Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Road to Publication: Part 2

I began writing again. I wrote a lot. But I didn't send much out. I began searching for another literary agent. Again, there were many form letters and letters with critiques and encouragement. There was the reputable agent who called after hours and said she loved the first three chapters of what I'd sent her. We worked on three revisions without me being signed on--only to have her eventually decline the manuscript. There was the small press funded by a fabulous author who asked for rewrites on  a manuscript, only to say they couldn't publish the book due to monetary reasons. I kept sending out to agents. I kept getting rejected.
My writing, so far, has resulted in approximately 50 unpublished stories, 8 unpublished manuscripts, 7 abandoned manuscripts, 8 published short stories, and 1 published novel that has undergone quite a few incarnations. I selected, out of all the overwrought fantasies I'd written, Thorn Jack, one with an emotional resonance, a story about a girl named Finn, who has lost her sister to suicide and will follow Jack, her guide and kindred spirit, to the otherworld to get her back. I read every writing book I could get my hands on, took all the advice, and sent Thorn Jack to Harper Voyager's open submissions call.

Next: The characters of Thorn Jack.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Part One: The Road to Publication...

...began when I was 17 and a gym teacher substituting as an English teacher explained how writing was like playing a game; making up characters and worlds. I was really into Dungeons and Dragons back then, so I began making up stories (this was before internet fan fiction). There was my kids-going-into-another-world stage, my (unfortunate) adventure stage after seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark, my purple prose stage (also unfortunate).
Then, in my twenties, when publishing companies were many and editors were accessible, I began receiving little nuggets of praise among the form rejections. I began writing short stories and landed in a few small press magazines, but never reached my goal, the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Both book and small press editors were critically kind, and gave me advice even when they were rejecting my precious manuscripts--they helped me learn what worked and what didn't.
In 1996, while perusing my favorite anthology The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, I found one of my short stories listed in the Honorable Mentions section (among many others), and remember jumping up and down with joy.
Then, after many badly written manuscripts, I stuck with one, revising it over and over, and, in the late 1990s, it was accepted by the youngest agent in a prestigious literary agency. The book was about modern-day witches and, after a few more rewrites, I signed a contract and knew I was on my way to publication. My run with this agency (who are excellent), resulted in a few close calls from encouraging editors, but no sales. My problem was the same one I'd had with my short stories--I wasn't giving the manuscripts my agent tried to sell enough chances--I gave up too easily on each.
Then the writer's block began. It wasn't tragic...I just didn't have any more stories to tell. I parted ways with my first agent (who was fantastic and is now a mega agent in fantasy and SF, go figure), and spent the next few years halfheartedly writing, taking a few classes, working 2 jobs, and seeking another agent.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The World of THORN JACK:Part One

Jack the giant killer. Jack Frost. Jack-in-the-Green. Jack Be Nimble. Jack is an old name, a variation of the Hebrew Jacob (supplanter) and John (God is gracious). Fairy tale Jacks have the luck. They're also tricksters; Jack the giant killer uses his wits against the giants. a jackanapes is a troublemaker. The Jack-in-a-box is a creepy toy incorporating a clown (fool/trickster) into a not-so-delightful musical surprise. The jackal, a hunting animal that was once believed to be a scavenger of the dead, is also used as an epithet for one who performs menial or degrading tasks for another. The Egyptian funerary god Anubis, guide to the afterlife, is depicted with a jackal head.
Jack-o'-Lanterns and Jacks-in-the-Green have an older meaning. One scares away evil forces on Halloween and the other is a spirit of the forest, a representative of goat-footed Pan or the antlered Cernunnos, or even the vine-adorned god of ecstasy, Dionysus.
The hawthorn is a tree protected by the fairies. It's a May day tree and no part of it should be brought indoors or bad luck will follow. Its symbolism is in its duality of benevolence and malevolence, just like the fairies themselves.
In THORN JACK, Jack Hawthorn is the heroine's guide to the otherworld, a mortal stolen and stitched up with alchemical roses by the immortal Fatas to serve them as an assassin, a lover to their queen, and as a charming lure to mortal girls.