[Leucrota Press recently went out of business six months after releasing my first novel. I know some of you ordered it and never got a copy. I apologize on the publisher’s behalf, but I assure you I saw none of that money. My new novel, Birch Hills at World’s End, is with a different publisher. This series of entries will respect the privacy of Leucrota Press and its staff, but also explain what happened to me as an author. I hope you’ll find it an entertaining, informative, and cautionary tale of the writing business.]
This is a story about the importance of failure. If you are a writer, you better learn to appreciate it. It is the story of a book called Malagon Rising.
Malagon Rising is a despairing epic fantasy novel set in a violent medieval empire. Korsynn the Black, a deposed imperial prince, sells his soul to the ghostly dragon-god Malagon and becomes an outlaw warlord. He then begins a relentless quest to reclaim his throne. Korsynn’s actions cause pirates to swarm the seas, plagues to ravage the cities, and two unspeakable destructive demigods to attack humanity (one of which inadvertently devours Korsynn’s own mother). Korsynn bemoans his cruel fate; as he gains power, he finds himself more isolated, miserable, and despised. He curses his god-master, Malagon. In time, however, he learns there is no Malagon. There is only the phantasmal black dragon he carries in his heart, a thing longing for death and ruination. Korsynn is a slave to the monster he was born to become. He accepts this as the price of power, and finds his peace in war.
It was a story dreamed up by a 22-year-old bookseller who played guitar in an unpopular Midwestern doom metal band. It was written by another incarnation of myself. It was the thing that made me feel I was something other than another student-turned-townie, kicking around in my alma mater’s shadow. It was, along with a couple stints as a rock guitarist with horrible stage fright, my only artistic outlet. I finished it in a couple years.
I sent copies of the entire 400-page manuscript, unsolicited, to New York’s three largest publishers of science fiction and fantasy. One was kind enough to send me a rejection letter, praising my ambition but suggesting I hire an editing service and perhaps send a query letter next time. The others, I’m sure, tossed me in the “lunatics who send us 400-page fantasy novels in which the main character is a matricidal psychedelic-mushroom-eating war criminal” file, better known as the trash.
I really didn’t see any other options. Three rejections. The book was dead, as far as I was concerned.
I began applying to graduate programs on the advice of one of my former professors, who had encountered me in the bookstore where I worked, a few years later. I had a handful of short stories. Some vignettes about rock concert riots, broken hearts, and disturbed young people in snowy climates. I didn’t realize they exuded regionalism, which I suppose is one of the benefits of never having gone much of anywhere. I went to grad school in Chicago in 2005. Malagon Rising came with me, in a green army footlocker where it had sat for years.
In the summer of 2009, when I was 33 years old, Malagon Rising was accepted for publication. And that’s when things started to get weird…
(TO BE CONTINUED!)