• ronwaltersjr77

The Ten-Year Road

This is a story about how books never die, and how sometimes the road that leads to your dreams can take ten years to walk.

Back in early 2019, my second agent put one of my middle grade fantasy novels on submission. This was the fourth book of mine to be sent out to publishers, so I knew what to expect—lots of waiting, lots of anxiety, lots of kind but heartbreaking rejections.

Sure enough, that book never found a home. I was upset, but I’d been distracting myself by writing a middle grade sci-fi novel. I put the fantasy book behind me, finished the sci-fi project, and sent it to my agent.

She didn't like it.

We both agreed that I should try something new, so I set aside the middle grade sci-fi novel and wrote an adult sci-fi thriller.

She didn’t like that one, either.

It was clear we'd fallen out of sync. It happens, more often than people realize. As much as it pained me to part ways with yet another agent and throw myself back into the query trenches, a few days later I did just that.

By this point it was June 2020. The pandemic was in full-force, and my writing prospects were looking grim. I'd written nine books over the course of ten years, four of which had gone on submission. I'd signed with two agents and spent two years with each only to wind up splitting with them. It seemed like all I had to show for my efforts was an inbox full of rejections. I was beyond burned out, and very close to giving up on my dream of becoming a published author. But I made myself query the middle grade sci-fi and the adult sci-fi thriller, hoping that, since neither had been on submission, a new agent might be interested in representing one or both of them.

That was it, though. If they went nowhere, I was done.

In early July, right after I started querying agents, Angry Robot, a British publisher, held an open call for un-agented writers of adult fantasy and science fiction. I decided to submit my sci-fi thriller. According to their guidelines, they'd contact me within three months if they were interested in reading more than just the sample chapters I'd sent.

The summer passed. By the end of September I’d collected even more agent rejections and had yet to hear from Angry Robot. I was about ready to call it quits.

But then, early one afternoon, an email appeared in my inbox. An editor at Angry Robot wanted to read the rest of the sci-fi thriller! I was floored. I sent the whole manuscript to her, thinking it’d be weeks or months before I heard anything.

THE NEXT MORNING, a different editor wrote back. She’d read the book overnight and was going to take it to their next acquisitions meeting!

I wasn't just floored, I was downright speechless. I was also, despite the huge vote of confidence, still very short on hope, so I crossed my fingers and wished for the best while completely expecting the worst.

Seven days passed. Seven endless, excruciating days.

The acquisitions meeting finally took place.

The editor wrote back.

I read her email about a dozen times, absolutely convinced I was hallucinating.

I wasn't. Angry Robot loved the book, and wanted to publish it.

On January 11, 2022, DEEP DIVE, my adult sci-fi thriller, will officially become my debut novel.

Since that acquisitions meeting I’ve signed with an amazing new agent—David Dunton at Harvey Klinger—who's not only helped me navigate the world of publishing contracts but is also preparing to put my middle grade sci-fi project on submission.

Happy ending, right?

It gets happier.

Around the same time last summer that I submitted DEEP DIVE to Angry Robot, I also sent my middle grade fantasy—the one my second agent had put on submission way back in 2019—to Owl Hollow Press. I still adored the book, still believed in it, and couldn't bear the thought of it forever gathering dust.

Turns out, Owl Hollow felt the same way.

CALIX AND THE FIRE DEMON, a middle grade fantasy adventure, will be published in the fall of 2022, with a sequel to follow in the fall of 2023.

It took ten years, nine books, and hundreds of rejections, but I finally did it. I'm finally going to be a published author, with not one but two debut novels coming out next year.

Books never die, and as long as you keep walking, as long as you allow even the tiniest flicker of hope to light that long, winding road whenever it grows dark, neither do dreams.

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