The plan for 2018

Photo by Bennett DunganI aim to keep going at the speed that will allow me to keep going. Having proved to myself that I can complete one big novel per year despite health hurdles, that’s my benchmark. I’ve submitted 2017’s space opera, and depending on the responses that one receives its sequel is likely to be my big book of 2018.

Also, I’ve teamed up with Holley Trent to co-author a small American town cozy mystery, which promises to be fun.

Once I recover from the relapse that’s sunk me deep since I finished Space Train in October, really recovered that is, I’ll get started.

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! 🙂

Research done, research to come

Photo by Dan GrinwisSpace Train 1 is at that enjoyably intricate stage where the story is written and what I’m doing now is tweaking and polishing (and open to possibly making some bigger changes) in response to comments and suggestions from my crit partners and beta readers.

Space Train 2 is at the delicious stage where I’m turning it from a jumble of dreams and ideas and thoughts into a proper plan.

Which includes thinking about research to come.

For Space Train 1, I researched: spaceship design and propulsion; space shuttle launch; orbital navigation; fighter plane design; exoplanet ecology; binary planets; asteroid belts; terraforming; mining in space; lava tubes; wormhole theories; gunshot surgery; socialist cooperative societies; matrilineal societies; crocodiles; intelligent computer systems; aliens of various types; sniper science; glacial landforms; prosthetics manufacture and fitting; Old West speech and slang; kinetic bombardment; minerology; helium-3; effect on tides of multiple moons; communications satellite technology; and more but I’ll stop there because spoilers.

The list so far for Space Train 2: astronomy telescopes; military occupations; theories about spaceship cloaking technology; Native American/First Nations hockey; broken bone healing medicine; symbolism of turquoise in different societies; and ancient Egyptian (New Kingdom) burial rituals.

That’s what has come up in the first four chapters of my plan, with maybe thirty-six more chapters to plan.

I love this, putting it all together in a skeleton plan, learning lovely new stuff and calculating how I’ll apply it. It gives me shivers. 🙂

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