Breaking Into the School of Magic

Since moving to St. Louis I’ve noticed my writing preferences changing. I haven’t begun a new project in over a year now, mostly due to my wife’s hard line on my getting something published, or quit trying.

I’m writing about all the taboo subjects, with all the taboo characterizations: no strong female lead, no tried-and-true character types in my Fantasies (like Lothlorien-esque elves, or Twilit werewolves), and they’re being written to communicate many things, not just an adventure or coming-of-age. People in these books, much like people in the real world, are sometimes racist, sometimes dumb, and rarely zealous to a cause. My elves inhabit soul-less bodies, where the living minds are imprisoned elsewhere. My world is dangerous the way the real world is, the way a city is, the way religion is. It is a minefield in the mind. It is the Grimm fairy tales as initially written. It is a ghost story as understood by the haunted.

I recently finished reading my last finished project, David and his Shade, a Modern Fantasy novel that I frankly couldn’t stop reading. It’s about a boy who, up until his thirteenth birthday, was kept in total ignorance of magic and its uses. It’s about a school that opens his eyes. It’s about a world at war (much as it is in the real world). It’s about dangerous things, inside and outside the classroom. It’s about Big Brother and its vice grip on knowledge. But most of all, it’s about David figuring out his place in it all and ultimately coming to the question that requires answering: should he remain in the world of magic and learn all he can about it, or should he “grow up,” as his father’s friend says, “and return to God-fearing reality”?

He is in no way unremarkable. All the characters are. In the 231 pages, a rich story exists. A story I feel needs to be shared. It’s not an easy one, or a simple one, or an easily tossed aside one. I have something to say.

So I’ve been trying to figure out how to market such a book in the post-Harry Potter days where every agent underneath the sun screams, NO BOYS AND SCHOOLS OF MAGIC. AT ALL.

It’s not past its rough draft stage–I still have to reinforce several characters, introduce themes and questions much earlier in the story, and connect several loose ends. I have much to do, especially given all the forgotten “flavor.”

But I’m having a hard time with it. Even when it’s all finished, written up, final draft drafted, climax climaxed, etc, I’ll be fighting the wall of Unpublishable. No agent will read my query past David attends a school of magic. No publisher would touch it with a ten foot pole simply on content alone.

Nevermind David fights a murdering troupe of Lost Boys, trains under a creature twisted by nightmare, and meets Mephistopheles himself. Nevermind New York is uprooted and severed by the emergence of demons who owe no allegience to any country. Nevermind a six mile high Worldtree blocks all sun from Boulder, CO half the day, or the fact that science backs most magical theory. No.

It’s too close to the most popular universe in fantasy fiction, so it has no selling value. Perhaps I’ll word my query with imploring desperation: Please, Mr or Ms Agent, read my first ten pages before making your decision.

Perhaps I should do that with all my work.

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