Chelsea Campbell’s FIRE & CHASM, a dark fantasy in which a teen boy with no memory of his childhood puts his murderous impulses to work assassinating wizards in the war between adherents of the church and practitioners of magic, until he discovers one of his targets holds the key to unlocking his forgotten past, pitched as Dexter meets THE AMULET OF SAMARKAND, to Miriam Juskowicz at Skyscape by Holly Root at Waxman Leavell Literary Agency (World).
A million years ago–or maybe it was more like eight–I wrote a book. I freaking loved that book and I put everything I had into it, and I really thought it was The One. (For those of you keeping track, I’ve talked about this book before.) It wasn’t my first book, or the first book I’d sent out–not by a longshot–but it was noticeably better than anything else I’d written. (Little known fact: I actually participated in Miss Snark’s first critique thingy where you sent in your first page and she told you what for. She actually liked mine. My hopes skyrocketed.) I sent it out to agents. I got my first ever request for a partial. Then another request for a partial that later turned into request for a full.
I honestly thought I’d made it, that this was it and life was going to be good from here on out because I was going to get an agent, get published, and have my dream career. (Ha! Life so isn’t like that, and publishing even less so, but it certainly felt comforting to think so at the time.)
But this book I’m talking about, this was not Renegade X. And Renegade X was my first book that got me an agent and got published, so you can probably guess where this is going.
The agents who were reading it rejected it. I never got any more requests. I tweaked my query letter endlessly and kept sending it out, even though I kind of suspected at this point that it wasn’t going to make it. And it didn’t. And I was kind of heartbroken about it for awhile. (Okay, really heartbroken.)
I was mad at myself for believing in that book, for loving those characters and that story so freaking much. I felt like the book had betrayed me by getting my hopes up and then not being good enough. I forced myself to keep writing, even though my heart kind of wasn’t in it right then, and had a couple false starts with new books that only made me more stressed and frustrated.
This period of disappointment and frustration was in the spring and summer that year. It messed me up a lot. I joined a writing group during Nano, wrote another book over fall and winter, and was starting to get some confidence back, if not enthusiasm. Then that next summer, I wrote Renegade X, which ended up being The One, though it has its own long story of how it got published, or how it almost didn’t get published, and then how it was unpublished and republished by me.
But anyway. Back to the book that broke my heart.
Cut to five years and many books later. I started up in the distance program (online) at Syracuse University, getting my master’s in library science. During the week-long residency we had to do in the beginning, I learned a lot about innovation and the importance of failure and how giving yourself room to fail is a necessary part of making or doing something great, not the end of things. (I didn’t end up getting the degree in the long run, but I learned an awful lot from my teachers and classmates, about innovation and life and bringing the hot sauce.) I started to rethink how I felt about failure that summer, and so I started to think about that old book that had failed me. I’d spent years trying to “live it down” in my mind, not wanting to talk about it, and whenever I did mention it, I had to also mention how horrible I thought it was. But now I started thinking about it again, and about how even if it had some problems, it had a lot of good things about it, too. There was a reason I’d loved it so much. There was a reason it had gotten some requests, even though the writing really wasn’t there yet. If anything, I was the one who had let it down, not the other way around.
I got an idea for the opening and started writing. I kept characters and concepts I’d loved from the first one and rethought the world and plot and how everything could go together. The first version had been my sixth book. This reboot was my twelfth. And it was so much better this time around, and I loved it again, and my beta readers loved it, too. It was finally the amazing book I’d wanted so hard for it to be in the past.
This book is Fire and Chasm. And I’m pleased to announce that it’s coming out next February from Skyscape.
I’m so excited to reveal the cover for my upcoming middle grade release, Growing Up Dead, a comedy about a vampire in junior high. I’ve been a fan of Annie Rodrigue‘s art style for a while now and am happy to have worked with her on this. She did a perfect job, and the colors make me want to eat it.
For Nox, being a vampire in junior high wouldn’t be so bad if a) vampires still had super strength, b) his mom would let him play his guitar in the house, and c) the werewolf girl of his dreams would notice he’s alive.
