in dreams; one about a psychiatrist named Devon MacDannan who was under attack by Leanan Sidhe.
I also wrote more than 600 pages of a Victorian romance called The Audacity of Her about an American heiress who married a British lord, based on the experiences of the real American heiresses know as the Buccaneers. That one was a lot of fun, and I still have chapters and chapters of it lying around somewhere. There are one or two scenes where I captured some part of the life of the times that John still talks about today.
None of these works were ever finished.
I Write A Book
Somewhere in the early Nineties, John and I were invited to play in a roleplaying game run by a friend. He was a new moderator for us, so I decided to write a short story demonstrating what my character could do, so there would be no misunderstandings. For my character, I picked Miranda, the daughter of the magician Prospero from Shakespeare’s Tempest, only in the game, Prospero would turn out to be one of the magicians in the game background. Miranda lived on an island with her airy servants and had a group of airy captains who worked directly for her.
One of these captains, a grumpy detective from a 1940s world, was named Mab. I chose him as her side kick for the short story, which took place on a world with talking gargoyles (the one character in the original story who never made it to the novel) and other strange supernatural beings. It was a light-hearted story involving vampires and Pixie Cola.
We only played in that game a few times, but I liked the character and the story I had written. I decided to write more. I took the character out of the game background and put her into a entirely different story. I moved Miranda back to Earth and made her the daughter of the original magician Prospero from Shakespeare. I set the story in the modern world, only a modern world that had a secret history and all sorts of supernatural beings in it.
I figured that if Prospero had fathered Miranda in the 1400s and was still around today, he’d probably have other children. So, Miranda needed siblings, and I knew exactly who I wanted them to be.
I asked John for permission to borrow his Prospero Family, a zany and lovable bunch of characters who had first appeared as supervillains in a game he ran in college, but who, by the time I met them in the Corruption Campaign, (our long running roleplaying game,) were good guys—funny, quirky, and outgoing.
They fit perfectly!
I kept them as close to John’s originals as I could—including the difficult parts, such as that one of the sisters had married one of the brothers. But in the end, I made them my own. Erasmus, who smiled through his lank hair as he spouted morose poetry became Miranda’s adversary and a bit of a lady’s man. Theophrastus, the heroic and level-headed one, became an old man.
Then, I borrowed the magic system from our Corruption Campaign. I’m still amused when I reread the book at how elegantly I took the magic system and the past events of the Prospero Family from our game and wove them into Earth’s history. None of this will matter to any readers, of course, as they never saw the original, but it is nice to see that I could pull it off. (If and when I ever get the Corruption Campaign series written, those books should have the same magic system as the Prospero series.)
Then I wrote some twelve or thirteen chapters. Back then, Miranda still had a lot of qualities I had made up for the original game character. She was suspicious and calculated, not trusting brothers and out to under-cut them. After writing about half the book, I had a friend read it. He identified certain problems that depressed me. I put the story aside.
Five years passed. I wrote other things.
Three friends—their names appear in the Acknowledgement: Mark Whipple, Dave Eckstein, and Catherine Rockwood—would not let the book die. One month, somewhere around 1998, all three of them inquired, asking what had happen to that Prospero story. I think Catherine asked first. Mark, who knows the Prosperos best, asked the most insistently.
So, I dragged the old manuscript out and re-read it. It was much better than I had remembered. When I got to the part where Mab is not answering Miranda’s questions because he’s advising her to get rid of her magic, I laughed out loud. (It’s never seemed as funny since as it did that one time.) I figured any story that made me laugh out loud was worth another look.
I got back to work on the Miranda book again, which was then called Prospero’s Children. This time I stuck with it until I finished it. It was the first novel I ever finished. I managed to use most of the scenes I’d written in 1992-93. The story was a mystery with humor and magic. Prospero disappears. The family gathers. They spat. They learn to work together. They rescue him.
Finally, in early 2001—sixteen years after I vowed I’d get published immediately—I had finished a novel!
