I've been getting lots of emails and messages asking:
WHEN WILL THE NEXT BOOK BE READY???????
So I thought I'd take just a moment for a quick post to let you know what is going on over at Chez Wells. Scroll to the bottom to find out what I've been reading myself lately as you wait for the next book to drop.
VENGEANCE, Confluence Book 5, is in the final stages of production and should be ready to sell by the end of August.
I'm currently working through the notes that my developmental editor has given me. These are story-level changes that strengthen the story. Jeff (contact info on the page: Author Resources) reads and analyzes my story and looks for areas that are my blind spots. He makes brilliant suggestions about what I can do better. It's wonderful to have a skilled mind on that task because I work on these books mostly in a vacuum. I bounce ideas off my partner, but that's not always enough to get them right. A professional resource is needed to keep my work in the un-put-downable zone!
Later this month I will be getting the cover art for the novel from artist Galen Dara, Hugo and World Fantasy Award winning artist.
I have a deadline at the end of this month to complete the developmental edits. That's when the book is due to go to the copy editor. He will have the manuscript for about 10 days or so and then it comes back to me with errors highlighted in MS Word track changes. I will then work through those changes, format the book, and put it up for sale.
In other news, my free time is being spent training our newest family member, Nieve, an 8 month old Great Pyrenees we just rescued. She's a doll. She's also a puppy. (@__@) So my partner has been treating her like a full time job while he's off teaching duty for the summer. When he's got her sufficiently worn out, he leaves her with me while I work, so he can do something else for a while. Lots of walks and ball playing going on to keep her tired! A tired dog is a good dog!
I'm also working on developing my art skills--I enjoy doodling, experimenting with watercolors, and I'm in the early stages of trying Copic and Prismacolor markers. I currently draw like an 8-year-old. I'm okay with that and am hoping to keep improving steadily though I don't get as much time to draw as I'd like.
And of course I've been spending as much time as possible with my kiddos who are enjoying the freedom of their summer break--both of them taking advantage of the free time to play with the new puppy and video games.
I've been wanting to get back into knitting more (it used to be my primary hobby) and I just ordered some yarn to make a small decorative everyday silk scarf.
You may know that I'm also a bit of a gamer. I don't really watch much tv or movies any more. Just an occasional anime. I really enjoy playing MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role playing games). Lately I've gotten a bit bored with WoW (World of Warcraft) and started playing Rift until WoW launches it's new expansion in August. I like leveling in Rift so much, WoW is really going to have to be amazing to lure me back.
Leveling is my favorite part of game play. Endgame level content just doesn't hold my interest due to its repetitive nature. I like a challenge and I love reaching goals. As a consequence I have 4 characters at max level in WoW--I've been playing about 2 years now. My first main was a Draenei monk, then I leveled a Gnome hunter, a demon hunter, and finally a Worgen druid. I also have many lower level characters, my fave currently being a Lightforged Draenei priest. It's been fun experimenting with the different class types and play strategies. I always play a DPS role.
In Rift my favorite character is a Bahmi rogue Saboteur named Keilauf. Damn. I love blowing shit up. I'm addicted to playing instant adventures with this character and consistently finding myself at the top of the DPS charts! RAWR! She is nearing level 50 after several weeks of nightly game play. I've found I prefer the Bahmi body type. I also have a couple Kelari characters but I don't enjoy playing them as much. They don't look anything like me. ;D
The house is a mess. Tufts of white fur everywhere. Cluttery. But we're all healthy and happy here. My work is a pleasure and I'm so happy to be able to do something I love to support my family!
What I'm reading now...
Generally I read for an hour or two before I sleep every night. Here is a list of my favorite books that I've been reading lately.
That's it for now. Just a casual sort of update. Hope you found something herein to interest you. Let me know in the comments. I can try to do more of this if you find it worth my time.
As ever, please leave reviews for the books you read, good or bad--reviews legitimize an author and help them get a foothold in a competitive market. You can make a difference in an author's livelihood by just taking a moment to type up a few words about what you liked or didn't like about a story.
And keep reading! There's so much good stuff out there. There's no reason to be bored in this day and age! Tell your friends, relatives, and neighbors about the books you love--get them hooked too! A lot of the stuff we do as modern people will pass the time, but nothing will expand your mind like a good book!
We both know that you enjoy my books, but hey, it takes me 6-9 months or more to write, edit, and bring one to market...
and then you read it in less than three days.
I bet you're looking for some other authors to fill in those gaps.
So, I've got something special for you today.
You may or may not be aware that I'm a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA--pronounced sif-wuh), the entity of peers that organizes the Nebula Awards, among many other important works in our industry.
Well, today SFWA has teamed up with StoryBundle to bring together 18 different Authors in a massive twenty-book bundle to warp the space-time of readers everywhere. ;D
Featuring New York Times Bestselling authors Michael Cooper, Mike Shepard, and Felix R. Savage, USA Today Bestselling Author Kevin McLaughlin, International Bestselling Authors Glynn Stewart, Craig Martelle, Terry Mixon, Amy DuBoff, MYSELF, and more!
StoryBundle is a way for people to discover quality books written by indie authors. They take a bunch of great books and group them together to offer as a bundle. Then you, the reader, take a look at the titles they've chosen and decide how much you'd like to pay. They mean it; you set the price that you pay!
Link to this StoryBundle
Space Carrier Avalon by Glynn Stewart: Carriers clash and starfighters duel in Glynn Stewart’s epic far future novel of a cold war on the verge of turning hot.
Fluency by Jennifer Foehner Wells: An expedition to a derelict alien ship spirals into chaos and linguist Jane Holloway must decide if she can trust an alien’s help to survive. Fluency won the Gold in the Fantasy/Science Fiction category of the 2015 eLit awards.
Rita Longknife: Enemy Unknown by Mike Shepard: The war is over, so why are merchant ships still vanishing? Is it pirates, or is humanity no longer alone in the galaxy?
Rika Outcast Micheal Cooper: Rika is mech-meat, a cyborg killing machine, created by the Genevian military and cast aside when the war was lost; she wants to build a new future for herself, but hope doesn’t buy repairs, and Rika will find her fighting another people's war just to stay alive.
Cygnus Rising by Craig Martelle: From space they came, to space the returned, humanity searching for a way home.
Storm Divers by Terry Mixon: Adam Hale thought diving deep into Jupiter’s atmosphere was the most dangerous thing he could do, but that was before a beautiful spy that hated his guts came looking for him.
Troubled Space by Amy Duboff: Aspiring smuggler Jack Tressler is subscripted into a pirate gang where ambitious heists, poor planning, and food-related distractions are a way of life in this farcical space opera adventure.
Crapkiller by Felix R Savage: Elfrida just graduated from the Space Corps. She was expecting a holiday on Ganymede, but instead she's roped into a vermin hunt that plunges the new Space Corps graduates into a dangerous world below the ice.
Accord of Honor by Kevin McLaughlin: A retired admiral and a young spaceship captain are all that stands between a defenseless Earth and those who would take total control over all of humanity.
Tomorrow Log by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller: Master Thief Gem ser’Edreth’s first mistake: refusing to steal what the planetary crime boss wanted. His second: stealing it anyway.
Ithaka Rising (Halcyone Space, book 2) by LJ Cohen : After a reckless young computer programmer resurrects the damaged AI on a long dormant freighter, she and her accidental crew blunder into a galactic conspiracy forty years in the making.
A Rose From Old Terra by Don Sakers: A group of far-future librarians travels to a distant part of the galaxy to save civilization.
The Dark Between by Stephanie Bedwell-Grime: A dark mystery lurking on a derelict spaceship leads to a desperate fight for survival.
Compete by Vera Nazarian: The Asteroid is coming... Your two options — die or Qualify...I am Gwen Lark. Nerd, klutz, loser, awkward smart girl... Somehow, I will save you all. Compete is the second book in the series. Book 1 is available for free from your favorite ebook retailer
Some Distant Shore by Dave Creek: Two star systems are colliding, and Mike Christopher of the Earth starship Asaph Hall is rushing to unlock their mysteries, even as two alien races on the journey are keeping their own potentially deadly secrets.
