One day, in the middle of my senior year of college, I decided to write a book. Iíd written a few things before. Nothing so complex as an actual short story (aside from a few five-hundred-word shorts for various high-school assignments and one memorably bad story Iíd written in German in lieu of a report), but scenes and scraps of dialogue. Iíd never met an author, never gone to an SF convention, when I set out to write this book. And for the next few years I wrote, and rewrote, the first ten pages of my novel. Those ten pages, I might add, are the first thing I cut for this edition. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and find myself muttering those lines: The great hall of the castle was his favorite room . . .
With our newly minted degrees, my husband and I set out for the wilds of Chicago, where Mike had taken a job as an aquarist with the John G. Shedd Aquarium (we do seem to have had a lot of interesting if not lucrative careers, my husband and I) and I began working at an insurance office. The Greater Chicago area had seven and a half million people. My home state of Montana (in the 1990s) had eight hundred thousand peopleóin the whole state. Suddenly my manuscript represented more than a challenge — it was an escape. Donít get me wrong, I loved Chicago — I just didnít love living with seven and a half freaking million people.
We stayed a full year before culture shock sent us racing homeward, and about that time, somewhat to my surprise, I had finished the book.
I knew that I knew nothing about writing a book when I started it. So I took those things I did know and stuck with them. The plot, my patient husband pointed out, had been done beforeóbut I was okay with that. The important thing to me was that Iíd actually finished the book. It shocked and amazed me when the book actually sold.
Masques, when it came out, was what my husband likes to call an extremely limited edition. Thatís husband speak for “It sold very poorly.” Fortunately, before my publisher figured out just how poorly it had done, theyíd bought Steal the Dragon as well. My second book, blessed by a terrific Royo cover and a writer who had figured out a little more about writing, did a lot better than the first. Masques went out of print the month Steal the Dragon came out back in 1995, and hasnít been in print since.
Years passed by, my career started to pick up, and Masques started to command higher prices on the secondary market. If I had a box of twenty-four copies left, I could sell them on eBay for more than I sold the publication rights for the original novel.
With that in mind, I took out the unpublished sequel, Wolfsbane, blew off the dust, and did an extensive polishing run. I sent the result to my editor and asked about reprinting Masques and publishing Wolfsbane. She agreed and asked me if I wanted to revise Masques before they released it. Absolutely, I said. Please. And that was about the time I got a call asking me if Iíd like to try my hand at an urban fantasy first. With the subsequent success of the Mercy Thompson and Alpha and Omega novels, Masques and Wolfsbane got put on the back burner for a few years.
Finally, I had a bit of breathing room and sat down for the first time in a decade or so and started reading Masques. I had intended to do a brief polishing run. I read the first chapter (squirming uncomfortably all the way through) and turned to my husband. “By golly,” I said (or words to that effect). “Why didnít someone tell me I needed to use a few descriptions?”
When I wrote Masques, I was in my twenties and hadnít even finished a short story worthy of the name. I knew nothing about writing. The only tool I had in my craftbox was that I loved the fantasy genre and had read a lot of books. Twenty years later, Iíve written more than fifteen books, discussed/argued writing with a number of enormously skilled craftspeople — and learned a lot in the process. But that same experience also means I could not write Masques now.
Thus, fixing the book and still allowing it to be the same story, my first story, became quite a problem.
In the end, Masques and I have come to a compromise. Though I have added a bit to the beginning, I have not taken away any of the original pieces of the story (much as it sometimes pained me). I just fit those pieces together a little better. I left in most of the clichťs and the oddities that, if I were editing an unpublished work, I would have removed. Thus, I hope, that those few of you who read the original and remember it fondly will feel as though this is an expanded version of the same story. And those of you who are only familiar with my later, more polished work wonít be disappointed.