Ten years ago today, May 2, 2008, I received an email from a publisher indicating that my first novel, The Protocol, had been accepted for publication. I remember it like it was yesterday, which is rather remarkable, because I’ve been struggling this morning to remember what movie I watched just last night, and am still drawing a blank!
May 2, 2008
I was an IT consultant, making great money on a government contract. I was at my desk, checking my emails (over lunch, of course!), and the email was just sitting there, begging to be opened. I was expecting rejection, since that’s what you’re supposed to have as a new author, so I didn’t expect much, since this was the first publisher I had submitted to.
I was wrong.
They had accepted it, and I could barely contain my glee. My good friend, working in the gorgeous cubicle across from me, turned in his chair, asking what was up, and when I told him, he said something congratulatory that I can’t really remember, because my mind was in a fog–for this had been a lifelong dream, though it took me years to realize that.
I wrote my first short story when I was five.
Everyone in it died.
I still have it. In fact, I was searching my filing cabinet for something just last week, and came across it. It’s a masterpiece that I should scan and put up on the website one day, since it’s also illustrated by yours truly.
But what I had forgotten was that I had always wanted to be a writer. All through my youth, I wrote. I wrote short stories for school (shout out to Susan “Miss Boss” Turnbull!), and even wrote a novel called Space Pioneer that I bound myself with cardboard and glue (I still have that sitting on my shelf). I wrote non-fiction articles for computer magazines (Compute!’s Gazette and Run magazine), starting at the age of 12, and I also was the youngest person ever (or at least one of the youngest, my memory might be foggy), to apply to some newspaper writing school and get a reply back praising me on my submission, and asking me to reapply when I was of age. I was also accepted by some children’s writing school, despite my age, because they loved my submission. What I didn’t realize was that it wasn’t for children, it was for adults who wanted to write for children.
Though these last two things were probably just adults humoring a child, it shows how driven I was to become a writer. In among the computer magazines that filled my room (along with countless science fiction books from Heinlein, Asimov, Del Rey, along with dozens upon dozens of Star Trek, CADS, and Doomsday Warrior books), was Writer’s Digest magazine. I subscribed to that magazine for probably two decades before I finally cancelled it, realizing when I became an adult that my dream of being a writer was dead. I was a computer consultant, making six figures in my mid-twenties, and the dream was forgotten.
Until I had a vision.
It was of a girl, walking through very tall grass, her fingers running through the blades. It haunted me for years, until finally one night I sat down and just started writing. By the end of the night I had my first short story in almost twenty years.
Then I buried it.
A few years later I showed it to a friend, Michele, and she loved it, encouraging me to try and get it published. On a whim, I submitted it to The Sink magazine, and it was accepted and published. I then wrote another short story, Loving the Ingredients, and it, along with my first short story, were published in The Writers Post Journal.
And that got the juices flowing, and the desire to be a writer came flooding back.
August 23, 2005
As many of you will already know from other postings, I was having a conversation with my late best friend, Paul Conway, and he said something along the lines of, “Hey, if you ever write a novel, you should write about the crystal skulls.” He then went on to tell me about a television show he had watched the night before. I created a Word document as we were talking (a file I still have, which is why I know the date above!), and all it said was:
Novel about the 12 crystal skulls
I then wrote that book, went through countless iterations, and eventually had a novel I was happy with. And less than three years after that conversation, the book was accepted for publication. At this point, I was a “traditionally” published author. And it was then that I learned why so many people hate the process. It was over two years before the book would eventually be published, but luckily for me, that delay was a game changer.
November 19, 2007
Enter the Kindle.
The Kindle at first was a novelty item, as it cost about $400 before you added a case and a light, though it started a revolution that was at first a slow burn, but gained in momentum, enough that I became aware of the eBook phenomenon around the time I was finally going to be published.
And I was dead-set against it.
I didn’t believe anyone would want to read an eBook, and I was one of them. When my publisher released my novel as an eBook first, I was forced to buy one, and in the eight years since, I think I’ve read only two paper books since.
I love my eReader. Not the ones like Kindle Fires or iPads that are just computers you hold in your hand. I mean a traditional, eInk device, with no backlight. There’s no eyestrain, no glare, it’s light, and oh so convenient!
But something else happened at the exact same time I was learning to love.
August 27, 2010
This was the day Amazon started shipping the third generation Kindle, and it started at only $139. This was when the revolution turned into all out war against print. And I was reluctantly dragged along with millions of others.
Thank God I was!
During this time, I wrote another book, called Depraved Difference. I submitted it to a different publisher, and they accepted it for publication. But by now, I was enthralled with this self-publishing revolution that was taking place, and decided that after nearly thirty years of computer experience, and over 15 years of running my own business that included online advertising, I was perfectly suited to take a stab at this.
And I did something that was almost unheard of at the time.
I turned down a publishing contract.
March 31, 2011
This was the day Depraved Difference went live on Amazon. I still have the email from them, with the subject line: Congratulations, You’ve been Published! And so began one hell of a ride. Within two months, I had cracked the top 100 overall on Amazon UK (the Brits LOVED Depraved Difference), and during this time, I bought back my rights to The Protocol, rewrote it, and published it myself.
The smartest move I ever made.
May 2, 2018
Today. It’s hard to believe it’s been a decade. Yet it hasn’t been. It’s been a 36 year journey, a journey that began when I was five years old, and today, 41 years later, I’m about to publish my 40th novel, have sold almost one million books, and receive so much fan mail, that I no longer have time to respond to it all, though I do read it all and still love every single one of them.
It all happened because of encouragement from family, friends, teachers, and fans.
And by taking a chance, rather than playing it safe.
It’s been one heck of a wonderful ride.
P.S. Oh, and that friend in the cubicle next to me? A name many of you will be familiar with: