MileHiCon Wrap-Up and Griffin’s Feather IS LIVE!

Griffin's Feather CoverI’ve been all over the social medias with the news, but I’ve not had time to sit down with this post until just a few minutes ago. I don’t know how many people follow me ONLY on my RSS feed, but just in case there are a few….

MileHiCon 2017 (the 49th one!) went great! I said smart things on my panels (so others told me). I asked smart questions on the panel I moderated (so my fellow panelists told me). I got to hang out with some old friends (some of whom I only see at MileHiCon). I made a few new friends. I bought a few books. I generally hung out with folks and had a really great time.

The highlight of the weekend, however, was not MileHiCon. The con could have easily been the highlight of the weekend, but it got overshadowed by the release of GRIFFIN’S FEATHER on Saturday! The original publication date was supposed to be Wednesday, November 1st. However, things fell into line. The book was ready, and the amazing team at WordFire Press whipping things together and got the book out over the weekend. I’m immensely grateful to the whole team. I’d thank them personally here, but there are gobs of people “behind the scenes” that I don’t know the names of, so I’d be leaving some folks out. I don’t want to make that error of omission. If you’re one of those great folks that helped me get my words out into the world: Thank you!

I can’t wait to see how the world reacts to my novel. It’s surreal. It’s exciting. It’s new. It’s…. well… mind-blowing. I’ve been trying to conceptualize the fact that I now have a published novel, and the mere idea of “published novel” with “J.T. Evans” on the cover still escapes me even though I know it’s a real thing.

You can find Griffin’s Feather at these fine locations, or order it from your favorite local bookstore.

Amazon Paperback

Amazon Ebook

Barnes and Noble

Smashwords

Kobo

Thanks to everyone that’s supported me over the past 11 years of effort that it took to get to this point. Here, I’m going to throw out a few names because they’re important enough to me to acknowledge:

Granny and Papa — I wish you could still be around to see this happen. Thank you for all you did for me throughout my life.

Kimberly — Without you standing by my side, I wouldn’t have the confidence to attempt this. Love you so very much.

My son — I know I “stole” some of our father/son time away from you to work on my novels. You’ll probably never know how much I love you for this.

Mom — You’ve shown me support and love throughout everything. I don’t think you’ve seen all of the struggles of the past 11 years, but you’ve highlighted the successes that I’ve had. Thank you for that. Love you.

Hank and Hollie Snider — For started CSFWG and welcoming me into the group with open arms. Relaunching my passion for the written word through the CSFWG led to this day.

Pikes Peak Writers — There are way too many people here to thank that are involved in this organization. Without PPW, I wouldn’t have been able to learn and improve as much as I did.

Linda Houser — You taught “The Tools in Your Writing Toolbox” (or something of that nature) at my very first PPW Write Brain. I learned so much in that night. It set me on the right path with the right mindset. It also showed me that others loved words as much as I do. (PS: I still have the clock hanging over my desk.)

Patrick Hester — You’ve been my rock for quite a few years. You’ve called my bullshit. You’ve told me when I nailed it. You’ve kept an eye on me and let me know when I’m “off base” mentally. Thank you for your friendship, and I promise to never type “the two women” again, unless absolutely necessary.

Craig Barnes — You took me and my family in during the Black Forest Fire. You’ve been one of the most solid friends I’ve ever had. You’re very much like a brother to me. Love you for that.

Front Range Fiction Writers — While this critique group is now defunct, it was a great three years. Thanks to all of the members over the three wonderful years that pointed out where I did great and where I didn’t.

Dave Butler — For picking up where others left off and giving me an amazing opportunity. Thank you for believing in my work as much as I do and giving it a shot.

Manny Frishberg — For taking my slew of words and pushing me to do better throughout our editorial process. You rock!

Jeff Herndon — For giving me a cover that I fall in love with every time I see it.

Kevin J. Anderson — For giving my book a shot. I hope it does WordFire Press proud.

… and there are certainly others I’m forgetting to thank. I apologize if I spaced out on you and/or your name while typing this up. There are so many people who have helped me over the years. Thank you all.

