I’m thrilled to let you all know that my adult fantasy romance, Ilya’s Gambit, has been acquired by City Owl Press and will be coming your way in 2023!
This book has had such a long journey already. The characters sprung to life in my head over ten years ago. I kept thinking about them, kept seeing scenes of the book in my head. But I wasn’t writing then. I wanted to, but I always let other things get in the way, self-doubt most of all. However, this story wouldn’t leave me alone so I sketched out an outline and character notes.
And then promptly lost them for years.
Work got busier. I met my husband. We got married. I moved across the country. Work got even more ridiculous. But somewhere in all those crazy years, I started writing. It was the dream of my heart and one I couldn’t ignore anymore. Even so, I didn’t write this book. I didn’t feel like I was ready to. I wrote other manuscripts, I developed my craft, I met other amazing writers, and I just kept pushing forward.
Then, in the summer of 2018, I found myself pregnant and on vacation with my in-laws in the Mediterranean. We’d been looking forward to that trip for over a year, and even though my pregnancy was difficult and my doctor ordered me to take it easy, we weren’t letting that stop us. As a result though, I ended up spending a lot of idle time just taking in the scenery and fighting against morning sickness. It was in those quiet moments that this story roared back to life in my head. Pieces I hadn’t quiet figured out before slipped into place. Details painted themselves in my head. The characters were determined this story be written and fed me some incredible lines that still appear in the manuscript today.
After that trip, I started drafting Ilya’s Gambit, determined to get it done before the baby came. It wasn’t an easy manuscript to draft. At first it was only going to be Ilya’s POV, that’s what I was comfortable with, but our hero Lucien demanded his own POV too, and damn, am I glad he did. I LOVED writing his POV, especially how he viewed Ilya. But, Lucien loved to talk to me in 3rd person, and Ilya gave me hers in 1st. Couldn’t make it easy for me.
I finished the first draft in February, and my little one was born in early March. The next two months were a sleepless blur where I did literally nothing productive. It wasn’t until sometime in May that I started writing again and worked to get this manuscript revised and in shape.
I shared it with readers. They loved it, I knew I had something good, but I wasn’t totally convinced it was there yet. Summer drew to a close and I entered Pitch Wars with this manuscript. One of my top mentor choices was Maxym Martineau. I liked her book, we had similar writing styles and interests, plus her MSWL fit my manuscript perfectly. Time dripped by, and then she requested my full manuscript. I was stunned. Thrilled! Another mentor requested too! I tried not to get my hopes up, but that’s so hard, especially since something in me kept saying I had a really good shot.
Turns out, that little voice was right. I still remember staring at the list of mentees in absolute shock because my name was on there and I was going to get to work with Maxym on this book of my heart. The mentorship was great! I learned so much and she really just got this book and the story I wanted to tell. We took everything I already loved and made it better. It was hard work, but so worth it.
When the showcase rolled around in early February, I was certain this book would land me an agent. I received several agent requests in the Pitch Wars showcase. Not a ton, but pretty good for adult SFF. I sent out requested materials. I queried other agents on my wishlist.
And then rejections started to roll in.
“This isn’t right for me.”
“I really like this, but don’t love it enough to represent it.”
“I love this! But, the market is so tough right now.”
This book that I was so certain would be “the one” wasn’t getting much love, even while many of my fellow mentees signed agents and got book deals. Not going to lie, it sucked. But I kept querying, kept pitching, and most importantly, I wrote the next book. That book was Second Star to the Left, my sexy, bonkers fairy tale retelling that will be my debut. But that’s a different story. 🙂
As I drew to the end of my querying journey with this book, an editor at a Big 5 publisher, who I admire and who typically doesn’t take unagented submissions, requested this book. I was beyond excited. I sent it, but honestly, I didn’t expect to ever hear back. Why would she spend time on my book when she’s busy and I couldn’t even get an agent?
She read it. She loved it.
But she couldn’t acquire it because her line was publishing very, very few fantasy romance and only ones by well established authors. Even so, it was the most encouraging rejection I ever received. It told me that this book was GOOD, despite all the rejection. Some of her feedback included these gems which I may have literally printed and put on my wall: “I was immediately sucked in by the heroine’s voice and dire circumstances. It’s a real page-turner. You also have a knack for nimble world-building, which is a rare talent. The high stakes, banter and pacing reminded me of Amanda Bouchet.”
It also made me question my path. Why keep trying for an agent when I can write a great book and they still don’t want it because of “the market”? I decided to choose me, to be my own advocate and go after what I wanted with smaller presses and self publishing. That was autumn 2020 and the start of a whole new journey which has led to SO MUCH, including finding the team at City Owl who love my work and can’t wait to bring it to the world.
This manuscript was requested in a pitch contest in late 2020. I subbed it, expecting the same rejections I’d gotten from agents. I waited, and while I did, I finished revisions of Second Star to the Left and pitched it. Heather McCorkle at City Owl fell in love and offered publication pretty quickly. I was thrilled, but it also felt like a bit of a nail in the coffin for Ilya’s manuscript which was still outstanding. Why acquire TWO different books from an untested author? Imagine my surprise when Tee Tate reached out to tell me how much she loved Ilya’s Gambit and wanted to offer publication too! To finally see this book of my heart be believed in is so incredible, and I can’t wait for 2023!
Anyhow, thank you for reading my long tale about this book of my heart. If you’re still with me, here are some things you can expect in this story:
• Enemies to lovers
• Slow burn
• Forced Proximity
• All the banter and tension
• A hero who wields illusion magic
• A brave heroine bent on revenge
• Unique, detailed, high fantasy world
• Secrets new and old
• And of course… there’s only one bed! 🙂
The release date is still about two years away, but I promise it’ll be worth the wait. Until then, stay tuned for details on how you can pre-order my debut, Second Star to the Left