I’m now about a quarter of the way through drafting the final book in Callaghan McCarthy’s story-cycle. Soon it will be time for someone new to step forward and tell the story of Woodley, USA from their own perspective. To this end, I am issuing a casting call for potential lead characters to headline the next series.
During the course of your employment as Lead Character, you will experience newness and wonder (whether you like it or not) and you will have your entire belief structure fundamentally challenged and overhauled. Your heart will probably break a few times, but you will be provided with allies who will nurture you through this. You will probably also face some physical dangers; unfortunately, you’ll be on your own regarding how to get out of these particular messes. Your job is to figure out how to save not just yourself but your friends, the farm, the town, and ultimately the world. (You will almost certainly never understand exactly how the fate of the world figures in all this, of course, but it’s still your job to do it.)
Requirements include but are not limited to:
Adult human female with some life experience. You do not need to have grown children, but this is not a “coming of age” tale. Please have a few hard-learned lessons under your belt that have made you stronger and kinder.
Some cynicism and a few PTSD symptoms are OK, but complete douchebaggery will be considered a deal-breaker.
Preference will be given to those with 100% human blood, though if you suspect you have a long-forgotten faerie or deity somewhere in your ancestry, you may still be considered.
Skinny twentysomething characters with large breasts and flawless skin need not apply.
Please answer the following questions on the reverse side of this sheet:
What are you running from?
What did you hope to find when you arrived in
What did you really hope to find? I mean
originally, back when you were a kid, before they convinced you it couldn’t
actually be found in the real world?
Do you believe in ghosts?
If you are a fictional character and wish to be considered
for this position, please transmit your answers to my muse ASAP.
Note: While Woodley, USA is a diverse community, I do not feel that I, as a writer, am qualified to represent, through my Main Characters, challenges I have never personally experienced. While you will be acting alongside characters of many different ages, races, species, genders, physical abilities and neurological types, I feel that stories which feature these characters as the main Point Of View are best told by #OwnVoices.
A long time ago in a universe far, far away, I sent a copy of my debut novel to one of my favorite authors of all time. I sent it for no reason other than to thank him for inspiring me by writing some of the most enjoyable fiction I’d ever read, and also to thank him for his support. His support had come, many years before, in the form of what is, to date, still the best writing advice I’ve ever received. That advice, to paraphrase quite heavily, is: “Qwitcherbitchin’ and write!”
Imagine my excitement when I received an email this past June from the editor of Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine (to which I have been subscribed since I was a teenager – and I won’t tell you how long that has been!) The email asked me to review, before release, a copy of an overview of Seven Turns this favorite author of mine had written in his “Books to Look For” column for the July/August issue. I’ve been bursting at the seams ever since, dying to tell you all about it. Now it is finally July, and I can tell you!
The overview of Seven Turns is the third listing down, right between Philip K. Dick and John R. Little … seriously, am I allowed to yell “Squeeeeee!” now?
My favorite part is where he refers to some of the spirits Cally encounters in Woodley as “deities.” I wouldn’t have expected most people to recognize that’s what they (some of them!) are, but of course Charles de Lint would know a deity when he sees one!
Naturally I also immediately sent him a copy of Moonlight and Moss. Not sucking up for another review or anything, but I want to see if he recognizes the other deities, because this volume deals much more heavily with the denizens of the faerie side of the meadow gate. (Oh, who am I kidding – he’ll not only recognize them, but is probably on first-name terms with some of them.)
Now, if you are one of my fellow writers in the #writingcommunity and you are wondering how to get your inspiration flowing, how to find time to write, wondering if you’re just a hack or what, here is the best advice I can pass on to you:
You know how it goes: It feels like I’ve been waiting for this day forever, but on the other hand, it all went so fast, once I finally decided on a release date.
That, they say, is normal to the point of being trite. Here’s the really weird thing, though: I feel like it all happened so long ago! I’ve been working a lot, lately, on the next book in this story-cycle, so that now when I talk about my work I get all mixed up about which story I’m talking about. I hope I don’t end up giving away any spoilers that way!
Each of the books in this story cycle is designed to stand on its own. The end of each book winds up the main plot and finishes the current story (with just a few Questions to give you a hint at what the next one might be about!)
You still might prefer to read them in order if you can, though, to avoid spoilers. Seven Turns happens, chronologically, before Moonlight and Moss and also focuses on Callaghan McCarthy. I am pretty sure there will be one more story (not counting the Christmas Episode – stay tuned!) with Cally at its heart. I have tentatively titled the next tale “Rivers and Roads.”