Griffin’s Feather Update

My debut novel, Griffin’s Feather, is now in production with WordFire Press. The cover art is done. The cover layout is in process. The interior layout is in process. These are all great things.

I know I’m sounding a bit analytical about it all, but that’s because it’s all so surreal to me. I’m trying to wrap my head around the concept that I’ll soon have a published novel that people can buy, read, review, love, hate, do cosplay as one of the characters (that just blew my mind as I typed it), lose sleep over, or simply enjoy and escape reality with.

You figure that if I’m writing stories about an immortal Roman Centurion who works as a bounty hunter for the gods of the ancient world in modern-day San Antonio, I’d be able to wrap my head around getting a book published. Well…. I can imagine all sorts of crazy things, but nailing down the reality that I’ll soon have my name on the cover of a book is…. I don’t know. No words. Strange for a writer, right?

Let me talk a bit about the cover. I’m sure you can see it here in the post. Isn’t it beautiful?!!? I love what Jeff Herndon did for my novel. This captures a scene somewhere around the 2/3 mark of the book. Yeah. Okay. That’s a bit spoilery. Sorry. I won’t give anything else away. I love what he did with the colors and splashes of light and capturing the raw power of the griffin. The fine details are what make it for me. Check out the wing tips on the pixie (click the image for a larger version). Yeah. Aren’t those wonderful? Thank you so much, Jeff, for bringing my words to life with your painting.

I’d also like to thank Manny Frishberg for editing the novel. We went through a couple of rounds of edits, and Manny was fantastic, supportive, encouraging, and pressing through out. When I say “pressing,” I mean he pressed me forward to greatness. He really challenged me in the right spots and congratulated me where I did well. There were a few times where he put in a comment along the lines of, “I can tell you got lazy here. You’re better than this. Rewrite with X as your target.” Yeah. He used the word “lazy,” but he also told me I was better than how that scene was written. He knew I could do better. Deep down, I knew I could do better. He pressed me forward with that nudge to do better and I did. Griffin’s Feather is orders of magnitude better now than it ever was before thanks to Manny giving me the guidance I needed.

A shout out goes to Dave Butler, WordFire’s acquisition editor, for taking on the project, speaking so highly of it to Kevin J. Anderson and others, and telling me that my original title (Freyja’s Daughter) was not quite up to snuff. We brainstormed a handful of titles and finally settled on Griffin’s Feather. This title has provided me with a pattern to the novels for the rest of the series (that’s right, I said, “Series!“). Book two is tentatively titled “Viper’s Bane.” Don’t get all excited for me yet. Book two isn’t under contract. We have to see how the sales for Griffin’s Feather goes. (This means you, my wonderful readers, need to spread word and boost the signal about the book if you love Marcus Barber and his adventures. The only way Viper’s Bane hits the shelves is if Griffin’s Feather does well.)

Lastly, thanks to WordFire Press for giving me the opportunity to get my words out into the world. I’m eternally grateful for this chance, and I hope the end result doesn’t disappoint everyone working in that fine organization. Even beyond having my mind shattered by getting a novel published, joining the esteemed ranks of authors WordFire has published is boggling. I hesitate to use “peer” or “equal” or anything like that when comparing myself to these luminaries, but I’m at least standing in the same room as them. This is an incredibly warming feeling.

How did all of this come about? Wow. Long story. A Inigo Montoya once said, “Let me explain. [pause] No, there is too much. Let me sum up.”

In July of 2006 (yeah, 11 years ago), I found a flier for a local critique group. I immediately started attending and joined the membership of The Colorado Springs Fiction Writers Group in November of 2006. I wrote tons of short stories to get the basics of storytelling, writing, and craft down. My intent all along was to write novels, but I didn’t want to screw up a novel (and I knew I would) since that takes a year (more or less) to execute upon.

Late in 2009, I started my first novel (now trunked, sorry) and finished it about a year later. I also wrote the second book in the trilogy, and started the third book. I never finished the third book because I realized it was more an exercise in futility since book one never sold.

