A very long time ago, in the 1990s, when I was starting graduate school, raising a young child, and working full time, I got an idea for a story from a dream: a young woman was an interloper in a wizardry school for young men. That was all. That was the premise.
But as often happens to me when I’m under stress, I started telling the story to myself, and I liked it. I was working as an office manager for a university-based center, coordinating our move from several locations to one, and when we were all moved I had my own office with my computer screen facing away from the door. I’m good at multitasking, so in my spare moments I drafted the story at work.
When I was finished, I thought it was publishable, and I sent it off to a well-known science fiction publisher. They liked it too. But as often happens, they were overworked and underpaid and one of the editors was having a baby, so they kept telling me my book had promise and they really wanted me to wait. After a year and a half of being obsessed with the mailman (Arthur, who had a hat with ear flaps and was socially awkward to the point of running away if I opened the door when he was on my porch), I asked for the manuscript back and put it in a drawer.
Some years later, a young man who grew up in my neighborhood was chatting with me. He told me he had written a novel, and he told me all about it. After a while, I said I had written one too, and that was when he said he worked for an agent and he got a commission if he found any publishable novels.
I gave the dusty dot-matrix manuscript to him. And the agent, George Scithers, called me the next day, saying, “I have a bone to pick with you.” Apparently he had started reading it intending to toss it aside after a couple of pages, and instead he got caught up in reading it.
He sent the novel to Del Rey. They accepted it and gave me a contract for it and for a sequel, giving me an advance that might have bought a second-hand car if I hadn’t already owned one. In a frenzy, I wrote the sequel, which was already mostly in my head, and they published that one too. The books were combined into a Science Fiction Book of the Month Club offering, translated into Japanese and French, and nominated for a couple of awards whose names I don’t remember now.
And then my mother got ill, and I was the local daughter so I was busy with her as well as with my daughter and a husband who was starting his own business. I finished my master’s degree, got a Ph.D. sort of by accident because I was already there, became a full-time teacher, and took up serious competitive fencing.
I kept writing, of course. I just didn’t somehow get around to publishing anything.
And when I turned around and wrote George a little note saying I had some things for him, I found out he had died since last we talked.
I didn’t have an agent, I hadn’t been published in years, and I was just too busy, plus the part of my brain that values publication is clearly underdeveloped. So I put the thought aside and just kept writing, working, fencing, and doing everything except publishing.
However, people liked the books. I still occasionally get letters from people who have read them. A well-known editor, rejecting a story of mine, mentioned that he knew my books from when he started out in the business. A friend purchased a used copy of one of my books and got me to sign it. And self-publishing got easier and easier.
This past May, I wrote Random House and asked for my rights back. After about three months, I got the one-page letter that says I own my published books again. I formatted the books roughly for Kindle, got an excellent graphic designer to do me some covers, and did some research. And yesterday, I uploaded Nameless Magery. Today, I uploaded Of Swords and Spells, which should be up soon.
Of course, I’ve been working on the third book, The Stick Princess, for a while now, because writing is a thing I do.
My goal is to make at least $9.50 on the books. I originally set a goal of $4.50, but then a friend said she was going to buy a copy so I figured I had better get ambitious.
Yes, there’s something wrong with my brain. I realize that.
10 thoughts on “This happened…”
Well, I have my copies of Nameless Magery and Of Swords and Spellsfrom when they were first published and I re-read them every few years, so I’m really looking forward to your new book. All good wishes for the success of these being re-published, they are fine books and deserve it.
Thank you so much for saying that! I am very happy that you like them and I promise I’ll keep working on the third. It’s the start of the semester from Pandemic Hell so I will get back to the work in progress just as soon as I finish reinventing my teacher education course entirely. Which is why I uploaded the books so hastily—I’m about to get buried. Once again.
I, too, bought the two volumes when they first came out and have reread them every few years. It’s hard for me to say what is so appealing about them, but I think it’s the mixture of convincingly realized future societies that blend fantasy and silence fiction with characters for whom the author clearly feels a lot of affection. And this is handled exquisitely via first-person narratives by the two heroines who are made to display a certain distance to their own “experiences,” particularly Malka. Somehow this makes the reader feel a great affection for the characters, a difficult feat that not so many writers can carry off.
In short I hope you are able to get the third volume out before too much more time goes by.
(Incidentally, for what it’s worth, I have a Ph.D in comparative literature from Yale.
Thank you for your thoughtful comment! I do like to have affection for my main characters, no matter how difficult they are for the people who have to deal with them.
Hooray! I’ve been wanting an ebook version of Nameless Magery for a decade now. Thanks for finally doing this.
Yes, I still have paperback copies, but my eyes (and my wife’s eyes) are going and I vastly prefer reading on my iPad. Also, it makes it easier to recommend to other people.
I would love to see the third book. I hope things get less crazy for you, and all of us, sometime soon and you get a chance to work on it.
Hi Gary! Thanks for the note. I’m looking forward to the end of the semester so I can write more often. Teaching has a terrible habit of absorbing all my mental energy. Hope things are going well!
Every reader has “That book.” The one they have read so many times that they know it by heart and they save it for sick-in-bed days. Nameless Magery is that for me. Thank you so much for this book. I check every so often to see if you have published anything new. I saw and immediately purchased both books for Kindle and followed the link for this site. I am so happy to have found it!
Oh how lovely to hear that! Thank you. That’s the sort of message that made me realize I should reissue the books.
I have the third novel in the trilogy mostly drafted, and several other books in the pipeline, so I hope to have it finished in the coming months.
I love Nameless Magery, and have re-read it a few times over the years. I was looking over my bookshelves when I spotted it again. I decided to check if an ebook is available since I prefer reading those now. I was thrilled to find it, and also that I somehow missed the sequel!? How did I never know about the sequel?
I’m very excited to read them both. Thank you so much.
Now coming here I see mention of a third book? This year is already looking better.
Thank you for the nice note! I’m so glad I got the rights back to the books and self published them—it’s a wonderful thing to be able to do that, especially to make them available for people like you who remember them fondly. I’m finishing up a small writing project now and will be revising the third book in the series next. Hope you’ll like it.