Part Two: The Awful Truth About Publishing!
I finished my first novel. To understand what happen next, we need to rewind about sixteen years and take a look at some things I had been up to in the meantime:.
When I got out of college, I read a book called The Awful Truth About Publishing. It laid out the world of publishing and explained the many pitfalls. I learned a lot from this book that helped me in many later endeavors, but the most important thing I got out of the book was that it said in no uncertain terms: Publishing is a Good Old Boy’s system. People get published because they know people. Look among your acquaintances, it said. Someone will be a published writer. Exploit their connections.
I did not have any publishing connections.
I decided that I would have to be the person among my acquaintances who had publishing connections. I set out to get some.
Back then, this was easier than it is now. Many more publishing people attended science fictions conventions than you often see nowadays. Recently, I have been to conventions where no one showed up from the New York Publishing community. Back then, that was seldom the case.
(As best as I can tell, there are two reasons for this: one, there is less money for such things, and two, many of the people I knew as editors who visited conventions have left editing and are now writers who visit conventions.)
So, after graduating from St. John’s and before heading off to Europe, I attended a small convention called Hatcon in Danbury, Connecticut. For some reason, this was the very last Hatcon, which is a shame because it was a lovely convention with all sorts of interesting people. Right off, I met a number of published authors. There were also well-known artists, reviewers and all sorts of interesting characters. I still recall camping out with my brother in our sleeping bags (we arrived without a room…I went to all conventions without a room for years, until one day, probably around 1997, when John sighed and said he was really tired of sleeping on people’s floors. ) in what must have been the Green Room or the Con Suite, listening to Peter Heck sing “Walking the Dog” on the guitar. I still think of that song whenever I think of him, and visa versa.
(At the time, Mr. Heck wrote Hailing Frequencies, the SF newsletter from Waldenbooks, which I read religiously. Since, he has become the author of some delightful mysteries staring Mark Twain as the detective.
My brother’s most important moment was that he got to kiss a girl, the daughter of a short story writer from Alaska, I believe, in a pool. The most important thing that happened to me was that right after I arrived, practically the first person I met, was a publisher who gave me his card. His company was called Bluejay Books, and his name was Jim Frenkel.
Well, I went to Europe, and when I came back, I went to work for my dad. But I contacted Mr. Frenkel and asked for a part-time internship. I figured the best way to meet publishing people and to know about the business was to work there.
I worked for Bluejay Books for a month, taking the train to New York every day. At the end of that month, I got mono and was in bed for two weeks. The recovery process was slow, and I never went back to work in NYC. But during that month, I learned a great deal.
My very first day, I got to read the slush pile and reject manuscripts. That was a big lesson to me. First, I learned that one’s manuscript could be rejected by a recent college graduate about which the company hiring her knew absolutely nothing. Second, I learned the more flowery the cover letter, the worse the quality of the writing. I don’t know why. It just was.
Nearly everything in the slush pile was pretty bad. Bluejay only published quality science fiction, so I didn’t have to worry about anything that didn’t really stand out. There was only one story I read which I wanted to read the rest of (more than a few chapters) It was The Jehovah Contract by Victor Korman. It was later published elsewhere, by a smaller press, I believe. It was a story about a guy who is hired by the devil to shoot God. (I later read his King of the High Frontier, about a private space race, which I enjoyed much more. It used to be just available on the web, but I see it’s now in print.)
On the second day, Jim handed me a letter and asked me to type it. I did not have the courage to explain that I really could not type very well. I just did it….slowly and with a couple of mistakes, if I recall, which I subsequently fixed, but I did it. I remember being surprised that no one had asked me if I could type before hiring me. (If it counts as hiring when someone is interning for free. )
I learned about cover art and C-Prints, which still stand out in my mind for how much more vivid they were than the final version with the title lettering over the picture. I leaned a bit about distributing and sf authors, not much, but enough to build on later.