Sometime in 2014 (see how much time had passed?!?!) and with a new critique group, I started telling Marcus’s story and all that it entails. Less than a year later, the novel was done, critiqued, edited, and ready to hit the streets. I started querying in the summer of 2015. Lots of the usual. Requests for partials. Requests for a few full manuscripts. All ending in rejections. While at WorldCon in Spokane, I was hanging out outside a bar waiting for others to show up. Peter Wacks (acquisition editor for WordFire at the time) and I were chatting. He asked what I was writing on. I told him about my querying travails with Griffin’s Feather and about the novel. He was very interested and wanted me to send it to you. That was August of 2015.

After some staff changes, shuffling of paperwork, lots of emails, and loads of being patient (more on that in a bit), Kevin J. Anderson approached me in the bar at WorldCon in Kansas City (sense a theme with bars and WorldCon?) with an offer to purchase my novel. It was all I could do to stop myself from grabbing the nearest woman, planting a kiss on her, and celebrating. Of course, that would have probably gotten me slapped and/or beaten up, kicked out the bar, kicked out of WorldCon, and smeared my public reputation for life. Me, being aware of all of this, thanked Kevin profusely and shook his hand with a goofy grin on my face.

So… WorldCon 2017 in Helsinki just wrapped up (I was not there, so no bar stories for this year), and my novel is coming out soon. Most likely in September from what I’ve been told.

I said I’d talk about patience a bit. Here it is. Get some. Get lots of it, to be honest. The publishing industry is slow. I’m not complaining about it. It’s just the nature of the beast. There’s a bit of “hurry up and wait” going on, but mostly it’s just “wait.” As you can see, my deal took a full year to develop and then another year for the deal to turn into a novel. That’s really not abnormal from what I’ve heard from others. Yeah, there are the lightning strikes that break the mold and someone gets published six months after the ink dries on their contract. These are the exceptions, not the rule.

So… What’s next?

We wait for the book to be launched. I do plan on having a few signings in the Colorado Springs, Monument, and Denver areas. I also hope to make a few more conventions as part of the booth that sells WordFire titles. Stay tuned here for announcements on that. I’ll probably be adding an “appearances” page to the site. Also keep an eye on my social media (look in the upper right corner of any of the pages here on my site for links). Lastly, I’m hoping to land on some podcasts that’ll have me on to chat and talk about the book and just have a good conversation.

BTW: If you haven’t clicked on the image yet to see the larger version… WHAT ARE YOU WAITNG FOR? Go click. NOW! It’s gorgeous!

 

Edits Done!

My most recent (which wasn’t really all that recent) post, I lamented about being nervous about my first experiences getting a novel edited.

I shouldn’t have been.

Everything went great!

There’s an obvious fact that I couldn’t quite conceptualize: A good editor wants me to succeed as much as I do.

… and I had a great editor assigned to me by WordFire Press!

Manny knocked it out of the park and really challenged me to up my game and make my novel so much more than I thought it could be.

Don’t get me wrong. It was a long process (though shorter than I expected) with a couple of rounds of edits. That first round was tons of work that took 6 weeks. (To be honest, it was 5 weeks. I lost a week to the Man Flu.) In that first round (which was mostly developmental edits), Manny pushed me in several areas to improve where I got lazy or weak and cheered me on where I nailed it. It wasn’t all “doom ‘n’ gloom.” He sent me a great deal of praise along with the notes citing where I needed to step up my game.

Because I worked so hard on the first round of edits, the second round went much more smoothly. It took me a whopping eight hours (split almost in half) to go through the track changes in the Word document and accept almost everything. Where I didn’t accept things, I reworked it a bit to where I thought it would satisfy Manny. I could tell we were on the same wavelength and meshed quite well. Where he suggested larger changes, I’d almost smack my head at the obvious nature of the request… and then eagerly make the change.

With the second round of edits done today and sent off, I took a few moments to breathe easy. Unsure of what would come next, I was utterly surprised when Manny emailed me back and said he liked the manuscript enough to send it along to the production team at WordFire.

Woo Hoo!

Now… I’m not sure what’s next or when the book will hit the stands. As I find out more, I’ll be sure to let everyone know. I hope (*fingers crossed*) the book will launch in time for Pikes Peak Writers Conference in April. I didn’t think that was a possibility, but now… maybe. Just maybe.

Now I’m take a brief break (like a few hours to play some video games) before I load up book #2 in the series and see what form of edits I need to put into it to make it better.

Nervous About Edits

Antique pen and inkwell

I received an email from my publisher, WordFire Press, on October 25th asking for the “current final manuscript” of Griffin’s Feather. They’d assigned an editor to the project, and were ready to move forward with the publishing process.

Instead of being elated or excited, my main emotion was nerves. Loads of nerves. So serious, I grabbed my office trash can in case I needed to puke. Even though the book had already been acquired and signed for, I had the following thoughts rampaging through my psyche:

What if it’s not good enough?

What if the editor hates?

What if the editor hates me?

Do I have time for another edit pass on my own?

What will the world think of me when this worthless drivel hits the stands?

What if someone thinks I faked my way through writing the novel?

What will my friends think?

What will my family think?

AAAaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh!

… Yeah… A serious amount of impostor syndrome hit me full in the face.

It shouldn’t have, but that was my reaction.

I stepped away from the keyboard for about half an hour to get a little distance and let me process things. I’ve been through the editorial process before, but only on shorter works and non-fiction. I’ve been in a critique group for over a decade. I know how to “take a hit” and keep on truckin’. I know how to receive feedback and input and improve my work. I know all of this. I rarely feel this. Thus the pounce by the impostor demon. He snuck up on me, rolled a natural 20, and stabbed me square between the shoulder blades.

Only by getting some distance did my nerves calm down enough for me to send off the manuscript to WordFire.

The nervousness came and went and mostly settled down. I’d wake up in the middle of the night with the vision of my editor standing over me with a bloody quill in his hand stabbing down at me. I’m not saying my editor is a bloody-splattered, quill-wielding serial killer (how’s that for a character idea?), but that’s the impression my subconscious built for me.

Until yesterday, I’d actually had no interaction with my editor. He lives in the Seattle area. I’m in Colorado. It’s kind of hard to sit down over coffee to talk about the novel. Sure, there’s Skype, but it’s a bit early for that to fire up for us.

Things changed for me and my weak, splintered, emotional brain when I received an email from the editor yesterday. He’s been in the biz since 1976. That tells me he’s experienced and manged to stick through things for decades. A total asshole or novel-shredder rarely lasts that long. At least, that’s what I’m reading into it.

He also told me that he’s written quite a few short stories and has a novel under consideration at a Big Five publisher. This tells me that he gets writers. That helped put me at ease.

Here’s a quote from his email, “I always keep in mind that this is your story, and it’s your name on the cover.” You have absolutely no idea how great this made me feel. I’ve had an “editor” (loosely using that term) in a critique group before, and that “editor” made demands, requirements, and “must do actions” against me and my novel. Perhaps that’s where my nerves come from because I had a critique partner put on the “editor hat” and tear me up rather than work with me to help the words become better.

He closed out his email to me with, “I’m looking forward to hearing back and to working with you to make “Griffin’s Feather” shine (and sell).” The phrase “working with you” (my emphasis) damn near made me cry from the release of emotional pressure I had built up for myself. Know that I have a partner (and a well experienced one!) standing next to me to guide me through things makes me happy enough to almost try and do a back flip…. almost.

I know this has been a long and rambly affair of a blog post. I’m trying to come up with a pithy theme or a “you can do it!” message for those out there.

I guess I’ll close by saying there are people out there who on your side even when you don’t know it.

…. I’m also really looking forward to jumping into the nitty-gritty work and seeing what ideas my editor has for me to improve my work.

Overdue WorldCon Report and Publishing Announcement

MidAmeriCon IISo…. WorldCon was over three weeks ago, and I’m just now getting around to this. Most things are a hazy memory at this point, so this’ll probably be the world’s shortest WorldCon wrap-up report.

The drive from Colorado to Kansas City was long and interesting. We got a little lost at one point (there is a Hays, KS, and a Hayes, KS. Make sure you know the difference!). Not a big deal. It only added 45-ish minutes to the overall drive. Then again, I was a passenger all the way there and back, so I didn’t worry too much about the drive time. (PS: A huge thanks to Patrick for driving all the way there and back!)

