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alan dare

The Magic Under Glass Story: slower than a ticking automaton

Today, I've been going through old LJ entries, pondering how far I've come, and for those who are interested, or who are still struggling and like to read those long-slog stories, I'm doing a "Best of..." writing journey retrospective! (Entries excerpted and edited for brevity...this is still huge.)

I sometimes forget just how many times I rewrote Magic Under Glass, how DRASTICALLY the story changed, how many times I almost gave up on it, but I stuck with it, and...well, you know what happened.

(This was for my first novel, Selkie Rock)
I have my first batch of query letters ready to go. Eep! I'm actually doing it, kids. They're all addressed and sealed and ready.

6/27/05: Okay, I sent six queries off 4 days ago. And today I already got a request for the first 50 pages of my manuscript. Okay, that means the second that sucker landed in the agents mailbox, they wanted to see more. Not counting my chickens before they hatch, but this is a good sign.

7/18/05: Yes, it's true, I got my first rejection on Selkie Rock, from the ____ Literary Agency. It was from an assistant. It was personalized and very nice. At first I was quite saddened by this, but I've thought about it a little longer, and I don't think I should be too upset. They say you start getting these kind of rejections when you're very close.

11/30/05: I can't stop writing my new book. I've been averaging a little over 1k words a day on it, which for me is excellent. The crazy thing is that I only came up with the idea 15 days ago... The new book, Magic Under Glass, is a pseudo-Victorian fantasy with mystery, romance, political intrigue, and a touch of old-fashioned gothic...and since I've loved the Victorian era since I was old enough to know what it was, it's been great fun to write.

12/30/05: Ohmygoshohmygosh! 50,000 words now! I just can't stop writing this thing! I know what happens but I just want to know EXACTLY what happens! I really should go to bed...ooooh...so close! But I can't stay up until 5 am to finish it off...

1/4/06: WOO! ...and, after 49 days of writing, that first draft of Magic Under Glass is DONE, BAY-BEE! This one clocks in at 57k words at the moment. Now, a deep breath...tomorrow, editing begins!!

3/7/06: I usually say, "I don't win anything", and I don't, but at the SCBWI conference I said, "I'm going to win the joke contest; not the grand prize, but one of the runners-up", and I did. So, I'm going to say now, Magic Under Glass is going to get me an agent.*

*If this turns out not to be true, none of you are permitted to rub it in my face.


Dear Awesome Agent:

Nimira didn’t mean to fall in love with Roman the clockwork man.

Since her dance troupe ran out of money, Nimira has been a slave in the household of wealthy socialite Mrs. Swanney. As if cleaning the chamber pots isn’t bad enough, Mrs. Swanney thinks it’s Nimira’s fault that her latest séance went awry. After all, everyone knows exotic foreigners can talk to the dead.

Nimira’s only hope of escape lies with Roman, the lifelike creation of the last Ambassador of Magic—who disappeared under mysterious circumstances. But the current Ambassador says a new age is dawning…an age where man will have mastery over magic. Under his laws, faery taxidermy makes a nice parlor decoration, and a clockwork man has no rights, even if he displays human intelligence and emotion. Unless Nimira and Roman can solve the mystery behind the last Ambassador’s disappearance, all the magical world is in peril…

Magic Under Glass, a 55,000 word YA novel, combines romance, magic, mystery, humor, and a touch of Victorian gothic. I saw you are interested in young adult fantasy on your Publisher’s Marketplace page. May I send you a few chapters or the complete ms to review?

4/10/2006: My first time passing the second hurtle!! (agent) asked for a full now!! SQUEEE!!! I've never gotten a request for more from anyone with pages, so HAPPY DANCE!! Even if she says no, I am feeling so validated!

5/15/2006: I'm a little disheartened, although I'm sort of getting into that, "Just forge on; someone will get it, and if not, you'll write another book" kind of mindset. I really LOVE Magic Under Glass, still... I'm having trouble focusing on a new story because I'm just not driven to hurry up and finish one.

6/22/06: Sometimes I can't really understand why NO ONE IS ACCEPTING MY BOOK, GAH!!

9/22/06: (I got a revision request from an agent on Magic Under Glass, revised it, and sent it back out in September...)
I sent it. Oh, dear me. Now I just wish I wasn't all alone and hyper as my cat after a really long nap.

I caved. I sent out a few more queries. I really don't know if it's the right time. I kind of want to wait for (agent who requested rewrite), but on the other hand, if she just says no I'll be so crushed if I haven't sent anything out in awhile.

