Good Things Lost In Transition

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I want to talk about a book series I used to love and recently rediscovered, but first, some background…

Back in the pre-Kindle, little internet days, the book world was dominated by a few large, New York-based publishing companies. Their process was rigid and slow-moving, though, meaning even if you were a fast writer, you’d have one, or possibly two releases per year.

For avid readers, this was problematic, especially due to no internet. Back then, I kept a book journal, divided by month, and recorded author, title, and a one-line summary of everything I read, which could be anywhere from 10-20 books per month. I would periodically review the journal, note which favorite authors hadn’t released anything lately, make a list, trek to the library, look up to see if they had a new book in or on order, place a reserve, and wait for it to come in.

Yawn. Carving hieroglyphs in stone tablets and floating it down the Nile would be faster.

Then, yahoo and yee-haw, along came the internet in all its literary glory, and the world changed.

Authors had websites and newsletters and libraries were online. Perhaps most significantly, publishing itself changed. More and more small presses appeared, giving authors options they never had before.

I abandoned print books for my beloved Kindle (always named George, and I’m on George IV right now), which meant I could now be reading the second book in a series seconds after finishing the first one. Perfect for an impatient, immediate-gratification person like me.

Near the end of the pre-Kindle days, I came across an urban fantasy series–a favorite genre–at the library. The Cal Leandros series by Rob Thurman. It was dark and gritty, but threaded with a fabulous dry, sarcastic, witty humor I loved. The world-building, mythology, and lore are second to none, and the powerful, complicated relationship between brothers Cal and Niko Leandros is indescribably wonderful. If you love the depth and breadth of the Supernatural universe and brothers Sam and Dean, this is right up your alley.

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I devoured the first five or six books as they came hot off the presses. In 2011, I got my first Kindle, how I followed the book world changed, and I lost track of Rob and Cal and Niko for a while. Around that time, Rob was in a serious car accident, which is when I learned she’s actually Robyn, which surprised me. The brother relationship was so profoundly rendered I totally accepted the author must be male. Nope. Maybe this caused a hitch in her big-NY-publisher schedule. But for whatever reason, the series sort of fell off my radar.

Recently, I think due to a feature in Book Bub, I remembered the series. I was ecstatic to discover there were three books I’d not yet read, so I downloaded them all. I read Slashback last week, am currently reading DownFall, and Nevermore is up next. I’m loving getting reacquainted with Cal and Niko and Robin and Promise and the Auphe. (Okay, maybe not the Auphe so much…)

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The hitch is Nevermore, the most recent release, came out in 2015. That’s an eternity in today’s publishing world. I was also disturbed to discover on the series Wikipedia page that book 11, Everwar, is shown as “uncertain” with a notation it was canceled by the publisher, and the author’s website doesn’t appear to have been updated in some time.

Why? Maybe the author is retired or semi-retired from writing, and that’s fine, though I’d love more books. But as someone who works in publishing and is an author myself, I think it has to do with the shift in the publishing industry.

It used to be okay to release a book a year. But now, with so many busy small presses who can work with an author and release books much faster, readers expect that. Those lumbering dinosaurs that are the “big” NY publishing houses have failed to adjust to this, plodding along the path that worked for so many decades. It hasn’t hurt mega-authors like Stephen King, but the lesser-known but still solid authors like Rob Thurman suffer.

Was book 11, Everwar, canceled because it wasn’t good? Highly doubtful. Was it canceled because interest and sales had dropped off? Much more likely. But whose fault is that? In this case, not the author’s. Reading the last books in the series, I know they’re as strong and compelling as they ever were.

One of my all-time favorite series is the Arly Hanks (“Maggody, Arkansas”) series by Joan Hess, which came out from 1987 to 2010. Several years ago I looked for these in e-book format so I could read them again–they are quirkily hilarious–and found only a couple of them. I was heartened to see when I checked today that they were all released in e-book in 2016 and 2017. But they’re not selling well because publishing now demands a constant stream of new material. Readers have short memories these days. Hess also doesn’t appear to have a website (the horror!), only a minimal listing on her publisher’s website.

