Words for Writers

Unboxing – The Black Tears of the Serpent

Back when I was a baby writer, I was researching how to protect your work. One of the methods that was suggested to me was mailing your manuscript to yourself in a sealed box via registered mail, and then not opening the box. That way, if someone accused you of fraud or plagiarism, all you had to do was open the box in court, and prove that you had written the manuscript before the date on the registered mail label.

Of course, this is one way to do it, but I’ve since learned that keeping digital drafts with the proper time stamps on them is just as good and takes up less shelf space.

In cleaning out a closet today, I found the one and only manuscript I ever printed out and mailed to myself for safe-keeping. It was mailed December 4th 2006 from Hakata city, Fukuoka-ken, Kyushu, Japan, where I was stationed as an English teacher for a time. I mailed it back to Canada, where my parents put it in the closet with my stuff, and was forgotten about.

  

Today, I unboxed it, because I was curious, and because there is no real reason to keep the book sealed any more. After all, I’ve already self-published a version of it on Wattpad under the new (and way less emo) title DSRT as Peggy Barnett, and I still have all of my digital drafts (and a double-sided spiral-bound version with editing marks all over it).

As a baby writer, I imagined a whole closet filled with these brown cardboard packages (instead all my working manuscripts are in a filing cabinet, spiral-bound and double sided, and covered with red pen correction marks). It’s a good thing I didn’t do more, because it looks like I paid an arm and a leg to send it to myself from overseas!

This monster is 588 pages, and if I remember correctly, around 300,000 words long. It’s just under 2 1/4 inches thick, single spaced, single sided, and written in Times New Roman 12pt font and tied together with a shoelace. I wrote it between 2002-2007 (the unboxed version didn’t end up being the final draft), and it was the first novel-length work that I had completed that was not fanfiction.

 

I never shopped this book. At first, it was because I realized it was too long, and that no agent/publisher would take it. I thought I could save it for a second or third book, and offer it to publishers/agents after I had established myself with a debut. After actually writing/editing a second novel in 2007-2009 and publishing said debut book in 2011, however, I realised that my book was too long, too derivative, and a little too… “first book” to shop. Even though I did actually build a pitch package for it.  I never seriously offered it to my first agent, and I’ve never actually mentioned it to my current agent, I believe.

However, for the fun of it I posted it to Wattpad in it’s entirety last year.  Wattpad is the perfect platform for serialization. For meandering but engaging stories. For strange tales, and a young woman’s fantasies made realized, and for the pure imagination of an author’s first fumbling attempt at a book. For something that doesn’t quite fit traditional publishing’s frame of what a good horror-fantasy-historical book ought to be. For something that wasn’t perhaps polished enough for my primary pen name, but something that I had loved intensely for a very long time, and still wanted to share.

Unboxing this book today has been very emotional, and filled me with fond, golden memories of the places and times I wrote this book – in my dorm the first time I had moved away from home; in my room in a shared house with three other girls, where my friends had to sometimes bodily lift me away from my computer so I would go out and have fun with them; in the “fishbowl” computer lab at Brock University; in my shared apartment with my good friend (who later became the famous Eyeless Max); on the plane on my way to Japan; at my desk in the staff office of Kasuga High School; sitting on the tatami floor in my apartment in Tofuro-minami; and with my Writer’s Circle in Fukuoka.

It reminded me of the dreams I had about publishing a historical gothic romance series, about being the next Anne Rice and J.R.R. Tolkien and Diana Gabaldon. It reminded me about how hard I worked on this, writing and rewriting, tweaking. About all the friends I spoke to about it, all the friends I made over it (*coughRuthanneReidcough*), all the doodles and illustrations I made and commissioned for it.

It reminded me of where this all began, my first keen inkling to be a real writer, to be published and read all over the world. And it helped me be grateful and thoughtful about where I am now, showed me how far I’ve come and how much blood, sweat, and tears I’ve poured onto pages.

What a lovely thing to do on the close of 2016. Nearly ten years ago to this day, I mailed this emotional time-capsule to myself.

And I’m so glad that I did.

