Tagphoenix

A farewell to Phoenix

phoenix-200

Remember this cover? I love it. I actually love it so much that even though my original idea was something grittier–an old gull feather, gap-toothed and roughened, turning to flame–and even though the font suggested something other than a story about three kids living oh-so-briefly on the street together, I gave an enthusiastic yes as soon as I saw it. I have it framed and hanging over my desk, courtesy of my brother.

Phoenix was an experiment of a story. It was also an experiment in publishing for me. The number of markets for novelettes is…small. I tried Giganotosaurus and got a nice rejection with a try again note. (I did, because that was the year of two novelettes. Luckily The King’s Huntsman found a home there a few months later.) I sat around for a while, wondering what to do with it. Well, to be honest, it was less thinking and more putting it in the file of things that I don’t what to do with, because that’s how it goes sometimes.

I considered self-publishing it. (That’s where my cover idea came in.) I read up on it. I talked it over with Dear Spouse. I thought about it more. In my heart, I knew the answer. I was chicken. At that moment, it was easier to think about burying the story than it was to think about putting it into the world on my own.

Then Musa came along. It was new, it was e-book only, it was open to all sorts of stories, at all sorts of lengths. Their contract was available to read online, and it was easy to understand, and they provided covers and formatting and editing and split story profits 50/50. Given my status as chicken, and my dearth of options, I decided to submit it there.

I never thought of it as a young adult story, but it ended up in the hands of the YA editor at that time, and she provided me with a very persuasive argument for why it was. She agreed to a few amendments to the contract, I signed it, and Phoenix was birthed as an e-book. A very short one.

It’s a gamble working with brand new publishers. Don’t ever assume it isn’t. I submitted Phoenix because it was a novelette, the equivalent of a few days work for me. I signed the contract because I asked them to remove the clause that gave them right of first refusal on any related stories. See, Phoenix is kin to Wren and The Lost. Secret kin, kind of like the royal child raised far from the castle to avoid the violent intrigue within. I was happy to gamble with a novelette, but not with one of my novels.

The contract was for three years, and would have ended this May. Things have sped up. Musa closes on February 28. It happens, to many many presses of all kinds. When I signed my contract, I did so knowing that the odds were against them.

The odds were against Phoenix too. My sales goals were low. I was pleased to exceed them. I had a very small, very manageable experience of marketing an e-book. I learned a little about how to do that while working with my personality, which is not of the “BUY NOW, BUY BUY BUY” variety. I had an e-book with a beautiful design, and it taught me gratitude to the people who think about how a story is presented, who make an art of it.

It’s been good. And now it’s just about over. Phoenix is still available through all the various online vendors through the 28th. It’s on sale at Musa, 80% off, which I think brings it down to $0.40? After Saturday, the rights return to me. The cover returns to pixels. The story settles back into my files, resting among its Aware brethren. I don’t think it will stay there forever, but it will for now. I hope to someday have an Aware story collection, and Phoenix would certainly be part of it.

But for now, a pause. A passing.

Remember: The thing about stories is that they’ve got to have hope.

Links and lurkers and Phoenix

As threatened, the link for the LASR poll for Best Book of 2012 is here. I have one request of anyone who may be tempted to vote for Phoenix: please only do so if you’ve read and enjoyed it. I say this not to force people to read Phoenix, but to satisfy my sense of fair play.

I promised more details about Phoenix, including embarrassing ones. First, I have to satisfy my own curiosity. The thing about WordPress, for those of you who don’t blog, is that you’re provided a limited amount of statistics about your readers. You don’t know, for example, the specific area a visit might originate from, but you do know the country. Some search terms show up, so when people google “driftwood clocks” and find their way here, I can see that.

Because I’m more curious than a box of toddlers, I can’t help but notice the stats trends. When all of a sudden there are many more people stopping by after googling “She Walked Out The Door,” it makes the back of my brain itch. Why the sudden interest?

One possibility is that the searching parties have been assigned the story for their high school English class (online syllabi–they’re easy to find). If that’s the case, if you’re a high school student who’s had to read “She Walked Out The Door” as a case study in POV, please say hi. In the comments, in an email, via a balloonogram…I welcome most forms of communication. In exchange, I promise to give you the five cent tour on how the story got written, and share the truth about exactly how much thought goes into some story details.

Okay, on to Phoenix, Truth or Dare version.

I used to read a lot of Stephen King when I was young. Salem’s Lot freaked me out. It just bothered me. Cujo…not totally sure why I read it, but I remember it was while flying from Massachusetts to California when I was twelve. The Stand, ah, I read that repeatedly, at least yearly, whenever I got a bad cold. (If that didn’t do the trick, I’d watch a double feature of Alien and The Thing, but that’s getting a little far afield.)

