Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Work, Art, and More, More, More...

Last I left off this blog, one summer ago, I was about to query more agents with a manuscript about a girl who becomes a spy in a 15th-century castle.

I queried that puppy to 11 people, got two partial requests, and ultimately no offer of representation.

Do you like how I just wrapped up in one sentence an agonizing, month-long process filled with neurotic moaning about the impossible process of becoming a "real" writer? Ha.

I'm glad I queried, and I'm also glad I stopped.
Clearly, I'm not thinking about query letters here.

Most writers have to query a bunch before their manuscript finds a home. I know that would've been the case for me. I think I had the stamina to do it, but here's the thing -- I realized it wasn't the right book to query.

It was a good book. It was well-written. It even had an awesome protagonist. But it's not quite there yet. I'm not sure where there is, exactly, or how else to put it. I feel like writing my first book five years ago taught me how to write a book. Writing the last book (my second) taught me how to write a better book. But what I'm going to do next -- hopefully -- is write a book that truly belongs to me, something I would long to read on the shelf, something that feels effortless to spend a day with.

And so I shelved (heh) my manuscript, and I stopped querying so that I could begin a better book.

I know that it's the right decision. How do I know this? Because I have no regrets, and because the beginning of my newest manuscript has the major thumbs up from my beta readers.
Beta reader Meika Usher, 'bout to take flight!
I'm five chapters into a story altogether different from my last tale. It's a bit older, much darker, and it has some romance. It's not set in a Europe-based fantasy land; rather, its origin comes from the Steppes of Central Asia, where the fabled blood-sweating horses led an Emperor to war. It is the story of a love that is despised by family, and ultimately, it is a story about the desire for a home.

This summer I ended up having no work with my textbook publishing company, so I spent a lot of time researching, plotting, drawing, and dreaming. It was my last summer home with my eldest before he went off to kindergarten this fall, and my last summer with my youngest before she began preschool. It was hot, lakewater-drenched summer.

So, what's next?

I have more than just my electronic pile of rejection letters to show for my efforts!

I have laid the foundations for future art commissions by creating an Etsy shop: storyportraits.etsy.com 

Here are a few of the portraits I completed over the summer:


And there's more.

I've built up an arsenal of agent names and their interests, query letter tactics, and a solid understanding of the querying process.

I was also approached by the publishing company I work for to help write two more textbooks! Woo-hoo! Not only does this feed my family, but it feeds my soul, too. I get to research theoretical aspects of linguistics, write about oncoviruses, study filtration systems, and, in general, learn a shitload of fabulous information about the world.  Yay academia!

And best of all, I have a new manuscript that I can't wait to work on -- in my seven seconds of spare time...