Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Zombie Kalen Will Eat Your Brains

Hopefully brains taste like sushi or something yum.  Whatevs.

Fair warning:  To make up for an overly extended absence, this blog post will be the lengthiest blog post in the history of blog posts EVER.  (Partly due to the unnecessary repetition of 'blog post'.  Just roll with it).

ANYWAY.  Let's get this out of the way, Kalen's been a bad bad blogger, since he hasn't touched this thing since last January and forgot his own password.  I was busy yo!  With stuff!

Oh.  You want details?

FINE!  Okay, so not this WriteOnCon, but last one, so like a whole YEAR ago, some drama and shizz went down.  Which was really unfortunate because I'd had a bunch of agents request material that I inadvertently left hanging, and plus, you know, drama.  I ended up moving cities for a year, family in crisis, blah blah blah ohmygawdWHATEVER I'm so bored.  Point is, by the time things settled down last spring and I was able to start focusing on my writing and career again, I'd had a lot of time to think and reflect and decide what I want and how I want to get there.

'Oh Kalen', those of you who know me well are saying as you shake your heads pityingly.  'That never ends well.'

No.  No it does not.

Self-deprecating wit aside, this is a Very Important Question that every writer needs to ask themselves at some point, the sooner the better.  What do you WANT?  For your book, for your career, for yourself?  What are your priorities?  Would you rather your book be commercially successful or award-winning and praised for its literary merit?  Is your dream to see it in hard cover on the shelf in a Barnes and Noble, or just to get it to as many people as possible wherever you find them?  To find a niche, build a brand, and revisit the same world and characters as often as a publisher will let you, or branch out and write in multiple genres for multiple demographics?

So I sat down (well, remained sitting, more like.  I was already sitting down) and asked myself these questions.  And asked my friends to weigh in.  And then went to the nearest McDonalds and asked the cashier what he thought, just to be sure I'd been thorough.  I started to develop a sneaking suspicion that my plans were going to have to involve self-publishing.

Those of you who've read my blog from the start aren't surprised by this, I'm sure.  I've always been curious about that road, not from any dissatisfaction with trade publishers, but because I like flexibility, and adaptability, and above all I love the chance to be experimental.  My mother calls it Special Snowflake Syndrome.  And people wonder where my flavor of wit comes from.

Most of all though - wait, I already save above all, I can't do most of all on top of that.  WHATEVER.  Point is, I like options.  The more, the better.  I have certain worlds in my head that I want to know once I publish them, I'll be able to revisit them with readers whenever I want, rather than have to depend on sales to justify further sequels.  I have a book I came up with a specific way to market, that I don't want to have to go through a publisher's marketing department for approval.  I have another book where I just don't want to leave a paper trail of the illegal subliminal messages I insert in order to recruit the youth of America into vandalizing property with the graffiti tag: THIS BUILDING IS PROPERTY OF KALEN.  ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US.

And so on and so forth.

Now, this doesn't mean I'm 'giving up' on trade publishing!  Far from it!  I'm sitting on a MG fantasy about a boy who's part of a secret society of thieves who steal magic from all corners of time and space.  I fully intend to query, submit, and shop it to agents and publishers at some point with completely unreasonable expectations on my part.  But that's exactly what I'm talking about.  Every book, every author has their own path in the big, wide world of publishing.  My path, I've come to believe, involves walking down both the self and trade publishing roads simultaneously....either in accordance with or in defiance of the whole Schrodinger's Cat thing.  (I can never figure out which.  I'm an author, not a physicist, damn it.)  Being able to decide with each book whether publishing it myself or finding a publisher is best for it.

I'll admit, when I first realized that I was seriously considering self-publishing, there was a lot of neurotic backlash.  There was weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, and my friends are saints for just tuning out the BUT BUT BUT WHAT ABOUT THE PRETTY HARDCOVERS AND EVERYONE'S GOING TO THINK I JUST WASN'T GOOD ENOUGH AND OMGAWD WHAT IF NOBODY BUT YOU GUYS EVER READS IT EVER AND AND I JUST WANT A MILLION DOLLARS AND A FILM DEAL WHAT IF I NEVER GET A FILM DEAL YOU GUYYYYYYYYYYS.

