The responses to Leirah and the Wild Man's publication have blown me away! I feel like one of Victorian illustrator Arthur Rackham's little fall fairies lifted on a happy gust of wind.
I told my husband earlier this month that I wanted to release my first novel secretly, so nobody I knew would feel obligated to buy it and pretend to read it. Even worse, I didn't want my parents or coworkers to actually read my salacious book!
I’ve tried for years to find a literary agent who might grant me access to the professional services and veneer of legitimacy that traditional publishing offers, so I would have the courage to put my weird and wild writing out there for readers who don't know me but happen to be looking for 11th century Byzantine thrillers. But I ran out of patience with the publishing industry's compounding scandals, dramas, changing rules, and vulnerability to volatile markets and supply chains. Years ago, finding an agent felt not only possible but inevitable, but things have changed since I started, and not in favor of debut authors of 11th century Byzantine thrillers.
I almost ran out of time to publish in 2021, too. At the beginning of this year, I told myself that I'd learn about self-publishing after I completed major repairs to my home. I hoped the home repairs would be done by the 4th of July, but of course they dragged on until October, giving me a great excuse to put off publishing until next year.
What finally pushed me to publish Leirah and the Wild Man in a rush of uploading files and smashing the "continue" button was a rising mortal dread that peaked when I heard about the latest paper shortage. The whole world feels precariously mortal right now. It is fall. It is the second year of a raging pandemic. It is the decline of American democracy. It is literally the cusp of a mass extinction event that began before the pandemic and will probably spawn more, and worse, pandemics.
My laptop has lived far beyond its life expectancy. I have written my novels on old versions of Word that could, I suspect, become obsolete. Files could be corrupted. Essentially, all my work could rot on a virtual shelf before ever completing its life cycle by being read by others, which is the mission and purpose of a novel. If I played it too safe, I could lose everything. I'd never forgive myself.
So I opened an account with IngramSpark, bit down on a big stick, shoved Leirah and the Wild Man into production, and posted the news on this blog and my personal social media accounts that only have a few followers.
I didn't do any marketing or make any preparations whatsoever before my book release. I don't know very many people. I didn't expect "buzz." But the reactions of my friends, family, and acquaintances stunned me.
People from all walks of life, people of all ages, people I hardly know and people I haven't seen in years blew up my feed and my phone to celebrate my news and my book and went on a small but enthusiastic frenzy of book-buying. A local bookstore placed an order of my books to display on their shelves, without me asking them to do it. I told my parents not to read it, and they thought that was hilarious and passed it on to all my relatives, and now extended family members and my parents' friends have ordered cartons of copies. I am simultaneously horrified and heartwarmed.
And I’m freaking out a little because I published the book so quickly that I still haven't received my own physical copy. Until it comes, I will worry that something will go wrong with the printing and it won't look right. When I receive it, if it looks okay, I will show it to the librarians at my local library and to other local booksellers and ask them if they will place an order.
The anxieties I've struggled with for years over whether people would hate me for publishing a book, especially a weird book (it's a Midwestern conformity thing), or look down on me for the way I did it, the assumption that I would hear "Why couldn't you have written a nice book?" from my family, the headaches, the stomachaches, the heartaches, have all been whisked away at once and replaced with an abundance of love, gratitude, affection, and joy!
For now. Nobody has read the finished book yet, so my parents have not yet been traumatized, and nobody has left a scathing review on Goodreads, but a kind "librarian" there has helped me to get the book properly uploaded. You can now add my book to your "Want to Read" shelf to help me reach other Goodreads users who might be interested in it, without spending any money or, honestly, committing to ever actually reading it. Thanks in advance if you add it to your Goodreads shelf! That little click means a lot to me.
And I can deal with the criticism from strangers that publishing a book invites! That kind of drama is a welcome distraction from the dread of mortality, I guess.
You know what else makes a great distraction from our impending and inevitable doom?
Leirah and the Wild Man: A Tale of Obsession and Survival at the Edges of the Byzantine World is a historical thriller set in the 11th century.
dreams of stealing a Viking longship, hunting pirates, and freeing the
world's thralls. As if by magic, the dragon boat of her fantasies
appears at her backwoods homestead, and a crew of seductive outlaws
invites her to join them in terrorizing the rich with disguises based on
the monsters of local folklore. But Leirah fears their secretive
interest in her favorite brother Aven. She takes him and flees on an
epic journey down the length of the Danube, from the Black Forest to the
Black Sea, through the gates of Constantinople, and into the last
stronghold of the Goths.
Leirah and the Wild Man: A Tale of Obsession and Survival at the Edges of the Byzantine World is available now in hardcover and for pre-order as an ebook (to be delivered to your device on November 11, 2021).