All of the other things I’ve said about Phoenix are also true, but the embarrassing thing is that I wrote the first draft as an experiment in writing like Stephen King. Yes, it’s fair to say I missed my target. By miles.

It’s okay. I prefer Phoenix the way it is, and part of the fun of writing is trying on ten thousand hats, hopefully not all at once, and discovering which ones suit your face and which ones make you look like a giant fungus.

So, that’s what Phoenix is not. I’m not totally sure what it is. The simple answer is that it’s a story about three kids, runaways, who end up living together in an abandoned factory for a brief period before violence drives them away on their separate journeys. It’s told by Tucker, now a middle-aged man who devotes part of his life to doing what he can for kids in trouble.

There’s some ambiguity about what happens, which I like. I know the correct answer is that I plotted everything out, and that I know the truth about Tucker, Gabriel, and Kelsey. I think Tucker’s story is pretty well laid out, and Gabriel’s is a long involved one that I hope will make it to publication some day.

And Kelsey? That’s the question, isn’t it? I have my own answers about her, but I think I can’t share them. It doesn’t seem fair to me to leave things open to a reader’s imagination, and then impose my answers afterward. If you really want to know what I think, you have to tell me what you think first.

I’ll be doing another post about Phoenix for the Euterpe blog later in February. I’ll add a link once it’s up.

In which I use the word review a lot

I woke up this morning to a warm rainy day. I’ll be going to bed to a wintery cold one. Thank goodness we have the flu in my house and I have feverish children to snuggle.

Okay, maybe I’m not really thankful about that, but I gave it the old college try.

So, remember Phoenix? Last year it received a very kind review from Long and Short Reviews (LASR), in which the reviewer gave it a “Best Book” rating. On Monday I was notified that LASR will be conducting an online poll during the first two weeks of February to determine the Best Book of 2012, using a list of books that have received the “Best Book” rating.

What does this mean? Well, if your great love is voting in online polls AND you’ve read and enjoyed Phoenix (or any other book on the list), it means that starting tomorrow you can vote. Yay, right? February suddenly looks a little brighter, doesn’t it?

I’ll be back tomorrow with a link. Also, maybe some other facts about Phoenix, maybe even an embarrassing one, just to make up for the link. It appears that I will not be posting my my first writer interview this week, due to indulging in non-interview related conversation instead, but I have high hopes for next week.

Actually, let’s call it plans instead of hopes. That makes it sound so much more organized.

Nominated BoY 2012 Phoenix

Tidbits rides again!

I woke up this morning to very excited children taking a picture of a garter snake resting in the top of the flowers just outside the bedroom window. I’ve seen snakes in plants before, but never just snoozing there. As soon as the sunlight hit the area, the snake was off on its snake business.

For those of you who enjoy reading reviews, a new one of Phoenix can be found here. I’m continually amazed by book bloggers. The thought of reading and reviewing multiple books a week exhausts me. I tip my hat to them.

Speaking of book bloggers, Mera’s YA Book List is hosting the Euterpe authors this week. There are daily blog posts and author/character interviews, as well as chances to win Euterpe books. I encourage everyone to drop by and check it out.

The junkyard

I explained here how Phoenix started out as another story, one with Gabriel as the focus. In it, he meets up with a girl, Neely, also living on the streets. It’s a very different story, serving a specific purpose. It explains how Gabriel connects with the characters of my novels, and while I think there’s value to the original story, it clearly doesn’t work as a standalone piece.

I looked it over today. I have a file labeled debris and I keep all my stories that don’t go anywhere there. It’s kind of like having a junkyard. Every now and then I go and pick through the pieces and see what I can use elsewhere. Or I look at the evolution of an idea that eventually made it out of debris and into something functional.

Anyway, this is what I found today: We just kind of hung out the next day. Not really doing much. We went out in the morning and he bought us some muffins. Muffins? We weren’t really the Sunday paper and coffee folks, but it sure felt like it that morning. We sat out on a park bench for a while and tossed crumbs at the pigeons, not really talking much, just being there. Some of the other kids were out and around, mostly looking groggy and strung out in the daylight. I was pretty aware of being with Gabriel, of having spent the night with him. It made me feel like I was something more than I had been yesterday, even if it was just that I wasn’t alone.

If you’ve read Phoenix, you’ll note my fascination with park benches and muffins. I rarely sit on park benches, and I rarely eat muffins, and I’m almost never in cities, and yet, of all the images to make the leap from junkyard to Phoenix, it was these.