One day while I was there, Bluejay received a submission of a manuscript that came, complete with pictures, in a hand-carved wooden box. The box was gorgeous. The author sent this enormous package…and there was no return postage or even a return address for the publishing company to send an acceptance to if they had wanted to publish it.
The employees did not even glance at it. “Why not?” I asked. “It will be terrible. Stories that arrive this way always are.” But they told me I could take a look at it if I did not believe them. I did. They were right. The writing was terrible.
My two clearest memories of that otherwise rather hazy period right before I became so ill were:
The moment on the train going in one morning when I realized I had put on two entirely different brown leather shoes that looked nothing alike…so I had a different shoe on each foot..
Seeing Diana Paxson come into the office whose writing I admired from the Sanctuary books.
Some time later, probably at a convention, I ran into Jim Frenkel again. The collapse of a distributor had ended Bluejay’s days as a publisher, but Jim was still running the company out of his house—selling the books he had and sending royalty statements to his authors. Turns out he lived rather close to me at the time, I started working for him a couple days a week. (I was working at Waldenbooks the rest of the time.)
I worked for Jim in his house for about a year, until we moved out of the area. I did royalty statements and typed letters. (My typing had gotten better, though not as good as it is nowadays.) Or whatever he needed done. Jim was basically working as a packager now, getting ideas, writers, and publishers together. There was a lot to learn, and it was quite interesting.
Once in a while, if I was very lucky, I got to have lunch with Jim’s wife, the wonderful, beautiful science fiction writer Joan Vinge, uthor of Snow Queen whose Hugo awards graced their living room. She is just delightful to talk to. That was the best part of all.
I remember one day arriving in tears because my coat, a beautiful down coat my parents had bought me only a few months before, had been stolen when I left it in the food court at the mall. I had recently gotten married and had no money and no way to replace it. Joan took pity on me and gave me an old coat of hers. I kept it for years. Once or twice, I put it on for writing in the hope that some of her creativity would have rubbed off on it. (It didn’t really help, but it made me feel happy. )
Jumping ahead about eight years, John has now finished a novel and Jim Frenkel is now an agent. I won’t go into the whole story of how John got published here, but the short version is that Jim was his agent for his first five books. After that, Jim was hired full-time as an editor for Tor—surely the coolest publishing house in the universe! (Back then, I had believed this for a long time, but now Tor also published John!) John then got a new agent, Mr. Jack Byrne.
It was just around that point that I sent the newly finished Prospero’s Children to Jim. I sent it with the idea that he might consider becoming my agent, but by the time he received it, he was an editor.
All of a sudden, just like that, I had a New York editor considering my manuscript! All my “Awful Truth” inspired work had paid off!
Part Three: The Long Dark Waiting Of The Soul
I sent the finished manuscript for Prospero’s Children to my editor, Jim Frenkel, in Summer 2001. What followed was a very, very long wait…very, very long.
Did I mention “very”?
Maybe, I should have explained that by “very” I meant a really, really, really long time.
At first, I waited patiently, working on other projects (mainly the Corruption Campaign novel I am still struggling to complete.) But as time went on, more and more people got published around me. While I sat there, still waiting.
I remember vividly a convention in the spring of 2002, during which I met another author who was waiting for her book to come out. We chatted with great delight, comparing our works and discovering that we had some common themes. We expressed a desire to read each other’s books. Her book was due out that fall. Mine, I hoped, I would hear about soon.
Time went by. Her book came out. She wrote more. She won some awards. One of her books was made into a movie. (And I am delighted for her!)
All that time, I waited, bookless.
After a while, I’m sure she thought I was a crazy person who had just pretended to have written a book. Sometimes, I wondered myself.
I cannot recall when I first decided to rewrite the book. Since it was just sitting around, I might as well improve it, right? But I remember December 2003. I suspect this was the second time I decided to rewrite it, but the idea came to me about three in the morning. John was in the hospital, recovering from heart surgery, and I had been up all night praying. Suddenly, I decided/resolved a number of things. (I say decided/resolved because it was four in the morning and I had been praying non-stop. To this day, I could not tell you which ideas came to me and which I decided on my own.):
1) I should stick with Jim, even though he was taking a long time.
