About Doug Dandridge
I was born in the small town of Venice, Florida on September 12, 1957. Venice is on the west coast of the state, just below Sarasota, which was considered the nearest large town. Venice had just over 5,000 people when I came into the world. One movie theater, a couple of grocery stores including Publix and Winn Dixie, and the beaches, which were the main attractions. It was originally founded by the Brotherhood or Railroad Engineers as a retirement village, and was designed by architect Lloyd Nolan. Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus made their winter home there, and we went to their premieres every year. The son of one of the trapeze families and several of the circus midgets attended Epiphany Catholic church, where my family went. I attended the Catholic school until eighth grade.
My father, Theo Edwin Dandridge, first came to the town in the 1930s, having been born in Panama City in 1915 and raised in Wachula. He drove vegetable trucks up to New York in the winter, and during a summer of working on Long Island he met my mother, Hazel Angelina Roy. Mom's family was French Canadian, moving to Massachusetts before she was born, then eventually buying a farm on Long Island. As soon as they were married my paternal grandmother decided she would have nothing to do with dad, since he had committed the twin sins of getting hitched to a Yankee and a Catholic.
Venice was paradise in those days, not too crowded, with lots of things to do on the water or on the Myakka river inland. But, as the Eagles said in one of their songs, call it paradise, and kiss it goodbye. People kept coming, their mantra that the area was nice, but they had so and so up north. And then we had so and so, and the taxes rose, while the roads became more and more crowded.
I was born on the edge of the space age. Sputnik was launched a little under a month after my birthday. We visited Cape Kennedy, as it was called then, during the moon shots, and would also watch them going up from our roof in Venice. All we had in those days on TV were really bad B grade science fiction movies, or decent but not spectacular TV shows. Until Star Trek, which came to our brand new color TV in bright tons. I can remember my first comic book, Fantastic Four number one, bought for me at the local Rexal Drug Store after church. Then I discovered real books, though comics were still a big part of my life. The first I can remember is Robert Heinlein's Citizen of the Galaxy. My older brother left Robert E Howard and Michael Moorcock books around, and I digested them with a voracious appetite. In Junior High and above it was The Executioner and The Destroyer, and I also discovered Poul Anderson, still my favorite sci-fi author. In the Army I pulled the books out of care packages and read Larry Niven and Robert Adams. When I was very young I used to take clay and build sets for Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Lost in Space, and Star Trek, then play out stories in those settings. I drew pictures of spaceships and dinosaurs, and was actually doing a fairly good job, though I can't draw to save my life these days. I wrote my first stories for a creative writing class in high school, a little tale of a terrorist group taking over our town.
While not career military, it was a big part of my life. Dad had been a Chief Petty Officer, serving active in World War Two and reserve for seventeen years after. He ran Marines through obstacle courses at Little Creek Amphibious Warfare Base. All of my uncles had served, most in the navy, one in the army, and one as a waist gunner in the Army Air Corps. I joined Marine JROTC in 9th grade and spent four years drilling, learning about the military, and traveling on field trips to places like the Key West Naval Base, Quantico, and Ft. Benning. We also played war games after school on our own, practicing the tactics we had been taught. I had wanted to become a Naval Aviator, but 20/180 vision precluded that. So I decided to go into the Army as a paratrooper. The recruiter had no spaces available, but I was told it would be easy to sign up for the training once I was in. Never trust a recruiter, because it will never happen. I had also applied for an appointment to West Point, late, and decided it would be a good idea to go in as an enlisted soldier to gain some experience. I eventually got it, and turned it down. The Army was not for me, and after four years I was out as a civilian with the GI Bill.
I went infantry in the Army. After I took my entrance test and scored about as high as you could, the recruiters from the Navy and Air Force called, offering me their best technical schools. I was going to West Point (at that time) and wasn't interested in electronics or nuclear propulsion. So I went in the Army as a PFC, went to Fort Jackson during the hot months for basic, then Fort Polk for infantry training in the cold months. I got to Germany ready to get into the infantry, when I was offered special duty. At first I wanted to turn it down, until it was explained to all of us chosen that life in the field in Europe consisted of nine months of misery each year. That was how I found myself in special weapons security, and was posted three ordnance companies during my three years and seven months in Germany. I came home on one leave, and spent the rest of my time traveling, going to France, England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, The Netherlands, Belgium and Italy. I was into history, and seeing that history in the flesh was important to me. I served as a Senior Custodial Agent and a squad leader as a spec , and couldn't make sergeant because of the point system, so out I went. I in the Florida National Guard, one in , the other in infantry, and one semester in Army ROTC. That was when I remembered what I hadn't liked about the military.
