The Untold Tale
Master Forsyth Turn isn’t a hero. He’s never wanted to be one, either; not since his older brother Kintyre found the Foesmiter and waltzed away from his family, his estate, and his responsibilities to become one – and dumped all of his responsibilities on Forsyth. Good thing Forsyth likes bookkeeping and accounts, and all the other minutia of managing a fertile Chipping.
And then, one day, the king’s spies bring an injured woman to Turn Hall for protection. A bafflingly blunt woman, oddly named and even more oddly mannered, Lucy Piper claims to know things about Kintyre and Forsyth’s lives that she can’t possibly be privy to. She crashes into Forsyth’s quaintly sedentary life like an errant comet and before he knows it she has him convinced that he is the only man who can join her on her quest to find a magical gateway back to her far-away home. She drags Forsyth into the kind of adventure that only his brother could have imagined.
Even more baffling still is that Lucy Piper seems to be falling in love with him. Forsyth Turn has spent his whole life knowing he was only second best… so how is it that he seems to be her first choice?
But the Viceroy, Kintyre’s arch-nemesis, is after Lucy Piper and her magical gateway as well. More than that, the Viceroy is desperate to learn the last and only secret that Forsyth cannot seem to pry from Lucy Piper; a truth that threatens the stability of the whole Kingdom… perhaps even their whole world.
Lucy Piper might be able to convince Forsyth that he can be a hero, and that he might be worth loving, but is it really his fate to defeat the one villain that even the great Kintyre Turn has never managed to best?
First off, I want to confess that I sort of worried that I would never get to write another one of these sorts of announcements blog posts, and I have to say that it is an enormous relief to be able to do so. The Untold Tale is the fifth novel I ever wrote, the third since Triptych, and the first book that I wrote specifically for Laurie McLean, my agent at Fuse Literary, Inc. When I first came on board, I wanted to offer her something new, something no one else had touched.
I love The Untold Tale desperately – in the way that all authors love their novels and all parents love their children – but it was the first time I had really stretched my wings as an acafan writer. I’d made references to critical theory concepts in my other books, but this was really the first book where I said: “No, I want to write a story that makes a point.” I was worried, at first, that the themes would overwhelm the plot and the characters, but the great part was that these people were already so vibrant that the fear vanished almost as soon as I started writing. They wouldn’t let the message drown the story they were telling me.
You know the story that J.K. Rowling tells about how Harry Potter just wandered into her head one day, fully formed and ready to tell his story?
Well, that’s what Forsyth Turn did to me.
I have never, in my life, loved a character the way I love Forsyth simply because he was a whole and complete person from the moment he arrived. He tapped at the door and said, “Oh, hello. Yes, excuse me. Um, but, I have a rather important tale that I’d like to share with you. Nobody listens to me really, you see. I’m the overlooked one. But you seem kind. Shall I tell it to you? Also, may I pour you a wine while you listen? Excellent. Do get comfortable. Oh, shall I stoke the fire? Excellent. Well then. Let’s begin…”
Luckily, everyone who has read the book also seems to quite love Forsyth as well, and has enjoyed watching him stretch, and grow, and learn over the course of the book. Forsyth and I grew together – both of us uncertain and feeling shy, but as the novel progressed and his confidence began to rise, so did mine.
I will never forget how nervous I was in turning The Untold Tales to Laurie. She’d read Triptych, of course, and another book called The Skylark’s Song (which is still looking for a home), but this was the first book I’d written with Laurie as my agent.
The worst part of being a writer is waiting for someone to read something of yours. There’s just this…. this silence. And you have no idea what it means.
I was terrified that Laurie hated it. My beta readers loved it, but they were my friends. My mother loved it, but she’s my mother. What if my agent hated it and was trying to figure out how to say so? That if the silence was her trying to formulate a rejection.
And then, I got this:
Just finished the first chapter of [The Untold Tale]. It is simply great. Wonderful world building. Great action and dramatic tension. Love the characters. You write great first chapters. Now on to more! 🙂
And then, when she was finished, this:
I. Loved. That. Story!
This is the one we should go out with for many reasons. This one (it begs for a title…!) is fresh, unpredictable, well-written, funny, exciting, wonderful. I would like this one to be the one I pitch first if you agree. Wowza. I’m energized!!!
Oh, so glad I can now go to sleep and dream about these characters. I’m in love with the [Forsyth] myself!
She loved my book. Oh my god, my new agent loved my brand new book!!
After that, I did Laurie’s edits – about 5 notes, if I recall – and most of them very easy fixes, and then the book was in her hands and off out into the world.
I solicited author authors to read it and give advanced blurbs to help frame the novel for publishers (thank you, Ed Greenwood, Julie Czerneda, Leah Petersen, and Violette Malan!), and had a fantastic letter from Liana K. which she then turned into a fantastic video review which I will share after the book is out as it is quite spoilerific.
