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An Auto-bio-bibliography
by Mark Sumner

News From the Edge: The Monster of Minnesota
News From the Edge: Insanity, Illinois
The Devil's Tower
The Devil's Engine
Magic: The Prodigal Sorcerer
Hi, my name is Mark Sumner and I'm an unemployed writer.

Oh, yeah, I have a job. I still know how to find my keyboard. I'm even still tackling the occasional unwary word and pinning it to the mat with my word processor. But what I really need is a good, tight deadline.

Follow.

Like most writers, I have a varied (and ultimately boring) list of occupations: geologist, computer programmer, journalist, coroner's assistant, professional cave explorer -- the usual stuff. But all that was only a prelude to getting down to some serious word wrangling.

Back in '91, I started selling a few short stories to magazines and anthologies. Got a piece in Asimov's. Took first place from Writers of the Future. Then in '93 I sold a little young adult novel to Harper. Then another. Then a couple of fantasy tomes at Del Rey, then some SF over at Ace. And so one. By the time '97 rolled around, I was guilty of 18 books.

I had a couple of fresh award nominations, a nice shelf of books with my name on them, one of them there New York agents, and a sad delusion that I was on a roll.

Trouble is, I only rolled about another foot. I knocked out one last SF/Mystery in a series I was doing for Berkley, went to tackle the next project, and found there was no next project.

While I was busy turning trees into manuscripts, I sort of missed the fact that a handful of good reviews and couple of nominations does not add up to sales. The fantasy trilogy ended after two books. The publisher of my YA series changed the title of the newest volume to Dead End. And they meant it.

Where once I was complaining of one tight deadline after another, now I have no deadlines. Free time. No pressure. Friends say wonderful things like "Now you can work on anything you want." Sure. Whatever. But when the space to write is limitless, and the scope of the writing is undefined, I find myself chasing after first one idea, then another, never quite managing to shoot any of them and drag it back to the cave.

Right now, a six week deadline sounds like heaven. So please, vote early, vote often. Put the yoke on my back. Hitch up the harness. I can take it.

Really.

The Books

In the beginning, there was Deadly Stranger. It was a YA book about two girls and a guy. Only the guy is... Heck, go read it. Unlike several of my books, this one is still around. It even made some bestseller lists in the UK (much to my surprise).

After another trio of YA novels, a direct pipeline from above opened and I channeled the first fifty pages of a truly odd western fantasy. That was one of the best days of my life. Of course, it took a year to add the rest of what would become Devil's Tower, but that did nothing to dent the joy of those first pages.

Devil's Engine came out of my printer almost two years later, but in the weird world of publishing, the two western books came out only two months apart. Devil's Tower went on to garner a moderate amount of acclaim and a couple of prestigious nominations. Devil's Engine, which in my opinion is the better book, disappeared almost as fast as it came. On the diminished sales of volume two, the prospects of the final book in the trilogy did a nose dive. That's the breaks.

With the Devil's books on the outs, I turned to another series. This time it's a snappy riff on tabloid journalism that I like to think of as "Scooby Doo for adults." Two books in this series are already out with Insanity, Illinois being my most recent publication. A third book, The Vampires of Vermont, is due next spring. With any luck, they'll ask for more.

On the young adult front, I had the flame burning high last year. One after another I pumped out eight volumes of the Extreme Zone -- a series which gave me an excuse to mix traditional SF elements with Lovecraftian squigglies and a good dash of Illuminati paranoia. I had a blast.

Overall, I can say it's been a really great party. Let's hope that so band has only been warming up and that the host is about to put away the canapés and get down to the main course.

Copyright © 1998 by Mark Sumner

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