We have progress!
Big progress, in fact. In spite of snow days, damned winter colds, and life being the troublesome nuisance that it sometimes is, Resurrection is with beta readers.
What does that mean?
It means it survived its trip to the editor, and though it came back bleeding from multiple flesh wounds, it's nothing that left it too scarred. It means I went through and accepted or rejected all of my editor's changes (mostly accepted... this is what I pay her for, after all), made some slightly larger fixes based on her comments and ideas, and did another pass to check for flow and to make sure everything was clean and coherent.
And now it's with several people who will be happy to tell me if and where I screwed up. and then I'll fix it again, and it will go out to some more people who offered to help with proof-reading.
It also means that this book is very much at the point where I as an author wonder what the hell I'm doing. Sure, people have loved the book so far. My editor was thrilled with it.
But I've been working on this book for years now, first as a fun little novella I started on a whim and didn't finish, then one that I did, then one I re-wrote in its current novel-length form (which suits it far better). I've drafted, re-drafted, read, revised, and fixed it a whoooole lot of times. I'm familiar with the story. And while in this case familiarity doesn't breed contempt, it does breed... well, familiarity. I know the twists, the turns, the dialogue. It's a story I love and characters I adore, but there are no surprises left.
It's hard to see a book clearly when you've read it more than twenty times, you know?
So that's why I need these beta readers. While I can never read this story for the first time, they will. Their fresh eyes and sharp minds will see what I no longer can. Their reactions will guide me through the last phases of production, and they'll help me make sure this is the best damned book it can possibly be.
My readers. My heroes.
(I'm also almost ready to work on cover copy, teasers, and cover art, but that's a whoooooole other issue...)
Every time I tell someone my new books will be released under a pen name, I get the same response.
Generally accompanied by a furrowed brow or concerned head tilt, of course, indicating that they're not judging me, exactly, but they're worried. Have I actually gone mad? Am I writing... *averted gaze*... porn?
It's actually a great question. I've had success as an author under my own name, writing bestselling YA Fantasy and venturing into New Adult Fantasy Romance. I have letters in front of the "bestselling" part of my author title, should I care to use them. I have an audience. A decent social media presence. Presumably loyal readers. I'm established, dammit, even if I only manage to get a book or two out a year.
Why on Earth would I throw that away and start over?
See? Good question. I wish I had a snappy answer, but it's complicated.
As I said, under my other name I write Fantasy. The kind with magic, dragons, sorcery, swordfights (though we tend to avoid those, as I find them tedious). A solid dose of romance. Plenty of humour to offset the darker bits. Those books reflect a bright side of my personality. Serious shit happens, and no one is really safe... but you can be pretty well assured of a Happily Ever After, or at least a Happy For Now for most characters. It's not necessarily light or fluffy, but it's pretty fun.
I adore those books and the High Fantasy genres, and will never turn my back on them. I will return to those worlds and characters I've created... I just need a break.
Not time away from writing. Heavens, no. That would probably kill my spirit.
I'm just... exploring.
You see, one day long before I published my first Fantasy book, a vampire tapped me on the shoulder as I was out walking my dog one Easter Sunday, and she described a scene to me. Church bells. A family late for the service.
And a vampire watching silently from the rooftop across the street.
I started drafting. It was great, I had fun. But I also had this massive Fantasy trilogy I needed to get out. And when the first book found a solid audience who wanted more, my poor vampires got put on the back burner. Oh, I picked at them once in a while. I finished the draft of the first book, sent it to a few people (who adored it, except for one guy who suggested I change everything... there's always one).
But the thing is that when you're a new author, they tell you not to bounce around and confuse your audience. And these vampires... well, they don't fit with my AUTHOR BRAND, that all-important marketing tool we're advised not to muddy up in any way.
This series is darker than what I usually write. Like... finding entire families violently slaughtered in their kitchen dark. Blood spatters on the ceiling. These aren't the kind of vampires who fall in love with innocent humans and want to shelter them.
It's also sexier than what I usually write. While I have done sex scenes before (vague in my YA, on-page but tasteful in my NA), I haven't made things quite this hot before.
And quite honestly, these stories will deal with issues I don't want to have to answer questions about at church and family gatherings.
Loss of faith. Loss of one's soul. Being an outsider in a community one feels trapped in, seeking change while feeling completely powerless. Powers that run deeper than what living humans can generally sense or understand.
Basically, while it's still speculative fiction, still romantic, still with humour thrown in to balance the darkness, it's a whole different ballgame. Not better, not worse (I am still holding myself to my usual high standards for writing, editing, etc.). Just different. And while I'm still writing what I want to read, there's a good chance that some of my old audience won't want to follow me here, and that people who aren't into swords and sorcery will.
So I made a choice. I could use my own name and risk alienating people who picked the books up looking for the same experience I usually offer--including the occasional 12 year old who reads my YA stuff--or I could create a clear separation. A new Author Brand, in fact.
Am I missing out on bringing my old readers over? Maybe. I'm not going to be secretive about the pen name. If people want to follow me here, they'll be able to. I'm not a naturally secretive person, after all. My street team already knows the secret. Heck, they helped pick this name. My newsletter readers under my own name will hear all about it, and eventually so will readers on social media. Maybe some day I'll even add an "as Tanith Frost" section to my also by pages in my Fantasy books. Hey, if I like reading both genres...
But I like the separation. Fans under my own name will know that when I (she) releases something new, it will be in line with my older stuff. It might be a slightly different genre, but it will offer a similar experience or be set in the same kinds of worlds. No one will have to think I've changed or lost my way because I'm playing with vampires and werewolves and people are biting each other and saying "fuck" a lot. I'm taking 2017 to get this series and name established, and then I'll be free to publish under both names.
The lines will get blurred at times. I'll be writing Fantasy in the future under my own name that will be sexier and bloodier and more adult. I might publish YA as THIS NAME some day if it's set in the same world as my vampires.
But I'll do my damndest to keep my audiences happy while I have fun playing in my twin sandboxes.
It's noon on November 30, 2016, and I am DONE.
Not with the 50K words. That happened on the 19th. I'm done with the first draft of Sanctuary, book two of the Immortal Soulless series.
It's 76K words right now, which is a little longer than the first book. And that's fine by me. I think a book should be as long as it needs to be to tell the story. No more, no less. No padding to bulk up the word count, no cutting necessary information or skimping on the writing to keep the paperback a little slimmer. Not too hot, not too cold. Just right.
This draft was by no means the easiest one I've ever worked on. I hit a few roadblocks and had to take full days off to step back, play "what if?", figure out problems I didn't spot in the planning stage, and re-orient myself. And there were questions that persisted right up to the end.
Questions like, "What the ever-loving fuck am I even DOING in this story?"
Not on a plot level, but thematically. With characters. With all of the golden threads that weave in with the plot to really make a story shine.
And I'm happy to say that I think I have my answers. It took days of struggling through the climax sequence and wrapping things up today in the resolution, but I think I finally know what this story is about (and what my main character needed to learn this time to get her ready for all the shit that's coming down the pipeline in future books).
So now I go back (after I let this thing sit for a month or so) and change everything that needs to point to that conclusion. Revise the heck out of this thing so that it's not just a series of events, but a story that means something.
Not one that preaches. Ugh. No. *shudder*
But one that leaves readers a little richer than they were before and maybe sticks with them for a while after the last page has been turned.
Revision is a beautiful thing. The first draft was a valuable exploration of the potential of the work I did in the planning stages, but I still have a lot of work to do.
I can't wait. :)
I'm not entirely sure how to approach blogging here.
This is a new start. A new name for me to write under, and one that's already trying to take on her own persona. It's tempting, isn't it, to go incognito? To be someone new, someone who could be anything?
But I'm not the point. Tanith Frost is an author, a name on the cover of books that wouldn't appeal to much of the audience who follows me under my other name. I'm not going to be overly secretive about it if they want to join us here, but keeping this project in the dark seems like a good idea for now.
I'll use this blog space to share photos, post updates on book and series progress, and answer questions that come in. We'll see how it goes.