Friday, December 16, 2011

GUEST POST: "Lisa's Way & The Value of Patience" - by author Robert Collins

by Robert Collins

Let me tell you about the journey of my second published novel, "Lisa's Way."

It started when I was in high school. A friend and I had this idea of a post-apocalypse story in which our friends and us would be the main characters. We were all supposed to contribute chapters. I was the one in our group that was the aspiring writer, so I ended up writing most everyone else's chapters.

A year or so after high school I realized the "real people as characters" notion wouldn't work. I took to fictionalizing the characters. The first draft of that novel wasn't very good. I rewrote it. At one point the novel became a group of short stories. A couple of the stories sold, then the whole thing went back to being a novel.

As I revised the story, one character stood out: Lisa Herbert. It became clear that she was the main character. She was the one with the passion to rebuild. She was the one with the smarts to get the job done. But how to get it done?

In 1992 I started publishing my Touring Kansas Counties booklets. The booklets were not only about things to see, but also had town histories in them. The history of a couple of the counties touched on the Santa Fe Trail. I read up on the Trail. I learned how it was a route of commerce rather than emigration, and how important that commerce was on the frontier.

That was it! Trade would be the means by which Lisa would attempt to rebuild society. The final piece of the puzzle came when I changed the setting from Earth to human colonies in outer space. That whole period, from early ideas to finished novel, took about 15 years or so.

I tried to sell Lisa's Way to major publishers; no luck. I tried a few small presses, including the one that took my first novel; still no luck. Finally the novel was accepted by eTreasures Publishing in late 2008. It was supposed to appear in the spring of 2009. Spring came and went; computer problems, I was told. I was assured it would be out in the summer.

In July the ebook came out; still no print copy, and I heard very little from the publisher. In December I once again checked to see if there was a release date. Someone at the press replied that the publisher was seriously ill.

The publisher recovered and the print version came out in February of 2009. A year later the founder sold the press to a new owner due to her illness.

In the meantime, I started a FB page for the novel. An artist friend who I'd lost touch with years ago reconnected with me. I used to have drawings for FB posts. He posted and won a copy of Lisa's Way. He liked it, his daughter liked it, and he asked about doing covers for my books.

Earlier this year the new owner of eTreasures noticed that the only date on the contract was the signing date. The contract I had with the press was for three years. That meant it had expired in December. After a delay the rights reverted to me. I asked the friend to do the cover, and after some months it was complete. Lisa's Way is in print again, 28 years after the original idea planted the seed.

Teenager Lisa Herbert lives in the small town of Mountain View on the planet Fairfield. The "Savage Rain" decades earlier shut down the hyperspace gate and isolated her world. A casual remark from her sister gets Lisa to ask a simple question: "If life was better before the 'Savage Rain,' why couldn't it be better again?" That question starts Lisa on a journey. She re-activates Fairfield's "H-gate" and travels to the three worlds nearest her own: White Rocks; Big Springs; and Lone Star. She finds that each planet offers her a chance to improve everyone's lives, by hard work, trade, or making friends. She relies on her brains, her compassion, and a little sneakiness to solve the problems she faces. But Lisa realizes that the more she accomplishes, the more she has to do to answer her question. "Lisa's Way" presents a heroine more interested in reasoning than fighting, and more concerned with doing good than looking good. It's a science-fiction novel for readers tired of the usual "blast 'em up" or techno-babble, yet it's no weepy romance or surrealistic experiment. "Lisa's Way" is a solid story crisply told. Perfect for pre-teen, teen, and young adult readers!

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