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Novels

My first commercially distributed ebook, Bokur, published on Oct. 31, 2013. That’s Janet in the photo, BTW, and I designed and executed the cover.

I started writing longer-form stuff back in the 1990s, and finished my first “book-length” story (a kid’s adventure I wrote with my 6-year-old son, Luke, in mind) in 1996. But I didn’t start writing grown-up novels until the early 2000s.

I wrote my first novel, The Key to Darbas, in 2002 and on the advice of a friend with a bunch of best-sellers to his name, sent it off to a particular editor at Tor. This was back in the “Don’t send us emails, don’t send us Word files” dark era. So I mean, I printed the thing out, put it in a box, walked my ass down to the post office and mailed to it to this person in New York. And the advice I got with the name was, “Don’t bother her. She’s busy, but she’ll get back to you.”

She never did.

About six months later I wrote to inquire: Did the manuscript arrive? No reply. In fact, Tor never acknowledge a single … anything.

By then, of course, I’d also sent it to an editor who had worked with me on publishing one of my stories in Empire of Dreams and Miracles at Phobos. And no reply there, either.

So by the time we flew up to NYC to attend a launch party for one of Phobos’ print anthologies, I was really beginning to wonder if New York had it in for me. But around that time I got to know Keith Olexa, the Phobos editor who told me my original contact at the company had moved to on, which meant my query had disappeared into the ether. He asked to see the The Key to Darbas, said he liked it, and called soon after to tell me that he’d recommended the novel for publication and things looked good.

I can’t tell you how good that felt. Neither can I tell you how awful it felt later when — not long after we met Keith and Phobos founder Sandra Shubert in Manhattan — the company handed the keys to one of its newly hired editors, pushed Keith and Sandra out the door, changed its business plan to publishing Star Trek novels. This new approach proved monumentally successful — if by “monumentally successful” you mean that the company promptly shut.

It took me six months to write the first draft of The Key to Darbas. Two years later, I was back to Square One, and profoundly discouraged by the whole experience.

So I stopped writing novels for a while.

But in 2009, I was ready for another go. I’d previously revised and improved the original TKTD manuscript in various fits and starts, but in the summer of that year I gave it a complete overhaul, formatted it for a new thing called “eBook readers,” and started handing out free copies via a new website I’d built. Eventually I started systematically querying agents (publishers had, by 2010, stopped even pretending to care about new writers). A couple asked for the manuscript. One agent held onto it for more than a year before rejecting it with one of the most bizarre emails I’ve ever received.

Anyway, in January 2012, I decided to write another novel, and in six weeks turned out the manuscript for Les Bokurs. Again, another round of queries. Again, nothing.

But by this point I had the bug. I broke The Key to Darbas up into two shorter novels — A Madness and Siobeth. I dove back into the round of pitches, cover letters, summaries, samples and rejection emails. And after exhausting everyone who looked like a good target on AgentQuery.com, I didn’t give up. I wrote another novel — a wild thing provisionally titled Dan Conover on the Wide Quantum Spindle of Time, or just That Weird Quantum Multiverse Novel. Which I really like, BTW. I’m just not done revising it yet (although, in an alternate dimension, the book has been revised and published to critical acclaim).

But as I watched the print publishing industry choke itself to death while the ebook market finally started producing success stories, I began to wonder, again, why I kept waiting for someone else to publish my stories. I don’t know people in New York. I don’t go to cocktail parties. I just want to write stories and get paid for them.

So in October 2013, I started formatting novels for ebook distribution. The first one out the door was the re-titled and revised Bokur, which I published exclusively on Amazon Kindle Direct at $2.99.

As for the Darbas books, I waited for Janet to create their cover designs, then pushed them out with a standard drug-dealer marketing plan: Pick up A Madness for free, but you gotta pay to read Siobeth if you want another fix.

What does all this mean? Well, it’s not like I know publishing, or marketing, or what makes one thing a hit and the next thing a great big nothing. But what I do know is that, if left to my own devices, I will compulsively write novels. And novels want to find readers.

Buy Bokur on Amazon.