From here, I can see at least seven stories about Woodley, USA and it’s quirky denizens, and that seems like an appropriate number of rivers to cross. But you never know. There are a lot of people – and you know what I mean and do not mean when I say “people!” – calling my name. People who want their stories, also, to be told. I guess I’ll find out when I get to that bend in the road!
…and then they came upon the Thing…
(With many thanks to The Men for their amazing song and all the inspiring imagery it lent me.)
It’s official! Moonlight and Moss will be released on May 31, 2019. The launch party will be on Saturday, June 1, at 3:PM at Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, NC.
I can’t say enough good things about Page 158! Not only are they the coziest independent bookstore I’ve ever been inside of, but the staff are all friendly, fun, and knowledgeable, and the proprietors are active participants in the community. They really love supporting local and independent authors. If you live anywhere near Raleigh, you need to visit this store!
But especially visit it on June 1, 2019. Not only will I be debuting Moonlight and Moss, but There Will Be Cake! Just sayin’. 🙂
If you can’t make it to the party, we’ll be live-streaming it on my Facebook author page: facebook.com/kimbeallauthor and I hope to see you there!
It’s official! The release date for Moonlight and Moss is May 31, 2019. But you can pre-order it right now (see links below)!
Now, I’ve never understood authors who make their pre-order price higher than the regular price. It’s like you’re punishing your biggest fans for their enthusiasm. I think my Biggest Fans should be rewarded! Honestly, I’d make the Kindle version like 1 cent for pre-order but Amazon doesn’t allow anything lower than $2.99, so I did my best! The pre-order price is $2.99 – after June 1, the price will be going up to $4.99. Barnes & Noble has made the paperback available for $11.99; after release it will go up to the full price of $15.99.
My journey to deciding to self-publish was fraught with self-doubt and anxiety, but I’m glad now that I did it. The interior design stuff (especially getting the pagination to match up with my table of contents) was kind of a nightmare! But I really had a lot of fun being an active participant in the cover design. I’m really proud of the final product, and I hope you’ll like it, too!
Let me state unequivocally, here, for any other authors
considering whether to self or traditionally publish:
Fear of “loss of creative control” should never be a factor
in deciding whether or not to publish traditionally because, frankly, it’s a
complete and utter myth.
Even with traditional publishers, the author retains authority (that’s where the word “author” comes from, peeps!) and has final say over any and all suggested changes. Fear of “loss of creative control” was not why I decided to self-publish Moonlight and Moss. I chose this route because it became evident to me early in the querying process that it was highly unlikely any traditional publisher would ever be willing to pick up the second book in a series. Once I finish Cally’s story arc in the Woodley, USA universe (this will happen when Rivers and Roads is released in 2020) I will begin a new series. It will probably also take place in Woodley, but since it will be a whole new series with a whole new main character, I will be ready to begin pursuing traditional publishing again.
Because I have other things to do besides going crosseyed formatting text for PDFs and .epubs. I have many books to write before I sleep!
Oh, and that reminds me: Who would you like the main
character of the next series to be? Is there anyone you’ve already met whose
story you’d like me to explore from their own point of view? Or would you like
a new main character all together? Let me (as the YouTubers say) know in the
I’ll start, here, by thanking all the agents who have sent me rejections. I know agents have somewhere on the order of bazillions of queries to get through daily. They barely even have time to paste in boilerplate rejection verbiage and hit “send.” Many, nowadays, don’t even do that. So, when I get a rejection that gives me even the slightest hint of why the agent decided to pass on my project, far from being bummed about it, I am actually grateful.
I often feel like I’m working in a complete vacuum with regard to trying to sell my work. I feel fairly confident that my writing, itself, is good. Good enough, I mean, though of course any writing can always be improved and polished. The manuscript I am currently querying is as polished as I can make it, with critique partner and beta reader feedback. I am fortunate that I don’t have to work in a vacuum, there. On the other hand, the query letters I send out about said manuscript, well, really, the only feedback I can get about those, from real industry insiders, is through rejections.
OK, yes, I know: there is a ton – multiple tonnage, really – of Querying Advice on the interwebs. But much of it is conflicting or grossly outdated. Even AuthorTube videos by actual literary agents offer advice that conflicts wildly! I wade through all this cognitive dissonance and snatch desperately at what seems to be the most common advice. I do my best to incorporate it all into 350 words or less but, in the end, I’m totally winging it. I have no way of knowing – not really – whether or not my query letter is really the killer pickup line that will get me the girl, or just a slap in the face.
