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A few people know the story of my debut novel, Fools Errant, first sold to a Canadian publisher that was taken over and dissolved the week my book came out.
Now here’s the story of the second . . .
My work came to the attention of L.R. (Bunny) Wright, one of Canada’s top mystery writers, who introduced me to her editor at Doubleday Canada. She read Downshift, the first in a projected series about a freelance speechwriter on Vancouver Island (which was what I was) who gets involved in situations that require him to solve a mystery or die.
The editor loved the book and wanted to sign me but the marketing department wanted to go more “literary” and not sign another genre author. A five-month argument was finally won by my editor, who put the book into the process and asked me to write a second in the series. Which I started to do.
Then, three months before Downshift came out, my editor departed for another publisher– a nonfiction house, so she couldn’t take me with her. Immediately my print run was cut, my tiny promotional budget went to another book, and the marketing effort, except for library sales, was a few mouse-sized squeaks. Months later, when I asked if there were remaindered copies I could buy, I was told, “Nope, as the returns came in we sent them straight to the pulper.”
A couple of years ago, I gave the rights to Five Rivers Publishing, a Canadian no-advance small press producing ebooks and POD paperbacks, but sales were skimpy. They did want the sequel, though, so I finished Old Growth, the second in the series, that had been sitting about three-quarters done on my hard drive since 1997. It didn’t burn up the track, either.
So I’ve got the rights back and I’m self-publishing Downshift as a $3.99 ebook and a $12.99 POD paperback. It will be on my website bookstore, on Amazon and Kobo, and any downstream booksellers that connect to their distribution channels. Old Growth will follow in a little while.
By sheer coincidence, as I was preparing to put the books out, I was approached by Bob Gonzalez, an excellent voice artist who narrated an audio-book version of Downshift for Five Rivers, though the title was withdrawn when the audio-book producer messed up. So Downshift is now available wherever audio books are sold, and Bob is preparing to record Old Growth. It will follow along at about the same time as I bring out the ebooks and PODs.
Here’s the thing: I think Downshift is a pretty skookum little mystery. It got some good reviews when it came out. Old Growth is even better, because the character has matured between the books, which are set five or six years apart and because I’ve become a more skillful writer over the past twenty years. But, as my Tor editor, the late (and much missed) David G. Hartwell once told me, “Publishing is a hard, hard business.” Some good books don’t get the chance they deserve, just as some baby sea turtles never make it down the sand and into the surf.
The opening of Downshift is on the Excerpts section of my web page with a link to where to buy it. The first chapter of Old Growth is also there, but it only links to the Five Rivers paperback, which was kind of pricey. I hope you’ll give both books an opportunity to catch your interest.
I’ve just heard that I’ve sold another reprint. “Petri Parousia” ran in F&SF back in 2008. In January, I submitted it to a Kickstarter-funded indie anthology to be called Arcane Arts, edited by Kai Herbertz.
“Petri Parousia” spun off from the then popular novel The Da Vinci Code, to the extent that it was about a research scientist who discovered he could recreate the DNA of anyone’s ancestors so you could clone your great-grandfather. Or Napoleon. Or anybody you thought deserved a second coming.
As with the recent sale of “Nature Tale” to Tesseracts 20, the acceptance came as a complete surprise because I did not remember submitting the story (I have an increasingly unreliable memory which may turn out to be a precursor to Alzheimers).
Still, it’s very nice to receive acceptances for submissions I don’t remember. Like an unexpected birthday present.
Sometime today, Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing will announce the table of contents for COMPOSTELA, the twentieth annual iteration of the prestigious Tesseracts series of anthologies of Canadian science fiction. It will include my Luff Imbry story, “Nature Tale.”
Every Tesseracts is built around a theme. This year the publisher has said: “The stories in this anthology in their own way tell the tale of futuristic travelers who journey into the dark outer (or inner) reaches of space, searching for their own connections to the past, present and future relics of their time.
“Nature Tale,” which originally ran in the quarterly anthology, Postscripts, fits the description. It’s about how Luff travels to a far-distant world to settle an old score from his school days.
For each edition of the Tesseracts series, the publisher selects as editors two luminaries of the Canadian speculative fiction scene. This year’s are Spider Robinson and James Alan Gardner.
The book will be out in the spring of 2017.
I’ve had official word that Charlie Finlay, editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, has bought another story from me. This one’s called “Ten Half-Pennies,” and it features my new series character, Baldemar. I hope Charlie won’t mind my quoting from his acceptance letter, in which he said, “I loved this story — probably my favorite thing from you in a while, which is saying something.”
I created Baldemar for the anthology, The Book of Swords, edited by Gardner Dozois and due out in 2017, or possibly very late this year. The story in the anthology, “The Sword of Destiny,” finds the character at the end of his career as a wizard’s henchman. “Ten Half-Pennies” starts him out as a young boy and tells how he came into the service of Thelerion the thaumaturge, a wizard even less dependable than the average spellslinger.
I plan to do the same thing as I did with Raffalon the thief, who was created for the cross-genre anthology, Rogues, co-edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. While waiting for Rogues to come out, I wrote several stories about the earlier life of my thief and sold them to F&SF. Next summer, I will put together all the Raffalon stories, including an extra I have yet to write, and self-publish them as an ebook and POD paperback.
Meanwhile, I’m halfway through another Baldemar story, as he pursues his career as a young henchman to Thelerion. I’m about to send him off to Khoram-in-the-Waste, a ruined city in the desert, to recover an ancient magic object for his master. How that’s going to work out, I don’t know yet, but it’s always fun to see where these stories go.
A little bird tells me — actually, it’s Charlie Finlay, editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction — that he expects to run the Raffalon story he has in inventory before the end of the year. When I sold it to him, it was called “Genius.” But Charlie, being a good editor, has told me that there are already several other stories in the sf universe with that same title and it’s not likely to draw the reader’s eye. So the story has been renamed “The Amateur Vindicator,” which I’m pretty sure makes it unique.
This will probably be the last Raffalon story to appear in a magazine. My intent is to write a new one and put it with all the others in a self-published collection. I’ll have to wait six months for the exclusivity period for “Vindicator” to expire, which means the Raffalon collection will probably be out in the summer of 2017.
Unofficially, I can announce that I’ve also sold another story to F&SF, but the official announcement mustn’t come until I get the contract and check from Gordon Van Gelder.