Yes, those of you of a certain age, you know the commercial I’m referring to. And honestly, I do kinda feel like Ralph in that Alka-Seltzer commercial from the 1970s. I’m both baffled at myself and pleased with myself—and I didn’t have to take an Alka-Seltzer to smile again.
What I did is this:
In 2011, I wrote the next book in my Retrieval Artist series. The previous eight books stood alone, and I fully planned to make Anniversary Day stand alone as well. But, as I wrote the book, I managed to get through one event—one!—in 356 pages. I knew I had another event to get through, and then I had to resolve everything. So one book turned into three.
Eight books later—and yes, I mean eight—I have completed The Anniversary Day Saga. I sent the final book to my editor two days before I wrote this piece.
I have the attention span of a gnat. I’ve often wondered how writers spend five years on a single book or write in the same universe for their entire careers. I write in multiple genres, and I write everything from short fiction to nonfiction, because of my hummingbird brain. It alights on something, and then moves on, distracted by light, color, and way too many ideas.
Because of that hummingbird brain, I knew I had to finish the Anniversary Day Saga before I lost track of what I was doing. So in August of 2013, I decided to blitz through the remaining part of the story.
The remaining part of the story turned out to be six books. I’d initially thought I’d only have to write one more book, then I thought . . . two more, then four more, and finally realized I had to write six. Six books in a year, plus a nonfiction writing book called Discoverability (300 pages all its own), plus fifteen short stories (including three novellas). I also edited a few volumes of Fiction River, and taught some writing workshops.
All the while, my recalcitrant brain, afraid of being distracted, tried to shut down any potential light and color. My interest in reading things like sf or romance or unrelated nonfiction slowly dried up. I watched too much television to relax, and went slowly crazy.
Then . . . one day . . . I was done.
I feel rather like I’ve been let out of prison. I can see movies—of all kinds—because I have time. I have so many books to read that I want to read two at the same time. (I have two eyes. Why not?) I have dozens of short stories, several more series novels, and some standalones clamoring for attention. And irritatingly (to me, anyway) more Retrieval Artist stories demanding to be told.
I was going to take a month off after finishing. I managed two days.
Still, that was enough to move from “I can’t believe I wrote the whole thing,” said in a bemused (if slightly ill) tone to “The whole thing!” said with a little bit of triumph. Heh. Some writers never finish a story arc or a series arc. Not ever. Some keep their fans waiting years for the next book. (Okay, I’m guilty of doing that with one series, but it wasn’t my fault. The publisher bailed, and no one else would take the books mid-series. I’ll get back to it; I promise.)
I don’t know any science fiction writer who completed an eight-book story arc—and published the last six books quickly. I think I’m the first outside of the pulp era to do that.
I do mean quickly, too. The books work better if you read them together because they’re one big story. So the first two books are already out. They’ve been rebranded with the Anniversary Day Saga logo on them. The next book comes out in January, with the rest following one per month until June. (Preorders start in November.)
Readers can binge if they want to. Readers can wait until it’s all published if they want to. (Readers can ignore it too, if they want to.)
I’m pretty pleased. And a little shell-shocked. I have a lot to do. And my hummingbird brain wants to flit from project to project all in the space of an afternoon. The rest of me wants a nap.
I think the rest of me wins.
Postscript: If you want to see the commercial, and see what passed for a viral video everyone knew about in the 1970s, here’s the YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFKifpMtlNs