My Path to Publication (So Far)

This is the long-winded story of my path to publication. There are many like it, but this one’s mine.

I’ve always enjoyed telling stories, but I never dreamed of being an author while growing up. First, I wanted to be a doctor. Once I realized that other people’s blood and I didn’t get along, I decided on Computer Science.

I went to an engineering school. I avoided all extraneous English classes and loaded up on technical classes. I might’ve written some fanfic on the side, but that was just something I did because I was a huge nerd. I got my Bachelor of Science and totally enjoyed writing code instead of prose for many years.

I wrote my first (terrible) novel during NaNoWriMo 2008. I was working full-time and snuck in words whenever I could. I “won” NaNo again (with another terrible novel) in 2009.

I enjoyed writing. People are surprised to learn I find coding and writing similar. Both involve creating something out of nothing and then debugging/editing until you’re happy with the result.

In 2010, I attended a half-day writing workshop where I was placed in a group headed by the guests of honor—Ilona and Gordon Andrews. I was a huge fan, so of course I was sick with nerves to have them read the short story I wrote.

They were super nice and were very encouraging. For the first time I thought that writing might be something I could do as a career. Later, they would move to Austin and become dear friends.

I decided to expand my short story into an urban fantasy novel. Progress was slow, even after I quit my job to focus on writing. (Note: I don’t recommend this course of action unless you have a very understanding spouse with a good job, sufficient savings, and a solid plan.)

Deciding enough was enough, I set myself a deadline of finishing by RT in May 2016, with the goal of pitching the book to an agent. I succeeded, barely, and pitched the book to my dream agent, Sarah E. Younger of Nancy Yost Literary Agency. She was very nice but honest—urban fantasy was a hard sell. Still, she requested the first chapters.

Sarah was my top pick as an agent, so I only sent out a single other query, which was promptly rejected. (Note: I also don’t recommend this course of action, even though it worked out for me.) While I was waiting to hear back from Sarah, I started writing the urban fantasy sequel but wasn’t loving it.

Ilona suggested I write something totally new. I’d recently had an opening scene for a science fiction book knocking around in my head, so I decided to follow her advice.

At NolaStoryCon in October 2016, I happened to meet up with Sarah again. I’d won a drawing for what I thought was a query letter critique, but turned into a pitch session. I was mortified and worried she would think I was wasting her time by pitching her the same project, but she was very kind and understanding about the whole mix-up.

In a follow-up, I mentioned I was writing a science fiction book. She requested a blurb, which I had to write because I’m not a plotter. She loved the blurb and immediately requested the first three chapters. Only one problem: I hadn’t written three chapters yet (shhh, don’t tell her).

So, over the weekend, I wrote almost 10,000 words, edited them (roughly) and sent them off with a prayer. A couple weeks went by then Sarah setup a call. I had no idea what to expect and was mentally prepping for a very nice rejection.

When she offered representation, I nearly dropped the phone.

She asked when I thought I’d be done with the book. It was now the end of October and I was maybe a quarter of the way done. I naively committed to the end of January, completely forgetting about the holidays.

I work better under deadline, and I really enjoyed what I was writing, so I came in just under the wire, but it required quite a few long days. Polaris Rising was born.

Sarah and I went through several rounds of revision and polishing, then sent the book out to editors at the end of April. Within a week, I had two offers from major publishers, which completely blew me away. I talked to both editors then had to make an incredibly difficult decision.

In the end, I went with Harper Voyager and could not be more excited! Polaris Rising is on their publishing calendar for early 2019. It is a dream come true!

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