Yeah.  It wasn't pretty.  Snot.  Was.  EVERYWHERE.

But then, I started thinking.  So my road to publication wasn't going to look like everyone else's.  Wait, what DID everyone else's road to publication look like?  And then I started looking up people I knew from QueryTracker and AbsoluteWrite and AgentQuery, in the year and a half since I first started building a query list for my first novel.

And it occurred to me, another question I think every author needs to ask themselves:  Just what exactly did I expect my road to publication to look like?

Should it look my critique partner Gennifer Albin, who got seven agent offers the first week she queried, sold her trilogy in a major deal, and whose book CREWEL just released last week?

Or how about my dear friend A.G. Howard, who was on submission for months before selling her debut Splintered at auction, and has gone on to receive gushing praise from book reviewers and bestselling authors like Melissa Marr?

Or my friend of almost ten years, Corinne Duyvis, who got an agent, went on sub, shelved her novel, sold a short story, attracted the attention of her future editor Maggie Lerhman with said short story, submitted her novel to Maggie, got a new agent (the incomparable Ammi-Joan Paquette), and sold a completely DIFFERENT novel to Maggie, the amazing LGBT fantasy novel Otherbound?

Or Lydia Kang, who sold her sci-fi CONTROL to Penguin/Dial just TWO weeks after she signed with her agent.  I KNOW!  Holy shizznizz, right?

I could compare myself to Karen Akins, I guess, since she got requests for her sci-fi novel LOOP at the same WriteOnCon I did over a year ago...and then went on to sign with Victoria Marini thanks to MSFV's Baker's Dozen agent who had already rejected her original query months before, and now landed her a two book deal at St. Martin's!

Or there's Emily Murdoch, who parted ways with her agent and later signed with the amazing Mandy Hubbard, who sold If You Find Me also to St. Martin's.

And then there's Natalie Parker, who signed with Sarah Davies and almost a full year later announced her six figure two book deal for BEWARE THE WILD.

Josin L. McQuein, who we hate btw, sold ARCLIGHT in a major deal the DAY it went on submission.  Then she sold PREMEDITATED a few short months later.  If she sells another book or announces a film deal or something, I will probably have to shank her, because she's just freaky, okay?  (J/k, I adore Josin.  She's awesomesauce.)

Bethany Hagen sold LANDRY PARK in a major deal three days after she signed with Mollie Glick.  Jessica Khoury signed with her agent last fall, sold ORIGIN not long after, and it's already out in stores and has a film deal.  Her agent sibling Anna Banks had a similarly fast publishing timeline, selling OF POSEIDON a few weeks after signing, releasing her book a little over a year later, and just announcing this morning that her publisher has requested a third book in her series.  Ryan Graudin sold ALL THAT GLOWS after a relatively short submission period, at least compared to the months my good, amazing and fantabulous friend Bethany Crandell spent on sub before landing SUMMER ON THE SHORT BUS at Running Press.  Mindee Arnett has sold TWO series before her first novel's even debuted.  So did Meagan Spooner if you count the BEA Buzz Book SKYLARK she wrote on her own, and THESE BROKEN STARS, the space age version of Titanic she wrote with Amie Kaufman and sold in a significant deal to Hyperion.  And you should also check out STARGLASS by Phoebe North, THE WITCH HUNTER'S BIBLE by Michelle Krys, and THE MURDER COMPLEX by Lindsay Cummings.  Kate Karyus Quinn sold ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE two weeks after signing with Alexandra Machinist, Stefan Bachmann landed a home for his BEA Buzz Book THE PECULIAR two weeks after signing with Sara Megibow, and Mindy McGinnis was on submission for awhile before selling her dystopian NOT A DROP TO DRINK.  Mindy likes to stay busy though, so while on submission she started a popular blog about the in's and out's of various writers' query and submission trials....check out her interview with RC Lewis, who landed her agent and book deal for STITCHING SNOW in a most unusual way.