I’ve been thinking about Robyn and her Cal Leandros series a lot over the past week. I wonder how much of her MIA situation is personal choice (publishing is exhausting!) and how much lack of vision and support by her publisher.

If it’s the latter, I wonder what the future is for Everwar and any potential future volumes in the series. I have no idea what her contract terms are, of course, but if we’re just “done” with a series and decline to sign the latest volume, we will often return the rights to the full series, so the author can re-brand and market it themselves.

It appears a couple of years ago the author attempted to gather support to self-publish, but for reasons that boggle the mind, the fans didn’t come through. I was unaware of this campaign at the time, but would happily support one now.

Whether it’s lack of support from her publisher in the changing publishing climate, fans who have “moved on,” or a change of priorities in the author’s own personal and writing life, I just know I’d like to see more of Cal and Niko and the gang, and I hope, if she’s still on board, she’ll continue to explore ways to keep telling their stories.

Hell, if Rob Thurman wants to stage a comeback, I’ll edit the first book for her for free.

11 thoughts on “Good Things Lost In Transition

  1. I only found your blog & this post when I did my semi-annual search for whatever happened to Robyn Thurman. Yes, to all you wrote, however, I think she just gave up in disgust. If she didn’t, I second, third, etc all you’ve said. If she doesn’t want to write Leandros Brothers, (but, oh they’re so damn funny!), she can write whatever she likes & I’ll buy it (somewhere I think she said she liked her Korsak Brothers best…). I wish she’d do a Patreon, I’ll pledge her money. Sigh. Rob! Where are youu?
    Thanks for starting the search!

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    • Working in publishing myself as an editor and author, I know how frustrating the industry is! VERY. Personally, I don’t plan to write any more novels, because for the countless hours involved, it doesn’t pay off. With swag and promos, even with the support of my publisher, I doubt I break even. For me that’s okay, though, as editing is my real calling. Maybe Robyn will see this someday and take me up on my offer of a free edit! 🙂

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  2. If you dig around, I think there’s a lot more going on than that. Her posts on Facebook and Twitter when she announced Everwar had been cancelled were very vitriolic and placed blame squarely on the fans, not for not buying the Cal series but because they didn’t buy enough of her other books. There were many, many comments of support and suggestions to set up gofundme, Kickstarter and Patreon accounts. Then she simply disappeared. Over the last couple of years, many people have reached out to her but she undoubtedly lost fans by being angry and blaming them.

    I love her books and she’s hilarious. I followed her for years but there came a point when I stopped following her FB because her posts were SO angry and shaming toward her fans, many of us who had been there for a very long time. She apparently was in a very severe car accident some years ago that left her in a coma. There have been some suggestions that the accident she was in caused a traumatic brain injury and that’s why she was making those kinds of posts. I don’t know if that’s true or if anyone “official” ever said it or if it’s just speculation.

    I do know she alienated a huge number of fans and probably turned off others who might have read them. It also seemed, to me, that Nevermore wasn’t as well received as the others. It took a much more serious tone than the previous books.

    She still has fans. I see people posting to her FB even today though no doubt the number is dwindling because she has gone MIA.

    I hope wherever she is and whatever she’s doing, she has found some peace and is happier. I would love for her to write more but not if it’s ultimately detrimental to her. Maybe someday she’ll come back with a great story about where she’s been and what she’s been doing. We can hope.

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  3. Sometime ago i had googled Rob Thurman as well, and effectively Kay’s post above is correct.

    A very long angry/upset post about how she wasn’t earning enough money working full time as an author, I think she mentioned overall it’s less than working full time on minimum wage. I had found the post by googling, I no longer remember where the post was situated – it could have been on her personal website which is long defunct.

    Her emotions were certainly real, but mostly all her titles continue to be sold on Kindle (not Kindle Unlimited) and she must be still receiving a decent royalty stream.

