Rediscovering an Old Book

January 4, 2008

In the summer of 2005, I sold two series to two different publishers.  One, my Blood of the Southlands trilogy, a follow-up to Winds of the Forelands, I sold to Tor, which had also published the Forelands books.  The first book of Blood of the Southlands, The Sorcerers’ Plague, came out in December, and the second volume, The Horsemen’s Gambit, is in production and should be published sometime late this year.

The other series was something new for me:  a dark, contemporary  urban fantasy/mystery set in our own world.  I sold it to Meisha Merlin, and went off to Australia, excited to write something utterly different.  I wrote the first book of this series in the first five months we were Down Under.  When I finished it, I was convinced that it was the best thing I had ever written, and I was incredibly eager to see it in print.  It soon became clear, though, that Meisha Merlin was in financial trouble, and before the book ever saw the light of day, my agent and I were forced to buy back the rights to the entire series.  That was in the fall of 2006.  For the past year plus, we’ve been trying to resell the series, which has been difficult for a number of reasons.  For one thing, the lead character in the series is a drug addict, and that’s scared away several houses.  (One of the great things about Meisha Merlin was that Stephe Pagel wasn’t afraid to publish anything.  The loss of MM is a sad thing for the American speculative fiction market.)  Also, it seemed that while I loved the book, others had issues with the way I told the story — I did some funky things with chronology that I thought worked.  Others disagreed.

For a while now, I’ve been trying to think of how I might keep elements of the story that I liked while addressing the concerns related to my narrative flow.  But I’ve been working on other projects and haven’t given this book the attention it needs.

Yesterday, I finally started reading through the manuscript again, for the first time in over a year.  I was afraid that I’d find I no longer loved the book, or that I had no good ideas for fixing the problems other readers have pointed out to me.  Two pages in, I realized that I still did love it.  It’s some of the best work I’ve ever done.  Better still, I think I’ve figured out how to fix it without compromising the most important elements of the story.

This book has been an emotional roller coaster for me — the elation of finishing something that I loved so much; the disappointment of having to buy back the series; the difficulties we’ve had selling it over the past year.  But at last I feel that I’ve turned a corner with it again.  When I was a kid, I had this cool wallet.  It had a rocket ship on it (this was in the early days of the Apollo moon missions), and I put some play money in it and carried it around me, feeling so grown up.  Then I hid it somewhere and promptly forgot where I’d put it.  I searched everywhere for that thing, until at last, heartbroken, I gave up any hope of finding it again.  A couple of months later, playing with a corgi car in the family den, I suddenly found my wallet again.  I couldn’t believe it.  I was off-the-wall happy.

That’s how I feel now.  I’d pretty much given up hope of reselling this series, because I didn’t think there was a way to change it without ruining it.  I was wrong, and I couldn’t be happier.

Today’s music:  The Dreadful Snakes (Snakes Alive!)

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2 Responses to “Rediscovering an Old Book”

  1. Mark Wise said

    David,

    That’s one thing I don’t like about the Publishing Industry, they want to sell something “different” and cutting edge and make lots of money, but then they are too scared to sell something really different. They may take something really neat and new, then change and edit it to death until you have a rehash of the “same ol’stuff”.

    Hopefully you will land a publisher that will allow it to be published as you see your vision, not how some dweeb in a cubicle does.

    Mark Wise

  2. davidbcoe said

    Thanks for the comment, Mark. I think that publisher I’m talking to now about the book will let me do what I like in terms of the themes of the book. But the criticisms of the way I approached the chronology are, I’ve come to believe, legitimate and well-founded. That’s why I’m making the changes. I tried an experiment, and it didn’t work well. I’m glad I made the attempt, but sometimes a writer has to acknowledge when something doesn’t work.

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