Last we checked the 6-year challenge was a success…
So I finished my novel. I set out to do it in six years and I did it in six years, more or less. It’s done. Finito. Ready for the presses.
Well, besides the editing. Then the further editing. Then waiting a month and then editing again. I edited the book through myself about seven times over the few years following completion. Each time I was astounded at the stuff I would find. Sentences that fit before, unglued. Story lines unvarnished. Parts I loved in the end barely hammered together. Any author knows writing is re-writing. It just is. My three confidants also read it and fed me on a diet of compliment sandwiches.
When happy with the edits (about halfway through those seven edits), I tried to hook 17 agents on Purge of Ashes. One day I sent out a flurry of query letters tailored to suit the submissions process etched out by their 17 separate companies. Over the next few months I got about 8 rejections and 9 non-replies. There were more names on my list, but some daunting aspects of the process were grating on me and I was more life-busy. Somewhere in there I got married and bought a house and had a real job teaching middle school English for a private school. I left off my attempts and instead tried to hook notably excellent editor Barbara Berson who had been recommended to me by Jane Bow, author of Cally’s Way. Barbara was interested and busy, giving me the first positive feedback I ever heard for Purge: “It’s ambitious and ably-written.” Unfortunately, right when I was planning to hire Barbara my contract was not renewed and I was let go from my teaching position, possibly for inspiring the students too well. Only explanation that made any sense to me.
So the novel sat while life took over.
One day I was in the Facebook group for the Malazan Empire discussing quality fantasy releases when it was mentioned that this fellow member Sean Roddenhad published an epic fantasy novel. Reviews (and I count reviews from Malazan fans as worth double that of a normal human) were very positive. I asked him a bunch of self-publishing questions and he answered. Turned out he lived just down the street in Hamilton, Ontario. Realizing I had read a slew of famous fantasy series with only rare forays into lesser known works – and that this would be exactly what I was expecting from the fans I hoped to garner for Imbalance – I decided to buy and read his novel Whispers of War.
It was potent. I wrote a lengthy review of the book for Amazon and I recommend it to everyone, especially if you like your fantasy old school – Tolkien style – or find other books don’t stretch your vocabulary enough. The day I wrote to point him towards my review, he told me of his three-book deal with Realmwalker Publishing Group.
He told me I should submit to them once I finished my book.
I said my book had been done for over a year.
He said to submit then, and I did.
I then praised the ground he walked upon and made the horrid mistake of promising to buy him a beer when next we met. A beer I still owe. A beer I shirk away from as if intrusive morning daylight.
One night I turned my laptop off at 12:30am and was stumble-walking towards the stairs to head up to bed. My phone was flashing. I absently checked my gmail to see what was the matter. It was James Drake, president of Realmwalker Publishing Group, informing me he had selected my novel for publication. I was damned speechless. I made my way to bed and lay next to my already-sleeping wife debating waking her to tell her. Then I just lay there and grinned at the black ceiling, thinking less of the seven plus years of work it took to reach the moment and more about the years ahead – of what it could mean for the series. When we awoke the next morning I looked at my wife and babbled “It’s funny, you know? It’s funny. It feels like just any other morning, doesn’t it? It feels like just any other morning.” She did not know what to make of this, so I showed her the email.
It has been a long journey from being in university dreaming up characters from the steerage of a dragon boat to waking up next to my wife with a publishing deal. I am super excited to share it with the world on April 5th. I suppose Sean’s really earned that beer.