I stayed up all night last night at my computer, tapping in the final words to the draft of a novel that has been five years in the making--more, if I count the years the story concept simmered in my mind while I finished writing The Gateway Chronicles. I'm sure I've blogged about it elsewhere, but I'm frankly too tired to look it up now, and seeing as how I've written over 10,000 words in the last twenty-four hours (and roughly 35,000 in the past five days), I hope you can forgive me for not digging up the actual genesis of the idea.
Because it has been a long time. Too long. The Breeder Cycle should have been finished years ago, but with the dissolution of my publishing house in the middle of writing the series, I found myself without a publishing home and with two books of a trilogy complete--with disappointed readers hanging on by a cliff-hanger thread at the end of CRIMINAL, desperate to know what happened next, and no way to bring them the book that made any real sense whatsoever. I was teaching full-time with four sons (one of whom was a toddler, another an infant). I had no time, or resources, to write and self-publish a third book that would exist... out there... for sale (with a non-matching cover!) while the other books (books I didn't yet have the rights back for) slowly disappeared from circulation.
It didn't make sense, and I felt stuck.
The only option, as I waited for the rights to revert to me from my publisher for the first two books in The Breeder Cycle was to look ahead to my publishing future--to what I could do with my career. So I wrote another book, one that belonged to me and was not bound to an existing series. I wrote The Girl in the Sea. And I began the process of querying agents, a year-long process that resulted in my represented by Ben Grange with the L. Perkins Agency.
During that year, though, I continued to ponder what I should do about The Breeder Cycle, as I never intended to leave that series unfinished. In the months before I signed with Ben, my husband and I took a road trip to Washington, DC--a key setting in CLONE and someplace I'd never been--so I could take a few notes and get a feel for the location. While driving through the mountains of Virginia, the idea came to me for HUNTER, a prequel novel tied to the trilogy of The Breeder Cycle but standing alone. Something I could, hypothetically, self-publish independent of the rest of the series as an add-on to the universe I'd created. HUNTER arrived to me fully formed, and I started working on it on the drive. I finished it just a few months later.
Once I signed with Ben, of course our focus became working on the new book. The Girl in the Sea needed edits and revisions... about eight months of focused work went into that book before we sent it out on submission. And in that time, I finally got all the rights back to all my previously published works. Eight books--The Gateway Chronicles and the first two books of The Breeder Cycle--had reverted to me. But I was still faced with a question of what to do with them.
It was mid-late 2017 and I had written ten books. Eight of those had been previously published. One was (heading) out on submission, and one was a prequel novel tied to an incomplete trilogy that was a fit of my own fancy. Despite having sold well in indie markets and having won multiple indie awards and all my speaking and outside writing credentials, for all intents and purposes when it came to Big 5 publishing, I was (am) an unknown, and those backlisted books were not going to be of great interest to any larger publisher, now that they had already been out for some time, and (in the case of The Gateway Chronicles) been through a couple iterations.
But I still had readers contacting me about my books, often weekly. Sometimes daily. The longer my books were off the market, the more people wanted to find them. I took that as a good sign, and a sign that I needed to take steps to make my backlist available again, through whatever means I could--even if that meant self-publishing them while also working ahead with Ben on future projects.
In early 2018, Ben and I chatted about what I should be working on next, and that is when I pitched to him my idea for a Middle Grade Science Fantasy series. So from February to April of 2018, I wrote what I will just call O---, the first book of a new series. And after I turned that in, I set to work on re-releasing my back-list in the order I had first released it with my previous publisher--with updates, revisions, and new scenes. That's when the re-releases of The Gateway Chronicles came out from May-September of 2018.
In fall of 2018, Ben and I decided The Girl in the Sea needed a rewrite to make it more appealing for the submission process, so I deeply overhauled the book. It became A Silence in the Deep (still a working title, as these things usually are). After that, and a first round of deep edits on O---, I returned to the re-release project in spring of 2019 and managed to finally get BREEDER and CRIMINAL back out.
And, at last, I was finally able to write CLONE--the manuscript people always ask me about. The one I had started a long time ago and abandoned for all these reasons listed above. I wrote all summer and through the early fall to finish it, pausing here and there just for my other writing obligations. I would love to say it's been easy, finishing this book, since I've known the end for so long, but I knew it was going to be hard. Bringing a series to an end is often like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole: you know it will fit, but you might have to shave off a few corners and wiggle it a little in the process. This was always a complicated story, and I never could have made it work if I didn't plan so meticulously from the very beginning. I do have to say, I am thrilled with how the story has turned out. I've been holding the threads of the resolutions together in my mind for so long, I just hope they are as fulfilling for everyone as they feel, and have always felt, for me.
So... when will the book be out? Well, I've promised a 2019 release for both this story and HUNTER, which has been done and edited for two years now. I am sticking to that, even though the year is slipping away. The manuscript will be off to my fabulous and selfless editor Hayley after I dig in and do some HARD revising this week. Between now and the end of the year, I will work as diligently as I can to make CLONE the best it can be before I release it, at long, long last.
For now, I am sitting back, a little dazed that I finally am done with the draft. Amazed that it took me until 2019 to finish writing this series that I started in 2014 and definitely first dreamed up in 2012 or earlier. Astonished that I wrote three more books and over fifty articles in between CRIMINAL and CLONE. But... happy. Happy with how it's turned out. Excited, and nervous, to share it with the world.
In my last blog post, I wrote about how all of you could write a novel this year, and now it's time for me to put my money where my mouth is, to shake the lead out of my pants, to "get real," (*shudder* I really hate that expression--so people who like to say that mean they're fake most of the rest of the time?!), to--as my husband likes to say--unhook the plow. Because it's not so much about getting real as it is about just getting moving.
The last six months have been incredibly challenging, and from a professional standpoint, I've had more on my plate than I think I've ever had before--and I haven't even been writing a book! I won't bore you with all the details, but it's been so much that even though I've wanted to get re-started on writing book 3 in The Breeder Cycle (CLONE), I haven't been able to. I stalled out at about 15,000 words back in July/August before the release of CRIMINAL, and I haven't been able to carve out any real time to work on it since then. But late this December I wrapped several freelance projects, and I finally felt some relief. I've had... time! It's been amazing, but difficult as well, because I know going back to CLONE is going to be a huge challenge, and it's looming over me. So I've been dragging my feet. I've needed the time off, too, but I think my month of binge-watching "Smallville" on Hulu is becoming more detrimental than beneficial for my mental health. It's time to unhook the plow.
It is so much easier to write a new book from scratch, or to start a new series, than it is to wrap up a series. I would much rather write Bittersweet (the second book in my upcoming Fairy Tale Collection) or start writing the Orion books I have planned, but CLONE must come next. The entire story exists in my head, and it's so complete, there's a part of me that can't believe it doesn't exist yet on paper. But it doesn't, and it needs to be written, and I'm the only person who can do that. SO... starting in February, I'm resolving to get moving. I've had a good long break, and it was a break I needed. But now I need to get back to my primary job: storytelling.
Archives from my old blog...