Do no harm

Photo by Ash EdmondsMy responses to world events since Brexit in the UK and Trump’s election in the USA have brought me to a crisis of personal morality.

My growing instinct since then has been to embrace the necessity to fight violence with violence. Punch a nazi? Please do. Kill a nazi? We’re not at war yet, but when it’s declared someone give me a sniper rifle and set me up in a hide. I’m physically broken, but still the same person who served a long career in the military until I got badly wounded and retired on a medical war pension.

But there’s the problem. I’m not the same person. After a long struggle with my conscience some ten years ago, I set violence aside and became a quaker.

So now you see the crisis. In these past eighteen months, my old willingness to use violence in order to protect vulnerable people reasserted itself. Except that it hasn’t felt right any more. It hasn’t felt right for me. For the person I’ve become.

I’m not suggesting for a moment that the dreadful wrongs being done in our world shouldn’t be fought. Or that the many vulnerable people being harmed and endangered and oppressed shouldn’t be protected. What I’m saying is that there are different ways to protect them.

What I’m saying is that while I will continue to call out wrongs when and where I see them, I’m no longer someone who will smack a nazi or pick up a sniper rifle against them if and when the war is declared.

What I’m saying is that I’m a quaker. I’m a pacifist.

My WIP is already reflecting this change.

It gets easier by the day to tear our world apart. Circumstances make it scarily possible. I won’t be part of that harm. As far as I am able, I will help to heal our world.

Leaping into the traditional publishing mist

Photo by Filip Zrnzevic

I think I know how those deer must feel.

They’re racing through the trees. Thundering, steaming, quivering, heavy, powerful, and fast.

There’s a road. Right ahead. A split-second decision: slew aside and stay in the trees, or leap across the road? If they leap, there’s a chance some random speeding truck will crash out of the mist and SLAM!

The odds? Unknown. Unknowable. Truly random.

The road in my path is traditional publishing.

A description of my race through the trees so far:

When I came home all wartorn and started learning how to write novels for my chosen second career, there was only one route in. Traditional publishing. Represented by a literary agent and published by one or more of the big houses. So at the same time as I was learning how to create and craft a novel, I was also studying the industry.

It didn’t happen. Not for me. I finished my first novel, polished it to the highest gleam I could possibly produce, and started submitting it to agents while getting on with writing the next one, and the one after that. No joy. Quite a few “good work, keep trying” responses, but no offers of representation. And as we writers all know, that long process is utterly exhausting.

What I did get was an offer of publication by a small publisher. Which I accepted. Then another, and another. Three in four months. It put me on the small house publishing path, and I followed it. Until the path and I went in different directions when the economy pushed those houses into focusing on genres I don’t write. But that was okay, because by then self-publishing had become a thing. So, I thought, there was my new path.

Meanwhile, my writing was developing, as anyone’s will if we keep working at it. I’d become a craftsman, even a craft mentor for others, and I really work at my art. So when, toward the end of 2015, I finished two big novels, Storywalker and The Honesty of Tigers, I decided to sub them to agents and see what might happen.

Nothing happened. At least, no offers. Quite a few more encouraging responses, and six heart-in-the-mouth “so nearly there” ones. Each of those six agents said she absolutely loved the book and had no doubt that someone would rep it and someone would publish it, but. Various industry-related reasons.

So a year or so later (because, yeah, glacial response times) I self-published Storywalker and Tigers, and they’ve been very successful. Within certain terms of reference. Those who’ve read them love them. Their reviews are wonderful. But of course my books, no matter how great they might be, have done what most self-published books do no matter how great they are. They’ve disappeared into the huge mass of self-published books.

I have a short reach. Those inside it are loyal, and I love you, but those outside our cozy campfire glow never hear about my books.

My path, I came to understand, is to keep writing the best books I can while accepting that if any of them ever achieve great success, it will probably be a posthumous event.

That’s how I started 2017, and I continued to feel that way while writing this year’s book, Space Train. Right up until I was tying off its loose ends and getting ready to send it out to my lovely crit partners and beta readers, and I happened to see someone’s tweet about Angry Robot opening to unagented subs in November.

Now, I like Angry Robot. A lot. I would very much like to be published by them. And if I’m going to try traditional publishing again, despite all those wasted years spent banging my bruised head against locked doors, I’ve discovered there are now one or two other respected houses who also accept unagented subs.

So there’s my road, right ahead. I’m pounding powerfully along my path with a newly finished space opera novel I’m proud of, and suddenly there’s a road to be either slewed aside from, or leapt.

I’m leaping.

Wish me luck! 🙂

Space Train is finished!

Photo by Alekzan PowellVery early yesterday morning I finished writing Space Train. It’s 97k words of space opera adventure spread across four solar systems, with faster-than-light wormhole transits and alien cultures and a big diverse cast of characters I’ve fallen in love with.

Happily, over the years I’ve developed my way of building a novel, which is to edit and polish as I go, scene by scene. Obviously it’s slower than fast drafting, but by the time I write The End it’s pretty much ready to go. So for me it’s actually far faster than other methods I’ve tried, and certainly it feels like less work.

I honestly think this has been the most fun I’ve ever had writing a novel. I adore the universe, its science, and most of all its people. I’ve loved every minute of it, and I’m already looking forward to writing Book 2. In fact I’ve skeleton-planned the entire four-book series.

Space Train is with my crit partners and beta readers now, and while it’s in their hands I’m preparing a submission package to send it to Angry Robot’s open call in November.

Happy David! Very, very tired, but still happy. 🙂

  • Want to get notification of my blog posts by email?