Why did I wait so long to publish?


The first question that most people ask me is:
"How long did it take to write The VIKINGS! Trilogy?"

Actually, The VIKINGS! Trilogy is not new. The first chapter of The VIKINGS! Trilogy ever written was the story of Eric's fight with Thorland in Norway, which was moved to the second half of Book 2: The Mourning Trail. That was back in the early 1980s in a computer shop owned by a friend of mine: Ron Nims. My two best friends worked there: Dave Dawes and Greg Greer, and we still get together whenever we can.

My original intent was to tell the story of Eric, a crazed Norse warrior seeking a glorious death, and who triumphed by fighting against his king and best friend, Svenson Two-Sword. I wanted to detail the deep philosophies of the Old Norse faith to a modern audience. It was never my conscious intention to make this a trilogy, but when I got to the fight of Eric and Svenson, I wasn't ready to let it end. I had developed feelings for my other characters, and I couldn't simply abandon them to unknown fates.

My introduction to reading books came late in life; as a severe ADHD child, my first attempts to read were torture because I could not sit still or focus on anything long enough to read it, and the amphetamines that the Department of Navy Medicine, the Tennessee school system, and my parents forced into me made comprehension uncomprehendable. Around my 19th year, we moved from Maryland to Washington State, and my parents chose to drive across America. At the first truck stop that we dined at, I bought a copy of The Fellowship of the Ring, which a co-worker and Vietnam vet in my union had raved about (and I don't even remember his name, but I owe him greatly!).

After that, I couldn't stop reading. I met other fans of LOTR who belonged to a Star Trek fan club, and got introduced to hundreds of other books. After reading all of them voraciously, I started writing. My first novel was terrible, badly conceived in a haze of recreational drugs, but slowly the effects of being raised on drugs wore off, and in my late-20's I began to have clear thoughts for the first time in my life. Finally I quit the drugs and alcohol; I could not have finished this trilogy had I not given up all methods of inebriation.

I tried for two decades to publish The VIKINGS! Trilogy. I got several handwritten notes from publishers complimenting my writing, but always written on a rejection letter. I even got rejected by agents whom I'd personally known.

I once submitted to Del Rey Books, and they kept my manuscript for a whole year; wondering if they had lost it, I called them. Starting with a receptionist, I got passed through about 8 people, explaining to all that I was just checking on the status of my submission. To my amazement, I ended up speaking to Lester del Rey, the Editor in Chief, who knew my book and named several of my characters. He said that they were still considering it, trying to find a way to fit it into their publishing schedual. He explained that they had already bought a novel about Norse Mythology, and that they didn't want to publish both at the same time. I thanked Lester del Rey for his time and told him to take as long as he needed.

A week after that phone conversation, I got my book returned with an unsigned rejection notice.

Shortly afterwards, I found, bought, and read the 'Norse' book that they had published instead of mine; it was a joke, with no mythological references other than using the name 'Loki'. The book bombed; I'm sure that they lost money publishing it.

I once got an agent; she was a junior editor at a new company, was very excited, and we began making plans for publishing my books. She loved my voice, and we exchanged edits with her suggestions and a few corrections, which I gladly made.

Then there was a company reorganization; my agent was one of five that were laid off, from a company of 8, they went down to 3. My agent wanted to keep me as a client, and I wanted to keep her, but the head of the agency insisted that the contract was between the company and the author, and refused to allow it. However, the head of the company didn't have anyone who wasn't busy with other projects, so I wasn't released or dropped: I was ignored; she didn't want to keep me as a client, but she didn't want anyone else to publish me - and after 20 years, I still had not heard from her, nor would I ever want to. I once wrote her a letter explaining that I was cancelling our contract ... and still she never replied. If I could have a job in the Afterlife, I would like to create special Hells for people like her.

Eventually I shelved the manuscript and didn't look at it for more than a decade. I was disgusted with everything to do with books - I even quit reading.

Finally my need for stories resumed.

