The primary thing that got me to quit writing—I got better—was the level of bullshit it looked like I’d have to endure after having got past all the bullshit it took to get a contract in the first place. Force of Nature Charlie Stella short-circuited me around the pre-contract bullshit, so a cynic/realist (there’s no difference, not anymore) would expect things to be that much worse in the post-contract phase.
Well, I was wrong again.
Stark House has been a pleasure to work with from Day One. I had dreaded the editing process, having heard stories of contracts signed only for the publisher to require major changes on tight deadlines. Rick Ollerman had a small handful of suggestions, all of which made perfect sense to me, and, in total, amounted to a haircut, not the surgery I’d feared.
Now the drop date nears and marketing rears its ugly head. Rick and Greg Shepherd, the publisher, have picked up some things about which I had no clue, and been very cooperative and helpful with the my own ideas. What I’d dreaded as a large company treating me as a not particularly valued employee in their stable has, in fact, been a highly cooperative and educational experience.
Of course, much of this has to do with the size of the enterprise. Stark House has two active writers: Charlie Stella and me. Everything else is reprints: Margaret Millar, Bill Pronzini, Bob Randisi and a host of others. That’s good company, and I’m proud to see my name on the list. It’s also great to know that, when I trade emails with Greg Shepherd, I’m in touch with Mr. Stark; it’s his house. Try swapping ideas with Mr. HarperCollins some time. I’ll bet even Elmore Leonard can’t do that, not and get much more than a head patting.
(An aside here to wish Mr. Leonard a full and speedy recovery from a recent stroke. He wouldn’t know me if I robbed him at gunpoint, but he has provided me with more hours of entertainment, and worthwhile tidbits of writing advice, than I can remember. I hope he’s around for a long time, even if he never writes another word. He’s earned it.)
So, this whole post-contract business has been a pleasant surprise so far. The horror stories are still out there, but you’re not getting one from me.