JM FreyUnboxing – The Black Tears of the Serpent
Read more

TRIPTYCH – Hiatus

triptychcoverwattpad

Hey, everyone! So, if you’ve been paying attention to my Books Page, you’ll have noticed that the cover and the purchasing links for my award-winning 2011 science fiction novel TRIPTYCH have vanished. Slowly, over the next few weeks, TRIPTYCH will also be de-listed on sales sites like Amazon, etc. though I do hope that the GoodReads page for the book will remain intact.

Why is TRIPTYCH vanishing?

Well, for a number of reasons that basically boil down to: I didn’t like how the book was being handled. The publisher with which I published the book and I have never agreed on the marketing, the direction, and on important aspects like the cover, and how the book was being described and promoted.

Let me make it clear that publishing with them originally was a delightful experience. I adored working with Gabrielle Harbowy, the editor, and have sought her out for other projects since, will continue to recommend her, and will continue to say yes to anything she invites me to submit to.

The publisher Gwen Gaddes is also a good woman. But our visions and views don’t match at all, and after several years of trying to convince her to change the cover and marketing direction for TRIPTYCH, it was decided that it would be best for all involved if we simply parted ways.

I thank DMP, Gwen, and Gabrielle for offering me my first publishing contract and being there with me for my debut novel, and the rollercoaster of all the award ceremonies, incredibly bogglingly stellar reviews and accolades, as well as the epic flaming troll reviews.

But it’s time to for TRIPTYCH to get a fresh start elsewhere.

Stay tuned for news on where and when the novel will be available again.

JM FreyTRIPTYCH – Hiatus
Read more

Words for Writers: Why Is Fandom Important?

In honour of INTERNATIONAL FANWORKS DAY, I am reposting my article on why I love fandom!

This was originally posted at RuthanneReid.com, now AmongTheMythos.com.

Photo by Francis Baker

Photo by Francis Baker

Authors need fans, right? Sure we do – we need people who like our books, our writing, who recommend them to other people, who spread buzz and vote for them, who defend them and squee over them, who recommend them to their librarian and give them as gifts. We need fans, at the most basic, to buy and read our books or we couldn’t afford (financially or emotionally) to write more.

But what about fans? I’m talking the come-to-every-event-you-do, attend-every-signing, write-fanfic, build cosplay, analyze-the-crap-out-of-your-work kind of fans. Do we need those?

Yes. YES WE DO.

And I love you, too. I love you guys a lot.

Let me tell you why I love you – and why many authors love you too.

I was Once One Of You

  • I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Fanfiction was my novelling training wheels.
  • You encourage new creatives to take chances with their work, to stretch and grow, to learn, to explore. More than that, you encourage us toshare, which is sometimes the hardest part of writing a novel or making a piece of art.
  • You teach writers how to take praise, how to take critique, how to edit and how to build character and worlds and narratives every time you leave feedback.
  • You provide a safe community in which to explore creativity.

…And I Still Am.

  • I read fanfic constantly. I call it my “comfort food” because I already know I love the worlds I’m about to spend time in, already know I love the characters. It’s a safe, wonderful, happy, glowy kind of coming home but I get a brand new story/idea/AU/world.
  • I still cosplay, when I can get away with being a professional guest in costume at Cons.
  • I still roam Artists’ Alley and drool and buy way too many prints and bookmarks and buttons and cool things, because they are innovative, and beautiful, and fun, and for just a moment creates a thread of mutual understanding, respect, love of the media text, and a tingle of creativity passes between me and the artist/vendor.
  • I still think like a fan – every story I create I approach with a fanficcer’s mindset: “How can I tell this from a new angle? How can I use the traditions, the clichés, the assumptions to push against the envelope of the narrative? Whose voices are missing and how can I give them the center?”

I Have Met Some Of My Best Friends Through Fandom

  • One of my best writing friends was my fanfic crossover co-author, and I’ve to date never met her in person, but I’ve known her for about 15 years. We have cheered on each other’s pro careers, edited each other’s books, and supported one another for literally half of my life.
  • Some of my very good friends IRL I met while at Cons and while cosplaying.
  • I met pretty much every other pro writer friend I have at conventions
  • I sold my first novel at a convention.
  • I made very good friends at university by introducing people I liked to cosplay and fanfiction and working with them on fics, art, and costumes; then I dragged them to cons where some of them are now professional creative, too.

