Being an author is like being in charge of your own personal insane asylum.

- Graycie Harmon

Monday, August 31, 2009

The List Grows Thin

Well, all the research I need to do on North American publishers is now complete (for now) and there were a couple more publishing houses struck off the list, leaving me with 27 possibilities, some more likely than others.

They were ordered in terms of personal preference. It took quite a while to research the companies and decide which I liked better than others and, in effect, rank them.

As I was reviewing the list, it occurred to me that there are very few North American publishing houses that I have any particular preference for, aside from Tor and they already have my proposal. That might be me being snobbish! Ranking them, for this reason, was incredibly difficult.

Perhaps I'll have more luck when I purchase the Writers and Artists version from the U.K. Perhaps not.

We shall see.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Holy Google, Batman!

Wow, this is pretty neat. I googled myself (S. M. Carrière) just for fun and of the seven first listings, I appeared four times. It was actually me, not just someone who shared my name.

I was in positions 1, 3, 4, and 7.

I'm impressed! Well, I'm impressed enough to blog about it. It doesn't take much, obviously.

Well, back to researching.

P.S. I've also now joined MySpace. Hello MySpace community!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

7 Myths of Publishing

I read this article on It's a really good article, so I thought I'd share it with all of you, assuming you aren't subscribed to Writer's Digest. The link to the article is provided at the end.

The 7 Biggest Myths of Publishing (Know the Truth)
August 26, 2009
by Elizabeth Sims
A veteran author tells you, writer to writer, what getting published is really like—and confronts the seven biggest myths.

Writers talk about “giving birth” to a book, and that’s a beautiful metaphor. Same as with a baby, your book is first, well—conceived. Initially it’s just a mote of a thing, insubstantial and unreal, yet over time you feel it growing inside you. Eventually it begins kicking to get out.

And so it happens: You acknowledge its inevitability, you work long and hard, you bleed, you sweat, you cry, and then one day the pains cease and you’re holding this beautiful little being in your hands. It has your DNA! And even though it comes from your deepest core, it’s really got a personality all its own. Naturally you hope that someday it will develop free will and learn basic skills like cleaning the oven or calculating algebra. You love it unconditionally. It’s your bundle of joy: your book.

Yet in truth, this metaphor is totally wrong. Having your book published is not like giving birth. It’s like having your newborn ripped from your arms and given to a foster family you’ve never laid eyes on in your life.

It’s a heavy trip, as laden with phony stories as parenthood is. In order to survive it in style, you need to know the truth behind the myths.


I sold my first book myself (read: without an agent), to the leading publisher in my then-current niche. After the magical “We’d like to make you an offer!” phone call, I took a long walk in the sunshine to let the pleasure soak in. But I’d barely turned homeward when I realized I’d have to negotiate my own contract. And being a creative individual with severe allergies to numbers and money talk, my heart quailed.

The advance wasn’t big enough to attract an agent to negotiate for me, and I didn’t want to pay a lawyer’s fees. So I went out and bought two volumes on negotiating a book contract and forced myself to read them cover-to-cover, making notes on
anything that seemed beyond my intellect.

Amazingly, when the contracts arrived in the mail the next week, I could read them. Not only that, I knew enough to be outraged by them.

I phoned my editor. “Do some authors just sign these and send them back without asking for any changes?”

“Yeah, some do,” she admitted, sheepishly.

The good news: My editor had the power to negotiate, and I got much of what I wanted, such as a lower ceiling for royalty bumps, more subsidiary rights retained, elimination of the first-refusal clause, and more author’s copies. Ask for lots more than you’re willing to settle for.

Now is not the time to be meek. Remember, they’ve decided they want to publish your book—meaning they think they can make money from you—but you haven’t signed yet.

Even if an agent is representing you, you must read every line of your contract and make notes. Go over your concerns with your agent or publisher. This is the only time you actually wield power in the publisher-author relationship. Make the most of it.


They might be like family to one another, but they wouldn’t know you if they fell over you in the street.

You live in whatever nonglamorous town while they dwell in New York City and walk to the Met while eating fresh bialys and bumping into celebrities. You are an outsider. They are the foster parents who have just been granted custody of your child. If left alone, they’ll probably do an OK job. After all, they’re nice people and they mean well. But they’ll treat your kid a lot better if you participate, try to get to know them and find things to like about them.

Odds are you will have, as I do, a wonderful publishing team. I respect their skills and passion for their work, and we enjoy a cordial, professional relationship. However, at no time should you delude yourself that they work for you. They work for themselves, as do you, as does everybody.

Bring no neediness to any conversation. Never whine. Remember that if you pump out great salable books at the rate of one every 12–18 months, mutually beneficial results are bound to occur.

I’ve found that thanking people is a good obsession to develop. During an important conference, my cartons of books didn’t show up. Thousands of miles away, my publicist sat on his neck to find out what happened (they’d been addressed wrong), figure out where they were now (some other hotel) and get them delivered in the nick of time. He received chocolates.


