Sticks and Stones and Broken Stories

For fear of confirming I’m a total jinx, I’m not going to talk about Blood and Water in this post. I’ve already received two (big) rejections almost immediately after mentioning something about the fact that those agents still had my full manuscript, and while I’ve been known to knock on wood from time to time, I’ve never felt so seriously superstitious as I do about this dang book right now.

Instead, I’ll tell you a bit about how the sequel is going. If you can call roughly 45,000 words that more or less relate to each other a sequel. I’ve gotten pretty lost on some tangents and side stories, and found myself a time or two writing my own fan fiction–and about Jannik, of all people (pretty much everyone who’s read B&W *hates* Jannik)!

I’m desperately searching for those loose little lines to tie all these ideas together. Who knows what–if anything–will make the final cut, but at least I’m writing (or that’s what I tell myself as I draft another side-novella about Tarben and Sanne, anyway)!

Status Update – January 2020

Well, it happened. One of the three agents considering representing my manuscript passed on it this week. I got the email at work, which I think contributed to the initial numbness I felt. Driving home, sure, I cried—it’s devastating news, after all. Except, I didn’t ever feel devastated. Deeply disappointed? Absolutely. A little heart broken? Maybe… But alongside the sad feelings remained this certainty that this isn’t the end of the road. Rather than fear this is an indictment on my story—on my entire craft—I knew, in the marrow of my bones, I’m far from finished.

I love Solvi and her world. I’m excited to see how her story ends. But Blood and Water is not my opus. It’s not the be all, end all, and if it isn’t the first to be published, that doesn’t mean it will never be—nor does it mean nothing I write will be.

The feedback from this agent was so encouraging, especially the second time I read the rejection email. They praised my prose and narrative style, and called my writing impressive. It’s just the timing that’s off, a market that’s already saturated with similar stories. They even expressed interest in reading anything else I might have in a different genre.

I’ve already committed 2020 to Solvi and Ib, to finishing their story before moving on to a new project. There are still two agents considering my full manuscript (and four agents yet to respond to my initial query). But I also know this is only the beginning. It’s still my day to be brilliant!

Query Update – January 2020

As of now, my full manuscript is still with an agent, and TWO other agents have my partial story. That’s right, my first response of the new year was a request rather than rejection, which is a lovely way to start 2020! I don’t have a timeframe for when I’ll hear back—if I’ve learned anything, it’s that agents are swamped with queries and clients plus other jobs to pay the bills, so patience is key (and pretending to forget your manuscript is pending is essential for maintaining sanity).

So, deep breath, Blood and Water is still kicking out there, and I’m working on her sequel so at the very least I’ll have a completed story someday, published or not. Crossed fingers, earnest prayers, and positive vibes are still and always most welcome!

High Hopes

Querying is hard. That’s kind of a no-brainer–crafting a business letter to basically say “I promise my story is good, please give me a chance!” is as bad as writing a cover letter for a job (I mean, essentially, it’s the same thing). For me, it’s been disheartening and nerve-wracking and left me wanting to pull my hair out. I wrote a freaking novel–please don’t make me condense the plot into a single-page synopsis!

Sending out queries is terrifying, too, because I don’t know if the base of my letter is any good. I’ve poured over blogs and revised, revised, revised, and I *think* I’ve got a decent hook and capture the stakes and introduce the conflict in three short paragraphs, but I won’t know if it’s enough until the requests start rolling in. And when they *don’t* roll in, I can’t be sure if it’s that my query letter isn’t strong, or my writing isn’t good, or my story isn’t appealing, or if it just doesn’t fit on that specific agent’s list at this point in time.

Guys, requests have NOT been rolling in.

Out of 23 agents queried thus far, I’ve received 10 rejections. That’s flirting dangerously close to 50%–and those other 13 aren’t guaranteed requests by any means. To make it harder, I received 5 of those rejections in the space of a few days.

