Every writer has a “book of her heart”, a story that was a turning point–one that, even if it doesn’t make it to publication for whatever reason, just won’t go quietly, and seems bound and determined to haunt her. For me, that story was one I wrote back in 2005, then called Chalcedony’s Wulf.
I only been writing for a couple of years, and despite my very first manuscript being a finalist in the very first contest I entered (a full manuscript contest called the RWNZ Clendon Award), I was still finding my “voice” and I had a lot to learn. I’d been writing fantasy up until that time — you know, the epic kind, with multiple characters, multiple points of view, a story arc that went over three books. Frankly, I was doing everything a new writer shouldn’t do: namely, writing a trilogy. It’s not smart to write trilogies and series when you’re starting out, because if you can’t sell the first book, the subsequent ones are dead in the water! But I didn’t know that at the time. I just wrote whatever I wanted.
Anyway, I thought I was a “fantasy” writer, period. Because hey, that’s what I was writing. And when I started a new manuscript toward the end of 2005, that’s what my style automatically defaulted to. Then in, at the 2005 RWNZ conference, I was heading off to meet the agent and pitch my shiny new fantasy about a crystal warrior, when a fellow author gave me some unwelcome news. Seemed the agent who was interested in ALL genres of romance, wasn’t interested in fantasy. I was pretty gutted. But rather than just not turn up for the pitch, I went in and explained my dilemma and chatted with her. She told me she didn’t really “get” fantasy, and I understand that. No point repping something you don’t enjoy, right? But she was kind enough to tell me she’d love to see anything else I cared to write.
And that got me thinking. Was I only a fantasy writer? Could I write other genres? What about challenging myself? As an author, isn’t trying new things–stretching yourself and moving out of your comfort zone–what learning your craft is all about?
So, three solid chapters into my work-in-progress, a story that was supposed to be a fantasy written in 3rd person was thrown out and completely rewritten in first person, from the heroine’s point of view. It was an exercise in discipline, writing solely in the heroine’s point of view. I didn’t know if it was any good, either. So in February 2006, I entered Chalcedony’s Wulf into the RWNZ Clendon Award for some feedback from reader-judges. And to my delight, I finalled… and won it. The feedback was that I’d found my “voice” with this manuscript. And for a newbie writer, that’s an amazing thing to hear.
What was even more amazing, was giving my acceptance speech at the conference awards dinner, and having my DH tell me afterward that he finally “got” why I was a writer–and more importantly, why I needed to write. That, in itself, was worth its weight in gold.
Unfortunately for Chalcedony and Wulf, there was no happy ending for them in the publishing world. The Clendon Award final judge, Leslie Wainger, emailed me to say she loved the story and was passing it down the line to an editor, but ultimately, it wasn’t right for the line. Now, I know enough to realize why that was, and to know that I would have needed a lot of hand-holding to improve the story. Everything happens for a reason, right? And I honestly believe I just wasn’t ready for publication then.
Every now and then I’d haul out the manuscript, brush it off and rewrite it. Sometimes I’d be happy enough with the outcome that I’d resubmit it to agents and editors. I came close a couple of times to having it accepted for publication but even when editors were on the fence about it, ultimately, it wasn’t for them.
But this damned book just wouldn’t go away. And after having five books published with Red Sage, and learning a heap from my editors about the craft of writing, and my strengths and weaknesses, I decided to tackle Chalcedony’s Wulf one last time. Because, you see, I realized that although I love writing in 1st person, and I might even be pretty good at writing in 1st person (which I guess is why the two other Crystal Warrior stories I’ve written have also been Clendon finalists), I didn’t think this story in its current form did justice to Wulf, the hero. I wanted to get inside his head. I wanted to find out was was going on inside that big, gorgeous, eminently capable warrior’s body. How could Chalcedony, a smart-mouthed, modern-day woman whose got little time for men, bring a man like Wulf to his knees?
I gotta say, this rewrite was a singular delight. Tackling a major revision like this should have been a chore, but I loved it. And I love the way the story turned out.
What’s this diatribe got to do with anything?
Well, after much soul-searching, I’ve decided to self-publish Wulf and Chalcedony’s story under the title The Crystal Warrior. (Check it out on my Books page.)
The Crystal Warrior is available now at Smashwords, and
it’s just gone live on Amazon (14th Aug 2011) SQUEEEE!
I’ve dedicated this book to the following people:
- Barbara and Peter Clendon
- The Clendon Award first round readers
- RWNZ and especially, the Auckland Chapter members
- My Red Sage editor, Judith
- My wonderful husband, who designed the covers for this series, and my kids.
Thank you all more than I can say.
And before you go, I’m about to reward anyone who managed to read right to the end of this long, rambling post with an excerpt from The Crystal Warrior. It’s Chalcey and Wulf’s first meeting — just give me a few minutes to publish this one and the excerpt will go live.