Answer received: November 27, 2012 (and here I should note that the agency does not promise a rejection notification at all, so it was nice to get one)
Read as follows:
I’ve read the material you sent and though it shows promise I just wasn’t fully convinced. You’re a thoughtful writer and you have a good story sense, I think you need to just keep working until the writing and storytelling is truly compelling. Best of luck.
You know, it really could be worse. There are some bright sides to this. One is that if I ever want to query Mr. Ellenberg again, I at least know what he’s not looking for. Two, there are a pair of nice compliments in there. As a dear fellow writer friend of mine teased, “You’ve officially made it out of John Grisham category with the first one (thoughtful writer), and Stephen King category with the second (good story sense)! You’re practically magical.” Three, this is all a good lesson in (sigh) humility, and (double sigh) dealing with minor failure.
Here’s the thing about querying – once you send your query on a particular project to an agent and they reject it, you can’t query them about that project again. That might not be the way all agencies work, but you’ll find it’s true more often than not. So, I could revisit the manuscript before I query anyone else…but the question is, how long do I work before I call it “ready?”
My former professor and writing mentor Mel Odom suggests that I keep querying until I’m completely out of options. He’s always telling me to move on to my next novel, and if this one never gets published, I can return to it and tinker with it again a few novels into my future.
Then there’s my husband, who is much less easily-discouraged and generally a much faster worker than me, who says he thinks the best course of action would be to revise the manuscript now before querying again.
I say that I need a luscious piece of dark chocolate, some iced coffee and an episode of “Dr. Who?” before anyone even thinks about mentioning writing to me again.
Even as she was pushed along, Sifani stared flatly at Lorin over her shoulder. “This had better not be a joke, Lorin. After the scare we just had, the last thing I need is you creeping about behind me in the hallways.”
They came to the door of her and Namiss’ room, and Lorin guided Sifani inside.
“Maybe we should be scared,” he mumbled as he shut the door behind them.
Sifani wished he were joking, then. She and Lorin had been through much together, and fear was not something he usually had on his emotional repertoire. “What are you going on about, you big lummox?” she groused.
Instead of answering, Lorin crossed the room in three long strides, and peered between the filmy blue curtains framing the lone window. Apparently satisfied with what he saw outside, he tugged them closed. Dusky greyness fell over the room.
“Lorin.” Sifani snapped.
“Those monsters appeared when they did for a reason,” Lorin began without introduction. He distractedly pushed a stray dark curl from his forehead. “They appeared right after you reconstituted those leaves into water and dust. That was amazing, by the way. I would’ve congratulated you then, if I hadn’t been too busy fighting off evil, red-eyed dog-monsters with claws the size of Ileniel’s ego.” He flashed her that boyishly charming smile of his.
Now that was more like Lorin. Sifani felt some tension ebb from her shoulders. “Whose ego?” she muttered wryly.
“Now don’t interrupt – it’s rude,” Lorin continued to tease her, tweaking her nose like a child to her great irritation. However, the pacing that followed the teasing highlighted the fact that he was still deep in thought. “As I was saying, you showed an extraordinary amount of power when you reconstituted those leaves. I think that…well, why don’t I just ask you? How did you do it, Sifani?”
“I…” Sifani furrowed her brow, remembering. The most immediate thing that she recalled was that her actions had been new. She had seen those paint-like dots…and she had used those dots to break down the object, as always. Yet, to make water, she knew she had done more than just take something apart.
“I broke the leaves into all their pieces,” Sifani struggled to explain, chin propped on her hand as she stared into nothingness. “But then…Deities.” Sifani shook her head, hair swinging. “I put the pieces back together into something different. I made something. Deities!” she swore again, feeling sudden alarm. As she turned to Lorin, she knew her eyes were wide, perhaps a bit mad-looking, but she didn’t care. “Lorin, please tell me I couldn’t have – I didn’t – create something. It wouldn’t make sense! We both know that only – What I’m saying is, there’s no way that anyone…normal…could – By Donis, Lorin, what are you trying to say? What am I trying to say?” Sifani sat down hard on the edge of her bed.
Lorin came over and joined her. He had cast off his unnerving gravity and replaced it with a casualness that was almost hyperbolic. “You did create something, Sifani, and right after you did, the monsters appeared. They were created to counter you, and they went after you. Whoever made them did so in response to you.”
“Whoever made them?” Why put off the inevitable?, Sifani asked herself, and yet continued hedging anyway. It was all strange, much too strange. It opened too many doors that had been long-closed and locked. It’s a shame, really. The epheria has been such a sanctuary to me. I should’ve known that one day I’d have to ask why.