Once there, we got settled in and prepped for several days of con and BarCon and festivities and networking and panels and all sorts of great things.

I got to run into old friends, make some new friends, network with some folks (old and new), and just have a great time. The panels I went to were really good (except for one, more on that later). The Hugos were surprisingly pleasant to attend even though I really didn’t want to go. I’d been full up on my people quota and wanted some downtime. Shannon and MB talked me into coming down from my hotel room and heading off to the Hugos with them.

I had some great meals with great friends. I’d love to try to list everyone off here, but I know I’d forget someone possibly offend them. To avoid accidental offense, I’m just going to say it was great breaking bread with everyone around the various tables of the con.

BarCon was BarCon. It went as I expected (except for one thing, more on that later). Meet ‘n’ greets with new friends, old friends, and just friends in general. It was a great time being a social butterfly and floating around with a drink in my hand. So many faces and names flash by in my memories. Many of the names I remember. Some I don’t. After all, it’s been three weeks. I had a great time chatting with everyone I ran into. Again, no names to dodge that “offense bullet.” If you ran into me and chatted, just know that I had a great time for the either brief moments we were together or the longer times we had sitting down.

My main disappointment was that I didn’t get a chance to run into Neil Clarke or Kate Baker. They were high on my list of folks to track down and hang out with, but it just wasn’t in the cards. Ah well. Such is life at a large con.

A few things stood out in my memories:

Hanging out with Teri and Dave Robison on repeated occasions made for wonderful conversations and productive idea generation on all sides of the conversation. Also, the true compassion and depth of love Dave shows for everyone around him makes me proud to call him a true friend.

Mary Robinette Kowal broke my brain. Innocently on her part, but it still happened. Here’s what happened. I was talking with Alasdair Stuart (host of PseudoPod) and Marguerite Kenner (hostess of Cast of Wonders) and was tracking the very cool conversation well despite being used to hearing both voices come out of my car stereo. Then Mary Robinette started speaking to someone behind me, and I didn’t know she was there. It shutdown my brain. Hard. The cognitive dissonance of three podcast voices (Mary Robinette is part of the Writing Excuses team) in my brain and only two being part of my active conversation just broke me. I recovered quickly enough, but man… What a mental feat that was!

The drive home was fast. Then again, I was snoozing on and off for part (most?) of it, so that helps. 🙂

Ok. Now that I’ve given over all thoughts and some specifics, there are two things I earmarked as “more on that later.”

There was a panel (forget the topic now) I’d been looking forward to. The moderator arrived right as the panel was supposed to start. She proceeded to allow the panelists to introduce themselves (which is normal and expected), and then she took the panel in a sideways direction away from the description of the topic and refused to allow the other panelists to speak. It wasn’t a diatribe or screed or soap-box speech. She decided she was the subject matter expert on the off-base topic, and just went with it. She also… talked… really… really… slow… and… had… to… stop… every… three… or… four… words… to… catch… her… breath. After about 8 minutes of this, I got up and left. I couldn’t take it anymore. I don’t know if the actual panelists had a chance to speak or not. If you are moderating a session at a con, it should be an absolute requirement for you to go read this post by Chuck Wendig and scroll down to #5 on the list!

WordFire Press Contract HeaderNow for the Big News of WorldCon (for me, at least). At the Friday night BarCon, Kevin J. Anderson approached me about a book that I’d submitted to his publishing house (WordFire Press) shortly after last year’s WorldCon. He gave me a verbal offer of publication for one of my novels on the spot. Wow! I was hoping something like that would happen, but I rarely set myself up to expect something like that will happen. This made my WorldCon even more special than it already was. I loved hearing the words from KJA, “We’d like to publish your book.” I’m not sure who was smiling more, me or him. What made the deal even sweeter was the fact that Dave Butler (the WordFire Press acquisitions editor) made a huge deal about it all weekend. As a matter of fact, the entire WordPress team made me feel at home, welcome, and special throughout the con. It really made me feel like I’d finally gotten to the next level with my writing. Here’s to a long and happy relationship between WordFire Press and myself! *clinks glasses*