So you see....even this block-headed numbskull, when confronted with facts like that, eventually realized that even if I did want my road to publication to be just like everyone else' would that even be possible?  Each and every one of the above authors was unagented when I first started pursuing writing as a career a little under two years ago.  Each and everyone of them has become successful in their own way, and no two of those ways look even remotely alike.  And these are just their debuts....who can imagine the varied shapes the rest of their careers will take?  When I realized I couldn't even pick out one specific author's road to publication to wish for mine to imitate, it became very freeing in a way.  Welcome, I realized at last, to an industry where normal means being different from everyone else!

I'd now like to bring this back around to making it all about me.  Stop groaning, it was inevitable.  I use the word ego in my blog address, you were forewarned.

So in the spirit of charting my own path, I decided at last that my debut novel will be self-published, and it will be completely unlike any of the above.  The Special Snowflake Syndrome has no cure.  I've made my peace with that.  I chose self-publishing for this particular novel for a number of reasons.  No agent or editor has ever seen the manuscript for this; I never queried or submitted it to publishers.  It's a superhero novel, or more accurately, a novel about the daughter of a supervillain.  It will be categorized under YA on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and the other online retailers, but technically its more a 'New Adult', since the main character is out of high school and on her own, for thematic purposes and reasons pertaining to story.  But most importantly, it's serialized.

I've been a lifelong comic book fan, not just for the brightly colored and spandex clad superheroes, but because I'm a fan of the medium.  The different ways it plays with storytelling.  Leave aside the pairing of art and story, modern superhero comics are structured in an interesting way, frequently having 'story arcs' made up of five or six issues released either monthly or biweekly that go together to form an overall storyline.  Each issue has its own rising and falling action, some issues end on cliffhangers, some don't, but at the end of the story arc you're left with a complete resolution.  It's a format that is well suited to superhero adventures, and its that model I've chosen to imitate here.  And so 'FENCE: Sins of the Daughter' consists of five 'issues' or installments of 15-20K apiece.  Each with their own relatively self-contained piece of the overall story, a novel of approximately 90K.  I'll be unveiling my website at the start of next week, along with the first chapter as a free sample and news on other projects as well.  The first installment of FENCE will be available on all major online retailers the following week.  Each issue of FENCE will be $1.49, and new issues will be released every two weeks, with a complete volume releasing once the last issue is out.  The complete volume will be priced at $6.99, so if you wait to read the whole thing then you'll save fifty cents.  But, you know, screw waiting guys.  Instant gratification is so much more rewarding, yanno?

ANYWAY.  So that's the scoop, the buzz, the poop.  Be a gaggle of darlings and spread the news, mark it in your dayplanners, confer with friends.  Or you know, don't do any of that and disregard as Not Your Cuppa Tea.  I WILL LOVE YOU EITHER WAY!  *smothers you all with lurv and adoration*

Kalen out!


noun,often attributive\ˈfen(t)s\
a : a receiver of stolen goods
b : a place where stolen goods are bought

Two years ago, the villainous Dr. Moreau plummeted to his death from 20,000 feet in the air.  It was agreed a superhero had to be responsible; it was also agreed nobody was terribly concerned with figuring out which one.

Nobody except Cassidy Moreau.

Unimpressed with justice's selective blindness, Cassidy adopted her own ridiculous cloaked persona and set out on a revenge spree that would make her father proud.  As the Fence, she's perfected her dad's technology and uses it to strip heroes of their abilities....which she then sells to the highest bidder.  So far, it hasn't gotten her any closer to unmasking her father's killer, but at least it keeps her credit cards paid off.

It's strictly business when she targets Manhattan's literal golden boy, the teen heart throb formerly known as Kid Midas.  Problem is, Midas turns out to be more than just a set of washboard abs when he uncovers Cassidy's secret identity.  His brief spurt of brain activity is mitigated by his belief he can get his powers back by appealing to her better nature, but whatever.  Cassidy's got bigger problems.  The guy she sold his abilities to is a crazed nihilist intending to use them to destroy the city.  Who knew changing things to gold involved moving atoms around, right?

As the city counts down towards doomsday, its fate rests in whether or not one hero can convince Cassidy to give a damn - preferably before she takes the nearest bus out of town.

Don't hold your breath, Manhattan.