Nox’s life is over when Chug the Thug, a troll who can smell fear and lunch money from three miles away, gets his hands on a picture of Nox’s crush. The same picture Nox drew hearts all over and wrote “Nox and Lila forever” on. If Nox can’t cough up fifty bucks by Friday, Chug’s going public.
Worse, when the Battle of the Bands venue says they won’t allow vampires, due to recent unsolved vamp-related violence, Nox discovers his “friends” have no problem replacing him… with his crush. Now Nox has less than a week to thwart Chug, solve a mystery, and get back in the band. But when reclaiming his role as rock-star-to-be means hurting the girl he loves, what’s a teenage vamp to do?
10 years ago, I was working at Burger King (a really, really crappy Burger King where the fries were cold and the pop was uncarbonated, or at least the flavors anybody cared about were–it shut down just after New Year’s that year) and thinking I was really close to finding an agent and getting published. LOL. (I was nowhere near it.) At some point that fall, I’d gotten a slightly personalized rejection letter from an agent whose name I can’t even remember now. Looking back, it was obviously a form letter, but it had my name on it and was on the agency letterhead. Slightly thicker paper, cream colored. Not the thin, run-of-the-mill printer paper rejections I’d been getting. It basically said I wasn’t ready yet, but that they’d like to see my work again after I’d written another book or three. I was querying my 4th book at the time, if I remember right.
5 years ago, I was working at the ribbon shop (I made award ribbons, mostly for cat shows) and was actually on the verge of getting a publishing contract for the first time. That was The Rise of Renegade X, and it was my 8th or 9th book, depending on how you count them. (The book I’d started before it I would later finish, so technically RRX was my 8th finished book, but if you lined them up in chronological order, it would be the 9th.) I’d finished it about a year and a half before that, had recently fired my first agent, and was getting interest from a publisher on my own. In the next few months, I’d have a new, way better agent, and two offers.
If you’d told me 10 years ago that it would be another 5 years before I got published, I would have been devastated. If you’d told me 5 years ago that at the end of 2013, I still wouldn’t have gotten another publishing contract, again, I would have been devastated. Probably even more devastated than the first one, because at least then something good was coming, I just had to wait for it. (Or work really hard for it. Whatever.) And if you added on the fact that I wasn’t just contractless, but self-publishing–and, okay, not just self-publishing, but republishing my only traditionally published book because it had gone out of print and I’d taken the rights back–I would have been more than devastated. Probably absolutely crushed.
I would have had no idea how happy I was going to be.
To be fair, self-publishing has changed a lot in the past 5 years. But, from where I sit now, it seems ridiculous to me how upset I would have been about the supposed “failures” to come. It’s funny how our expectations of how things “should” go can get in the way of seeing opportunities. 2013 has been my best year in publishing, period. Not that there weren’t exciting moments along my traditional publishing journey, and everything I learned along that journey made me a better writer and publisher. But it wasn’t the only way to be happy, and it certainly wasn’t the only way to be successful.
This year, I got to write what I wanted. Which means Renegade X fans (and me) finally got to have a sequel. This year, I didn’t second guess what editors might buy from me or base what I wrote on what I might be able to sell to them. I wrote for myself, and for my readers. I had more fun writing than I have in a long time (though at least part of that has to do with getting better thyroid meds and not feeling like I was dying all the time, but that’s a different story), I ran a successful kickstarter campaign, and I published two books, which, in the past three months that they’ve been out, have sold more copies than I ever did as a traditionally published author. In fact, I’m pretty sure that I’ve sold more copies of The Rise of Renegade X in the past 3 months than my publisher did in the past 3 years.
So, yeah. I guess the point of this post is that we don’t always know what will make us happy. I always knew I wanted a career writing books. That hasn’t changed, and it’s just as satisfying as I’d thought it would be. But how I got here, to a point where I even feel comfortable saying I have a writing “career” as opposed to just “a book,” was completely unexpected.
I’ve been getting this question a lot as people finish up The Trials of Renegade X. Everyone wants to know if there’s going to be another sequel.
And my answer to that is YES, definitely! I’m still in the planning stages, so I don’t have a title for you yet or a description, but know that it is coming. I’ve added it to Goodreads and set the release date as September 1st, 2014, and you can add it here.
I got my copy of The Trials of Renegade X in hardcover this morning! It’s awesome and quite large (and, of course, in charge) and is bound in blue cloth under the dust jacket.