And it’s fine–I understand that it only takes one “yes”, that Stephen King had hundreds of rejections nailed to his bedroom wall and Harry Potter was rejected over 30 times, that a pass doesn’t mean my writing is poor or my story not good enough…I know all that. It doesn’t make it suck any less, though, so I just want to wallow a bit.

But.

Last night, after two more “thanks but no thanks” emails, I was telling my husband I’m thinking of switching gears and returning to a WWII story I’ve been working on when it happened. An email notification was sitting on my phone’s home screen, and I recognized the name of another agent. My heart sank, even as I read the preview saying I provided a great writing sample. I expected to see the “but” as I clicked it open.

But nothing, baby! The agent requested 50 pages to keep reading.

This isn’t any more of a guarantee than any other step in the process, but it *is* the next step. And it feels amazing to know a professional read a snippet of my story and said “more, please!” Even if they end up passing, my confidence has been boosted enough to face down the next 10 rejections with minimal sulking.

B&W Playlists: The Couple

I’ve re-written this opening to avoid some minor spoilers surrounding Solvi and her love interest(s) in Blood and Water (and beyond). As the author, it was obvious from the start which character would capture her heart, but in my critique circles people have come to shipping them (or not) at varying paces, so I’ll refrain from confirmations and just provide you with the top songs I’ve listened to while writing the main couple’s love story (or lack thereof…dun dun dun…) across 2 books.

  1. You’re the One That I Want – Chadwick Stokes
  2. Hideaway (Acoustic) – Dan Owens
  3. The Few Things – JP Saxe
  4. Head Above Water – Avril Lavigne ft. We The Kings
  5. Whole Heart – Taylor Berrett
  6. A Grave Mistake – Ice Nine Kills (Live from Sirius XM version preferred, though the original fits the overall book/scene better)
  7. Better Than the Pain (Acoustic) – The Woodlands
  8. May I – Trading Yesterdays
  9. Tired – Alan Walker ft. Gavin James
  10. Little Do You Know – Alex & Sierra
  11. Please Don’t Leave Me Like This – Edward + Jane
  12. Resurrect Me – Skrizzly Adams
  13. Fade* – Lewis Capaldi (the F-bomb is dropped so painfully toward the end that it might be the most beautiful swear I’ve ever heard)
  14. Forever – Lewis Capaldi (okay, I’m borderline obsessed with him, and these songs have been on repeat for some book 2 scenes)
  15. Already Gone – Sleeping At Last
  16. All I Want – Gardiner Sisters
  17. Hear You Me – Alex Goot
  18. Hurricane – The Likes of Us

As always, you can find the entire playlist on YouTube.

Querying

Well, I did it! I sent out a query letter to a handful of agents! I’ve got to polish my synopsis and try to ease off tweaking my manuscript because it is time, baby!

Or maybe not–I’ve got another list of agents to query next week. I’m hedging my bets a little bit and leaving myself options if my query or first few pages don’t seem to hook anyone in this first round. There’s always room for improvement, so if I’m being completely honest, I’m not going to stop tweaking my query letter or my story until I start getting requests to read the full manuscript. I’m just really excited because that first step has been taken and, request or rejection, I’ve at least put my story out there.

Pantheon of Blood and Water

There are a lot of gods in my book Blood and Water. Most of them are based in some way on Norse mythology, but I’ve pulled inspiration from other religions and mythologies as well. I’ve compiled my pantheon here:

  • Vöderaka the Allfather, ruler of the gods and overseer of Fallne Hallen
  • Gull: aka the Divine Mother, protector of home, families, and small children
  • Hel (former): sister to the Allfather, goddess of life and death, darkness and light, and overseer of the afterlife. After a dispute with Gull, Hel was split into two entities:
    • Alfra: goddess of light, life, summer, sun
    • Audhild: goddess of darkness, death, winter, moon/stars. Overseer of Hel, the afterlife for traitors, rapists, vicious murderers, and cowards. (Revered above all other gods by the Night Raiders.)
  • Tore: god of mankind and war
  • Leika: goddess of prosperity, passion, love
  • Fiske: god of fish and the seas
  • Jorden: god of land, harvest, and game

