By 2001, I had finished three books, and sold….none, not for lack of trying.  So I decided that maybe I was going about this the wrong way.   I would change gears, write more short fiction, and try to make a name for myself THAT way.   There seemed to be a larger market for short fiction, and fewer of the markets for it required hard copies.  (Back then, fewer publishers accepted electronic copies, and the costs of printing and mailing a doorstop like “The Emperor’s Finest” was affecting my income…the wrong way.)   Even if a short story market wanted a hard copy, the cost of it was much less than an entire novel manuscript.

First shock was… that once I had overcome my block to write a full length novel, it became oddly difficult to write a short story again.   I looked at a core idea, saw a deep back story, and it immediately wanted to grow.

But after some gnashing of teeth, I sat down and wrote “Afternoon in Grid Eight”, a short story about a pair of networkers/programmers living in a virtual reality.   It was not great, in fact, I was not entirely pleased with it, but I was growing steadily more frustrated and I entered it in L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Contest anyway.

It came in as an Honorable Mention, gained me a pretty certificate (now nicely framed in my office) and did manage to teach me an invaluable lesson.  Not everyone agrees on what is great.   It was the first that I wasn’t thrilled about to get positive feedback, but it wasn’t the last.    And it seemed, at the time, like I wasn’t completely off base.   I really could do this…


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