2) The book was getting long, rather than waiting for the publisher to tell me to cut it, as had happened to John, I should cut the book in two myself and restructure it to make the first volume a more complete story. (This well-meaning attempt was stymied by later events, but I tried.)
3) Once Tor finally bought the book, if they did, I was going to get myself the best agent out there!
So, I began the process of rewriting the book.
I remember reading that when Tolstoy first wrote Anna Karenina, his heroine was portrayed negatively. Each time he rewrote the book, she became more sympathetic, until she became the appealing character she is today. A very similar thing happened to me.
First, Miranda got a lot nicer…that might seem strange, considering that she is rather cold in the first portion of the story. (My one great worry about the Prospero books is that readers might not hold on until Miranda starts to improve. My hope is that Mab and Mephisto will be engaging enough to draw people onward until Miranda’s metamorphosis begins.) But she used to be much worse. Slowly, through three rewrites, the suspicion and mockery was removed, and Miranda became more contemplative and caring about her family.
Secondly, the demons got worse…and by “worse” here, I mean more demonic. In the early version, the villains were just supervillains. In fact, the original Three Shadowed Ones had been supervillains in the game the Prospero Family came from. As I rewrote it, though, I began to think that if they were demons…from Hell…that should mean something. There should be something demonic about them, something horrible, or at least wrong. So, with each rewriting the Three Shadowed Ones became more demonic, more tied into their infernal origin.
So, I rewrote, and I rewrote. And more time went by, and more.
Now, some of you may be wondering what cause this great period of waiting. I am not going to speculate about that, except to say that my editor and his wonderful wife were in a serious car accident in the middle of this period and this contributed heavily to the delay. Other than that, his reasons for not getting back to me earlier are his own. As he is a great editor, I’m not going to say any more about it.
By 2005, however, I was getting frustrated. Friends I met in the first year or two of my wait were now established writers. John’s fifth book had just come out. The kids were getting older. And I was still exactly where I had started.
That year, World Fantasy Convention was in Madison, Wisconsin, which happened to be where my editor lived. I wrote him and said, “If I get you Volume Two by the end of July, will you promise me to give me an answer—a yes you want to publish it or a no you don’t—at WFC in late Oct. (or maybe it was early Nov. that year, I don’t recall.) He said yes.
So, I wrote like a fiend, ignoring my children and letting my mom and John see to them. That was the last summer I wrote during the summer. (Now, I take summers off and spend them with the kids. Back then, though, the oldest ones had only just started school, and summers were different than they are now.)
I finished the book and sent it off to Jim.
My Adventures in Madison
John and I flew out to Madison that fall, a big endeavor for us. I arrived Thursday and found my way to Jim’s house, delighted to see him again. He had a big party planned for that night and asked that we not talk about the novel until the next day. I agreed, and, thus, spent the afternoon chatting with him about our families and helping him clean his house to get ready for the party. It was a very nice afternoon.
But I was no closer to knowing what was going on with my novel than I had been back in Virginia.
Friday came and went. I saw Jim a few times. Once I even got up the courage to mention that it would be nice if he gave me a yes or a no while the post office was still open, so I could mail the manuscript home if he did not want it. He gave me a really weird look, as if I had sprouted a third eyebrow in the middle of my forehead, and murmured something I don’t recall, but which left me with the impression that maybe he’d pay to send it home, if it came to that.
More time went by. Another writer met with Jim. She was all smiles and hope, but afterwards, she confessed that he had not accepted her manuscript. I lost the last shreds of my hope at this point. I figured that if Jim liked the book, he would have told me, and he just hadn’t gotten up the gumption to tell me yet what he really thought.
Saturday came, and, finally, Jim and I met to discuss the book. We decided to go out for coffee. (Being a Starbucks fanatic, I suggested Starbucks. Jim snorted with infinite disdain and explained that here in Madison, they had real coffee shops. I was okay with that.) But before we went, he left for a few minutes to use the restroom.
So, there I was, having flown across country and waited for three, waiting to be told that the guy who had had my book for four years did not want it. Maybe, I hoped, he’d tell me why, and I’d have something to work with. Or worse—and this was my real fear—he was going to tell me that he had never gotten around to reading it after all.
So, as you can imagine, I was feeling nervous and glum. Then, something happened that turned all that around in an instant.
Another editor walked by who happened to be a friend of a friend. I’d already talked to her this weekend and had even described my book a bit. I went up and explained that I was about to meet with my editor and that I thought I would have my manuscript back at the end of the meeting. ( I don’t recall how I said it, but I was expecting either to get rejected or to take the manuscript back if he had not read it.) Could I send it to her instead? She agreed, saying she’d be delighted.
By the time Jim came back, I was confident. Nothing he said could crush me (though I was still expecting to be crushed) because I had a backup plan. So, I was cheerful and happy, despite the coming blow.
And still, I could not find out anything! Twenty minutes went by, during which we walked through lovely Madison, found a coffee shop, and had a nice conversation about jazz and another author’s work…but nothing about my book.
And then, as we were sitting drinking our coffee, Jim casually mentions, in passing, that he loves my book.
If my jaw did not drop off my face and roll across the floor, out into the street, and three times around the state capital building, it was due to sheer unadulterated luck. Sure felt like it did.
Turned out, even the part about jazz and the other author had to do with my book, too. Just took me a bit of time to figure out where it was all going.
He loved it and wanted to buy it.
When I came back to the hotel, now dancing on air, I let the other editor know that I wouldn’t be sending my manuscript after all. She laughed and wished me luck.
Assuming the higher-ups at Tor agreed, I was going to be a Tor author!
Part Four: The Great Agent Hunt
The Great Agent Hunt
Now, some of you who read the earlier sections may recall the night in December of 2003, when I decided I wanted the best agent out there. Well, deciding and accomplishing are two entirely different things. I had decided, yes, but how did one go about doing such a thing? How did one even find out who the best agent in the world was much less convince him to take one as a client?
Right away, during that conversation in Madison at the coffee shop, my editor and I talked about agents. I asked him to recommend one, and he said he could not. I then mentioned several names, and he politely gave his opinion, which basically came down to: any agent I had heard of was probably too high power for me, a beginning writer.
I did not tell my editor at that time about my resolution to snag myself the best agent in the universe. I thought he’d think I was crazy…or worse, pretentious.
In my secret heart of hearts, there was an agent I wanted. I had met him, along with other agents, back in the 80s when I used to crash publisher’s parties at Science Fiction Conventions. I had been impressed with him then. He had spoken to me quite nicely at the time. Later, I had occasionally read articles by him in writing magazines. He seemed to me to embody the qualities I wanted in an agent.
Unfortunately, over the years, I had gotten his name mixed up with another agent. So, while I asked my editor about the agent I remembered—whom we will call for the duration of this section, my “dream agent”—I got his name wrong. So, he was not mentioned during this first conversation.
World Fantasy Con was in late Oct or early Nov.. Early enough that it took place before the annual SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) Publisher’s Reception in New York City, a party SFWA throws for the members of the publishing world, colloquially know as the Mill and Swill.
Leaving my family and traveling to New York on my own is a big deal, let me tell you! (Especially back then, when all three boys were small.) But, hop on a train I did, and off I went to New York.
On the way, I spent a great deal of time thinking about what I wanted in an agent. I decided that agents generally came in two types: salesman-like and lawyer-like. I did not want someone who was salesman-like, a slick talker who might fast-talk me. I wanted a lawyer-like agent, someone who knew more about the publishing field than I did.
