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The Ten Year Renegade-iversary

Ten years ago, I was just finishing up The Rise of Renegade X. (It was the summer after I graduated college–at 25, not 22 like you might be thinking–and the last Harry Potter book had just come out–I remember devouring it in between writing sessions.) I wrote book 1 in a 28-day whirlwind from concept to finish, and it was by far the best thing I’d ever written. (In fact, for a long time, I worried I’d never write anything as good as that, which thankfully wasn’t true.) A year and a half later, I added another 20k for an editor (which I wrote in a week), but otherwise, it was the same book it is now.

I didn’t write book 2 until six years and six books later, hence the jump in quality. That one took me three months to write, if you don’t count the five chapters I wrote before that but then couldn’t work on for, like, a year due to illness and having, like, no words in my brain. Despite getting temporarily better enough to work on the book, it didn’t last, and I went back to being blank and empty.

(If you’re wondering, I have an autoimmune disease–Hashimoto’s–and adrenal fatigue, which it turns out were caused by crazy severe food allergies. Mostly gluten. And grains. I know what you’re thinking, but gluten is seriously bad news and it sucked out my soul like a Dementor. It turns out autoimmune disease in general is caused by food allergies (mostly gluten, grains, and dairy), so if you have one, please Google the Autoimmune Protocol–it saved my life.)

Somehow I wrote book 3 while being blank and empty. Sometimes my brain would just go blank in the middle of a sentence, and I would have absolutely no idea what words to put next, and I’d have to walk away from it for a couple weeks until I could start thinking of words again. This forced start-and-stop method was really hard, and I don’t think I can express how frustrating it was. Once I finally started healing, I also realized how dampened my emotions were at the time. It’s not exactly that I couldn’t feel feelings… but I kind of couldn’t feel feelings. And yet somehow I wrote a book full of feelings. Just like how I wrote a book full of thoughts and words when my brain was very low on them. I honestly don’t know how I managed to write that book, though I know it was mostly done in little chunks over two years, so I guess that’s how, but still. The more I heal and the better I get, the more I look back and think, WTF? How in the hell did I manage to write any of that, let alone a whole book?

Book 4 took me a year and half, but I wrote most of it in the last six months. Coincidentally when I had some health breakthroughs and started feeling better. (Crazy, right?) It, too, was written in starts and stops and little chunks, though there were less starts and stops and the chunks were bigger, and my brain stopped crapping out in the middle of sentences. I still have trouble writing for long periods of time, and sometimes I hit my limit way earlier than I would like, but overall it’s getting easier. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to write a book in a 28-day whirlwind again (though I wasn’t exactly healthy then, either, it just wasn’t as bad yet, so who knows?). I think these books have gotten too complicated for that, though I’d settle for a three-month writing binge, or maybe even a six-month writing binge, or maybe even a “just being able to write steadily in general” streak.

Anyway, I can’t believe I’ve been writing Renegade X books for ten years. In that time, only a year and a half has gone by for the characters. At this rate, even if I lived to be 100–and kept writing Renegade X books at the same pace the whole time–Damien would never be older than 27. How bizarre is that? Not that that’s how books work, and not that I’m saying that’s how it’s going to go. I’m just saying the time difference between my life and theirs is very different.

Upcoming Releases

First things first, The Phobia of Renegade X, book 4 in the Renegade X series, is complete! It finished at 116k, which is just shy of book 3′s 118k. I’m hoping to have it out by the end of August, but that will depend on when the cover art is finished, so it might be more like early September.

In the meantime, I’m writing another novella, this one set between books 3 and 4. So you won’t have to read it to read book 4, but it is technically what comes next. It’s called The Torment of Renegade X and is about Damien and Riley (and Amelia) spending a mandatory week at superhero camp, much to Damien’s dismay. My goal is to have it out by the end of this month, so expect that soon!

And I set up the newsletter so that new subscribers now get a copy of Damien Locke’s Guide to Golden City, a fun travel guide I originally wrote as part of the Kickstarter for book 3.  It’s 18 pages of all-new anecdotes with snarky commentary between Damien and Riley, along with a few drawings. If you’d like to get a copy, there’s a subscription form in the  upper left of the sidebar (though if you’re reading this from a different site, go to www.chelseamcampbell.com first), and you can unsubscribe at any time. (I am totally that person who subscribes for the free gift and then immediately cancels, so who am I to judge?) If you’re already a subscriber, I’ve sent out a newsletter with a link to the file, so it should show up in your inbox very soon!