Okay, so, The Trials of Renegade X wasn’t supposed to come out until the 26th, but it’s actually out right now. The hardback edition I created through Lightning Source appeared on Amazon and Barnes and Noble this weekend. Oops. And I think Goodreads has been emailing people that the book is out. So I’ve been working on getting the other editions up and running.
Which means that you can now get the book. Like, right now. Here’s a breakdown:
- The hardback books are $19.99. They’re available through Amazon or Barnes and Noble. They should be available through other outlets soon, including Book Depository.
- The ebook is $4.99 and available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo. It should be available through the Apple store soon.
- The paperbacks will be $12.99 and available through Amazon, but I don’t have those up yet.
So there you have it. I leave you with the excerpt from the back of the hardcover:
I don’t know what happens then, only that I don’t pull the trigger. But a wild tendril of fear flashes through me. Electricity sparks hot in my hand. It feels the same as it did the other night, when the light socket practically exploded. Except this time, I know it’s not coming from some outside source—it’s coming from me. I can feel the charge all the way down to my bones. But it all happens so fast, and before I really get what’s happening, sparks shoot into the gadget I’m holding, and then there are ninja stars flying. Not just at their target—who is apparently a superhero and not a jewel thief—but in every direction.
I have, of course, been dying to show you guys this for a while now, and today is the day! This is the ebook cover for Trials, made by Raul Allen, who was also the amazing artist behind the first cover. The print books will feature the full wraparound, like the first one had, with the city continuing off to the left.
And here’s blurb again:
Can a half villain ever be a full hero?
Damien Locke didn’t choose for his supervillain mom to disown him — just because he sort of defied her and ruined her evil plans to take over Golden City — and he didn’t choose for his superpower to be flying, a superhero ability that involves his least favorite thing: heights. But now that he’s living with his dad’s superhero family and enrolling at Heroesworth Academy, he’s ready to embrace his new life, get his H, and finally belong somewhere. But belonging isn’t as easy as signing up for classes, and Damien finds himself struggling to fit in more than ever.
Just when he’s sure his fate as a hero has been decided, though, he gets a new villain power that he can’t control. And things only get worse when he accidentally screws up one of his sidekick Sarah’s gadgets, altering her personality and turning her into a crazed, anti-supervillain vigilante — leaving him no choice but to team up with her annoying superhero boyfriend if he hopes to have any chance of getting the old Sarah back, before she captures — or kills — another supervillain like him.
I think it goes without saying, but I LOVE this cover! I love how bitchy and evil Sarah looks (I know, I know, that’s a weird thing to say, but it’s true). And I love the city in the background, and the mist on the roof, and the creepy machine there. And of course Damien looks awesome, too! And their belts have Xs and Thetas on them, and it’s just all very cool and amazing.
So many announcements, in fact, that I can make a BULLETED LIST.
- The kickstarter for The Trials of Renegade X was a rousing success! It ended at 125%, which is pretty amazing. Especially since there was a time, for about an hour or so after I first launched it (and, well, all the months leading up to it), where I was pretty sure it was going to finish at zero percent. Or maybe more realistically like one percent. (Okay, okay, five percent.) BUT my doubts were foiled again and everything is coming up awesome.
- If you missed out on the kickstarter, don’t worry! Trials now has a release date and will be out September 26th. You’ll be able to get it in ebook, paperback, or hardcover. (Though if you want a print copy, brace yourself for print-on-demand prices, which are a bit pricier than you might be used to.)
- I have THE COVER, and it’s freaking AWESOME. Raul Allen, the same artist who did the cover for The Rise of Renegade X, did an amazing job. It’s everything I could have hoped for and more, and a perfect follow-up to the first one. I can’t reveal it yet, but soon, precioussss. Soon.
- You may or may not have noticed–or seen me talking about it–but the first book is currently unavailable, due to me getting the rights back. But I’m happy to announce that it will be back up in the near future–probably in the next few weeks–and should be out in time for the sequel’s release! I’m in the process of licensing the cover art now, but once that’s done I can relaunch. It will be back up in ebook and hardback and will be making its paperback debut. ;) (Though what I said earlier about POD prices still applies.)
