That's what 2012 will be for me, as Phoenix Rising will be published in October, 2012. In other ways I hope it will be the Year of the Phoenix for other people -- better lives, our country stopping this tearing itself apart, etc.
Phoenix Rising represents a number of very special milestones for me:
- This is the first novel I have sold to a publisher which was not, in one way or another, agented/promoted by anyone else to the publisher. Digital Knight was first passed through Eric Flint's hands and then Eric pushed it to Jim Baen. Mountain Magic and the Boundary series were co-written by Eric Flint in one way or another and thus could be credited purely to him in terms of selling the idea; and Grand Central Arena was submitted through Eric as well (he also poked at me with an idea that triggered a memory of another idea that I'd wanted to do for years). Phoenix Rising was purely my own idea, my own product, my own submission direct to a publisher (Baen) and thus, to me, the first absolute proof that I really did write stuff that could stand on its own merits in front of a publisher and tell them "Publish me!".
- This is one of two stories I have wanted to publish for a very long time. The first draft of Phoenix Rising was written in about 1991, now more than twenty years ago, and submitted to Wizards of the Coast -- just before they decided to cut off their fiction publishing for a while. I also (fortunately, I think) recognized I needed to work on it in other ways before trying again.
- This is the first story to showcase Zarathan, my fantasy world. As such, Phoenix Rising's roots go MUCH farther back; The first sketch of Zarathan was done in 1978, a year after I first started playing D&D, and I have been working on it, expanding it, changing pieces of it but mostly building, since that day. There are many elements which will finally get shown to the world which were previously only seen by those who've played in my games. Digital Knight takes place in the same universe, and Zarathan is mentioned in that novel, but Zarathan has, really, been the core and focus of the universe's development and thus even DK didn't really touch on that part of the universe except in the most indirect ways.
- Poplock Duckweed. I love the other characters too, and the main STORY is about Kyri Vantage and Tobimar Silverun, but the Intelligent Toads as a species, and Poplock in particular, have been one of my personal favorite things of my universe for years, and very popular with the players.
- Hey, professsional gamefic! The story of Kyri Vantage has roots in two games, one run by me and another run by Jeff Getzin (author of Prince of Bryanae). Kyri (then called Kyrie Ross) was born in Jeff's Ravenloft campaign, her character defined and the religion that dominated her life invented as background for that game -- background I later integrated wholesale into my own world because it fit very well. The other game was a years-long campaign whose central character was Tobimar Silverun, collector of destinies. (i.e., he kept getting himself involved in more and more ancient mythical events so that soon he had as many destinies as that poor hapless schmuck in Phil and Dixies' What's New had superhero origins.) He also had a sidekick in-world who happened to be a Fuzzy (from H.Beam Piper's novel Little Fuzzy). That was one of the problems I had initially in figuring out how to tell the story. It was obvious to me how to bring Kyri and Tobimar together -- there was a built-in connection. But part of Tobimar's dynamic had been his association with this miniature harmless-looking sidekick that was generally thought of more as a pet or familiar by those he encountered and for obvious copyright reasons I couldn't use a Fuzzy, nor did I want to just invent an entire species for the sake of that one character. It took a couple of years for it to dawn on me that I already HAD the right species, and the right character, available.
Fingers crossed that Phoenix Rising will do well enough that I can publish the rest of the trilogy. I've tried to make it as self contained as possible, but it's obvious there's more to the story. If Baen won't go for it, then I guess I'll have to try doing it myself. I won't leave Kyri's story unfinished.