Publishing Princess of Amathar, even if only for myself, inspired me to write again. Over the next fourteen months, I crafted an 800 page steampunk fantasy that I called The Steel Dragon. I printed up a dozen copies (in 5” binders) and friends read and edited them over the summer.
That summer, I discovered Smashwords. It was a brand new thing, and I thought that it would be a good idea to get my name out there as an author. I decided to piece together my earlier flash fiction into an actual story, so that summer, while teaching summer school, that’s what I did. His Robot Girlfriend was the 1,864th book published through Smashwords (now there are over 330,000). I also uploaded it to Feedbooks, Manybooks, and a few other sites. I offered it for free, expecting only to get my name out there. Well, it worked. His Robot Girlfriend was huge, mostly because I was entering epublishing on the ground floor, though I didn’t know that at the time. His Robot Girlfriend was downloaded hundreds of thousands of times, and when iBooks started, it was at the top of their free books for a long time.
His Robot Girlfriend was very popular online and I was done editing The Steel Dragon, so I began sending it off to publishers, but I needed something else to write. I had recently read Herman Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener, and I really liked the idea of an unreliable narrator, but I had also read Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat, so I was feeling like something silly might be in order. I decided to set my story in the world I had created years earlier for a Dungeons and Dragons game I played with my kids. I had placed stories there before. In 1996, I had written a play for our school drama club set in the same world.
So Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Elven Princess was born. Eaglethorpe himself was a new creation, as was Jholiera the elven princess, but the places, Ellwood Cyrene, and the Queen of Aerithraine were all pulled right out of our D&D game. I finished in less than a month and was still in the mood, so I wrote another one. Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Sorceress uses the play I had written earlier as the main plot point.
I published both stories as ebooks and then decided that I would publish Princess of Amathar and see if anyone would actually pay for one of my stories.