Impromptu Contest Day

It’s Friday, and it’s blessedly gray and rainy, and I am, without a doubt, the tiredest person on Earth. It’s a wonder that I’m even typing words at this point. (I am, right?)

It’s been a week of lots of good things for me. I’d like to hear about good things for other people now. Yes, it’s 1:40 on a Friday afternoon and I’m asking you to tell me your good news. Writing news is good. Rain on parched earth news is good. Getting eight consecutive hours of sleep news is awesome. Tell me what’s made your world a little brighter this week.

As an added bonus, let’s throw Phoenix in the mix. If you share good news and also want a copy of Phoenix, say so. If there’s more than one request, we’ll have one of our fabulous kid-run drawings and someone will win.

Comments are absolutely open. I’ll leave them that way until tomorrow evening.

Tidbits

It was a lovely surprise to discover a new review of Phoenix this morning. If you’re so inclined, check out Long and Short Reviews.

I never posted that Specutopia is now available at the website, did I? It is, and that means that it’s available in PDF form, for those of you (like me) who don’t have e-readers. Also available at the website, Greg Mellor’s lovely story as a free read.

Specutopia is also offering a free copy of issue one to reviewers. Information can be found here.

Tell me something

There are only two rules about what you tell me: it has to be about writing, and it has to be happy. I’m in the mood for hearing other people’s good news. I know, I know, I never have the comments open so no one will know they can leave a comment, and chances are it will be silent as the grave around here.

But let’s not leave it silent. Let’s make it noisy with good things about writing, just for today. I’ll start.

1. Next week I have three uninterrupted days in which to finish all the projects I’ve been procrastinating on, and possibly get a few new pieces ready to go out.

2. I’ve been looking over my revisions of Wren and feeling kind of excited about getting it to a couple of readers.

3. New ideas! They have come to me!

4. M.E. Garber said nice things about Phoenix here. (I suppose I should point out that there are also reviews available at Amazon.)

Also, M.E. Garber is participating in the Clarion West Write-a-thon this year. Right now, as a matter of fact. Consider stopping by her blog and leaving her some encouragement. A-thons of all sorts are so much better when people cheer you along.

The absent writer

Have you ever read Breakfast at Tiffany’s? I would love to have a calling card that says: Jennifer Mason-Black, Traveling. However, it would not be useful to me, as I am never traveling.

Except now.

More precisely, I will be away in the woods in a tent, completely unplugged from the world, except when I check back with home periodically. When I am not hiking, or examining moon snails, or wandering much larger shores than I normally do, I will be rediscovering the thrill of writing in a notebook. By hand. With a pen. That is what one does when camping.

Were I the sort of person who thinks ahead, there might be blog posts to come while I am away. I am not that kind of person. This is not that kind of blog. This is the kind of blog that will be completely silent for days, at which point everyone will have given up all hope that there will ever be posts again.

But there will. I’ll be back with stories about camping. I promise.

In the meantime, a few notes. I’ve updated my list of forthcoming publications. There are a few new things. I apparently have something coming out every month between July and October, and likely two things one of those months. That is both exciting and odd.

Also, Phoenix is now available everywhere. By that, I mean also at Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Rainbow eBooks, along with Musa and Amazon. I think that’s the full list.

I should be back to posting around June 22. It will be summer here.

Until then, live boldly and dream of wild things.

And the winner is…

Hey! It makes it really hard to wait in line at the Registry when the Registry’s not in the place it’s supposed to be! Totally great that the nice man wearing this tee shirt was able to take my check eventually, but it would have been even more awesome had I been able to find his office where the website said it would be.

But that’s all water under the bridge. You don’t want to hear about that. You want to hear about winners. The answer? Everyone wins! That’s how I play this game. At least that’s how I play it when I have three awesome contestants. Mary and Julia, if you’d like a copy of Phoenix, please email me with your preference as to file type. I can send you either a PDF or something suitable for a Kindle or a Nook. Are there more types? I think they’re all available. Just let me know. My email is on the About Me page.

What about Nancy? Nancy is the sort of person who is unfailingly supportive. Nancy is the kind of woman who will listen to a garbled message on an answering machine and manage to pluck out the essential “please enter a contest on my blog so I’m not lonely” bit and go right out and do it. In short, Nancy is the kind of friend every writer needs.

So she doesn’t get a copy of Phoenix. Instead, she gets a hard copy of Wren, hopefully in another week or so. Prize or punishment? It remains to be seen.

Thanks for playing!

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