Nothing Left to Wish For by Andrew G. Schneider: Step onto the deck of the skyship, the Pirate Queen and join first mate Esmeralda, Prince Sasha, and the genie Sting on a spectacular voyage across the Endless Desert.
The Dream Guild Chronicles Three-Book Set by David Bruns: Lost in Space meets Big Brother in The Dream Guild Chronicles. Experience time-bending space travel and exhilarating first contact adventures among alien civilizations set against the backdrop of one family’s struggle for survival.
Two blog posts in one week?! What is actually happening to me?!
It's finally here!
I just got the word that the Valence audio book is live on Amazon, iTunes, and Audible! <--those blue words are links. :)
As you probably know, I'm an independent publisher, which means that as soon as a book is complete, I put it up for sale. That means that the audio production team doesn't get the book until then. So the audio of my books tends to lag behind by a few months. Since most of my readership is ebook, that makes sense.
But the wait is finally over! Susanna Burney and Marcia at SicSound Studios did a wonderful job with this book! It's definitely worth the wait. Happy listening and read on!
Call for questions:
Do you have a question about writing or publishing? Ask them in the comments or shoot me an email through my contact form. I'm planning an upcoming blog post to cover my process. What do you want to know? About me, my process, how indie publishing works? I have the answers!
UPDATE: The problem has been fixed. Inheritance is once again available and all on one page here. Thank you to everyone who alerted me to the problem and patiently waited for the book to come back online. You're the best!
I've been going bonkers for about three days.
As you may know from my previous post, I retitled The Druid Gene and stuck it in the Confluence series since there will be two books total devoted to Darcy that converge (or conflue) with Jane's stories.
Confluence, as planned, will be six books total. Book 5: Vengeance, is what I'm working on right now and this book is about Darcy. The events in Book 5 will be EXTREMELY important to Jane in Book 6: Convergence when the two women finally meet, put their heads together, and have a really big adventure. I planned all this stuff out ages ago. It's awesome. That's all I'm saying about that.
So. Yes. I retitled The Druid Gene. It's now called Inheritance. If it was going to be in the Confluence series, it needed to follow my naming convention for that series. Honestly I don't think the title was really working well for the novel anyway. My friends told me it wouldn't. But none of us seemed able to come up with a better name. <Sigh>
Luckily, says I, publishers rename books all the time. Amazon even makes it easy. I just change the name on this little form. Change a few things in the books. Make new covers. Contact the audio book narrator and ask her to record new intro/outro.
Yeah, it was a lot of work, folks.
And now… a new challenge of sorts.
I kept the Amazon identification code ASIN (pronounced ACE-in, I'm told--not the other way, never the other way!) for Inheritance the same--so that anyone who ever bought Druid Gene would be alerted that they already owned it and wouldn't buy it twice. I even put a line in the description stating that "this novel was formerly titled The Druid Gene."
Apparently this was not enough. Amazon tells me it has taken the novel down because, and I quote:
Error Category: Wrong_Content; Comments: Your title, cover and content seem to belong to different books. Because this affects all of your readers, we have had to temporarily block your book from sale. Please make the necessary corrections so that we can make your book available for sale again.(Book contains The Druid Gene)
It's been down for probably 3-4 days as of this writing. That's when I started getting dozens of emails, tweets, facebook messages, and messages through my website--all from people who want to buy and read this book.
You know what? I want you to read it too!
I immediately contacted amazon. I got an autoform reply that said someone would contact me within 24 hours. The next morning I was given the quoted message above. It was clear that they didn't understand the situation.
I've checked the book. Only about 10 times. It contains the proper content.
What has happened, I suppose, is some very confused customers complained to Amazon that Inheritance is a repackaging of Druid Gene without realizing that Druid Gene is no longer available for sale except for a few used paperbacks floating around.
Again, I'll restate that it should be nearly impossible for them to be duped into buying the book twice because of the name change. I asked some of my readers to check the day Inheritance went up for sale--they were immediately alerted that they already owned the book. In fact, for most customers, Druid Gene magically transformed into Inheritance on their kindles without them doing a thing.
