A Bit of Research

So I’ve been revising Rook, and one of the things I’ve been wanting (and struggling) to do is to get more of the Harlem Renaissance into the story. The struggle is in working it into the plot, since the characters are more or less removed from the world they live in since everyone they meet forgets them the second they look away.

I had planned to go more into Harlem in general in the second book, but I found the perfect opportunity to have Nora experience a taste of the rich culture she’s living in, and found a really awesome person that I think everyone would enjoy reading about.

I’ll paraphrase a few bits, but definitely do check out the full article here!

gladysbentley

This is Gladys Bentley. She performed at a club called the Clam House in the ’20s in Harlem, right off 133rd, and was known for her signature tuxedo, mad piano skills, her habit of flirting with women in the audience during a performance, and of course her back-up dancers, also in drag.

I would love to see a musical about her life, honestly. Can you imagine? That would be beyond fabulous.

I’m not sure if she’ll make an appearance in Rook yet, but I really would love to include her. We’ll see how the cookie crumbles. Stay tuned!

First Rejection!

Yep, I sent out my first query and got my first rejection within 24 hours.

I typically will say I pride myself in being a realist, but honestly? I’m a dreamer. I’ve had that query sitting there in my drafts for several months now, edited and perfected, tailored to that specific agent I really had might sights on. In my head, I saw how it would happen. It would take a week or two, but I’d get the response back: She wants to read the first five pages! I’d send them, having perfected the full manuscript already, and she’d return with glowing reviews and tell me that she wanted to be my agent. Then would come the big book deal with a huge publisher, I’d see my book in the shelves as a featured read when I walked into a store, and then a movie deal! (Pretty sure most of us can admit to living out these fantasies in our heads, right?)

Yeah, I can’t call myself a realist. Not even close.

I’ve been very fortunate in my writing career so far. I’ve gotten published several times with more successes than rejections. It’s been great, it really has, and I have to admit now that I’ve let it get to my head.

This rejection is a good thing. It means I put myself out there, and I’m ready to do it again. I just have to remember that this is a process. I’ve been using theatre parallels in my head, since that’s a world I’m more familiar with. Agents and publishers, those are the directors holding auditions for their show. Me? Just an actor, walking in and hoping I can give them what they’re looking for. If I don’t make it, it’s not because I’m not good, it’s because I’m just not what they’re looking for right now. Maybe I’d be a perfect Juliet, but they’re casting for Hamlet right now.

Now that I’ve submitted my first query, I’m hoping the next rejections will be easier. Eventually there will be acceptance, but that part isn’t up to me. All I can do is keep putting it out there until I find the right fit.

Wish me luck.

I’m afraid of success.

I realized this today. I can’t remember what triggered the thought, but I started thinking about how I kept putting off submitting Rook to agents even though it’s in a pretty good place. I keep coming up with excuses, telling myself it needs more revising, more fixing.

It’s much safer to live in obscurity, to have only a few friends and family read your work and tell you how nice it was. It’s downright terrifying to think of a whole bunch of strangers reading it. They will see my precious stories without any rose-colored glasses and read them exactly as they are, and my books will have to stand on their own. They’ll be subjected to criticism (and rightly so), personal biases, individual tastes, and mountains of opinions if they get into enough hands.

Isn’t that the goal, though? I thought I knew that for the longest time, I thought I was prepared in every way a person can be. I thought I was ready to send my baby out into the world, armed with a full lunchbox and change of pants, just in case.

Now, I feel more like I’ve got my toddler on rapidly fraying leash and I’m just praying I can keep them from killing themselves by running out into traffic to follow an errant family of ducks.

Enough personifying my stories. The point is, I’m ready to let them go. Acknowledging my fear was the first step, now I’m setting deadlines. Rook is going to agents by the end of February. It’s time.

Wish me luck?

Non-Rook Happenings:

“Rook” is my main baby right now, but I’m far too much of a multitasker to focus on one thing at a time. As much as I would like to be the kind of person who just cranks out one project at a time, that’s now how I function best, so while I was getting into one of my final rounds of edits to Rook, I got distracted. As cliche as it sounds, I had a book idea come to me in a dream and I couldn’t let it rest until I began writing it.

The working title for this ‘dream book’ is currently “The Adept” (should that be underlined? It’s not a complete book yet… eh, that’s what editors are for). It starts with a barefoot teenager getting thrown out of a plane without a parachute, so that’s fun. 

I also just sent edits back on a piece that will be part of an anthology, its romance featuring a polyamorous trio, but I don’t want to give much away other than that until it’s released. I can’t wait to share the info once it’s released, I really fell in love with the characters, and honestly I might end up turning it into a much longer story at some point.

I also received the absolute best rejection email I’ve ever gotten: my submission for a different anthology wasn’t accepted… but they want to turn it into its own ebook. I’d call that a WIN. I’m extremely excited to get this rolling, but luckily it’s already written, so I just need to await edits from the publisher and get back to work on other projects.

Long story short, “Rook” is still a priority, but if I don’t let myself explore “The Adept”, I would regret it. When inspiration knocks, you don’t wait for it to knock twice, right?

Nora & Eridan

My biggest project right now is Rook: Dark Wings, and though it’s not quite ready to publish, I’m itching to share these characters. My wife and I have often discussed which characters we find most of ourselves in, and they always seem to go back and forth between these two. 

Here are Nora and Eridan, as illustrated by one of my all-time favorite artists and my #1 favorite graphic novel artist, Der-Shing Helmer! (Check out Mare Internum and The Meek if you haven’t, they’re both phenomenal.)

Nora “Rook” Roccato

Constellation: Corvus

This is the main character: after losing her parents at a young age, she lived and grew up on the streets. She’s fiesty, relentless, and guarded, and when a mysterious stone falls from the sky and implants itself in her neck, she’s not exactly pleased. When she realizes that the stone has somehow erased her from the memory of everyone she’s ever known, she’s significantly more disgruntled and ventures to New York City to find someone who can remove it.

Naturally, nothing is quite that simple.


Eridan

Constellation: Eridanus

It didn’t take long for the Nova to find Eridan after the strange stone bonded to her hand, and she gave little resistance to the idea of abandoning her old name. The others all had, after all, and she wasn’t one to stray from the norm. The name ‘Eridan’ suited her, she thought, and gave her a chance for a new start. She’s a chipper little thing, bubbly and excitable, but having been raised in the lap of luxury, she has a long way to go to adjust to living in their forgotten corner of the world. Old prejudices often bubble up, and old habits certainly die hard for this cherub.
Eridan’s naïveté and old-fashioned views bring me back to when I was a teenager; I had a zeal for life and for my faith that often blinded me to the way I acted, and I was very much contained in a little bubble of privilege. A lot has changed since then, but I’ve channeled a lot of those experiences into her character.

Nora, however, has an undeniable grit that both my wife and I share, we’re determined to make something of ourselves despite the odds. On the other side, Nora is also stubborn, sharp-edged, and closed-off, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t relate to those aspects as well. I am a Taurus, after all.