This one makes me laugh every time.

“But it’s my baby—I worked on it for five years. I’ve already revised! This is not a first draft!”

Realize that your editor is a professional at what he does—he makes his living and reputation helping authors put their books into the best possible shape.

Then, make up your mind to be open and nondefensive.

Most changes editors request are minor, and you think about it and go, “Oh yeah, that plot point would work better if I put it earlier in the book.” Or, “Gosh, I never realized how flat that dialogue really sounds. I need to create more hostility between the characters there.”

But how do you not melt down when your editor asks for a huge change?

Eliminating a major character, putting in a new one, drastically revamping the ending (with concordant alterations to the rest of the manuscript to accommodate it)—those are big. If your editor asks for a major change and after thinking it over you agree, you’ve got some work ahead of you. Welcome it, because it’ll make you a better writer.

Any major change is simply a bunch of minor changes put together, so approach it that way; make a list of what you have to do, and get going. If you feel stymied or have serious reservations about the suggested changes, talk it over with your editor. You’ll be surprised at how many good ideas will result.

Remember that in the end, it’s your book. If you give a concrete reason for refusing to make a given change, that will help you test your position, and it’ll help your editor learn, too. I’ve never had an editor do this, but if one ever asked me to dumb down a passage or avoid some subject because of political correctness (“We might offend someone!”), I would balk, and I’d expect you to do the same.


For some incomprehensible reason, this is one of the biggest topics on the minds of new authors. Listen: Because you are an author, you by definition have no artistic talent, so to imagine yourself capable of distinguishing a good book cover from a bad one is laughable. Your publisher trusts the job to experts in graphic design. This doesn’t mean every cover will be perfect for every book, but it does mean you should relax about the art.


Not so; the great thing about copy editing is seeing your manuscript through the eyes of someone fresh to it. Your copy editor will, if she’s good, challenge any grammar and mechanics you’ve hot-footed it over and suggest micro-improvements that never would have occurred to you. She can also catch embarrassing mistakes (I once had a character divide 20 million by 10 and come out with 200,000, instead of 2 million).

Any time you have a chance to review edits or make additional ones, have a sheet of proofreader’s marks handy, and make your marks with meticulous clarity.


In fact, it’s rare for a debut author to be reviewed in The New York Times, so don’t get your hopes up; the first-time authors featured there are one in a million. If you’ve received a massive advance (which usually generates big buzz in the book media) and your book is being packaged as literary, those things could help.

But who knows whether you should hope for such a high-profile review or not. A favorable one may not boost your sales the way you expect, and a savage one could make you feel suicidal. There’s no shame in focusing on lower-profile reviews—good ones can add up, and bad ones won’t be catastrophic.


This isn’t so much a myth as a lie you enthusiastically tell yourself as you’re thrilling to the image of your book jacket on, just above the “pre-order” button.

You actually began telling yourself this lie as you painstakingly went over your contract, executed whatever edits you needed to, dealt with the galley proofs and started work on the suddenly endless project of promotion.

“But I must set up a page on MyFace! It’s free! I’ll interact with my future readers there! How else is my book gonna—”

OK, yes, you do have to do promotion on your own, but you need to create a balance. If you did everything you possibly could to promote your current book, you’d never finish another one. And there is nothing more important than writing your next book. Nothing.

So, don’t let temptations get in the way of your writing schedule. I’ve found it best to demand a certain minimum word count from myself every writing day, either 1,000 or 1,500, depending on what else is going on. If you slam down your words faithfully, you’re going to have a career.

In short, put your faith in your writing.

Here's the link:

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

How Much is Too Much?

I was always a rather shy person. People often mistook it for snobbishness. In truth I was much too intimidated by people to approach them. A great deal of that has changed over the last few years, but I am essentially still quite shy.

Perhaps that is why I feel very strange marketing myself. I know that in order to sell anything, you have to reach out to your audience, and so that is exactly what I've been trying to do. Still, it all feels odd and not a little bit narcissistic.

I started this blog almost as soon as I finished my manuscript. A blog isn't so bad. People won't read it if they really don't want to. It's not in your face all the time and, best of all, it's not a hard-sell. I'm not jumping up and down and waving my arms frantically while screaming "look at me!" or "buy me, or else!" I rather like blogging, now that I have something worthwhile to blog about.

I don't mind joining sites like goodreads, or LinkedIn, Twitter, or Ziggs. I can handle those because, again, you are participating without getting in other people's faces all the time. Some of the discussions created are tonnes of fun, and I especially like goodreads because you can follow your favourite authors... as long as they are on goodreads.

I'm having a little more difficulty with Facebook. I've created another profile (look up S.m. Carrière) as my sort of professional alter-ego. From it, I've created a fan page for myself. Now that feels really strange. I'm essentially my own fan, asking others to become a fan (you can, by the way. There's a button on the top right-hand corner of this blog above my photo).