So I immediately replied to this email from Amazon, explaining everything in detail. This was well over 24 hours ago. No reply about why the book was taken down or how we can fix it. I did get a reply saying they finally put the ebook, paperback and audio book on the same page. Yay?
They ignored me today, completely. Not a word.
I tried calling Amazon today through Author Central. The call absolutely would NOT go through. I tried for over an hour. By the end I may or may not have been frightening my neighbors with random screams of frustration. I ended up sending another email to that team, essentially begging them for help.
I'm losing sales, but even more than that, I'm disappointing readers. The scores of people that contacted me are probably only a tiny percentage of the people that actually wanted to buy that book over the last three+ days.
All I can say is that I'm doing everything I can short of hopping a plane to Seattle and bopping Bezos in the nose with a wet noodle.
Stay tuned, gentle readers. I plan to let every single person who contacted me know as soon as I find out the book is back up. Personally. That's how I roll.
The day is finally here!
I uploaded VALENCE late last night and it went live sometime in the early hours. It's available on Amazon here. I also made a SmartURL that will direct you to the Amazon site in your neck of the woods (13 countries represented): VALENCE.
Paperback is still in progress but should be available in a few days--and within a week the two pages will be merged.
Will you look at that cover? Another stunning beauty from Stephan Martiniere.
I will be emailing the audiobook narrator today and production will begin on the VALENCE audiobook as soon as she has an opening in her work schedule.
I also need to email my Russian publisher because they are ready to publish this work as well!
In other news...
I've made some changes to my oeuvre. ;D
I've always maintained that the reading order for my work should include The Druid Gene, but people don't seem to know it exists or that Darcy's storyline intertwines with Jane's.
I am rebranding The Druid Gene as INHERITANCE and making it Confluence Book 3. Therefore, VALENCE is moved to slot #4.
I asked Galen Dara to rework the Druid Gene's cover so that it would fit well with the other books in the series to get it ready for a relaunch. I couldn't be happier. It's beautiful.
There are two more books to come in this series. Another book about Darcy and a 6th book where all the two storylines converge. CONFLUENCE. It was how I planned it all along, but it's been difficult figuring out how to package it. I hope this new labeling system works better.
Now I get to catch up on sleep. I've been burning the midnight oil AND the candle at both ends for what feels like months. After US Thanksgiving I will begin on book 5--can't wait!
Don't hesitate to leave questions. I'm trying to keep up with social media today, but it's all very busy. I'll get to everything, I promise.
Finally, a word about book piracy. I'm a independent author. That means I am a self-contained publishing house. I hire all the same cover artists and editors that the big publishing houses do and I have to pay the same prices for that work as they do. I'm not a big conglomeration. I'm trying to make ends meet just like you are.
Piracy is illegal. It's dangerous (most sites have malware and viruses). And it does not reward an author for the time, energy, and money it takes to produce a quality work of entertainment. A latte is approximately the same cost as one of my ebooks. I deliberately price my books fairly, so that people can afford them, without devaluing the work that goes into them. You get quite a few more hours of enjoyment from a book than a coffee. Just saying.
I've been hearing reports of authors being dropped by publishers because they aren't selling enough books as a direct result of piracy. Some authors are leaving writing behind them altogether out of frustration. Please support authors (and artists, and musicians)--no matter who publishes them. Our world is richer for their work.
As always, READ ON!
Readers want to know:
Readers of my infrequent posts know that I didn't manage to make my summer deadlines (I moved from Indiana to Pennsylvania over the summer which proved to be too much for me to manage with finishing and editing a book). So, what's the scoop now? When can you expect Valence to arrive in the Amazon store?
As you read this, I'm finishing the story level (content edit) revision with notes from my developmental editor. That means I am working around the clock. No tv. No video games. I'm doing a little social media and drawing/watercolor with my kids for breaks. The manuscript goes to my line editor next, in 11 days. He keeps it until October 3.
When I get it back, I make corrections based on his flags in Microsoft Word track changes (typos and other errors). This can take a few days to a week depending on how many errors I've made (my manuscripts are quite clean compared to most authors, I'm told).
Then I format the book and upload. This usually only takes a day, unless I hit a technical snafu.
So… all that said… it's looking like mid October for final release.
