June 18th, 2010

Daruma books

Daruma waits patiently for his chance to see.

On New Year's Eve, 2000, kijjohnson got me this little fellow as a present for completing the rough draft for my novel, Transcendence, and submitting it to my agent (Algis Budrys at the time). That's about ten years ago, folks. A Daruma doll represents Bodhidharma (known as Daruma in Japan), the 5th-6th century Indian sage who founded Zen Buddhism. Here's my little Daruma on my bookshelves (that's him, near the robot and dog from Simak's City):

A Daruma doll symbolizes perseverance and good luck, a popular gift of encouragement in Japan (or Seattle, in this case). The idea is that you make a resolution and then paint in one of his eyes. If, during the year (or interim, in this case), you achieve your goal, you paint in the second eye, giving Daruma sight (or enlightenment). Then he's burned in the next New Year's ceremony. She also gave me her markups of the novel at that time, to add to a few others:

In the intervening ten years, the book has 1) had a (very slow) editor for a couple of years, 2) who became an agent and wanted to represent it rather than publish it, 3) whom I then dropped, feeling I couldn't trust him to responsibly represent me after all that, 4) whose former assistant (now an editor in his own right) requested that I send him the book (he'd liked it when he read it for editor1), 4) who turned out to be slow as well, and wanted me to send him the book I had just finished (Empire Ship), because it seemed an easier first book, 5) who got me all fired up with talk of scheduling when he'd publish Empire Ship followed by Transcendence, 6) who then got fired a couple of years later, so the book came back to me.

During those interminable waits, I 1) got myself an agent (Algis Budrys) who loved the book, 2) but who wanted me to cut it into a trilogy "with a satisfying conclusion and opening to each" because he thought that a long and thoughtful book like this would be a hard sell for a first-time novelist, 3) which set me back both mentally (How can I cut this up?) and time-wise, 4) who - when I wrote to him a few months later about changes - had grown ill, and 5) who soon pretty much ceased communicating with people, then 6) died.

At this point, a superstitious person might think that this book had killed the careers of two editors and literally killed an agent. Ahem. I became a bit gun-shy. Handily, at this point, I was working two jobs and killing myself slowly day by day, so I didn't have much time to get all angsty about it.

And then ericreynolds of Hadley Rille Books fame began to buy stories of mine for various anthologies that he was publishing at this vibrant new company. When he decided to start publishing novels, as well, 1) he asked me if I'd sold either of the completed novels excerpted on my website, and if not if I'd like to sell him a book. Would I! 2) Last fall, I sent him Transcendence; 3) in about a month, he said he wanted to buy it; 4) last winter, he sent me his edits; 5) a few weeks ago at ConQuest, I read the first few sections; 6) last week, he and I and the cover designer met to solidify the cover design; 7) and yesterday, I sent Eric my final edits.

Ten years in the making. Then, in a whirlwind of nine months, all this goodness happened. Happily, I discovered while doing this final, really deep revision, that I still really like this book. *whew*

In September of this year, Daruma will get his second eye, almost exactly one year from when I submitted the novel to Eric. I'm not sure that I'll be able to burn my little Daruma on this coming New Year's Eve after living with him for so long, but I guess that'd be the Zen thing to do.

Of course, for all this to come full-circle, Eric needs to survive the next few months - a challenge, considering the book's track record! But I'm optimistic that this is finally it, and that Eric has broken Daruma's curse, and that he will give the little guy his sight.