    Lots of people were upset because #11 Everwar had already been announced as an upcoming publication and that was abruptly cancelled. No notification.

    Some of her titles stock in Overdrive, so again she’s receiving royalties from there as well.

    It’s been several years now and not a peep from her. Feb 9 2017 was her last Facebook post and up to that point, nothing was said by her on Everwar.

    To somehow blame fans for not buying enough of her works is absurd. People buy what they want to buy. Personally I have pretty much everything, including anthologies in which her short stories appear.

    I think the final novel was likely written or almost all written but she simply walked away from it. Which was incredibly unfair to all of us who had bought and read this series for a long time, very faithfully. And no closure on the series.

    In this post she writes on 7 Aug 2015:
    Cal #11 will be out next year and then my contract is up and I have 0% expectation of my publisher buying any more Cal.

    Was this further impetus for her to walk away ? No one knows.
    Outside of that last long post I had read on her Facebook page, there was nothing else.
    Further posts on her page from fans continue to inquire where she is, will she return to writing, etc. And … not a word from her.

    On the same date on Twitter she wrote:
    I am sorry, but I warned you guys for 6 years now how if fans didn’t buy my other work, I couldn’t live on 1 series. I begged & I don’t beg.

    A few posts in this time frame and each time it’s our fault.

    Sorry but … this isn’t our fault. Lots of us diligently followed her, bought her works, waited in anticipation of further releases. FantasticFiction indicates she wrote from 2006 through 2015. It was certainly a respectable run.

    But ending it the way she did, making it clear it was the fault of the readers, failing to at least provide a wrapped up series…
    It was shabby.

    Incredibly shabby.

    But like so many others, if somehow #11 does publish, I’ll be right there buying it.

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    • It might have been unwise and maybe a little unprofessional, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say shabby. I understand her frustration all too well, both as an author and an editor, as well as having been a managing editor for 4.5 years. I feel like her publisher dropped the ball, and once momentum was lost, just let her slide out of sight. Readers’ memories are short these days, sadly. While I’m sure she had a core group that stuck by her, it takes a considerable tribe to keep books on the charts these days, especially if she was self-publishing. In any case, if she ever decides to bring that last book out into the world, my offer to edit it for free stands. 🙂

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      • I think everyone can understand her position and why she ended up walking away. Money actually does matter.

        I’ve discussed this with other people over the past few years and without exception, those of us who did happily read her titles are all unhappy Everwar disappeared. Realistically I don’t think anyone at this point expects it to publish.

        “Shabby” may have been harsh but… so be it.

        I’m not a writer, I don’t have proper knowledge of the in’s and out’s of publishing, having a publisher own rights to a novel/series, etc. but I am a reader. All my life. A heavy reader.

        Even now a few years later… I still look back and think it would have been better if at least Everwar did come out and hopefully wrapped up the storylines.

        Nothing can be done. At least not by us, the constant readers.

        Other authors have lost rights to their series (Zoe Martinique series by Phaedra Weldon comes to mind), others almost lost rights (Markhat series by Frank Tuttle – the publisher almost went out of business and he was frantic over it)… Would she still have the right to publish Everwar long after she walked away. I don’t know.

        Again, I think she’d be surprised how many of us would buy it.
        There’s still a shred of hope in me that one day I’ll suddenly read… Everwar is publishing.

        If she’s at a happier point in her life now that her writing has ended, then we should all be glad for her.

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  4. Another one who occasionally looks up Rob to see if she’s joined the world of the living again. In addition to the anger toward her fans, she was despondent. And one of her last posts on Twitter I find to be very troubling:

    “At least I’ll go out with a good quote next year…”

    This was posted on August 7, 2015, along with a series of other posts. And it’s almost like she’s saying goodbye. Given her frame of mind, I hope she didn’t do anything extreme.

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    • I hope not too, though as far as I know she’s still with us. I reiterate my offer to edit her next book for free. I think the world needs more of her work. I believe in her, and I know many of you do too. A lot of people are finding this post, which gives me hope. I hope Robyn does too.

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