Why no hard release date, like other authors?
I'm independent. I basically run my own publishing company. So while I go through all the same steps as big traditional publishing houses, I do not do this with hundreds of books at a go, just one. Big publishing houses sit on books for a year minimum, normally, after an author submits their draft in preparation for editing. They project release dates far into the future, though a book may be ready much sooner.
I see no point in doing that. I publish my books when they're ready and that can be unpredictable, at best. You never know when you'll hit a snag. It's a creative piece, organic, and sometimes things go wrong. You may realize you made a continuity error or a character reads differently to a beta reader than you planned and has to be reworked. Or you get sick. Lots of things can happen. Life happens.
Mid October, though! Yay! I'm so excited to have you read this. My editor tells me this is my best work yet. I absolutely love this book. I sure hope you will too.
In other news of my life, my children are settling into their new schools quite well and both boys seem much happier where they are now. My two cats are having a turf war with my partner's crotchety aging cat which leads to midnight screeching fireworks. I've gained a new fluffernoodle (canine person) in my life. You'll see a pic above left. She makes a very snuggly writing assistant. She's good people.
Link, five-pound fluffernoodle of my heart, is still trying to get everyone to play, though no one of the non-human variety will cooperate, so he compensates by leaving his toys on the stairs to see what will happen when the humans race up and down.
We're all settling into the new house quite well. I love Pittsburgh. LOVE. Though I miss my friends in Indiana dreadfully. I'm sure in time… when I have free time again… I will get out and meet lots of new people to hang out with.
What's that behind Emma, you ask? Why, it's a 25 foot wall o' books. This is what happens when a scifi author and a literature professor (who teaches scifi) mate for life. They breed books.
(This was an inexpensive setup consisting of Hemnes bookshelves from IKEA. Lighting also from IKEA. No sponsorship given or implied.)
So, until I have more news, Read On, my friends! Get your vitamin R!
I promised June.
I promised early July.
I failed both times.
I missed my deadline. I'm sorry.
As many of my readers are aware, I am currently in the purgatory between two homes. I've sold my home in Indiana and am waiting to move into my new home in Pennsylvania. I intended to finish VALENCE well before the move, but I'm human and I failed.
One of my biggest character flaws is to assume I can do everything I set my mind to, just like the heroes I write about. I normally can manage it, but this time, I simply couldn't. I underestimated so many things around the move--the packing, the disruption of prepping the house for showings, the aftermath of the sale and getting all the little things fixed that the buyer required as part of the sale. I need to have mental energy to write and edit. Long days full of errands, supervising contractors, keeping children and pets happy and healthy just sapped me completely.
I'm still working on VALENCE each and every day as energy and time permits. I won't release it half-baked. I won't disrespect my readers or my characters like that.
As it is now, I can't predict when VALENCE will release because I have to reschedule with my editor. It may be months, but hopefully weeks. I promise to let you know when I know more.
Big editing houses do occasionally delay a release. It happens. And they normally have at least a year of buffer between when an author submits a final copy and the final release into the world of an edited novel. As an independent author, my deadlines are very different--I can release as soon as the book is complete, which makes situations like this more nerve wracking. I always try to give myself plenty of leeway, but sometimes a book takes longer to cook than anticipated. That's what's happening here.
Here's the good news:
The DRUID GENE AUDIO BOOK is finally here! Audie Award winning ROBIN MILES narrated this book and it is a truly wonderful performance.
Read more about Robin here. I first heard Robin reading NK Jemisin's The Fifth Season and her performance of that wonderful novel blew me away.
I approached her about working on the DRUID GENE and was so pleased to find out she was interested. It's worth listening to for her characterizations of the hymenoptera alone! Just brilliant! Robin's background in stage and screen performance really come through. She's trained, she's talented, she has the chops to make a book sing.
You can find the Druid Gene audio book on:
When I have more information about the release of VALENCE, I will post it here!
Thank you for understanding!
Apologies. I haven't been doing a very good job keeping my readers up to date lately.
But I have good reasons.
I'm a private person, but I'll confess here that my life has been experiencing a sea change over the last two years and that is culminating in me (and my boys and dogs) moving a couple of states away. That story may end up in another blog post when things finally settle down.
