My First Sale by Meljean Brook, Geek Girl Makes Good
Anyone who has read my blog for a period of time knows this. When I really love a book, you know it. I talk about it incessantly. My blogging partner, Jayne, once said “I can almost see her bouncing up and down in her chair when she posts about it.” Jayne went on to say that I am a tough sell and you probably know that from reading the blog as well. I fell in love with Brook’s writing with Demon Angel. It wasn’t a perfect book, by any means, but it captivated me. Her world and her characters were so vivid that I couldn’t stop thinking about the fantasy construct for days.
Her imagination is vivid and her writing complex. Brooks starts with the premise that her readers are very smart and that they can follow the bouncing ball. Hers are not books you can breeze straight through. They are the savory portion of the reading menu that is often filled with too much sweet. Demon Moon is a book that can satisfy the reader longing for something just a little more.
I think that if you read about the delectable vampire Colin and his geek girl lover, Savi, you might want to climb aboard the L.U.R.V.E. Train.
The story of my first sale can be summed up with one word: unexpected.
But, since I rarely settle for just one word (or 100,000) here's the rest of it:
THE BACKGROUND: For several years, I'd been managing the office for a construction company — payroll, bookkeeping, etc — and writing fanfic. Once the accounts payables were finished, I'd be switching over to MS Word and typing out another few pages in a Batman/Wonder Woman romance fic.
It was the writing that made me realize that I'd gone completely the wrong way in my occupation. I'd always been writing, but I'd also always been frustrated with it (probably because I'd been forcing myself into a literary mode, though my tendency has always been toward HEAs and woo-woo stuff.) So I quit the job, went back to school to get a literature degree (I didn't expect my writing to support me, after all) and — after a few more fics — realized that I needed to move on with the writing. I was feeling the limitations of other people's characters, and kept writing alternate universe fics (always romances). So I thought: okay, Meljean, it's time to stop messing around. You love paranormal romance…so, for God's sake, write it!
And for a few years, I'd been following Angela Knight and MaryJanice Davidson over at Ellora's Cave. I remember being very excited when I first read one of Knight's novellas in a Secret's anthology, and thinking: yes! This is what I want to read — and this is what I'd love to write. I lurked at their Yahoo groups, and I knew they'd been contacted by a NY publisher about their work.
So when I began writing an original story, I had Ellora's Cave and the idea of submitting it to an e-publisher and (maybe) jumping off from there in mind. And since I'm a huge dork, and I like to have visualization aids, and had been active online for a while, I made up a fake little cover and a fake little website with the pen name I'd chosen and the first couple of chapters of the work-in-progress, Tempting Hugh. Then I linked it to my fanfic page, so that the readers in that community could see what I was working on (and, ahem, why I hadn't finished a certain fanfic). We coerced said link out of Ms. Brook. Here it is in all its Sordid Glory.
THE SETTING: Portland State University, in the University Studies computer labs, where I was a lab attendant when I wasn't being a grad assistant.
- Carpet: industrial gray, thin, stained with coffee and yogurt (usually organic from Trader Joe's, because the other lab attendants were much cooler than my Yoplait-eating ass was).
- Desk: the ugliest, crappiest taupe receptionist-style desk (because they expected me to help students instead of just grading papers or surfing the internet or playing with Photoshop or writing paranormal romance, those silly, silly, silly university people) that the State of Oregon can buy.
- Clothes: jeans, flip-flops, and a Supergirl t-shirt
- Hair: bad
THE E-MAIL: On October 4, 2004, I was sitting at the lab (probably drinking a huge iced mocha, because the baby never slept — and probably eating a kabob, because the Persian cart at PSU was really good and a kabob just kind of fits a story like this) and I got an e-mail with the subject line, "Your writing–? and I was like, la la la, and opened it. This is a paraphrase, because I didn't ask her if I could copy the e-mail (I have it saved 4eva!) but it went something like this:
"Hi, I usually don't contact people like this, but I really like your fanfic. I'm a senior editor at Berkley, I think you have talent, call me.–?
And I was like, "Yeah, right! Ha ha ha ha!–? although my heart was breaking that someone would play a joke like this on poor innocent me. Because I recognized her name: Cindy Hwang, who'd snagged MJD and Angela Knight.
So I wrote back: I hate you for playing a joke on me and breaking my heart, I really love MJD and AK, and just in case this isn't a joke — uh, I have a book to pitch to you. It's called Tempting Hugh and it's about a demon and a guy who used to be an angel.
THE SALE: She'd already read the chapters I'd had online, so I sent her the rest of what I'd completed — she liked the characters, the world-building, my voice, but okay, the story could be (a lot) stronger. So I didn't sell her Tempting Hugh then — instead she offered me a spot in an upcoming anthology, Hot Spell. And, of course, I jumped at it.
That novella was officially my first sale, but it still feels unreal — it was the next one, for the single title, that felt much more like a SALE sale, and is what I think of as The Call. That was when I'd reworked and reworked Tempting Hugh, submitted the proposal in July 2005, and got the offer in the usual way.
Anyway. My hair is still bad, I'm still wearing my Supergirl t-shirt, and play with Photoshop way too much. It is nice, though, not having to quickly Alt+Tab away from a spandex-clad love scene when my boss walks in.
Demon Moon is on sale June 5, 2007.