It’s been over a week since I published Land of the Dogs. The launch has gone better than I could have expected. I’ve sold lots of books and peaked at #4 in one of my categories for new releases. Reviews have started to come in and so far everything has been positive. People are signing up for my mailing list, ensuring I have a fanbase of readers for years to come as I publish more novels. But when things are going so well, it’s easy to forget everything that went into making this book a reality.
Land of the Dogs was three years in the making. Over those three years, there were so many emotions I have struggled with as I decided what to do with the novel. At first, I was elated. It’s no small feat to write a novel. I called myself a writer for years without having hardly anything to show for it, but once I had this book it felt like I had actually achieved something. Just in knowing that I could write one novel, it allowed me to believe that I could write more. I submitted the original version of LotD to agents and publishers, certain that they would pick it up, publish it, and I would become rich beyond my wildest dreams. This never happened. I received some two dozen rejection letters before I put Land of the Dogs away and started working on other projects. It was hard at the time, seeing something I had put so much work into so easily discarded by others. In the end, it made me a better writer.
I began to believe that this book was not ready, and in truth, it was not. I started writing another novel under a pen name. I published it. It found a modicum of success. I became a better writer. I wrote another novel under that pen name and my writing improved again. I continued to polish my craft, learning about storytelling and character development. As I continued publishing under a pen name, I knew that one day I wanted to publish under my own name. Through it all, Land of the Dogs would just not leave me. I went back in and reworked the first three chapters, knowing deep inside me that those were the reason readers wouldn’t invest in the story. I had to hook them on the first page. When I had written that first draft, I never would have noticed the weaknesses in my story. Time has that effect though. If you work hard at something, you begin to see it with new eyes. You can see beyond the words into the story itself. I think this goes for anything. If you want to be good at something, it takes practice. Some things are easier to practice than others. You might be able to take 10,000 jump shots in the time it takes me to write a novel, but that doesn’t mean one is greater than the other. Practice is practice. Hard work is hard work.
Anyways, I reworked the beginning and sent it off to more readers. I found more holes and tried to fix them. I began to feel better, but I still doubted. I wondered if the premise was too much. Could readers buy into both the time travel and the monsters? I debated making it suitable for Young Adult audiences. I thought about making the monsters into werewolves. I thought about changing so much just because I wasn’t sure what I had was good enough. I was scared to go forward and have my first novel flop in my face. I thought that maybe I should just write something new and never let Land of the Dogs see the light of day.
I’ve been lucky to have several people in my life who have given me good advice. They have also believed in me. My best friend told me that this was the story I needed to tell. I didn’t need to change it to fit someone else’s rulebook. The apocalypse would be a violent place and my story showcased both the good and bad it had to offer. Someone else said that if the story demanded it, then the readers could believe it. If I could tell it right, it wouldn’t matter. I mean, someone had made a generation believe that vampires sparkled for fuck’s sake. That was when I knew that I had to go forward with my story in it’s truest form, without worry of whether or not it was too adult, or too violent, or if certain scenes were too much. I went forward staying true to the story as best I could.