Here's my current pitch:
[Lynn Plorávero is fledgling vampiress with a severe case of cabin fever, but has no idea that this isolation was meant to protect her. Sadly, video games and coffee shops can’t keep her occupied forever, and after decades of monotony, she’s had enough. In a rebellion against her Maker's rules, she befriends Nick: a depressed young man who beat cancer and still found no light at the end of his tunnel.
But although Lynn thinks she's merely expanding her world, her actions have instead set the wheel of fate in motion.
Thanks to Lynn’s reckless bid for freedom with Nick, and newfound abilities from her mother’s sorcerous bloodline, she catches the attention of the same dark power that extinguished the Plorávero clan so long ago. He seems to be a vampire, possibly the oldest…but he isn’t.
Andris is a Nariuvne, a vampire who feeds on other vampires, and he wants Lynn for himself, even if he is her mother’s killer.
Lynn is determined to fulfill her mother’s last request, to forgive Andris for her mother’s death and help him atone for the crimes he has committed. Meanwhile, Nick is hell-bent on simply shooing the ancient monster away. Even so, Andris pushes the limits of Lynn’s moral compass and forces her to choose:
Will Lynn remain in the safe, familiar world she knows, or will she embrace a dangerous, eternal adventure by his side?]
233 words! *badly affects an Irish accent* I'm darn proud o' meself!
My first completed, edited, and polished book. It's about 317,000 words and packed with so much page-turning humor and drama that you could probably finish it in a couple of days. (It's longer than A Game of Thrones, mind you.)
Avenari is, on paper, a new adult, paranormal epic romance. In reality, it breaks so many molds that I'm not entirely sure what to call it.
So let's just call it my firstborn
I began writing this when I was fourteen years old--in 2002--before Twilight ever became a thing, before New Adult was a recognized demographic, and before I fully understood what the heck I was getting myself into. I finished the first draft on January 1st, 2004. I know, because I wrote out and signed a card when I finished it to mark the date. My first iteration of Avenari was hand-written in a half-sized, spiral-bound notebook--two, actually--and finished out at about 450 pages. I still have them, and I can't stand opening them. *laugh* Ah, the writing is just so atrocious, but what do you expect from a random, depressed teen who has only just discovered the world of words?
Next step was a digital transfer. That's right: I transcribed the entire book onto a Word document on my first computer: the family's old VAIO desktop, circa 1997. The thing was huge. It filled up two whole floppy disks! (I might be dating myself, here.) I think I was still using Word '97, at the time, actually. (I currently use Word 2003, which is actually a huge step forward.) Those floppies are sitting around in a box somewhere, I'm sure. Again, I don't really feel like opening those up. Nothing is more depressing than seeing hoards of grammar errors, plot holes, and bad writing--and knowing that you were once the culprit.
I could see that the story had potential, however, so I never really gave up on it. Over the past nine years, I have been learning and making appropriate changes to the manuscript. I had a lot of favorite authors at the time: Anne Rice, Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, Thomas Harris, Laurell K. Hamilton, etc. Though I was only sixteen or seventeen during this major learning period, I was reading stuff far beyond what my parents would probably have recommended. (Actually, I still don't tell them what I read. *smirk*)
I did realize, thanks to all of these authors, that what I really wanted my book to have was a sense of humor. Sure, everyone loves a good drama or romance, but what really catches my attention is that secondary character--you know the one. He's the straight man who questions everybody's actions, or the oddball who pops in on occasion with quirks that just make you smile.
I had Lynn and Andris, but what I really needed to balance them out was Nick. Of course, Nick was already in the story, and he was doing his straight-man job like a boss, but only after I had the whole manuscript in digital format was I truly able to modify his character. He went from third-wheel to little brother-slash-adopted son. His relationship with Andris became one of my primary goals. I decided that those two were meant to hate each other, but only at first. Nick's rejection of Andris balanced out Lynn's acceptance, but they were meant to become a Triple Threat, as it were.
Lynn, too, needed changes. She was kind of...random? Honestly, who could blame me? I was fourteen and wacky. People remembered me as "the crazy girl with the long brown hair," and that wasn't too far from the truth. Lynn was also much younger, which kinda sucked. In the end, I mellowed her out--keeping true to her free-spirited, hard-headed nature--and made her older. Not too old, however. She needed to grow. After all, Lynn had been turned at age twenty, before ever really growing up, and had since been isolated under Simone's care. Andris and Nick were the ones who pulled her out of that world and allowed her room to grow, and so I emphasized this a bit more.
Finally, Andris...ah, my Andris. Fun fact: Andris shows up pretty late in the game, and there's a good reason for that. He was never meant to be in the book. Actually, I didn't think of him until around chapter eight or something. I had put the book down after reaching that point--I'd run out of ideas, so it just sat on my desk for about six months while I stewed. And then I had this really weird dream:
I was walking down a road, in what appeared to be a post-apocalyptic ruin of a city. There were corpses everywhere. The sun was up, but the sky was gray and toxic. There was someone walking with me, dressed only in black, and watching the sky. I asked him why he was there, and he said, "I'll be the only one left when the world dies." (I'm paraphrasing, since the memory is really fuzzy, but that's the gist of what he meant.)
