If you’re like me, you can’t wait for Worthy of Song and Story to be released. Since I feel your pain, I figure I’ll help you out by sharing the trailer. I hope you like it.
Looking back, it’s amazing how much Worthy of Song and Story changed. It started with a simple idea, a series of books about Norse mythology, but from a different view. Not one where Odin and Thor are the heroes, but one where the hero is someone unexpected, unknown – the hidden son of Loki. With that thought, Midgard was born (that was my working title).
My first draft came through at 30,000 words and like most first drafts, it needed a lot of work. You see, I’m a pantser, which means I don’t really outline before I start writing. I come up with an idea, a few characters, and maybe jot down a couple notes of the big things I want to happen. After that, I type and let the characters do their thing. Sometimes they do a great job and sometimes they don’t. When they don’t, it’s up to me to fix their mess.
So I revised, and revised, and revised.
After completing draft four, I figured I had a good enough story to let people actually see it. That’s right, before then, no one really sees my work. Once in a while I might let a person see a chapter or two, but that’s it.
Anyway, draft four came through at 34,000 words. A reasonable length for a middle grade novel, but on the short side for a middle grade fantasy. No reason to sweat it though, I was sending it off to a free lance editor and she would make everything perfect. I’d never used one before, but it was a darn good story and I really wanted to run with it. Besides, the editing process would be easy, right?
I received a lot of really good feedback from my editor, but her opinion that my manuscript was aimed for the lower end of the middle grade spectrum really struck me. I have nothing against that range, but that wasn’t where I pictured the book. Especially with the future installments bouncing around in my head.
After a substantial rewrite, and aging up the story, I sent it back to my editor. This time, the feedback came back more in line with what I hoped for initially. She liked the changes and thought it read more like an upper middle grade story. Hooray!
Time for one more round of edits and off to the query trenches, contests, and conferences with my now 47,000 word manuscript. I’m a strong believer that pitching a book takes timing. Not timing in how you say it, which it does, but timing on when you do it. The book needs to get to the right agent/publisher at the right time. Lucky for me, mine did. All I needed to do was sit back and wait for it to be published. After all, I wrote the perfect book.
To my surprise, there were a lot of changes. First, a title change from Midgard to Worthy of Song and Story. Then came the rounds of editing. When all was said and done, my 30,000 word story named Midgard matured to a 56,000 word, soon to be released novel, titled Worthy of Song and Story.
Me: I’m very excited to have Magni and Modi with me to talk about the upcoming novel Worthy of Song and Story.
Magni: Of course you’re excited. You’re with me, Magni.
Modi: *glares at Magni* Would you be quiet and let him speak.
Me: Yes. Well, for those of you who don’t know, Worthy of Song and Story is about twelve year old Stian and his quest to be the greatest Viking ever.
Magni: It needs more Magni.
Modi: *rolls his eyes* Yes, that would be exciting. We could all read about how much of an embarrassment you are to the family.
Magni: *reaches back and scratches his butt* Wait, that was an insult. You shouldn’t pick on Magni.
Me: *clears my throat* You are in the book, and you play a pretty big role.
Magni: Magni does, doesn’t he?
Me: Yes you do. In fact you’re one of the most important characters.
Magni: See that brother, Magni is important.
Modi: *balls his hands into fists* If he is one of the most important, than I must be the most important.
Me: Well, not really. The book is a Stian the Viking Adventure, so Stian kind of has to be the most important person.
Modi: A puny human more important than the sons of Thor? Impossible.
Me: Well, there’s Dahlia, a dark elf, she’s pretty important.
Magni: *bouncing on the front of his seat* Then me, right?
Me: Yes, then you.
Modi: *knocks his chair back as he stands* This is an outrage. I will not sit here and be insulted.
Me: Well, technically you aren’t sitting.
Magni: Sit down brother. This nice writer is about to talk about Magni.
Modi: *picks up his chair and slams it on the floor* It better be something really good or I might get angry.
Magni: Magni hates to point this out, but everything makes you angry.
Modi: Yes, especially your talking in third person all the time.
Magni: I do not, Magni talks like everyone else.
Modi: Be quiet before you make more of a fool of yourself. *turns and whispers to me* I hope he makes a fool of himself in the book.
Me: I don’t want to spoil anything for our readers, but there is a good chance that he does.
Modi: Good, that almost makes me happy. *his nostrils flair and he cracks his knuckles*
Magni: What great things do I do? Does Magni save Asgard from Loki and his evil plans?
Me: I can’t get into too many specifics, I don’t want to give away the ending.
Magni: *jumps to his feet and claps his hands* I’m in the ending! I’m in the ending!
Modi: Sit down you fool. You are embarrassing me. *turns and glares at me* Why did you put him in the ending?
Me: I didn’t say that I did. Look I’ll tell you that Magni is looking for Gram.
Modi: You do not mean the magic sword that can cut through anything do you?
Me: That’s the one.
Modi: He better not get it or you will be sorry.
Modi: I will never hear the end of it. It will be worse than the time he won the arm wrestling contest in fifth grade.
Me: *scoots my chair back to avoid being hit by Modi* Let’s just say he and Stian are both looking for it at the same time.
Magni: Magni will beat a human boy anytime.
Modi: We are doomed.
Me: You’ll just have to wait and read the book to find out.
Magni: Magni can read. When can Magni get it?