You probably noticed that I added a little bit of marketing to this blog, even though I blogging about how weird it feels to be marketing oneself (that was good, huh? Right? That was pretty slick, wasn't it?). It feels a little too narcissistic, with an air of desperation added for extra flavour.

Another problem I'm having is telling others that I am an author, even though I haven't been published yet. Now it is true that I own the material I write as soon as it is written down (copyright laws), and since I have written and I do write, that makes me a writer. It just feels like I'm lying to people when I tell them I'm an author.

I don't make a living from writing (yet). I'm a receptionist. I have written a series that I want to publish. I actually haven't published anything (yet). Since that is the case, can I rightfully call myself an author? Am I being pompous by even trying to?

Am I being silly?

I know that marketing oneself is crucial to getting noticed, but it all feels so strange. I feel a little guilty doing it. I guess it feels like I'm falling short of the expectations I am creating, that I am not all I am pretending to be.

One of my friends assured me I was just being silly, and I probably am. Let's face it, I'm not the most secure person I know and it is more than likely that my insecurities are turning something quite ordinary into something that simply feels wrong.

Whatever I feel about it, it is necessary. So I shall, with good humour, continue to market myself. When (not 'if') I am published, perhaps it won't all feel so bizarre.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What is more important, Rights or Royalties?

This is a little extra on eliminating potential publishers.

The question I posed in the title is really the focus of this new elimination. Which is more important, royalties or rights?

I ask this because while researching potential publishers, I came across two that paid very high royalties. One paid between 15% - 40% royalties. The other paid 40% - 50% royalties. This might seem high, and it is. The problem is that they would make an outright purchase of the material. That is to say, I would have no rights to the work and any subsidiary rights like, say, movie rights, would go to the publisher.

Not to say that I expect my series to be turned into a film (or series thereof), if published. Hypothetically speaking however, should I be published and should the work garner the interest of the movie-making community, I'd have no control over what they did with the work, nor would I receive anything from the production. I'm not such a fan of that idea.

There might be a little bit of a control-freak in me, but I get really anxious when I am asked to relinquish any rights to my work at all. It's my work and I would like to keep it that way.

For that reason and no other, two more potential publishing houses have been struck from my list.

Some people probably wouldn't have an issue with this, particularly if the purchase prince and royalties were high enough. For me, however, I'd much rather lower royalties as long as I get to keep my work mine.

That's just me though.

TFSU 5 - It Made It!

I can now breathe a sigh of relief. As of roughly 1:00pm yesterday, my submission to Tor Fantasy was successfully delivered. Now I have between two and six months to wait until I hear from them. How's that for nerve-wracking?

Luckily, for you the reader, it means that you won't have to read through these silly updates for another two months. Guaranteed, though, that you will hear me groan about waiting from the two month mark until I hear from Tor... or 6 months have passed. Let's hope Tor puts you out of your misery quickly!

Track History

Date Time Location Description Retail Location Signatory Name
2009/08/2412:5310010,USAItem successfully delivered

International shipment has arrived in the destination country

International item has left Canada

2009/08/1712:48OTTAWAItem accepted at the Post Office

Shipping Options and Features for this Item
Signature Required

Monday, August 24, 2009



As of 4:20pm today, there is nothing new to report. The submission is in the U.S. somewhere and is yet to be delivered.

Track Status

Product Type: USA Letterpost

Date Time Location Description Retail Location Signatory Name
International shipment has arrived in the destination country

Reasearching Publishers 101

Who knew that researching could be so much fun? It's actually pretty exciting sitting with a big book of who publishes what, going through and narrowing down your choices. Perhaps I should have become an R.A.?

Regardless, today's lesson is on Elimination: How to Narrow Down Your List of Prospective Publishers.

In a wonderful, perfect world, every single publishing house would accept every single manuscript for review. The truth is, however, they don't. You must, therefore, know thy publishing houses. For example, if a publishing house publishes only non-fiction titles, submitting a fiction manuscript will get you absolutely nowhere. Sounds pretty basic, right? In my case, I want to find publishing houses that will publish Fantasy titles. Of the 3 500 listed in 2010 Writer's Market, that leaves me with just 62.

Excellent! Now moving on.

Next to be cut out would be those publishing houses that will not accept any query, proposal or manuscript unless it comes from a literary agent. Submissions to agents will come later. Of the 61 North American options I had, there remains 57.


Next off the list would be perhaps the most obvious and it comes directly from knowing your audience. As basic as this sounds, I had no idea who my audience was until I had finished the Great Man series. Now that I do know, I can eliminate publishing houses based on that. The age range of your target audience will be the single largest deciding factor in reducing your options. In my case, for example, children are not my target audience. Neither are teens. This book is clearly for an adult audience. With publishing houses focusing on a younger audience struck from the list, the number of options is down to just 37.

Cutting based on audience doesn't end at just age-range, however. It also comes down to the tastes of the target audience. Exclusively religious publishing houses are out in my case, even if they accept Fantasy submissions. That was based purely on content. My story isn't particularly about religion. One more down.

