When this post first ran in 2016, the title read, “Almost Done.” I’ve long since finished what I set out to do, as you’ll see in this revision.
With the 2016 publication of my Sword & Planet novel, Slaves of Maldrinium, I came close to fulfilling a promise that I made to myself a few years ago. The catalyst for this occurred during the start of my writing career, when I was fortunate—or maybe unfortunate—enough to publish thirteen novels in only four years.
WRITE FAST, NOT WELL
For sure, do NOT take that bit of advice. It is meant as sarcasm. And yet, that might as well have been my mantra back then. I could really churn out the stories, usually writing first drafts of entire novels (60,000-75,000 words) in four to six weeks. I actually did one in three weeks. My assessment of these novels: decent stories, lousy writing (that’s on me), editing that ranged from poor to atrocious (that’s on the two publishing houses that did the books).
So some years back, as I approached semi-retirement after decades as a writing coach and editor, I decided that I would give each of those thirteen books—as well as a few later ones—a major makeover. As a teacher I had learned a hell of a lot about writing, and applying this to my own stories proved an easy and welcome task.
WRITERS HAVE TO START SOMEWHERE
That was especially true back in the late seventies, when eBooks and Print on Demand were not even blips on the radar. After my first year of writing I was lucky enough (ha!) to find a small paperback house that wanted to do lots of my stories. (But, of course, they didn’t want to pay lots of money…hardly any, to be honest.) I gave them a five-book Sword & Planet series about a guy named Eric Wayne who dies on Earth and is reborn on a strange and deadly world, and two Sword & Sorcery stories about an ancient kingdom called Berbora.
This was “down and dirty” publishing: quick typesetting, lame covers, no editing, no proofreading. And wow, did it show! I’m talking typos on every page—no, every paragraph. Combined with my dubious writing abilities at the time, these books sucked. (Strange but true: I had fans for these stories who wrote to me over decades.) Predictably, the publisher went belly-up not long after.
THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE OF ALL
My second publisher was far better, and they’re still going strong today, though they were in their embryonic stage back then. I wrote a four-book Adventure-Fantasy series about a young guy named Roland Summers, or Ro-lan, trapped in a parallel world, and two stand-alone Sword & Sorcery novels, all of which they published. There weren’t many typos in five of the six books, and they did suggest revisions—though they could have done a lot more of the latter, as my writing still sucked. Still, I liked the cover art, the stories were decent, and in general the first five books were a vast improvement over what the previous publisher had produced.
But then came Book Number Six, the only one I had left to revise—and truth be told, I was in no hurry to do this.
The end result for The Golden Hawk of Zandraya, a Sword & Sorcery novel, came about from a “perfect storm” of issues. To begin with, I was at odds with my editor—let’s call it creative differences—and we both knew that this would be my last book with the publisher. Next, my life had spiraled downward at the time, and I managed to pack all of my anger and negativity into a rambling, repetitive, depressing story of over 100,000 words. (None of my previous books had run longer than 75,000 words.) Finally, the editor wanted to get the book out quickly and be done with it. They overnighted galleys to me, and I dropped everything to proof them, catching 150-200 typos. When they published the book, none of the typos had been fixed. This included typos on the back and front cover.
So, that huge challenge was still ahead of me in 2016, and accordingly The Golden Hawk of Zandraya became The Talisman of Okorro. I can honestly say that I’ve righted all of the old wrongs.