And if you’re a Dragonbound fan, yes, there will be more Dragonbound! It’s too early for me to promise any dates (I mean, I’d like to, but I’m always wrong, so maybe it’s better if I don’t), but for now just know that I’m working on it and you will have more Virginia and Amelrik. :)

Oh, and since I’m covering all the bases here, yes, there will be more audiobooks. I’m hoping to get at least one Renegade X audiobook out next February, but this is super tentative right now because it depends on some factors I don’t really have control of. BUT if you are one of the people waiting for them, take heart, because the audiobooks are very important to me, too, and more will be coming.

Dragonbound Comes out August 9th!

That’s right, I have a new book coming out! In, like, three weeks-ish. I’m pretty damn proud of this one, and I think if you’re a Renegade X fan, you’ll love Dragonbound, too. It’s not about superheroes (obviously) but it does have a similar tone and humor.

Virginia St. George has never been good at following the rules. After all, she’s supposed to be a paladin. She’s supposed to have inherited magic, like her older sister, that can bind a dragon’s powers. She’s supposed to be able to wield a sword, like her best friend, and chop a dragon’s head off in one blow. And she’s supposed to be able to leave the safety of the barracks, like everybody else, but watching a dragon rip her mother apart years ago ruined that option, leaving her with an intense fear of the outside world.

 

And, above all things, she’s most certainly not supposed to talk to Amelrik, the shapeshifting dragon boy her family’s keeping locked up in the dungeon. Even if he saved her life. But if there’s one thing everyone can agree on, it’s that he’s a dangerous criminal who can’t be trusted, and that she should stay as far away from him as possible.

 

But when dragons kidnap her sister during a routine hunting mission, Amelrik offers up insider information that just might save her. That is, if anyone would listen. Now Virginia must make a choice: heed her family’s warnings and play it safe, or confront her worst fears and put her trust in a dangerous enemy. 

Though all you really need to know about it is the first line:

I want to punch everyone at this party in the face.

And I got my author copies of the audiobook, and HOLY CRAP, it’s amazing. Like, I don’t think I’m ever going to bother reading it myself now, because the narrator, Fiona Hardingham, does such an amazing job acting it all out and doing the voices and accents and stuff. So I highly recommend snagging a copy of the audiobook, which should be part of Whispersync, since it’s a Skyscape book, which believe means you can get the audiobook for only $1.99 when you buy the ebook, which is $3.99, which is pretty good for an audiobook. I think by itself it’s around $7 or something.

I am pretty picky about narrators, and I had absolutely nothing to do with this audiobook and had no idea who was doing it or how it would turn out (completely unlike with Renegade X, where I am in charge), and I admit I was kind of… worried. But to no avail! Because it turns out it’s awesome!

I’ve had a lot of hangups the past couple years (during the worst of the chronic illness that is thankfully no longer quite so chronic) with being able to tell if what I’m writing is good at all. I mean, I know it is, but sometimes I just feel so cruddy from illness that I can’t tell, because all I feel is cruddiness, and that’s not how it’s supposed to feel when I write something awesome. But hearing my books in audio format makes me forget about all the stupid crap I was worried about that doesn’t actually matter (read: problems made up in my head) and makes me experience it how it really is. So I’m doubly glad to have such amazing narrators for my work!

And I know this post is about Dragonbound, but since I post so sporadically (I couldn’t remember the opposite word for “often,” and then I thought of that scene in Clueless), I’ll include some Renegade X update info.

So, what is happening with book 4, you ask? Lots of cool stuff! But while I’m a lot better health-wise than I was last year or even six months ago, I’m still slow. I hate admitting that, both to you and to myself, but it’s true. (I used to be a fast writer. Sometimes I still am. But probably not today.) So… I’m still working on it. I’m really hoping to have it out sometime this fall, but I can’t really say (and I’m usually wrong, so take that prediction with a grain of salt).

But speaking of amazing audiobooks, when is the audiobook for book 3 coming out?! I know, I know, it’s been, like, a year since the last audiobook came out. But it’s all dependent on when I get the next book out (because audiobooks are expensive and I have to, like, pay for it), and when my narrator is available to work on it. So take whenever I get book 4 out and add a few months to it. But it will exist! Eventually!

Is Book 4 the last one? Please say no, please say no. Nope, not the last one! I’m taking this one book at a time, I don’t have, like, some grand plan or anything, but I do know that this isn’t the end. So, yay for not having grand plans, I guess. I’ll admit I’m not very good at planning ahead, but I am good at making the current book awesome and the series continuable, so there you go.

P.S. I forgot to mention that there’s a Goodreads giveaway going on for Dragonbound right now. Skyscape is giving away 100 ebook copies, and you can go here and enter.

The Haunting of Renegade X is out!

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 This novella takes place between books 2 and 3.

Damien doesn’t believe in ghosts, even when he hears the voice of his ex-best friend Pete calling to him from the Banking and Finances building, the scene of his death. His new friend Riley doesn’t believe in ghosts, either, but when Damien confides in him about what he thinks he heard, the two of them decide to investigate. On Halloween night.