Me: You should be able to on October 25.
Modi: I hope it comes in hardback so I can knock some sense into my brother.
Me: Please read it before you do.
Magni: *dances in a circle* Magni’s going to get Gram! Magni’s going to get Gram!
Modi: *grips the hilt of his sword* He better not and neither should Stian.
Me: *gulps* Well, that’s all the time we have for today. Please join me next time when I talk with Dahlia. And if you don’t hear from me please call 911 and let them know about this guy. *nods head toward Modi*
Everywhere I go people always run up to me and ask “Neal, how did you find your agent? Oh, and can I have your autograph?” Okay, that has never happened, but maybe one day it will and just in case it does, I better have a good story. So here it goes, how I found my agent.
I’d love to say that I met my agent while standing on a street corner reciting the best prose ever. Or, he spotted me while I sat in a smoked filled conference room (not sure why it is smoke filled but it sets a better mood) and ran over yelling “I must have you as a client.” Unfortunately, neither of those happened. Not even close.
I’m a slush pile baby. That’s right. My agent found me in a pile of slush and pulled me out by the hairs on the back of my neck. Pretty heroic of him, wasn’t it? I think that’s the reason he wears a cape and has a secret identity. Okay, maybe not.
For those of you who don’t know, writers crave agents. They are the gate keepers to much of the publishing world, namely many traditional publishers. Because of this, almost every writer sometime in their career looks for an agent to represent them.
I started looking for an agent when I finished my first novel. I thought it was awesome and people would be lining up outside my door to represent me. I queried around seventy agents before I realized my book really wasn’t all I thought it was. Luckily, I had already begun work on my second novel (yes it is awesome and when it comes out later this year you should buy it, and yes, that was a shameless plug). After a lot of revisions, I entered into it into two contests (which is a good way to potentially avoid the dreaded slush pile, aka the bottomless quagmire where queries go to die).
I was selected as a finalist in The 2015 Writers’ League of Texas Manuscript Contest, and in the Writers’ Voice, I had two different teams interested in working with me. So yeah, I thought I was pretty awesome, and yes, you may bask in my greatness. Then things didn’t go so great and there was less greatness to bask in. Even though two teams wanted to work with me, I was one of a couple people who didn’t get any requests in the agent round. Unbelievable, I know, but I didn’t let that get me down. I still had the WLT2015 Conference, and gosh darn it, I was a Finalist! Feel free to grovel at my feet if you need to, I’ll understand.
Long story short, I came home from the conference without any real leads. So I did what all writers do and drank (caffeine that is) and got down to querying. I sent out my first batch of queries, including one to my dream agent, and waited. Luckily, I didn’t have long to wait, because in less than three hours, he asked me to send him my full manuscript. I had to read the email like twenty times to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating. So I ran to my computer (I was doing my happy dance) and sent my manuscript. Then I waited and waited and waited. Okay, it wasn’t that bad. It was less than a month when I received the email every author wants, the “Call me and let’s talk representation” email.
Needless to say I called, we talked, and after taking a few days to think about it, I accepted the offer. Now I have been working with super agent Mark Gottlieb for over a year. My debut novel is coming out later this year and I still get tingly all over when I think about it. Not the I’ve got to go to the bathroom tingly (what can I say, I’m a middle grade author), but the feed me sugar and tell me I won the lottery kind of tingly.
As the release date for my debut middle grade novel crept up on me, t-minus three months and counting, I decided it was well past time to revamp my website. Like most authors, I had a very limited budget when it came to things like websites. Which meant I would have to do it myself or give up eating for the next few months and pay someone to do it. Knowing my inability to fast, two months without food seemed a little too much, I pulled on my big boy pants and got to work.
After using WordPress for more than a year, I couldn’t think of a good reason not to continue to use it. I’m not a computer wiz by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I tend to get frustrated with computers very easily. Picture Thor after someone stole his hammer and you have a good idea what I look like when handling computer problems. Okay, there might be a little more cursing and flying pieces of furniture with me, but you got the picture.
WordPress has a lot of good themes, and many of them come with the most magic word in the universe, FREE. My existing website used a free theme, and I thought it was pretty good, especially since it was the first website I ever created. I admit it wasn’t worthy of a gold medal, but a bronze definitely seemed within reach.
As I researched other authors websites, I noticed some things my lacked, like 3D hula dancing turtles. I knew I couldn’t get those turtles without paying someone, but I should be able to get some of the stuff I wanted, like an easy way to list and show my book, and hopefully books, without having to rob a bank. The one WordPress theme that kept coming up over and over again in my search was Author Pro. It looked pretty cool, but had a big problem, it cost money. Like ninety-nine dollars. That is almost twenty five churros in 2014 Disney Land prices.
After a few weeks, I decided to push aside my Scrooge ways and get it. I have to admit I’m glad I did, even though there was some cursing and flying furniture as I figured out how to use it. With Author Pro, it is super easy to setup a library of your books and place them on the website. I had the option to organize them as stand alone titles, by series, or by author (which seemed kind of stupid since it was just me, so I ignored that option).
I’m sure there are all kinds of other things it can do as well that I haven’t figured out yet, like how to have 3d hula dancing turtles, but some day I will. Now with the website revamped, I’m looking forward to whatever is next as I move closer and closer to book launch day. I just don’t know what it is yet. Thankfully, I have a publisher who is all over it.