“You know what I’m getting at,” Lorin insisted. “The only ones who can create are –“
“Was that an oath, Sifani, or were you finishing my sentence?”
“Well, then, yes.”
Sifani folded her arms and called up as much sarcasm as she could manage. Maybe it would make this all feel less earth-shaking. “So you’re saying that a Deity is trying to kill me?”
“Preeeetty much.” Lorin inhaled deeply and lay back on the bed with his hands behind his head. He might’ve been watching cloud shapes float by for all he showed on his face. “So, Sifani a-vinna Leyone, that leaves me with one final question.” He raised his head and turned to look at her. “If only Deities can create, then who the hell are you?”
“What do you mean, you didn’t see them at first?” Sifani could tell that her nerves were frayed. The question she directed at Jatan came out as if he were a suspect instead of a friend.
Jatan took it with equanimity, of course, spreading his hands. “Antian, Namiss and I were all watching you the entire time you were canvassing. It wasn’t until the first creature attacked you that it became visible to us. The second one only appeared when it touched Lorin. It was as if they didn’t exist – at least, outside the epheria – until the moment they made contact with you.
Sifani drew her brows down thoughtfully, glancing at Lorin out of the corner of her eye. He had his feet kicked up on a chair as though he’d not a care in the world, but his whole body seemed to be covered in bandages. She found herself feeling sympathy for him, and turned away quickly.
“A creature of the epheria,” she murmured to herself, “that’s only transferred to the visible world when it comes in contact with a creature of the visible world.” Sifani’s conjecture in the midst of the battle hadn’t been far off, but it hadn’t been close enough to help them, either. “As soon as Ileniel arrives, we can ask him if he’s ever read of such a thing.”
“Until then, the question remains.” Antian said, idly tapping the tabletop with a finger. “How did those creatures get into the epheria in the first place? Where did they come from? You’ve been in there many times, Sifani, Lorin – it’s always been a perfect reflection of the real world, hasn’t it?”
Lorin nodded, tugging on the bandage wrapped around his left hand as if it were a gauntlet. “A perfect reflection,” he agreed. “So, it must be that something put the creatures there.”
Sifani felt a chill. When she looked up at the others, though, all except Jatan were staring at Lorin as if he had lost his mind.
Though Lorin didn’t look up from his hand, he went on as though he had stared right back into those disbelieving pairs of eyes. “Think about it. If everything in the epheria exists in the real world, but something new suddenly shows up in the epheria, it only follows that it had to have been put there – created there.”
“A monster created in the epheria, for the epheria.” Antian began speculatively. “Or, was it created in the epheria, yet for the real world?”
Namiss had been sitting sullenly apart from the others, her cheeks propped on her hands. The only time she got like this was when something bad happened to a member of the group, her own self not included, of course. She finally spoke, though. “How could anyone create something in the epheria?” The skepticism in the girl’s voice bordered on contempt. Deities, but Namiss hated it when those she cared about were met with danger.
“We do it all the time,” Lorin countered.
“You don’t create, you destroy. You break down objects into dust, or…water.” Namiss glanced at Sifani with a slight, appreciative smile. “Creating something would be the reverse of everything you’ve been practicing.”
Lorin shrugged. “Maybe not. Maybe it’s just the reverse side of the coin.” To demonstrate, he slipped a gold quint from his pocket and flicked it toward Namiss flirtatiously. Namiss caught it in one fist and threw it at his chest.
“Lorin’s right,” Sifani said.
Namiss grimaced at her. Sifani thought that was because she had sided with Lorin, until Namiss continued, “I wish that you hadn’t said that, Sif. Because if Lorin really is right, and someone created the dog-creatures in the epheria, the person who did has to be unimaginably powerful – much more powerful than either you or Lorin.”
“Yes.” Sifani put her palms down on the table, staring through it.
She saw Lorin’s head come up suddenly, and he looked at her oddly as if realizing something. She met his eyes with a challenging stare, but instead of giving her a roguish grin as he was wont to do, Lorin worked his lower lip. That was something he only did when in deep and serious thought.
It wasn’t until the group dispersed for their rooms that Sifani thought about Lorin’s strange reaction again. She had left Namiss behind in the central room and was padding back down the corridor alone, when a soft footfall joined with hers. Nerves still in alert, she spun with fists brandished – right into Lorin.
He caught both her fists in his large hands, and before Sifani could say a word, he turned her about and began hustling her – as gently as a person can hustle someone – toward her room by the shoulders.