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.
His Robot Girlfriend
That summer, I discovered Smashwords, where one could self-publish ebooks. 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, seven or eight small vignettes, into an actual story, by smoothing it out and adding an ending. 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 list 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. The play was called The Ideal Magic.
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 Sorceressuses the play I had written earlier as the main plot point, and I made Eaglethorpe the author.
I published both stories as ebooks and then decided that I would publish Princess of Amathar as an ebook and see if anyone would actually pay for one of my stories. It was Smashwords book number 2,287