Last month saw the release of the first collection of my own short Science Fiction stories from my indie press, Panverse Publishing LLC. The collection, Free Verse and Other Stories, contains both hard and humorous SF. Of the six stories in this collection, three have been previously published (two in very small ’zines and one in the 2010 Panverse anthology, Eight Against Reality).
The title story, Free Verse, is a solidly ambitious novelette I started back in around 2005—that’s right: it’s taken me nine years and countless drafts to get this one right. It took me that long to develop my craft enough to the point where I felt I had the chops to really pull it off.
Finally, last April, the story was finished—or was it? Free Verse plays with some huge ideas—an infinite multiverse (yup, this story is the origin of the name “Panverse”) in which seriously apocalyptic things are happening—like entire worldlines, parallel realities every bit as real as our own, crashing into oblivion. And besides being a core SF tale of wonder and adventure, Free Verse also looks at some of the knotty philosophical and ethical issues surrounding the age-old question of Free Will.
But despite all the action, the sturm and drang of dying universes, I still felt that there was something missing, an element of emotional resonance that made the story personal; the fate of billions is somewhat abstract, whereas the fate of a single individual is something we can bite down on and anguish over.
I contacted a friend, a multiple award-winning SF author who really gets character, and asked if he’d be kind enough to look it over for me and advise on that specific issue; he agreed, and just a day later sent me a page of notes which nailed every single one of my concerns (adding, to my amazement, that he’d enjoyed the hell out the story and wanted to see more stories set in this world!). After a day or two of thinking through his comments and how best to implement them in the story, I did my revision, added about five hundred words of new material, and boom—it was finally done!
With Aegean Dream and Sutherland’s Rules, Free Verse and Others Stories is the third book I’ve released in four years. Not bad, but not enough to really build a following—to really keep and grow your readership in today’s ultra-competitive publishing environment, you need to publish at the very minimum a book a year, and preferably two or more. The hottest authors, most of whom are writing Romance or Paranormal Romance, put out four to six books a year, an incredible (and exhausting!) rate of production, but one which soon builds an impressive body of work. I haven’t helped myself by being a genre-hopper–from writing a nonfiction memoir, I went to a thriller novel, and now back to my first love, Science Fiction–but that’s the way I’m wired. I’m not writing to the market, I’m writing what I want to write. And hopefully, those readers who enjoy my work will come along for the ride.
My next personal project is to complete and/or rewrite a number of Fantasy stories I have on the back burner, make them into a small collection, and release that, probably inside the next few months. After that, it’s back to novels, which I suspect will mostly be thrillers or mysteries, but always, like Sutherland’s Rules, with at least a shimmer of the fantastic.
And in a few years, I’ll have that respectable body of work.
If you’ve enjoyed any of my work, or simply love good fiction, get Free Verse and Other Stories for around the price of a gallon of gas. It’ll take you much further! From Amazon, B&N, and all the usual suspects.
Thank you so much.