A very long time ago, in the 1990s, when I was starting graduate school, raising a young child, and working full time, I got an idea for a story from a dream: a young woman was an interloper in a wizardry school for young men. That was all. That was the premise.
But as often happens to me when I’m under stress, I started telling the story to myself, and I liked it. I was working as an office manager for a university-based center, coordinating our move from several locations to one, and when we were all moved I had my own office with my computer screen facing away from the door. I’m good at multitasking, so in my spare moments I drafted the story at work.
When I was finished, I thought it was publishable, and I sent it off to a well-known science fiction publisher. They liked it too. But as often happens, they were overworked and underpaid and one of the editors was having a baby, so they kept telling me my book had promise and they really wanted me to wait. After a year and a half of being obsessed with the mailman (Arthur, who had a hat with ear flaps and was socially awkward to the point of running away if I opened the door when he was on my porch), I asked for the manuscript back and put it in a drawer.
Some years later, a young man who grew up in my neighborhood was chatting with me. He told me he had written a novel, and he told me all about it. After a while, I said I had written one too, and that was when he said he worked for an agent and he got a commission if he found any publishable novels.
I gave the dusty dot-matrix manuscript to him. And the agent, George Scithers, called me the next day, saying, “I have a bone to pick with you.” Apparently he had started reading it intending to toss it aside after a couple of pages, and instead he got caught up in reading it.
He sent the novel to Del Rey. They accepted it and gave me a contract for it and for a sequel, giving me an advance that might have bought a second-hand car if I hadn’t already owned one. In a frenzy, I wrote the sequel, which was already mostly in my head, and they published that one too. The books were combined into a Science Fiction Book of the Month Club offering, translated into Japanese and French, and nominated for a couple of awards whose names I don’t remember now.
And then my mother got ill, and I was the local daughter so I was busy with her as well as with my daughter and a husband who was starting his own business. I finished my master’s degree, got a Ph.D. sort of by accident because I was already there, became a full-time teacher, and took up serious competitive fencing.
I kept writing, of course. I just didn’t somehow get around to publishing anything.
And when I turned around and wrote George a little note saying I had some things for him, I found out he had died since last we talked.
I didn’t have an agent, I hadn’t been published in years, and I was just too busy, plus the part of my brain that values publication is clearly underdeveloped. So I put the thought aside and just kept writing, working, fencing, and doing everything except publishing.
However, people liked the books. I still occasionally get letters from people who have read them. A well-known editor, rejecting a story of mine, mentioned that he knew my books from when he started out in the business. A friend purchased a used copy of one of my books and got me to sign it. And self-publishing got easier and easier.
This past May, I wrote Random House and asked for my rights back. After about three months, I got the one-page letter that says I own my published books again. I formatted the books roughly for Kindle, got an excellent graphic designer to do me some covers, and did some research. And yesterday, I uploaded Nameless Magery. Today, I uploaded Of Swords and Spells, which should be up soon.
Of course, I’ve been working on the third book, The Stick Princess, for a while now, because writing is a thing I do.
My goal is to make at least $9.50 on the books. I originally set a goal of $4.50, but then a friend said she was going to buy a copy so I figured I had better get ambitious.
Yes, there’s something wrong with my brain. I realize that.