Tuesday, February 21, 2006

I'm Coveting Stars

Your Monday Photos Shoot: Take a picture (or find a picture) of something with stars -- the "twinkle, twinkle" kind, not the "famous people" kind. However, they don't have to be real stars: Fake stars -- like the ones on Christmas trees, on neon signs or on the Hollywood Walk of Fame are just fine, too.

Okay, here's a picture of stuff with stars on it.

See the stars? No?

Look again. I'll wait.

If you've found them, you've probably figured out what I'm writing about tonight.

Okay, I'm guessing that some of you have found the stars, and some haven't.

Perhaps you need a close-up:

Yes, the stars are on the spines of these two Tor novels by Piers Anthony (and Robert E Margroff, in one case). They are part of the Tor Fantasy logo. At least, they used to be. I gather that the separate logo for fantasy is being phased out, at least on the hardcover dust jackets.

And oh, yes, that is indeed John Scalzi's first novel sitting next to the two Anthony books. It's also from Tor, of course, but there are no stars in the logo on that one. That's because it's science fiction, not fantasy. The Tor Science Fiction logo doesn't have stars on it. Am I the only one who thinks that's a backwards bit of labeling? I mean, I haven't actually read it yet (I will; I promise!), but I'm willing to bet there are many more references to stars in the text of Old Man's War than in Demons Don't Dream (which I haven't read either, yet).

But no matter. The dust jacket artist on Old Man's War, Donato, put stars all over the front cover. If you look closely, you can even see them in the lettering of the title.

Okay, maybe you can't, because the picture's too small to see it properly. If you click on the photo, you can see it a bit larger. If that doesn't do the trick, go look at your own copy of the book.

Don't you have a copy of the book? Hadn't you better buy one, then? I mean, if you like science fiction, and/or Scalzi's other writing, you probably should.

Okay, maybe I am sucking up to you, John. A little.

If you read last night's marathon entry, you probably know why I'm going on and on about the Tor logo. At this very moment I'm printing out Chapter Three of Heirs of Mâvarin, to send to Patrick Nielsen Hayden at Tor. (Slight pause while I check the spelling of his name. Again.) Yes, it's true. I'm finally doing it. All it took was 32 years, a million drafts and edits, eight beta readers, lots of book and online research to determine that my sentimental choice was the right one, and last-minute counseling from two very good friends to help me overcome my insecurity about sending this out again, especially to Tor.

Why is that? Well, I'll tell you.

I finally got to the end of a complete draft of Heirs of Mâvarin in 1989. I started actually submitting it places around 1992 or 1993. It wasn't ready then, but I didn't know that. I hadn't yet started writing the sequel, Mages of Mâvarin. It was in writing Mages that I discovered that my treatment of tengremen, especially Rani, had been shallow and dull. Rani worried about hurting people, about losing control, but his behavior seemed to show that these fears were entirely unfounded.

Scalzi's bookThat was a mistake. Rani needed to truly become an animal at times, mentally rather than just physically. Once I learned that, I wrote the fox-killing scene for Heirs, and lots of other stuff. It made the book much better. Eventually, the book was actually good enough for publication. I hope!

But I didn't quite realize that Heirs had any deficiencies when I last submitted the book for publication, back in 1997. I had started writing Mages by then, but I hadn't gotten far enough with it to learn that I needed to fix Heirs, and how to do it. So I printed out the Tor address and my own on a piece of paper, grabbed my printout, a roll of Scotch tape and a couple of envelopes, and headed for the main post office on Cherrybell. I taped the address onto my envelope, noting with dismay that I got one of my hairs caught under one of the pieces of tape. How unprofessional! But I couldn't get it out, and made the tape look worse for trying.

Exactly one week after the Hair Incident, the rejection letter was in my mailbox at home. It was not personalized. Such was my dismay and confusion (and a fair amount of denial), that I entertained the idea that someone at Tor saw the hair, dismissed the submission as unprofessional, and didn't even read beyond the cover letter. I'm sure now that this is not what happened, but that was the theory that let me off the hook for having a book that wasn't good enough yet.

Now, I did a very foolish thing in June, 2004. I posted a comment to Teresa Nielsen Hayden's blog, Making Light, referencing the Hair Incident and the quick turnaround. I didn't actually criticise Tor about this, but I've been embarrassed about the comment ever since. Did Patrick (Teresa's colleague and spouse) think I was accusing him and his staff of failing to give my beloved novel due consideration? That would be highly unfortunate. By all accounts, Patrick and Teresa are one of the class acts in all of publishing, and pay more attention to the slush pile than most of their peers. the submission package, Feb 2006I certainly don't want to alienate them!

This is especially true now. The printout is on my desk, done. Tomorrow I'll go to Cherrybell Station, and send it to Tor, along with the return envelope, labeled and with sufficient postage.

And no hair.



julie said...

Fingers crossed for you!

DesLily said...

wishing you much luck!! it seems it takes more luck then talent anymore.. crossing fingers for you

Anonymous said...

Good luck with your book. When you get published I will buying a copy.

bea said...

Karen, I'm waiting to buy the book already!! Good luck! I love reading about your characters, what you have mentioned in previous entries... I have read some fantasy, and even though I'm waiting for my "hard" science fiction book, The Ghost Brigades, to arrive in the mail from Amazon.com any day now, I still enjoy an occasional well-written fantasy. Bea