Birth of The Perfect Player

Three-Part Perfect Player Post,
Parsed and Pieced by a Persnickety Pest


Chinese philosopher, Lao-tzu, once said (originally in Chinese, of course): “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” or more correctly translated: “The journey of a thousand miles begins beneath one's feet.”

Excellent saying and very inspirational, to be sure, but . . . what happens after that single step?

One thousand freakin' miles! Have you any idea how long one thousand miles is? Approximately a third of the way across the United States—from Delaware to . . . oh, I dunno, somewhere out in Missouri.

One very long, very exhausting walk.

All right, yes, the saying is metaphorical; not many aim to hoof-it from the eastern coastline to Midwestern US, but some writers do strive to slog-it from a novel's point of inception to its final destination—published, and into the hands of a readership.

And that's how it feels: One obnoxiously long haul through several-hundred-thousand edited and re-edited words beneath ten frantically typing fingers, and holy smokes, are my fingers ever sore! So's my brain.

 You see, carrying an entire fantasy world, complete with its own people and its myriad sets of circumstances and events—not to mention all of that stupid firmament junk that comes with it—squarely upon one's mind . . . it's a mighty task, I tell you!

But not one I plan to back out on. No, because I made a promise, one I will see to the very end. Death, or the completion of my collection (and other tales)—whichever comes first.

So, how did this obnoxiously long sloggish haul-of-a-journey begin? Come, let me explain . . . *author waves magical hands over readers' eyes . . . readers become woozy, entranced in a wavy, dreamlike state*

Wait! Hold on. Note: Obviously, some of this didn't actually happen. I'm a writer; I aim to entertain. Please take much of this recollection with several grains of salt, and call me in the morning.

Now, where were we? Ah, yes . . . *author waves magical hands again*

Once upon a time, on a dark and stormy night. . . .

Actually, no. Nix that.

It was a bright and sunny afternoon, and there I sat at my then-old, immensely slow computer in the living room of my dinky one-bedroom apartment, click-clacking away, writing, creating, eating, smiling, no cares in the world—mid-90's, newly married, low rent, two cats, no kids, and as much glorious spare time I could ever want, when out of the blue—

Ach! Pfft!

—something tickled my brain.

I cried out, flinching. “What in the *&^%$# was that?” And slapped at the back of my head.

Mind you, now, my frequent creative brain-tickles don't normally cause me to smack my head and exclaim: “ASTERISK, AMPERSAND, CARET, PERCENT, DOLLAR SIGN, HASH TAG!” but something about this particular brain-tickle not only made me shout out strings of stupidity, but also made me whip around in my chair.

And there she stood—as old as a tortoise, though not nearly as short. Or leathery. No. In fact, the woman who stood behind my chair was rather tall for an elderly matron, with long, dark, silver-streaked hair and soft, wrinkled skin the color of parchment. One gnarled hand clutched a crooked walking stick, and her eyes, oh! how bizarre—muted iridescence that swirled as though liquid, sans pupils.

She smiled, skin creasing, bunching around well-worn laugh lines. “I have chosen you,” she said, tone smooth, voice rich—like melted chocolate. “You will write for me.”

I stared—actually, no, I flat-out gaped. Then I glanced around my teeny-tiny living space, trying to puzzle out how this strange old woman had gotten in (I swear I locked my door!) when she leaned close and whispered: “That matters not.”

I goggled. Excuse me? That mattered n—I mean, that didn't matter? Of course it mattered! God only knew how many thieves could—

“No,” she asserted, “it matters not.”









What the—?

Crooked finger shot up. Wrinkly lips pursed. Pupil-less eyes drilled into my freshly tickled brain. I stared, suspiciously. What the heck . . . could she hear my—?

“Thoughts?” Smile returned—this time, a knowing one—and I narrowed my eyes. Who was this, anyway? Or did that matter not, too? At this, her smile broadened in seeming amusement. “In time, you will discover,” she replied.

 Then she straightened against her old bones. “Five stories you will write,” she explained. “Five from my world. Knowledge and understanding—all shall be revealed through images and sensations, memories forever etched. Absorb, never alter, and always trust what you see. You must write”—she gave a slow nod—“because they must know.”