You Are Unabashedly Passionate

  • You have the guts to wear the proof of your passion on your person: to cosplay, to wear tee-shirts, to attend cons, to get tattoos, to style your hair or your wardrobe as a tribute to your favorite characters.
  • You spend hours, years, and sometimes a significant amount of money creating things based on other creatives’ works
  • Really, Simon Pegg might have said it best.

You Are Smart As Heck

  • You build communities like those Archive of Our Own andFanfiction.net, Tumblr and Deviant Art.
  • You do good deeds in the name of the writers, actors, and shows that you love –David Hewlett’s Squirrel Army all donating to Medicines Sans Frontiers for his birthday, or the charitable deeds of the Browncoats, for instance
  • You parlay your love into degrees, courses, conferences, academic readers, and text books
  • You call out work that is problematic and encourage creators to grow, to learn, to take an interest, to get better.
  • You find things in my work that I might not have realized I put there and you play with them. It’s incredible.

You Are the #1 Best Form of Advertising

  • The best kind of advertising in the world is a friend or family member or teacher or librarian handing you a book and saying: Read this. Trust me.
  • Crossover fanfiction is what got me into like, 90% of my fandoms.
  • You tell the book stores about me, and demand that I be kept on the shelves.

You Are Hella Supportive

  • You buy everything I write.
  • You come to every signing, every reading, every pubnite.
  • You come talk to me and tell me what you loved (and didn’t love).
  • You ask questions. You force me to ask questions of myself.
  • You ask me to come be a guest, a guest of honour, a judge, a participant, a contestant, and interviewee, a guest star, etc.
  • You invite me to submit to newsletters, journals, magazines, anthologies, and blogs.
  • You interact with me on social media.

And You Are Vocal About It, Too

  • Fans send letters to magazines, to film executives, to bands, to playwrights, to graphic novel creators, to other creative and say Have you Read this? You should totally do something with this. You make other people pay attention to me and my work and you help forge connections.
  • You tell people on Facebook, on Twitter, on Tumblr, on Pinterest,everywhere what you love and why you love it.

You Keep Me Accountable

  • You make me think of things that I might have missed, critique what I’ve published in ways that helps me be more thoughtful and more compassionate with the next book and characters, and you point out flaws that I didn’t see before, and never know I had.
  • You ask me when my next book will come out, remind me that there are stories that I promised, and help me stay on track if I start playing around on social media too much.

You Keep my Worlds and My Characters Alive

  • You write fanfiction, fancomics, build cosplays, and make fanart and fanvids that breathe new and continued life into my work.
  • You write the scenes and/or plug the gaps that I had to leave off screen for logistics or narrative reasons (and usually with way more imagination that I would have!)
  • You psychoanalyze my work and find things in it that I hadn’t realized I put there. You make the characters realer, their reactions more human, and you teach me, in breaking apart my work like this, to do it for myself and to really craft my characters with the same care you take in studying them.
  • More importantly, when I hand in my novels for the last time for publishing, the world becomes closed to me. I can’t change anything, play with anything, push and pull and turn it on its head and play with dynamics. But you can and you do.
  • I love AUs. I LOVE AUs. I LOVE IT WHEN YOU TAKE MY WORLD AND REMAKE IT. LOVE IT.

You Tell Me How Much My Hard Work is Appreciated and Loved

  • You leave reviews on Amazon and Goodreads that make my heart soar. Or make me think critically about the choices I made and consider how to do better next time.
  • You post your art or pics of your cosplays online and make sure I know how hard you worked on them. (And I know, oh, I know.)

And most importantly:

You Engage in A Dialogue With Me About My Work

  • Every fanwork you put up is your response to something that I said or did in my book. I have offered the opening and this is your reply. And the conversation is marvelous.

To close, a lovely quote on fanworks by Ruthanne Reid:

“When you create a new world, a new story, it’s like you’ve just built a brand-new playground. Other kids love it so much that they CHOOSE to come and play in that one with you. When you lock them out of fandom, you’re sitting in it all by yourself, wondering why the other kids don’t want to sit outside in the grass and watch you play.”

*

For more posts on the business and craft of writing, search my Words for Writers tag.

JM FreyWords for Writers: Why Is Fandom Important?
Read more