The book that made me an author and changed my life
November 27th, 2012
It’s the day after Thanksgiving. I’m at my In-laws for the holiday. It’s snowy and cold. I have a quiet moment to check emails and write, and in my inbox is a small email from a small publisher with big dreams.
Sounds so simple… but, boy, it wasn’t. This little book had already had quite the adventure before this point, and would have quite a bit more. Nothing is as simple as you think.
The idea of a girl with a strange tattoo came to me back in 2006 after having a conversation with my mother about tattoos. At the time, I had a two year old and an odd work schedule, which gave me a chance to work 7 days straight and have 7 days off. So I was a part-time stay-at-home mom as I saw it. My week on, I would spend my slow Sundays at a children’s hospital in the blood bank. There were very few surgeries or schedule transfusions, so I made myself busy with reading or computer solitaire. We had very limited web access at the time. I also got really good at Sudoku as something to pass my time. At one point after finishing a rather tricky puzzle, I felt gratified for a second but then I knew I would just go to another worthless puzzle and start the Sudoku cycle again. Then a surprising thought came to me, “you know, I could write a book in the time I waste on Sudoku.”
SIDE NOTE: I still play Sudoku, it’s more of a brain melt that I need to shut down for the day.
Yes, I had always wanted to be a writer, but of, you know, children’s books, because they aren’t as long like novels. I started kicking around some children’s book ideas, maybe even picture books. I worked on a few things, but nothing was sticking. Until, one day as I said about that funny conversation I had with my mom about tattoos, I dreamt of a girl who hid her tattoo, because it was special. What made it special, my dream brain asked. I woke up around 4 AM with the idea still exciting my brain. I didn’t go back to sleep. By the time 6 AM rolled around, I had character sketches, outlines, a basic synopsis, even a map!
I worked on this story for a while, wrote out to chapter 7 or so, found myself pregnant, stopped writing, had a baby, and by the time the book Eclipse in the Twilight Saga came out, I was completely out of the habit of writing.
Why do I mention Eclipse? Well, let’s be honest, (spoiler) it disappointed me missing the massive Newborn fight scene at the end. The book had so much potential. I mentioned this at a book club I hosted and then I said to myself, “You hypocrite. You don’t even know how hard fight scenes are to write.” So, I thought, I better find out, because I don’t want to be that hypocrite that doesn’t know. I went back to my story. I had to see how hard fight scenes were and actually, they are my favorite thing to write. 😉
In October 2007, I hosted a book club where we read “Twilight: Eclipse.” In the event of this action I decided to start writing on my book again. I was inspired by the sheer simplicity of the book and thought “If I had written this book I would’ve done so many things differently.” Instead of eating my words, I put my words into action and continued on my book. I fell in love with the characters and creating. July 31st 2008 I finished my book. January 2009 I finished my rewrite of my book, in the summer of 2009 I had my book edited, then read it out loud and rewrote it some more… and finally… I am rewriting it again.~personal blog, originally published December 29, 2009
During the years that followed, I would send my mom chapters at a time and she would get so excited. This got my dad, the educated writer, also involved. He started editing some of my stuff. They moved to Kansas and he would send my edited chapters in the mail because we just didn’t have the tech to edit it online. By the end, I had a beautiful 144K word manuscript. I couldn’t believe I could write so many words.
Createspace (now KDP) was just emerging as an option for writers. My dad had published a book independently and encouraged me to try. After countless rejections (and that’s a whole other blog), I tried… and failed. I couldn’t get anyone interested in this massive read, having zero marketing skills and no money to start with. It was before ebooks really were a thing too. I was insecure about my writing, I knew the story so well, I couldn’t see the problems. I felt so overwhelmed. That experiment didn’t last long. Every once in a while though, you can find one of those floating around Amazon for $900 or something else outrageous. Don’t fall for it. Those big honkers are not worth it. I’m using my worthless copies as kindling and wrapping paper.
I shelved that idea and continued to write my little heart out on the second. As I grew to understand my writing process, I completed the second in the series – mostly because my brain was just in such a creative place that I couldn’t stop. Even today, writing Conjectrix was the most fun I’ve had writing a book. I didn’t have any pressure and I just let my imagination fill it. (On the flipside of that. Everstar was the hardest because all those threads I created? Yeah, they had to be tied somewhere.)
