Hey look, a post!
Apparently one of my plugins was actually hiding all of my posts except the top one, but only if you weren’t logged in. So of course because I was logged in, I didn’t notice. Anywho, I have fixed that problem, and I’ve also gotten the audio player back up and running, so music should work now. Troubleshooting is a laborious process, involving a lot of logging in, turning features on and off, logging out, refreshing the page, checking the page, logging back in, and well, you get the idea. I posted two new posts since the Great Fatal Error and Two Week Shutdown, but because of the above problem, I don’t know if anyone has actually seen them. Was kind of wondering why they never showed up on Facebook.
The continuation of the second book in the Shades trilogy is going well. I’ve had a lot of fun incorporating snippets and elements from the first draft into unexpected places in this draft. My favorite this week is when Raphel actually takes over Naeth’s body for about three seconds, long enough to scare the crap out of Othau. How and why, you ask? The visual was taken from a scene in the first draft where Othau is taunting Saeli and Mora, saying he isn’t afraid of “their leader”, when Raphel appears in a doorway looking all awesome and scary and says something appropriately badass like “You should be afraid of me”.
In the current scene, Saeli and Mora are still trapped in a cave with Othau and his gang (see the post I wrote about that). Naeth has just showed himself, and is using Mora’s suras bond with Raphel to allow the two of them to communicate (as though they had a sorarc). They are interrupted by Othau, things escalate to a point where Othau grabs Mora’s arm…and we discover that apparently Raphel was still “on the other end of the line”, listening through Naeth’s connection. Raphel uses an intuitive combination of spirit walking, qi, and Mora’s suras bond and transfers his consciousness into Naeth long enough to possess the god’s body and knock Othau away. Then Naeth bucks him out. On the surface, after everything calms down and they make it to Caosgi, everyone kind of writes off the incident. Although Saeli and Naeth will both wonder how the hell Raphel did that, and will worry about what it means. And they are right to worry.
It’s really a very small incident, one of those things that happens in the thick of a fight that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense but nobody really pays attention to because zOMGpeoplearetryingtokillmerightnow. The “how the hell”s come later, when everyone’s had time to sit down and think.
I did this primarily to foreshadow the end of Book 2. It gives Raphel a small taste of what it’s like to have an immortal’s power, and provides the motivation for his major turning point. It will tweak the nature of the quest from “I want to destroy the gods” to “I want to destroy the gods myself, and take their place”. Raphel is no longer content to simply let the Keeper take out the gods of Verre; he starts fantasizing what it would be like to take that revenge himself. It won’t be until they get to Caosgi and learn about how newborn immortals are made that Raphel begins to contemplate possessing one permanently, and the incident with Naeth gives him a very good reason to start thinking this way: “I did it once, which means I can do it again…and if I do it with a newborn, he or she won’t be able to kick me out like Naeth did.”
And it gives Naeth a very, very good reason to never trust Raphel again. He probably won’t ever confess it, but that incident will have scared the crap out of him. Just as Raphel got his split-second of immortal power, Naeth got a split-second flash of who Raphel really is on the inside. The god will probably very quickly guess Raphel’s intentions on Caosgi, and will step up his efforts to turn Saeli against Raphel.
So as you can see, my writing has been going pretty well. Which is good, because little ELSE about this process is right now. Still agent hunting, and I’m getting kind of discouraged. Aside from that first nibble right at the beginning of the hunt, I’ve gotten nothing but silence and form rejection letters. I’ve revised the query letter once, and now it looks like I’m going to have to revise it again. I’ve read that if you aren’t getting at least like 4 out of 10 requests for partials or fulls, then there’s something wrong with the letter. But I’m also a a point where I honestly do not know how to make my query any better.
It occurred to me that part of the problem may lie not in the story itself, or the query letter, but in the genre, of all things. High fantasy for YA is not “in” right now, if the shelves at Books-a-million are any indication, and it may be only wishful thinking on my part that I think it’s making a comeback. It may be that a lot of these agents I’m querying actually like my story, but they just don’t think they can sell it right now. They might love it, but if they can’t sell it, they aren’t going to take it on.
Unfortunately there isn’t much I can do about that. I can’t make Shades NOT be high fantasy without fundamentally rebulding the whole thing from the ground up. I do have a couple of other options.
I can start hawking the story as a crossover to agents that represent adult fantasy. I may have to do that anyway, as my list of agents to query grows thinner.
And/or I can revise the query letter to contain specific selling points. I’d been dedicating most of the letter to the story hook, as I felt that was Shades’ strongest suit: yeah, it’s YA and yeah, it’s fantasy, but the point is that it’s a good story. But maybe I need to spell out why I think people will like Shades despite the fact that YA high fantasy is not the “in” thing right now.
1: The fantasy elements read more like an adult fantasy. There’s a reason teenagers who read fantasy and sci-fi tend to read ADULT fantasy and sci-fi…there isn’t much of the YA variety, and the YA variety tends to be less epic, less comprehensive, less grandiose. The voice and tone are different. It’s a difficult nuance to describe in words, but as a child who grew up on adult fantasy and now reads YA, I’m telling you, it’s there. Shades will appeal to teenagers like I used to be.
2: The voice, the pacing, the environments…these are all pure YA. Young adult is quicker, more immediate. Sharper. Pain and heartbreak are tasted and smelled and felt with all their sharp edges, but not really understood. Plenty of adult fantasies star teenaged characters, but those characters tend to be, due to circumstances, practically adults in all but age. Or, if they are children, they are handled in such a way that it becomes obvious that it is nevertheless an adult who is telling the story. It blunts the immediacy, in a sense. Adults just don’t handle problems the same way teenagers do. In contrast Saeli, despite being 19, is still an adolescent. A combination of upbringing and isolation from the larger world have shaped her in such a way that she still thinks and feels and deals with things like a teenager. Her life essentially revolves around school and studying until the cute bad boy intrudes on her life. That’s a pretty typical YA plotline because it’s something your typical high schooler will relate to.
Shades will sell to teenagers who grew up on Anne McCaffry and the Wheel of Time, and are now devouring Westerfeld and Holly Black and Melissa Marr.
Now I just have to figure out how to describe all that in a sentence or two. 😛