A decision they come to regret as soon as Pete’s ghost traps them inside the building. It turns out Pete’s got unfinished business with Damien concerning the collapse of their friendship. Damien’s always blamed Pete for how it ended, but now Pete forces him to acknowledge the part he played in it. In order to survive the night, Damien will not only have to figure out how to fight a ghost, but he’ll have to tell the truth about his past–even when that truth threatens to destroy his new friendship with Riley.

The ebook is available now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble,  iTunes, and Kobo. And I’m working on getting the paperback version up ASAP.

Update: The Betrayal of Renegade X

It’s been awhile since I talked about book 3, so I figured I’d update you guys on where I’m at.

  • I’m currently at 80,000 words out of an estimated 120,000, so the book is about 2/3rds of the way done. W00t! I don’t post a lot, but I do try to keep my word-count meter up to date.
  • When does that mean it comes out? Short answer: I don’t know. Long answer: I hope to be done in about six weeks. Okay, I hope to be done sooner than that, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be done by six weeks from now. (No promises. I keep pulling a George R. R. Martin with this book and giving dates and then not meeting them. It’s been that kind of year.) Then I’ll get it to the cover artist and it shouldn’t be long from there! If you want to make sure you don’t miss it, the easiest way is to sign up for my newsletter in the top left, and you’ll get an email when The Betrayal of Renegade X  comes out.
  • The book description! I wrote this up awhile ago and posted it on Goodreads, but not on here.

Damien thinks he has the whole hero thing figured out—he’s getting good grades at Heroesworth and acing all his missions—at least until he zaps an unarmed bad guy he believes tortured and murdered children. It turns out the “bad guy” was actually a superhero working with the school. The mission was staged, and Damien blew it.

Now his best friend refuses to work with him, his dad is considering getting him professional help, and everyone’s questioning whether or not he has a future as a hero—including his grandpa, who will do anything to ensure Damien’s future lies in villainy. His grandpa creates a villain organization called the Truth, intent on exposing the way heroes really treat villains. But when the Truth launches its plan and the whole city erupts in chaos, Damien is caught between the opposing sides, and his future is anything but certain.

With heroes and villains bent on destroying each other, it’s up to him to do whatever it takes to stop the fighting, even if it means betraying the people closest to him.

 

The Deal Announcement

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.

End of the Year Post

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.

Will There Be a Renegade X 3?

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.

Comparing and Contrasting with Myself

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.)

Back from Everfree NW!

Back from the pony convention!  Not that I was really gone, since I live here, but whatever.

For those of you who don’t know, Everfree NW is the local My Little Pony convention.  I used to watch the original My Little Pony back in the early 80s, though I find that one doesn’t really hold up that well now that I’m an adult.  But the new version of the show, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, is AMAZING.  It’s on Netflix.  Go check it out if you’ve never seen it.

Anyway, this was my first time at Everfree and my first time being a vendor at a  con.  (I make crocheted pony plushies.)  I only saw the dealer’s room, but that’s my favorite part of conventions, plus the con pretty much came to me.  VIPs from the show came by and complimented my ponies.  The people from Friendship is Witchcraft stopped by, too (they re-edit episodes of the show and dub over them and it’s HILARIOUS and my favorite fan-made thing).  And Peter New, the voice of Big Macintosh, came by and let me take a pic of him with my Big Macintosh plushie.
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There was also a Sweet Apple Acres booth on the other side of the vendor’s hall, and a lady dressed up like Granny Smith.  Every so often she’d shout that it was Cider Season, and for a limited time they’d sell little bottles of Apple Family cider, just like on the show.  It was good times.  And from my booth I met lots of cool people and saw lots of amazing costumes.

I had some Renegade X bookmarks on my table and told a few people that I was a writer and gave them one.  Which was maybe a mistake, because I kept getting that, “Oh God, not another terrible writer–please strike me down before they start talking about their book!” look from people, which I haven’t gotten since before I was published.  It wasn’t all their fault, though, since I’m horrible at telling people about my successes.  (I blame  the kids in elementary school and junior high who would come up to me and, in a mean, accusing voice, say, “You get straight As, don’t you?”  Which, for the record, I didn’t, but that wasn’t really the point.)  I always forget to mention the important stuff, like that I’m actually published and that Disney Channel is working on the movie.  Oh, yeah, and that it’s freaking hilarious.

Oh, well.  I like to think if they do end up looking up my book and reading the sample that they will be pleasantly blown away.  Because, I mean, making cute crocheted toys is cool and all, but it doesn’t take nearly as much time and effort to learn as making awesome books does.

What are your successes?  What skillz do you have that other people underestimate?