Most of the rejections I get are some form or other of the standard boilerplate: “This is not on my list.” And, if this is the actual reason for the rejection (rather than an attempt at the most inoffensive waffle possible) I can’t complain about it. My little world of Woodley, USA is never going to fit neatly onto anyone’s list – it crosses too many genres. Agents who rep Fantasy seldom rep Horror, for instance. Not that there’s any Horror in my work, but nowadays the word “ghost” is synonymous with “guts splattered all over the walls” and I totally understand why some people are not interested in that. God knows I’m not. And, sure, it’s not fair that when a Fantasy-inclined agent sees the word “ghost” in the second paragraph of my query, they roll their eyes and ball up their fists and hiss through clenched teeth, “Oh, FFS, why don’t these #^&$@ writers ever bother to look at my profile – I specifically stated I do not do Horror!”
But it is what it is, and until Western entertainment culture undergoes another sea-change (a sea-change I actually hope to help incite with my work!) I have to figure out how to deal with the situation as it is.
Two rejections I’ve received recently, though, contained completely new and different feedback! This gives me hope that I’m at least getting better at writing query letters. I mean, I’m sure these rejections are also copy-pasted – I can imagine agents need to send this particular one out a thousand times a day, too. But, honestly, I got a little giddy about these because they made me think the agents who selected this particular verbiage from their copy-paste choices had actually got past the word “ghost”!
They said, basically: “The concept of your story just
did not draw my interest strongly enough.”
Thank you, thank you, thank you, Dear Agents, for this
specific feedback! Even though it may seem like a slap in the face to some, it
was a gift to me, and I truly and honestly do appreciate your having taken the
time to send it to me.
My first response, of course, was to think, “Oh, OK, so what can I do to change my story to make it more gripping? Give it more pizzazz! How can I make the stakes higher? Maybe I should give in and put in some guts splattering across a wall here and there after all? Oh, I know: a climactic car-chase where the world will end if I don’t make it over the cliff in time to rescue the president from terrorist dragons from Alpha Centauri!”
And then I said:
My story is what it is. It is what it is because that’s exactly what it needs to be. It is internally consistent and beautiful. It gave itself freely to me from an eternal well of Story, and I will be true to it in return. The world does not have to be about to end in order to make the stakes heart-wrenching. Kittens and little children do not have to die horribly. I will not change the actual story itself, even if that’s the only way to get myself an agent. (I don’t believe it is, mind you. I just don’t know how to sell the damn thing, is all.)
Because I know it does, in fact, “draw my interest strongly enough.” I know for a fact that it does this to other people, as well. I am even reasonably confident that the kinds of people whose interest is drawn are not all that uncommon. These are the people I wrote it for. People who, when I describe it to them, say “Oh, I LOVE that sort of thing! Where can I find a copy?” Readers who say, “OMG I hope there’s going to be a sequel – I want to read more about this world!”
If I change my story in order to land a publishing deal, I will be betraying them. And I will be perpetuating the literary vacuum that led me to write this story in the first place because I couldn’t find enough of it in bookstores. There are people out there who want to walk down Main Street in Woodley, USA, and sleep in the Rose Room, and bump into George in the hall in the middle of the night, and jump the fence into the meadow and discover what lies beyond. Hang in there, peeps: I’m still trying to figure out how to reach you, but I am reaching!
All this by way of saying, I am grateful to all who have contributed the various data that has helped me make a decision. Thank you readers, critique partners, beta readers, and literary agents. I think I’ve made a decision? I’ve been trying to make this decision since last fall. I think I’ve decided I’m going to go ahead and self-publish Moonlight and Moss. Maybe. Probably. I will probably do this sometime in May 2019 (which is about a year since Seven Turns came out.)
On some level, it feels like I’m accepting defeat, but I’m not, really. I just don’t want to leave my readers waiting too much longer for the sequel to Seven Turns. My pride isn’t as important to me as loyalty to my readers – they’ve earned it! That’s the only thing of which I am absolutely certain.
I am fully aware that the second I hit that “Publish” button over at IngramSpark, I will turn to check my inbox and see I’ve just received an offer of representation. Because of course I will. Murphy is a real jerk, sometimes! OK all the time. Maybe I’ll kill him off in my next book.
Meanwhile, I’ll keep gathering data and polishing my querying skills so that someday when I finish this series and start a new one, I will – as I am still determined to – obtain agent representation.
As promised, here is my little tale of “Why I Might Have to Self Publish Whether I Like It or Not.”
