When I finished my first novel, "This is My Blood," I was floating around on the ocean on board the USS Bainbridge. The novel was an expansion of my novelette, "A Candle in the Sun." I'd been told it needed to be expanded by a Canadian publisher and expert on vampire literature named Robert Eighteen-Bisang. Robert told me he was putting together a publishing company, and that if I wrote that book, he'd love to see it.
I won't go into the mental difficulties that prevented me from sitting down that day and beginning. It's a dense topic, and I lacked the conviction that I could "pull it off," so I put it off instead. Then, finally, I got the call from my muse, and I sat down to work. I completed that novel in twenty-one days, and revised it in another five. I sent the manuscript off to Robert in Canada, and sat back to wait. When we reached Crete, I called, and was bowled over by the news that Robert not only loved the book, but intended to buy it and publish it. This was all good.
On the strength of that sale, I was able to sell a pitch to John Ordover at Pocket Books for my Star Trek Voyager novel, Chrysalis. I wrote that book, as well as selling further titles to a company called White Wolf for their "World of Darkness" fiction line, but "This is My Blood," that first novel, languished. It got edited. It got re-edited. It got bumped. There was this problem, and that problem, and eventually - Chrysalis came out first.
The Horror Writer's Association gives an award for an author's first novel, as well as for the best novel. This is My Blood got some notice, and it did make at least the preliminary ballot for best novel, but I lost my shot at best first novel. I know awards aren't everything, and I know in many cases they mean little, but observing things over the years, I also know that, had I won an award with that first novel, some avenues would have opened at that point that never really did, and my career might have ended up differently.
I suppose if there's a lesson in this, it's one of focus. I rushed ahead and got a bunch of books published, and I'm proud of them, but "This is My Blood" remains one of my strongest works. Career wise, had I held off a little and waited for that book to eventually get published before peppering the world with book after book written at light speed, I might have built a stronger foundation for future writing.
Then again, I might still have been waiting today. While I'm not convinced it was a misstep, I am sad that that first book never got it's chance to compete as what it was - a debut novel.