So, after considerable thought, I am writing again. I realized, for one, that I've been pushing myself too hard...not leaving enough room for other things in life, and not leaving enough time for a story to grow properly. It's like I think books are turkeys and if I pump 'em full of hormones, they'll be fat in time for Thanksgiving. Maybe I should try raising organic books now.

I'm losing my zest for Magic Under Glass overall...I've tried, through two heavy rewrites, to get to know Nimira's character, but I just can't seem to really get into her head, and I'm only halfway into Roman. After the rewrites, I (and everyone else) seemed to like Hollin Perris best. I've been considering writing a new story with Hollin as the brooding, troubled, Mr. Rochester-esque romantic lead. But, later, later.

(got request for partial from agent who I'd emailed in January)
...but it's okay anyway because the interest revived MY interest in Magic Under Glass and I have been rewriting it again. This will be the 4th version, and now the once evil cackling villain is the Rochester-ian love interest. Revisions take things in funny directions!

I was having trouble with Roman's character so I'm trying out Erris in Roman's role instead. Erris was always far easier to write, although I have to make him a little more serious if he's going to be the new Roman. I keep poking at this, slowly but surely, although it has yet to really seize me.

(I spent most of 2007 working on Alfred and Olivia, rewriting it about ten thousand times and learning a lot about story structure in the process...but it went nowhere when I queried it.)

I might try to poke at Magic Under Glass again for a bit. It's missing something. I'm tempted to drastically revamp the plot AGAIN, but I really need to stop drastically revamping plots instead of just bringing out the full potential of the one I've got. It's just like a new, insidious version of not committing to a story. I think I just need to tweak Nim's inner conflict a little.

Luckily, I am at this point with Magic Under Glass: "Wow. These plot twists I came up with are amazing. People are going to be GRIPPED. The characters are so much better than they ever were before. It is so good. If some agent and editor don't love this I will eat my hat!*"

(on a day when other people's good news was hitting me:)
I want to be absolutely serene, trusting in the universe to take care of me, it's never really been about the money anyway, and I know the recognition will come, and my ideas are offbeat and that often just takes longer to be recognized. I know all this. I KNOW this deep in the core of my being. But the damned tears WILL come.

Either way, I do prefer this version vastly. It's so different. I could probably count the sentences I took from the old version on my fingers. Nimira seems like a stranger in the old version. I feel like I really understand her now. Making her from the royal court of Tiansher instead of a rural village finally got her to "click" in my mind. Even though she's in a low position in the book, she retains a little of that superior air. That was like the missing piece of her character, for me, and the rest of her fell into place. I got Hollin's character already, in the last version. I'm starting to know Erris now, too, as more than the "dandy ghost" of prior drafts. Gosh, revision is exciting when it all starts to click.

This final revision, I think, has really drawn me into the love story that I have been trying to capture across all the versions... I feel like the rapport between Nimira and the automaton (whether he be named Roman or Erris) finally has the right balance of humor and bittersweet angstiness that I wanted. In the old versions I could never really see Nimira and Roman/Erris being 2gether 4ever and weathering the difficulties they will invariably face, but I see it now. No way to know if it will work for readers, but I am so pleased.

This revision is DONE, man.I've finished books before, of course, but I have to say, this is the first one that I have really worked myself to the bone on--the third complete rewrite, and by far the most thorough. I AM THE CHAMPION!

Dear Jennifer,

This is lifeonmars at Verla Kay's (again). Since your first 'call-for-queries' post at Verla's where you mentioned an interest in the Victorian era I have been wishing I had this book revised to send you; well, the revision is now done, so I wanted to offer it to you now.

Magic steeps the gas-lit lanes of New Sweeling, where Nimira is a foreign singer, paid barely enough to survive. When wealthy sorcerer Hollin Parry hires her to accompany a piano-playing clockwork automaton, she thinks her savior has arrived.

Hollin may treat her with the kindness and respect she's yearned for, but buried secrets stir--including a rumor he may have murdered the former head of the Sorcerers' Council on the brink of a peace treaty with the fairies. Nimira discovers the spirit of a dashing fairy gentleman named Erris is trapped inside the automaton's stiff limbs, waiting for someone to break his curse. As Nimira and Erris fall into a love that seems hopeless, Nimira must uncover the truth behind the councilman's disappearance, or not just her fate, but all the magical world may be in peril...

