25 Years as a Published Novelist

It’s my anniversary, of sorts.  Twenty-five years ago this month, my first novel was published, Resurrection, Inc., a paperback original from Signet Books.  Since then, I’ve had over 120 novels published, 23 million copies in print, but nothing could match the excitement of that first acceptance.

While trying to get my fiction published, I paid the bills by working as a technical writer for a large research laboratory, spending my days editing scientific papers and safety manuals, ushering documents through the publication process.  Everybody knew I wanted to be a fiction writer, and I worked on my novels in the evenings and weekends.  I never stopped submitting stories to magazines, working away at my novel (titled Gamearth, the first book in a fantasy trilogy, which was the thing to do).  Based on my short fiction sales, I managed to land an agent, who submitted the manuscript to various New York editors.

While Book 1 in my trilogy was making the rounds, I was ready to dive in and write Book 2, but my agent gave me some good advice: “If I can’t sell the trilogy, then you’d be better off writing something completely different.”

So I did. The next novel I wrote was Resurrection, Inc.—a science fiction gothic horror murder mystery, inspired by the new Rush album “Grace Under Pressure.”  (Yeah, another one of those!)  My agent hadn’t found a home yet for the fantasy trilogy, but he put Resurrection, Inc. on the market.

I was still working my full-time job as a tech writer. I came back to my office one day to find a message on my answering machine (that’s an archaic term for “voicemail”), which used an actual cassette tape.  When I rewound the tape and pushed the Play button, my agent’s voice said, “Good news—I just sold your first novel to Signet Books.  This is the start of a great career. Mazel tov!”

I did what any normal person would have done; I ran out of the office and yelled up and down the hall, “I sold my first novel, I sold my first novel!” I went from office to office, gushing to all my coworkers, walking on air. My lifelong dream at last!

A little while later I realized that I had the announcement recorded on cassette tape, my first novel sale. I decided I’d better keep that. Real history! So I went back to my office, only to find that in the meantime somebody had recorded over my agent’s message to say that I had a photo order ready to pick up.

After buying Resurrection, Inc., my new editor—John Silbersack—asked my agent what else I was working on . . . and that led to a sale on my Gamearth fantasy trilogy. So, within a four-week period, I went from having no novels sold to four novels sold, including two that were not yet written.

That was a good month.

Resurrection, Inc. was published as a Signet paperback, then sold to Great Britain for a UK paperback edition. Overlook Press released a special hardcover Tenth Anniversary edition, and two years ago WordFire Press released a new eBook and print edition.

It’s been an exciting quarter century, and I’ve written a lot of other books, but this one remains one of my favorites.

 

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