Thoughts on Felan’s Rescue being an SPSFC quarterfinalist!

I finished writing Felan’s Rescue roughly four years ago. Roughly a year later I had finished its sequel, The Descendants of Prontoth. For most of those four years after writing Felan’s Rescue I was submitting the books to various agents hoping it would find the one that would get Felan’s Rescue a book deal. Nothing materialized… the query process isn’t fun.

It was a chance discussion with a client’s mother that got me thinking about self-publishing. She had a law degree and was asking about running a private practice. She volunteered that she’d been successful as a self-published romance author and swore by self-publishing as the future of the industry.

When you are querying you become well aware of the longshot that is finding an agent. The chances they read more than a fraction of your novel are miniscule. Your work is judged by a 300–400-word query letter that has to be well written, but also uniquely appeal to the agent’s personal taste. And then there is the publishing industry which agents continue to complain about. Even if an agent likes your query enough (and finds it to his or her unique tastes) then reads your novel, thinks he or she can sell it, then signs you as a client, then sends off to publishers, then signs a book deal…you still need the book to be promoted and the publisher to get behind it. It’s an uphill battle.

With all that as the backdrop, I heard about last year’s Self-Published Science Fiction Contest. I began reading about it, following some of the novels, and made the decision to self-publish, hoping to get Felan’s Rescue in this year’s contest. The hope of getting people to actually read the book, not just a query letter was a huge factor in my decision.

But even the unique nature of this contest makes every reviewer reading every book impossible. In this first phase, the reviewers were charged with reading 10-20% of each book in their group. I know there are great books that don’t get through because they don’t click with the specific reader in that amount of time. I was happy to see a book from last year’s contest that didn’t get out of the quarterfinals, make it through this phase this time. Because now, reviewers/judges are going to read the entire book.

That’s probably the coolest part of being a quarterfinalist in the SPSFC. My book in particular is a book that takes its time, with point of view characters a galaxy apart, and 3 separate stories you have to trust will come together. I try to make the book fun, with action and humor from the earliest pages, but you have to trust me to bring everything together.

I’m so excited for the judges and reviewers to now see how things come together. I believe the novel really takes off as things start to make sense and the reader starts to understand the connection between the characters and the worlds the occupy. It’s an honor to be a quarterfinalist in the contest. Congrats to the other quarterfinalists! And to any authors that didn’t get through, a view of 10-20% of your book from a few readers will never tell the entire story. Keep on doing the work and telling the stories you want to tell.

How Felan’s Rescue Was Born

I’ve been an avid reader since I read Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card in the eighth grade.  It was assigned to me by one of my least favorite teachers in one of my least favorite classes (an advanced English class that was tedious and boring).  However, in assigning us to read Ender’s Game that teacher gave me a lifelong appreciation for Science Fiction and Fantasy novels that has never waned. You never know where important moments in your life will come from.

I remember putting off reading the assigned chapters until the last possible second.  I think she’d assigned us to read the first 5 chapters the first week.  The night before, I laid in bed around 9:00 picking up the book to read those chapters. I didn’t put the book down until nearly 4 in the morning.  I’d finish it the next day after school. 

From that day forward I plowed through the Ender’s series (It was 4 books at that time), the Foundation Series, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and every other piece of science fiction I could get my hand on.  I dabbled in fantasy with Watership Down and Lord of the Rings but struggled to get into some of the big series at the time like Wheel of Time and Sword of Truth.  Eventually, my tastes expanded, and I dove into the Hyperion Cantos, the Culture Series, Game of Thrones, First Law, etc. 

At some point I started coming up with ideas of my own.  I wrote out some vague plans for an ambitious series and even wrote a rough draft of the prologue and first chapter of what would eventually become Felan’s Rescue.  But ultimately, I never committed the time to following through and in my twenties, when there was plenty of time to be had, those pages stayed mostly blank.

Then came law school and limited reading beyond law school assigned readings.  Then came getting my law practice off the ground.  But shortly before the birth of my now four-year-old daughter I had an epiphany.   I knew I wanted to write these, but if I didn’t commit, those pages would always remain empty.  I wanted to tell my daughter that I gave it a shot.  That I had something I really wanted to do, and I took the time to do it.  So shortly after she was born, I began revisiting Felan’s Rescue.  Over the next seven months I wrote during my lunch at work, sometimes at night, sometimes if I had a light day, I’d write during work hours (the beauty of owning your own practice) and I finished a draft of Felan’s Rescue.

Several edits later I had a draft I was very happy with.  In the meantime, I wrote a second novel, a direct sequel to Felan’s Rescue and began work on a third.  Maybe the only people that will read these novels will be close to me, but I’m proud of the work I’ve put into them.  I love the characters and love how the pieces of both stories fit.  I hope one day they’ll be on bookshelves everywhere, but until that day I’m happy my daughter inspired me to commit to the writing process and write two novels I’ve intended to write for over a decade.