The next several years I tried my hand at writing short stories and sending them to what magazines were then in operation. I also wrote Diamonds in the Sand, the first novel of mine that had any merit. I have self-published it, and have received some good reviews, if not great sales. I toyed with some other projects, a couple of nonfictions, a murder mystery, a horror novel, basically many projects that came to nothing. The only one I completed was a novel called The Chronicles of Conner McMennamin: The Eirish Flight, planned as the first of a trilogy. I may come back to it someday, when I have time. The first chapter was read by some professionals and pronounced worthy. In 2003 I got divorced and was really devastated. I thought life was over, and retreated to Tallahassee, where I had spent a decade before moving to Alabama for graduate school. I thought I could spend all of that angst and depression in my writing. I was able to finish one novel using the Hemmingway method of writing, meaning daily work while heavily sedated on alcohol. That novel was The Deep Dark Well. But mostly I didn’t do much for that first year as a divorced male. Until I straightened my life out and quit drinking, something my doctor had been recommending for the year, due to its effect on my diabetes.
After The Deep Dark Well I wrote The Shadows of the Multiverse, and then decided I needed to do another fantasy novel. I really didn’t care which genre broke me into publishing. I wanted to get published, thinking that after I had become a success I could switch to whatever genre I wished. So I decided to revisit Refuge, only this time I would take a different approach. Instead of an epic on the scale of Robert Jordan, I would concentrate on fewer characters and a single storyline, more of a traditional novel. The Immortal Emperor Kurt von Mannerheim, introduced in the earlier Refuge novel, would be the protagonist. My spiritual path had diverged from Christianity, and I had developed the mindset that all religious traditions had worth. So in this version of Refuge, all followers of any of Earths religions would get the same benefits and adverse effects as Christians. I did more world building, keeping the original maps with some changes, and added another couple hundred thousand words of background and description. More drawings, this time of the capital city of Ataponia, of the major rooms of the palace, the armor of the soldiers, as many details as I could think of. I changed some of the technology, adding steam engines to airships and naval vessels, kept the pantheon of Gods intact, and wrote the novel. This was more of a Howard, in the tradition of Howard and Burroughs. I was very happy with it, and sent it off to the three publishers that took unsolicited manuscripts, Baen, Tor and Daw.
I received two form rejections and one personal one. Now, I had received two detailed personal rejections on The Deep Dark Well, and one on The Shadows of the Multiverse, so I thought I was making progress. All of those personal rejections had talked about how good the stories and characters were, ending in that dreaded phrase, ‘not for our market’. This rejection only talked about how it was obvious that this book was just like so many other fantasies they saw that used Elves, Orcs, Trolls and such. And my thought was, they just don’t get it. I had even talked about how the humans had used those terms for the natives of the planet because it fit their archetypes. I would hold onto that thought when I came back to Refuge in later years. So I put Refuge back on hold and started work on something else, determine to one day give the idea another try. I didn’t know at the time what changes I would make, only that there would be some.
Next Segment: Refuge: The Arrival.