Over Memorial Day Weekend I was on an online panel as part of Balticon, which was held virtually. The topic of the panel was “There’s No Finish Line.”
I keep thinking about that panel as I continue to feel like I’m living the topic.
You see, I began trying to get published in earnest about ten years ago. It’s not that I hadn’t tried before, but I gave up submitting to forego the pleasure of so many rejection letters.
However, as hurt as those letters left me feeling those many years before, I kept writing, but at that point I was just writing and rewriting for myself. Then, as can happen, well, life happened. I was told I had to grow up and stop this writing stuff. Other obligations in life were far more important—and stopping was killing me inside. Oh, I don’t disagree that priorities need balance, but “growing up” doesn’t mean you should give up doing what you love. No matter if you face rejection even from those closest to you.
I learned something from taking that and fantasy is part of who I am. I had stories I needed to write and share, and I found I couldn’t let that part of me not be expressed.
So, the moment came when my life dramatically changed and I knew it was time to dust off the stories I liked the most and I proofed, edited, wrote and rewrote again. Then, I guess, you could say “I rinsed and repeated.” I began submitting again and this time, well, some editors didn’t send me rejection letters. Oh, plenty of others still did, but, well, those rejections didn’t hurt like they had before. Actually, I think I just didn’t care about the rejections. I just kept writing and started going to science fiction and fantasy conventions, which offered workshops on writing. The editors started liking what they were seeing, I guess–especially the ones who offered me my first book contracts.
Subsequently, I came to the point where going Indy made more sense, which led to my selling enough books and making enough money at it that I qualified to join SFWA, the science fiction and fantasy writers association.
I love aspects of self-publishing, commissioning cover designs, formatting for print,. while other aspects like self-promoting, not so much… Now I’ve 19 books in print. Over the years, I’ve met people who wrote and published one short story or book and stopped. I don’t really understand that. Or, perhaps, I do. Writing’s a business and not exactly profitable—except, well, when it happens to be profitable. But profit’s not everything. There’s something about it that let’s my soul sort of fly on the winds and across the stars. Fine, as an author I’m delusional… but such delusions of life on Mars or among elves really aren’t so bad for a fantasy and sci fi writer..
All I know, is there’s really no finish line.
What gives me hope for a wider readership one day are people telling me how George R.R. Martin would attend some of the conventions I have, participating on panels, and would walk down the halls unrecognized for years and years until everything changed for him. Another author I’ve come to know, who shall remain nameless, sold his first book to a major press after twenty years of publishing short stories and novels and was introduced as a new author by that publisher. He chuckled, telling me how after twenty years he was an overnight success.
Funny thing about that phrase… I watched a biography on A&E about Jeff Dunham. He too became an overnight success after twenty years and shared he was rejected as not yet ready to be on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson eight times. The ninth time he made it and found himself headlining around the country from then on… but that was only a major step toward success for him. Because he was a ventriloquist, Comedy Central wouldn’t offer him a special. They didn’t understand his appeal or that a man with dummies could truly be funny… He decided to pay for producing a special himself (he said it cost him over $100,000) and his business manager had to beg to get Comedy Central to air it. The day after it aired they called and said something was wrong with the ratings. It turned out that his special had the highest ratings they’d ever had.
That didn’t just happen. He did everything he could, practicing his skills for years, writing jokes, being creative—including sculpting his own dummies. What really echoed in me was how he’d built his “overnight success.” Like authors need to, he built a mailing list. He collected the names and addresses of those who came to his shows and when he was returning their area. Today, it’s about building an email mailing list and twitter following, but then it was about sending out postcards when he was going to be performing within 50 miles of where his fans lived, encouraging them to buy tickets and bring their friends. That’s how he built his fan base, so when that Comedy Central special aired, they were watching… Jeff Dunham’s a story teller. I’m a story teller–I just throw the voices on the printed page and have a lot more work to do until I hit that twenty year benchmark hopefully can become an overnight success.
I have to keep telling myself, write, write, edit, rewrite, edit, proof, submit stories, self-publish as I choose, and most of all keep dreaming… telling myself the day will come.
So I promote my books as best I can—while the day job pays the bills, provides the medical insurance, and try to keep balance in my life as best I can.
So I speak on panels at conventions—even if must be virtually these days, do a talk on science fiction like one I recently did on Zoom, write, rewrite, edit, proof, and repeat. Oh, and the recipe includes promote, promote, seek out a new advance reader while I’m at it—and seek precious reviews. Oh, what the other authors on that panel at Balticon with me included from their own experience — work on more than one project at a time. One book may be with a publisher for months, while another is being written and others already published need to continue to be promoted.
There’s one other thing. The more I write the better I get at it. The characters and stories just keep whispering in my dreams, becoming more real as I write them. Truth be told, those pesky characters keep wanting me to share their tales and won’t let me stop.
Oh, along those lines, I’ve a number of book projects about ready for publication or just launched. I recently published Lessers Not Losers, a Young Adult novel with an unusual take on an origin story for would-be Superheroes, which I hope to become the first book in a trilogy or series.
D.H. Aire likes to blend genres, mixing his science fiction with a touch of fantasy, and especially blending his epic fantasy with a science fiction twist, which has found expression in his writing of his Highmage’s Plight Series and The Hands of the Highmage Series, and the more contemporary Dare2Believe series. He is also the author of the space opera series, Terran Catalyst. His most recently published book includes Nowhere to Go But Mars, a novella, and the forthcoming Knight of the Broken Table. His short stories have appeared in ezines and anthologies.
D.H. Aire is originally from St. Louis, Missouri and currently resides in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. To learn more about Lessers Not Losers and his other projects, visit the author’s website, www.dhaire.net, or follow him on Twitter at @dare2believe1 or Dare 2 Believe on Facebook.
Here’s the link to book cover on Amazon: