In 2004, my novel Supervillainz won the first Project QueerLit award and would go on to be published by Greg and Ian of Suspect Thoughts Press. I needed a new project. I had written Supervillainz to be an epic which took place in current times, and the thought of doing the same for a folktale appealed to me.
I was also fading away from many of my old friends and the old crowd I used to hang with. The GLBT and fetish crowds had a lot of infighting and love which I thought could be a good basis for a new work. I was meeting a lot of people in the furry fandom, which was spiking in popularity, and learning about shamanism and spirit journeying. Damn, I thought, if I could combine all this stuff and make it accessible, it would be doing for the furry community what Supervillainz was meant to do for the transgender community.
I don’t know whose story came first – Elory Burke’s – the former belle of the BDSM ball driven out by the spinelessness of the suburban fetish community - or Cheryl’s – the young furry who steals a robotic tail, loses her girlfriend, and finds herself at odds with Elory and Tigerlilac over her reputation in the larger furry community. People can be very cruel and kind in communities with limited resources. When I later read Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye, I saw many similarities with my work.
I wrote War of the Foxes – How Cheryl Got Her Tail twice. The first draft was 105k words. I am never going to write anything that long again. I actually started it while I was nearing the end of writing the first draft of Supervillainz. CubeOtter, God love him, read the whole thing which was of enormous comfort to me.
On re-reading it, I found it had too many problems. Editing wouldn’t help – it had to be re-written from scratch. And so I did, over the next year. It’s harder than you think.
I won’t lie. The work isn’t finished and includes the odd spelling and editing error. I planned this to be a trilogy of novels, all contained in one book, The War of the Foxes. I finished Book 1 – How Cheryl Got Her Tail. I made it halfway through Book 2 – How Cheryl Lost Her Tail, when I took a trip to WisCon 2007 and had one of those sessions in which you share your work with other writers – my book’s intended audience. Women who went to conventions – these were the people my book was intended for. Heck, How Cheryl Lost Her Tail almost entirely takes place at a convention called Furrificon. Having read Chapter 1, they really liked the emotional parts – Cheryl and her girlfriend particularly. But novel’s death knell came when I explained the entire plot. “These women… fight each other?” the moderator said. “I wouldn’t want to read something like that.”
When your audience tells you point blank that they’re not interested in your work, it’s time to hit the road, especially when it would require years of additional work to finish. I was burned out again. It happens a lot with me – I construct novel-sized storylines regularly and see them through. But there’s not much point of doing this if no one will read it.
I’ve kept War of the Foxes on my hard drive for years now. I’ve gone on to do bigger and better stuff. But looking back through it, I think it’s worth releasing. I think it’s stronger than most furry works, particularly since it’s about real life furry folks with an undercurrent of everyday magic. It’s grounded like the North Pole. It has a ton of material that I’m stealing for my newer projects.
So here it is, warts and all, a labor of love that I’ve spent more time on than any other project. A cautionary tale about how a little compassion goes a long way.
Ladies and gentlemen, The War of the Foxes.