As most of you know, I am currently actively seeking representation for “Moonlight and Moss,” which is not technically the sequel to Seven Turns, though it takes place in the same universe. And has the same main character. And happens chronologically just a few months after the end of Seven Turns. But still, it’s not a sequel, per se! I have been careful to make sure it could stand alone, if someone reads it who has not read Seven Turns. Beta readers have assured me it is in fact perfectly easy to follow even if they do not know what happened in Seven Turns.
Still… try explaining that to a literary agent. I mean
without adding the above ninety or so words to an already-probably-too-long
Agents, as a rule, are not keen on picking up an author mid-series,
and I can’t say I blame them. Some are OK with this, though, and I will continue
to search for one.
But why not just publish Moonlight and Moss through my existing publisher, you ask? The one who published Seven Turns? Well, this is where it gets tricky. I like my existing publisher just fine, but they don’t have the capacity to give my work the kind of service I feel it deserves. They do not have a marketing department, for one thing, and yes. Yes, yes! I’ve already heard it a million times! “But today’s authors are expected to market themselves!” Yes, I know! And I do! I do All The Things. I’m not very good at it, but just look up at the top of this page and click the link to the previous post to find out why I am not interested in learning how to become good at marketing.
“Fine, then,” you say. “This means you are
doomed to obscurity because unless you are published by the Big Five, the
success of your writing is based solely on
your marketing skills.” This is not completely accurate for two
reasons: 1) There are more than five publishers who don’t expect their authors
to be the only person on the marketing team and 2) my work is, in fact, good
enough for the Big Five. (But that’s a different discussion all together.)
The thing is, it’s not just about marketing – it’s also about distribution.
I had never heard the word “Distribution” before Seven Turns came out. Well, not in the context of publishing. I didn’t realize, until after I started trying to market my work, that bookstores do not like having to deal with Amazon. My publisher – like many other small, independent publishers – distributes only through Amazon POD. I noticed early on in my marketing efforts that the minute I used “the A-word,” as they called it, bookstore managers would grimace and shake my hand and wish me luck. I didn’t understand what was going on until the owner of my own lovely local indie bookstore explained it to me.
Apparently, Amazon treats booksellers like crap. Amazon considers its colleagues in the publishing industry to be competition, and Amazon does not appreciate competition. It wants to be the only game in town. For this reason, it does not offer retailer discounts on books, nor does it offer a return policy on unsold copies, as do the book distributors who work for other publishing companies.
Mind you: your local bookstore will happily order a book for you from Amazon, but they will not make any profit on it, and they will have to eat the shipping costs, as well, but they will do it for you because they want to be your friendly neighborhood bookseller. They will not stock Amazon KDP-produced books on their shelves, though some do happily stock them for me if I order them myself with my author discount, then carry them to the store myself and hand them to them to sell on a commission basis.
This works fairly well for me, for my local booksellers, but I am not going to be able to physically carry or ship copies of my book to every bookstore in the country, and that’s where I want my books to be available: in every bookstore in the country. For that, I need a distributor.
So what I am searching for, now, is a publisher who works with
an actual distributor, so that booksellers can obtain copies of my books the
way they do the other books you see on their shelves. I may be able to find
this publisher on my own, or I may need to obtain representation from a
literary agent to find one for me. I’d much rather have an agent, if I can.
Except that “the serial problem” mentioned above
is making this already daunting task several orders of magnitude more
I have been advised by industry professionals to just scrap the entire Callaghan McCarthy/Woodley, USA storyline and start over with a new series, which agents will be more willing to look at. But I’m not gonna do that, y’all. I’m not going to pull a George R. R. Martin on you! I promise I will finish Cally’s entire story arc before I start writing the stories of some of Woodley’s other denizens.
This means that if I do not get some more traditional nibbles
for “Moonlight and Moss” soon, I will go ahead and self-publish it,
so that people who are clamoring to find out what happens next with Cally and
Ben and George and Emerald are not left hanging. I had originally intended to
release about one volume a year, when I set out, and I am determined to remain
as close as I can to this schedule. If this means I have to self-publish the
next two volumes, so be it!
And then I’ll start in on the story of one of Woodley’s other quirky citizens. Who would you like it to be?
I have reached the Beta Reader stage with Moonlight and Moss! This means the story is complete and I have combed through it dozens of times, ironing out plot conundrums and making sure what I’m trying to say is clear to the reader. Probably. The only way to know for sure is to ask some actual readers.
