Indeed it is. I suppose I could have also called this, my absolute first blog article, “Raising the Dead.” You’ll see why shortly.
From the late ’70s through the mid-’90s I had published nineteen novels. Horror, Sword & Sorcery, Sword & Planet, even a Tom Swift young adult story (Tom Swift and His Electric Grandmother Meet RoboDog, or something like that). My publishers were not chopped liver: Bantam Books, The Berkley Publishing Group (Penguin-Putnam), Pocket Books, Kensington. But alas, the meter ran out, and I had no more quarters, and a real job became a necessity. (Okay, no more metaphors, I promise.) So I joined the staff of a small newspaper, and in addition, instead of being a writer I worked with writers as an instructor, coach and editor. A good path to follow, especially when many of my writers became published—and it paid the bills, too.
My initial “second chance,” a big one, happened late in 2009, when I nearly bought the farm (oh damn, another metaphor) from blocked arteries. Recovering from quadruple bypass surgery in 2010 with a second chance at life, I got to thinking, why not write again? Yeah, I thought a lot about writing but didn’t do much about it.
Then, a small start-up publisher in southern California, ZOVA Books, asked if I had any previously unpublished manuscripts that they could turn into a published novel. Well, heck yes! Fire Dance had been “commissioned” by Bantam many years ago, but they backed out of the deal just as I was finishing the story. Another chance at publishing! ZOVA published Fire Dance, a desert-themed ghost story, last year. The story received much critical acclaim and led to a second chance with the publisher, this time a Native American-themed ghost story titled The Burning Ground, due out in February. (Think: raising the dead.) You’ll hear a lot more about that one in subsequent blogs.
Okay, I’ll admit, this next “second chance” is not as significant as surviving quadruple bypass surgery, but for a writer who has written about thirty novels, published and unpublished, it’s pretty cool. It is all about righting old wrongs. Let me explain.
Mega-bestselling author Dean Koontz is a contemporary of mine—so close in age that we both qualified for Medicare at about the same time not too long ago. I think he began writing a bit before me, and some of his early stuff, like mine, was Sword & Planet and other fantasy, under a variety of pen names. At a book signing well into the successful part of his career, a fan asked him to autograph one of those early books. Dean wrote (possibly paraphrased by me), “A collector’s item—save, but for heaven’s sake, don’t read!”
So what did he mean by that? Simple. Whether an author has been writing for four years or four decades, the earlier writing should make him or her cringe. We are—or should be—improving our craft with every story we write. In Dean’s opinion, his early work sucked.
So did mine.
Over the past year or so I have re-read most of my first thirteen published novels. If I had to grade them, here’s what the report card would look like. Storyline: C- to B+. (One was so bad that it brought the average down; this is on me. For the most part I liked the stories, none of which I remembered too well.) Writing/presentation: D- (this is also on me). Editing: C- for one publisher, F for the other (that’s on them). Bottom line: these books were nothing to be proud of (he said, by way of understatement).
That’s where the second chance comes in: I get to rewrite them! (Once again I’m “raising the dead.”) Last year I launched my own imprint, Atoris Press (see if you can figure that name out), and a new website, Swords and Specters (www.swordsandspecters.com), for all of my books. The “specters” part was easy: in addition to my two ZOVA titles, I cleaned up and made available in e-book and paperback formats my Bantam horror novels from the early ’90s, Demon Shadows and The Modoc Well. They required minimal revisions, having been written at a more advanced stage of my career. Check them out—there are links on the Swords and Specters website.
The “swords” titles—well, not so easy. Each one will have to be stripped down and put back together again. But it’s going to happen over the next couple of years, so watch for news of each release in this blog, or on Swords and Specters. The Sword & Planet genre seems to be coming into the mainstream. Think Avatar, and also think John Carter, a forthcoming movie based on the Barsoom (Mars) series by my personal writing hero, Edgar Rice Burroughs. I have two series (nine books) that fit the exact bill.
Did you figure out Atoris Press yet? “Atoris” is my last name spelled backwards. Funny story on that: in my 1991 satirical SF novel, Bicycling Through Space and Time, I created a nasty character named Atoris the Evil. My brother Alan, who has since passed away, called to tell me that he enjoyed the book. I asked him what he thought about Atoris the Evil; he had no clue that it was our name.
So, welcome to my blog, welcome to my world, and I hope you enjoy everything you find on Swords and Specters, both now and in the future. Let me know your thoughts.