Happy Pride Month!
I’ve been fortunate enough to have my books included in a few Pride book displays this June. I can’t even begin to tell you how much that means to me. My journey as a published author has been a bumpy one. Though there have definitely been some great highs — my first book published by the very first publishing house I contacted when I was only 23, being a Lambda Literary Award finalist with my third book, winning several other awards — it’s also been filled with plenty of setbacks, like three publishers going under in a row and having five publishers in my 20-year writing career. (Sometimes, I worry I’m some sort of publishing banshee, a harbinger of death, then I remember how hard the independent publishing business is.)
Note: Some of you already know this story, especially those of you who have been on this ride with me from the beginning. But for those who don’t, here we go!
My first publisher was great, but they primarily published lesbian fiction and I always felt like I didn’t quite fit in. I published two well-received books with them — Bleeding Hearts and Reap the Whirlwind — before I was accepted by Haworth Press, which then promptly sold to a French company who only wanted their nonfiction catalog, leaving all of us fiction authors in limbo for several years. By the time our rights were returned, I’d lost a lot of momentum and had to find a yet another new publisher.
I was lucky, though. My editor on my first two books at my original publisher had struck out and started her own publishing house, and they wanted my books! The downside was that I’d pretty much need to start all over with marketing and getting my name out there. I signed on and we managed to get two more books — All Lost Things and The Truth of Yesterday — published. All Lost Things was even a Lambda Award finalist for Best Gay Mystery. Then, they went out of business suddenly and without warning. My books were once again caught up in limbo until my rights were returned.
After my third publisher closed, I almost gave up. In fact, I did give up for a while. It was right after The Truth of Yesterday came out in 2011. A Change of Worlds was finished (and had been finished for some time), but I didn’t have a publisher and I was tired of starting over. My third publisher didn’t do ebooks, so I had a separate ebook publisher. I kept my existing books with them, but I was so burned out by that point that I just focused on other artistic pursuits for a while. I co-founded and ran a burlesque company for a while, and also made and sold jewelry.
My die-hard supporters would never let me forget about Killian, though, often emailing to ask when the next book would come out. Then, my ebook publisher announced they were going out of business.
That announcement made me really take a hard look at my books. I was very proud of my series. I knew they had meant a lot to many people, but was there still a place in this world for a queer teen sleuth? I had an entire unpublished book finished just sitting around for ten years. I decided I wanted to keep my books in print and get the unpublished one in the hands of my loyal readers who’d been waiting all this time.
Thankfully, fellow mystery writer Neil Plakcy let me know that MLR Press was looking to expand their gay mystery selection at just the right time, and Laura Baumbach, the owner and publisher, was kind enough to accept my entire back catalog. She even allowed me to rewrite them (heavily and with the expert help of Neil, who was also my first editor there) so they could be current instead of period pieces permanently stuck in the early 2000s.
I hadn’t written a new book in over a decade. I started A Kind of Death, but quickly realized that I wasn’t so good at making the time to write while I was working a full-time day job and doing theater basically full time in the evenings (I was involved in something like 14 shows in five years). Work on my next novel ground to a halt.
Then the pandemic happened and the whole world shut down. My first thought was, “I’m going to have so much time to write!” I didn’t count on the crippling depression and anxiety that would destroy all my creative energy for the next year. Somehow, though, I turned a corner earlier this year and managed to write the last three-quarters of the book in just a few months.
And it felt GREAT!
Being back in that groove again, rediscovering Killian’s voice, going on an adventure with him and his friends, seeing his growth — it was all so much better than I expected. I also discovered how much I’d grown since the series started, both as a person and as an author.
I’m really proud of this new book and I’m excited to share it with you. I’m not so excited about cranking up the old marketing machine and starting over yet again, but that’s the reality of this business. (On that note, if anyone has any marketing ideas or contacts, I’m all ears…or eyes, as the case may be.) I’ve already started doing a bit of work. I even posted an unboxing video on TikTok earlier this week! Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?
It’s hard to believe it’s been 20 years since Bleeding Hearts was first published. I’ve watched the queer publishing world change drastically in that time (that could be an entire other blog post…and may well be). I have to admit, I’m not sure where I fit into it anymore. But Killian still has adventures to go on, mysteries to solve, dead people to see, so I’ll keep on doing what I love. I hope you’ll continue on this adventure with me. Happy Pride!