Fortunately I have a wonderful group of highly literate friends who don’t mind being brutal if they have to, and who will absolutely tell me exactly what they experience as they read my, what, I guess it’s twentieth draft, now.
I’ve only sent them the first half of the manuscript so far, though. You see there’s this cat. I know this cat needs to be in the story, I just can’t figure out where it belongs. Should it come sooner in the story? But then if it does, what shall I do with it when the Really Bad Guy is on the loose? I don’t want it to get hurt! (No. I will never, ever, ever write a story where an animal or a child suffers. Nope. Ain’t gonna do it.)
It would also work just fine if it jumps in at the end of the story, but it’s just so darn adorable, I really want to see more of it. So, I keep moving it around. And, of course, every time I move it I have to change the scenery around where it was, and also the ones where it went later. It is this one, final detail that is driving me bonkers and keeping me from being able to say my manuscript is complete!
So, well, if you are one of my Beta Readers and you finish the first half and want to know where the second half is, all I can say is: It’s the cat’s fault!
When I first created Luke, near the beginning of Seven Turns, I really didn’t mean for him to be anything more than a one-time walk-on character who would say a few lines, serve his purpose and exit stage left. Apparently he wasn’t satisfied with a bit part, though. By Chapter 24 he had decided to stick around, and had developed a personality of his own. I discovered he was into computer repair, gourmet pizza toppings, bad jokes and winding up the town elders. Who knew? Certainly not I.
As I began work on Moonlight and Moss I learned that he also plays keyboards and that he, well, he understands a lot of things about Woodley that most of its denizens just turn their heads and avoid talking about. When I ran into a few plot conundrums, I decided to interview him to get his perspective on the story. (I had done this with Seven Turns, at this point in crafting that story, as well. That time, I had asked Foster to tell the story from his point of view and, let me tell you, I was constantly worried I would end up in jail if I ever got pulled over and the cops found that notebook on me!)
Turns out, young Luke had quite a lot to say. He’s really a remarkable young man, and Woodley is more fortunate than it realizes to have him around. He took the ball and ran with it, and he not only helped me find the answers to the plot holes that had been plaguing me, he gave me a lot of other insights, as well, into what makes Woodley tick.
The fact is, all characters will do this sort of thing if you let them.
I found Luke’s voice so delightful, though, that I decided to write it up as a short story to give as a gift to my beta readers and my initial fans. This was my first foray into Self Publishing and, I have to say, it was kind of a rush! I can totally see why everyone is so enthusiastic about it. I don’t have any intention of making a profit from it at all, of course, so I have priced it at the absolute minimum Amazon allows. Of course, if you have Kindle Unlimited, it’s free with your monthly subscription anyway. Oh, and if you were one of my beta readers, I’ve already ordered you a copy – look for it soon in a mailbox near you!
I also put a map of Woodley and a floor plan of Vale House inside the front and back covers, because I thought fans of the series would appreciate being able to see those. I hope you enjoy it as much as Luke enjoys wild mushroom and artichoke heart pizza with cave-aged gorgonzola!
On Wednesday I penned the last lines of the sequel to “Seven Turns” (working title: “Moonlight and Moss“.) Looking at my Twitter feed in retrospect, I found it a bit remarkable that this happened at about the same time as the Launch Party for Seven Turns, and I wonder, now: is it just me, or if there really is some kind of synergistic synchronicity that happens when we write, whether or not we are aware of it?
Probably it’s just me noticing things that happen to be coincidental if you look at them in a specific light. (You may recall my blue funk, about this time last year, over the passing of the mighty Gregg Allman at about the same time I was penning the dénouement to Seven Turns.)
The fact is, I am making a deliberate effort to have this arc of stories about Woodley, USA come out approximately one year apart. I still lave loads of editing and adjusting to do, and then the beta reader phase to go through, and then the very special hell of appealing to agents and publishers to please, please, please take on Moonlight and Moss as a project but, considering how crazy my life has become since the publication of Seven Turns, I’m really only a couple of months behind the curve here. As any writer will tell you: a novel takes exactly as long as it needs to take to be completed: no more, no less. I think this little coincidence is a definite sign that I am at least almost sort of meeting that goal!
And, after all, this is part of why I started keeping a blog and a Twitter feed and a Facebook in the first place: to document the history of this contribution of mine to the world of literature, so that I and perhaps others might look back someday and say, “Oh, hey, did you realize…?”
As the equally (perhaps, someday) mighty Johnny Sinatra has lyricized: “I’ve seen it a thousand times before – it’s what they call timing.”