There is a publishing house devoted entirely to lesbian protagonists. Well, my protagonist is a male, and not particularly homosexual, so that one goes as well.

One is devoted entirely to U.F.O.'s and government conspiracy theories. I have nothing of that in my manuscript! That's gone.

Here is a publishing house that wants sex. Don't we all? I especially love their 'Tips.'
"Our audience... wants to read more sex, more detailed sex.... More sex is the motto, but there has to be a storyline - a logical plot and a happy ending."
- Ellora's Cave Publishing, Inc., 2010 Writer's Market, pg 153.
Oh dear. While there actually is a fair amount of sex in my book, not much of it goes into very explicit detail and there might be a slight problem with that happy ending. Clearly, this is not the publisher for me! Another one bites the dust.

One publisher is listed twice. I can't rightly count them twice, so I'll ignore the second listing.

That leaves a grand total of 32 publishers I can send a query/proposal/manuscript to. That's actually a fair amount and may just constitute years of waiting!

Don't get me wrong, I still really, really want to be published by Tor. I shall not be submitting anything to anyone else until I have either heard from Tor or six months have passed. That said, I have to prepare for a rejection. Let's face it, how many authors are accepted on their first submission? Exactly.

Now I have to do some serious research into each of my choices. A good thing I like research!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Some Websites You Might Find Useful

I was fortunate enough to be given some helpful sites by Charles Weinblatt, author of Jacob's Courage. There is a link to his site in my "Must Reads" section on the right hand side of this blog. I have to say, I am rather encouraged by his openness and willingness to help unpublished nobodies like myself.

A huge thank-you to Mr. Weinblatt.

Since he was so kind as to share with me, I think I should reciprocate by sharing it with you, the other unpublished authors out there. The first site that may be of interest is:

I signed up for this site a couple of weeks before finishing the first ever, exceptionally rough draft of my four book series. This is also the site through which I first got in contact with Mr. Weinblatt. As far as networking, it clearly works and we all know that the more we network, the more ears there are available to hear our stories, the greater chance there is that someone will be interested in our work, the greater chance of being published.

For this reason, you might also want to check out

The last website to try is This site is an absolute must for book lovers. Not only can you share and recommend books to other people, you can submit a part (or all) of your work for review and commentary by complete strangers, who love books and reading. That is a fabulous way to:
1. Have your stuff read and constructively critiqued, and
2. Get word out about your stuff.
Also, if you are already a published author, there is a special section for you to create an author's profile where you and your fans can communicate directly. It's a fantastic way to get an "in" if you catch my drift. I'm not a published author, so I can't do that... yet!

I am on all three websites. Feel free to add me as a contact/friend/connection and with luck, we'll all be published someday.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


It's still in the U.S. somewhere. It is yet to be delivered.

Track Status

Product Type: USA Letterpost

Date Time Location Description Retail Location Signatory Name
International shipment has arrived in the destination country

Hopefully soon.

It's Here!

It's here! It's here! It's here!

About a fortnight ago, unbeknownst to anyone but myself and my credit card company, I ordered the 2010 Writer's Market. It's a giant book with "3 500 listings for book publishers, consumer magazines, trade journals, literary agents, and more." About fifteen minutes ago, it arrived. Huzzah!

Some prospective authors will roll their eyes at me and call me a sucker for buying the book but, frankly, I love books, and I find it easier to research from a book than from the Internet. I think that this is for North America only, so I may just buy the one that comes out of the UK as well.

I realise that I have already submitted my manuscript to a publishing house, and to be honest, it is the publishing house that I would most like to publish my work. I won't be sending my manuscript off to anyone else until I hear from them, but it would be a very good idea to have the list of houses and agents that are likely to publish my work already researched. It'll save me a lot of time. Let's face it, I have between two and six months from the time my proposal is received until I hear from them, so I may as well research in that time!

I'm excited to get started, so I'll sign off now.

This Has Nothing to do with My Book

Today is my little brother's birthday. One year older and loved just as much.

Happy Birthday Christian!

Your loving sister.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tor Fantasy Submission Update 2

I should really find a better way to write that title! From here on in Tor Fantasy Submission Updates will now be TFSU.

All besides the point. The package is now in the U.S.A!

Track History

Date Time Location Description Retail Location Signatory Name
International shipment has arrived in the destination country

International item has left Canada

2009/08/1712:48OTTAWAItem accepted at the Post Office

I don't know when they entered the "Item has left Canada" stuff. It wasn't there at 4pm yesterday. It doesn't matter, though. The package is in the U.S.

Stay tuned for another thrilling adventure in "Where's My Package," a fearfully dull mini-series only on

Why Write?

Someone asked me yesterday why I wanted to write and be published. All I could think to say was "Because." Not only is that a grammatically incorrect sentence, it isn't a very good reason. "Because" explains nothing about the passion that has developed for this story and the inexplicable urge to have it reach a wide audience. It really got me thinking.

