You always want to finish strong.
Just came indoors after watching the sun set on the shortest day of the year. 2011 is almost a memory. This was the year I underwent the candidate selection process for various law enforcement positions, including the RCMP. I'll never forget running the grueling PARE physical aptitude course for the second time in a single day (more or less on a dare) and coming around the curve for the final lap, my breath ragged as the backwash of a barb-wire garrote and feet churning to mush in my running shoes, to encounter a female Constable by the final obstacle urging me: "C'mon man, finish strong, finish strong!"
I did. In the end, despite my satisfactory PARE time (4:17), the RCMP decided they had more suitable candidates. The parting of the ways was entirely amicable (forty-five is a little old to begin a career in law enforcement) so I stepped out of the selection process. But I took its lesson to heart.
This was the year my young-adult sci-fi novel ECHO was accepted for publication. The run-up to the final release was rocky, what with dropped e-mails, misunderstandings with agents and the Apocalypsies debacle (which prompted Nick Mamatas to quip something about the genius of trying to differentiate one's self by being part of a group). But then ECHO appeared. In e-book format, but hey - published is published. A paperback edition was planned. The novel received strong reviews. Copies were moving. Then my publisher went bankrupt.
Hell of a way to begin a career.
Listen. Publishing your first book is always a traumatic experience. But having your publisher cave three months after release - with yours being the last book they ever publish - doesn't exactly inspire self-confidence. But a lifetime of being on the short side (5'6") - combined with a varied and violent day-job in security and a taste for brutal hobbies like judo - has taught me how to take a punch. (Plus I've always been a stubborn son-of-a-bitch.) Even as the year began its own final lap, I was laying the ground-work for a come-back. Must be something in the air. A hurricane of late seasonal work struck a number of people including my friend and judo sister Leah, whose company Tremain Media is working fast and furiously right now to complete its Kwak'wala Liqwala Language Documentary & Preservation Project in time for Christmas ("or what's left of it," as Roger Moore quipped in The Wild Geese). It occurs to me that while leading a film crew is like being a battlefield general (Leah is more than equal to the task), being an ambitious sci-fi writer during this period of tectontic upheaval in publishing is more like being a guerilla insurgent. I have looked to the Viet Cong playbook on more than one occasion. But when Drollerie went tits-up and I was left star-crossed on the last bus to Chinatown, I took matters into my own hands, donned my black pajamas and tunneled deep, my AK in the crook of my arm.
This is not a dream, I told myself. You've been here before.
Selena Green, former Marketing VP of Drollerie, had gone off and started her own company, Typeset, Inc. On the strength of an eleventh-hour decision, I e-mailed her with an offer to form a limited partnership to re-release ECHO in a second edition. A flurry of e-mails were exchanged. The resulting concern, TSI/FTOC Productions, began work on 9 November. The next few weeks were a blur of late nights and early mornings, planning, proofing, sending (losing and re-sending) e-mail attachments. By December 2nd we had completed proofs for paperback and new Kindle editions. We partnered with Create Space to see the printing end through, nailed the final few details to the ground and ECHO Mark II went live on Amazon.com this morning. Winter Solstice.
There are other developments - short fiction pieces pending, a burgeoning relationship with a very supportive literary agent (who must yet remain nameless), possible new releases on the CBC website, the manuscript of a new novel that I plan to finish by the end of December ... Lots of stuff. But holding a hardcopy of a novel I spent five years championing is enough for now. We'll call it a year.
Finish strong, man.