I've managed to stay on top of the schedule for release of the next book, for the most part. It's going to be a few weeks later than I intended. I originally planned to release Valence, Book 3 of Confluence mid-June to celebrate the 3rd anniversary of the release of Fluency. But life gets in the way sometimes. My favorite editor had a baby, I'm moving to Pittsburgh and packing up my home. But we keep on rolling.
Expect VALENCE in early July.
There won't be preorders. They don't benefit me as an independent author the way they do traditionally published authors (in fact they are bad for my bottom line overall), so I don't do them.
If you want to be the first to know when Valence hits the metaphorical shelves on Amazon, put your email into the little bar at the top of any page on my website. I don't send email often, but when I do, it will be something you're gonna want to know about.
I'd like to also mention the recommended reading order for my two series. Both series are set in the same universe and the storylines intertwine.
Fluency (Confluence Book 1)
Remanence (Confluence Book 2)
The Druid Gene (Soon to be renamed: StarSeed, The Druid Gene Book 1)
Valence (Confluence Book 3)
What will I publish next? I'm plotting out two books right now. One is a Druid Gene Book and one is the 4th (and possibly final) Confluence book. As soon as that's all mapped out, I'll know which book will be coming next, probably in early 2018.
With each new release, the nausea rises.
Will I fail this time? Will I have gone somewhere my readers cannot go? Will I have taken one risk too many? Are all my ideas shit? What if Fluency was a one-hit wonder?
I've seen it happen. I've seen extremely popular authors release a book and have their most loyal fans universally pan it. There's a new SF release on Amazon right now with a less than 2-star average (though, admittedly, it's selling like gangbusters anyway.)
Will that be me?
Well…not yet. ;D
I got this in my inbox yesterday and I'm still in shock.
Of the thousands of science fiction novels released in 2016, my little sequel-that-could has been pointed up as one of 15 that readers loved most.
I still can't believe it. But there it is.
I'm grateful. You guys made this happen. You read my books and you talk about them around the water cooler. You tell friends and family and even strangers about them. You leave reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. You write blog and social media posts about them.
And more people buy them, making it possible for me to keep writing them. Writing is my one and only job. I'm supporting my children on this income. I'm not bagging groceries or stuck in a lab without windows all day.
I have never expected external validation like this. I write popular fiction--escapist literature with some small elements of social commentary. It's supposed to be fun, not snooty or serious at all. I write space opera stories. That's it.
The other books in this category are fantastic. I'm honored to have one of mine among them.
I'm asking YOU to find a moment to do two small things for me:
Reviews are powerful social metrics for buyers and potential advertisers. The more a book has, the more confidence a potential reader has (I'm sure most of you aren't immune to this--I'm not).
The number of reviews can make or break a book. As an independent author, I don't have the big bucks marketing machine of the big five publishers behind me. Case in point--The Druid Gene was recently turned down for the biggest book promotion site out there. One promotion with that site could launch this book into the stratosphere.
The Druid Gene has everything it needs to be a success--good editing, fantastic cover art, a solid story that most readers enjoy--but it doesn't have enough reviews to make the cut yet. Help me get it there. You can make an actual difference in my career.
Thank you, gentle reader, for your support.
As you may know, I published a new book a few days ago. This has been an unusual journey for me to get to this place. Let me tell you a story.
When I wrote Fluency, I expected to remain in obscurity. My long term goal at that point in my life was to continue to learn my craft and grow as a writer. I hoped within five years or so to make enough from writing to compensate me at the level of a part time job so I could justify continuing to stay at home with my kids. I planned to work hard and persevere. That's my nature.
With that in mind, I finished Fluency and set it aside to remove some of the newness of it from my mind, so that one day, in a few months, I could pick it up again and see it with fresh eyes and make it a better book. In the interim, I started a new novel that had a working title of Druid.
At that point I was afraid of putting all my eggs in one basket. I'd seen indie writers work endlessly on series that didn't sell well. I didn't know how Fluency would be received, but considering I was starting from zero, I assumed (rightly) that it would not sell. My intent was to create something very different, but within the same universe, to give readers another starting point if they wanted to try my work.