She reached over my shoulder and waved a bony hand at my computer. The air crackled, rippled, sparkled as though she had just sprinkled some silvery craft glitter, though it vanished in a trice. I cocked an eyebrow. Um . . . right. And Yoda-like, you must speak. But no sooner had I twisted in my chair to say as much, than—


Huh. I shrugged, shook my head, and returned to my computer instead. Weirdo, I thought, until a smooth, chocolaty voice echoed in my mind: I heard that. . . . trailed by laughter so blithesome and light, it tinkled like wind chimes—oh, no, wait, it was my wind chimes, only . . . there was no wind. Curious. . . .

Ah. Thus and so, I began to write, secure in the notion that I had been chosen by . . . um . . . some strange old woman whose mysticism had instructed me on a . . . vague bunch of stuff, and offered up some blind hope that somewhere along the line I'd be visited by some images or memories or sensations or—well, I don't know now . . . it all seemed like some odd dream. I yawned. Sleepy, so sleeeepy . . .

So I lay down, sighing, snuggling into some nice, warm blankets, content in knowing I was no less crazy than the kindhearted demon who had decided to rescue one lost, misguided human soul from the fiery pits of—

 My eyes snapped open. Wait—what? Demons? Lost souls? Insanity? Fiery pits? Warm blankets?

Oh. Blankets. Right. I gripped them tightly as though clutching reality itself, while my excitement began to bubble and churn. Hmm . . . it seemed things were about to become mighty interesting, indeed. . . .

* * *
Ha! You know what really happened? I wrote, discarded more than half of what I'd written, wrote again, tried out dozens of plot lines, developed vague sketches of various characters in my head, and discarded more than half of what I'd written after that, until I happened upon the starring plot line.

See? *yawn* Booorrrrring. So much more fun and entertaining to fictionalize/sensationalize/imagine what could have (not!) happened.

Now, flash-forward numerous years . . .


Thus and so, alas and stuff, numerous years zipped by. . . .

Aw, hell, they didn’t zip. They evaporated quicker than cheese on Venus, and in those abundance of evaporative years I wrote, and wrote, and wrote, and wrote, and sneezed, and wrote, and ate, and wrote, and slept, and wrote, and built a house, and wrote, and wrote, and wrote some more. [← All practice writing, truth be told!] And hey, in that time, I even bore a son (with whom I share a forthcoming novel), and still I wrote, and wrote, and wrotewrotewrotewrotewrotewrotewrotewrote, [← novel focused] until . . .


My computer blew up—I mean, I finished.

“Hurray!” I exclaimed in a happy voice to no one in particular. “I’m finished! Finished! Finiiiiished!”

At last! All of those images, memories, and sensations; those odd names and even odder people; those strange places and objects, bizarre situations and events, and anything else—all mysteriously ‘sent’ from this ‘otherworldly world’ supposedly beyond the reach of others’ ‘perceptions’—everything that had once converged to clash discordantly in my aching brain, had finally managed to melt into one mondo-mega-massive mind-mangling—



I gaped at the matron with the muted iridescent eyes and silvery-black hair—Orenda, I’d learned her name was—who stood as calmly as a cucumber, though much less bumpy and green.

“The first tale,” she replied. “Marisa’s tale . . .” She folded her veined hands atop her crooked walking stick. “It’s a pure and utter mess.”

“But—” I gaped all the more. “The people,” I cried. “The places, the things!” Ach—dammit! I didn’t write in just nouns! I grumbled and fumbled and fumed, while Orenda gazed at me, annoying humanoid cuke that she was. “I did what you told me!” I blurted, and thrust a finger at my computer. “I wrote everything down!”

“And now you must shape it.”

“Shape it?!”

“Yes,” she replied, rather bluntly, “for your readers won’t quite understand it . . . yet.”

 She wiggled her gnarled fingers above my keyboard, dusting it with that weird, mystical quick-vanishing silvery craft glitter stuff, before she leaned in to my monitor and sniffed, nose wrinkled.

“What,” I snapped. “Does it smell funny, too?”

“No.” Orenda eased back, face darkening. “The events”—she tsked—“they are all wrong.”


“You must listen—”




“—and learn.”



“Ow!” I flinched. “What the hell?!” I winced, glowering at her. What in the name of everything high and mighty did she just smack me upside the head with the top-crook of her walking stick for?!