A small side note, it takes a bit to get me thinking rather than imagining. Back to the regularly programmed blog....

Why do I want to write?

I can tell you right away that I don't want to become a writer because I want to become famous, or get rich (though, to be perfectly honest, I wouldn't mind the getting rich part, however unlikely it is).

If you had asked me when I was ten if I wanted to become an author, I would have laughed in your face, or perhaps behind your back. I didn't want to write! I had dreams of becoming a high-powered C.E.O. of some really profitable corporation.

In High School, although I wrote a little bit for fun, and for school assignments, I still didn't want to become a writer. I had my heart set on becoming a fighter pilot. Yes, you read that correctly. I wanted to fly FA-18s. I took two kinds of maths, physics and chemistry in High School so I could become a pilot. That failed miserably when I discovered I needed glasses to see distance.

After High School, I floundered a little while. For a time I thought I wanted to become a lawyer, or a forensic scientist and so for my first year of university, I studied Criminology. It so happened that after my final exams of the year I went home exhausted and unhappy and noticed, for the first time, exactly what was on my bookshelf. The only things about Crime were my textbooks.

Everything else was either a fantasy novel or books on archaeology, folklore and custom, ancient world myth and religion, and a very large section of reference books on Celtic Studies. Clearly I was in the wrong programme. Always fascinated by ancient history, I decided to study Archaeology, focusing on the Atlantic Façade from the Upper Palaeolithic to the pre-Roman Iron Age. Fascinating stuff! For the next four years at university that is exactly what I did, and it was awesome.

When I graduated university, the plan was to find a good job so I could save up for my Master's degree, which I wanted to take at the University of Wales in Bangor, Wales. It was a one year Celtic Archaeology programme. The goal was to become an academic. In the meantime, I picked up writing again as a hobby.

The story I was writing, apparently, had other ideas. It took over. It poured from my fingers onto the page at an alarming speed, sometimes with such force that I would be utterly spent at the end of the session. It crept into my mind during my sleep, and then in my waking hours. It screamed "Publish me!" without actually uttering a syllable.

Now I find myself completely at its mercy, driven without reason to get this thing into print.

So why do I do it? Why write?

The answer is this: Because I feel compelled to. Because it fulfills me. Because there is so much stuff whirling around in my skull I fear that if I don't write it down, my head will explode!

That is why I write.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Tor Fantasy Submission Update

Here's the fun of the waiting game. As of precisely 4:00pm my time, the package I had sent to Tor Fantasy yesterday is still, according to Canada Post, in the post office I dropped it off at.

The exact tracking report looks like this:

Track Status

Product Type: USA Letterpost

Date Time Location Description Retail Location Signatory Name
2009/08/1712:48OTTAWAItem accepted at the Post Office

Track History

Date Time Location Description Retail Location Signatory Name
2009/08/1712:48OTTAWAItem accepted at the Post Office

Shipping Options and Features for this Item
Signature Required

To quote a good friend of mine "le sigh."

Shameless Friend Promotion

No, this isn't a post about Wicca, though that would be entertaining.... This is a post about a good friend of mine from High School, Leonie Allan.

Leonie is just one of those people who are amazing souls. The kind of soul who uplifts you, supports you, nurtures you and puts the shine in sunshine. I mightn't have made it through High School without her.

Leonie is an artist as well and she's been blogging since before I can remember. You can check out her blog here:

She has since, by popular demand, turned her attention towards helping people reach fulfilment by helping them explore their creative side, something that, I think, has been largely abandoned by most people in favour of money-making drudgery.

I am in constant awe of her talents and positive attitude. For that reason, I have volunteered to help her out and have her reach a broader audience. I might be able to, since she's all the way in Australia and I'm here in Canada, although I understand that she already has an international audience.

Check out what she has to offer by clicking on the link (Goddess Guidebook) that is on the right hand side of the screen, or on the link above.

Love you Leonie,
Your friend and fan.

Perhpas Not?

One of my friends sent me this link, and it describes with far greater eloquence the experience I was trying to explain yesterday.

I don't feel so crazy now.

Monday, August 17, 2009

One of Many

It is unusual for me to blog twice in one day, but today I have news.

Well, it is done. I have made my first ever submission to a publishing house.

Some of you will probably ask: "What took you so long? You finished the manuscript in July!"

The answer is very simple. It was one part editing and three parts sheer, unadulterated terror.

That might surprise you, but it's the truth. Submitting your work is terrifying. In fact, as I stood at the post office and watched the postman put all the stickers on the package, I almost had a change of heart. I almost snatched the parcel back and ran from the post office. I was scared. He was about to send what was essentially my heart and soul to New York to be ripped open and ripped apart by some stranger. That is a terrifying thought.

I think it is akin to telling the boy (or girl, if there are guys reading this) you barely know but have admired for longer than you care to acknowledge that you, in fact, admire them. The fear is exactly the same, and so is the impetus. You can't sleep, you can't eat, or perhaps you do too much of both, until you've said it. Until you know for sure. So it is with submitting one's work for judgement. There is a need to know.