Anyway, I woke up, and Andris was born. Took me about a month to figure out his name, though--Nick, too. I immediately threw him into the story without planning, and picked up the plot from there. Fortunately, it makes for a really fun double-take in terms of the character relationships. (Fun fact: Nick and Andris got their names from my favorite character in Stephen King's The Stand. Nick Andros was so...wonderful... *cries quietly*)
This might sound weird, but although all of my characters are based on some facet of who I am as a person, Andris is the only one I can call my literary reflection. He's quiet but somewhat arrogant, yet obsesses over the opinions of the people he cares about. He wants to be better than he is, but sees a lot of darkness inside, and doesn't know whether to reject or embrace it. He hates being told what to do, unless his sweetheart makes him do it. *laugh* He also has a strong aversion to attention and crowds, and would probably be a horrendous public speaker. Yep, that's me in a nutshell. Lynn is my free spirit and inner child, Nick is my inner joker and straight-man, and Andris is everything else. I love these characters, so I guess that means I like me?
Anyway, I've gone on a tangent. So Andris: he needed to change. Well, he sort of needed to change. He was perfect in design, but I fleshed him out a bit more, gave him a proper back story--which you only really learn in the second book--and molded his development a bit more carefully. After all, I sort of wanted people to feel weird about him at first. He's a party-crasher and kind of a jerk, but Lynn helps fix that eventually. He's probably the one who develops the most, because he's forced to help Lynn develop.
Plot-wise, I never really changed it much, though I added in Ambri-Qis as a character to help balance Andris out a bit. (He also plays a much larger role in the second book, and allows me to finally flesh out Andris' origin story.) In general, things happen in the same sequence, but I've added some new stuff, too. Mostly, though, I just fleshed-out relationships and events in the story. For example, the original version had fade-to-black love scenes (yes, I know I was probably fifteen at the time). Once I grew up a bit more, however, I decided to write them out in detail. Egads, is that hard to do. It takes a lot of time and patience to teach yourself something like that--especially when you don't have any firsthand experience.
*gasp!* "You wrote love scenes without having experienced one yourself?!"
Yes. Read enough of it and you can do anything. In fact, save for some streamlining of the text itself, as well as a judgement call I made regarding the "gritty" factor (I don't like uber-dirty love scenes, really), what I've written hasn't changed much over the course of my edits. I'm comfortable with how they are now, and I've been told that they're pretty darn good.
By the way, it's 6:37AM. I'm in tangent mode as I write this.
Oh, I changed the title, too! It wasn't until around 2006 that I finally decided that Avenari was the most appropriate title. For one, it shows the main focus of the story. It also hints that the world within the book isn't quite what most vampire novels will tout. It's an epic with some fantastical elements that must be addressed, and using a made-up language's word as the title just worked for me. (Though, I discovered years later that "Avenari" is also an Italian surname--go figure. It's also the surname of a writer--go go Gadget figure.)
Which brings me to another tidbit: I had always wanted to use the Shimari language in this story. Actually, the primordial genetic pool for this language already existed by the time I started writing. You see, I'd read a book called I Never Promised You a Rose Garden back in tenth grade. The main character was a girl with multiple personalities, who communicated with those personalities using a language that she had invented for her inner world. I thought it was a truly fascinating idea, so I started coming up with words and rank systems and such. By the time I started Avenari, I had about forty words to choose from. Later, I used my insanely bizarre obsession with linguistics to start developing a proper language system, some of which is used in the book today.
Which brings me to another tidbit! (I promise I'll stop...maybe...I really should be sleeping.):
In the original version, I didn't know any Japanese, but I really wanted to use some for Quelos and Akuro. I wanted to sort of hint at their back story without overtly telling anyone, so that people who cared could look it up and learn something neat, yet the characters could still remain in the dark. Flash forward to 2006, and suddenly I'm in Anime Club, beginning to learn Japanese via subbed anime. Four years later, I edited the story and inserted the bits that I had wanted. Thanks to about four hours per day of English-subbed anime, I had gained a working knowledge of Japanese. (Today, I still haven't taken formal classes, but can understand about 80% of most spoken Japanese at this point, assuming it's not on the technical side of things.) I also took two years of Latin--which I adore--in high school, and ended up using some of that, too.
Throughout all of these local edits, I've done massive general edits, too. By 2010, the story was largely free of spelling errors and continuity/plot/flow errors, so I moved onto grammar. By 2012, most of the grammar errors were gone, but I still felt the story needed help. I edited it a couple more times before finding a book in 2013 called How Not to Write a Novel. That book helped me gather enough courage to do my biggest edit ever: triage. I ended up cutting about 10,000 words. They lay on my editing floor like fallen flower petals and phantom limbs. It was like cutting my own heart out, but this major surgery propelled my book to a level I never could have expected--it was almost perfect!
And then I found Noveljoy. See, I've never beta-ed people's work before. It's hard enough doing my own writing without having to slog through someone else's work. However, I took on that challenge for a friend on Noveljoy, a fellow fantasy writer. I did the most hardcore, thorough job I possibly could. I researched every problem I couldn't figure out, and every grammar/punctuation rule ever created. By the time I was done, I'd learned more about grammar and punctuation in a month and a half than the entirety of my formal education had ever taught me.
And I did one last major edit. I fixed everything I could find, slogged through those 300,000+ words in about a week...and now it's perfect. I think it's as good as I can possibly make it, barring a sudden development of magical abilities that allow me to do even better.
So now I'm querying agents. I'd tried before, but that was dumb. The book just wasn't ready. However, it's ready now. I hope they like it, because I adore it.