So, back to 2012
I had joined the League of Utah Writers around 2010, which is a local non-profit that helps writers connect. I had started attending some meetings at my local library. It was fun and kept me creating. At one meeting, someone mentioned this publisher taking solicited manuscripts for fantasy or science fiction. I didn’t know much about the publisher and looked into it more, and thought, it will be just another rejection, but I know the answer if I don’t try. So I tried.
November 27th rolled around and I received that email. At first, I thought this was a joke. I talked with my family and we all decided it wasn’t a joke, and after a serious heart-to-heart with myself, I signed the contract.
I decided to try and get my book published and guess what? It worked. I am now a contracted author with Xchyler Pubishing. (it’s pronounced Skyler, for those of you who are thinking about some crazy baby name spellings). I’m just getting started, but they are super excited to have me with them.~personal blog, originally published November 27, 2012
I was in the dark about what this would do for me, how many friends it would lead me to, or how many opportunities it would create – it was just a book and I was anxious to see what might happen.
The editing process was thorough and incredible. I will always thank Lissa (Elizabeth Gilliland, now an author as well) my editor for being such a cheerleader the whole time, and totally seeing what potential my novel had. Publishing a book was completely foreign. I learned all these new rules, one being WHY my book got so many rejections, and it has to do with the agents I was sending it to versus the word count of my book. My novel, being labeled a young adult fantasy not an adult fantasy, needed 50K words shaved off my original 144K count. That’s a lot of story to delete. Even now, I forget that Browneyes didn’t visit the camp, because in my mind, she did. (Oh, what? That happened?… yes… yes, it did.)
They asked me to change characters’ names, change POVs on several of the chapters and limit it from several characters to a limited view from four of them, two being POVs of characters that never had any before. We cut SEVERAL chapters. They also asked me to write the grounding story of Reynolds as a boy, so I wrote journal entries, all to get a better idea of who he was, what he did, how he did it, and what he feels now. And they gave me a deadline too, like 4 weeks or something insane like that. That’s pressure unlike anything I had yet experienced. I took a two-week personal leave from my job to finish it.
Months of editing, refining, proofing, cover design, a different cover design, and so many details led us marching toward April 19th.
So . . . March came . . and suddenly, things got weird and quiet. I was waiting to hear about finalities, the launch, and so on, when I received a very different email. This one describing the buy-out from the original owner to a new owner.
My heart dropped.
How and why would they do this to me three weeks before my launch? I had heard stories about small presses dropping and leaving manuscripts unpublished and it terrified me. After all this work, I wouldn’t have a book after all. I received a few emails about the specifics, but the change all-in-all was good and needed. I had to then sign a new contract. They shipped it to me and that I actually signed after my launch. And this contract, included my entire series, because they loved my story so much and knew I had the second one ready.
April 19, 2013
On April 19th, my book launched. We had a fun Facebook party, when that was a thing, and gave away some fun things. I met awesome people at that party, some that would become staples in my life, (wink, Aly). Xchyler Publishing became a family, of sorts. We all worked so hard to make sure others succeeded, and I think we all still do.
As a new author, I got a booth at the first ever Salt Lake Comic Con. (I think they were desperate.) This was another pivot point, since I started being a panelist and being in programming years later. I have yet to miss a con here in Salt Lake. (Even with it not being THEE Salt Lake Comic Con anymore).
A week after this awesome experience, my debut novel won the Diamond Award for Novel of the Year, an honor I’m still floored by. It’s the top honor in the League, and something I wasn’t even there to accept – but that’s a different story.
Over the past months I had the opportunity to work with fantastic people, whose ideas stretched my brain in different directions and ignited my love of creating. Their vision cleared any of my previous doubts, and helped my confidence build. I’m so pleased with how it turned out and I’m so excited to be a part of this adventure.~personal blog, originally published April 19, 2013
Those neonatal days were filled with so much newness. I clambered wide-eyed at every chance that I could. It was an incredible experience. A year after, my second in the series, Conjectrix came out, and two years after that Everstar completed the set.
When my rights came up, I had to make a hard decision. I had out-grown my publisher. But taking on my rights was a scary prospect. In the end, I’m very glad I did, but that was a hard break for me. I still feel like I broke their heart, but it was good for both of us. I loved my Xchyler family. In a lot of ways, this blog is a love letter to my first publisher for taking that chance on me and changing my life. I know that it’s an honest statement that without that gamble, I wouldn’t be doing this at all. I have grown so much as a person and as a writer because of this experience. The way I look at writing, editing, and creating is all because of the experience I had here and I will always be grateful.
Happy Book birthday, Viv! What a wonderful decade we have had together.