First, I’d like to thank all the wonderful Magical Words authors for inviting me into their house for my first ever guest blogging appearance. I’m honored to be in such good company.
Now, as to the madness that has consumed my life…
The journey to see CRIMSON SWAN published has been interesting and unusually short in terms of the publishing industry. I began writing the book as an undergraduate student at the University of South Alabama in the spring of 2006. Until that point, I’d written a few short stories but I knew my heart
lay in novels.
The concept behind CRIMSON SWAN had been bouncing around in my head for about a year before I actually began writing it but I was apprehensive about submitting it to my classmates for critique. I was writing about vampires, law enforcement, and forensic science. In comparison to the literary works most often associated with university creative writing programs, my writing is very different. I write genre fiction with lots of action and complex plots. For example, CRIMSON SWAN is a dark urban fantasy set in the small
fictitious southwestern Mississippi town of Jefferson. Alexandra Sabian, a vampire and Enforcer with the Federal Bureau of Preternatural Investigation, moves to Jefferson from Louisville, Kentucky to escape the ghosts of her father’s murder and to put a violent past behind her.
The story begins with the discovery of the third dead vampire in two weeks. Alex, as the only FBPI Enforcer assigned to southwest Mississippi, is investigating the slayings but runs into opposition from the local human-run sheriff’s department and an anti-vampire group, the Human Separatist Movement. Further complicating matters are the omnipresent media and the arrival of a new Enforcer, Varik Baudelaire, who is also Alex’s former fiancé.
Tensions between Jefferson’s human and vampire populations mount, as the tensions between Alex and Varik also escalate. The stress of the investigation takes a toll on Alex and a latent psychic talent begins to
reassert itself. When the tensions in the town finally erupt into violence, Alex find herself at the center of a maelstrom that threatens to strip away everything she holds dear, including the one person she thought was safe from her past’s influence — her brother.
As you can see, CRIMSON SWAN isn’t the typical academic fare. However, the fiction workshop classes had (and still have) an outstanding and open-minded instructor: Carolyn Haines (author of the Sarah Boothe Delaney mystery series, REVENANT, MANY BLOODY RETURNS, FEVER MOON, and many more). Carolyn was (and continues to be) very supportive of my work, as were the other students. With their encouragement and Carolyn’s guidance, by the time I finished my undergraduate degree in fall 2006, I’d nearly completed the entire book. Even though I now had a degree, I wanted to learn more, to explore the voice I felt I was just beginning to find, and I’ll admit that the idea of having to find a “real job” and repay my student loans was something I loathed. So, I started graduate school, again at USA, in spring 2007 and continued studying with Carolyn.
In May 2007 when CRIMSON SWAN was down to its final chapters, Carolyn negotiated with her agent, Marian Young, to read a portion of my work. I’d attended a few conferences and had pitched CRIMSON SWAN to a couple of agents with no success. While there were no guarantees that Marian would offer to represent me, it was an opportunity that was too good to pass up. I sent her manuscript and she guided me through a couple of editing rounds. Our personalities meshed well and after I made the final cuts, Marian loved the changes and took me on as a client. Needless to say, I was thrilled!
Marian started sending CRIMSON SWAN out to editors in June 2007 and continued to do so for months. Whenever she received a rejection, and there were many, she would forward them to me along with her words of encouragement. The rejections were all the same: “We agree Ms. Holmes has talent, but…” or “I really liked this book, but…” It’s very easy to become discouraged when faced with rejection after rejection, but Marian and Carolyn were both confident the book would sell, which gave me confidence if not patience. (More on this later.)
Finally, in late November 2007, Danielle Perez, a senior editor with Bantam Dell (Random House), gave us a rejection but, with some coaxing from Marian, also provided feedback on CRIMSON SWAN, laying out the areas she felt were in need of improvement and agreed to a second reading of the manuscript. For the next four months, I tore CRIMSON SWAN apart, restructured, re-plotted, re-wrote, and added nearly one hundred pages to its length. I stressed over it. I cursed over it. I forced myself to work through the writers’ block
that threatened to derail me and my academic studies. (Yes, I was still attending grad school full-time during all of this.) I sent it back to Marian in March and she forwarded it to Danielle.
Then, we waited. And waited. And waited some more. On May 27, 2008, Marian called with the news we’d been hoping to hear for nearly a year. We had an offer! Danielle wanted to buy CRIMSON SWAN as well
as a second book. Both would be released as mass market paperback originals, with CRIMSON SWAN being released in September 2009. We accepted the offer, and my life has exploded outward in so many directions and so quickly that it’s a little overwhelming at times. But, looking back on the past two years and the experiences I’ve had and the friendships I’ve created along the way, I know I have the support of some very talented people, and that support will make all the difference in the coming months as CRIMSON SWAN continues its journey to publication.
My experiences thus far have been charmed, but I’d like to pass along a few words of advice to other writers who are still waiting for the phone call that changes our lives. My advice is to be patient but persistent. I know my journey was shorter than some, it wasn’t without its challenges and frustrations, and, in all honesty, I’m one of the last people who should speak of patience. However, this experience has taught me that the publishing industry moves at its own pace and that pace is very often slower than we, as writers, would like for it to be.
While you’re waiting for that life-altering phone call, and in addition to writing every day, network with other writers, whether in person at conferences or online in chat rooms, e-mail lists, or blogs. A strong
support system comprised of others who understand how you’re feeling makes the time between sending your manuscript off to an agent or editor and receiving that phone call pass quickly. Also, when networking, ask questions. Learn from others who have traveled this road. I’m sure you’ll find that many are only too happy to share their stories.
I know I have been, and I wish the best of luck to published and unpublished writers alike. May your hard drives always have space, your ink cartridges always be full, your paper supply endless, and your phone call forthcoming.
Thanks, again, to Faith, David, C. E., and Misty for inviting me to share my
story. It’s been a blast!
Author, CRIMSON SWAN