Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Road Goes Ever On And On...

I've been away for a while, so it's time for a project update!

As I've recently noted, and as the "Published Works" column off there on the right side indicates, THUMP DUMPS A CHUMP, my foray into blaxploitation fiction, dropped in the July issue of Fabula Argentea.  "Thump" has always been my "wild child," but early indications are that my professional concerns were misplaced.  The story has been very well received (and, judging by the hit count, reasonably widely read); those who've disliked it have maintained a decorous silence, and I haven't been fired yet.  Welcome aboard, by the way, to those of you who are reading this blog due to the editors' redirect at the conclusion of that story; where this blog is concerned, you may expect infrequent updates, preposterous narcissism, and way too many semicolons.  "Thump" is by a fair margin the edgiest thing I've written or will write for some time.  I enjoyed putting it together and remain astonished that anyone was willing to pay me for it.

THE COMMANDER, a short story about a Congolese child soldier, will be published in A Thousand Words For War, a young adult anthology from CBAY books.  The tentative date of publication is April 2016, and you can certainly expect me to be on hype duty for the book as the deadline approaches, both on this blog and elsewhere in social media.  "The Commander" is my "good" child, a very mainstream and accessible piece of work that's heavy on voice and featuring a twist that Yann Martel fans may find familiar.  Of all my work, it wins for "most likely to work as a prose piece in high school forensics."  Those of you who feel that what the literary world really needed was another white guy's take on what it means to be African should watch this space in the months ahead.

DON is my weird kid and probably has the most upside of any of the bunch.  It's best described as a Lovecraftian take on Don Quixote (the windmills shot first!).  There's a fair amount of detail regarding climate science and renewable energy technology involved, so it might pass for hard sci-fi under the right lighting.  The story's biggest problem, in my opinion, is that the source material isn't universally known; it reads MUCH better for people who've read Don Quixote (or who have at minimum seen "Man of La Mancha") than for those who haven't, and I don't know that hard SF is full of those folks.  Be that as it may, I've aimed very high market-wise; "Don" is making the rounds of submissions to cutting-edge periodicals with wide print circulations and which produce Hugo and Nebula nominees.  The downside of that approach is that there's a lot of waiting involved; almost all journals in that echelon demand exclusive submission and some of them take up to four months to review work.  We'll see what happens.

AXIS OF ETERNITY is of course my firstborn and the reason this blog was invented, a 90,000 word young adult sci-fi novel that takes place in a strange and complicated afterlife full of historical figures, hidden agendas, and bizarre soul-harvesting technology.  Bringing Axis to market has been an experience.  It's been through six full drafts, each of them involving multiple sub-iterations; the title has changed, as has the narrative perspective.  The love interest went from being a Mary Sue to a co-protagonist and arguably the most complicated and formidable character in the book.  I've sent out over a hundred query letters and have been alternatively praised, rejected, and ignored by many of the most respected agents in the business--some of whom I've gained a new appreciation for and some of whom I've lost all professional respect for.  I've taken it to Twitter pitchfests and writing conferences and rammed it down the throats of over a dozen preliminary reviewers, willing and unwilling, who've called it everything from "legitimately great" to "sounds like the name of an off-brand cologne".

Axis has been thrashing around in the slush pile for far longer than I'd ever imagined it would.  Every time I think it's dead, some new literary agent or publisher emerges with a manuscript request.  One way or another, though, we are approaching the end of the line with this project; I am literally running out of agents and publishers.  The brightest hopes for the book at present are:

1.  one of the most experienced and respected agents in the business is reviewing the full manuscript; he's someone I didn't submit to earlier for no better reason than that I didn't think there was ANY possibility he'd be interested, and

2.  the book is on its third set of spec revisions with a small publisher whom I have a lot of respect for.

And, of course, there's still a smattering of unresolved queries out there; any day I could get a new man request out of them.  But, as I said, we're nearing the end of the line here.

After some consideration, I have decided that I will not self-publish Axis.  I recognize and respect the new legitimacy of self-publishing operations and I have heard the success stories, but to be honest, that market is just too crowded and it tends to reward skilled marketers (which I'm not) over skilled writers (which I am).  One also needs, by all accounts, a nearly insane work ethic to push a novel to the front of the queue via the self-publishing market, and while I'm a very good worker, I'm also a full-time high school teacher in the highly time-intensive discipline of policy debate.  And I'm PARTICULARLY not looking forward to having to find a cover artist, failing, and winding up with some godawful photoshopped THING as the public face of the book.

So if Axis should fail to make it to market via an agent's representation or via the independent publisher mentioned above, I'm going to release it here, on this blog, in installments--one chapter a week, every Sunday, for most of a year.  You who've had to listen to me jabber about this book endlessly, for two full years, have a right to read it for yourselves and make up your own minds about whether the publishing industry was right to run screaming from it.  Besides, all I've REALLY wanted to do is to give people something they can read.  If you wind up reading it here and liking it, tell your friends.  Tell your kids.  We'll see if word spreads.  To be clear, however, we're still months away from going down that road; even after all this time, there's still several different paths to publication open, and I intend to walk them all.

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