I just released my latest Middle Grade horror/comedy/adventure, Death is a Many-Splendored Thing. It is book one of The Chronicles of the Deadly Dead, and I am very excited to tell this story. Here’s the way-cool cover:
Books two and three are already 95% written. Or rather, they are 100% written, but I’ll need to do a pass to clean things up. They are already written because The Chronicles of the Deadly Dead is the book that got me my agent eight years ago. How I got that agent is a story unto itself and I may share that in a future post, but this post is about Deadly Dead, and the journey it took to publication.
My agent at the time sent out Deadly Dead and it didn’t sell, mainly because a) the lead characters were deemed too old for Middle Grade but too young for YA (I guess no one wants to read about 14-year-olds) and b) it was way too long. So Deadly Dead fell by the wayside and I wrote a little book called Dr. Fell and the rest is history (history being that Dr. Fell got published).
But Deadly Dead was always in my mind. It was my first love, and while it hadn’t delivered the goods, it reserved a special place in my heart – the left ventricle, I think, but I could be mistaken. Flash forward eight years and I embark on this whole self-publishing adventure. Right away, I know I’m starting with Lillian Lovecraft and the Harmless Horrors, but what do I follow that up with?
Which is when it hits me. What about Deadly Dead? By self-publishing, I can just ignore the whole bit about it being too long and the age of the characters being non-commercial and so forth. I can finally let my baby loose into the world! I pass it along to some friends to get their take on the book and the feedback is almost universal.
It’s too long.
So I drop my head into a pout and prepare to sulk in quiet and peace when another thought strikes me. I wrote Deadly Dead in three Acts. Each Act plays more or less like its own adventure. What if I simply took those three Acts and turned them into three seperate books? There would be some cleanup involved, yes, but it could work. It! Could! Work!!!
Does it work? That will be up to you to decide (Hint: Yes, it works). But I’m excited to release this trilogy and tell this story. And best of all, Deadly Dead was, itself, only the first book in a larger story, so I may have quite a few books in The Chronicles of the Deadly Dead.
This whole episode has taught me to never let a story go. I have files and files of stories I’ve started and stopped and restarted and restopped. Every now and again I go through them and see if anything new strikes me. Sometimes lightning strikes, sometimes it doesn’t, but I don’t delete anything. Sometimes one idea melds with another to become something even better. A good story never dies. So when you’re working on your own story and it isn’t working and you want to drop kick it into the nether world. STOP. Breathe. Save that material in a folder and move along. Because you never know when that old rusty nugget will be cleaned up and turned into literary gold.
Here endeth the lesson.