We got lots of rejections, but they were all fantastic rejections. They were complimentary, thoughtful, kind, and many of them carried praise for some aspect of the book. Every rejection heartened me rather than made me disappointed, because each and every rejection said: “Damn, this is a good book. Damn, J.M. Frey can write. And damnit, we just can’t take it.”
Because the book defied genre. The book is about books, and about writing, and is sort of like Game of Thrones meets Inception, with all the self awareness of Xena: Warrior Princess but the gravitas of Lord of the Rings. And you know what, that’s a darn hard book to market; I’m not going to lie.
Laurie and I kept our hopes up, and loved the book intensely. She shopped. I started making plans about what I’d do if we decided to stop shopping. I started researching cover artists that I would want to hire, talked to friends about interior design, wondered which self pub service to use – because I was not going to let Forsyth’s story remain Untold.
Then Laurie went to speak at an event in Seattle in November of 2014.
This is the email I got following that event:
I also wanted to tell you that I was talking about you in my keynote in Seattle last week…about you being a fabulous hybrid author who is really pushing boundaries with adult picture books, Kickstarter crowdfunding, small press, self-pub, etc. I was bemoaning the fact that NY was missing the boat on your fantasy as being too “meta” , and how I just love the story. Then I finished by stating, “But it only takes one editor, the right editor, to see what I see in JM’s writing, for a deal to happen.”
Guess what. I went to grab a cup of tea after the keynote and this woman pressed a card into my hand and said, “I know exactly what you’re talking about. I’m a publisher and I love meta fantasy. Can you send me the manuscript?” I just about spit out my tea!!!
[…] I met one of their editors and she was tugging on the publisher’s sleeve saying, “Please let me edit this. Please. Please.”
Well, I just about spit out my tea, too!
That was, of course, Reuts.
My friend Adrienne Kress was over for our normal writing day when this email arrived, and we spent the evening stalking their online footprint. We came to the conclusion that Reuts would be an absolutely perfect home for Forsyth, and then I got nervous. Because what if they didn’t want it?
I took December to clean up the book a bit more, and then it was off to Reuts.
January I spent writing a new novel to distract myself, and Laurie reached out to the other publisher’s still considering the book, and Reuts read. And loved it. Loved it. They made an offer.
I made little squeaking noises. I was sitting at the kitchen table at my parent’s place, having come home for a family event. The snow was so high that the windows in the basement were totally blocked, so I was upstairs were there was sunlight. Dad was downstairs watching hockey (I’m Canadian, eh,) and Mom was puttering and at the squeak she came over to see what was up.
I pointed at the screen, and wrapped my arms around Mom’s waist and buried my face in her tummy, and laughed so hard I started crying when she read it out loud. She called my father upstairs, told him the news, and then I sat back, grinning like a fool and wiping my eyes and said, “Do you have wine in the house? Open it! Let’s celebrate!”
That evening I called a few of my friends to let them know – mostly the people who had been the most helpful when I was working on the novel . I texted to my best friend, way later in the night, when I was too excited to sleep: “Everyone in the world will get to meet Forsyth. They’ll get to love him, the way I do. I get to share him, now.”
Laurie and I scheduled a phone call, discussed the contract the Reuts had sent along and then, almost playfully Laurie said: “And what will you say if they ask for more books? Do you have any ideas for a sequel?”
Well, I told her, I had some vague ideas, but I hadn’t really seriously discussed or considered it. Laurie told me to get serious.
Two days later I’d had a brainstorming session with Adrienne, (and my debut novel as Peggy Barnett had been released), and I had two pitches and three page synopsises for two more books. Though, I’m still looking for a really inspired series title.
Laurie read them, and while she and Reuts were discussing the contracts, Kisa (my editor! My editor!) sent me the most glowing, gorgeous, excited editing letter I’ve ever seen in my life. I want to print it out and frame it. It’s so sweet, and so effervescent. (And better than that, there’s like… only three changes and they are easy changes that I am happy to make. One even addresses the exact frustrations I’ve been havening with Sodding Chapter Eleven. It has been “Sodding Chapter Eleven” since I wrote Sodding Chapter Eleven, so I’m very happy to have notes about it.)
I have written a book about magic, and power, and wishes, and somehow that must have influenced the book itself, some of the glimmer and the glitter must have leaked out of the manuscript and into the pages themselves because before I could blink, I was suddenly being offered a three book deal.
Contracts were finalized, signed, scanned and sent, and now, here we are! Announcement day!
Laurie, and her colleague Gordon, have done an amazing job promoting the announcement, and I am stunned and overjoyed by Reuts’ response. By everyone’s! Thank you!
And better than all of that, I get to spend more time with Forsyth Turn. More fireside chats, more cups of wine, more wind-blown adventures and cheeky nods to the great classic fantasy books and writers that came before me.
I get more books. I get more time.
And more than all of that, I get to share it all with you.
I can’t wait.
To celebrate the release of The Untold Tale, Short Fuse has a contest going on their blog. Check it out, and win a free short story from me!
Also, read my Ten Teasing Facts about The Untold Tale.
And you can now add The Untold Tale to your “Want To Read” shelf at Goodreads!