With over two hundred posts in the nearly four-year existence of my blog, I thought it might be fun to revisit some of the older stories. Beginning today, in addition to the new posts on Monday I will use the Wayback Machine every Thursday to summon up the past. Revisions will be made where logical. Enjoy!
RAISING THE DEAD?
Yes, “second chances” 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Then, a small start-up publisher asked if I had any previously unpublished manuscripts that they could turn into a published novel.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! Fire Dance, a desert-themed ghost story, was published in 2011. 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, published in 2012. (Think: raising the dead.) Both books have since been re-published under my Atoris Press imprint.
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significant as surviving quadruple bypass surgery, but for a writer who has written about thirty novels, published and unpublished, it’s pretty cool.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.
USEFUL WORDS FROM A MASTER
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.
In recent years 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).
A GREAT SECOND CHANCE!
That’s where the second chance comes in: I get to rewrite them! (Once again I’m “raising the dead.”) In 2010 I launched my own imprint, Atoris Press (see if you can figure that name out), and a new website, Swords and Specters: The Novels of Mike Sirota, for all of my books. The “specters” part was easy: in addition to my two new 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 website.
The “swords” titles—well, not so easy. Each one had to be stripped down and put back together again. But it’s been happening over the past few years, and I’m still at it today. The sword & planet genre seems to be coming into the mainstream. Think Avatar, and also think John Carter, a film 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 my website, both now and in the future.
Yes, I have quite a few of your early works. And, yes, you signed them but told me not to read them.
Indeed I did, Leslie. But now that I’m rewriting most of them, I think they’re safe to read. 🙂