I’ve Debuted: A Tale of Excitement, Fear, Happiness and Rejection.

On Thursday, Unicorn Tracks will be one month old. It seems surreal. After more than a year of waiting, editing, blurbing, talking to my editors,  bloggers … the fact that it’s actually out doesn’t quite register with me. My mind can’t quite process that my book is in the wild, has been in the wild, for thirty days. At the same time, I’m cherishing the reader photographs and comments, documenting my baby’s first month in pictures like a proud mother.

Last week, I attended BEA/Bookcon and had my first signing. The publisher brought fifty copies of Unicorn Tracks, and we ran out within twenty-five minutes. That was incredible. But perhaps the most incredible and enduring part, for me as an author, was having every single one of those eager readers sign my copy of the book. Each of those signatures represents a copy. A real, physical copy, that has found an eager pair of hands. That signed book is an anchor to reality. My book has debuted. I have debuted. We are out there.

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Amazing Things About Being a Debut

1)      Everyone will listen to you talk about your book. People you barely know will ask about your book. From what I’ve heard from other writers, this newness, this interest from everyone you meet, definitely wears out the longer you’re a writer. Of course, by that point, you hopefully have real fans who ask because they like your work rather than asking because they like the idea of knowing an author. But at the same time, there is something really nice about being asked. Maybe I’m especially sensitive to this. I come from an academic background where no one understood or cared what obscure topic I was working on for my dissertation.

2)      You get to meet lots and lots of authors. Debut authors are excited, terrified and like to stick to each other like Velcro. This is because the experience of being a new author with a book on the horizon, is like no other time in a writer’s career. No one really knows what to expect or how things will go. As a result, debuts bond together and talk to each other. It’s an extended support network and I made so many new friends this year. My #protip on this is to be equally nice to everyone you meet. Don’t be mercantile in your friending. A lot of people will see through it in a heartbeat.

3)      Debut Events! So many blogs and websites host events for Debut Authors. It makes you feel a little bit like a celebrity even though you have no book out yet and nobody knows who you are. There will also be physical firsts. Your first signing, for example. Your first fan encounter. Those firsts are magical!

4)      You learn so much about how the publishing process works with your first book. You learn how editing rounds will go, what it’s like to work through an edit letter and a whole manuscript full of in-text comments from a professional who is not your CP. You learn to negotiate with design teams and how to read royalty statements.

 

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Things I'll Do Differently Next Time

1)      Have some rhyme and reason in the timing of things like cover reveals, teasers, blog tours etc. I think with this book I did my cover reveal waaaaaay too early because I was too excited to share UT’s cover with the world. But I think a lot of the people who got buzzy about the cover in October had forgotten the buzz by April at release. I’ll be doing this tighter for my next book.

 

2)      Spend way less time on GoodReads on the days after release. While I confess to being one of those authors who reads their reviews (and this probably isn’t going to change. I’m realistic about myself and my obsessive nature), reading reviews or following status updates in the days when you’re supposed to be riding the release party high is not a good idea.

 

3)      Make sure that reviewers have their ARCs much further in advance. Some beautiful bloggers managed to complete pre-reviews at a very pushy timescale.

 

4)      Be more clear with my publisher / publicist about the timing of publicity efforts. I think that I didn’t communicate very effectively about what I was doing, which led to a lot of concentration in some areas of the marketing plan, and possibly not enough in others. Like most debuts, I was really really nervous about being perceived as a diva, but going forward, I’ll be more businesslike in working out this timetable/plan.

 

5)      Spend more time really enjoying the editorial process: pouring over my edit letter, dissecting my comments and laughing/crying with them. This time around, I was really panicky about the deadlines. I’ve never missed a deadline on any project. I need to learn to relax and enjoy the ride.

 

Crash and Imposter Syndrome

 

A writer friend of mine and amazing author of The Girl from Everywhere, Heidi Heilig, has talked a lot about the crash after the buzz. Publishing is a business of waiting, hope, anticipation and rejection. You query and you wait. You sign a contract and you wait. You get edits, send them back, and wait some more. All the while, the sense of immediacy builds inside you until you’re ready to explode when release day comes. That, and I’m sorry to say, but rejection doesn’t end with the book deal. As a newbie author, you’ll probably worry constantly about rejection – possibly even more constantly than you did while querying or on submission. When you’ve debuted and the anticipation fades, it can leave a vacuum. Knowing where to direct that energy is hard. It’s hard to focus immediately on the next book. It’s hard to focus on going to the gym or hanging out with friends. Really, it’s hard to focus on anything but the void of nervous excitement. There’s something missing inside me where that was and it’s hard not to feel a little bit sad.

