Last night, my local writer's group The Dead Horse Society (DHS) had their annual public reading, entitled IGNITION, at the Writer's Place in Kansas City, Missouri. Ten members of the group presented works of fantasy, science fiction and horror to a full house. The author list included Brent Bowen, Marshall Edwards, John Petersen, Cybelle Greenlaw, Jon Cleaves, Maddie McFadden, Byron Dunn, Joe Baric, Laura Hardenbrook, and myself. The event was organized by Erin Bolton. I read one of my favorite scenes from EOLYN, in which both Akmael and Eolyn shape shift into wolves. My friends and fellow authors at thenextbigwriter.com helped me pick that one out. Everyone enjoyed all the stories, and the food and the wine as well. Overall it was a wonderful night for sharing the adventure of words and imagination. I wish we could do it all over again next weekend!
Just one year ago, when DHS hosted its first public reading ever, EOLYN was still a work in progress, and I a devoted author facing a lot of uncertainty as to the future of this labor of love called my novel. I had just started sending out queries, and was racking up my personal list of rejections. Last night I realized -- as I stood in front of a new set of faces to share, once again, an excerpt from EOLYN -- the depth of transformation brought to my life a few months ago by one email from a very enthusiastic and much admired editor, Eric T. Reynolds of Hadley Rille Books.
Almost four years have passed since I set pen to paper for the first time and crafted "Chapter 1" of EOLYN. That chapter no longer exists; it was eventually dropped in favor of a later scene that -- after much working and reworking -- now constitutes the true Chapter 1. I had no title for the book, and no conscientious intention to see it published. I expected it to be a brief story, maybe 40,000 or 50,000 words, more of a novella than a true novel. But everytime I introduced a new character, that person brought with him or her a personal history and a unique future, and by the time I finished weaving it all together, I had a lot of words on my hands.
Still, EOLYN was mostly intended for me. She was my escape from what was -- at the time -- a very difficult situation in my professional and personal life. I never thought to share EOLYN with many other people, until one day I gave the manuscript to my good friend and partner in eco-idealism, Suzanne Hunt, and she loved it. That's when I thought maybe other people would love this novel, too.
So I started showing EOLYN to ever wider circles. Around that time (in 2007, to be more exact) I landed a job in Kansas City and returned to my home town after a twenty year absence. One of the first things I did was look for a writer's group. In truth, the thought of showing EOLYN to 'real' writers was terrifying. I had no image of myself as a 'real' writer back then; 'real' writing was what other people did, people who were much more knowledgeable than me about the craft and genre fantasy. The folks at DHS were (and still are!) incredibly adept at reading and reviewing. They found no lack of problems with my first draft, but just like Suzanne, they loved the story and encouraged me to continue working on it.
That's where it all began, really. At that very first critique meeting with DHS, I took my first step down the long winding road to publication. DHS taught me how to improve my writing, and how to see myself as a writer. The group also led me to other very important circles of writers, including thenextbigwriter.com, where I connected with talented authors from all over the world, whose input has been invaluable in finishing the final draft of EOLYN. It was also through a DHS member that I received an invitation to the opening for Kim Vandervort's THE SONG AND THE SORCERESS, published by Hadley Rille Books about one year ago. And -- as I've mentioned before -- it was that event, and Vandervort's book, that convinced me to pitch my novel to Eric T. Reynolds.
Well, I had planned another topic for this week's post, but I'm feeling too sentimental about my journey as a writer over the last year (and then some) to think about anything else right now. I know I've said this before, but it can never be repeated enough:
Thank you to DHS, thenextbigwriter, my family and my friends, for all the support you've given me along the way. This is a very old dream of mine, something I hadn't thought about since high school, the idea of being a novelist, of publishing a book. I've kept this particular seed hidden away at the bottom of my treasure chest for a long time, and it's been wonderful to rediscover it, draw it out, put it in some fertile earth, add a little bit of water and sunshine, and watch it grow. All with a little help from my friends.