Today I bring you a guest post from a SpecFicNZ colleague, who is venturing into the world of indie publishing by using Kickstarter to rally her fans and readers. Ripley Patton is a fabulous and talented writer, and I highly recommend you go support her newest venture!
Pip has kindly invited me to her blog to tell a story, the story of my book, a young adult novel titled Ghost Hand for which I am currently running a Kickstarter Project. Lucky for Pip, I LOVE telling stories. Telling a story about a story is even better. So, here it goes.
In 2009, I was living in New Zealand happily clipping along writing short speculative fiction and having it published. I was up for an award. Life was good. Then, out of the blue, I got a message from a New York City literary agent asking me if I was working on anything longer. Because if I was, she was interested. Apparently, she had seen some of my short fiction on-line, and she had liked it.
Well, after I picked myself up off the floor, I checked her out, and since she seemed legit, we began to e-mail back and forth. Honestly, I wasn’t even sure I could write a novel, but I had the beginnings of a few swimming around in my head, and I thought that was a good sign. So, I spent about two weeks of jacked-up days and sleepless nights writing sample chapters and synopses of about five different projects. I then sent these off to the agent, and she read them, and she said, “Write this one.” “This One” was a very rough draft of the first three chapters of Ghost Hand. Rough enough, in fact, that I doubt anyone would recognize it as the same book today.
I often wish that I was interesting, but the truth is I am not. Because of this, I try very hard to surround myself with interesting people to ensure I have something to write about. One of the most interesting people in my life is my husband. He is a Native American adopted and raised by a Scottish American family. He is a long-haired, metal head that plays the electric bass and lives on the wild side. He has come back from the dead twice. And he is a therapist who has worked with the seriously mentally ill for sixteen years. His life makes my life look like paint drying. He is also my muse and inspiration.
Watching my husband work with his clients led me to the core idea of Ghost Hand, the essence of its paranormal plot. It caused me to ask the question, “What if you could reach into someone and pull out their biggest emotional hang-up?” What if grief, or hurt, or fear was as solid and real on the outside of someone as it is on the inside? What would it look like? What power would it hold in the material world? What would happen to the person who had lost it? And what would happen to the person who had taken it from them?
And from those questions arose the idea of a girl with a ghost hand. A girl who could reach into people with that hand, and grab onto their psychological baggage, and pick-pocket their soul. That is what Ghost hand is about. It is about a girl named Olivia Black born with a rare birth defect known as Psyche Sans Soma, or PSS. She has an ethereal, glowy, see-through right hand where her flesh and blood hand should be. And in the book that hand develops the ability to pull things out of people.
There I was with an idea, a few sample chapters, a basic outline in my head, and the encouragement of an agent. I wish I could say that was the hard part, but it wasn’t. The hard part was actually writing the book. It was hard because it was very different from writing short stories. I write by the seat of my pants, not outlining but writing to find out what happens. This works well for short stories, but for a novel it results in a huge amount of over-writing. In the end, I did find the core story and edited out the unneeded writing in three vicious revisions. But it was a lot of hard work.
During all that hard work, my home city of Christchurch was devastated by two large earthquakes and thousands of aftershocks. We were displaced from our home. My kids were displaced from their schools. And ultimately my husband was displaced from his job, and we had to move back to our homeland of Portland, Oregon.
It was a rough couple of years writing Ghost Hand, but I am pretty sure having Olivia Black’s world to retreat to was the only thing that kept me sane during some of it.
After beta readers, three revisions, and more editing passes than I can count, Ghost Hand was done. Done is a very loose term when it comes to novels. To me, it meant that Ghost Hand was as good as I could make it. Not perfect. But readable. And enjoyable. A very solid first novel.
Unfortunately, the agent who had originally “picked” Ghost Hand had fallen off the publishing map. So, I began to query Ghost Hand to agents and publishing houses. Based on a strong reference by a friend, the full manuscript was called for by a major agency. While I sat at home, waiting the five excruciating weeks it took them to decide on it, I became very depressed, and I could feel the universe trying to tell me something. I just wasn’t sure what it was saying. Then I went to a Con, and I was sitting in the audience at a panel on women in the gaming industry, and some women I don’t know said something I will never forget. She said, “As women, we are always waiting for others to validate us. We want to be told we’ve done a good job, or made something worthwhile before we will ever believe it ourselves. It is time for women to rise up and self-validate. It is time for us to take our place and toot our own horns.”
And that is when I knew why I was so unhappy. I knew Ghost Hand was good. I knew that my writing had been validated numerous times through contest wins and awards won and publications accepted. Yet there I was back at square one, trying to get someone to validate me. And as I looked ahead at a writing career by way of traditional publishing, I saw it stretch before me as one long repetitious struggle to regain the validation of others. Not my readers. They have already validated me. But just some random validators positioned between me and those who love my writing already, and those who are waiting to love it. That was the day I decided to self-publish Ghost Hand.
Self-publishing is no small feat, especially if you want to do it well. It is an investment of time and skill and money. It is basically starting your own business and learning the ropes of publishing, something I find myself absorbing like a happy sponge. I did weeks of research, and much of what I learned can be found on my website where I hope it will help other self-validating writers. I also commissioned a beautiful professionally-designed cover for Ghost Hand which will be unveiled when my Kickstarter project reaches the halfway point (only $225 dollars away, as of this writing). The Kickstarter is to raise funds for a professional edit and basic printing costs for Ghost Hand and includes rewards of the finished product for those who back me. It isn’t charity, but more a way to fund a novel through pre-orders from an existing fan base.
The first two chapters of Ghost Hand can be read on my website HERE. Two more chapters can be acquired by sending a request to my Ghost Hand mailing list. And of course, if you are really interested, I hope you will go to my Kickstarter and back Ghost Hand with your financial support. Pledges are processed securely by way of Amazon, and overseas backers get free shipping if they back me this weekend (July 28 &29).
Thanks, Pip, for letting me tell Ghost Hand’s story. And thanks to all of you, her wonderful readers, for listening.