I decided to self-publish. However, every time that I came close to self-publishing, something terrible happened. The worst was the cancer of the woman I had lived with for 18 years, which redirected all of my financial to buying her medicines (and emptied my savings). Less terrible than that, twice I was days from self-publishing, and then I lost my job; left with heavy expenses after the loss of my Julie, and in the midst of the usual financial disasters of the US economy, my plans were put on indefinite hold.

Finally I had recovered, saved enough money to self-publish, and I started working toward getting ready, when a new opportunity arose: right before Halloween, 25 years after page 1 of The VIKINGS! Trilogy was written, another friend of mine, a professional psychic, artist (painter), and writer found a publisher who was looking for works of fiction with a mythological basis. She recommended me, and I submitted to them The VIKINGS! Trilogy. The publisher loved it; we began 3.5 months of face-to-face meetings to negotiate the contract, and only after it was signed would they discuss cover art.

I bought a blank sketchbook on my way to the airport, and spent my Christmas vacation in North Dakota, drawing pictures of my characters and scenes from my story, when not doing repairs on my girlfriend's mother's house. When I had about thirty sketches, I sent them as a PDF to my publisher, but I also sent him images of cover art from numerous books, including images from masters such as Frazzetta and Michael Welan; as they were just starting their own publishing business, I wanted to make sure that they knew what good cover art looked like. They liked what I'd drawn, but they wanted to see more; I drew 9 more sketches, 3 for each book. After yet another phone meeting, they were still not satisfied, and I drew 3 more. All of these sketches are now posted on my website.

Weeks later, I was asked if I could provide photos resembling what I had drawn. This wasn't a great challenge; I had a lot of historical images collected over the years and from SCA events, and the internet provided many more. I compiled a PDF of about 80 of them, including images from old movies, pointing out the good things, such as viking drinking horns on display in museums, and the bad things, such as horned helmets and viking women in miniskirts and brass bras. It is actually a funny and educational PDF.

But then the heartaches began: every 2 months, like clockwork, these 'publishers', who had a grand plan for an online publishing business, called to tell me that their plans were not progressing as fast as they had hoped. Every 2 months, they appologized profusely, promised that I would be published in 2 more months, and begged for me to be patient.

My patience lasted until Christmas of the next year, a whole year after I had signed the contract, and only two weeks before our contract ended. They wanted me to sign an extension to our contract, even though they had repeatedly lied to me and delayed my publishing date six times, and they still couldn't tell me when I could expect to be published. They actually used the excuse "We're not liars, we're imcompetent". I shouted at them very loudly and told them to never call me again.

At this time, my finances were tied up; after years of fixing up my house, I had rented it out and moved in with Karen, my true love and ballroom dancing partner. We were fixing up her house to do the same, and then we planned to buy a new house and move into it. I had the money to publish, but not the time; it was another year before I could even consider it.

During this time, I met another new, small-time publisher who wanted to publish my books; I refused to even talk to him. I'd had enough of depending on other people.

The biggest break was finding my cover artist, Brooke Gillette. It took her 6 weeks to do each cover (x3 books!), but the results made the wait worthwhile. However, this would have made my books ready to publish right before Christmas, which would be a terrible time for a new author to publish. The only solution: wait (again) until next year.

When I finally went to my online publishing site, I discovered that I had created a profile for myself back in 2009, which according to my resume was right before I was laid off; it was so long ago that I had forgotten my attempts to self-publish back then.

So, here it is: 2014, thirty years after the first draft was written, The VIKINGS! Trilogy is finally published. This should make me happy, but I have been disappointed so many times that I am deeply trepidatious. I have faith in my own writings, but the heartache that all writers know has hit me too many times.

During those first days, even holding the printed books in my hand, I still found it somewhat unreal. If The VIKINGS! Trilogy is successful, then it will not only make me happy, then (to me) it will prove that the entire world of traditional publishing is incompetent, as if there isn't enough proof of that already.

Today, with sales going well (although still not covering my costs!), I am hopeful for the first time, and making plans for the release of my next book.

Thanks to all who have supported me!
-- Jay Palmer