Set in an alternate Victorian era, MAGIC UNDER GLASS is a YA fantasy with a Jane Eyre-atmosphere, complete at 65,000 words. I've attached the first 3 chapters per your guidelines at Verla's. Thank you very much for your time.

I am mostly keeping quiet about queries and submissions this time around, feeling a strange superstition about the matter...BUT I do feel I should say, to all those of you are cheering me on, that I got my first rejection on a full today and it was a "please send me this again if you haven't clicked with another agent" and contained the words "read it in one sitting", "wonderfully sympathetic" and "stunning", so I am feeling at least a little heartened.

Okay. I can finally spill.

Today (well, okay yesterday now on the east coast) I officially accepted representation with the fabulous Jennifer Laughran at the fabulous Andrea Brown Agency!!!!

Jenn emailed me late Wednesday last week to say she loved the book. Thursday we talked. I always had a plan for how professional I would be when this moment came and I think I only achieved about 40% of the imagined professionalism. The rest was kinda rambling stupid stuff. Jenn offered to rep me. I told Dade, called my mom and screamed.

Young Adult
Jackie Dolamore's MAGIC UNDER GLASS, in which a dance-hall girl discovers the spirit of a dashing fairy gentleman trapped inside a clockwork automaton, waiting for someone to break his curse, to Melanie Cecka at Bloomsbury Children's, in a pre-empt, in a two-book deal, by Jennifer Laughran at Andrea Brown Literary Agency (World).

Don't you love happy endings??


Wow! So many ups and downs, twists and turns! I was enthralled! Thanks for sharing, Jackie. It gives me hope for my currently unsold ms.

I really am happy for your happy ending!
I know what you mean...it also gives me hope for MY unsold ms! (Well, it hasn't been seen by editors, but it makes me think, just because no one liked in '07 doesn't mean it's not waaaay better now...)
The long, winding, but happy journey of MUG. :)
I'm so glad you stuck with it. I always enjoy seeing the changes stories went though before they found a home.
Oh, my head is in a whirl! Are we old or something!?? 2005? Good thing I am writing about time travel, because I feel like I really have traveled in time somehow! YAHHH!

This was really neat to read. I really do not think I will ever get tired of hearing how long it takes to publish a book because it makes me feel better about the progress of "City and Empire." :D ...hhich has been in the not-even-a-full-draft stage for over a year now.

I think that it's a kind thing for you to do to post these entries, as it is not only interesting, but also very supportive for new writers.

And I do love happy endings where books are published...and yours here is my favorite. I will have to do some kind of review of your book and you know that if I ever get to teach a YA lit class, it's going to be required reading. :)
We are old, my friend. ;) Should I bring up correspondence from 1998? GAH! How has it been more than ten years since then?
Well, ever since you posted that first hook, I've been for MUG. So I'm glad it has a happy ending!
Wow, its been quite a few years' journey! Jackie, congratulations on all your hard work. They say the first novel is needed to get an idea of how to write a novel. ;-)
I love reading your entries (although I rarely comment, sorry about that) and this one today brought a smile to my face.
Best of luck with everything in the upcoming year
--Rachel S
I am horrible with the comments lately myself! But I'm glad this brought you from the woodwork.
I've loved following your writing journey :)
That's such a great story -- especially neat since I was 'there' for pretty much all of it (hehe). Yay, Jackie -- you truly are the champion!
I know, we've known each other for a long time now! I'm amazed how many of us have been talking for years now.
That's really sweet!
Wow, it's really interesting to see how much the plot changed since the beginning!
I know...I was telling my editor how different it used to be...crazy.
It's inspiring to see what happens when a writer keeps revising, keeps querying, and never stops believing in herself.
I am so proud of you!
Thank you. That was heartening, and freshly helps to remind me not to give up. :)
What a great story! So glad you found your happy ending! :D
Thank you so much for posting this. You are my hero.
This is a great story; thanks for sharing it. I love reading journey-to-publication timelines, and I can't wait to read Magic Under Glass!
I love reading how Magic Under Glass came about. And I'm loving reading it. Thanks for the awesome story! (I sound like a geek, but credit where credit's due and all that.) :D


This was so encouraging for me to read, because I have been revising and revising my book... I sent it out and got a lot of rejections, and now I'm in my 3rd complete overhaul. It's so fun to discover other writers change stories COMPLETELY like I do.

Can't wait to read it...

Re: Yay

I'm glad it was encouraging!