How Closet for a Dragon was Written

A Closet for a Dragon and Other Early Tales was my second experiment in self-publishing. It’s a collection of stories I had written over many years, the first one in 1961. I went through my files, looking for anything that I felt was good enough. Most of them were not, and some were unreadable.

I had one story, “A Closet for a Dragon,” which I really wanted to publish. It was the first story I wrote after I had the insight into what a story was.

In the early years, when I was doing mostly short fiction, I got mostly rejections, except for “Sand Painting” and “Carion Troll.” One time an editor told me that he liked the idea for the story I had sent him, he liked my characters, he liked my writing, but it wasn’t a story. I had no idea what he meant, and I no longer remember what that story was. A long time later, having been rejected over and over again, I lay in bed, trying to figure out what published stories had in common that made them stories. Then it came to me as a kind of epiphany. (I had had two others — the sun doesn’t cross the sky, world turns under it; and, I really can’t read all the books I want to.) I wrote the idea down, reworked it, and this is now what I believe to be absolutely true:

Story is a narrative about how somebody overcame an obstacle to achieve a desired end — or failed — and brought about a change, in himself or the world around him. If what I write does not have all these elements — narrative, character, obstacle, objective, change — then I may have literature, I may have fiction, but I don’t have Story.

I will not discuss that further here, but I will in person.

I had published Cat Tales, as a Kindle only, though now it has been republished in paper, and I wanted to do something more. I had “Closet…,” “Sand,” (the oldest), “Sand Painting,” and “Carrion Troll,” so I selected enough stories for a book, added a collaboration I had done with the late C. Bruce Hunter, “Thursday’s Child;” and “Dorian’s Choice,” which had been published in Phase 5. I talked Darcy into letting me publish one of her stories. I rewrote parts of most of the stories, gave those which were unpublished and strictly my own to Leona Wisoker, then a free-lance editor I trusted, then fixed everything up and did a Createspace version and a Kindle version.

Shall we say that I learned a lot?