The original idea for Druid came from a feverish, frightening dream. In this dream, I was a young woman with no allies, running from a relentless hunter. I had special powers that I didn't understand. Most of that dream, oddly, took place in an overgrown maze of a vineyard and a rural town on an alien planet populated with all sorts of diverse alien people. I woke up and scribbled out my thoughts and the ideas grew into Druid. Very different from that dream in a lot of ways, but the central premise was there.
In my original conception of Druid, Darcy was a young black woman. A black friend talked me out of it. I won't go into his reasons why. I was consternated. I knew that POC rarely see themselves in fiction and if they do, they are often the bad guy. (Even my beloved Star Trek isn't innocent of this--case in point, Star Trek Beyond). More on this thought process in a moment.
I got about forty-five thousand words into the Druid novel and decided it was time to do the final edits on Fluency and publish it. And then something insane happened. Fluency was virally successful. After the first blush of insanity, I went back to Druid and kept writing this novel I loved.
Then, due to Fluency's success, I got an agent. He insisted I'd be ruining my career if I published anything OTHER than a sequel to Fluency. I stubbornly continued to work on Druid. For a while.
I was out of sorts. My personal life was not in a great place. I had so many doubts about whether Fluency was a fluke or if I really had what it took to make a career as an author work. Eventually my agent, and all of my writing friends, convinced me to write the sequel to Fluency. Remanence was written then. It wasn't easy and took a lot longer than I wanted it to. But then it was successful too and I began, just a little bit, to believe in myself.
I thought long and hard about the Confluence series and how that partially completed novel, Druid, fit into it. I knew from the start I wanted the two series to intertwine and that meant I couldn't keep writing the Confluence series without introducing the Druid characters or I'd spoil the Druid series and waste all that work. I couldn't throw away what I thought was shaping up to be a good novel.
So I went off-book.
I am my own woman.
I continued to debate the racial identity of Darcy. The pivotal moment in that decision came when an old college friend who happens to be black told me that when she read Fluency she expected Ron Gibbs to be a red shirt just because he was the black guy. And she explained her experience with seeing people like herself represented in fiction.
My heart broke in that moment. That's not hyperbole. I honestly felt like I'd somehow let her down even though Ron is far from a red shirt and plays a larger role in Remanence than he did in Fluency. It was exceedingly painful for me to think about. I couldn't get it off my mind. People with brown skin deserve to see themselves as heroes every bit as much as I do. Yes, that means supporting writers of color--and I do. But it also means that people with privilege should make an effort to understand the challenges of people who have different experiences and bring that to their work. I wanted be a better writer.
A lot of white writers are afraid of writing characters with brown skin because they're afraid of getting something wrong. In addition, I was once told by a gay friend that I wasn't "allowed" to write gay characters. That I had to leave that to people who had lived it. I worried black folks would feel the same.
I came to the conclusion that that's absurd. That's "write what you know" taken to extremes. I've never been a squid OR a formless, malleable sentient colony of bacteria OR a plant/animal hybrid. I've never been a linguist, OR a male aeronautic engineer OR a lesbian space pirate. And yet I'm able to write those characters by using my innate empathy to imagine what their lives would be like.
I talked about it extensively with my new partner. He is biracial and his experience resonated with me. This new knowledge gave me a new direction. Here was an underlying theme I could give this work to imbue it with it more depth and power. The novel underwent extensive rewrites to reflect my new decisions and I'm really proud of where it went.
This book is not about race, though. It is about identity. That might seem like a subtle distinction, but I urge you to read it and see for yourself.
Just as I had struggled for years with my own identity as mother and novelist, in this work Darcy struggles with what it means to become something greater than she believed she was capable of. At its core, it is a book about becoming one's true self. That is something anyone of any nationality, race, gender, or religion can identify with. I hope you agree.
Now The Druid Gene is out there and it's doing great. If you read it, and you value my work, please do me a solid and review it (and tell your friends!).
Let me know if you have any questions about this or anything else about my work and I'll be happy to address it in a future blog post.
Jennifer Foehner Wells
I'm an author of the Space Opera variety.