“Tut!” she said sharply, pupil-less eyes ablaze. She seemed taller, straighter, more frightening somehow. “Do not repeat everything I say. And neither use double punctuation, nor split your infinitives.”

“Split my—?!”

The top-crook of the walking stick jerked up, and I cowered, fell silent, swallowed the double punctuation like a bitter pill.

Orenda lowered her walking stick—very, very slowly. “You must listen,” she insisted. “Observe and learn. Open your mind to all that you perceive from my world and yours—”

“But I did!”

“Not enough. You will find no solace, no acceptance, no peace in your current work. It is not your finest potential.”

I scowled more deeply, crestfallen.

“Do it right,” Orenda remarked, “or do not do it at all.” And with that, she shimmered out of my workspace and into the ethereal . . . wherever that was.

Alone again, I scoffed—Do it right, or do not do it at all—then flinched involuntarily at the all-too-recent memory of the hard top-crook, adding in sour afterthought, “I still think you sound like Yoda,” and though I had to admit their inner likenesses were very similar, Yoda physically resembled the cucumber Orenda pretended to be.

I dropped into my computer chair, hurt and anger simmering the hot the defiance in my gut and wounded pride in my heart. Not my best potential. Hmph! What did she know? My project was fabulous! Remarkable. Excellent. Superb, wonderful, supreme, marvelous, splendid, and every other superlative synonym for “good” ever invented.

Bar none, it was the best I had written—ever. [← Read: The only thing I’d written—ever . . . not counting those early-on, dead-end short stories.]

So I let out another snobbish ‘hmph!’ and groused into fat air. (Hey, no one ever mentions ‘fat air.’)

“I’ll show you.”

. . . and I ignorantly began to prepare my glorious manuscript for all of those big-name agents and highfalutin trade publishers the world over, knowing—yes!—without the shadow of any doubt they would love, love, love this story as much as I did. Pfft. Hell, I’d probably even have to beat them off with a stick!

A crooked walking stick. Hmph!

Thus, I submitted, and thus, I sat back to wait. . . .






. . . I swear I’d bloodied my nose on at least a thousand publishing doors . . .


You need an editor—slam!

Not for us—slam!

The writing didn’t grab me—slam!



Send a manuscript with fewer than three grammatical errors, and we might consider it – Ha!—slam! (Yes, this happened.)

You’re a squeegee—slam! (This didn’t, but it might as well have, pointless rejections that they were.)

Time and time and time again, over and over and over and over: No, no, no, no. Slam, slam, slam, slam!


Defeat stank like a week-old fish, and I hated that the mystic had been right. But a stubborn nature doesn’t necessarily let one see where one’s gone wrong.

 So, crushed with an ego now the size of a grain of sand, I tried one more publisher—a small publisher/editor from overseas—with the tiny hope that someone, somewhere had to like what I’d written . . . right?

Right?? (← Double punctuation!)

Right?? (← Super-emphasized double punctuation!)

Well, this particular small publisher/editor didn’t slam the door in my face. No. In fact, he booted me hard in the backside with the straight dope: My work was unpublishable because . . . and he promptly proceeded to list all the things wrong with my project.

So there I sat in the wake of his email: stunned, aghast, bewildered, flabbergasted, duly stabbed in the gut with my high hopes now ground into a bitter powder beneath his shiny cyber-shoe. My heart squeezed out its melancholy like a sodden sponge squoozen—

Then I threw my head back and wailed!

Oh, how I wailed! . . . and I beat the air with my fists, gnashed my teeth, twisted my face up in excruciating agony, all while hot tears streamed down my flushed cheeks in gushing salty waterfalls of ire, over-exaggerated by raging writer melodrama and a propensity for extra-flowery description.

Why, oh why was fate so cruel, so devious, so tasty? Where had it taken this awful downturn, when I knew I mustn’t fail in my mystic-given task? Who would write those stories needed to be told, and what would become of myself as an author? When in blue blazes had I donned an orange-and-black slicker with a pair of yellow-spotted gum boots? . . . the combination was horrible!

Then I wailed some more . . . oh, woe . . . oh, woe was I! . . . oh, woe, woe, woe was I! . . . until, well . . . I stopped.

