Twenty-four years ago this month, I sent out my first novel – “On a Shoreless Sea” – to ten New York sci fi publishers.
And twenty-three years ago, also this month, my nascent writing career came to an abrubt end.
I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was nine years old and read The Lord of the Rings the first time.
When I was a young adult, I had the idea for a world that would bridge the gap between sci fi and fantasy, offering a sci fi premise and a fantasy feel like some of my favorite writers were doing – most notably Anne McCaffrey and her Pern series.
It took five long years to write the manuscript and prepare it for submission, but on October 26th, 1995, I shipped out ten printed (yes, printed!) copies of the manuscript to the likes of Ace, Berkly, Harper Prism and the other big names in the sci fi publishing business.
A few responded almost immediately, telling me they didn’t take un-agented works. The rest trickled in over the course of the next twelve months, most offering variations of “Thanks for this, but it’s just not for us.”
The last response came back on October 27th 1996, one year and one day after submission.
Three of the editors were kind enough to give me some personal feedback. Two never bothered to respond at all.
And so I gave up.
Life continued apace, and I had so many things to do. Work was always busy, and became much more so when we started our own company in 1998. Somehow I couldn’t manage to come back to writing in any sustained way, despite a few face starts.
That is, not until 2013.
Mark’s Mom – a wonderful woman named Helen who we both adored and who would whip up a meal for you as soon as you walked in her door – passed away that February. At that time, I was about three weeks into another of my attempts to write, and I made a comment to Mark about getting derailed once again.
He was (understandably) stung by it – he had bigger things to worry about and grieve for.
But his reply changed my life:
“The only one keeping you from writing is you.”
I still remember that moment, how it rang clear as a clarion bell in my head. He was right. I was the one in my way. I was the one who let a bunch of NYC editors turn me off to writing, the thing I loved. And I was the one who could change it.
So I stepped back and took stock of my life and my writing desires. I had been out of practice writing for close to two decades. My writing muscles were flabby and weak – I would need to learn to write again if this whole thing was ever going to get off the ground. In the end, I decided on a two-prong strategy – write some short stories to get back into shape, and pull out my old world “Forever” from “On a Shoreless Sea.”
The original manuscript itself was overworked, as one of the editors had told me so long before. That’s what obsessing over a story for five years can do. But I thought that the core idea was good.
So I decided to reverse engineer it, and figure out how my generation ship world had come to be – its origin story.
I wrote the first part of what would eventually become “The Stark Divide” in a rush. The writing just flowed, and I could see “Seedling” in my head like a movie.
I sent it to DSP Publications, and Lynn West loved it. She wanted to see the whole thing, so I finished parts two and three and sent them off. The book was accepted, and in October of 2017 it was finally published.
Book two, “The Rising Tide,” followed, picking up on a minor mention of a historical character called “Davian the Betrayer” in the original “On a Shoreless Sea” story.
Tomorrow, “The Shoreless Sea” will release, completing the trilogy (but not the story of Forever). It carries part of the name of the original book, not because it tells the same events, but because I happened to mention “On a Shoreless Sea” to Lynn, and she loved it. But it’s also a transition, taking the series from its high tech origins toward the more fantasy feel of the original manuscript, so I feel like it carries the spirit of that long-ago tale.
In the interim, I have published thirty-five stories, ranging from short stories to novellas to full-fledged novels. I have learned that I can write a good book in about six months, from staart to submission, when I put my mind to it. And I have become the writer I dreamed about so many years ago.
And so here we are. The end of this foundational work is finally here.
I hope everyone who has taken the Liminal Sky journey with me will find this ending satisfying. Over the course of writing the three books, I’ve come to realize it’s as much Andy’s tale as it is anyone… she’s the character that bridges all three books, and I wanted to give her a suitable send off.
But while it’s an ending, it’s really not THE ending. For one, I have just finished another book set in the same universe at about the same time – “Dropnauts” tells the tale of what happened back on Earth.
And I do plan to write more about Forever, down the road. It’s my first writing love, and one that will inevitably draw me back in.
For now, please enjoy the ending to the Liminal Sky trilogy. I hope it comes to mean as much to you as it does to me.