I struggle with my mental health. This is something I’m open and honest about. In the weeks after my debut and especially now that BEA is over, managing that void is something I’m still coming to terms with. But knowing that it’s something lots of other debut authors have experienced and overcome

I wrote an extensive blog post about the realities of Imposter Syndrome for Ava Jae’s blog. As a new author – especially an author published by a smaller house without an agent – I definitely felt like I didn’t belong a lot of the time. Sometimes, this had nothing to do with what others said or even how they reacted. It was mostly in my head. I was self-rejecting out of fear of being “not good enough” or being an “imposter author” in the writing community. Yes, there are people who are negative, who look down on other writers, but frankly, the good people so vastly outnumber these bad eggs. It can be too easy to focus on the people who don’t accept you or your books and get depressed about it. It took me a while to find a core group of authors to talk to and interact with. As I said in the article I wrote for Ava, even NYT bestselling author sometimes experience Imposter Syndrome.

 

 

 

Reading Wrap Up – March and April

 

Reading Wrap Up – March and April 

Shockingly, despite April being my debut novel month — I've managed to read quite a few new books over the past two months! Part of this has been my excitement over friends' new books and debuts. Part of the experience of being a new author is making writer friends and sharing in their successes. It's an intoxicating thing and I easily get swept up in the new release craze. 

So, a by the numbers update:

In 2016, I have read 39 books/novellas/stories. 

21/39 were Young Adult. 

7/39 Featured an LGBTQIA protagonist — a percentage that is shockingly down from last year and one that I intend to fix in the coming months. 

6/39 Featured a POC of colour — again, something I need to fix in the coming months. 

7/39 were Adult or New Adult Fiction. 

5/39 were Children's fiction for under 12s. 

3/39 were Non-Fiction

19/39 were High Fantasy

 

Favourites from MAR-APR

 

I read Shadow and Bone some time ago. I loved it, but the story itself seemed quite complete at its end, so I wasn't desperate to read the next two in the trilogy. I should have jumped in. I absolutely loved the new cast of characters in the trilogy's second and thid installments. 

Sturmhand was undoubtedly my favourite. I loved the combination of wit, playfulness and shrewd calculation in his personality. Leigh Bardugo has a real knack for writing witty, genuinely funny dialogue — and that shone in Sturmhand. I could have read his flirations with Alina forever. 

Then of course, there's the Darkling. I found him smouldering in the first book, but the second two books added a real depth to his character. His relationship with his mother fascinated me, as did the connection between him and Alina. I'm a massive sucker for a sexy bad guy. Always have been, and it'll always be my achilles heel. 

Despite that, I rooted for Alina and Mal throughout — which is a testament to how well Bardugo paired them up. 

The Russian-inspired Fantasy setting is breathtaking. The writing is fast-paced, simaltaneously chilling and beautiful. I rated them 5* on GoodReads and I couldn't recommend these books higher!

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I stumbled upon this little story by accident when I was surfing through Kindle deals looking for something to read. I'm so glad I did.

This novellete is a totally fascinating blend of mythology and modernity. This is a super quick read novella read with a unique and interesting cast of characters. Beautifully written and easily readable in an hour. 

I loved the way the story talked about hell and reincarnation. It's not always a peaceful process, but something that a lot of the souls dread. Siew Tsin's naivety made her a perfect narrator. I rated this 5* on GoodReads. 

 

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This was recommended to me SUPER HIGHLY by Nori from Read Write Love28 who basically said I needed to drop everything to read this book. I'm happy I listened to her. 

Let me just fangirl for a moment about my love of Travis, because when I was still in High School, I would have had the biggest crush ever on him, and if there is a mid-twenties male equivalent of him lurking about on GoodReads … Just know that you're a catch. I loved him as a gentle giant with his staff and Viking obsession. I loved his online forum posts and how his crush on Amelia developed. 

The differences between all three perspective characters were striking and really made this book. Jeff's writing has a really raw quality to it … And I loved that. He captured three distinct voices so magnificently. 

I like a bit of cult crazy in my books, so I was equally fascinated and repulsed by Dill's family. On the one hand, as a secular person living in quite a secular place, it's hard for me to conceive of people that nuts being real. It's easy to imagine religious sub-groups like that as comedic. But on the other, when I try to imagine it as real, I'm horrified. Poisonous snakes? Battery acid?? Whattttttttt

The only thing that didn't quite work for me all the time was Lydia. Sometimes I felt like her character was quite flat compared to the two boys. I felt that Dill and Travis had more richly imagined emotions and interior lives. I'm not sure if this was because Lydia had fewer hurdles to overcome or if the author was simply more invested in the others. 

But Travis … Aww, you big lovely snuggly bunny <3

I rated this 4.5/5 on GoodReads. 

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When I first read the synopsis for this, I'll admit that I wasn't sure the book was going to be for me. I'm probably the only person I know who hates The Walking Dead, so I was a bit apprehensive about a dystopian plot with a mass epidemic.

Nat lives with her grandparents in a giant zombie-proof bubble, complete with a thriving forest of trees for oxygen, a learning institute and guaranteed job placement. It sounds a bit like a utopia, but the local authorities are actually sinister and authoritarian. There is a bit of a Stepford Wives vibe going on … where things are made to look perfect and rebellion is swept under the rug. 

