Ken is represented by Laurie McLean,
founding partner at Fuse Literary Agency.
Path to Publication
I wrote a novel during the chaos of November 2016 during Nanowrimo. Then Ken and I started writing together in early 2017. By early 2020, I probably had something like 600k+ words of fiction under my belt with my writing combined with co-writing with Ken.
Creative writing was something we had both done quite a bit of when we were younger. I still have a swords and sorcery fantasy story we wrote in (I think) the eighth grade. It will never see the light of day. Coming back to writing after such a long break was like finding water in the desert. But back to Julia’s story…
I have always been a lifelong learner. The craft of writing is something I take very seriously. I attended my third Superstars Writing Conference in Feb of 2020 and at the VIP dinner, Jonathan Maberry was being his normal encouraging self and asking everyone at the table what they were working on. I told him we were writing a “female Asian John Wick set in the Pacific Rim fighting Asian monsters.”
We love John Wick!
He said, “Are you going to query that? Because you need to query that.”
Until his comment, I had been moving along the indie path to publish it. We had lined up covers from the amazing Christian Bentulan. I had Vellum, Ken was good with Facebook Ads, I knew Amazon ads so we were set to launch the book ourselves.
But I valued Jonathan’s opinion and took his words to heart. Ken started reading up on how to write a query letter. If I thought writing a book synopsis was painful, the query letter was excruciating.
We engaged Joe Nassise for a developmental edit. He gave us great feedback. At that point, Ebony Gate was 58k words.
We worked on revising it. During the revision, we realized that in order to address Joe’s feedback that he wanted more from our final battle scene we needed to go back earlier and build up the villain more.
For me, this part is most of the fun of writing: banging my brain together with Julia’s to come up with amazing stories, then watching what we create take on a life of its own.
That was, of course, Joe’s first lesson to us when we first started working with him in 2018 – the villain shares the screen with the hero. So it was back to fundamentals as we went back to page 1 and really leveled up the villain to ratchet up the tension we needed to make the final battle more satisfying for the reader.
I participated in DVPIT on Twitter.
We sent out just 3 or 4 queries based on those Twitter pitch agent responses.
Henry Lien advised querying writers to send out 8 to 10 queries a week. We couldn’t bring ourselves to do that. We kept working on the revisions. Joe tweaked our awkward query letter. We made a spreadsheet where we put in 8 names of agents who we knew had represented some of our favorite authors in the UF genre or Asian Fantasy.
That’s it. Eight total agents.
To be fair, we were total noobs at this. Looking back now on what we did, I know we got extremely lucky. I have read countless stories of authors querying hundreds of agents without so much as a nibble. But Julia and I always felt like we had the self-pub route in our back pocket. If trad didn’t work out, we would simply go back to our original plan. Any headway we made into trad pub was proverbial icing on the cake.
At this point the manuscript had ballooned to 108k words. Yes, pretty much double the draft we sent to Joe for a dev edit.
Mind you, Ken and I both live in California. In addition to the awfulness of the pandemic we had wildfires, hazardous air quality, power outages and evacuations. So that was fun.
We queried the manuscript in fall of 2020 to eight agents.
Then I took a lecture with John Truby on Nature Myth over Christmas of 2020 and his breakdown of the movie Avatar. It gave me a revelation about the final battle. I called Ken and said we had to revise the final battle scene again.
Just before the end of the year Laurie Mclean at Fuse Literary asked for a full.
A heck of a way to end the year!
We wrote the final battle over Xmas break and sent her the full after Jan. 1, 2021. She wrote back that same week and asked for a call.
I had no idea what the call would be like. I hit up friends. Joanne Machin and Denise Beucler gave me their “what to ask an agent” notes.
We had a great call. Laurie loved the book. She had read 864 queries, asked for full manuscripts from 5 authors and offered representation solely to us. 1 out of 864. No wonder Jim Butcher’s Twitter handle is “longshotauthor”.
Ken and I loved Laurie’s enthusiasm. She struck us as someone who would swing for the fences. We signed with Laurie. She asked us to add one story beat to one scene (roughly one paragraph).
In the meantime I had another revelation about the love interest in the story. I’d imagined him as the rebound guy. We wrote him that way. It didn’t quite work. So I said to Ken, “I have to re-write Adam.” So it became the enemies to lovers trope. Laurie said, “I trust you not to break your story.”
I re-wrote the Adam scenes. The manuscript for Ebony Gate was now 110k words. Laurie sent it out on submission.
Two weeks later she called us. I was having a Zoom work call and eating a sandwich. Laurie told us TOR gave us a pre-empt. Claire Eddy loved Ebony Gate!
I was also at work when this happened, but we were so early in our relationship with Laurie that she didn’t have my cell phone. She’d emailed me and I’d been too busy to check. By the time I got on a three-way call with Julia and Laurie, Laurie sounded like she’d been banging on all the doors and windows trying to get my attention! The call was such good news I couldn’t stop smiling the rest of the day.
TOR was our first choice. I danced around my kitchen. We accepted the pre-empt. That was February of 2021.
We finished drafting Blood Jade, book 2 in the Phoenix Hoard series. It clocked in at 133k words.
We inked with TOR in July of 2021, after Mercury came out of retrograde.
TOR issued their announcement in August of 2021. Ken and I were overjoyed. We know that it could have gone really differently. We are happy that our book will go out to readers in July of 2023.
Ken and I are in the thick of revisions right now. The manuscript of Ebony Gate is 131k words presently.
While we were waiting (and waiting) for things to move forward with TOR, Julia got the spark of an idea for a post-apocalyptic Seattle, where the rise of magic has ruined tech and allowed the rampant spread of vampires and werewolves. We imagined a half-wrecked city, dripping with magic, defended by a band of misfit heroes based loosely on the Seven Freaks of the South, from Legend of the Condor Heroes.
As we revised Ebony Gate we began drafting the first book in the Seattle Slayers series, Stakes and Bones. We will be self-publishing Seattle Slayers later in 2022, and we would love to have you along for the ride.
Ken Bebelle studied Cybernetics at UCLA and has practiced prosthetics for over twenty years, specializing in upper limb prosthetics. He writes science fiction and fantasy with his co-author, Julia Vee. Their debut novel, Ebony Gate, an Asian-inspired urban fantasy, will be published by TOR in summer 2023.
Many kids who love science fiction become engineers or astrophysicists or comic book artists. Ken Bebelle turned his childhood love of Star Wars into a career in prosthetics. He graduated from UCLA with a B.S. in Cybernetics and spent over twenty years specializing in upper limb replacement. Ken has fit patients with everything from traditional body-powered prosthetics, to the most recent myoelectric technology. Star Wars was a good influence on him.
Since Ken had always been an avid reader of fantasy, science fiction, cyberpunk, and comic books, it made perfect sense that he would also write SFF. He and his writing partner, Julia Vee, published a first-contact military science fiction duology titled Cold War: Alien Storm and Cold War: Alien Exile. Then they turned their attention to present-day fantasy.
Ken and Julia most recently finished Ebony Gate, an Asian-inspired contemporary fantasy set in San Francisco (coming from TOR, summer 2023) as the first in a Pacific Rim trilogy. Ken and Julia are also working on Seattle Slayers, an urban fantasy series set in post-apocalyptic Seattle. In his spare time, Ken is married, has two grown children, ponders the cyberpunk novel that he has yet to write, and tries to grow tomatoes in his meager backyard.