This is a story about a story. But it’s more than that.
Somewhere in early 2012, I’d started working on a story, set in the same universe as my short stories “Crossroads” and “The Devil’s Jack” (forthcoming in DEAD MAN’S HAND). But about three thousand words in, I realized that there was more here than a short – that I’d created a character, and a world, that wanted to expand into a novel.
So I sent the story and a proposal to my agent, and said “what do you think?”
She thought that it was a great idea, and could probably make a great novel, but it “wasn’t commercial enough.” She suggested I stick with the urban fantasy, that was selling well.
So I – being a practical meerkat, did so. Wrote some good books, saw them published. But I kept poking at the story, feeling – in that place where we feel such things – that I’d made an error. That, in turning away, I’d gone down the wrong road.
That’s a hard feeling to live with.
I found myself at a decision point. Did I hold steady, stick to what was Known, or was it time to turn back, try and find that road that had gone Elsewhere? Knowing full well that it could be dead end, a disaster or – worse yet – be the chance that came once and could never be found again?
Knowing what you need to do is one thing. Working up the courage to do something about it? That took a little longer.
In December 2012, my agent and I parted ways. In January, in the entrance hall to my apartment, I posted the motto for the year: I am terrified, but I am not afraid. And I started writing that back-burnered project.
And then I set off to find an agent who would be a good partner for the journey.
It was, no lie, a bumpy, occasionally stress-driven road filled with setbacks, doubts, and revisions, where I may have repeated my motto every day in varying tones of certainty. And yet, we pushed on. And in December 2013, almost exactly twelve months after that moment of decision, we had multiple offers of interest in the project, all from houses and editors I’d be pleased to work with.
From “not commercial enough” to “you have a choice of where to publish.”
It’s okay to be terrified. Terror can work in your favor. Just don’t be afraid.