You cannot bear the thought of rejection, but you cannot stand not knowing.

So it was that with much trepidation that I sent away my book proposal to New York for consideration, and now I have to sit and wait for a response. The response, they told me on the website, can take anywhere between two and six months. This wait will probably kill me, as they are the publishing house I would most like to publish my work.

"They" are, in fact, Tor Fantasy, a branch of the massive publishing company MacMillan. I would like to be published by them if only because they had the good sense to publish Steve Erikson (among others like Sara Douglass) and Mr. Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen series is wonderful. I should very much like to be published by them.

I realise that I am probably shooting for the stars by having the audacity to hope to be published by Tor, but hey, go big or go home, right? One of the main reasons for my choice, other than the books they publish, is that they are one of the few publishing houses that still accept unsolicited submissions. Bloomsbury used to, but were probably overwhelmed with manuscripts after the success of Harry Potter.

In trying to get published, as in any endeavour, there really is only one thing you can do:

Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

That is technically two things, but take it as a package.

So that is what I will do. I will brace myself for the probably rejection, and hope that I get an offer.

Fingers crossed!

Whose Line is it Anway?

Friday's post got me thinking a little about how odd it was that I really just couldn't change the way the story went. After all, it's my story isn't it? Then it clicked. This isn't my story at all! It's his story.

I have to explain this and hopefully I won't sound crazy. I probably will, but here's hoping anyway. I have absolutely no control over this story. Zip; Zilch; Nada; None. In truth this story is controlling me. It pours through my mind like some ghost river and it is relentless until the words are typed out, or written down somewhere, anywhere. I just have to get it out.

It's really difficult to describe, but more than once during the writing of this series I found myself writing for hours on end and having no idea what I've written until I went back (after some much-needed sleep) later to read it over.

I really feel like I am not really the creator of this tale. This tale already existed out there somewhere and I guess I was the only brain tuned into that station. I was the lightening rod. I am nothing more than a conduit for this story. I sit at the computer finding that sentences, intrigues, plots and sub-plots, are being formed on the screen in front of me.

Certainly it was my fingers that typed out the story, but was it my brain that thought it up? I'd love to take all the credit and say yes, but I'm not sure I can. This story is bigger than I am. It's almost as if my character's ghost is standing at my shoulder, letting me know how things happened.

This story isn't mine. It's his. I just hope I can do it justice.

Perhaps I do need that straight jacket.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Should We Call for a Straight Jacket?

I'm writing today on the many behavioural... uh... oddities you will notice that some writers specifically (and some artists in general) exhibit. I'm not talking about suicidal tendencies or really bad temper tantrums. I'm talking about the bizarre attachments to characters that are purely fictional. Writers, alright I (since I can't speak for all writers), tend to feel for their characters as if they were, in actuality, real people.

When something good happens to a character, we rejoice. When something terrible happens, it is not uncommon to find the author... alright, me... moping around the house in her pyjamas for days at a time scraping the bottom of a large ice-cream container for that last little lick of comfort. I'm not sure why this is, but it is.

An example of this happened to me a few years ago. I had reached an impasse in my story. It simply wasn't moving forward, so I decided to leave it alone for a couple of days and let the characters figure it out. When one character decided (of his own accord, of course) to take action, the consequences left me so desolate I phoned my mother in tears.

The conversation went something like this:

"Mum?" *sob "It's me."
"Oh my God! What's wrong love?"
*sob *sob. "He's dead."
"Who's dead?"
Sounds of a distraught young woman trying to control her crying.
"Um, Dan*."
Confused silence.
"From my book."
Sudden burst of laughter.
"It's not funny. I'm really sad!"
More laughter.
"Then change it! Un-kill him!"
"I can't! He's dead!"
*named changed to protect the identity of the victim.

Before you start to scoff and say:
"You're the author, just change the story," I have to tell you now that I can't 'just change the story.' That's the way the story went. When I saw the spectacularly heroic death of "Dan" in my mind's eye it was so clear and final that there was no going back. This is what Dan had decided to do, he knew how it would end, but he went and did it anyway. Stupid git. I loved Dan. He was a good soul.

Dan was dead and that was that, just like the death of a real person. You can't undo the death of a friend, however much you would love to have them by your side again. And so it is with fictional characters for authors... alright... for me.

Do I need a straight jacket? Based on what I've heard from other authors during interviews, I don't think so.

Now I'm off to terrorise the spider people who live under the bridge....

Thursday, August 13, 2009

That Was My Idea!

Every writer has them: really amazing, original ideas that are just so clever it makes you want to dance in the radiance of your own astounding imagination.... at least, until you read a book with the exact same idea already in print.

That happened to me. Twice.

The first time I almost cried. The second time I threw a temper tantrum. Yes, I am that much of a queen. Well, sometimes I am.