I started at Florida State University in 1980 and graduated in 1990 after majoring in biology, biology education, geology and finally clinical psychology. I was accepted at the University of Alabama for graduate school in clinical psychology and thought I had found my calling. I up with a , and all the coursework and clinical work needed for the PhD, but it never happened. One day I may tell that story. I was married and spent the next couple of years working for two community mental health centers and a foster care agency, with stints in restaurant management sandwiched in there. After my can back to Florida and jobs with juvenile justice, and finally the Department of Children and Families. I hated all those jobs, and the only way I saw to escape was to write my way out.
In 2010, while working full time, I wrote the equivalent of seven novels. Such was my desire to make it, and I wrote in several different areas of the genres of the fantastic. I wrote the first book of the Exodus: Empires at War series, two hundred and ten thousand words that were later split into the first two books of the series. I also finished the first book of the Refuge series, another two hundred and ten thousand words, which would also eventually be split into two books. I also wrote the stand alone novels Aura, Afterlife and Daemon. All were to be submitted to agents, but none were. I went through 2011 doing agent submissions, something I hadn't attempted since the mid 1990s, when a scam artist had taken me $400. It could have been worse, and some of their entreaties had been for much higher sums. It left me with a total distrust of the process. Over a decade later I was ready to try again, and made sure that I only queried legitimate agents. I got some good feedback, but little else.
Early in 2011 I was at a local writer's conference when I heard about self publishing. Now, I had heard of vanity presses, and of the black hole putting your own work out, something guaranteed to destroy a career. But by that was growing desperate to get my work out. I didn't think I was the best writer in the world,. But from the feedback I had received, I knew I was good enough.
On December 31, 2011 I put The Deep Dark Well and The Hunger up on Amazon. The covers were awful, especially the one for The Hunger. I had a lot to learn. The response to the books was underwhelming. I got some very good reviews, but the most I was making was $40 in a month. That went on for eight months, from January to August, when I decided to try a giveaway. I had been reading about them, and thought I knew how to do it. It all had to do with how you promoted the books, since no one is going to pick up a free book they didn't know about. I gave away over 4,000 of the Deep Dark Well, and sales for September were almost five hundred books. The Deep Dark Well went on the sell over 6,000 copies, and primed the pump for my later space opera.
I had put out other books the first two, and there were now over nine books up on Amazon, none of them great successes. I released the first book of Refuge, a series I had been developing since 1997, and hoped that it would be the breakthrough series. It was the most original thing I had come up with in that time, a blending of modern technothriller and high fantasy. The first book went on to sell over 5,000 copies, the second almost as many, and the reviews were good, but it never really took off. Sales in October reached almost a thousand. And then, in November, I put out Exodus: Empires at War: Book 1, and things started happening.
Exodus Book 1 started to fly off the digital shelves. I sold almost two thousand books in November of 2012. Book 2 came out in December, and I sold over four thousand copies of all of my books. I sold almost nine thousand books in January 2013, and was seriously thinking about quitting my day job. February was over five thousand, and I told my supervisor at work that I would be gone by the fall. started off really well, and I gave my two week notice. My last day was March 16th, and many of my fellow employees were excited for me. Many in that place, the Abuse Hotline of the Department of Children and Families, talk about moving on to bigger and better things, but not many do.
By the time I went to Dragon Con in September 2013, my first, I had sold over forty-eight thousand books, and was considered a success by most people. The next four years saw sales of almost fifty thousand each year. I have since been to three more DragonCons and another pair of LibertyCons, and the sales have been rising. Over two hundred thousand sales, almost five thousand reviews or ratings on both Amazon and Goodreads, and things just keep getting better.