What, you expected something more dramatic, more writerly, more exaggerative?

Pfft. No. I simply stopped—stopped wailing and moaning, bitching and complaining about life being oh-so-unfair and all that crap, buckled down, and began to learn.

And therein laid the key (which the mystic—my muse—had been correct about, of course): Listen, observe, and learn. So I sought all I could from those with the expertise to teach all the woven ins and out throughout the complexities of the writing craft. Reference book after reference book, novel after novel, critique after critique after long and sometimes gut-wrenching critique, I devoured everything I could get my brains around about the writing craft, ever-hungry, never-sated—yum, yum, yummy!—and I learned. Oh, how I learned. Learned, learned, learned. Learnity-learned-learned! . . .

. . . oh, bloody hell, this is boring.

*Devon presses the fast-forward button* [insert squiggly-whirring sounds of fast-forwarding tape recorder]


So, after months and months and months of in-depth studying, armed with my super-fancy, now-polished, brand-spanking new manuscript (having been numerous times thoroughly critiqued and beta-read) and a fine-tuned query letter I’d altered time and again to fit the individual needs of each agent and publisher, I submitted everything a second time, sat back to wait, and . . .





. . . it was the same damned thing all over again.


Well, at least no one called me a squeegee.

“Do it right, or do not do it at all,” my muse had said to me.

Of course. By all means. And we’re all familiar with that saying: “If you want something done right, you gotta do it yourself.”

So this, patient readers, brings me completely full-circle, back to my first post made on November 11th, 2012.

Only it hasn’t begun. It’s finally finished.

Once 365 days left, now none. Short story collections are all out and available.

And that ice-cold water I’d plunged into? It’s woken me up to things I’d never before considered: all those whatchamacallits, doohickeys, and whoozywhatsits concerning the publishing business, things I once believed were reserved only for agents, editors, and publishers.

Pfft. Well, dammit, I’m a writer . . . and an editor and a proofreader, and now a cover designer, a formatter (hmm, is that even a word?), a marketer, a publisher (the last four, fairly non-professional, mind you) . . . still learning things, of course. But already I have learned so much, and will continue to do so over the next decade. Period. (Or full stop.)

Whereas ten years prior, I would never have envisioned sitting and planning (and learning!) all that went with publishing my own work, I have now done so, and again, will continue to do so over the next decade.

Yes, I’m still determined. Yes, I’m still sometimes frustrated. Yes, I’m still occasionally perplexed. Yes, I’m still jittery, having drunk so much coffee over the year my eyeballs are now floating. But am I scared yet?

Nope. Wasn’t scared 365 days ago, not scared now. Publishing a novel is a far cry from a natural disaster, and is unlikely to cause personal harm, and it’s definitely not politics (unless you write political thrillers) nor a bunch of angry circus clowns driving heavy machinery through the woods. Trust me, if it were, I’d abandon it—post haste!

It’s indie [author] publishing . . . that ever-hopeful sliver of light shining through the publishing back door, beckoning just the right type of stubborn writer to crash through with a pissed-off war cry on her lips. No more near-impossibly high hoops held aloft by subjective gatekeepers, no more smacking my head against the brick wall of endless rejections, and the contract fairy has long since died, rest her sorry little soul.

Yes. Indie [author] publishing. Cut the middle. Reach the readers. Period. (Or full stop!)

Well, my hell-spawn demons may never overrun the world. But hopefully they will be enjoyed by my ultimate bottom line and true reason I’d plunged face-first into the ice-cold, now partially charted waters of indie [author] publishing: Dark fantasy readers.

So come, follow me. Mayhem awaits. And please, do mind the shards of fragile brains that I’ve left behind on the floor—you know, those parts poisoned by insistent, repeated claims of, “No, you can’t!”—and enter beneath the stone archway to the dark fantasy world that’s been caged up in my mind for so, so, so long.

Yes, The Perfect Player: Book One of the Caendorian World, is now available.

Please, I implore you . . . Enjoy.

Download via Amazon (Kindle - free to Amazon Prime members!)
Read the thoughts of those unwitting minds I’ve snagged (reviews)

Read the prologue and chapter one – for free! Click here. 


No comments:

Post a Comment