There are a number of lessor gods not named in Blood and Water who oversee specifics, but almost any topic needing divine oversight can fall under one of the main gods listed here. Healers call upon Gull to speed recoveries from illnesses or wounds. Chiefs turn to Tore and Vöder to determine justice for committed wrongs. Leika is praised during weddings and blamed for divorces. Audhild represents evil for many–though any one of the gods can act in ways that would seem cruel or devious.

In Solvi’s world, children are dedicated to a specific god a week after they’re born. This dedication is often based on the particular blessing a parent hopes to bestow upon their child: long life, prosperity, good health, strength–or based on the child’s temperament: steady like solid ground, chaotic as a roiling sea, soothing as a summer sunrise.

For fun: Can you figure out which gods would bestow the blessings mentioned above? Which god do you think you’d be dedicated to?

B&W Playlist: Maiken

Due to our recent move halfway across the country, I’ve done a LOT of listening to music while packing/unpacking/relaxing by the pool to recharge after all that packing and unpacking. 😉

I already shared my main playlist for Blood and Water, but there are so many more songs that went into that novel (some I’m still discovering that fit so perfectly with a scene or mood), and even more that encapsulate particular characters. Why not share them??

I figured I’d start things off with my personal favorite (don’t tell the others): Maiken. Solvi’s older sister is brusque and fierce, with a surprisingly tender side she only shows when absolutely necessary (or when she’s alone with her man).

  1. Confidant* – Demi Lovato (because if there’s one pop song that screams “Maiken” for me, it’s this)
  2. Born For Greatness – Papa Roach (or maybe this one)
  3. Beggin for Thread – BANKS
  4. I Am Alive – Stevie McRorie
  5. Hunt You Down* – Kesha
  6. So Pissed – Bohnes
  7. Lion – Saint Mesa (I imagine this is what Maiken would listen to to get pumped up before battle)
  8. Bad Preachers – Saint Claire
  9. Don’t Kill My Vibe – Sigrid
  10. Walk Through the Fire – Klergy (obviously a song for her husband, Dag, but it could fit her relationship with Solvi, too)
  11. The Optimist – Adam French
  12. Religion – Colton Avery

*denotes songs with explicit content.

The entire playlist (with possibly a few extras) can be found here

Never-Ending Edits

I’m currently on draft number who-even-knows-anymore of my work in progress, Blood and Water. The cool thing is, every time I finish a draft, I feel really confident in it, like it’s the best I could ever accomplish. (To be fair, it really is my best work at that point in my life.) Then I get to see how much I’ve grown as a writer when I return to that draft a few weeks later and think “this is actually kind of garbage.” So I revise and rewrite and get a new draft I love so much.

The thing is, after submitting it to my writing groups for feedback, I’m still getting tons of suggestions for re-wording things, clarifying sentences and plot points, and rearranging paragraphs for better flow. A lot of this, I’m slowly recognizing, is due to personal preference and the writing styles of those lovely people offering the feedback, since they, too, are writers. It’s getting easier for me to disregard some suggestions, because they don’t fit my style. Also, I’m coming to terms with the fact that they’re *looking* for issues–a casual reader likely wouldn’t notice that “I struggle not to cry” fits better than “I refuse to cry,” or that I just used “I” to start the last three sentences of that section, a big repetitive no-no.

Still, some comments are really great. People are still catching plot holes and subtext that’s too subtle or foreshadowing that’s too obvious. I’m endlessly grateful to these friends who are taking the time out of their busy schedules to read my work and offer constructive feedback.

It doesn’t stop me from yelling LEAVE ME ALONE at the screen a few times once I’m several hours into the critique-review process. That’s when I take a break to post pics to Instagram or work on a blog post. 🙂