Initially, I think is was the sinister government element that interested me. I wanted to know what The Order was hiding and what was happening to the people left outside The Dome. Then, I came to love Nat as a character and her burgeoning relationship with Evan. 

There were a few elements that seemed a bit overly 'canon' and I would have liked to see expanded a bit beyond the more common tropes, such as the symptoms of the disease itself. 

Overall, this is a really interesting and face-paced read that may completely go against your expectations. If you're a Walking Dead hater like me, but want to try out another disease-apocalypse based dystopia, I recommend this!

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Those are my top picks for the last two months! What have you been reading? Tell me about it in the comments!

Of course, the major life event for me is that my own book has been published! Unicorn Tracks is a lesbian YA Fantasy Romance. It tells the story of Mnemba, a safari guide and tracker, who falls in love with a Unicorn Naturalist who visits her country. When the unicorns Kara loves are abducted and enslaved to build a railway, the two girls have to find a way to save them, while trying to resist each other. 

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A Writer Reflecting on 2015, Looking forward to 2016

As it's already a week into the New year, I made myself finally sit down and write the post I've been thinking about for quite some time. 

 

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But, I decided that since TODAY is, in itself, a special day, I was in a good frame of mind to write a reflective year post. TODAY I signed a 3-book deal for a new YA fantasy trilogy! (if you literally only clicked this link to know what it's about, scroll to the end)

This year has been full of transitions for me. I already wrote a detailed post about my career change (dayjob) and my progress in dealing with two chronic health conditions. This post is going to be entirely about writing. 

In December 2014, I started querying a manuscript about lesbians on safari looking for unicorns while trying not to fall in love. In March 2015, I signed a contract with Harmony Ink Press. 

Unicorn Tracks is such a special story to me for so many reasons. First, despite being an openly bisexual woman who has dated more women than men, I had never written a f/f manuscript. It seems strange to me now. My first love was a woman. The person who broke my heart into the greatest number of pieces, was a woman. But up until I started Unicorn Tracks, I'd only written f/m couples. 

Secondly, it deals with feelings of isolation that victims can feel after an assault in a very visceral way. This is something that unfortunately resonates very powerfully with me, but that's for another post, another day. 

And … it's my first manuscript to see publication! Unicorn Tracks is scheduled for release in April of this year. 

In addition to signing this book, this year has seen a number of things happen: 

1) I completed four rounds of editing with a publisher! And learned a lot about compromise. 

2) I worked with a designer and got a cover that I am in love with!! 

3) Made so many friends in the writing and blogging communities. I am publishing with a small press. The reality of that is that you have to do a lot of your own marketing and strategic career planning. I've been so lucky to have friends who can steer me right and bloggers will to talk to me about my book!

4) Started a series! In February 2015, I began writing a fantasy novel set in a world based losely on my Christmas trip to Bhutan and Myanmar. The Tiger's Watch is an extremely different type of book to Unicorn Tracks. It has a much darker tone, it's much longer and it's for older audience (upper YA as opposed to lower). I sold it, and it's sequels … TODAY. The Tiger's Watch is Book 1 in the Ashes of Gold trilogy and will be released August 2017 from Harmony Ink! 

5) Wrote a couple of shorts! I wrote a few novelettes! One of them is going to be in an Anthology! YAY. 

6) I started writing a bisexual Retelling of the Little Mermaid. I'm literally so in love with his manuscript I can't even begin to try and sum it up. 

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So What's Up for 2016? 

If I'm still alive in August, it may be a miracle. 

Unicorn Tracks releases APRIL 21 2016!! So, I've got lots and lots of release related planning to do. 

I am aiming to finish The Sea Witch by the end of February. 

Book 2 of the Ashes of Gold series is due to the publisher August 1st. 

Book 3 of the Ashes of Gold series is due to the publisher by December 31. 

Beginning the editorial process on The Tiger's Watch 

Publishing a short in an anthology! All details to be posted soon! 

… and trying not to die. Three books to write in a year. One to edit. One short to edit. What could possibly go wrong?

 

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—-> FOR THE SKIMMERS

What is The Tiger's Watch … about? 

Sixteen-year-old Tashi has spent their life training as a seargl, a soldier who spies and kills using a bonded animal. When the capital falls after a brutal siege, Tashi flees to a remote monastery to hide. But when the invading army turns the monastery into a hospital, Tashi catches the eye of Xian, the regiment’s fearless young commander.

Tashi spies on Xian’s every move. In front of his men, Xian seems dangerous, even sadistic but Tashi sees a more vulnerable side of the enemy commander – a side that draws them to Xian.

When their spying unveils that everything they learned at the academy was a lie, Tashi faces a choice: save their country or the boy they've started to love? But while Tashi grapples with their decision, their volatile bonded tiger doesn't question her allegiances. Katala slaughters Xian’s soldiers, leading the enemy to hunt her. But a seargl’s bond to their animal is for life – when Katala dies, so will Tashi.

Coming AUGUST 2017 from Harmony Ink!!!