Let me tell you, as a fantasy author it is really stupidly difficult to be original. Tolkien set the standard and now whenever you pick up a book it's almost always Elves, and Dwarves, and Wizards and Dragons. Perhaps the greatest exception (though not the only exception) to that is Steven Erikson, who, I think, is a brilliant mind and I just can't get enough of his Malazan Book of the Fallen series. So good! Read it!

But that is a digression. This is about great ideas that turn out to be not as original as one would have thought. The first time happened shortly after I had written my Prologue. Who can I blame for thieving my spectacular idea? None other than J. R. R. Tolkien himself, yesss precioussss. The Prologue in his book The Silmarillion was so similar to mine, I burst into frustrated tears and cried aloud: "I'll never be published now!"

I hadn't read The Silmarillion before writing my Prologue, I swear! I actually got the idea from The Bible. That's right, The Bible. John 1:1, to be exact. You know, the bit that goes "In the beginning was the Word... and the Word was God." That bit. Only I thought it would be an idea to make the "Word" song, since music is universal and any one language is not. That was the idea and the inspiration. Tolkien had nothing to do with it.

Now, I am a Tolkien fan. I think he is brilliant. His worlds are so vivid and beautiful and terrifying. He is the sort of author authors everywhere hope to approximate, even in the smallest measure. So as frustrated as I am at this development, which will be a huge hinderance to my quest of getting published, I really can't hate him for it.

The other, perhaps more nefarious, "stolen" idea was my golden eyes - black eyes idea. Damn you Edward Cullen! Damn you!

This was the one that gave me my all-out, haven't-taken-a-turn-like-this-since-I-was-three, temper tantrum. I stomped my feet, I punched my mattress, I screamed into my pillow and I cried tears of frustration.

My main character has golden eyes. He was born with golden eyes. It's something I cannot change because it is hugely important to the story and my character's identity. His eyes turn black. This is something I also cannot change, because it is integral to the story.

Expletive! Expletive! EXPLETIVE!

To clarify though, the thing with my character's eyes is once they turn black, they stay black. He's not some good vampire (though there are some similarities there as well, damn it!) who feeds on wild animals rather than people, either. He's the unintended outcome of an ill-fated affair between a Keshaly'i Queen and the Overlord of the Sammonishy'i, and who just happens to be the only person in the world capable of stopping the fantasy equivalent of apocalypse. Intrigued? Well, you'll just have to buy the book. When it's published. If it's published.

Now to be fair to Stephanie Meyers, the idea wasn't stolen.... probably.

Paranoid much?

Joking aside, I know it wasn't. We just both had the same stroke of genius, that's all. My character had golden eyes long before Twilight came out and became hugely popular. I was fourteen years old when that idea came to me. I do not know how long Stephanie Meyers had Edward Cullen floating about her head, so I can't say which of us thought of it first and really, in the long run, it doesn't matter. She was published first, therefore it was, technically, her idea first. That's a huge problem for me.

The biggest frustration with these eerily similarities to already established authors is that I'm now afraid that my work is going to be seen as unoriginal and that will make it really, really, really hard to get published. My one consolation is that my series is not intended for a younger audience. Adult readers only. Viewer discretion is advised. The bulk of the Twilight fan base, therefore, aren't likely to pick my book up. The Tolkien fan base, however, is a different story, and that will be problematic.

I'm not quite sure how to rectify the situation, really, since both the eye colour and colour change are hugely important to the story and the Prologue provides the mythos and history of this world and is equally as important. What do I do now?

All I can do really is send in the manuscript and hope that a publisher sees past these eerie, upsetting, and frightening similarities.

I don't know. I'm scared now, despite all the positive feedback I've received from friends.
Getting published just got harder. Like it needed to....

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Dragger-Down

I know I wrote yesterday about the importance of good friends. Well, now I want to write about the disappointing friends. Not all my friends seemed pleased that I had finished my project. Not everyone was especially supportive. I suppose in any group of friends there is always at least one negative force. I like to call this person "The Dragger-Down."

The person who turned out to be the Dragger-Down was something of a surprise, really. I was aware that he could be quite negative a times, but I didn't expect he would be about this. It was a disappointment, and let me tell you, it really stung to read his email. He did congratulate me, to be sure. But he did so in only one sentence that read:

It's done, hooray.

Then he wrote:

I don't want to put a dampener on the achievement of finishing a whole book, but I think you should hold off on the whole bottle of red just for now... a review is a review, I've had lots of friends over the years go through reviews only to have rejections later on in the game, When the book goes to the printer, that's when the whole bottle is well deserved.

Now perhaps it is just an ego thing, but this hurt. To me, it was tantamount to being told I will fail. That finishing a manuscript that is the equivalent of four complete novels is not worthy of even a small celebration like a nice bottle of red wine. So what did I do with it?

