Sunday, August 25, 2013

"The Duke of Snow and Apples" and the End of Aspiration

I've pretty much had the same dream for most of my self-aware life.
To be a writer. Now, being a writer is a pretty easy dream to fulfil. If you put a pen to paper, or set your fingers above a typewriter, and apply enough physical pressure to scrawl or type out words, you're a writer.
....or if you dictate it to your mum because you haven't learned how to write yet - so long you draw all the pictures!

And I did become a writer. I started this blog. I wrote for The Green Man Review, The Gateway, Heroes and Heartbreakers, and even The Huffington Post

My first published fiction piece happened in 2007, when my novella, "My Brother's Own Words," appeared in Cicada Magazine's March/April issue.
It was a professional magazine. They took almost a year to receive, read, accept, and publish my manuscript - and they paid 25 cents a word, which, for a 9,000-word novella, was not too shabby! 

Still, I couldn't quite kick the "aspiring" label off of my efforts. I wanted to be a novelist. Have my own book. My own Amazon and Goodreads page. My own cover. A book that was mine. 

Recently, I took The Duke of Snow and Apples - a novel I'd written a few years ago - out from under the metaphorical bed and gave it a dust-off. I realized that the time we'd spent apart had given me a better perspective on the novel and how to improve it. So, after polishing it one more time, I resubmitted it for the first time in years.

And it got accepted. 


The Duke of Snow and Apples is going to be a reality, thanks to Entangled Publishing! It's going to have a cover, and eventually an Amazon page, and crappy 1-star reviews from people angry that it's priced too high! It's going to be a published novel, and it's going to be my published novel! 

It was almost anti-climatic how it happened. I received the E-mail on my Blackberry - a cheery little yellow envelope icon blinking up at me as I was having my afternoon break at work. I don't know what I was expecting - although I had harboured daydreams of my publishers turning up in a van, showering me in confetti and announcing their intent to acquire my novel by way of chocolate icing tastefully hand-written onto an enormous ice cream cake. 

But believe me, for the last couple of days, I've been happily coughing up accidentally-ingested confetti in my heart

The interesting thing is that this didn't really happen by focusing on accomplishing One Major Dream - but by gradually accomplishing smaller dreams that accumulated and granted me the skills and experience required to tackle the Big Dream. I wanted to be a writer - so I wrote. I wanted to be a published writer, so I volunteered for magazines and started a blog. Using the exposure I got from my blog posts, I turned to contributing to e-zines and literary blogs. And in the process of doing all that, I learned how the publishing world worked, especially in relation to the things I'd already written. 

During NaNoWriMo 2008, I landed on an idea for a novel. A romance novel. A retelling of Snow White - only this time, the damsel was the hero (a footman), and the Prince Charming a spoiled noblewoman. The setting would be very similar to Regency England, but set in a fantasy world where the importance of bloodlines and breeding had a very specific magical purpose. 

So I wrote it. I finished it. I polished it. And I critique-grouped it thanks to the RWA's fantastic Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal chapter. I pitched it to agents (once in person!). I submitted it to contests. It appeared in Dear Author's First Page series. One agent request a partial. A publisher requested a full. 

But somehow, it never happened. There were a lot of critiques and the consensus was that it just wasn't quite good enough. I think the excitement of all the requests followed by all the rejections sapped my drive for the idea. I honestly forget why I gave up on it, but I think my brain was already churning out new ideas and wanted to work on a new project rather than waste the effort on a flagging former project that didn't measure up. 

But sometimes setting a project aside for a while can be a good thing. In the intervening years, the publishing world changed, readers changed, and I changed. For the better, I hope.

Now I can finally scratch out "Aspiring" next to my description. Elizabeth Vail, Aspiring Novelist. It has a nice ring to it.

I haven't heard back yet about a release date, but I'll be sure to keep you guys updated! For now - I'm off to work on another novel! 


  1. Emily Sorge5:45 PM

    Oh my god! Congratulations! I actually read "My Brother's Own Words" in high school and saved that issue of Cicada because I liked it so much.

  2. janicu8:26 PM

    When I started reading this post my first reaction was, "Oh no, end of aspiring?", but then I realized what that meant and that it was a good thing. CONGRATULATIONS. This is so awesome.

  3. AnimeJune8:09 AM

    Really? No way! That's amazing! :D I had a lot of fun writing that one.

  4. AnimeJune8:09 AM

    Thank you!!

  5. kwanawrites8:27 AM

    Huge congratulations to you once again :-)

  6. Alice Chow10:45 AM

    The title scared me, I thought you were going to stop writing or blogging! Glad it's the opposite! Can't wait for it to come out!!

  7. Ana @ things mean a lot11:16 AM

    How exciting! HUGE congratulations. And as a big fan of fairy tale retellings and reinterpretations, I love the sound of your novel.

  8. Congratulations! I really enjoy your book reviews, and I am looking forward to reading your book when it is published!

  9. victoriajanssen12:20 PM


  10. Thalia Helicon2:21 PM

    Congratulations! I love your writing, and look forward to your novel appearing on its own Amazon page, and thereafter, my Kindle!

  11. Whoa -- congrats, superstar!

  12. AnimeJune6:47 AM

    Thank you! :D

  13. AnimeJune6:47 AM

    Huzzah! That's awesome! Now I have to hurry and writing something else, lol

  14. AnimeJune6:47 AM

    Thank you so much!

  15. AnimeJune6:47 AM

    Believe me, as soon as I know, THE REST OF THE WORLD WILL KNOW. I may sky-write it at some point.

  16. AnimeJune6:48 AM

    Awww, thank you! I know, I LOVE fairy tale retellings. I'm working on another one (although it's not a romance, per se) right now.

  17. AnimeJune6:48 AM

    Nope! Still blogging! Although my days are getting quite busy now, and likely will get busier with revisions, hahaha

  18. AnimeJune6:48 AM

    Thank you!!

  19. CONGRATULATIONS! *throws confetti*

  20. Hooray! I went back to the DA link because this sounded vaguely familiar to me, and sure enough, I not only read the First Page post, I commented on how much I liked it and would like to read more! I'll be eagerly awaiting its appearance. Congrats on finally realizing a dream of yours.

  21. AnimeJune1:24 PM

    Yay! Confetti!!

  22. AnimeJune1:25 PM

    Thank you so much! It has definitely come a long way from that First Page, but putting that out there definitely gave me the incentive I needed to polish it up and resend it!

  23. Christina Franke10:15 AM

    CONGRATULATIONS. Your book truly does sound absolutely fabulous, and I am so excited for it. Also, I apologize in advance for snarking your cover, because Entangled doesn't have many decent ones thus far. X_X But whatever YOUR BOOK WILL EXIST. hurrah!

  24. Wendy Crutcher6:31 PM

    This is what happens when I star something in Feedly and then don't check my "saved for later" folder for two weeks! I'm WAY LATE in congratulating you! This is amazing, super-awesome news!

  25. AnimeJune6:02 PM

    Yaaaay! So excited!

  26. AnimeJune6:02 PM

    Thank you muchly!