The more I thought about it, the more my dream agent seemed like the guy for me. I wondered what he was up to now, twenty years after I had first met him, and whether he would be at the party. (By now, I had finally remembered his name correctly.)
Once in New York, I met up with fellow Bad Ass Faeries anthology editors Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Jeff Lymon, whom was kind enough to put Danielle and I up. We had a lovely dinner and attended Mill and Swill together. (We went as John’s guests, even though he did not himself end up attending.)
Once I arrived, I met my editor who introduced me to some lovely Tor people and kindly let it be know that, God willing, I would soon be a Tor author (did I mention, coolest publishing house in the universe?)
Potential agents came out of the woodwork. I went home with twelve business cards.
If you are not an aspiring writer, you may not know how strange and surrealistic this was. Usually, starting writers are lucky if they can get an agent to stop and tell them what time it is.
The last time I had tried to talk to an agent, a couple years before, I had to hang out in the bar for forty-five minutes, waiting for a brief opening during which I could slip up and beg for a card. This was…very different, to say the least. It was like a geek girl suddenly discovering that she had been voted prom queen and all the cool guys were offering to buy her ice cream.
New agents, old agents, agents I knew and admired, agents people had warned me against; they all presented cards. I felt like the newest debutant at Almack’s. A high powered agent, the very same whom I had waited so long to speak with at a convention, practically drooled. (That was a nice moment. I don’t mean to put him in a bad light, though, he was very charming about his practically drooling.)
So I wandered around, gathering cards and eating cookies…and looking for the agent I really wanted to talk to.
And then, he was there, talking to another agent. Somehow, I found the courage to walk up and speak with him. To my delight, when I described myself as I had looked years ago, he remembered me. So, I asked him for his card.
He turned me down.
All these other agents are vying for my business, and he would not even give me his card.
Well, when I got home the next day, I did the research I should have done before I went. (Somehow, it had not occurred to me to look on the internet for someone I had met in the pre-internet days.)
It was all right there on his website:
We regret that at this time we are not considering materials from new authors. The agency no longer reads fiction or non-fiction submissions by authors who have not been previously published by a major publisher.
You can see it yourself, right here:
Back at home, I contacted one or two other agents who seemed promising. But none of them seemed right to me. I spent hours contemplating what I wanted in an agent and kept coming to the same conclusion… and there was only one agent I’d met who fit the bill.
Meanwhile, my novel was progressing through the long slow process of being approved by Tor. (More about this in the final section.) Some of this took a while, and I really, really wished I had an agent to help me in the process. But I couldn’t get myself to pursue any of the agents who seemed interested. They just did not seem right.
That spring, John’s novel Orphans of Chaos was nominated for a Nebula. By one of those weird coincidences found only in real life and sit-coms, the award ceremonies were being held in Tempe, Arizona, across the street from where my best friend worked. She and another mutual friend paid our air tickets for John and I to fly to Tempe. She also offered to put us up, and Tor offered to pay for the banquet…so John and I were on our way to Arizona!
That year, the Grand Master Award went to Harlan Ellison. Neil Gaiman showed up and talked in his honor. That was a delightful surprise. Mr. Gaiman is very amusing. But one guy there was even funnier that Mr. Gaiman. His speech made me laugh so hard that I could not breath (which was kind of embarrassing, as I was at a table with a bunch of strangers, David Weber, and a nice guy who wrote scripts for Battlestar Galactica. All of whom were amused, but none of whom were turning red and blue from lack of oxygen like me.)
The gentleman who gave the really funny speech was Harlan Ellison’s agent…my dream agent.
Somewhere during the summer, I considered giving up and just picking some other agent. But it came to me very strongly that I should at least try one more time to get the agent I wanted. So, I wrote a letter, the best letter I could, and waited. Once I actually had a deal with Tor, I would send it.
That November, it finally happened. Tor—the coolest publishing house in the history of time—actually bought my book. They offered me a nice advance and informed me that the series would now be called Prospero’s Daughter.
