It sold some more. And it kept selling. In fact, within days, it was hitting the top 10 Amazon free and not just for its genre. I was blown away, so very pleased and I was sure that once the 5 free promo days were over, it would sink to the bottom of the 12 million, but it didn’t. Less than a month later, I released TO WALK IN THE WAY OF LIONS, and the same thing happened. Reviews began to come in, one by one and for the most part, they were all very positive. I felt like Sally Field on Oscar night (I will spare you the quote). I like praise as much as the next geek but really, to hear that something I had written actually resonated with people was affirming, encouraging – in a word, validating. But it was also challenging, for with it came a responsibility to keep it up, get better at it, improve.
But while I was enjoying success with Amazon, a part of me had become intrigued with this world of publishing, of agents and houses and contracts. If self-publishing was validating, how much more so traditional publishing? Actually getting ‘the call’, ‘a contract’, ‘an advance???’ These glittered like stars above my head but I did realize one very interesting fact – that while the Upper Kingdom series were brilliant, they were at first glance ‘niche.’ Cutting a potential readership pool into a very small slice simply because of the premise. I needed to write something more mainstream. I know, a romance! A paranormal romance! Yeah, yeah, that would sell! I could do it.
Except that I couldn’t.
Now, for years I had been dabbling in the fan fiction scene (I know you are rolling your eyes. I can see it. Roll away.) but NOT the kind you’re thinking of. Seriously, I’m not that kind of girl. They were mysteries, criminal cases, scripts and screenplays, complete with red herrings, complex supporting characters, story arcs and commercial breaks (cue fade to black). And they were so wildly successful in the forums that I decided to take the most popular of them and turn it into a novel. And so during the month of November 2011 and a NaNoWriMo challenge, COLD STONE & IVY was born.
It took less than six months but, as per my usual verbiose grandeur, it clocked in at 165,000 words or a healthy 650 pages. By this time, I knew the difference between agents and publishers, so I began to submit it to agents in Canada, the US and UK. I got immediate attention and five very big names requested fulls. Their comments were so encouraging – engaging, storyteller, great voice, great world-building. But still a newbie, I had also forgotten one essential ingredient. Editing.
Argh. Editing. The bane of writers, the blessing of authors. There’s the rub. Editors are like personal trainers. No one likes them and they hurt you like crazy, but boy oh boy, do they get you into shape. I sent off a chapter to writer and editor, Erica Orloff and she was like “I honestly never say this but this is amazing. You NEED to get this published.” We worked on it for months, getting it down to the lean, mean size of 145,000 words (or 580 pages) and in the fall of 2012, I resubmitted to several agents, and some new ones.
By Christmas, I had an offer of publication and two agents vying for the right to represent me and by January, I had signed with Jennifer Udden of the Donald Maass Literary Agency, a small but prestigious firm specializing in SciFi/Fantasy. I had fans crying for more of the Upper Kingdom but I had work to do to get CS&I ready for the ‘Big Six’ (it was still the Big Six at the time). What to do? What to do? Could I write one novel and edit another at the same time? All of this after hours of day job, parenting, being a wife, walking my dogs, shoveling snow, etc? That was a heck of a lot of work! Could I do it?
Of course I could. I buckled down and got to work.
To be continued… (Cause I’m mean that way. Really.)