At the dawn of the 1990’s my first wife and I moved to New York City for the express purpose of working in publishing. Well, that was her express purpose; mine was to live in the same city with Katya, then my wife. Nonetheless I got to know the folks at Tor books pretty well and even did some odd jobs for one of the editors, including writing the blurbs for the back of new paperback novels. I even got to meet Jim Baen when Katya was doing some copy-editing for him on the side. At that point in my life I’d sold exactly two short stories and I’m not certain that the second was ever published. Which is OK; I’m pretty sure it was rubbish.
What does any of this have to do with ‘The Shield Maiden?’ Nothing at all, except that my experiences in the Big Apple taught me something important about a career as an author: it was a sucker’s game. I switched to the field of custom sword and knife making. Not a good business decision either, BTW. Yeah, when Tinker Pearce talks business… no one listens. Some times they leave skid-marks.
Against all odds I achieved modest success as a sword-maker and was active in the online community, writing tens of thousands of words each year about my craft and related subjects. I even wrote a book, ‘The Medieval Sword in the Modern World,’ which has been quite successful as such things are figured. But I wasn’t a writer. *nods earnestly*
Eventually as a result of my success as a sword-maker I fell in with writers, first teaching medieval swordsmanship, then as a consultant on a little project they had whipped up called ‘The Mongoliad.’ If you hang out with car thieves sooner or later you are going to steal a car. If you hang out with writers… sooner or later you’re going to steal a car, ’cause God knows you’ll have to pay the bills somehow. But I digress.
When ‘The Mongoliad’ sold to Amazon they decided to break it into three books, and to fill in between with novellas to keep the juices flowing. The fellows on the Farm (as the group of writers was known) threw together plot synopses for proposed novellas and sent them out to the groups email list, which included a sword-maker who was not really a writer. *Nods earnestly* My wife liked on of the outlines and said, “You used to be a writer; why don’t we take a crack at this one?” I think Mark Teppo (at this point Chief Cat-Herder for the project) might have been a bit surprised, but dutifully verified that we could between us string more than four words together at a time and remain coherent. Next thing we knew we were under contract to produce ‘The Shield Maiden.’
Our first discovery was that the story ideas that had sprung from the collective fevered imagination of The Farm had not been vetted for historical accuracy. At that point Foreworld was supposed to be historic fantasy. We struggled with trying to force the square peg of the plot into the round hole of history and I think we did a modestly credible job. There was a slight technical issue however. They didn’t like it sand worse yet could articulate neither why they disliked it or what they would like. Finally in frustration Mark said, ‘Just write a story.’ So we did. Thereafter our weekly reports to the Farm about our progress consisted of a hard look and the words, “It’s Fine.”
Finally we turned it in and got back some notes on how to tighten up the story and we did. Then suddenly the publishing schedule changed and they diffidently asked if we might not have it finished ahead of deadline, say yesterday maybe? Perhaps the day before? We went into overdrive and turned the story in on the new deadline and a few days later we got back the edits and read through them.
After about three hours when my voice and vocabulary gave out we sat down and began making a list of the things that were culturally incorrect in the edited version. This only took five single-spaced double-sided pages. We approached Mark with some trepidation about possibly fixing these things and to our immense relief he sat down and we very calmy worked through the list. “You’re supposed to be an expert on this period,” Mark said, “We can’t have people wondering if you were on crack when you wrote it.”
The amended ‘Shield Maiden’ was published and has been quite successful. But readers have justifiably complained that it is short and leaves them hanging at the end. They have speculated that there might be a sequel. They have stated that there SHOULD be a sequel. Well, they are right.
See, ‘The Shield Maiden’ was originally going to be 25-30% of the story. Two sequels were planned as part of the Foreword Side-Quests which would have completed the story arc. These still exist in outline form. So what happened? Things changed. The Side-Quests were shut down for a variety of reasons including the creation of the new ‘Kindle Worlds’ program, where fans can write fan-fiction set in the Foreworld and sell it through Amazon. The best of these MIGHT be selected as official additions to the Foreworld Saga. Mind you, I am not privy to the inner councils of 47North (Amazon’s scifi/fantasy imprint) and don’t know where they are taking Foreworld from here but for now it continues as part of Kindle Worlds. So now the onus of carrying on the Foreworld resides with the fans, who can now write and self-publish additions to the mythos.
Have I mentioned that we’re fans?