following the crowd

A number of writers, including Elizabeth Bear and Mary Robinette, have been posting the chronology of novel-writing. You can't ask a writer how long she's been a writer, because it's just something you are, like having brown eyes. But every writer knows the first time she finished a book.

It's been gratifying to see how many writers started something years ago that never went anywhere, but later, they dusted it off and made it into something salable. I guess we all do that. Though, as Robinette says, some stuff in the trunk deserves to stay there. I have a feeling that's where Delenn is going to stay.

Without further ado....

Novel 0: SANCTUARY. It was written in my senior year of high school, inspired by a dream about a woman leading a band of insurgents to rescue a captured comrade from an unseen enemy. Being an enormous science fiction geek, I of course determined that it was an alien occupying force. I wrote it by hand in a series of spiral notebooks, and it was like nothing I had ever done before. While most writing was like pulling teeth out with a pair of pliers, this simply poured out as though I were taking dictation from someone else. That would be The Muse, and she's still bitching at me today. I turned SANCTUARY into my senior-year project, got an A, declared it finished. I rewrote it in college and gave copies to my friends and declared it finished. I rewrote it AGAIN in 2002 and put it away. It's still not ready.

Novels 00-0000: A series of novel starts, including GETHSEMENE and DELENN, which were my flailing attempts at horror and fantasy, respectively. The difference between SANCTUARY and these? A deadline and a work ethic. I couldn't give up on SANCTUARY, my teacher was expecting it. No one was expecting anything of me, so I stuck to my little short stories published in microzines.

Novel 1: NOCTURNAL URGES. I'd been kicking around the idea of a serial killer operating in the area of a vampire nightclub. I've told the story of how I got my break a dozen times, so I won't reiterate it again. When I got my shot at Ellora's Cave, NU became a vampire sex club, and the series was born. It's still the bestseller, winning the Darrell Award and an honorable mention for the Prism from RWA. Amusingly, there is now a bar in Memphis called Nocturnal. My friend Andy took pictures of me outside it, but alas, no one has had Fun with Photoshop yet. (Doesn't it just look like Brent should be standing outside, looking formidable?)

Novel 2: SETTING SUNS. Okay, not really a novel, but a book. It collected all my short stories into one volume under the masterful hand of Frank Fradella. As much as I love the novels, when someone asks about an introduction to my work, I hand them this one. It's a little bit of me, everything I like to write all bound up under a beautiful New Babel cover. It's my best paperback seller.

Novel 3: A MORE PERFECT UNION. The sequel to NOCTURNAL URGES, it introduces the idea of the kiss and the characters of Samantha, Diego and Cristoval, the wackiest trio to dance the Memphis streets. While I debated the wisdom of falling into that ancient trope, "older cop gets paired with brash rookie partner; wackiness ensues," the Freitas-and-Parker team instantly became tons of fun to write and was incredibly popular with readers.

Novel 4. ABADDON. The third book in the NU series, much of its premise came from a half-drunk brainstorming session at Dragoncon, and thus I named my vampire queen Zorathenne, after the marvelous Melodee Britt's netname. I knew before MPU came out that I wanted to take the vamps out of supernatural romance and into straight horror-mystery, and EC agreed to let me move the entire series to Cerridwen Press so I could do so. There's nothing romance about ABADDON. It's a straight slide right down into hell, almost literally, and no one's quite the same afterward. In it, I intentionally set up a bunch of fun stuff to do in the future, if I get the opportunity. But it can stand alone as a trilogy if there isn't enough interest in more vamp books.

Novel 5. YELLOW ROSES. Written first as a novella right after NU, I set it aside because it sucked. I started over with it as a novel after I finished ABADDON and during the looooong wait for ABADDON to come out. It was my first experiment with writing with the door open - creating a select group of First Readers who would read the chapters as I wrote them. I found it immensely helpful, listening to them debate what would happen next, getting their input on what was working and what wasn't. I did the rewrite with the door mostly closed, but I'd be lying to say I wrote YR all by myself. It is currently subbed to a New York publisher.

Novel 6, 7 and 8: All in preproduction, with contracts pending on one and tentative offers on the other two. I think they're going to be kickass. I've never tried to write three novels in a year, but this, I think, is the year I do it.

Will there be more NU books? Will the Sanctuary series ever see print? Will I do sequels to YELLOW ROSES? The answer to the last is, I gotta sell YR first.

As to the rest... Magic 8 Ball says ask again later.