“You do have an agent, right?” My editor asked over the phone.
“Uh…not yet, but I will soon,” I responded quickly, promising myself I’d get back to one of those other folks if my letter failed.
As it happened, I never did send the letter…because it was November again. Instead, John and I bundled ourselves onto a train and went back to New York, again, to attend the Mill and Swill for a second time. (I am still amazed that John, who did not like to travel and knew we really could not afford the train fare, agreed to this. He could have said, “Just pick someone else from your pile of business cards, already!” but he didn’t. He was entirely behind me.)
Upon arriving in New York, John and I went to the Tor offices for a tour, and I was introduced around as “Tor’s newest author.” The people there were all very nice, and the Flat Iron building is an impressive sight. Tom Doherty, the publisher, explained to me that in the movie Godzilla, you could see Godzilla bash in the Tor offices. For some reason, probably related to the oddness of human nature, I thought that was really cool.
We had a nice dinner with John’s editor and then went on to the SFWA reception (the aforementioned Mill and Swill…except John and I don’t swill. So we just milled.) This time, the place was really loud. I found my dream agent again right away, but it was just too loud to talk to him. After hanging out near him and failing to be able to talk to him, I told John I was just going to give up.
“After coming all this way?” he cried, aghast. I don’t think I’ve ever seen John look as surprised at me as at he did at this moment. I was shattering his image of his “get things done” wife. Ashamed that I would even think of such a thing, I nodded grimly and went back into the fray.
Finally, I had a moment to speak with him. I started by thanking him for the speech that had made me laugh so hard. Then, I explained about being an author with a contract and no agent and a bit about how I had come to sell my novel.
Impressed by my tenacity, he agreed to let me send him the book…which he liked enough to sign me on as one of his writers…which is how I came to be represented by Richard Curtis, who may in fact be the best agent there is.
At Long Last: Prospero Lost
You would think that would be the end of the story, but it was not. That was late 2006. The book still had three years of odyssey ahead of it.
First, it became clear right off that my second book was too long. I either had to chop quite a bit from book two, or I had to turn it into a trilogy. I opted for the second, adding 20,000 words to the new Book Two and 80,000 words to the new Book Three.
It was at this point that the end of Book One changed again. The careful sculpting I had done to make the book more conclusive came to naught, as what had been my final chapter was now something like Chapter Six of Book Two. So, due to length issues, Book One ends on a cliffhanger after all.
Then, came more waiting. And some waiting.
Did I mention the waiting?
The book was put onto the schedule and taken off, for various reasons two or three times.
Only this time, I had an agent, so I wasn’t alone in the waiting. That was very comforting.
All this time, I had been planning to attend World Con in Montreal, Summer of 2009. 2009 is John and my 20th anniversary, and we decided to postpone other plans we had made and take our anniversary/honeymoon (we never had one originally) trip to Montreal to attend the massive, multi-hotel convention. I was very excited about this idea. It sounded splendid!
At first, I thought I would have two books out by then. Then, one book. Then, it turned out, the book would not be out in time for World Con 2009.
I was crushed.
Really, I had done a good job of being patient in the past, but this time I just broke. I wrote my agent a letter and let him know how sad I was.
My agent shared my note with the publisher at Tor, and God bless them both, they put the book back on the Schedule to be out in time for World Con.
For this, I am eternally grateful!
(The down side of this is that, after my being so calm for so long, the publisher at Tor will forever remember me as: “the lady who cried.”)
And then it actually happened! The book was edited again, copyedited, final edited. A cover was picked…it didn’t look much like the story, but people liked it.
And then, one day it arrived. (It never rains, but it pours. On the same day that I first held my novel, after such a long wait, we received word that we were first in line to adopt a lovely 13-year-old Chinese girl. This is after a 3 ½ year wait to adopt a daughter.)
And now, after all that, the book is out in bookstores!
You can go even out and see it for yourself, if you don’t believe me.