- The movie option for Renegade X got renewed! I have no idea where they are with the project (well, I have some idea, but my knowledge on it is several months outdated, and I’m not sure what I’d be allowed to tell people even if I did know something), only that it’s still in the works. So, as always, getting renewed doesn’t mean there will actually be a movie, but it’s still a possibility!
- And, finally, with both books for sure coming out and having covers and all that, I’m thinking of doing audiobook versions as well through ACX. (ACX is awesome and makes audiobook production an option for authors and helps them find narrators. I went through them for Harper Madigan and was really happy about the whole process and especially with how the book turned out.) I have to admit to being kind of nervous about hearing someone else read for Damien and the other RRX characters I’ve had in my head for so long. (And what if I hear their voice in my head from then on instead of mine???) So if I don’t find the right narrator, it will be a no-go. But there are a lot of talented voice actors, so I am hopeful that the right one is out there.
And so my bulleted list comes to an end! This next month is going to be really exciting as I get ready to launch all this, and then of course everyone finally getting to actually read the sequel is pretty mind blowing, too!
I’ve been reading over The Rise of Renegade X, so I can read it back to back with The Trials of Renegade X, something I’ve never done so far, at least not since Trials was actually finished. Besides reading them for fun (because, OMG, I have a series, or at least if two books counts as a series, which it might not, but saying OMG, I have a … couplet? doesn’t have the same ring to it), I’m looking for style and spelling consistency while I do it, to make sure everything matches between books.
It’s interesting because as I read through it, I’m noticing that even though my voice hasn’t changed in the six years since I wrote this, my punctuation style has. I’m looking back at the first one and seeing that I used semi-colons. Seriously? I never use semi-colons, or at least not anymore. And I can see why I ended up using them then, but I just don’t structure my sentences the same way.
I’m also pretty sure I use a lot more italics these days, though that might be partly because I realized, while listening to the Harper Madigan audiobook, that no one will read the words as if they’re italicized unless I, you know, actually italicize them.
And since I’m republishing The Rise of Renegade X (someday, hopefully in the not-too-far future), it’s so tempting to think, “Well, I could just edit out those semi-colons, to make it match my style now.” But that is a big fat can of worms right there, and Chelsea’s first rule of revision is change as little as possible. That goes double for books that are already done, published, and have been being read and enjoyed by readers for years.
So I will just suck it up and face the facts that sometimes things change, and that’s okay. Also, I really doubt you guys are going to be reading the sequel, going, “WTF? There are NO semi-colons in this book! Where’s the smattering of properly used semi-colons I’ve come to expect from this series?!?!?!” (Though if you did, I suppose you’d be even more upset if I went and took them out of the first book. Best to just leave things as they are and let sleeping semi-colons lie.)
So, as some of you have noticed, you can no longer buy new copies of The Rise of Renegade X. You can get used hardbacks, but new ones haven’t been available in months. (I even got confirmation that there just aren’t any left.) The print run ran out and that’s that.
Except it’s not. This might all sound like bad news, especially when I tell you that the ebooks have all been taken down as well, but it’s actually really good news!
(I know, I know, it’s counter intuitive, but hear me out.)
Because the book went out of print, I was able to get the rights back. (Which is why the ebook disappeared, since the rights to it are mine now, not the publisher’s. But if you already bought an ebook version of it, you can still keep/download that.)
Getting the rights back these days is super good news. In the near future I will be putting the ebook back up–for a much lower price–and making paperback copies available through print-on-demand. The great thing about POD is that it never goes out of print. Which means there will always be physical and ebook copies available.
I’m also hoping to release a POD hardback as well, but that will depend on if the kickstarter for the sequel is successful, since I’ll need a block of ISBNs for that part.
And speaking of the kickstarter, it’s at 49%! Just one pledge away from hitting the halfway mark! And there are still 24 days to go!
There’s still a lot left to raise, so if you plan to buy the sequel, please consider getting it through the kickstarter!
For $10, you get both the ebook version of the sequel (which you’ll get to read a month before everybody else) and the ebook of The Rise of Renegade X. There are, of course, plenty of other cool incentives, and even if you can’t pledge right now, any efforts to help spread the word are much appreciated!