I laughed at it. I didn't get mad at him. I didn't even email him back to let him know how disappointed I was that he didn't think that finishing four novels was worth celebrating. I emailed him to let him know that I am not an idiot. I am completely aware of how difficult it is to get published, particularly in this economic climate. I told him that the news was most certainly worth celebrating, and that I was going to have my wine regardless of what he thought, because, let's face it, 407 429 words and 789 pages of solid, single-spaced typing is absolutely worth celebrating, regardless of whether it gets published or not!

And you know what? I did have my wine and I did celebrate and it was fabulous! And even better than that, several of my friends jumped immediately to my defence (M.M. and K.W., you guys are awesome!), which made me feel better.

Now, he and I are still good friends and I won't hold this against him. It was probably in all truth just a clumsy attempt at trying to protect me from the inevitable disappointment of rejection letters, of which I am probably going to receive many.

From this I have learnt three things:

First, good friends (and family), as said yesterday, are an absolute must in any endeavour.

Secondly, and I'm very sorry to say this, choose what you say to which of your friends wisely. This doesn't mean abandon the friends that aren't as excited about your project as you are, just be careful what you say around them. Some people are just waiting for a chance to bring you down. I don't know why, so don't ask.

Lastly and certainly not least, celebrate even the smallest victories. If you finish a project, celebrate! Think of how many people never do finish a project they've started. Finishing is something incredibly special and so are you for doing so!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Importance of Friends

I was going to write about something else today, but having spoken with friends and reviewed the comments on my last post today, I thought this topic would be better.

Friends are incredibly important in anyone's quest to do anything in their lives. A strong network of support and encouragement is absolutely necessary. I could not have done what I have done in life if it weren't for that support network (and family is included here). My friends, it goes without saying (but still begs to be said), are awesome.

Some friends I've known since High School (love you A.J.). Other friends I only met in my final year of university. The latter group of people belong to the same Kung Fu school as I do and, it was discovered on a Kung Fu trip, we all shared a common passion - writing. In the spirit of new found friendship and a large dollop of fun, we started a small writer's group. These people are, without a doubt some of the most talented, imaginative and wonderful people I think I will ever know.

They are also incredibly supportive, knowing intimately, as they do, the desire to write and be read. When I told them I had finished my first ever, full-length, turned-out-to-be-four-books manuscript, the support just flowed in. I cannot find words adequate enough to explain to you what that means to me.

My first and most important piece of advice to people who want to be authors. Find yourselves a good circle of friends. There is nothing better than that. My friends have been with me through some very trying times. They have been there with me through some really amazing times. They have just always been there. My current circle of friends are now my unofficial editors and my official cheering squad.

Thank-you so much guys.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Hello Blog World!

Hello everyone out there in the Aether that is the internet!

This is my third attempt at blogging. I tend to get distracted and lose interest after a while, but I'm serious about this now.

Why am I serious? Well, it all began with a hobby that turned into an obsession. If you haven't guessed from the clues I've blatantly plastered all over this blog, that would be writing. I am a self-professed geek, and so I tend to write Fantasy. In fact, I have written Fantasy. Four books of it. It wasn't meant to be four books, it just kind of happened that way. How did it happen? Well, that is a story in itself.

(Cue harp music)

Once upon a time in a strange land called Australia, a six year old girl would sit by the window and daydream. She grew into a fourteen year old girl who would sit by the window and daydream.

In those marvellous flights of fancy, the young girl stumbled across a character. He was a dark, brooding sort of man with a bad temper, but a good heart. Suddenly all her daydreams revolved around him.

Deciding that it might be something to write down this man's misadventures. Every time the girl had a daydream, she wrote it down. It didn't take her long to realise that all her short stories could be put into a time-line and so she did just that.

After several dozen failed attempts to make sense of a larger story, the girl gave up trying and instead went to Canada and started university. Five years later, she had a degree in Ancient Cultures (Archaeology and Prehistoric Anthrolpology).

Through all this time, her daydreams persisted and so she continued to write her stories down in sequential order. Slowly the short stories began to coagulate into something much, much bigger, until at last she had a firmly set storyline and she began to think that she should turn these stories into a novel.

That's exactly what she set out to do. On July 31st, 2009, she typed the last words of her first ever first draft of her manuscript, and then did a happy dance. She titled the piece "The Great Man" and started researching publishers. In her research, she noted that most manuscript submissions were to be no more than 100 000 words. She did a word count. 407 429 words. She had the equivalent of four books in her first draft of her manuscript.

So now her challenge was to cut and chop and rearrange her manuscript into four separate novels. She is doing that to this day.

That girl is me, and I have been dreaming of being a published author since I graduated university. It was a slow dream that sort of crept out of my obsession with this character and his story. So far I have completed the first, unedited drafts of three books in what is now The Great Man series:
Book I: The Third Prince
Book II: Lord of Horses
Book III: Overlord

The fourth book in the series is yet to be completed, but I do have a working title:
Book IV: Prince of Darkness

This blog a record of my victories and failures, my fears and frustrations and my ultimate hope that a publisher will find my work worthy of putting into print.

How cool would that be?