Here We Go, Looks Like We're Gonna Publish a Novel


And here we are—I’ve signed a contract with SFK Press to publish my debut novel, Sunflower Dog, in the Spring of 2020. It feels somehow lacking to simply say I’m really excited about it. Yes, I’ve had more than a handful of short stories published, and my short story collection—a book—came out in 2009 (“Everybody’s Gotta Eat,” Main Street Rag Press), but it’s not a novel. In my mind, this is my first real book.

I’ve written for as long as I can remember: poems, songs, stories, essays, but I was probably thirteen or fourteen before the notion I could write a book occurred to me. Once it did, I dreamed of having a novel out in the world one day. That was not the kind of thing I’d dare mention to anyone with any seriousness, but I held onto the notion and promised myself one day, one day, I’d do it.

Life happened, I kept writing. Along the way, in addition to the short stories, I managed to finish a couple of novel manuscripts. One of them, the first one, is really, really bad and will remain packed away in a box that will be cremated along with my body one day. The second one was pretty good, but it fell victim to a nasty agent situation. It took me a couple years to get over that one.

The first nugget of Sunflower Dog I wrote as a short story called “Breathe” in February and March of 2008. It got great rejections, all saying pretty much the same thing one of my former teachers, David Payne, told me about the initial draft: great story until the last page, the ending doesn’t work. After a year of revisions, 20 or 25 different endings, total failures all, and countless rejections, I shelved it. Part of it is now in Chapter 4 of the novel. Problems with the short story ending? Make it a novel.

I wrote the first line of the first chapter on February 22, 2010, the day after riding past a funeral home and seeing two rather robust women fighting in the parking lot. I finished the first draft on January 3, 2011. I started shopping the novel selectively in 2013, revised some more, then sent it out in earnest starting in mid-2014. Plenty of pubs “loved it, but weren’t exactly sure how to market it” so they passed and wished me luck. Steve and the fine folks at SFK offered me publication on January 11 of this year. So, yeah, to say I’m excited doesn’t cover it.

In the midst of the excitement, I’m a little terrified. I’m not sure what’s next. I have an idea, but…you know, debut means I’ve not done this before and the ubiquitous unknown terrifies everyone, right?

I know a lot of people, both literally and figuratively, who are in the same position I was in years ago, last December, January 10th, now. Maybe you’ve read my other work or have my short story collection and are a bit of a fan. Others might be interested in how this publishing thing works in general or maybe you just like good books and are curious about this one. I thought it might be interesting to let those of you who fit into one of those categories come along for the ride.

Like I said, I’m not sure of anything about this process, so, as it unfolds, I’ll share about it here. I’ve reached the age where I need to write things down to remember them, and hopefully, there’ll be more books to come. I’d be honored if you’d join me. I’ll post every other week or so at the least, more often if it seems relevant from now until publication and after that, too, if y’all are interested. And too, I’ll share “insider opportunities” here first (which means, when there’s SWAG to be had, subscribers get first dibs!).

Y’all be kind, we’ll talk soon!